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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


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 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 Digital democracy does not appear to have significantly increased civic or political participation or democratic accountability. Interactive modes of popular entertainment – from video games to reality television – have not substantially enhanced the agency of their audiences. Social networking websites have not as yet engendered a dialogical public sphere. What then of the area upon which the revolutionary potential of information tech- nologies might be expected to be most appropriately focused: information itself ? Have these technologies deconstructed the hierarchies traditionally associated with access to – and the generation of – knowledge? In this context, it seems inevitable that one examines the internet’s – and indeed the world’s – foremost source of knowledge, that global phe- nomenon known as Wikipedia: ‘the largest and most popular encyclo- pedia in the world’ (Anderson 2011: 12). It is difficult to imagine a more pervasive information source. By 2014 Wikipedia was able to announce that it boasted ‘30 million articles in 287 languages.’ Up to 40 million 152 Chapter 6 words have been added each month to the English language edition alone (cf. Ayers et al. 2008: 4; Lange et al. 2010: 5). Cohen...

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