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Research in the humanities and social sciences is increasingly concerned with social media technologies and their use. This article argues that such research could benefit substantially by drawing on the work of the sociologist–psychologist–philosopher Georg Simmel (1858–1918). Simmel's conceptualization of belonging, social space and domination are among his many contributions to social media theory; yet, the significance of this work remains woefully overlooked in studies of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and the information society, more broadly. To redress this disciplinary obscurity, this article fleshes out some of Simmel's most relevant contributions to CMC scholarship and provides a close reading of his 1908 essay, The Stranger. I suggest that the subjectivity to which social media give life can be best understood as a resurrection of Simmel's stranger archetype – a figure of paradox beholden to the competing demands of inclusion and exclusion, proximity and distance, mobility and stasis. Ultimately, this article insists that not only does Simmel's work help scholars to unpack the sociality of social media, but it also helps locate the changes and continuities of discourse surrounding the relationship between sociality and knowledge.
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Keywords: Georg Simmel; belonging; computer-mediated communication; social media; sociality; space

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Cultural Policy and Management,City University London, A129 College Building, Northampton SquareLondon,EC1V 0HB, UK< xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="">[email protected], Email: [email protected], URL:

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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