Click: Exploring Social Actions in the 21st Century
Behrens, Katja Alice
The phenomenon of social media has become part of our everyday interaction with others. At the heart of this exploration lies the idea that ‘clicks’ on social media are meaningful ways of communicating with others and doing things together. Approaching them in their role as a symbol of 21st century everyday social action means considering how ‘clicks’ are understood as meaningful units of behaviour in context. Whereas the standard philosophy of action tempts one to think of a ‘click’ as a highly individualistic action, I contend that even the simplest ‘click’ retains important senses of sociality. Philosophical theories struggle to explain these nuances of social action and ignore how sociality weaves through conceptions of actions, offline and online. I criticise views in philosophy that are enchanted by a solipsistic paradigm of action. I call this point of view atomism. The atomistic paradigm has been uncritically employed in accounts of collective action, which proposes a particular way of making the distinction between actions performed individually, and action that is performed socially or collectively. The former is traditionally taken to be preliminary to the latter. This has led to a misguided understanding of the connection between sociality and action, resulting in unnecessary metaphysical tangles. As an alternative, I propose a view that illuminates how actions are social regardless as to whether they are performed with others or alone. An action’s sociality can but is not necessarily constituted by the number of agents involved at any given time. Sociality rather, interweaves conceptions of action on a conceptual level. To highlight the nuances of the interplay of sociality and action, I suggest social holism as a perspicuous perspective from which actions are conceptualised in the light of an inquisitive aim. It explores how actions are ordinarily understood in relation to what they mean. What the action is thus, depends on the context and is informed by senses of sociality. This ordinary action philosophy investigates the phenomenological engagement of ordinary agents with actions and outlines the social resources that are active in understanding each other’s actions. Where atomism might tempt one to think of a ‘click’ on social media as an individual action in isolation, I show that understanding ‘clicks’ as actions is already social, both on empirical and conceptual levels. Reaching from being accustomed to a world in which this form of communication is conceivably doable to the ways in which the opportunity to do so is a socially enabled achievement. The argument will proceed in three steps: first, drafting a holistic perspective on how agents come to see action as meaningful wholes. Second, showing how perceptual holism is informed by senses of sociality: paradigmatically, one encounters actions in a variety of social ways. These include the understanding of doable actions that are ordinary and repeatable; the sense in which actions are interactive and enabled by others. With these senses in place, and by drawing on a range of methodological allies outside the philosophy of action, an exploration of the acts of communication performed on social media is presented as demonstrating how actions are understood, described and rendered intelligible. And third, applying the senses of sociality to everyday examples of social media action. Starting from social holism avoids caveats of atomism; paradigms of social action collapses the artificial distinction that atomists make between individual and collective action. Embracing this alternative starting point lays the groundwork for conducting further research in the area, particularly internet ethics and considerations of online action.
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