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New Noise

A Cultural Sociology of Digital Disruption


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 10. A Cultural Sociology of Digital Disruption


The modern system of publics creates a demanding social phenomenology. (Warner, 2002a, p. 62)

This concluding chapter aims to outline the rationale and direction for a cultural sociology of digital disruption. How can we move beyond “vapor theory” (Lovink, 2002, p. 10)? How can we articulate the net with materiality in a way that recognizes the embeddednes of social practices? Instead of limiting academic inquiry to asking “whether or not Google is making us stupid, Facebook is commoditizing our privacy, or Twitter is chopping our attention into microslices (all good questions)” (Rheingold, 2012, p. 1), how can we contribute to the radically pragmatist project by systematically, theoretically, and empirically investigating concrete intersections of agency and technology? In the struggle between socializing and alienating forces in digital culture (Fuchs, 2008, pp. 227–234), how can we best map and analyze the conditions under which either of these become dominant? ← 139 | 140 →

I set out in this book to look for successful tactics for the oppositional use of emergent technologies, for counterpublics taking shape through the interconnection of disruptive spaces. These issues were explored in a set of case studies. The Twitter hashtag as a site of mobilization was explored in chapters 4 and 5, focusing on the WikiLeaks organization and on the Libyan uprising during the Arab Spring. These studies demonstrated that the social and spatial are strongly interlinked in processes of digital disruption. A conclusion of the WikiLeaks case study was that elusive and fluid web...

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