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Interactivity 2

New media, politics and society- Second edition


Alec Charles

Two years is a long time in the world of new media – a world of phubbing and selfies, of cyberbullying and neknomination, of bitcoins, Prism surveillance and Google Glass. Much has occurred since the first edition of this book: from the extraordinary social media responses to the deaths of Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and Peaches Geldof, to the Twitterstorms occasioned by allegations against a late peer of the realm, the rise of the UK Independence Party and the popularity of The Great British Bake Off. The Egyptian revolution has come undone, the Turkish government has banned YouTube, the American President has looked beyond Facebook and the British Prime Minister has started to tweet. World leaders at a 2014 summit even played an interactive nuclear war game. Emergent technologies have been held responsible for the demise of a television presenter in a snowball-related incident, the disappearance of a Pacific island and the appearance of an unfeasibly massive squid. Drawing upon developments in social networking, crowdsourcing, clicktivism, digital games and reality TV, this study asks whether the technological innovations which sponsored such absurdities might ever promote progressive modes of social interaction and political participation. Perhaps somewhat absurdly, it suggests they one day might.


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Chapter 2 Electronic Government


The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1991: 172) has argued that a lack of access among the general populace to the tools necessary for political participation has resulted in the concentration of political power as the province of a small elite. Although much has been claimed for the potential of new media technologies to promote democratic political participation, it remains unclear whether the application of these technologies in practices as apparently diverse as those of electronic governance, interactive enter- tainment and virtual socialization indeed of fer the popular dissemination of the technological and cultural capital which Bourdieu sees as essential to the processes of democratization – or whether they in essence divert their subjects from such processes. Bourdieu (2005: 62) has proposed that ‘to make a decisive contribu- tion to the construction of a genuine democracy […] one needs to work towards creating the social conditions for the establishment of a mode of fabrication of the “general will” […] that is genuinely collective […] based upon the regulated exchanges of a dialectical confrontation […] capable of transforming the contents communicated as well as those who commu- nicate.’ It appears that the homogenizing seamlessness of contemporary media technologies refutes the possibility of any such dialectical con- frontation; and therefore, if we are to attempt to forge in the smithy of society the political consciousness of the populace, then it seems vital to ensure that this process is not illusory, is not a forgery or fabrication in a sense unintended by Bourdieu. Those who might see the potential...

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