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I’m fascinated by the cover of yesterday’s Sunday New York Times. Fixated on the image of Boston Marathon suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I was momentarily unable to notice the words surrounding it. I was a little stunned, then angry, then captivated. The image, not just the Instagrammed selfie of Dzhokhar, but this photo within the culturally significant New York Times front page, is endlessly sociologically fascinating.

For some, this cover provokes anger:

This cover and the anger around it should be understood alongside the noteworthy #FreeJahar movement (Dzhokhar’s friends called him Jahar). Many people have expressed very positive feelings over Dzhokhar—including through the #freejahar tag on Twitter as well as fan-Tumblrs and so on—and what is brought up quite often is his disarming good looks. It might appear that the New York Times is playing to the #FreeJahar crowd here with such an enchanting shot. Further, within photojournalism, it is quite controversial to use photos that go out of their way to obscure reality with dramatic editing such as a faux-vintage filter, something I discussed when the paper ran award-winning faux-vintage war photos from Afghanistan. While the New York Times had previously used more “objective” photos of Dzhokhar, for yesterday’s cover, the paper opted for a glamour shot. Why?

What the New York Times was very likely trying to do is play on the juxtaposition between Dzhokhar-the-bomber and Dzhokhar-the-kid, the inherent tension of a swoon-worthy-murderer will sell lots of papers. In all of this, one must wonder, like the tweet above, if those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing find this treatment disrespectful?

Beyond just right or wrong, the fact that the paper chose an Instagrammed selfie is novel and interesting in and of itself. The image does capture well the story it accompanies. The article is, in my opinion, a well-told and intriguing story about Dzhokhar’s efforts to cover a disturbing set of motivations with a likeable exterior. The faux-vintage Instagram glow on an attractive selfie might very-well be a paradigmatic modern example of the sort of identity “face work” we all engage in. The selfie is, of course, face work in the literal sense that it is a photo of one’s face, but also in the way Erving Goffman famously discusses “face work”: as the demonstration and maintenance of positive social value and attributes in an effort for acceptance and approval. Goffman notes that this is a “’working’ acceptance, not a ‘real’ one”, which is precisely what the New York Times story describes Dzhokhar attempting to pull off in this front-page selfie.

Granting, of course, that Dzhokhar’s face work was certainly of a radically larger scale, selfie face work is a sort of fiction that is a common fact. The filtered selfie isn’t the most objectively accurate photo, but it might have been the most honest. It’s how he presented himself, down to the name-brand shirt, and it’s how many people his age understand and perform for increasingly ubiquitous photographic documentation. It’s a sort-of unreality that’s carries a sort-of truth. The selfie isn’t just any photo of you, it is, of course, one taken of yourself, by yourself, and there is something simultaneously fitting and upsetting in the young bomber taking his own mugshot.

The Page One bomber selfie also challenges what many of us thought the bomber would look like on the day the tragedy occurred. This image doesn’t conform to what “we”, as a culture, wanted, perhaps even needed, the bomber to look like. Instead of the stereotypical guy-in-a-cave or guy-in-a-shack, Dzhokhar here looks like someone we might know. More than that, given that this is an Instagrammed selfie, he even acts like someone we know, someone we recognize as “normal”. It breaks from the script: The bomber was never supposed to be so familiar.

The bomber selfie forces us to confront that violence doesn’t always come from an other. It is even cropped square; I can almost picture the now-customary “like” or “<3” Facebook and Instagram buttons with this photo. As such, this front page acts a bit like a mirror: the Instagram filter forces us not to just see Dzhokhar, but ourselves, our own, modern, culture, too.

What other angles here have I not yet considered? Or perhaps it is still too soon to engage in this sort of meta-conversation around this tragedy, apologies if so, but this cover struck me as culturally significant for the reasons I’ve tried to articulate this morning, saying something important about what it means to be alive in 2013, .

