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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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7 The Digital Climate: Hot Facebook Meets Cool Democracy

The Rhetoric of Facebook and Democracy

Extract

 

As I write, Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress, offering a mea culpa for Facebook’s role during the 2016 election in spreading fake news, facilitating Russian manipulation, and allowing the unauthorized access of user data by Cambridge Analytica, the firm running the Trump campaign’s data analytic programs. So perhaps there is no better moment to offer my own mea culpa for my actions on Facebook during the same period. Part of it was undoubtedly the candidates and context, yet political discussion on Facebook during that election seemed particularly heated and divisive, and I got caught up in the fever. Beginning during primary season and extending past November 6th, verbal battles raged, names were hurled, feelings frayed, “de-friendings” occurred, family members split, and party allegiances splintered. Expressions of a preference for Bernie or Hillary, Trump or Kasich, Stein or Johnson marked posters as targets for attacks from opponents, which repeatedly submarined even my best efforts to have civil discussion and led thousands to form secret support groups for their candidates where they could avoid the crossfire. It was at once an environment of spirited deliberation and debate praised by advocates of democracy, and evidence for the potential for mob rule, irrationality, and the silencing of minority voices that detractors going back to Plato fear. And my feed is full of academics and other educated professionals who should know better! Like myself.

Actually, it was not just stuffy scholars on my feed, but people I have met from all...

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