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[liberationtech] New Book: Critical Theory and the Digital

David Berry dmberry at
Tue Feb 25 04:05:47 PST 2014


I hope you don’t mind my announcing my new book Critical Theory and the Digital which explores the contemporary landscape related to computational technology and argues for an approach that revitalises critical theory in light of current questions over cryptography, critical technical practice and related notions of critical digital humanities and code work. I think that some of the subscribers to this list might find the arguments articulated in the book of some interest.

This Critical Theory and Contemporary Society volume offers an original analysis of the role of the digital in today's society. It rearticulates critical theory by engaging it with the challenges of the digital revolution to show how the digital is changing the ways in which we lead our politics, societies, economies, media, and even private lives. In particular, the work examines how the enlightenment values embedded within the culture and materiality of digital technology can be used to explain the changes that are occurring across society.

Critical Theory and the Digital draws from the critical concepts developed by critical theorists to demonstrate how the digital needs to be understood within a dialectic of potentially democratizing and totalizing technical power. By relating critical theory to aspects of a code-based digital world and the political economy that it leads to, the book introduces the importance of the digital code in the contemporary world to researchers in the field of politics, sociology, globalization and media studies.

Some blurb:

“'Adorno will not be your Facebook friend.' Instead of lamenting the cultural elitism of the Frankfurt School, David Berry reopens critical theory's conceptual toolbox with a renewed curiosity. These days the theorist is no longer a prophet who ponders the world divorced from the materiality of communication. It is not enough to merely explore the technosphere, there is an urgency to radically question digital technologies. In this age of conflict, the neoliberal consensus culture is taken to task by critical theory David-Berry-style. In line with the info-activism of Wikileaks and Snowden, Berry instructs us how to read the black box that dominates our everyday lives and helps us to develop a new vocabulary amidst all the crazes, from speculative realism to digital humanities.” –  Geert Lovink, Media Theorist, Amsterdam

“Berry's timely book engages with a broad range of topics that define our digital culture. It guides us to the political materiality of software culture with excellent insights. Importantly, this book updates critical theory for the digital age.” –  Dr Jussi Parikka, Winchester School of Art, author of What is Media Archaeology? (2012)

“In this lucid, learned and highly original book Berry confronts the nature of digital knowledge in society through the re-invigorated lens of Critical Theory asking how we can regain control of the knowledge structures embedded in the digital technologies that we increasingly rely upon in daily life.” –  Michael Bull, author of Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience

“Critical Theory and the Digital offers an important new addition to critical theory that explores questions raised by the digital in light of the work of the Frankfurt school. Providing an accessible and critical appraisal of the digital world we live in today, the book argues that critical praxis must today be rethought in light of digital technologies and the affordances that are made available to state, corporate and civil society actors. The book offers both a theoretical and a political contribution: the former through its exploration of how the digital can be read, written, and hacked critically; the latter through its discussion of how the digital can be transformed by political action and the organisation of digital resistance.” –  Christian De Cock, University of Essex, UK

“Unlike many media studies scholars who refer to the Frankfurt School’s critique of the cultural industries only to show its inapplicability to the open source world of the digital age, David Berry accomplishes the remarkable feat of re-instating that critique for the new brave world that is afforded by digital technology. Easily moving between Heidegger, Adorno and Stiegler, Berry mobilizes a formidable array of theoretical resources in aid of what he calls ‘iteracy’, an emerging competence in tracking the contexts in which ‘being digital’ is continually formed and re-formed. The result is a milestone in both critical theory and the digital humanities.” –  Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK

“Bringing dialectical critique to digital culture, David Berry replenishes the legacy of the Frankfurt School in order to devise strategies to live within and against the real-time streams of computational capitalism. Fusing critical theory with the political economy of social media (think Facebook and Twitter), the surveillance paranoia of NSA, the wild party of Hacklabs, the secret autonomy of cryptography, and the accelerated economy of algorithmic trading, Berry registers the contours of the black box that defines digital labour and life.” –  Ned Rossiter, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia




Dr. David M. Berry

Silverstone 316

School of Media, Film and Music
University of Sussex,
East Sussex. BN1 8PP

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