Tag Archives: politics

#TwitterAlerts is Bad for Twitter

Twitter_Alerts

Last week Twitter introduced an alert system that they described as “ a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information during emergencies, natural disasters or when other communications services aren’t accessible.” The alerts show up on users phones as special push notifications and SMS notifications and are marked with an orange bell in your feed. At first blush it seems like a great idea but, given that I’m writing this during yet another government “shutdown”, are governments and NGOs really the only organizations that should get access to this useful service? What can activists do to push back? (more…)

Fear of Being Missed

c/o Zazzle.com

 

Sweaty palms. Racing heart. Mind wandering to extreme and alarming places.  No, this is not a horror movie or a bad dissertation dream. This is Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

FOMO is a colloquial phrase to describe the anxiety people feel in light of constant streams of information. Not only are broadcast news cycles 24 hours, but so too are social news streams. All day, at all times, the Facebook and Twitter tickers move forward, populated by people, information, and interaction. These streams go on with or without us.  It is impossible to keep up. And yet, widespread access through home computers, work computers, smart phones and tablets tempt many of us to try, often wavering between frenzied efforts stay afloat, and resolutions to let the digital world spin without us, determinately avoiding connected devices with clenched jaws, white knuckles, deep breaths, and quick sideways glances full of both longing and animosity.     (more…)

Newsweek Isn’t A “Troll” (Even If It’s Acting Like One)

In light of the recent Newsweek magazine cover scandal, let’s think for a moment on what a “troll” is and when we should or should not call someone or something a troll. My first reaction to the Islamaphobic cover was “trolling. ignore.” That was the exact wrong reaction.

Trolls, of course, are those who deliberately post inflammatory material in order to disrupt or derail discourse. Declaring something or someone a “troll” is a way of saying that they just want attention. Trolls attempt to disrupt productive communication in an attempt to get noticed. The one thing you need to know to do when this happens: don’t feed the trolls. Don’t. Feed. The. Trolls. It’s good advice. However, because of its mainstream position, I do not think Newsweek is a “troll,” even if it sure as hell is acting like one. (more…)

Curating Reality: Insights From the Chick-fil-A Wars

Fry on Fry Love

Chick-fil-A has delicious waffle fries. So delicious. But before getting in to the content of this post, I should locate myself by stating that I have not purchased anything from this company in over a year, and I will never consume those warm checkered squares of potato-y goodness again.  The reason for this (in case anyone has been living under a rock/in a dissertation shaped bubble) is that the company explicitly opposes same-sex marriage. I am explicitly anti-bigotry, and so I do not purchase food from Chick-fil-A

Okay, now I can theorize. (more…)

#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: The Politics of Design

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 3.30.12 and was updated to include video on 7.19.12. See the conference website for

Presider: Kari Kraus (@karikraus)

Drawing on a diverse range of approaches–from media archaeology and ethnography to queer theory and critical code studies–the “Politics of Design” panel will collectively consider where and how power pools and collects in the designed, value-laden spaces of the internet. Individual panelists will take up digital networks and anonymity (Moesch); established and proposed internet architectures (Shilton and Neal); slick Web 2.0 and grungy “dirt style” interfaces (Kane); and the failed rhetoric of the digital sublime by the founders of Google and Second Life (Chia).  Not content to dwell on surface design features, each speaker unearths hidden variables–whether technological, social, or historical–that affect the systems, platforms, and communication structures under discussion. In the process, they expose the faultlines in those structures that allow us to envision them otherwise; the politics of design, that is to say, ultimately point–directly or indirectly–to alt-design and re-design.

Please join us on 4/14 for what promises to be a fabulous #TtW12 panel!

[Paper titles and abstracts are after the jump.] (more…)

#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: Manufacturing Dissent

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 4.2.12 and was updated to include video on 7.11.12. See the conference website for

Any study of politics is going to be fundamentally about power, and about who is free to exercise it and how: How policy is made, how the public sphere is constituted and how boundary lines are drawn around it, who has a voice and who is excluded from

Presider: Sarah Wanenchak

discussion or consideration, who is central and who is marginalized. By the same token, the study of contentious politics – as it focuses on dissent and protest – is fundamentally about how those who have been marginalized, denied a voice, and left without power act to seize the things that have been denied them: How activist communities form and frame themselves, how their objectives and tactics change over time, how they seek entry into the public sphere and engage the actors they find there, how the voiceless find a voice and what they use it to say. Moreover, it’s about what is visible and recognized: How we understand political action in light of what’s gone before and what might come in the future.

All of this would be complex enough without communications technology, and what this panel highlights is how technology changes and enriches this already-complicated picture. Communications technology has the potential to change what we understand by “public sphere” and how we construct meanings around events, as well as how different collective actors organize and react to each other. If knowledge and information are vital to the development of a social movement, then understanding how knowledge and information flow is additionally vital.

Given recent and ongoing global protest movements, the intersection of technology and protest is a subject both broad and deep. Rather than attempt to capture all aspects of it, the excellent papers in this panel call attention to more tightly focused corners of the political picture, and in so doing, illuminate further potential avenues for research and exploration. Additionally, the geographical and cultural focus of this panel is truly diverse, allowing us to push back a bit against the American-and-Eurocentric bias that appears too often in research of this kind.

Titles and abstracts are after the cut.