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [].

attorneys have taken to Yelp to complain about prison procedures that delay or prevent them from seeing clients

The nostalgia that attracts a fan to “Garden State” is of a particular Internet variety

Next, simply disassemble the computer, shove the fragments back into those clams, harvest the clams, and puree them into a thick slurry in your home blender

there’s a lot of “reality” in the virtual, and a lot of “virtual” in our reality

this is a new way of expression that does not have a direct correlate offline

The mockdate is a type of status update that uses humor to publicly condemn all forms of “improper” bodies

Teens are the ideal tweeters because they are never happy and always interesting

the cell phone’s ability to signify status has given three beeps and vanished like a dropped call

they buy up thousands of dollars in pizza currency & then trade it for Bitcoin currency

Of all the millions of dollars of purloined bitcoin that’s floating around out there, not one Satoshi of it has been spent

Just because he used the acronym LOL in a text message and on Twitter doesn’t make him evil; it makes him a young person who sends text messages and uses Twitter. He is evil because he allegedly helped bomb the Boston Marathon

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [].

Cable news is dead, but something keeps animating the corpse

Human genes do not augment the body, they are the body

memes circulate us rather than vice versa

many of the declarations whizzing around Boston look like sympathy but smell like attention-seeking

social networking sites are not a separate realm of political activity

We need a multitude of what I call “Denial of Positivism (DoP)” attacks from various directions

the Google car was treated with deference no matter how recklessly we drove

iPad painting: just of the many similarities between George W. Bush and Churchill

“No, but I’ve seen the GIFs,” I offered. This is what the future of music videos is up against

One of the unexpected pleasures of technology is the ability to simulate identities for ourselves with consumption

On the one hand, yay: My subconscious isn’t digital dualist

online buzz had no quantifiable impact on short-term sales

hardcore narcissists are put off by Facebook because it reveals that they are not the center of everyone else’s universe

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [].

sadjifinalFacebook and Twitter, like any other form of communication, can be used to forge solidarity. As philosopher Richard Rorty reminds us in Method, Social Science, and Social Hope, one of the boundless powers of the humanities and of storytelling—novels, journalism, ethnographies, photography, documentaries—is to grow our imaginations so that the norms which would exclude foreigners, or the poor, or minorities, are replaced with a solidarity against suffering. In stories like Native Son, The Diary of Anne Frank and Brokeback Mountain, the cruelties of those who are not familiar to us are described in astonishing, bright detail. The humans who populate Dirty Pretty Things, Sin Nombre and How to Survive A Plague become less distant, more familiar. Through imagination, their suffering becomes ours. In many instances, networked media facilitate this kind of sensitivity building, this form of democratic attunement. But under the ceaseless pressure of shareability and virality, tragedy on social media often resembles disaster porn: a ghastly vine, a sappy post, attention seeking hashtags, confusing the spread of symbolic images for enduring political achievement.

That grief is best endured in groups was not lost on those involved in the Boston Marathon or to those who experienced it through networked media. As platforms for articulating emotion, the streams of Twitter and Facebook have been inflected with profound sympathy, unabashed condolence, and a peculiar kind of catastrophe catharsis. Blood drenched pavement has a way of putting petty difference in its place. Tragedy breeds camaraderie.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Law—that each year we will share more of our life-moments on social networks—and Facebook’s axiom, that everything is better when shared with friends, fits nicely into this paradigm. The “My heart goes out to the victims in Boston” and “Prayers to law enforcement” posts can be seen as healthy extensions of sympathy. The hallmarks of Facebook’s logic—extraversion and sharing—seem acutely appropriate for coping with the psychic trauma of disaster.

But even the most gentle heart sees something amiss.

“Like” my kindhearted post where I word-vomit my benevolence onto a trending news story. Render unto me retweets for this unselfish link of teary, bleeding New England faces. Comment on my compassion even as I contort my very remote connection to Boston’s victims into a post that’s really about me.

