Skip navigation

Category Archives: Beth’s section

Cramer defines “post-digital” as a condition in which digital technology will no longer be the new media.  Our ongoing relationship with the internet is slowly mutating.  Once it was an open frontier where anything was possible.  Now it is a place where regular business occurs.  This is typical for medias to ebb and flow like this.  Similar to how analog machines, such as analog cameras were the new medias 100 years ago and now are very popular.  However this will soon happen to our digital world once it loses its excitement.  What parts of the internet will be resurrected once it comes back into fashion?

 Information on the internet might also be manipulated in the future.  For instance the image of Snowden as a voice for freedom is already strong.  But due to a resurrection of old medias his image will most likely be revived and with new life or maybe even new proposes and agendas.  He might become a more important icon in 100 years than he already is now.  This occurs countless times throughout history in order to justify current political and social agendas.

I believe we will never fully reach a complete post-digital future.  Our world seems to always be furthering and expanding the digitization of our world.  There will always be another thing to digitally remaster or make smaller and faster.  However if we were able to actually reach a post digital future our technological world will probably have to be completely synonymous with the physcial world.  I do not see this happening soon.

“We’re entering a world of constant data-driven predictions where we may not be able to explain the reasons behind our decisions. What does it mean if a doctor cannot justify a medical intervention without asking the patient to defer to a black box, as the physician must do when relying on a big-data-driven diagnosis? Will the judicial system’s standard of ‘probable cause’ need to change to ‘probabilistic cause’ – and if so, what are the implications of this for human freedom and dignity?” -Mayer-Schonberger (17)


Alarmists are always the loudest on the cusp of a new era. While Mayer-Sconberger’s Big Data was generally rational and thoughtful, there were passages like the one above that held clear alarmist tones. To imply that big data will force us to be hyper-rational, robotic humans, would mean abandoning the human part of us. Big data is impersonal. It doesn’t care. And that’s why doctors will still be able to justify medical interventions, courts will still ask for probable cause, and we will never become fully rational creatures. Even though our society might be changing, people will still fight for and value our fundamental human freedoms.

Mayer-Schonberger also talks about the data becoming more “messy”. Because of the scale of big data, precision is sacrificed. The data makes mistakes, and so our standards have lowered from exact answers to “good enough”. The data makes mistakes. Is this not one of the more human qualities? It seems then, rather than humans becoming more mechanic, machines are becoming more human. This reminds me of Thrift’s qualculative background and coordinate system. At one point he mentions that the recursiveness and complexity of the calculations may result in a more natural than unnatural environment. Meaning, what we view as rational and mechanic is actually becoming more natural. Perhaps then, big data will not bring about a new era, but will hearken back to an older one.

I think the question of how modes of creativity are labeled is interesting because media revolves around the idea that not everyone has a fair chance. I feel like this course has been very liberal in politics, rooted in the very essence of the atmosphere at Brown. But it’s interesting to note that the very idea of media, and things going viral, is a marketing competition, a fundamental part of capitalism nowadays. And we question this because is it all fair? There’s no algorithm however that allows for some equal grounding  – media does not work that way. I think this would be an interesting discussion to talk about during the final section.

This week’s readings reinforce the idea that new forms of digital media have the ability to extend and expand the reach or “touch” of ordinary people with access to the Internet.  Upon the realization of the power that digital media can grant to individuals, it is natural that a political evolution has begun to occur in the digital realm.  New media and its extension of individual’s voices creates a space in  which more people can be heard than ever before: “Bypassing the broadcasting media, cell phone users themselves became broadcasters…”  We are seeing an expansion of our already vast network to people who previously may not have had a voice, or may not have felt safe or comfortable enough to speak in the first place: “Indeed, one could imagine each user becoming his or her own broadcasting station: a node in a wider network of communication…”

However, the difficulty with this growth in the number of voices is the increase in kind of chaos Ranciere touches on.  Individuals are said to be “receiving and transmitting both news and gossip, and often confounding the two.”  Among the millions of people speaking, it may be hard to differentiate between what is political movement and what is simply noise.


For me, one of the most interesting parts of the Rancière article was the section defining police, political, and demos in his own terms.  I have been wondering for a long time about how “politics” can be most accurately defined, and I think that Rancière’s definition is a very useful one.

Police is a “statist logic”, not referring only to officers of the law, it is systematizing and, in a sense, dividuating – assigning roles within the public sphere, and increasing the volume of that sphere.  Political things are those dealing with the legitimation of a right to rule, it describes the necessary link between rulers and ruled.  In that sense it is also systematizing, but also is inextricably connected to power: if “power must become political” then so also must politics become about power.  This reflects, in a more sophisticated way, my own thoughts on the subject.

I less clearly understand, though, the section in which Rancière relates the two topics – they are in conflict.  Why must the police be ‘thwarted by’ politics, instead of the two working together?  Rancière’s explanation seems to be that the political, by arbitrarily elevating one man or group above others, is against the police’s demographic dividuation.  But either I don’t understand the connection that Rancière is making, or else I am not satisfied by it.

