The Digital Condition: Class and Culture in the Information Network

The Digital Condition: Class and Culture in the Information Network

Rob Wilkie
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    The Digital Condition: Class and Culture in the Information Network
    Book Description:

    The acceleration in science, technology, communication, and production that began in the second half of the twentieth century- developments which make up the concept of the digital-has brought us to what might be the most contradictory moment in human history. The digital revolution has made it possible not only to imagine but to actually realize a world in which social inequality and poverty are vanquished. But instead these developments have led to an unprecedented level of accumulation of private profits. Rather than the end of social inequality we are witness to its global expansion. Recent cultural theory tends to focus on the intricate surface effects of the emerging digital realities, proposing that technological advances effect greater cultural freedom for all, ignoring the underpinning social context. But beneath the surfaces of digital culture are complex social and historical relations that can be understood only from the perspective of a class analysis which explains why the new realities of the digital conditionare conditioned by the actualities of global class inequalities. It is no longer the case that technologycan take on the appearance of a simple or neutral aspect of human society. It is time for a critique of the digital times. In The Digital Condition, Rob Wilkie advances a groundbreaking analysis of digital culture which argues that the digital geist-which has its genealogy in such concepts as the body without organs,spectrality,and differance-has obscured the implications of class difference with the phantom of a digital divide. Engaging the writings of Hardt and Negri, Poster, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Haraway, Latour, and Castells, the literature and cinema of cyberpunk, and digital commodities like the iPod, Wilkie initiates a new direction within the field of digital cultural studies by foregrounding the continuing importance of class in shaping the contemporary.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6900-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    One of the foremost issues facing cultural theory today concerns the meaning of thedigital condition. Most people who talk about the emerging digital society often associate it with technological developments such as the Internet and MP3 players, DVRs and smart phones, videogames and digital cameras—in other words, with consumer products that provide people with new ways of accessing an endless stream of information and that are said to be ushering in a new age of personal empowerment. Similarly, much of cultural theory is inundated with proclamations that the emerging digital reality is leading us beyond all of the...

  5. ONE The Spirit Technological
    (pp. 9-49)

    Many of today’s theories of digital culture treat digital technologies like adeus ex machina—these technologies seem to appear out of nowhere and yet become the primary means for resolving all social contradictions. According to this model, we are undergoing a fundamental change in how we live and work and we consequently require fundamentally new ways of understanding the world that break with all past models and theories, especially theories that focus on class. Through a close examination that connects some of the core texts and assumptions of digital culture to commodities such as the iPod, I challenge the...

  6. TWO Global Networks and the Materiality of Immaterial Labor
    (pp. 50-121)

    This chapter focuses on one of the central issues in contemporary debates over the status of labor in the digital economy: the issue of immaterial labor. Writers such as Antonio Negri and Manuel Castells—who provide the basic framework of assumptions for all contemporary theories of immaterial labor—propose that digital technologies change the way in which value is produced and, as a result, that the economy is shifting away from the production of material commodities and toward immaterial commodities including information and affect, as well as the terms of life itself. In effect, they represent digital technologies as shifting...

  7. THREE Reading and Writing in the Digital Age
    (pp. 122-166)

    One of the main arguments in cultural theory today is that the transition from what is described as a closed print-based culture to an open digital culture is part of a broader shift in how culture is produced and consumed. It is argued that digital technologies turn consumers and readers into producers and writers by giving them access to the necessary tools for remixing and remaking culture for themselves. In this chapter, I locate the question of cultural production within a broader historical debate over the status of mimesis and propose that the theory of nonmimetic reflection, in which culture...

  8. FOUR The Ideology of the Digital Me
    (pp. 167-196)

    In this chapter, I investigate the argument that we are entering the age of the cyborg, which is said to represent the opening of a space for the pluralizing of identity and difference beyond past social divisions of class, race, gender, sexuality, and (dis) ability. I argue that by positing knowledge as the basis of reality—for example, by proposing that social divisions such as class are the effect of an instrumental logic of classification—cyborg theory obscures the fact that knowledge is always shaped by class relations. Instrumental reason is itself not disembodied from the social, but deeply implicated...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 197-222)
    (pp. 223-236)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 237-240)