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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 8: Revolutions


Chapter 8 Revolutions Natalie Fenton (Curran, Fenton and Freedman 2012) has interrogated the internet’s claims to social and political empowerment through social networking sites and as an environment for the propagation of radical ideals. She has argued that, although ‘social networking sites are heralded as […] conferring agency’ (2012: 124), it seems instead the case that ‘social media work to reinforce already existing social hierarchies’ (2012: 127). Furthermore, she has suggested that the illusion of agency offered by the internet may in fact dilute the possibilities of real-world empowerment: ‘our experience of the internet itself may in some way actually hide what’s going on […] and blind us to the need for radical change’ (2012: 141). She has exposed a number of clear problems with online political activ- ism: that its convenient myths of empowerment may comfort us ‘to the point of inaction’ (2012: 170); that it is, for the most part, the province of a ‘global middle class’ (2012: 155); and that the political perspectives emerging from online activism do not for the most part develop construc- tive, consensual agendas, but tend to be limited to the emotive resistance to perceived practices of hegemonic power, and thus foster ‘a politics of non-representation; a politics of affect and antagonism’ (2012: 169). ‘Why,’ she pertinently asks (2012: 140), ‘do we think the network of networks will somehow transcend previous inequalities, when the evidence on the ground is quite the opposite?’ If we mistakenly think that this technology can save us, it...

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