In “Does Democracy Mean Something?”, Ranciere describes the seeming contradiction of democracy between the chaos inherent to democracy and the power structures implemented that, in order to maintain that chaos, oppose it. But, since we’re considering human behavior, there really is no contradiction: instead of a paradox or negation, such acts of power are democratic, because they organize power in such a way that opposes the power dynamic that naturally arises barring other source of power: that of violence or mandate (police). How democracy fights against the police is by finding order in less violent of ways, namely the uniformity of belief. It’s here that a less violent version of order and power is exercised. Furthermore, the mode with which a certain belief is transferred becomes vital to and essentially indistinguishable from the meaning of a belief, as the act of unifying the message is a form of combative order itself. This form of consolidation of belief explains such fantasies as the utopic cell phone in “People Power II” or the repetitious structure and form of index card videos and other such activism sites. If subjects in a democracy wish to have a political influence, then they must behave unilaterally, while still resisting the violence which undermines the preservation of the variety of beliefs in a democracy, and, if a thought is to catch on, then, like an Internet message, it must adhere to a common protocol that informs a belief’s meaning.

It’s inspiring that the internet can be used for more than deducing Cheryl’s birthday. I think it’ interesting that Beltran boils down “young people’s activities” to two categories: “citizenship [participation] or protest [transformation of existing systems].” It’s also quite true: Everything that engages the minds of youth are based on idea of community and rebellion which is why, I would argue, social media fits so well into their lives.  Young people turn to social media because it reflects what they understand and represents what they value. Social media is built around this notion of participation as can be seen through recent viral phenomenons such as the infamous dress and the birthday logic problem I previously mentioned. Its ability to collapse time and space and collect people from around the world maximizes levels of participation. Thus, collective-minded youths are drawn to the artificial citizenship and the sense of belonging that it seems to present its users. Its structure also facilitates protest through visibility and engagement. Here, youths need not choose citizenship or protest but can indulge both. What does this mean for our conceptions of political and social ideals such as democracy? Does it, as Ranciere asks, “mean something”?

“The government of the Athenians is a democracy by name, but it is actually an aristocracy,  government of the best with the approval of the many.” This is still the case in our current democracy. The elite ascend to power through the votes of the public and go on to dole out justice to populations they do not relate to. “‘Good democracy’ refers to a form of government able to tame the double excess of political commitment and egotistical behavior inherent to the essence of democratic life.” However, through the emergence of social media and due to the sheer volume of “political commitment,” it is becoming more and more difficult for the government “to tame” these “behaviors.”  “The ‘democracy paradox’ is thus: democracy as a form of government is threatened by democracy as a form of social and political life and so the former must repress the latter.” So, when “democracy as a form of government” can no longer complete this function, does democracy cease to exist or does it thrive? In these new forms of citizenship and protest exists an essence of democracy, but is it worth anything?

This week’s discussion on mobilization, in particular the mobilization of the DREAMERS, struck a chord as I constantly think of how lucky I am to be legal in this country. I moved to the United States when I was 8 years old with my green card in hand. Nevertheless, I have had to watch many around me suffer the woes that come with being illegal in this country. Last summer I decided to become a citizen because it would make my life easier in many ways. This application process got me thinking about how race and education are used as standards for the “good immigrant.” I came to the realization that I am the “good immigrant” as I am a  light skinned hispanic who is well educated —I got my U.S. citizenship within 6 months. Sadly it seems that only those bodies who are deemed useful are the ones that become legalized.  Until Americans don’t change the way they see how immigrants, no matter what job they do, contribute to this country, there won’t be an immigration reform of any sort.

The emergence of digital media has empowered Rancière’s democracy by the people. However, at the same time, to what extent has digital media promoted slacktivism and other detrimental actions that have hurt the cause they were meant to promote? We have seen how DREAMers raised awareness for immigration laws in the U.S. and the Filipino people overthrew their president, both using digital media. Despite this success, DREAM activists are not without their critics, and the Filipino revolution has been criticized for hindering the democratic government. In another example, the KONY 2012 movement raised awareness of the situation that many children in Africa face; however, it had little impact on improving the lives of these children and stopping Kony.  Does social media reduce actual issues to entertainment? For example, Twitter has a limit of 140 characters, so can we reduce actual social issues into a condensed phrase or hashtag? Do these movements reduce the depths of social issues, or do these movements make people feel that they are doing enough by simply sharing but not taking any supplementary action? And are we truly better off having digital media as our go-to outlet for activism?

Looking at the history of civilizations, there seems to be a marked pattern. Nomads evolve into farmers evolve into industrialists evolve into post-industrial, modern-day citizens. The pattern seems normal, natural even. Just as we age naturally, so does a society. Societies, like people, interact with one another. And through these interactions, societies can mature prematurely. Such is the case in “The Cell Phone and the Crowd”. Technology was introduced too rapidly, without time to adjust to basic technological advances. This led to a diminishing returns effect, where the inundation of technology overwhelmed the population and damaged family units. The way American society functions now, as we grow older, we become less sheltered. Our parents let us stop believing in Santa Claus and start engaging us in politics over dinner. Our teachers no longer tell us to be nice to one another and start telling us stories of that one time they got high instead. As we grow older, there is a disillusionment but also a recovery. If we are introduced to too many new things too quickly, the disillusionment and recovery is longer. The same can be said for societies and technologies. If societies are introduced to too much technology too quickly, it is hard to know how to “properly” use the technology. Not only that, but societies are not given time to adapt the technology into their existing culture. When somebody else introduces us to technology, we don’t have time to frame it in our own customs and norms. The more technology we take from others, the greater chance of losing our own societal values. Thus, time becomes an important factor in the introduction of technology into a society.