Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What "Tech" Coverage Covers Up: A Twitter Response

["understood," obviously]
["contend," drat!]

["indicative," sigh!]

For those who are interested, I elaborate these points more in a more thorough way and then take them to their various destinations in Futurological Discourses and Posthuman Terrains.

Here, by the way, is the response as a conventional paragraph:
"Stating the obvious," writes Joseph Cox, "but US mainstream media tech coverage is so bad. A real problem as tech becomes an even bigger part of our lives." While I strongly agree with thrust of his point, I cannot help but notice that in a way his objection itself may reflect some of that terrible coverage:  I don't agree that technology is more a part of our lives than it ever has been -- all culture is prosthetic, after all. I would say instead that what has become more prevalent is a "tech" discourse with an attendant politics which "tech coverage" promulgates, a set of plutocratic strategies naturalizing corporate-militarism, enabling digital fraud and wealth concentration, neoliberal precarization, complacent unsustainable consumerism, triumphalist denial, and undermining labor organizing. "Tech" is the placeholder for many of these strategies, the imaginary object they assume and at which they aspire. What "tech coverage" fails to do and what critical resistance to its reactionary politics must insist on is to pluralize what passes for "tech"; to historicize its processes; and to politicize its stakeholders and their stakes. An abstract monolithicization of tech, a disregard of processes of familiarization and investments with pathologies of agency facilitates its a-historization, drain it of its situated stakes/stakeholders, and re-narrativizes it as reactionary destiny. What gets covered as "tech" is better understand as the contingent vicissitudes of technoscientific change and, crucially, technodevelopmental social struggle among stakeholders who content over fraught costs, risks, benefits, meanings, openings. "Tech" coverage always covers over these diverse contentious histories and struggles and thus enables their most reactionary political forms. Cox's initial gesture at the "obviousness" of his point is actually enormously indicative for it turns out nothing is obvious, but also that it is the production of the obviousness of "tech" that is the chief reactionary work of "tech coverage" and constitutes a crucial barrier to thinking and engaging critically in real technodevelopmental social struggle as such.


Lorraine said...

Stating the obvious, but US mainstream media tech coverage is _so_ bad. A real problem as tech becomes an even bigger part of our lives

The thing I've noticed about US mainstream media tech coverage is that it's almost always de-facto advertising. That's increasingly true of news coverage in general, but in the case of technology it's literally 100% of promo pieces. In particular, it seems to be standing editorial policy that any product announcement from Apple will go pretty much un(re)processed from Apple press release to finished (but of course utterly uncritical) news presentation. There's not even a pretense of tech journalism, whatever that might even consist of.

a, to pluralize what passes for "tech" b, to historicize its processes c. to politicize its stakeholders and their stakes.

When I was a child, hell, when I was a university student in the mid-1980s, "technology" (and by extension, "tech") was largely synonymous with "engineering" or "applied science." Now the word "tech" is a drop-in replacement for "computer programming," and traditional engineering disciplines (civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, agricultural, etc.) don't seem to be on anyone's radar screen.

Dale Carrico said...

US mainstream media tech coverage is that it's almost always de-facto advertising.

I definitely agree. One way to understand my whole anti-futurological schtick is to recognize that the advertorial deception and hyperbole of mainstream "tech" journalism and think-tank developmental discourse is amplified into outright faith-based techno-transcendentalism in the Robot Cult of singularitarianism, robocalyptic existential-risk, uploading, eugenic/immortalist transhumanism, etc. One is the clarifying reductio of the other.