2014 Overview: The World Wide Interwebs
My affinity for technology—and video games in particular—can be traced back to playing games like DOOM on MS-DOS on the family computer. A few years ago, I thought this childhood memory was cool because I saw it as the beginning of what had been a continuous passion into early adulthood. Now, however, I see it as an example of the first generation of a society that has become technologically dependent. And clearly, this technological attachment is found in our relationship to the internet. What was once the cause of arguments over phone line usage—consumer internet in its nascent form—has morphed into something altogether different. On one hand, the same place that is known for selfies, shock sites, and kitten pictures is also the last bastion for truly free speech in the United States and other states. It represents the ideal of an unregulated space for exchanges, communities, activism, etc. and, as a result, it is just asking to be state controlled. On the other hand, these same communities, combined with the need to be constantly connected, have created a culture (and especially a youth culture) with surprising results.
In upcoming posts, I want to focus on the implications that have arisen from both the pervasiveness of the internet and our reliance on it. A topic like the sociopolitical ramifications of the net neutrality/open internet debate becomes increasingly interesting when coupled with the thinking of Karl Marx or Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, and can segue nicely into a discussion of the latter’s notion of “immaterial labor” that goes along with the breakdown of the divide between work and leisure time. I want to discuss how the state, the market, and the people intersect and clash over their mutual necessity for the same invaluable resource, and what that conflict means for the future of all parties. Exploring an entity like the streaming platform Twitch might offer a way of examining how (and why) an undeniably popular site in terms of traffic remains largely unnoticed by the majority of the American population. Additionally, I would suggest that, despite its reputation as a home for trolls, “Twitch chat” can be seen as a hotbed for dissecting linguistic and memetic transmission among a large section of the current youth.
I have become fascinated with the idea of digital humanities not only because I get to combine a passion for literature and analysis with a love of computers, but because the movement strives to wholly embrace the digital turn that many disciplines have confronted and rejected. Obviously, this embrace is essential for spheres beyond academia, and so it is worthwhile and necessary to understand how this turn will impact our relation to the state and how our culture progresses through such a diverse and shared space. People are keen on attributing Oscar Wilde with the quotation “Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth” when highlighting the effects of anonymity one is granted in online forums and threads. This is certainly an interesting phenomenon, but I find it equally interesting if we rely so much on a mask that we never (want to) take it off.