(more…)

#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: Technologies of Identity

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 4.11.12 and was updated to include video on 6.5.12. See the conference website for additional information.

I am very happy to have the opportunity to preside over the panel on technologies of identity. Internet is intimately related to people’s identities; a point that is almost self-evident. People express, reinforce and even sometimes construct new identities via the Internet. But how exactly does this happen? through what mechanisms? How, for example, do people who date online maintain or challenge their identities concerning their sexual preference, class, race, etc. in ways similarly and differently than those who date exclusively offline? Or, how do second-generation immigrants take advantage of the Internet to reshape society’s perceptions of them? How, for instance, do people’s conception of consumption change when faced with the new possibility of shopping online? How does our desire for power and pleasure manifest itself through online social networks? …the questions are endless…

Internet meet identity are both fascinating topics: we expect expect analyses that are both interesting and insightful. And that is the promise our presenters try to fulfill with their intriguing papers.

*Note: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Nicholas Boston will not be able to attend the conference.

[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.]

(more…)

Mic Checking the Man: The Evolving Human Microphone

The Human Microphone was created by Occupy Wall Street as a way to get around New York City’s ban on amplified sound in Zuccotti Park. In other words, it is a tool–and a form of non-digital technology–designed to facilitate communication and discussion in large crowds. But like any form of technology, its use isn’t confined to what it was originally created to do.

This is Karl Rove being “mic-checked” while delivering a speech at Johns Hopkins on November 14th. It starts about 1:48 in (be aware, there’s a huge jump in volume at that point).

YouTube Preview Image

(more…)

Julian Assange: Cyber-Libertarian or Cyber-Anarchist?


Julian Assange, the notorious founder and director of WikiLeaks, is many things to many people: hero, terrorist, figurehead, megalomaniac. What is it about Assange that makes him both so resonant and so divisive in our culture? What, exactly, does Assange stand for? In this post, I explore two possible frameworks for understanding Assange and, more broadly, the WikiLeaks agenda. These frameworks are: cyber-libertarianism and cyber-anarchism.

First, of course, we have to define these two terms. Cyber-libertarianism is a well-established political ideology that has its roots equally in the Internet’s early hacker culture and in American libertarianism. From hacker culture, it inherited a general antagonism to any form of regulation, censorship, or other barrier that might stand in the way of “free” (i.e., unhindered) access of the World Wide Web. From American libertarianism it inherited a general belief that voluntary associations are more effective in promoting freedom than government (the US Libertarian Party‘s motto is “maximum freedom, minimum government”). American libertarianism is distinct from other incarnations of libertarianism in that tends to celebrate the market and private business over co-opts or other modes of collective organization. In this sense, American libertarianism is deeply pro-capitalist. Thus, when we hear the slogan “information wants to be” that is widely associated with cyber-libertarianism, we should not read it as meaning  gratis (i.e., zero price); rather, we should read it as meaning libre (without obstacles or restrictions). This is important because the latter interpretation is compatible with free market economics, unlike the former.

Cyber-anarchism is a far less widely used term. In practice, commentators often fail to distinguish between cyber-anarchism and cyber-libertarianism. However, there are subtle distinctions between the two. Anarchism aims at the abolition of hierarchy. Like libertarians, anarchists have a strong skepticism of government, particularly government’s exclusive claim to use force against other actors. Yet, while libertarians tend to focus on the market as a mechanism for rewarding individual achievement, anarchists tend to see it as means for perpetuating inequality. Thus, cyber-anarchists tend to be as much against private consolidation of Internet infrastructure as they are against government interference. While cyber-libertarians have, historically, viewed the Internet as an unregulated space where good ideas and the most clever entrepreneurs are free to rise to the top, cyber-anarchists see the Internet as a means of working around and, ultimately, tearing down old hierarchies. Thus, what differentiates cyber-anarchist from cyber-libertarians, then, is that cyber-libertarians embrace fluid, meritocratic hierarchies (which are believed to be best served by markets), while anarchists are distrustful of all hierarchies. This would explain while libertarians tend to organize into conventional political parties, while the notion of an anarchist party seems almost oxymoronic. Another way to understand this difference is in how each group defines freedom: Freedom for libertarians is freedom to individually prosper, while freedom for anarchists is freedom from systemic inequalities. (more…)

Retro-Tech: #OWS’ Complicated Relationship with Technology

all photos in this post by nathan jurgenson

The role of new, social media in the Occupy protests near Wall Street, around the country and even around the globe is something I’ve written about before. I spent some time at Occupy Wall Street last week and talked to many folks there about technology. The story that emerged is much more complicated than expected. OWS has a more complicated, perhaps even “ironic” relationship with technology than I previous thought and that is often portrayed in the news and in everyday discussions.

It is easy to think of the Occupy protests as a bunch of young people who all blindly utilize Facebook, Twitter, SMS, digital photography and so on. And this is partially true. However, (1) not everyone at Occupy Wall Street is young; and (2), the role of technology is certainly not centered on the new, the high-tech or social media. At OWS, there is a focus on retro and analogue technologies; moving past a cultural fixation on the high-tech, OWS has opened a space for the low-tech.

What I want to think about there is the general Occupy Wall Street culture that has mixed-feelings about new technologies, even electricity itself. I will give examples of the embracing of retro-technology at OWS and consider three overlapping explanations for why this might be the case. I will also make use of some photographs I took while there. (more…)