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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 7: The Twitterati


Chapter 7 The Twitterati Andrew Keen has argued against the ‘real political reactionaries’ in the emergent elite of the digital media industry, the new ‘antiestablishment establishment’ (Keen 2008: xviii, 13). He berates the internet’s ‘souring’ of civic discourse and asserts that ‘the decline of the quality and reliability of the information we receive [is] distorting, if not outrightly corrupting, our national civic conversation’ (Keen 2008: 15, 27). This represents what Keen (2008: 54) has dubbed ‘the degeneration of democracy into the rule of the mob and the rumor mill.’ There have been a number of high-profile cases in which social media have become the vehicles for such mob mentalities. Ivor Gaber (2010) – in reference to the use of social networking technologies in the 2009 campaign against Daily Mail journalist Jan Moir’s attack upon the late Stephen Gately – has spoken of the emergence of a ‘Twitter mob rule – a Twitter dictatorship.’ Or, as the Conservative MP Louise Mensch told The Independent newspaper in May 2012, ‘if you want to see the worst of humanity, look on Twitter.’ Twitter Twatter In the second episode of the 2014 BBC comedy series W1A, a PR con- sultant sets up a Twitter account for her client – and starts tweeting on his behalf – in order to establish his ‘cultural capital’. Things of course go terribly awry. This comedic misadventure mirrors the real-world conse- quences both hilarious and disastrous that have so often and so very publicly 172 Chapter 7 accompanied attempts to exploit this particular social...

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