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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 6 Public Knowledge


Another (not entirely unrelated) question: is there any authenticity with- out authority? Is a structure of authority necessary for the recognition and validation of authenticity? If (as Jean Baudrillard might suppose) history now appears to have become a depthless, insubstantial image of itself, what then is the status of that commodity which we call knowledge? Where does knowledge reside – and can we still learn from it? Wikipedia Martin Hand (2008: 15) has, amongst others, suggested that the digital age has been greeted with great optimism by its enthusiasts and denounced with equal passion by its detractors: Most commonly, narratives of digital culture imbricate western models of democ- ratization with enthusiastic accounts of information technologies. For some, such technology is instrumental in broader restructurings of modern society, replac- ing structure with f low, state with network, hierarchical knowledge with horizon- tal information […] For others, the use of the term […] ‘digital culture’ is hasty or simple determinism, reifying either information or technology as great levellers, an ideological rhetoric which has the ef fect of glossing an increased penetration and ‘hardening’ of global capitalism. Digital democracy does not, from this perspective, appear to have increased civic or political participation or democratic accountability (although it may give a jaded electorate a sense of such participation and 154 Chapter 6 accountability). Digital and interactive modes of popular entertainment – from the video game to reality television – have not substantially enhanced the agency of the user-consumer (though they may give the impression that they do). Social networking...

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