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Category Archives: Mike’s section

Cramer’s look at the post-digital world draws the contemporary moment as being post-apocalyptic in the sense that digital moves from being an event to a way of being. This is intself a shift from digital segments to analog stream. Notions of control society presented earlier also jive with this characetrization if one begins to characterize discipline as a digital enactment of power and the computerized control systems of today as markedly analog. Deleuze writes in postscript on control societies:

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If forms of power are technology it would seem that digital mediation, ways to mediate power discretely, has been present in the form of disciplinary regimes before we even have what we might call ~~””new media””~~. New Media, digital media, or whatever probably still hegelian term we want to call it, because it functions in code is analog and is a control technology in the sense Deleuze speaks of in Postscript on Control Societies:(2)

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If we superimpose Deleuze onto Cramer we can also see where Rouvroy can be superimposed upon Deleuze, putting the two authors in conversation.
From Deleuze’s conversation with Toni Negri: (3)

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This is where we can see the echoes of what Rouvroy refers to as virtuality, creative becoming. What seems important then is not digital//analog but virtual//actual.
Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier’s understanding of Big Data seems to easily play into the sort of regressive futurism (my words not theirs) that Rouvroy describes. This analog control system, as exemplified in the utopian technology of autonomic computing, extrapolates the future based on the present working a double action to destroy the creative minority’s radical potential:

1) (in the vein of reproductive futurism) it focuses on a kind of thinking of the future which is based only on the present and the past. In other words it induces us to think of the future as merely a collage of the present and forcloses thinking of change or the creation fo something new.

2) in real terms it makes investment in anything more than a tuning of the world unactionable. State-capitalist Democracy is itself emblematic of this reformism and removal of creativity: one cannot vote for the destruction of capital or the state. Within the constrained choices of politics or the economy or whatever, radicality is hard to find. One should remember here that radical means grasping at the root.

Taking this shift further then we shoudl discuss not the differences between digital and analog technology but between virtual technology and actual technology with virtual technologies being those which, as Rouvroy and Deleuze ask, open up creation between human subjects and allow for the rise of “radically new and unexpected individual and societal forms” (Rouvroy, 30). Beyond speech and communication, virtual technolgies must be an opening rather than closing of being. “it would be nothing to do with minorities speaking out”(Deleuze)
Actual tehnologies are those which close virtuality and potentials. They are the technologies which like autonomic computing and big data, focus on whats rather than whys and attempt to remove all threats and potentials from the world.
One ought to ask at this point then, in line with Ranciere, if this dichotomy is itself too easy and whether it leaves out what is most important, as the dichotomy between liberal demcoracy and democracy-to-come does for him.
Deleuze ends his conevrsation with Negri by saying:(4)

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If virtuality can be said to be made up of these two components, creativity and a people (a minoritarian group), one should also ask how do we find these things and hold onto them.
As a third question, Professor Chun brought up on monday that in line with Rouvroy we should engage with these predictive technologies to see how they can open up rather than close potentials. I wonder then how one can do this without the confusal of apocalyptic crises, climate change, epidemics, etc. with minoritarian crises (the war on homelessness, the war on poverty, the war on drugs). It seems like wherever we may find a ~~””legitimate””~~ use of these sort of predictive big data technologies, a more insidious use is always around the corner if not taking place simultaneously. Is this a loss we should just accept? Is the desire to safeguard against crises at all merely a bourgeois ideal to abandon?

Victor Bramble

In “What is Post-Digital?” Florian Cramer writes that the ‘post-digital’ “refers to a state in which the disruption brought upon by digital information technology has already occurred.” I think that this statement leads to an important discussion of what has become of digital media (using digital in the colloquial sense) in an age in which digital technologies have been vastly proliferated and thus normalized. Cramer asserts that kind of shift means “that this technology is no longer perceived as disruptive.” But is this really true? Given that digital media has been coopted by even the most mainstream and commercial sectors of our society, do these technologies no longer have the capacity to “disrupt”?