In this cynical interpretation, documented sharing incentivizes Facebook and Twitter users to traffic in disaster porn. This is the depiction of destruction or tragedy in ways that do not enlighten, but merely sensationalize, pervert, exploit. The ego-stroking affirmations of social networks—the likes and RTs—the ones that push us to share new music and comment on engagement photos, seem perverse when dealing with gory misfortune. From this unsavory perspective, many of the declarations whizzing around Boston look like sympathy but smell like attention-seeking.

On television, disaster porn is more familiar to us. We’re used to the urge to aggrandize coverage of disastrous events. Attempts to place the episode in historical context or to remain attentive to the victims and their stories are merely secondary to the pornographic pursuit of the prurient. Give us the wrecked storefronts, the shattered car windows. Show us the mangled limbs, the protruding bones. Screaming, twisted faces? all the better! Viral shares are the old pageviews are the old ratings.

This is not an argument about the superiority of “real-life” communication over conversations on networked platforms. For a private message on Facebook or Twitter can be just as endearing as a hug or a handwritten note. Nor is this a claim that “true” empathy is never staged or performative. For attendance at a loved one’s funeral is, in part, a performance. Paying respect is to show that you care—an outward, public expression of solace. To remain skeptical of our use of social media in its current iteration isn’t to dismiss it as unworthy, but to examine our unquestioned habits exposed by jarring, surreal events, like what happened in Boston.

But to what extent are sympathy posts shrewd presentations more eager to convey emotional intelligence rather than sincere concern? If the shifting norm of social media is to always share more, then would not commenting on Boston indicate insensitivity or apathy? By incentivizing emotive broadcast around trending events, are less emotionally resonant but worthy subjects reflexively disregarded? These questions are not mean-spirited challenges to what many would call genuine emotion. They are inquisitive prods, pressing us to view the systems and incentives that can prize superficiality and crowd out other less loud, less popular, less homogenized human responses.

Consider the discussion led by philosopher Judith Butler in Frames of War. She reflects on why some lives are more grievable than others. Noted by more than a few journalists and intellectuals, the day that 2 pressure cookers exploded near the finish line of an international footrace—killing 3 and injuring 176—was the same day that a series of car bombs detonated across 6 provinces in Iraq, taking the lives of 42 and maiming 257. As enlightened democrats, we’d like to think that our brief and infrequent exposure to calamity would still make us more sensitive to the daily, lived-in plight of humans dwelling in a desert war zone. But we know this isn’t true. “Specific lives cannot be apprehended as injured or lost if they are not first apprehended as living,” Butler writes. The fragility of life plays a role in feeling sympathetic, but it doesn’t fully explain why it’s difficult for us to extend regard to others, especially those who do not look or speak like us.

Geographic and cultural closeness makes some events more tragic and painful. But closer to home, even before the FBI shootout that led to the citywide manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant took the lives of 14 Americans. Thus, the spectacle of domestic terror, played out on the news and in social media, makes us more attentive in ways that industrial calamity or foreign massacres currently do not.

What’s concerning about Facebook and Twitter use during disasters, then, is the social pressure to promote awareness along the same lines of sharability, RT-worthiness, and a familiar set of consumer-news demands.

In her Regarding The Pain Of Others, the thinker of photography Susan Sontag does not attempt to dictate which victims deserve our devotion. Nor does she indict us for not being psychologically transformed or compelled to political action after witnessing the gruesome. Rather, like Butler, she invites us to question our cultural reflex where “some people’s sufferings have a lot more interest to an audience than the sufferings of others.”

In the logic of social media sharing—especially on Facebook and to a lesser degree on Twitter—we are nudged relentlessly towards the viral. Zuckerberg’s law, when applied to disasters, becomes an overriding impulse: share and comment to inspire maximal stimulation with minimal, frictionless thought. And so, when those who were not high on CNN’s marathon miasma asked: what about the deaths in Iraq or the explosion in Texas? The reason for their perceived lack of coverage became clear: those events weren’t as sharable/viral/likable/worthy-of-(re)tweet.

