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Power play online:: Exploring master suppression techniques on Facebook
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
2015 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Today we are spending increasingly large parts of our lives online and at the same time, new applications see the light of day in a steady stream. Accordingly we invent new and changing ways of communicating, managing relationships and interact. How these ways can be understood and managed thus becomes a constant, current and multifaceted issue. One aspect of this issue concerns our ability to exert subtle power and positioning games by the various kinds of social media that we use. In this paper, we address that particular field of research. We examine what suppression techniques (Ås 1978) and what shades of suppression techniques (Nyberg & Wiberg 2014) that are exerted on Facebook, as well as how and why they are expressed the way they do.


Theoretically this paper is based on solid and proven theoretical frameworks of domination techniques that are mainly known through the scientific work of Ås (1978) and Nissen (1946). More recently, the framework has as well been explored in terms of what happens when suppression techniques are moving online and in social media (Nyberg & Wiberg 2014). More specific, social media is explored with regard to it’s spaces of possible actions (Stolterman 2004) and it’s importance to the user's ability to exercise power, as well as to manage or respond to the exercise of power through the so-called counter-strategies (Nyberg & Wiberg 2015). This paper builds on this collected work and focus one of our most popular social media worldwide: Facebook. More specifically, we examine the comment field in open forums on Facebook, where it is not required a registered user to be able to read posts, comment and discuss.


Methodologically, this paper builds on a netnographic observational study, a qualitative content analysis and a pragmatic – interactionistic approach for analysis. The netnographic study was conducted based on the criterion of being able to obtain a broad picture of the digital environment. The users themselves are not important for the study, but our interest is in people's representations of themselves on the internet. This was followed by a content analysis and finally, the data were analysed through a pragmatic – interactionistic approach for analysis.


This article contributes to a richer understanding of the use of master suppression techniques on Facebook. The following techniques are explored and discussed: making invisible, ridiculing, withholding information, damned if you do and damned if you don’t and heaping blame and putting to shame. Based on the result of our observation studies we draw the conclusion that you can see signs of some of the master suppression techniques on Facebook. We also argue why others don’t show up. Another conclusion that we draw is that the environment on public Facebook pages is harsher than first expected. We also present a categorisation model for a simple overviewing of master suppression techniques on Facebook. This model can be a valuable aid in the study and analysis of social power and positioning game in the other social media.



Löwgren, J. "och Stolterman, E.(2004)." Design av informationsteknik–materialet utan egenskaper.

Nissen, I. (1974). Psykopatenes diktatur. Oslo: Aschehoug.


Nyberg, Annakarin, and Mikael Wiberg. "Sociala medier-ett nät av härskartekniker?." Human IT (2015).


Nyberg, Annakarin, and Mikael Wiberg. "Sociala medier och härskartekniker." (2014).

Ås, Berit. "Hersketeknikker." Master Suppression Techniques.] Kjerringråd 3 (1978): 17-21.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
Research subject
Computer and Information Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-112127OAI: diva2:875944
Social Media Studies Symposium (SMS-S) 2015
Available from: 2015-12-02 Created: 2015-12-02 Last updated: 2015-12-02

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