My personal experiences with seeing the ways that others interact with digital media seem to corroborate Cramer’s suggestion about a ‘post-digital’ culture. Moreover, as a generation that can hardly remember a time without personal computers, this notion of digital media’s disruptive force exists merely as an abstraction preserved in the vague lamentations of an older generation. ‘New media’ is not really so new anymore. It has collapsed into old media (and yet we cling on to these distinctions nonetheless). As Cramer puts it, “the traditional divide between the ‘digital’ and the ‘non-digital’ spheres is now a thing of the past, in technology and arts as well as in everyday life.” Digital media is everywhere and as a result we no longer seem to care. Even conversations about the invasive capabilities of big data seem to fall into the same commonplace rhetoric. Sure we are being watched, but what can we do about it?

What can we do about it? If we accept Cramer’s formulation of a ‘post-digital culture’ and thus his conceit that digital media has loss its disruptive force, is there any space left to shock the system? Can ‘new media’ still disrupt or must we search for yet newer media?

I wanted to criticize Flor C. for excluding Manila’s lower class in her account of People Power II, but then I realized that Rafael’s essay about both demonstrations essentially reifies the exact problematic that he intends to critique.

In his article “The Cell Phone and the Crowd,” Vicente Rafael positions descriptions of People Power II and People Power III adjacently. In doing so, he intentionally contrasts the reception of both movements by the media and the general public. However, what struck me most about Rafael’s description of both movements is the affective power he affords to Flor C.’s description of People Power II.

Flor C.’s description is problematic. She describes People Power II as a movement that momentarily erases class distinction, that precipitates a sort of utopic and ideal crowd of revolutionaries. Instead of feeling lost, overwhelmed, or agitated in the midst of the crowd, Flor C. finds in it a sense of collective respect, restraint, and deference. It is from this condition of the crowd, the crowd’s damayan, that Flor C. feels as if class distinction vanishes (419-420). She feels safe, she finds community among strangers:

“Her body hurting, bearing the traces of the crowd’s saving power, she sits on the sidewalk, eating squid balls, happy and safe, free in the midst of countless and anonymous ‘buddies (421).'”

But Rafael points out that People Power II was comprised largely of the Manila middle class. In contrast, People Power III — labeled “Poor People Power” — consisted of Manila’s lower classes. And the lower class crowd that comprised the movement was freely labeled “unruly,” “uncivilized (422).” Flor C. describes a utopic revolution in which class distinctions vanish; however, since the movement largely excluded Manila’s lower classes, her utopia and her revolutionary ideal exclude the lower classes as well.

I thought this was the critique that Rafael meant to highlight. He criticizes the middle class’s reading and understanding of People Power III:

“Middle-class accounts of this other crowd regularly made mention of the ‘voicelessness’ of the urban poor. At the same time, these accounts showed a relative lack of concern with actually hearing — much less recording — any distinctive voices (423).”

Rafael criticizes the middle class for failing to provide a voice for People Power III’s participants. However, Rafael also privileges the voices of the middle class. Whereas his reading of the People Power II movement revolves entirely around one participant’s narrative account, his discussion of People Power III largely consists of the middle class’s interpretation of the event. The only voice he allocates to the movement is content of its chants. While admittedly a better treatment than the middle class’s treatment of the event, Rafael’s discussion of People Power III lacks the potential for reader sympathy that Flor C.’s narrative account enables in his reading of People Power II.

How does access to outlets like blogs and other forms of publishing mediate public understanding of political actions/demonstrations?

How does class shape our understanding of political movements as violent or nonviolent, as movements that are “respectable” in their “restraint” versus movements that are “unruly” and “uncivilized”?

In what ways might affect and particularly the ability to sympathize with actors in a political movement contribute to a movement’s success?

This week I have a lot of questions and skepticism about the concept of “digital democracy” in the context of Ranciere’s chapter.

