Introduction

(Electrek, 2020)

The key influencer that this social networking and digital media blog will focus on is Elon Musk. Born on June 28th, 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa his mother Maye was and still is a professional dietitian and model appearing on the cover of Time magazine. In 1979 Musk’s parents divorced and he and his younger brother Kimbel decided to move in with his father. However after the move there began a troublesome relationship with his dad. Elon was a talented child and at the age of 12 he sold a simple computer game to a magazine for $500. After graduating from high school he moved to Canada with his mother and siblings, spending two years studying at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, however finished his studies in Pennsylvania earning a degree in physics and economics. With his brother, Kimbel, Musk launched his first company in Zip2. The hard work paid off when Compaq bought the company for $341 million, netting Musk around $22 million. Next he started X.com, an online banking company, in 1999, and a year later merged with confinity to form PayPal. Then in 2002, Musk netted big when eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion. In early 2002, Musk founded a space exploration company named Space X, with his goal being to make spaceflight cheaper. Musk continued to keep himself busy by investing an initial $70 million in the electric car company, Tesla.

As CEO of Space X and Tesla, founder of the Boring Company and co-founder of OpenAI and Neuralink, Musk is pushing all kinds of futuristic technologies (Weinberger, 2020). However it hasn’t been without controversy, Vernon Unsworth had sued the Tesla co-founder after he called him “pedo guy” and “sus” on Twitter in a spat following the July 2018 Thailand cave rescue (Griffin, 2020).

In this blog, I am trying to understand how Elon Musk utilises social media and how his role online influences those who follow him. This will be explored through relevant media theories, and also data collection including both quantitative and qualitative research.

Elon Musk is most active on the social media platform of Twitter, therefore my focus will be here with analysis of the tweets he produces. He is also known for many controversies as a result of the things he has previously tweeted in conjunction with the fact he has 40 million followers. Through using Twitter Elon Musk often conforms to Habermas's ideas on the public sphere. According to Habermas “the bourgeois public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a public” (Habermas [1962] 1989) Musk often tweets on a large number of topics from science and technology to memes and gaming drawing in a large inclusive audience who can come together to informally discuss and comment. However, Papacharissi (2010) states ‘equal participation and unfettered access is an unrealistic ideal and the social barriers to accessing information and participation refute claims of a revitalisation of the public sphere on social media’ would be applicable in this instance as to access the discussion regarding Elon Musk one would require a device with an ability to use Twitter.

The social media platform Twitter was designed in 2006 by former Google employees before engineer Jack Dorsey joined the management team and the completed version of Twitter was launched in 2007. (Britannica, n.d.) The original idea was to create a SMS based communications platform in which friends could keep tabs on each other by updating statuses. (Forsey, n.d.) However Twitter today is a modern public square where voices discuss, debate and share their views, with media personalities, politicians and the public turning to Twitter for real time information and reactions. (Wojcik and Hughes, 2019)

The target audience for this blog is firstly those who have an interest in both primarily Elon Musk and social media. These are people who want to find out more information on the two and potentially both in conjunction. To find who specifically these people are you would need to identify Elon Musk’s target audience and this will be done so in a later blog post. This blog is also an academic one, and therefore academics can also be targeted by such posts.

When it comes to collecting data, my first collection will be from Twitter, looking at statistics and quantitative data such as followers and number of interactions. I can also collect qualitative data from Twitter, like how Elon Musk tweets and the structure he uses to form his tweets. I can also collect some economic data due to him being a businessman but also the fact that we know his tweets have previously affected the economy of the companies he is involved in.

Blake, n.d.

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