Context: What is it Good for?

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While reading Michel Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge, I soon realized that the entire book would be about making new rules and dismantling old rules. One of the main ideas that Foucault rejects is “context.” He sees this term as an artificial foundation for knowledge and discourse. Throughout the book, Foucault attempts to redefine other terms and the way society categorizes and defines history. As Foucault notes, however, his book is not solely about structure, but “that field in which the questions of the human being, consciousness, origin, and the subject emerge, intersect, mingle, and separate off” ( Foucault 16). Although I do not fully understand each of Foucault’s arguments, I will outline them for you below.

Key Arguments

Discourse

Foucault is very concerned with discourse in relation to history. In the past, archaeologists felt they were describing the flow of history with discourse. Foucault changes this view, instead believing that archaeology describes the history of discourse itself. Discourse then becomes a multifaceted concept, describing both how society communicates and how the communication has changed or stayed the same throughout history (see Continuities & Discontinuities below).

Continuities & Discontinuities

These two concepts are central to Foucault’s main argument. Foucault uses Continuity and Discontinuity to describe how things (very descriptive term, I know. But Foucault leaves this area vague in my opinion) stay the same or change as time moves on. I believe Foucault is more concerned with how knowledge is defined as history changes as opposed to other things, something he refers to as the “history of ideas” (see definition below).

Subject Position

This describes (at least I think it does) the role one plays within a particular discourse. For example, my subject position is “graduate student” within the discourse of education at Old Dominion University. This position is different from past subject positions, even others that I held within the overall “Discourse of Education.”

Key Terms

Oeuvre

This is a collection of texts that are all written by the same author. Foucault complicates this term by suggesting that an oeuvre can also be aligned by an author’s subject position at the time.  In other words, this “set” changes based on view and subject position. Because this collection can change so frequently, Foucault considers this term unreliable.

Episteme

This term is used to describe the relationships that emerge during discourse, such as the relationship between science and knowledge. Foucault uses this term to further push out context, since the term cannot be used to describe a type of knowledge or a common thought pattern.

Archive

This term usually refers to a static collection of texts. Foucault changes this definition by suggesting that an archive depends on how it is constructed. An archive then becomes an active collection of relationships instead of texts.

But wait, I’m still confused!

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That is perfectly okay, because I am still a bit confused as well. I have a feeling that The Archaeology of Knowledge is not a text one simply understands. I will probably have to encounter the texts in multiple contexts (sorry Foucault) before I fully understand his arguments. Here are some questions I will try to answer in the future:

  • Foucault alludes to “relationships” a lot throughout the book. How do these relationships differ from the ones historians have already defined? Or do these relationships just constantly change?
  • Why can’t we have context? Foucault seems to really despise this word, but it seems like a lot of his arguments are centered around context.
  • I took a little French in high school and undergraduate, and I wonder if the similarity between the roots for “oeuvre” are the same as the roots for “oeuf,”which means egg, are the same. Was “oeuvre” formed as a way refer to the “eggs” (creations?)  of the authors?

Works Cited

Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Vintage, 2010. Print.

 

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Wonderfully Addictive: How Facebook Works:

While most people already heavily participate in social media and are well-versed when it comes to Facebook, I will use this first post as a “how-to-guide” for those who yearn for an in depth tour of the site. After all, Facebook has long since evolved from a place to solely view family photos and vacations into one of the main ways society communicates and assigns value.

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 So How does it work?

Once you setup your profile and spend the first agonizing hour choosing the perfect profile picture, Facebook becomes an essential way to keep up with close friends, local events, and current news. According to HowStuffWorks.com, Facebook users collectively share more than 30 billion pieces of content per month. Facebook acts as a filter that carefully sorts out this content, like pictures of your neighbor’s new dog or the most-favored presidential candidate, to present the information you are most likely to be interested in. This personalized information is showcased on your Newsfeed, which is possibly the most used feature on Facebook.