Considering Beltrán’s article on the intersection of LGBT, queer and immigrant youth activism in relation to Ranciere’s discussion of democracy, I questioned the efficacy of such a project of “queering” democracy in the context of the paradoxes of democratic politics. If the “Democratic” state must constantly police its own citizens and declare certain groups “other” to maintain the proper function of its founding principles, where is there room for “queering,” or for meaningful action within this structure that is predicated on the subordination of women and non-whites? Beltrán would seem to suggest that immigrant youth have mobilized a certain form of “digital democracy” as a means of open communication of their narratives in order to combat the normative policing of “otherness” inherent to democratic politics. In a mass mobilization of popular visibility, these youth “come out” and in so doing subvert the logic of invisibility used against undocumented populations to claim “undocumented” as an identity. But how far of a reach does this media really have? Are these messages truly received by those in power, or do they simply proliferate within specific digital communities? If democracy is actually designed to oppose certain forms of popular participation, is the queering of democracy through social media an effective tactic, or rather a way to ensure a community will be closed off from debates where they refuse to adopt the normative language and discourse?

 

“…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” (Ranciere, 47).

Immediately when I read this, I thought about how in recent times, citizens are beginning to video tape police officers abusing their powers and high social status by killing or brutally beating an individual who they are trying to arrest. I believe this is an example of democracy as a form of government being threatened by democracy as a form of social life. Now here comes the repression. There have been instances in which police do what’s necessary to protect themselves by taking the phone of the individual and deleting the evidence. In January, there was an instance, in Virginia Beach, in which a 17 year old was pepper sprayed and tased during a traffic stop for refusing to get out of the car without the presence of his parents. The whole ordeal was recorded on the cell phone by the other passenger in the car. However, it can be seen in the video that the officer took the phone and later tried to delete the video (the video went to “Recently Deleted” and was thus recovered). I believe this is a good example of democracy as a form of government attempting to repress the democracy of social life. Then there is the case in which the videographer of the Eric Garner incident, Ramsey Orta, was stalked and later arrested by police after the video surfaced. It appeared that police sought him out as punishment for posting the video, another example of the repression. Police, a branch of government, feel threatened by citizens, so they repress them.

 

This week I was especially intrigued by the media regarding DREAM Act and Beltran’s “Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic”. I found the trailer for the The Dream is Now to be especially moving and I believe that much of it’s affecting nature can be attributed to it’s use of different media in the trailer as well as its call to action to use media to push the movement forward. Bertran posits in her article; “New forms of social media such as YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, the rise of open-source sites, and the increasing ease of generating original content have allowed DREAM activists to create an alternative public sphere.” (81) I believe she is right in that that these new forms of media have given the movement the chance to, as the trailer for The Dream is Now says, be “bigger than a website, deeper than a documentary and more powerful than a petition”. I was also intrigued by the idea of how undocumented youth are restricted from travelling freely in the physical space but online they can move about and “participate in multiple publics” virtually. “Openly proclaiming their status, DREAMers queer the politics of migration in ways that resonate with Michael Warner’s definition of “queer” as the rejection of ‘minoritizing logic of toleration or simple political-interest representation in favor of a more thorough resistance to regimes of the normal.” This combining of social justice movements along with the enabled mobility from use of online platforms has made this effort incredibly far-reaching and paves the way for a new kind of activism and advocates for “a just form of political community.”

In his essay “Does Democracy Mean Something,” Ranciere writes “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.” This paradox, for Ranciere, is at the root of democracy. This line can directly relate to protests that have occurred across the United States. While on one hand, America prides itself to be a country built on freedom of speech—that the voices we may disagree with are perhaps the most important to be heard. However, on the other hand, the government also believes that these voices need to respect the power of the government. Having witnessed the Occupy Wall Street movement, there is no easy solution to this paradox. The members of the movement were protesting a plethora of issues with their government, but at the same time expected to respect the regulations imposed upon them. Thus, is there ever going to be a successful protest? Is it, from this standpoint, smart for the government to encourage protest?