This is an impoverished way of steering acknowledgement. By not examining the ethical implications of things like Facebook’s news feed algorithm, we accept, as simple market-truth, that what is shared most is most worthy of our thoughts. Researchers like Eli Pariser believe this creates a filter bubble of hyper-personalized selfishness, while others like Evgeny Morozov counter with concerns over “algorithmic paternalism,” the danger of forcing tech companies into roles as progressive civic guardians.

Still, thinkers on both sides of this debate illuminate the risks of ignoring how the news feed itself, with hidden and subtle bias, determines the reach and exposure of certain posts. (This same critique of social sharing can be applied to its forerunner and competitor, Google’s search engine optimization.) As with older forms of news media, this risks entering into a perverse agenda-setting of the moral. To accept an attention-grabbing rubric to determine cultural significance is to bolster the same kind of news norms that we recognize to be malevolent. These include a preoccupation with the global north, xenophobic privileging of moneyed American interests, highlighting pornographic disaster over chronic, pervasive crime, a disregard for victims who are not white, downplaying environmental degradation with no immediate, visible harm.

If we begin to scrutinize behavior generated and visible to us on social media, we can become more alert to our own reflexive cruelty and attentive to the misery of those who suffer at the bottom of news feeds and beyond “social graphs.”

In her penetrating analysis of the Twitter app Vine, Whitney Erin Boesel identities an irresponsible use of social technology. The particular vine that Boesel reviews captured the explosion of the first bomb. On an endless loop, the viewer witnesses “a sharable short story of this afternoon’s events that reduces the tragedy of a violent act down to a bright orange flash.” For Boesel, not only do vines of forever-repeating mayhem highlight carnage over context, they also encourage us to document disastrous events as yet another life-moment to be shared, like Facebook has done with nearly every facet of our social lives. “What would happen if putting tragedies on Vine became commonplace?” she asks. While Vine is not devoid of news value, Boesel urges us to consider its concealed potential to sterilize and repress shock. Conversely, she underscores the mental distress of consuming grisly, narrative-depleted disaster porn.

The hashtag “#prayers4boston” also made its way across the Twitter stream. While, theoretically, this hashtag could be used to inspire charitable collections for the victims’ families or as group therapy for tweeps, the hashtag also functioned in a bizarre and disingenuous way. It was, in Twitter’s linguistic shorthand, a crude mechanism to articulate sympathy. Outside of Twitter’s interface, it would be ridiculous to walk up to someone who just lost a spouse, shake hands, and utter the words, “hashtag sympathy.” This is precisely what took place within Twitter. Who was the intended audience for #prayers4boston? What of the craven wrongness of attaching the concepts of upvoting and trending to human loss?

The absurdity continued in photographs depicting Syrians and Iraqi children holding up signs of commiseration. “Boston bombings represent a sorrowful scene of what happens every day in Syria. Do accept our condolences” read one. Striking to the viewer that these far-away people are thinking about our domestic despair, the spread of these images by Americans became yet another crass, sympathy performance. These pictures could be interpreted to emphasize the peculiar suffering caused by the ongoing crises in Syria, which has commanded a remarkable lack of consideration. But this is too easy, too convenient. Like the #prayers4boston, to link out these photos is, at best, a kind gesture, but that’s all it is. Spreading these overly-figurative images is only to participate in a meme about sharing sentimentality—as weakly tied to transnational unity as stroking the pound sign on a keyboard.

After the uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers gave an impassioned, televised plea, writer Max Read used harsh sarcasm that perfectly captures how this news would travel through social media. “Hilarious Foreign Uncle Becomes Viral Star For Expressing Deep Emotion About Death Caused By Family Members VIDEO.” Instantly mutated into something packaged to be shared, the faux-headline has blatant disregard for those involved, and engages the reader as a sordid, entertainment-consuming drone. And, without much doubt, this hypothetical headline would rocket to the top of our feeds.

