Resilience welcomes this innovative special issue, edited by Johan Gärdebo, Anna Svensson, and Ma Isabel Pérez-Ramos of the Division of History of Science, Technology, and Environment at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and by Tom Buurman of the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University.
The topic of “Social Media in the Anthropocene” immediately presents its ambition. The large concepts of social media and the Anthropocene each have spawned volumes of critical thought. Taken together, they present a provocation large enough for a multivolume collection. Our special editors neatly sum up where they see the point of intersection between their primary objects, and that is in temporal practice. In their introduction to the issue, they write, “Social media are perceived as providing nearly instant information, and the Anthropocene is the transformation of our previous perennial nature toward the unstable, (con)temporary environment.” This special issue unfolds as a query into how the times of social media and the Anthropocene at once emphasize immediacy—the lightning-flash Twitter response, the focus on methane levels NOW— and depth. Depth more readily inheres to Anthropocene thought, where the necessity of locating a start date for the new geologic era in the stratigraphic record forces a material constraint on scholars, making it necessary to choose a moment when ecological modernity begins, be it the dawn of agriculture, the era of colonialist genocide in the Americas, or the detonation of the atomic bomb. Of course it can be argued that no such originary date exists— all are, to an extent, fictional origin stories born within the contemporary crisis of climate change. So the Anthropocene lives between the time zones of historical imagination (social time), geological imagination (deep time), and crisis (the immediate). So, too, social media, if defined capaciously, lives in multiple time zones. One of the unique gifts of this special issue is its insistence that social media cannot be recognized as only a product of digital culture. In fact, social media may be slow media, such as letters sent by post. Social media may be live performance, played out by multiple actors on a Welsh beach— actors including water and stone, [End Page vii] whose movements generate a contemporary social surround yet hearken back to millennia of nonhuman practice. While our special editors utilize the most up-to-date social media fora, such as blogging, Tumblr archiving, and open-source review, they also engage in a McCluhanite expansion of the meanings of social media to include multiple ways of mediating sociality. In the process, they implicitly and explicitly ask us, their readers, to develop an ethics of social praxis (always mediated!) for the Anthropocene. The ethical questions at the core of this special issue touch on structural problems at the core of academic life, such as the necessity of travel for academic career building, the importance of expertise versus amateurism, and the complexity of incorporating community voices into academic publications. “Social Media in the Anthropocene” leaves us thinking, and thinking hard, about what it means to be a mediated, mediating animal— in other words, human— in this unprecedented ecological era. [End Page viii]