2nd edition: Social Media: A Critical Introduction

Fuchs, Christian. 2017. Social Media: A Critical Introduction. London: Sage. 2nd edition.
Paperback ISBN 9781473966833, Hardcover ISBN 9781473966826,

Publisher’s book page: Sage UK, Sage US

Sample chapter: 2. What are Social Media and Big Data? PDF

German translation: “Soziale Medien und Kritische Theorie. Eine Einführung”

With social media changing how we use and understand everything from communication and the news to transport, more than ever it is essential to ask the right kinds of questions about the business and politics of social media. This book equips students with the critical thinking they need to understand the complexities and contradictions and make informed judgements.

This Second Edition:
– Lays bare the structures and power relations at the heart of our media landscape.
– Explores the sharing economy of Uber and Airbnb in a brand new chapter.
– Takes us into the politics and economy of social media in China
– Puts forward powerful arguments for how to achieve a social media that serves the purposes of a just and fair world

This book is the essential, critical guide for all students of media studies and sociology. Readers will never look at social media the same way again.

“Timely new chapters on China and on the ‘sharing economy’ of Uber and Airbnb strengthen an already vital contribution to communication studies. Through the lens of critical theory, Fuchs provides the essential text for students of our new media world.” — Vincent Mosco, Queen’s University, Ontario

“A definitive book for all social media users who feel powerless and exploited, who long for dignity, freedom, and a more democratic Internet – illuminated, again, by critical theory” — Jack Qiu, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

“Christian Fuchs’ revised text should be mandatory reading for students, scholars, or anyone trying to understand the changes and continuity that characterize social media. The book is a smart, thorough and well-documented resource that should be useful to all.” — Janet Wasko, University of Oregon

Table of Contents:

1 What Is a Critical Introduction to Social Media?


2 What are Social Media and Big Data?

3 Social Media as Participatory Culture

4 Social Media and Communication Power


5 The Power and Political Economy of Social Media

6 Google: Good or Evil Search Engine?

7 Facebook: Surveillance in the Age of Edward Snowden

8 Twitter and Democracy: A New Public Sphere?

9 Weibo and Chinese Capitalism

10 The Political Economy of Online Sharing Platforms in the Age of Airbnb and Uber

11 WikiLeaks: Can We Make Power Transparent?

12 Wikipedia: A New Democratic Form of Collaborative Work and Production?

III Futures

13 Conclusion: Social Media and its Alternatives – Towards a Truly Social Media

Detailed Table of Contents:

1 What Is a Critical Introduction to Social Media? 1
1.1 What Is Social about Social Media? 5
1.2 What Is Critical Thinking and Why Does it Matter? 8
1.3 What Is Critical Theory? 10
1.4 Critical Theory Approaches 19

I FOUNDATIONS 312  What Are Social Media and Big Data? 3
2.1 Web 2.0 and Social Media 34
2.2 The Need of Social Theory for Understanding Social Media 37
2.3 Explaining Social Media with Durkheim, Weber, Marx and Tönnies 44
2.4 A Model of Social Media Communication 49
2.5 Big Data 52
2.6 Conclusion 61
3  Social Media as Participatory Culture
3.1 The Notions of Participation and Participatory Culture 66
3.2 Online Fan Culture and Politics 72
3.3 Social Media and Participatory Culture 73
3.4 Henry Jenkins and Digital Labour 76
3.5 Jenkins’s Response to Criticisms 78
3.6 Conclusion 81 

4  Social Media and Communication Power 85
4.1 Social Theory in the Information Age 86
4.2 Communication Power in the Network Society 88
4.3 Communication Power, Social Media and Mass Self-Communication 90
4.4 Communication Power in the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement 98
4.5 Conclusion 110


5  The Power and Political Economy of Social Media 121
5.1  Social Media as Ideology: The Limits of the Participatory Social Media Hypothesis 122
5.2  The Cycle of Capital Accumulation 128
5.3  Capital Accumulation and Social Media 130
5.4  Free Labour and Slave Labour 143
5.5  Conclusion 148

6  Google: Good or Evil Search Engine? 153
6.1 Introduction 154
6.2 Google’s Political Economy 155
6.3 Googology: Google and Ideology 162
6.4 Work at Google 164
6.5 Google: God and Satan in One Company 167
6.6 Google and the State: Monopoly Power and Tax Avoidance 170
6.7 Conclusion 1767  Facebook: Surveillance in the Age of Edward Snowden 183
7.1 Facebook’s Financial Power 185
7.2 The Notion of Privacy 186
7.3 Facebook and Ideology 190
7.4 Privacy and the Political Economy of Facebook 194
7.5 Edward Snowden and the Surveillance-Industrial Complex 198
7.6 Conclusion 206 

8  Twitter and Democracy: A New Public Sphere? 217
8.1 Habermas’s Concept of the Public Sphere 218
8.2 Twitter, Social Media and the Public Sphere 227
8.3 Political Communication on Twitter 231
8.4 Uncivil Communication on Twitter 240
8.5 Twitter’s Political Economy 242
8.6 @JürgenHabermas #Twitter #PublicSphere 243
8.7 Conclusion 246

9  Weibo: Power, Ideology and Social Struggles in Chinese Capitalism 251
9.1 China’s Capitalism 254
9.2 Weibo’s Political Economy 268
9.3 Weibo and Social Media Ideologies 273
9.4 Chinese Social Struggles in the Age of Weibo 276
9.5 Conclusion 279

10  Airbnb and Uber: The Political Economy of Online Sharing Platforms 283
10.1 Uber: The Pay per Service Sharing Model 284
10.2 Airbnb: The Capitalist Sharing Economy’s Rent-on-Rent Model 291
10.3 The Sharing Economy: A Capitalist Ideology 299
10.4 An Alternative Sharing Economy Beyond Capitalism? 305
10.5 Conclusion 312

11  Wikipedia: A New Democratic Form of Collaborative Work and Production? 317
11.1 The Communist Idea 319
11.2 Communication and Communism 323
11.3 Wikipedia’s Political Economy 324
11.4 Criticisms of Wikipedia 328
11.5 Conclusion 334


12 Conclusion: Social Media and its Alternatives – Towards a Truly Social Media 341
12.1 Social Media Reality: Ideologies and Exploitation 341
12.2 Social Media Alternatives 345
12.3 Towards a Truly Social Media and a New Society 355

References 357Related Materials, suited for classroom use:

– Video: Conversation with Simon Lindgren about digital sociology, social media and theorising the Internet (YouTube)
– How the Frankfurt School Helps Us to Understand Donald Trump’s Twitter Populism (blog post)
– What The US Presidential Election Result Tells Us About the Failures Of Big Data Analytics And Neoliberalism As Big Data Capitalism (blog post)
– The Facebook/Admiral Scandal Shows The Limits And Dangers Of Big Data Capitalism (blog post)
– Legal Struggles in the Age of Uber-Capitalism: Are Uber-Drivers Workers or Self-Employed? (blog post)
– User-Generated Ideology on Social Media: A New Study Shows How Users Oppose and Support Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter (blog post)
– Expanding Tweets From 140 Characters to 10,000? Not Nearly Radical Enough  Link
- Bosses' Right to Snoop on Staff Emails Is An Invastion of Privacy and Ignores the Way We Work Link