Hamza Shaban writes on Web culture and media studies. He’s on Twitter @PlanetHozz.


Data Based is a weekly Cyborgology feature producing original, insightful, and fun data visualizations.



Ned Drummond is a graphic designer and artist living and working in Washington, DC. For more information on her work, please visit If you have any Cyborgology-appropriate data you’d like to see visualized, please email Ned at ned [at]

On the whole, academia is quite anti-popular writing

Mainstream sociology & history have a bias towards thinking that nothing is new, ever, & thus ignored the internet

Use the emoticons & gift-wrap your message for data-miners or stick to plain English & limit yr audience to humans

I was hoping one of my cat vines was popular, not this tragedy

Think very carefully about whether tragedies belong on Vine, and about whether you should put them there

Goatse was the perfect totem for a burgeoning web culture that prized free speech and unpredictability

Jenna Marbles already embodies the future of celebrity

Digital dualism can blind us to the real and serious problems of online vigilantism

Facebook invites us to forget we even had a self before Timeline was there to organize it

the emoticon scheme makes us shoppers for new, bonus feelings à la carte

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [].

I won’t link to this essay.

We did it! According to the Editors* of n+1, Sociology—in fact, the underdog coming from behind, Critical Sociology—has won the cultural debate. Critical thinking about power and how it constructs individuals is now universally applied. The bad news is that critical thinking about power hasn’t solved inequalities, and therefore we have “Too Much Sociology.” The Editors of n+1 fail to understand their topic, fail to cite accurately, and, fundamentally, have written a piece that is logically flawed from even its own position.

There are many good reasons to dismiss this essay, but let’s first skip over the most inaccurate parts to explain why the essay does not even make sense on its own terms. There is a good argument that Bourdieusian theorizing can be used for regressive ends. But: that is a Critical Sociology argument! Interrogating exactly how an episteme can be co-opted, even by that of which it is critical, is what critical sociology does. The article uses critical sociology as its method, as its logic, in order to conclude—against its own logic—against doing critical sociology. Hilariously, the essay is a work of critical sociology about critical sociology that is critical of critical sociology. (Let’s keep open the possibility that this is a late April Fools Onion-style parody).

“Too Much Sociology” is the essay equivalent of hipsters making fun of hipsters, seemingly unaware that their anti-hipster position is the height of hipsterdom. The essay discusses “the Sociologists” as if they are separate from what the essay is itself doing, and goes on and on about critical sociology seemingly unaware of itself as a critical sociology essay. Doing reflexive critical sociology of critical sociology is a well-worn tradition within critical sociology. The strategy the article uses, and the arguments it wants to make, are for more critical sociology; instead, the essay incoherently and illogically asks for less sociology. And, yes, I fully understand that my critique here is also critical sociology; the difference is that I am aware of that and won’t then develop an illogical conclusion. My response here isn’t as much a disagreement with their argument as saying that it simply doesn’t make sense on its own terms. Trying to create a theory that interrogates the links between power, discourse, and identity has as much of a chance of being outside of critical sociology as trying to put on an outfit that is outside the system of fashion.

Put simply: personally rejecting analyzing the link between status and taste doesn’t mute that link. Indeed, it is simply one more move in the same game: rejecting taste-status is one more taste status, as is my rejecting of their rejecting of taste-status. To escape the taste-status logic, the authors would need to show why the link is false, but instead, they make an argument for taste-status by showing how the taste for Bourdieusian theory reaffirms status.

And that’s not a terrible argument to try to make, but, again, the authors give it exactly the opposite conclusion the argument should call for: more and better critical sociology. (Seriously, the essay is the logical equivalent of ‘2 + 2 = -4’).

