Really nice job, all of you, thinking through some of the questions Astra Taylor (2014), Fred Turner (2006), and Trebor Scholz (2013) raise. Reading your responses prompted me to think more too. I’d like to highlight a few issues that cut across these works, about the connection of technology to operations of governance and economy. As many of you noted, the emergence of digital media alters assumptions about what divides labor and leisure, a change that has implications for the way we conceptualize the self. We will revisit this issue in the weeks ahead.
As we begin to question how digital media alters “the playing field,” it is helpful to note who the players are. With social media platforms like YouTube, WordPress, and Instagram, people with access can easily become self-publishing authors and artists. But, as Astra Taylor (2014:33) reminds us, we should not be quick to assume that “access” means the playing field is more level. The old-media model (legacy media) has not disappeared. Instead, many of these players (Conde Nast, Reddit, and Fox) have joined forces with new upstarts (Reddit, Vice Media, and Maker Studios). And though it is far easier to find an audience for your message, it is difficult for artists, musicians, and writers to make a living from this work.
In this age of oversharing, Trebor Scholz (2013) argues, we should not overlook that our preferences are being sold as user data by Facebook to advertisers. Scholz encourages us to consider how this alters the way labor is conceptualized. Questions about privacy rights are complicated by a blurring of the distinction between leisure and work. Some of you asked whether we are actively participating in our own exploitation. To this I would add whether we are now caught up in a boundless process of self-promotion?
Finally, Fred Turner (2006) notes how differently digital media is viewed in the 1990s in comparison with attitudes about computing in the 1960s. How did the association of computing with centralized bureaucracy become displaced with the utopic visions attributed to online communities today?