Countless people around the world harness the affordances of digital media to enable democratic participation, coordinate disaster relief, campaign for policy change, and strengthen local advocacy groups. The world watched as activists used social media to organize protests during the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution. Many governmental and community organizations changed their mission and function as they adopted new digital tools and practices.
New media—we are told—exist at the bleeding edge of obsolescence. We thus forever try to catch up, updating to remain the same. Meanwhile, analytic, creative, and commercial efforts focus exclusively on the next big thing: figuring out what will spread and who will spread it the fastest. But what do we miss in this constant push to the future? In Updating to Remain the Same, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun suggests another approach, arguing that our media matter most when they seem not to matter at all—when they have moved from “new” to habitual.
In Pirate Philosophy, Gary Hall considers whether the fight against the neoliberal corporatization of higher education in fact requires scholars to transform their own lives and labor. Is there a way for philosophers and theorists to act not just for or with the antiausterity and student protestors—“graduates without a future”—but in terms of their political struggles?
The image of the scholar as a solitary thinker dates back at least to Descartes’ Discourse on Method. But scholarly practices in the humanities are changing as older forms of communal inquiry are combined with modern research methods enabled by the Internet, accessible computing, data availability, and new media. Hermeneutica introduces text analysis using computer-assisted interpretive practices.
What has planetary-scale computation done to our geopolitical realities? It takes different forms at different scales—from energy and mineral sourcing and subterranean cloud infrastructure to urban software and massive universal addressing systems; from interfaces drawn by the augmentation of the hand and eye to users identified by self—quantification and the arrival of legions of sensors, algorithms, and robots. Together, how do these distort and deform modern political geographies and produce new territories in their own image?
In 1982, the British Broadcasting Corporation launched its Computer Literacy Project, intended “to introduce interested adults to the world of computers and computing.” The BBC accompanied this initiative with television programs, courses, books, and software—an early experiment in multi-platform education. The BBC, along with Acorn Computers, also introduced the BBC Microcomputer, which would be at the forefront of the campaign.
Is there a cultural logic of what we have come to call the information age? Have the technologies and techniques centered on the computer provided not only tools but also the metaphors through which we now understand the social and economic formation of our world? In Control, Seb Franklin addresses the conditions of knowledge that make the concept of the “information economy” possible while at the same time obscuring its deleterious effects on material social spaces.
The world is filling with ever more kinds of media, in ever more contexts and formats. Glowing rectangles have become part of the scene; screens, large and small, appear everywhere. Physical locations are increasingly tagged and digitally augmented. Amid this flood, your attention practices matter more than ever. You might not be able to tune this world out. So it is worth remembering that underneath all these augmentations and data flows, fixed forms persist, and that to notice them can improve other sensibilities.
Our encounters with websites, avatars, videos, mobile apps, discussion forums, GIFs, and nonhuman intelligent agents allow us to experience sensations of connectivity, interest, desire, and attachment—as well as detachment, boredom, fear, and shame. Some affective online encounters may arouse complex, contradictory feelings that resist dualistic distinctions. In this book, leading scholars examine the fluctuating and altering dynamics of affect that give shape to online connections and disconnections.
In Life after New Media, Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska make a case for a significant shift in our understanding of new media. They argue that we should move beyond our fascination with objects--computers, smart phones, iPods, Kindles--to an examination of the interlocking technical, social, and biological processes of mediation. Doing so, they say, reveals that life itself can be understood as mediated--subject to the same processes of reproduction, transformation, flattening, and patenting undergone by other media forms.