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  • Clive 11:52 am on January 13, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: books, ,   

    Flat Earth News – Nick Davies 

    Flat Earth News

    Flat Earth News

    This is a relentless, detailed, investigation into why and how the ‘mass production of ignorance’ has been created in/by traditional media over the past thirty years.  The main findings:

    1. Corporations have taken over the newspaper and broadcasting industry. They have cut staff, increased their output, restricted the flow of news arriving in the newsroom by destroying local frontline reporting.

    2. Journalists rely on a tiny number of wire agencies for national and international news. Those agencies have themselves followed the corporate ethic and dismantling of fact checking journalism.

    3. News is created and disseminated in an echo-chamber. Everyone monitors and mirrors the output of everyone else – consensus news wins out – fact checking is relegated to a luxury activitiy.

    4. The PR machine is overtaking journalism as the source of ‘news’. PR acts for commercial and political groups; its interest lies principally in the manipulation/manufacture of news serving these groups.

    What we are looking at here is a global collapse of information-gathering and truth-telling. And that leaves us in a kind of knowledge chaos, where the very subject matter of global debate is shifted from the essential to the arbitrary; where government policy, cultural values, widespread assumptions, declarations of war and attempts at peace all turn out to be poisoned by distortion; where ignorance is accepted as knowledge and falsehood is accepted as truth. (154)

  • Clive 4:46 pm on January 12, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: books, , , ,   

    Prometheus Wired – Darin Barney 

    ‘a meditation upon the economic, ontological,
    and political conditions necessary for democratic self-government, the failure of the modern
    technological world to meet those conditions, and the likelihood that networks, as a technology,
    will perpetuate rather than alleviate that failure (268).’

    Barney’s explicit goal is to debunk those who have been preaching about the innately prodemocratic, nonhierarchical, chaotic infrastructure of the Internet. He contends that the new computer networks are producing greater alienation among workers and greater mastery over citizens.

    The result of this new information and communication technology has not been to free and  empower ordinary people but to tighten the screws and make their global economic and political rulers richer and less visible than ever before.

    Insofar as they bolster the already formidable control of capital over the means of power, computer networks are an essentially conservative, not revolutionary, technology—conservative, that is, of the prevailing liberal and capitalist order (p. 188).

    If citizens struggle to gain power in the capitalist or quasi-capitalist societies they are presently living in how are they likely to gain more with a network technology that further alienates and disaggregates them?

    The control mechanism at the hear of network technology is for Barney anathema to democracy.

    It’s a powerful treatise especially in its use of Heidegger and Marx to marshall arguments from other technological periods and political philosophy. The same holds true today according to Barney but simply to perfect capitalism in a friction-free way.

    The question to be asked of his thesis though is whether, in the light of this perfection of capitalism, democracy can renew itself and propose new forms that can harness the potential for a more positive view of communication technologies to enhance democratic processes. Despite all the activism/hacktivism and online experimentation however, the jury is still out.

  • Clive 4:42 pm on January 7, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: books, , , , ,   

    Radical Democracy & the Internet Ch 12 

    Chapter 12: Internet Piracy as Radical Democracy Mark Poster

    Compares the music and film industries attempt to control peer-to-peer file sharing to Soviet control of information. The Soviets struggled to control the reproducing and disseminating capacities of machines in order to keep control at the centre and maintain culture as it was at the beginning of socialist society. The losing of that battle contributed to the collapse of the Soviet state. Poster argues that with the fialure of the Digital Millenium Copywrite Act and the subsequent court action against individuals and service providers we are seeing the same thing – the Corporate Entertainment State is on the brink of collapse. The rear-guard action it is fighting involves the claim that innovative information and communication technology (P2P networks) should be restrained/curtailed in the interesting of protecting the property rights of the few and maintaining the status quo of rich pickings for the corporations and their shareholders – though couched in an argument for creativity and the protection of artists’ rights. Poster argues that those technological innovations will lead to greater creativity and more artistic activity as the printing press led to more writing and more reading by a wider and more empowered public.

