Public involvement in social media – are we merely pawns on a capitalist chessboard?

Last week’s lecture in EDU 3084 concerning the various connections, mechanisms and interests that regulate various social media and websites was thought-provoking indeed. Hofkirchner (2014, p. 74) envisions a common that is accessible for us all, on the basis of a “good society”. He has to admit, though, that “the conditions for a transformation into a good society is [sic] not imminent”. What does this entail for students and the way in which teachers can contribute to increasing their overall digital competence?

It may be that I am too sceptical about social media and the way in which they utilize and benefit from patrons and the “crumbs” they leave behind to generate advertising-based revenue.


It is no longer a question of whether Big Brother watches you, it is rather about Big Brother watches you and would like to present you with this incredible offer, targeting you and only you, and valid for a short period only.

If I am to be pragmatic, major players like FaceBook, Instagram, etc. are merely buttering their bread, as we all do (a somewhat thicker and fatter layer than what most of us can afford, admittedly). Business is business. If I were to venture into a state of borderline paranoia, I might see users of social media as nothing but hapless pawns being moved around on a chessboard controlled by greedy, cynical and incredibly crafty capitalist interests.

The internet, with all its offerings, is wild, amazing, cruel, informative, stimulating and tremendously alluring. There is no room for naiveté. Teachers can never fully protect their students from being exploited or from acting too gullibly in various digital arenas. Teachers cannot make choices on behalf of others. What we can do, however, is to inform students of the mechanisms and players that regulate social media, and of their stated and ulterior motives and strategies. We need to discuss potential pitfalls and emphasize the importance of developing an analytical and sceptical approach to online behaviour and choices. We need to empower future generations of internet users.

However much they might be inclined to think otherwise, students must be made fully aware of what Hofkirchner (2014, p. 82) refers to as “[…] (the rich-get-richer mechanisms) inherent in capitalist economies”. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. In the end, it is all basically about who benefits; about whose hands are moving the chess pieces around.

The miscellaneous online arenas might be referred to as “commons”. It is up to us all to decide whether we are satisfied with grazing on these commons as disinterested and witless sheep, or whether we must adopt a severely sceptical (and healthy?) approach to what is actually going on behind the scenes.



Hofkirchner, W. (2014). The Commons from a Critical Social Systems Perspective. RECERCA. Revista de pensament i anàlisi, 14, 73-92. Retrieved from  doi:


3 thoughts on “Public involvement in social media – are we merely pawns on a capitalist chessboard?

  1. Hi, Hilde,

    It is very interesting to read this blog-post. You raise some good questions and come with interesting reflections in connection to them.I am impressed by the way you so easily summarize parts of Hofkirchner’s article, it is not so easy to read (at least not for me).

    I am actually considering writing my master’s thesis based on this area within digital competence, at least something about pupils’ awareness in connection to the usage of Internet. I will not focus on social media as such, but Google and other websites (that even we as adults use without being that critical), which are important tools in their school work. Give me a heads up if you come across articles or other sources that might be used in my thesis 🙂 Keep up the good work on your blog! Guri


  2. Hi Guri,

    It is an interesting and relevant topic indeed, and I support you in exploring this further in your thesis. I will certainly let you know if I should stumble upon additional articles addressing pupils’ awareness regarding internet usage! 🙂


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