[-empyre-] social media as revolutionary technology?

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat May 12 03:46:57 EST 2012

dear all:
thanks for the discussions.

i think it was Anne who suggested to look at the streets and disassembly/reassembly, DIY cultures,
rather than buying into the myth that "consumer technologies become revolutionary technology"   (I think this was claimed, now de rigueur,  for the Arab Spring and needs to be contested). 

But i just want to thank Davin for his very considerate post, and his political stance, and i think it de-romanticizes the value still given, and the belief still nurtured (as in the history recounted by Anne and all those "muddling" with designing new technologies) in the "design" of progressive cultural tools or "social media." 

and again i wonder, here, whether it is thought that social networking is an invention, or an outcome, or is helped, by the new "social media?" 

some thought, at the beginning of the 20th century, that the radio was to be a revolutionary medium; and perhaps again there is confusion now about the transmissions, or access to media, or reciprocality, etc, and the need for protection of rights, and provision of health, education, food, and security. Justice. Possibilities to work and be creative with others, to imagine a future, a place to live in;   in this sense i would like to hear more from Cara Wallis and what she referenced in her work in China and in the situation of "rural (agricultural) hukou", now how does this reflect back on the metropolitan discourses on here?   Cara, you speak of distinct usages, how would you consider them politically, when you say mobile media tools enable these working "women  to participate in new modes of sociality and intimacy, to express a personal, visual aesthetic through the use of digital images, and to disrupt patriarchal modes of authority...."
and are these practices not a result of existing or evolving social networks based on gendered labor relations or connection through cultural and migration histories. 

I am asking abort propellers

(Anne quoted the claim>> the Arab Spring, propelled by social media...>>).

I'd venture to say, following Davin, if i understood his point correctly, that the social media technologies propel nothing.  


Johannes Birringer


davin heckman schreibt:

I have been in Norway for the past year, and the contrasts between political consciousness in the US and Norway is staggering.  As a wealthy country, Norway is also saturated with consumer goods and broad access to high technology, but the general tendency towards a critical awareness of these things is much keener here than it is back home.  At home, even at the highest levels, the attitude towards consumer electronics tends to privilege early adoption, and relies on the embedded assumption that technology is progressive.  What is lost, I think, is the larger sense that, increasingly, the devices and software are not the objects, we are the objects.  We are no longer human beings with human rights, we are human resources with inputs and outputs that are technically managed.  
If we want a Hacker culture and DIY ethic.... we probably need to go right to the economic and political roots of the problem.  If we want liberating technologies....  it's probably best that we, as many as possible, form a collective discourse of human rights and start agitating for it.  Occupy is a good start.  When you want to be free and when you have companions in the struggle, you tend to use every tool at your disposal to make it happen in whatever way possible, small or large.  It's the motives that have been eliminated, and that is entirely consistent with counterinsurgency tactics.

Anne Balsamo schreibt:
To push the topic thread in a slightly different direction, I'd like to go back to a point that Margaret raised about "consumer technologies becoming revolutionary technology."

Directs attention away from the level of innovation that we've been commenting on, i.e., innovation by embedded institutional participants, to a consideration of innovation EVERYWHERE: on the street, in the garage, as a way of making do.  This opens up the issue of the cultural implications and possible impact of what in the US is referred to as DIY, Maker or Hacker culture.

"The street finds its own use for things," as Gibson wrote 20 years ago.  What's different now?  I'd be interested in pointers to critical analyses that seek to make sense of the cultural shifts--these moments of disassembly and reassembly--that don't privilege a technology or medium.

> As I reflect on my years-long collaboration with Jon, Scott and Dale, this is what I think of: first we (by “we” I mean the culture at the time) muddled along designing new technologies—originating social media. Then, last year, consumer technology became revolutionary technology. The actions of the Arab Spring, propelled by social media, transformed a region of the globe. Activists deployed available technology and created a collaborative space for organizing dissent.  At this time, the outcome of these revolutions is uncertain, but the utility of their methods of communication is unquestionable.  And this powerful shift in the media landscape, allows me to think of the work we did together as a miniscule part of an enormous cultural shift.  And from the standpoint of design, provides a vital and renewable form to go with the function of our technological devices.>>

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