Plan for the Day
- Zombies and Consumption
- Database Culture (just the first part of the page)
- Misunderstanding the Internet, Parts 1, 2, and 3
- Our Public Sphere…maybe next week
Because I want to encourage reading over skimming and relying on the notes I put up, I’m going to hold off on putting up highlights of the Ch. 1 and 2. We’ll discuss them instead. Please recognize that Bazerman’s “The Production of Technology and the Production of Human Meaning,” which defines the rhetoric of technology, is important to consider as well as our discussion of the Social Construction of Technology (in contrast to Technological Determinism). Throughout the book, the authors make a point to demonstrate that the internet—a technology—is a product of the culture from which it comes and where it’s used. The internet didn’t cause our capitalist values; it’s used in accordance with those values.
Questions to Start
Chapter 1: “The Internet of Dreams”
- Briefly discuss why we (pundits and users) assumed the internet “would generate wealth and prosperity for all” in the beginning of the world wide web (p. 2)”?
- What are some businesses and/or industries that appear to be changing—quite rapidly—because of the internet’s communication ability?
- The authors* point out “the underlying logic of the capitalist system: the natural processes of competition tend to diminish competition” (p. 6). How has competition diminished because of the internet since the early 1990s?
- The authors suggest that “nationalist cultures are strongly embedded in most societies, and this constrains the internationalism of the web despite its global reach” (p. 10). What’s the difference between patriotism and nationalism?
- How have “comments” sections at the end of online articles led to the idea of the “prosumer” as opposed to the old “consumer”?
- What is the main point of the authors’ argument about how the internet facilitates activism (pp. 33-34)?
*Yes, James Curran is credited as the author of this chapter, but I’ll identify all the editors as authors in class discussions. In your own work—for instance, an essay—you should cite the chapter author appropriately.
Chapter 2: “The Internet of History”
- In what ways was the US military instrumental in creating the internet we have today?
- The authors point out, “the American state underwrote a major part of the internet’s initial research and development costs. This was not something the private sector was willing to do” (p. 50). In light of that comment, reflect on the internet as an infrastructure project like sewers, roads, train tracks, etc.
- In the early 1990s, the internet is said to have attracted users interested in hiding their identities (p. 53). Why might that have been valued by these users?
- How is “[d]igital capitalism…not very different from other forms of large-scale corporate capitalism” (p. 57)? Consider where these digital companies reside and do business.
- Explain the ramifications of “Ofcom  reports that the average adult in the UK now spends more time using media and communications than sleeping” (as cited in Curran, Fenton, & Freedman p. 63))?
- Why do you think “online entertainment tend[s] to side-line political discourse” (p. 64)?
- Consider the internet (and the related technologies to access it: smartphones, tablets, Twitter, facebook, etc.) as an extension of a user/activist in regards to the Arab Spring uprisings (pp. 66-70)?
- Why do we consider the internet an individualistic technology?
- Maybe this is a better questions for Wednesday, but I’ll ask it here: How does the internet help maintain the status quo?
Part II: Ch. 3 “The Internet of Capital” and Ch. 4 “The Internet of Rules”
Because these are your prompts this week, I’d rather see we you take us on this discussion.
Chapter 5: “The Internet of Me (and My Friends)”
- Earlier in the chapter, the authors claim facebook visitors logon “for an average of 19.37 minutes per day” (the source is actually here and cited on p. 145). Does that seem like a lot of time, a little time, an appropriate amount of time?
- Consider examples of the hegemonic groups that best reflect the authors claim that “The more powerful and influential you are, the better placed you are to get your message across” (p. 47).
- The authors note that the internet has the potential for “increased sociality…to bring new understandings, as we are increasingly subjected to a wider range of viewpoints and encouraged to deliberate freely within a variety of networks” (p. 149). Are users really getting new ideas? Also, is it possible for users to reflect upon all the new ideas they may come across?
- Consider the nuanced argument about autonomy that the authors cite from Castoriadis (p. 152).
- The authors cite Curran’s (who’s an editor of the book) observation that “‘leading websites around the world reproduce the same kind of news as legacy media. These websites favour the voices of authority and expertise over those of campaigning oganizations and the ordinary citizen’” (p. 157).
Do consumers really want to or know how to find alternative sources?
- If, as the authors point out, “it is always more likely that social media will replicate and entrench social inequalities rather than liberate them” (p. 163), what we need to happen before social media could be a tool for liberation?
Chapter 6: “The Internet of Radical Politics and Social Change”
This chapter is the one that’s supposed to show us the future! The interconnected themes of radical transnational political activism are below:
- speed and space–Rapid response across borders with minimal resources
- connectivity and participation–Offers social empowerment, tool for social change; raises awareness
- diversity and horizontality–Converging interests and decentralization
- Horizontality: happens at a much more flat level than it used to; organization can be spread out, no hierarchy
- Examples: Arab Spring and Women’s March
- p. 175: “It is the ability to form networks and build alliancesat the click of a mouse that is felt to be conducive to the building of oppositional political movements that can spread…”
- More able to facilitate “alternative forms of political activism that work at the margins of the dominant sphere.”
- p. 178: “technological ease of communication leads to abundance of information that will automatically result in political gain.”
- That puts “a heavy onus on the power of networked communication to meet political demand”
- “we side-step a deep broad interrogation of the conditions required for people power to overtake corporate and state power.”
- What do we miss when we think technology changes society? Does enhancement of access via technology help change social norms or power structures?
- p. 180: Because problems are produced globally (even if a few hegemons pull the strings), citizens can be resentful of their governments, leading to a rise of populism.
- p. 183: It takes some cash to be an effective digital activist…
- p. 184: “Politics and political organisation emerge from histories that do not evaporate in the face of technology.”
- p. 188: “connectivity and participation online have also been fiercely criticised as weakening radical politics and offering pseudo-participation that is illusory rather than actual (Dean 2010).”
- compulsive hashtag “solidarity”
- p. 191: Is the speed with which social media operates (instant gratification) conducive to democracy?
- Conclusion…what is to be done?
Next week’s class (2/28) is our last one before Spring Break. I hope to have your Critical Analysis of Culture Essay returned that day. Keep up with the syllabus! We’ll be diving deeper into gender studies and feminism (is there a difference…hmmm) next week with Gloria Steinem’s “Why Young Women are More Conservative”–with L’Monique leading class discussion–and the late (very sad to say) Ursula Le Guin’s “A left-Handed Commencement Address.” We may have some more Misunderstanding the Internet to cover as well. Please note we’re covering Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One when we return from Spring Break (3/14), so you might want to start that–don’t save it for 3/13.