Well, I’m being too nice: The authors do not even make the ill-concluded argument in a way that remotely approaches being convincing. And I say this as a fan of the general project of showing how critical sociology can be done poorly, because I’m a critical sociologist. The project is akin to those who look at the commoditization of dissent—say, how a Che Guevara t-shirt at Urban Outfitters exemplifies the way capitalism is so good at co-opting things that even anti-capitalism can be used to support capitalism. This issue is well-known to theorists of dissent, who mostly do not stupidly declare “Too Much Dissent” as the n+1 logic does. Similarly, as is described in the article, if Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is using taste-power logic to reinforce his powerful enterprise, we should indeed be critical of that as a taste-power move (and also our own critique as its own taste-power move). It’s hard, and it’s awkward, but it’s better than leaving the link unexplored.

Further, the n+1 Editors are sloppy in explaining what “critical sociology” is to them to begin with. The most charitable reading is that the Editors are theorizing from the perspective of interrogating the power dynamics behind identity, taste, behavior, consciousness…everything. They do not simply mean The Frankfurt School. They mostly center on Bourdieu and his adherents. That’s, of course, not the whole of critical sociology. They also mention Latour (whom they wrongly cite as “radical”), Foucault (um, who wasn’t a sociologist), and a bunch of other men: Giddens, Derrida, Guillory, Khan. The only woman mentioned is Pascale Casanova, and the n+1 Editors go on to completely ignore the critical sociology centered in queer theories, critical race theories, feminist theories, and so on, in order to argue that all critical sociology should be thrown out.

[FYI: Beyond just ignoring women critical sociologists who make the points that the n+1 Editors claim as their own without attribution, the Editors also use universal male pronouns.**]

So much critical sociology—especially from queer, intersectional, and many other perspectives—is simply ignored to make claims such as,

Thinking of everything as a scripted game show hasn’t led to change. Instead, sociological thinking has hypostatized and celebrated the script

This is sometimes true. But is it always true? And true for the critical sociology that was left out of the n+1 analysis? Do, say, feminist or queer theorists who argue that gender is performed really reify and celebrate the gender-scripts that society hands us? Making that argument is going to need some evidence, and that project would at least need to actually be aware of and cite these and other strands of critical sociology.

It is this kind of sweeping and inaccurate statement that precludes the n+1 Editors from making what could have been a worthwhile argument. They claim that “imagin[ing] …networks of power,” for instance, has become “the way everyone thinks,” and that,

sociology of culture has achieved such a dominant share in the contemporary “marketplace” […]

sociology cannot provide us with internal reasons for its ever-rising prestige


Yay! Sociology is finally dominant, and the way that “everyone thinks”. Mission accomplished! First, um, der, no. Second, of course there is there is a critical sociology of sociology. Third, the idea that “everyone” looks to networks of power is so radically and plainly incorrect that it’s offensive. It’s offensive to those not in the tiny ultra-privileged world that can be bored with questions of power, domination, inequality, resistance, and so on, because these questions make looking at art “more awkward.” Fuck that, go read a YouTube comment. Most of us live in worlds where the links between power and identity, knowledge, and behavior are unquestioned, and where bigotry comes from places other than mean critical theorists. Teaching Bourdieu to undergrads is still a challenge, trust me—though I wouldn’t mind visiting the Bourdieu-Foucault Disneyland the authors live in, where critical sociology holds such sway.

The sweeping-statement silliness reaches its climax as the Editors state,

Being no closer to a society free of domination, injustice, and inequality than we were in 1993, we may ask whether the emergence of cultural sociology is a symptom of a problem that sociology itself cannot solve.

How dare sociology not solve domination, injustice, and inequality in two full decades! What do we throw out next? You know, feminist theory has been around for a while….

The article concludes by critiquing the status of critical sociologists who see themselves as outside the system of power-taste, saying

It is the sociologist who is uniquely qualified to provide explanations for us, which have to do with feelings of status or desire for recognition, sublimated self-interest […]

The secret allure of critical sociology lay in making certain susceptible members of dominant classes hear an appeal to some transcendent sense of radical justice and fairness

Yes, that’s a good critical sociological critique—you know, critical sociology, that logic we’re being asked to abandon. Indeed, this is a well-worn point within critical sociology that asks for radical self reflexivity. The Frankfurt School gets hit with this point all the time by, you guessed it, other critical sociologists. Indeed, this essay, unlike good critical sociology, suffers from what it critiques: It somehow thinks it is beyond the power-taste system, unaware of itself as yet another move in that system. And, importantly, in the process of making a logically incoherent argument, it has gone out of its way to erase the critical sociology done primarily by those who are not white men.