    1. new technologies lead to disruptions to old ways of doing things – though what emerges as this unfolds is unpredictable

    2. digitisation leads to BOTH more control by the state and corporations over information and communication AND empowers people to create, reproduce and distribute information in ways that gives them more freedom of control over cultural objects.

    > It seems that way Mark, but is it not simply that the perception of freedom is as manufactured as was/is the freedom to consume which has been the backbone to capitalist expansion over the past 150 years? Don’t we just feel more empowered but in fact that power is within pre-detirmined parameters – parameters not of our choosing?

    He also uses the arguments initially used by Lessig over the ways that digitisation has changed the market by making the notion of scarcity redundant – digital artifacts are not subject to the laws of scarcity in the ways that anaologue artifacts are. And he combines it with the blurring of the boundaries between producer and consumer offered most forcefully by Bruns’ idea of ‘produsage’.

    > Lessig’s argument is strong though he often seems to under-emphasise the notion that the network itself is a cultural artifact that is someone’s private property (and that someone is constantly trying to reclaim the rights to that property). Zittrain is an ally here arguing for the need to force governments and corporations to resist an encroachment of the commons.

    Here’s a section on the Commons from ‘The Corporation’:

    The question is whether, with a political system (liberalism) shoring up an economic system (capitalism) in which are enshrined principles of deregulation, privatization and free trade, we are really deluding ourselves in thinking that the digital commons hasn’t already been enclosed.

    3 arguments against the use of the notion that P2P is crippling artists’ royalties gained through copyright:

    1. It is not clear why artists should recieve compensation for the reproduction of their work. Performances, yes – but reproductions?

    2.P2P does not involve the sale of commodities and is not therefore not applicable to copywrite law – their is no material substance as in a book and does not enter into a market of scarcity

    3. The creation of art is always about sharing and incurring debts to others – the creative, innovative process is a collective process. See Sawyers Group Genius for examples of this.

    He then goes on to outline the nature of P2P networks and what they can and do do and argues that they are developing a new form of public space where the dominant system of cultural exchange is ‘sharing’. This allows him to argue that such spaces and systems could afford new possibilities for radical democracy.

    His conclusion:

    Digital cultural objects enable the constitution of subjects in broader and more heterogenous forms than modern culture with its fixed objects and delimited identities. The new subjects might be capable of participating in radical democracy understood as the substantial empowerment of the population. At stake in the evolution of file sharing and other features of networked computing is a new culture of mobile and fluid selves, one less beholden to the constraints of modern and even postmodern subject positions.

    Hasn’t convinced me that his argument thus far could lead to such a conclusion – those arguments are probably contained in his book,
    Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines.

  • Clive 3:01 pm on December 9, 2008 Permalink
    Tags: books, , , , , , ,   

    Radical Democracy & the Internet Ch 5 

    Chapter 5: Online direct action: Hacktivism and Radical Democracy Tim Jordan

    Difference: between hacktivism and hacking a) hacktivists speak out on politics b) hacktivists connect political action to spheres beyond informational freedoms.

    Jordan identified two trends in hacktivism:

    1. Mass Action hacktivism

    The translation of offline mass protests (especially non-violent direct action) online. Examples:

    a) Electronic Disturbance Theatre.

    One of the elements of my work since the ’80s is what happens to the social space of critique and protest when the physical avenues have been shut down physically and emotionally. This leads to the question of electronic civil disobedience: to what degree can virtual landscapes of critique be used to amplify and route around the lockdown that’s happening at this university? In the best of all worlds, this would also allow a teleportation between data bodies in protest and real bodies in protest.

    Electronic civil disobedience is a fearless space that allows one, nonviolently, to protest in ways that are no longer allowable in real space. This seems to me to become extremely important in our post-contemporary period. To a certain degree, I find that students, because we are in this kind of electro-scape, would be more willing to risk having a voice as a group if that voice is digitally represented (through, for example, MySpace or Facebook).

