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Surfing the Anthropocene

The Big Tension and Digital Affect

Eric S. Jenkins

Surfing the Anthropocene shows how the "big tension" between the speed and scale of digital media characterizes affective life on the public screen today. An innovative look launched in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election, Eric S. Jenkins illustrates how the big tension is reflected in how we feel and talk about digital media. Exploring a variety of modes from following news on Twitter to discussion on Facebook, activism to witnessing police shooting videos, the book demonstrates how responses to the big tension make political activity more like videogames, with an "immeditative" temporality and "attentional" spatiality contrasted with meditative and tending modes such as gardening. As a near-monoculture of immeditative, attentional modes emerge, consumerism and affect privilege become reinforced in ways that make addressing the problems of the Anthropocene especially draining and difficult.

Original concepts throughout the book, including the big tension but also the affected subject, translucency, and homo modus, are sure to influence thinking about digital media. If you wonder why life today feels particularly urgent, heated, and intense, Surfing the Anthropocene offers a compelling answer—the big tension—as well as a way to reimagine digital experience with an eye towards surviving, rather than just surfing, the Anthropocene.

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4 The Digital Atmosphere: Of Love and Smartphones

The Pitfalls and Promises of Love and Smartphones

Extract

 

Here I sit yet again, ready to write, eyes up, hands perched, body immobile, trying not to think about the health consequences of such sustained comportment. My back will remind me later anyway. I’m lucky though. I rarely feel the anxiety of the empty page, the overwhelming possibilities of blankness that provokes writer’s block for some. Something speaks to me, and away I go. Or it goes? Or both? I’m not quite sure. Writing as a mode has had countless participants but fewer contemplators. I say participant because, of those contemplators, most agree that writing involves a curious split, almost like a spiritual possession. The work works me as much as I work it. The Greeks called them the muses. The Chicana scholar/poet/writer Gloria Anzaldúa pens it thus, in her typically inimitable way:

The whole thing has had a mind of its own, escaping me and insisting on putting together the pieces of its own puzzle with minimal direction from my will. It is a rebellious, willful entity, a precocious girl-child forced to grow up too quickly, rough, unyielding, with pieces of feather sticking out here and there, fur, twigs, clay. My child, but not for much longer … I talk to it; it talks to me … [T];he work has an identity; it is a ‘who’ or a ‘what’ and contains the presences of persons, that is, incarnations of gods and ancestors or natural and cosmic powers. The work manifests the same needs as a...

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