This paper argues that the failure of MySpace and the rise of Facebook in the social networking site market is due in part to the degrees in which either site associates users, technology, and marketers into a successful “real software abstraction.” Real software abstraction is a synthesis of the software engineering concept of abstraction and the Marxian concept of the real abstraction. This concept is used to examine MySpace and Facebook at the levels of aesthetics, code, culture, and appeal to marketers. I argue that instead of creating an architecture of abstraction in which users’ affect and content were easily reduced to marketer-friendly data sets, MySpace allowed users to create a cacophony of “pimped” profiles that undermined efforts to monetize user-generated content. In contrast, Facebook has proven to be extremely efficient at reducing users to commodifiable data sets within a muted, bland interface that does not detract from marketing efforts.
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Robert W. Gehl; Real (Software) Abstractions: On the Rise of Facebook and the Fall of MySpace. Social Text 1 June 2012; 30 (2 (111)): 99–119. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-1541772
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