Newsfeed

The Newsfeed is aptly named because this feature provides both news within your circle (“ Oh my goodness, Jane got engaged!”) and news on a larger scale (“Oh my goodness, I cannot believe Donald Trump said that out loud). No matter which end of the scale your post falls on, anything you post on Facebook will end up in the Newsfeed.

 

Your Newsfeed is divided into two viewing categories, Top Stories (The most-liked and viewed posts from your friends) and Most Recent (Your friends’ posts in chronological order). In order to have your post reach Top Stories fandom, you must either have some extremely wonderful happen or have extremely poor Facebook etiquette (people seem to really enjoy judging and insulting each other on social media).

 

Etiquette

 

HowStuffWorks.com notes that the four top etiquette rules of Facebook are:

 

  • You should respond anytime someone posts on your page.
  • You shouldn’t say anything disrespectful about a friend on Facebook (Unless you really want to be the top story).
  • Think about how a comment will affect a Facebook friends’s relationships) personal and job) before you post something on their page.
  • You shouldn’t repost a post if a Facebook friend deletes it.

 

 

 

 

 

Should I Post This?

 

In order to answer this question, first read through the top four. If you think your post is safe based on the above rules, keep in mind that there is still a high probability of offending at least one of your Facebook friends and decide if his/her reaction is worth the post. If you are intentionally trying to make Top Stories by causing a stir, make sure you include strong political opinions, anything regarding money, and make sure everyone understands your personal approach to parenting/ dieting and why only your approach is correct.

 

Tagging: Who to Include, Who to Leave Out

 

Tagging a friend on Facebook in either a post or photo is a dangerous game. Make sure that you are friends with this person outside social media or are at least planning to become acquaintances. Also follow rule number 3. You friend will not thank you for posting a picture of him/her intoxicated at a party when their boss may see that photo and question his/her value at the company. When in doubt, post with out tagging unless the website or photo included in the post has a “G” rating.

 

To Comment or Not to Comment?

 

Commenting on posts and pages is essential to being successful on Facebook. If done correctly, commenting on Facebook posts can increase your networking opportunities. If done incorrectly, you just may lose the majority of your Facebook friends. Before commenting, ask yourself the following questions: Is this helpful to people other than myself? Did I fully understand the post I plan to comment on? Am I worried that this comment will negatively affect me? If you answered yes to the first two questions, your comment will succeed at increasing your relevance on Facebook. If you answered yes to the last question, consider whether or not you care to lose Facebook friends or the respect of your friends outside social media. This importance behind staying relative on social media and the constant battle between being a good friend and being popular drives the current epidemic know as Facebook Addiction.

 

Facebook Addiction

 

According to HowStuffWorks.com, the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) released a study in 2010 that concludes that social media is addictive. The 200 college students who participated in the study’s “24 hour unplugged” test reported being “very anxious, extremely antsy, jittery, and miserable.” In other words, people have developed a dependence on social media in order to increase popularity and to “stay current” on recent events. Whenever someone tells another person a shocking story, he/she almost always seems to respond “Oh I know, I saw that this morning on Facebook!”. HowStuffWorks.com encourages users suffering from Facebook Addiction to establish guidelines, pay attention to other activities, stress compassion and responsibility, and focus on Internet safety. While these tips are mainly geared towards parents to protect young adults, adults themselves would do well to head them. If you fear you are becoming addicted to social media (you align with the symptoms above and also have a strong desire to look at your Facebook account when you first wake up), I suggest you take a deep breath, turn off your phone or laptop, and take a short walk to get some fresh air. When you return to Facebook, I assure you that you will be much more receptive to the joy funny animal videos bring users and less likely to comment on something you should probably leave alone.

Activity:

Login to your Facebook.com and click “Top Stories.” Write down what the first story in the Newsfeed is and how this story makes you feel. Look at some of the comments and free write about why this post is so popular. Next, click “Most Recent.” Write down the first story in the Newsfeed again and follow the same steps as above. What is different about the two posts? What does this difference say about how we value things on social media?