In this paper I extend Jürgen Habermas’s Culture-Debating to Culture-Consuming process to the looming horizon of social media, along with Baudrillard’s account of information and meaning. I do this by further studying Habermas’s theory of the transition between those two phases, and relate the current state of affairs to Carlo Ginzburg’s theory of the iconic circuit and my research on virality. I finally explain the benefits and drawbacks of this state of affairs in the context of Baurdrillard’s account of meaning in the era of mass media, as it implicates the share-holders and rule-makers of social media in deciding its consequences as a technology.
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This paper discusses virality in the context of social media, a feature characteristic of some of the ways it departs from earlier mass media institutions like television. I begin by explaining why chaos alone is an insufficient concept for wrangling this state of affairs then proceed with a more systematic and detailed view of how viral phenomena occur as manifestations of the rapidly adapting architecture of social media platforms. Then I discuss why this state of affairs can also not be equated with democracy, and conclude with a brief summary of the paper. While I refer to concepts hailing from philosophy’s ivory tower, nothing in this paper should prove inaccessible to a lay reader and I hope that anyone interested in this phenomenon will read on, regardless of their background.