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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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6 The Digital Lumisphere: On Surveillance and the Ethics of Witnessing

The Rhetoric of Surveillance and Sousveillance



It must have been July 7th, 2016, or maybe July 8th, when I swore I would never speak to my father again. I remember the date because on July 6th Philando Castile was shot four times by a Minnesota police officer after being pulled over for a broken taillight. Philando’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the incident on Facebook Live, begging Jesus to, “Please don’t tell me he’s gone,” all with her four-year-old daughter in the backseat. The video quickly circulated, being just one of many police shooting videos that have emerged since the Black Lives Matter movement launched in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing in February 2012. The videos piled up as surely as the bodies. Police engaged Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes, before video shows the officer put him in a chokehold and Garner pleading repeatedly for his life: “I can’t breathe.” John Crawford was talking on his cellphone at Walmart, clearly shopping, before being shot dead, unaware he was in any danger. Tamir Rice was a twelve-year-old boy playing with a toy gun in a park before an officer jumped out of his still-moving vehicle to kill him. Walter Scott was unarmed and shot in the back before the cop planted a gun on him. Samuel Dubose was killed by a trigger-happy officer in the blink of an eye during a routine traffic stop. Alton Sterling was shot while being penned down by two officers, just two days before Philando’s death. And these...

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