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#NousSommes

Collectivity and the Digital in French Thought and Culture

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Edited By Susie Cronin, Sofia Ropek Hewson and Cillian Ó Fathaigh

The relation between the digital and the collective has become an urgent contemporary question. These collected essays explore the implications of this relation, around the theme of #NousSommes. This hashtag marks the point where the «personal» modalities of social media have become embroiled in collective expressions of unity, solidarity and resistance. As this volume demonstrates, the impact of this cannot be isolated to the internet, but affect philosophy, literature, cinema, politics and the public space itself. The contributors approach the issue of #NousSommes from a diverse range of disciplines and methodologies, bringing out both the continuity and discontinuity with other forms of collective expression. Important contemporary philosophers such as Nancy, Derrida and Deleuze are engaged here, as are issues of ecology, community, automation, postcolonial identity and addiction. Featuring eight academic essays and an interview, this volume testifies to the importance of French philosophy and culture in understanding the digital and the collective today.

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Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project as the #NousSommes of Social Media

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The world of technology dominates, manipulates and emancipates people through its various forms of employment and modes of operation. The notion of collectivity has been re-formed through digital media and, in turn, what it means to be an individual and an agent has also been reconstituted. This is particularly true in relation to #NousSommes, which I understand as a collective articulation of solidarity in response to trauma. This calls for a re-evaluation of the nature of agency and collectivity. Furthermore, since reality is made ‘plastic’ by digital media in terms of how causality, community and political intention and action are produced, it thus possesses a twofold relation: not only in terms of how these spheres are constructed but also how they are understood. As academic technology dominates, but also allows us to emancipate hidden repressions, the apocalypse has already taken place. There is no way ‘back’ from technology, and so if this technological ‘mirroring’ of events and agencies is found in #NousSommes, how are we to best understand and act in relation to this phenomenon? To combat this technological ‘doubling’ of reality, this chapter’s argument is not just to reject the hidden potentialities that technology and new digital media possess, but to manipulate them in a new dialectical way, and in so doing produce a different result. The use of the #NousSommes hashtag is exemplary in this respect, serving as a political contagion that unites people of different spaces and times into a multiplicity.

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