13/03/2013, by CLAS

Social media and democracy: events in the Centre for Critical Theory

In recent years, big claims have been made about the political potential of new media and social networking, from Obama’s use of Facebook in his 2008 election campaign to the alleged role of smartphones in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. We hear constantly about the ‘digital revolution’ and the ‘democratizing’ effects it can have. But can networked media and culture really live up to these promises? Does blogging and signing online petitions really constitute horizontal participatory political action? Or is it merely a consoling substitute for the more difficult challenges of political change, ‘clicktivism’ rather than activism?

The Centre for Critical Theory has organized a day of events on 21 March 2013 to explore these questions by posing them through the work of internationally renowned political and critical theorist, Professor Jodi Dean, who will be joining us for the day from the US. Professor Dean has been developing a critical theory of new media that not only takes the left to task for lapsing into what she calls ‘communicative capitalism’ – meaning precisely the capture of would-be radical energies by new communication technologies – but also identifies a way out in the form of a revitalized notion of communism, whose potential uses of technology she explores through the recent example of the Occupy Movement. Using a combination of Lacanian psychoanalysis and recent political theory inspired by Žižek, Badiou and Rancière, Professor Dean poses timely questions about the relationships between new communication technologies, the way they channel affect, and the potential for political resistance.

 The day will begin with a two-hour ‘master class’ discussing with Professor Dean several chapters from her 2010 book, Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of the Drive. This will pave the way for the official launch of the Centre for Critical Theory’s own blog, entitled The Critical Moment, which will not only provide a resource for critical theorists generally, but also a platform on which to continue to pose questions regarding the relationship between technology and political change. In the afternoon, we will then have a panel entitled ‘Technology, Affect, Politics’ which gathers four short ‘position’ papers that critically engage with various aspects of professor Dean’s work, to which she will be invited to respond. Finally, the day will end with a lecture given by Professor Dean on her most recent book, The Communist Horizon (2012). It promises to be an exciting event. Anyone who wants to be involved should email Colin Wright.

Posted in Culture, Film and Media