Each of this weeks readings and lectures (as well as the lab) explore different questions of how political power is created and mobilized using different digital media technologies. On Wikipedia, the collective knowledge of all people and the participatory structure is simultaneously democratic yet dominated by the same narrow demographics that tend to dominate political and economic institutions. With DREAM activists, some see the act of taking a picture and emphasizing undocumented immigrants apparent congruence with the American dream as powerful, while others see it as a fundamentally flawed vision and strategy, and instead advocate for a “queering” of politics and ideas of immigration. Each of these seeks to open up space, to allow fluidity and flexibility beyond structures while either acknowledging or erasing said societal structures (coming out as queer or claiming that Wikipedia is “the people’s”). My primary question for this week is: what parts of these organizing strategies or tactics does technology fundamentally enable? In other words, what of these tactics would not be possible (or perhaps less likely to be successful) were it not for digital media? Is it simply that the speed facilitates more action, as we see in the example of gossip and information spread rapidly in the Philippines, or is it the tweaking of the ideas that dominate our understanding of publics and politics? The tactic to engage in mass protest through individuality (everyone must come out individually and take an action that emphasizes themselves in order for collective freedom) is greatly facilitated by the individualized technology of the internet, however it seems to reflect more of neoliberalism’s ideology than any fundamental part of the internet. This individuality is what the internet and the technologies that dominate it (personal computing, individual’s phones) are designed to facilitate, however what are the limitations of using this as a protest tool? Might the earlier notion of the individual in opposition to the masses also be useful in creating political power through digital media? Must all resistance and political power created through the internet rest on the you? is there something to the notion of templates in pushing back against that individuality, and how might resistance to individualism (i.e. protests against mass consumption and hyperindividualism) use digital technologies to mobilize a movement that is anti-individual in both form and purpose?

I thought that this idea brought up in Beltrán’s article and in Monday’s lecture of homonationalism – that only certain (the “right”) forms of queer are accepted– was quite interesting. I took an anthropology course last semester in which we talked about this idea a bit. At the time, we were specifically talking about queer illegal immigrants in the United States. There was a famous case of a lesbian couple (Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado) in which one of them was nearly deported. They ended up appearing on the press several times, and each time, what they were emphasizing most was that they were “just like any other American family”. But in reality, as many will argue, this is not the fair or correct approach to take. Of course, at the time, they may have felt like this was necessary to appeal to the greater population. But really, this view that the queer population is “just like everyone else” should instead be replaced with the view that they could be nothing like everybody else but that that should be accepted and supported (similarly to Beltrán’s view on the DREAM Act being xenophobic). Having this kind of visibility is important if we want to change the mindset of the nation and make progress in such legislations.

In Rafael’s article about political activism through cellphones in the Philippines, simply spreading information about corrupt politicians allowed the middle class to oust the president. Similarly, rhetoric around Twitter’s role in the Arab Spring focused on the platform bringing about democracy through unfettered communication through protesters. There’s a fantasy that digital publics can bring about physical democratic change through the sheer flow of information and outrage that ignores corporate and government control of networks and platforms, which are brought up by the PRISM disclosures featured in Citizenfour.

Even without these issues, it’s worth pushing back against this idea of digital democracy. These movements lose traction without direct action; sending in selfies for the DREAM act may be rhetorically radical, but it’s unclear how this legitimately pressures Obama to pass it. If protest remains in the realm of the digital, can it be meaningful? If digital media is used only to organize protests, is it really much more radical than other forms of organizing?

These limitations are illustrated by the blogging platform Tumblr. Although it’s a surprisingly far-reaching platform for political speech and social justice activisms, posts largely focus on education and callouts rather than advocate for direct action. Spreading information and creating a more united and tolerant digital public is a worthy goal in its own right, but it often seems like activism stops before it starts. There are active communities of activists empowered by platforms like Tumblr. But many users simply recirculate information within a closed bubble and do little on a practical basis against a system that seems unassailable.

This tension has been evident since Hillary’s campaign announcement. Already, my dash has been covered with posts illustrating her problematic politics and imperialist foreign policy. The debate hasn’t been over the politics themselves, it’s been about the politics of voting—or not voting—for her. One side sees her as a lesser of two evils over a certainly-evil Republican candidate, and considers voting the least they could do; the other sees the evils so close as to be splitting hairs and advocates voting for a third party or not participating at all.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time this debate has happened. But it is the first time a non-incumbent election has occurred since Tumblr has become an active platform, and the conversation around this election is illustrative of feelings about democracy in a digital age. If we think of voting as the fundamental act of participating in democracy, what does it mean to advocate for not voting in a corrupt system? Is this genuinely radical political speech or action, or just letting off steam about political circumstances? Is there an attempt to create a new mode of participating in democracy?