Appreciation for the historical and theoretical aspects of this course

I have really enjoyed learning more about the history of digital technology. As much as I have complained about Fred Turner’s glut of details, I really value that he has written such an intricate portrait of Stewart Brand’s projects and the ripple effect that those projects (Whole Earth Catalog and the WeLL) set in motion. These are histories that have been obscured from public reception, okay, maybe not obscured but the average social network and digital media user is surely unaware of the chain of players and innovations that issued from the New Communalist reception of cybernetic ideals and systems theory. I think I have definitely taken for granted how the modern cyber landscape is truly dependent on all of these innovations and networks. To be honest, it is sort of scary to know that so much of what is in place is reflective of larger power structures that although were supposed to be the anti-thesis of bureaucratic order, ended up replicating that power dynamic. I am not surprised by this but maybe just disheartened – especially after reading in depth breakdowns of how these powered dynamics function, a la the essays in Trebor Schulz’s such as Mechanical Turk or my personal favorite, the essay I presented on, Fandom as Free Labor, by Abigail De Kosnik. I think the difficulty I had with a number of essays in the Schultz anthology was mainly due to my novice level understanding of the fundamentals of Marxist analysis, specifically the definitions of various kinds of labor and how these explications shift in ways that are complex to map in the digital age – I’m thinking of dead labor and some of the other shades of waged / unwaged labor. I wish I would have had a firmer grasp on these concepts but I definitely feel excited about having opened up this modes of thought and look forward to learning more as the scholarship will indubitably continue to move forward, perhaps matching the pace at which digital media and technological innovation seems to operate at.

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