Shifting Social Relations in a Digital Age

If research about digital, network-enabled information and communications technologies and the extent to which they are transforming social, economic, and political relations in unanticipated—and in many cases, undesirable—ways (concerning innovation, creativity, the free-flow of information and ideas, democracy, labor, and the public interest) is of interest to you, you might enjoy any one of the following reads this Summer:

Bauman, Zygmunt. The Individualized Society: How to Change Our

Experience. Malden: Blackwell, 2001. Print.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market 2. New

York: New Press, 2001. Print.

Conley, Dalton. Elsewhere U.S.A.: How We Got From the Company Man,

Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, Blackberry Moms, and Economic Anxiety. New York: Random House, 2009. Print.

Deibert, Ronald J. Parchment, Printing, and Hypermedia: Communication

in World Order Transformation. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Print.

Garson, Barbara. The Electronic Sweatshop. How Computers Are

Transforming the Office of the Future Into the Factory of the Past. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988. Print.

Gee, James P. “Communities of Practice in the New Capitalism.” Journal of

the Learning Sciences, Vol. 9, No. 4 (2000): 515-23. Print.

Hughes, Jason, Nick Jewson, and Lorna Unwin. Communities of Practice:

Critical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.

Lanier, Jared. You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Vintage

Books, 2010. Print.

 Niedzviecki, Hal. Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New

Conformity.  San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2006. Print.

Roszak, Theodore. The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the

Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition. New York: Anchor Books, 1969. Print.

Rushkoff, Douglas. Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and

How to Take It Back. New York: Random House, 2009. Print.


TWinaDA Means “I Love You” Even If I Don’t Understand You

In “Introducing Identity,” David Buckingham identifies an argument that supports the view of today’s new media technology as “a force of liberation for young people–a means for them to reach past the constraining influence of their elders, and to create new, autonomous forms of communication and community” (13).  But I’m not sure how “autonomous” the younger digital generation can really be.  They are definitely empowered to break away from traditional opressors–parents, like the argument suggests, and perhaps also institutional (at least in its traditional forms).

Still, are they (or any of us) really free from controlling forces in digital media?  One of Buckingham’s concerns points to “the undemocratic tendencies of online ‘communities'” (14).  In fact, if we look at one such online community like Facebook, it’s quite apparent that there is a lot of follow-the-leader activities going on.  One day about a month ago, women (and girls) on Facebook started putting up colours and patterns on their statuses.  Some men even joined in, many without knowing what exactly they were participating in–their favourite colours?, the colour of their current mood?, or what?  And when many asked those who participated, the resulting elitism and reluctance to reveal was met either with participants’ own lack of understanding, or a cliquish desire to keep that knowledge from more people.  Only after a whole day, or even longer, did many find out that it turned out to be the colour of the bra you are wearing at the time in support of breast cancer awareness.  Nevermind the irony esoteric knowledge/practices against the purpose of awareness, what disturbs me more is the antisocial, anti-democratic behaviours that arose from the event.  And this is but one example on Facebook, while many others include the so-called “doppelganger” profile picture week, viral gaming like Julianne has noted, etc.  And these behaviours are certainly not limited to Facebook.  Go to any site that has social interaction–MySpace, Twitter, even markets like Amazon and eBay–and they’re all there.

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Digital Nation

PBS’s Frontline this past week ran a documentary that might be of interest to us here, called “Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier.” In case you missed it, you can watch the whole thing online. Even better, the Digital Nation website has lots and lots of extras, including more interview footage and collections of material on specific topics like identity and attention.

We’ll likely look at some of this stuff for our course, but thought you might want to poke around on the website on your own a bit. You might also want to look at a critique of the program by Henry Jenkins, who participated in the documentary.