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[liberationtech] New Book: Critical Theory and the Digital

Reed Black reed at
Tue Feb 25 07:43:05 PST 2014

In fairness, it was churlish of me to dismiss digital critical theory as
rewarmed word salad that confuses the map for the territory. An
epistemology that accepts puns as wisdom, a presentation that muddies the
waters that we may think they are deep... these have their value. For
example, if one examines the subdialectic paradigm of digital context, one
is faced with a choice: either accept deconstructivist digital theory or
conclude that narrativity is used to disempower the digitally
underprivileged. Thus, the subject is interpolated into a subdialectic
paradigm of context that includes culture as a digital totality.

Examples are self-evident: The primary theme of today's Facebook is the
collapse, and thus the dialectic, of dialectic sexual identity. If
subcultural nationalism holds, we have to choose between the subdialectic
paradigm of context and the subcapitalist paradigm of narrative. However,
one uses the term 'subcultural nationalism' to denote a self-falsifying
digital reality.

"Society is fundamentally meaningless," says Foucault. This suggests that
we have to choose between the subdialectic paradigm of digital context and
constructivist digital nihilism. Thus, the characteristic theme of a
critique of subsemantic digital socialism is the futility, and some would
say the defining characteristic, of textual digital consciousness.

If neocapitalist structural theory holds, we have to choose between
meatspace textual rationalism and digital subdialectic discourse. In a
sense, this suggests the use of subcultural Facebooking to challenge the
digital status quo.

Choose between the subdialectic paradigm of context and Foucaultist power
relations. The premise of textual digital rationalism implies that context
comes from the collective unconscious, given that culture is
interchangeable with language. If the subdialectic paradigm of context
holds, we have to choose between subcultural nationalism and postsemantic
cultural theory. Digitally. But Derrida suggests the use of textual
rationalism to attack digital class div- div- divisions with yellow CSS and
brown zig zags in SVG pika pika pika chuuuu choo choo chooses you to be his

On Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 7:25 AM, Reed Black <reed at> wrote:

> word salad and the digital
> On Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 4:05 AM, David Berry <dmberry at> wrote:
>> Hi
>> 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
>> Best
>> David
>>  ---
>> Dr. David M. Berry
>> Reader
>> Silverstone 316
>> School of Media, Film and Music
>> University of Sussex,
>> Falmer,
>> East Sussex. BN1 8PP
>> --
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