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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 3: War Games


Chapter 3 War Games We have been experiencing, for half a century, a conflation of material history and its electronic mediation, and this phenomenon is perhaps at its most remarkable in the conduct and representation of military conflict. Jean Baudrillard (1988: 49) wrote of Vietnam as a television war – but Vietnam also of course eventually became a cinematic war, a war primar- ily recalled in the popular imagination by such films as The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. Another postmodern con- flict, Operation Restore Hope, America’s vain attempt to bring order to Somalia in 1992–1993, also began as an event staged for the TV cameras (even to the extent that the Pentagon is said to have consulted CNN on the scheduling of the U. S. landings in Mogadishu), and ended up as a film by Ridley Scott: a five-month military debacle immortalized as Black Hawk Down (2001). The BBC’s World Affairs Editor John Simpson’s declaration of his personal liberation of Kabul in November 2001 and Donald Rumsfeld’s announcement in February 2006 that newsrooms had become crucial bat- tlefields in the War on Terror are two well-known examples of the conver- gence of media and military perspectives. As Baudrillard (2005: 77) wrote, ‘media and images are part of the Integral Reality of war.’ Ronald Reagan’s abortive Star Wars programme stands as a landmark moment in this process, and that Hollywood President’s Tinseltown apocalypse was to be echoed in George W. Bush’s cowboy diplomacy and in his...

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