Activism, refusal, expertise: responses to digital ubiquity

Harrison, Emma Elizabeth (2020) Activism, refusal, expertise: responses to digital ubiquity. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

In this thesis I explore if and how digital technologies capture human potential in terms of economic value, and how this shapes imaginaries, subjectivities, and forms of relationality. I investigate ‘digital ubiquity’ as both an epistemological and material condition, and how this is manifest in the discourses that theorise, narrativise, advocate and oppose digital technologies in their many facets. I relay these considerations to Mark Fisher’s notion of capitalist realism, and address how and where digital technologies - as extensions of capital - materialise capitalist realism as a ubiquitous force in everyday life (2009, p. 2). I consider how these dynamics influence imaginaries for the future, and whose politics and futures are privileged via the epistemic and material conditions of contemporary digital environments.

The thesis is comprised, chiefly, of three critical case studies, each offering a response to various dynamics associated with ‘digitally ubiquity’. The first case study explores an ethnography I undertook at a ‘digital detox’ camp, which was a space that invited its participants to relinquish use of their digital devices and discussion of their professions for a four-day period. Here, I examine the pertinence of why a ‘detox’ from digital technology and work were encompassed with one another, and how the participants of the ‘digital detox’ understood digital technologies - or the lack thereof - to influence their behaviours, interpersonal relationships, and senses of self. The second case study explores prospective ‘blockchain for good’ initiatives, which are often offered as forms of techno-solutionism to issues surrounding financial inclusion and digital identity. I focus primarily upon how relationships between bodies and digitality are articulated within ‘blockchain for good’ discourses, and how these relationships speak to specific structures of power: not simply in terms of an intensification of big data by Western apparatuses, but also in terms of the epistemological and ideological ‘erasures’ that emerge when populations are rendered digitally legible in this way (Vazquez, 2011). The final case study explores the discourses employed by a left-wing think-tank entitled Autonomy, who critique the role of work within the UK and pose suggestions for prospective ‘post-work’ futures. Here, I continue my considerations around interrelationships between work and identity formation. I further explore if and where neoliberal discourse is invoked within Autonomy’s work, reflecting upon how this relates to articulations of ‘radical’ politics within a cultural context of ‘capitalist realism’.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0831 Social change > HM0836 Causes > HM0846 Technological innovations. Technology > HM0851 Information technology. Information society. Including the Internet as an instrument of social change, and including the digital divide
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2020 11:15
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/95663

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