Assignment 13

I think the most important takeaway for me from this class was figuring out how to put my finger on some of the problematic attributes of digital media. When I first came to CWE, I was an unabashed techno-optimist. I was about two years removed from having procured my first iPhone and became convinced that easy access to these apps and services was going to lead to exactly the kind of linked consciousness Stewart Brand and some of his allies proffered. I remember being asked by my professor at the time to “take a position” on what I thought it all meant and I groped for something obvious; a critique of how the integration of digital technology into built environments had unintended consequences and could in some very particular (almost straw man) cases enable injustice. Over the next few semesters, my techno-optimism started to wane as I became reattuned to real world injustices and saw the tech community’s responses to them, which often seemed hopelessly shallow if not culturally insensitive. This made me start to sour on the tech community as a community, but I put their insularity down to their having ascended from privilege and having been infected by capitalist notions of profiteering above all else. Much of Taylor’s work helped to reinforce this notion, but took it a step further by discussing the cultural impact of capitalist ideals inherent to the digital “revolution” and what we were losing in the name of this supposed gain.

Scholz’s book was the coup de grace as it introduced me to a totally new concept in thinking of cultural production as labor. Terranova’s parsing of the autonomist notion of the social factory, Jodi Dean’s (somewhat disagreeable) characterization of the blogosphere, De Kosnik on fandom as free labor and Scholz’s own introduction to the concept of “playbor” made me downright queasy in thinking about how I’ve spent my time online, whiling away the hours in support of products and services all in the name of community. Turner’s book on where the association between these communitarian philosophies and the online experience came from just made the experience all the more disturbing, no matter how neat it is. Too many things in the book spoke directly to me and what attracted me to digital “culture” in the first place.

So when faced on the role digital media plays in my life, or rather, the relationship I want to have with it going forward, I think I would say that it’s still all important. Like Taylor, I believe the platform can be given back to the people, but only through deliberate usage of it to bring about the end of capital rather than reification of systems of exploitation that are virtually baked into the code. I would like to devote my life, at least in part, to retaking this crucial platform or at least designing empowering systems outside of it.

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