Digital Dilemmas views Cuba from the Soviet Union's demise to the present, to assess how conflicts over media access play out in their both liberating and repressive potential. Drawing on extensive scholarship and interviews, Cristina Venegas questions myths of how Internet use necessarily fosters global democracy and reveals the impact of new technologies on the country's governance and culture. She includes film in the context of broader media history, as well as artistic practices such as digital art and networks of diasporic communities connected by the Web. This book is a model for understanding the geopolitic location of power relations in the age of digital information sharing.
Surf the web. Ride the information highway. Log on to the future. Corporate ad campaigns like these have become pervasive in the 1990s. You're either online, or you're falling behind the times-at least, that's what the media tells us.
Ever since the 1990s, when the Internet gained widespread popularity, it has been heralded as one of the best things ever to happen to technology and communications. Commentators expected it to revolutionize how we communicate, do business, and educate our children. Conversely, other pundits have vehemently attacked this technology. Naysayers of "cyberlife" emerged with their warnings of how the Net provides an uncensored, round-the-clock venue for pornography, for inaccurate, simplified information, and is rife with opportunities to violate our right to privacy. In Digital Mythologies, Thomas Valovic hopes to raise the level of discussion by giving a full and balanced picture of how the Net affects our lives.
Digital Mythologies, a collection of Valovic's essays, asks hard questions about where computer and communications technology is taking us. Through anecdotes drawn from his experiences as former editor-in-chief of Telecommunications magazine, the author gives readers an insider's peek behind the scenes of the Internet industry. He explores the underlying social and political implications of the Internet and its associated technologies, based on his contention that the cyberspace experience is far more complex than is commonly assumed. Valovic explores these hidden complexities, and points to fascinating connections between the Internet and our contemporary culture.
Todd Wolfson reveals how aspects of the mid-1990s Zapatistas movement--network organizational structure, participatory democratic governance, and the use of communication tools as a binding agent--became essential parts of Indymedia and other Cyber Left organizations. From there he uses oral interviews and other rich ethnographic data to chart the media-based think tanks and experiments that continued the Cyber Left's evolution through the Independent Media Center's birth around the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.
Melding virtual and traditional ethnographic practice to explore the Cyber Left's cultural logic, Wolfson maps the social, spatial and communicative structure of the Indymedia network and details its operations on the local, national and global level. He looks at the participatory democracy that governs global social movements and the ways democracy and decentralization have come into tension, and how "the switchboard of struggle" conducts stories from the hyper-local and disperses them worldwide. As he shows, understanding the intersection of Indymedia and the Global Social Justice Movement illuminates their foundational role in the Occupy struggle and other emergent movements that have re-energized radical politics.
In the nineties, neoliberalism simultaneously provided the context for the Internet’s rapid uptake in the United States and discouraged public conversations about racial politics. At the same time many scholars lauded the widespread use of text-driven interfaces as a solution to the problem of racial intolerance. Today’s online world is witnessing text-driven interfaces such as e-mail and instant messaging giving way to far more visually intensive and commercially driven media forms that not only reveal but showcase people’s racial, ethnic, and gender identity.
Lisa Nakamura, a leading scholar in the examination of race in digital media, uses case studies of popular yet rarely examined uses of the Internet such as pregnancy Web sites, instant messaging, and online petitions and quizzes to look at the emergence of race-, ethnic-, and gender-identified visual cultures.
While popular media such as Hollywood cinema continue to depict nonwhite nonmales as passive audiences or consumers of digital media rather than as producers, Nakamura argues the contrary—with examples ranging from Jennifer Lopez music videos; films including the Matrix trilogy, Gattaca, and Minority Report; and online joke sites—that users of color and women use the Internet to vigorously articulate their own types of virtual community, avatar bodies, and racial politics.
Lisa Nakamura is associate professor of speech communication and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet and coeditor, with Beth Kolko and Gilbert Rodman, of Race in Cyberspace.
An urgent examination of the threat posed to social media by user disconnection, and the measures websites will take to prevent it
No matter how pervasive and powerful social media websites become, users always have the option of disconnecting—right? Not exactly, as Tero Karppi reveals in this disquieting book. Pointing out that platforms like Facebook see disconnection as an existential threat—and have undertaken wide-ranging efforts to eliminate it—Karppi argues that users’ ability to control their digital lives is gradually dissipating.
Taking a nonhumancentric approach, Karppi explores how modern social media platforms produce and position users within a system of coded relations and mechanisms of power. For Facebook, disconnection is an intense affective force. It is a problem of how to keep users engaged with the platform, but also one of keeping value, attention, and desires within the system. Karppi uses Facebook’s financial documents as a map to navigate how the platform sees its users. Facebook’s plans to connect the entire globe through satellites and drones illustrates the material webs woven to keep us connected. Karppi analyzes how Facebook’s interface limits the opportunity to opt-out—even continuing to engage users after their physical death. Showing how users have fought to take back their digital lives, Karppi chronicles responses like Web2.0 Suicide Machine, an art project dedicated to committing digital suicide.
For Karppi, understanding social media connectivity comes from unbinding the bonds that stop people from leaving these platforms. Disconnection brings us to the limit of user policies, algorithmic control, and platform politics. Ultimately, Karppi’s focus on the difficulty of disconnection, rather than the ease of connection, reveals how social media has come to dominate human relations.
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