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New Noise

A Cultural Sociology of Digital Disruption

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Simon Lindgren

This book is about online subcultures thriving in the border zones between pop cultural and political engagement. Combining classic theories of space, power and resistance with current case studies of digital piracy, online activism and remix culture, the book develops a cultural theory of social movements in the digital age.
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Chapter 1. The Double Trap

Extract

The information society is a trap. (Lévy, 1999, p. 31)

From Tahrir Square to Wall Street, in remix culture and fan fiction, in social media election campaigns and digitally coordinated flashmobs, in Internet piracy and culture jamming, today, an increasing number of digital sociocultural spaces are celebrated for being disruptive. Currents stemming from these spaces allegedly have the power to circumvent dominant flows of communication, to subvert preferred meanings, and to challenge the powers that be. Claims about the character and significance of this power are at the center of an ongoing debate over the effects of digital culture on the nature of hegemony and resistance in the spheres of economy, politics, and culture. Beyond the hype lies immense polarization. Cultural commentators provide us with alternating images of “slacktivism” on the one hand, and of “Twitter revolutions” on the other. Scholarly writers, similarly, fall into two camps: allegedly naïve optimists and their counterparts, skeptical critics. This book, however, takes its cue from Lovink’s (2002, p.11) idea of the existence of a radical pragmatism that moves “[b]eyond resignation and the romance of revolt.” “[N]o ← 1 | 2 → more vapor theory anymore,” he writes; “Enough techno-mysticism and digital Darwinism. Neither do we need techno-cultural pessimism” (2002, p. 10).

What we need are actual studies, not philosophical poses. Indeed, most digital media strategies—whether they are enacted by businesspeople or activists—are “living paradoxes rooted in a messy praxis” (Lovink, 2002, p. 226). We live in...

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