    From an interview with Prof. Ricardo Dominguez, principal investigator at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and an assistant professor for UCSD’s visual arts department.)

    b) Electrohippies anti-World Trade Organisation action which broad down the WTO network in Seattle. It did so not by using bots to enact a DDoS attack but by aggregating actual users in flooding the site with requests, hence bringing it down. So it is in the numbers of mass protest that effectiveness is produced, where its symbolic capital is stored – not the technological ‘solution’.

    2. Digital correctness

    Less of an attempt to simulate offline mass direct action online than to assertions of liberty and the rights to an uncensored internet. It’s about beating the censor. Examples are:

    • Peekabooty network is a peer-to-peer network which its developers (a hacking community called the cult of the dead cow) claims will evade all attempts to censor/block traffic (see Guardian report).
    • Torpark – anonymous Web-browser based on Firefox that uses the TOR (The Onion Router) network. It comes pre-configured, requires no installation, can run off a USB memory stick, and leaves no tracks behind in the browser or computer.
    • ScatterChat is a secure instant messaging client designed for non-technical users who require secure and anonymous communications.
    • Camera/Shy enables users to share censored information with their friends by hiding it in plain view as ordinary gif images.

    See http://www.hacktivismo.com/projects/index.php

    Jordan then looks at the antagonisms between the two trends and how they contribute to Laclau and Mouffe’s conception of radical democracy – ie the extent to which both trends extend liberty and equality in relation to the social identities destabilised by capitalims. Conclusion: unclear how their contribution can be evaluated.

  • Clive 2:48 pm on December 5, 2008 Permalink
    Tags: books, , , ,   

    Radical Democracy and the Internet Ch 1 

    ‘ … a systematic and mutual interrogation of radical democracy and internet practice.’

    Chapter 1: Tracing Radical Democracy and the Internet Lincoln Dharlberg and Eugenia Siapera

    Pessimistic accounts of the role of the mass media see it as having been captured by powerful conservative interests, increasingly under the influence of neo-liberalism, and increasingly able to marginalise and neutralise oppositional voices. Optimistic accounts of the potential of the internet to give voice and garner alternative political communities have floundered in the colonisation of the online by a liberal-consumer-driven model of politics. The offline hegemony has been transferred online.

    E-politics is dominated by a model promoting increased access to ever expanding amounts of information allowing individuals to make strategic choices on political options and express those options on different online platforms. Consumer content = political content.

    Old media corporate news sites extend the offerings of individualised information services, attempting to capture the attention of users for their patrons, the advertisers. (5)

    See Yahoo, AOL, MSN

    The internet is used by governments to replicate their offline services and this is true of local and national government services. So the liberal-consumer model of politics is hegemonic and the internet has done little to change that or offer an online alternative.

    But, ‘radical democrats’ still think their is a possiblity that it might do so.

    Radical democracy

    the type of democracy that signals and ongoing concern with conceptualising and realising equality and liberty’ (7).

    Three conceptions dominate debates on radical democracy:

    1. deliberative perspective (Habermas) – political problems can be resolved through the force of the better argument. Political community is based on communicative reason
    2. agonistic perspectives (Chantal Mouffe) – communities are naturally antagonistic – dissent and division are their lifeblood. Power is the exercise of hegemony – ‘the temporary fixing of meaning of social relations’ (9)

      the political project of agonistic democracy is, in these terms, to create a hegemony, an alliance between different struggles that are constructed as equivalent, which can then extend the meaning of equality and liberty to a wider range of social relations (9).

    3. autonomist perspective ((Hardt and Negri) – community is conceive of a pure power (potenza). Potere is the dominating or repressive potenza. Community = multitude. Liberty comes from giving to the multitude its autonomy: equality from the mutually inclusive nature of the multitude.

    Four themes are used to integrate the chapters in the book:

    1. Ways in which the internet encourages the development of radical democratic theory
    2. How the internet operates as a) a conduit of communication b) creator of alternative political communities/radical democratic cultures which can challenge dominant political assumptions
    3. How the internet strengthens the voices of marginalised, alternative, oppressed groups
    4. The role of social, cultural and economic factors in effecting and affecting the constitution and manifestation of radical democracy on the internet.
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