Archive - Mar 4, 2012

Towards a Hermeneutics of Online Social Media

This afternoon, I returned to INTRODUCTION TO THEORY OF LITERATURE. I've been moving very slowly through it and am only on the third lecture. This lecture is about hermeneutics. Other than briefly reading a little Heidegger and Gadamer, and watching part of the lecture, my knowledge of hermeneutics limited, so, if I go astray, I apologize, and if you're looking for an introduction to hermeneutics, I'd suggest you look elsewhere.

Put simply, hermeneutics is the study of the interpretation of written texts. Texts have always been interpreted, in one way or another. Yet for that study was not rigorously or systematically pursued, until it really mattered what the interpretation said. So, hermeneutics became important in religion during the Protestant reformation. Perhaps it has always been important for law, and as it gained importance in other areas, the hermeneutics of literature became important.

So, does a hermeneutics of online social media make sense? At first blush, perhaps not. Does your interpretation of my latest tweet really make a difference? Yet if you look a little more deeply, it may make quite a bit of difference. Social media is being brought into the courtrooms, particularly in family law cases. The interpretation of these social media messages may be very important. Likewise, as news and politics is increasingly being distributed via social media, the interpretation of those messages may be especially important.

Yet on my initial search, I'm not finding much of anyone writing about hermeneutics of online social media. Perhaps the closest I've found is Dr. Krista Francis-Poscente's blog, Blogging about Blogging. I've skimmed a few of the posts and it looks like a blog well worth reading.

As I think about it, there are interesting questions about the readers interpretation and relationship to the author, the individual social media entries, the overall collection of social media entries on a particular social media network, as well as all of the social media entries across the universe of social media networks that the author is on. How do we understand these different relationship as we think about a hermeneutics of online social media? What is out there already that I might be missing?

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