I wish this response was more of a good-faith challenge to their thinking, but this n+1 piece is so attention-seeking, conversation-derailing, misinformation-filled, and logically-flawed that I’m left fully dismissing it. I questioned even giving it the attention of a rebuttal on this blog. Perhaps I shouldn’t feed the troll, and n+1 is certainly acting trollish here, but, as I’ve argued before, I don’t think outlets with influence can troll or derail a conversation because they set the conversation, and thus should be responded to. The magazine is well-known in certain circles and I think sociologists should be aware of what this certain group of slightly-influential people are saying about the discipline. And n+1 demonstrates exactly why we need more, better sociology.

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [].


Here are two more responses to n+1‘s essay, first, by Jay Gabler:

the world isn’t getting worse, or even staying the same: it’s getting better, and sociology is making it better. Sorry, English majors—you have to keep reading Bourdieu. It’s good for you, and for everybody

Next, by Jennifer C. Lena,

I teach cultural sociology, day-in and day-out. Whether I’m teaching my students at Barnard/Columbia, speaking to colleagues in other disciplines, talking to the artists and creators I study, or to my family and friends, I can tell you with the full weight of my experience that people most certainly don’t think in sociological terms. They do acknowledge material and ideological structures in principle, and in practice, deny them all the way down the line. Their tastes are personal, their successes and failures individual. 

Were YOU listening in class? Because I don’t know a single good cultural sociologist who “views any claim to “expertise” as a mere mask of prejudice, class, and cultural privilege.” Because that’s IDIOTIC. One of the things we social scientists do is make claims that we can support with evidence. One thing that The Editors do is make wild, unsupported, hyperbolic claims. The only people I see thinking that “everything is a scripted game” is you, dudes.


*The essay is attributed to “The Editors”; going to n+1’s About page, we see the “Editors” are Carla Blumenkranz, Keith Gessen, Mark Greif, and Nikil Saval, so this who I’m led to believe wrote this.

**e.g. (among others),

The ordinary person, genuflecting before his unfreedom, cries “uncle”

Data Based is a weekly Cyborgology feature producing original, insightful, and fun data visualizations.




Ned Drummond is a graphic designer and artist living and working in Washington, DC. For more information on her work, please visit If you have any Cyborgology-appropriate data you’d like to see visualized, please email Ned at ned [at]

the collective value of all bitcoins has passed a billion dollars

Pa was a simple man, a techno-anarchist by trade, and long after the Bitcoin bust, he stayed on with the mining. “Don’t know nothin’ else, Ma said

Irene Serra chose the name -isq for her band deliberately to make it hard to find online

the public quickly accepts all the miracles that science provides (1948)

From paywalls to jargon to a tacit moratorium on social media, academics build careers through public disengagement

watching videos on the Internet & maybe writing a few very short essays that the professor never sees isn’t college

it is often difficult to distinguish between organized trolling and media linkbait

[Stanford] now looks like a giant tech incubator with a football team

the latest billboard for advertising is your own cellphone’s home screen

almost nobody genuinely desired a Facebook Phone

They don’t call it ruin porn in Rome

we live “in media”, not “with media”

Digital evidence led to convictions in Steubenville. Why cant it play the same role in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons?

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [].

Data Based is a weekly Cyborgology feature producing original, insightful, and fun data visualizations.


Ned Drummond is a graphic designer and artist living and working in Washington, DC. For more information on her work, please visit If you have any Cyborgology-appropriate data you’d like to see visualized, please email Ned at ned [at]