Digital Media: Digitalization, Digital Cultures and User Practices
Full course description
Digitalization has a profound impact on our society. We can observe changes in different areas. What digital media do, what they look like, and how they relate to each other and to older media is not identical worldwide, but dependent on local practices as well. Transformations are not unequivocal. On the one hand, new genres have emerged, such as streaming channels, providing engaging forms of entertainment and learning but also provoking vehement discussions about their impact. New possibilities as e.g., participation in our digital cultures arise but also new inequalities, as the access and competencies needed for participation are not evenly distributed and the platforms that allow for participation also harbor new mechanisms of control and surveillance. The pace and diversity of these developments ask for continuous investigation and reflection. This development has gained a new impetus through 13the proliferation and popularity of social media but also the discourses around the Blockchain recently.
The aim of this course is to investigate the consequences of these developments for society and culture. These consequences have been differently evaluated. The optimistic account stresses the new media’s inherent possibilities for active cultural and social participation and digital citizenship beyond the reach of existing political or commercial institutions. Authors (e.g., Marres, 2017; Fuchs, 2014; Jordan, 2015) acknowledge that participation is not evenly distributed they also see the democratic possibilities of participation culture, stressing its empowering potential.
At the same time, these authors share a less optimistic view and approach those changes more critically. There are still huge differences when it comes to access to digital media, which reinforces existing inequalities related to class, race, gender, age, and geographical location. Moreover, among those who have access there is a participation gap between people with different degrees of mastery of the cultural protocols and practices of the media involved, differentiating between the so-called interacting those who are able to select their multidirectional circuits of communication – and the interacted – those who are provided with a restricted number of pre-packaged choices (Castells, 2000 , p. 402). Others emphasize that ‘interaction’ or ‘participation’ not necessarily means power-sharing or taking control. Rather than being potentially subversive, participatory practices contribute to more fluid assimilation of users into the online economy and the penetration of everyday private and social life by the logic and power relations of capitalism. The critical angle of participation is compromised: precisely because of the interactivity, diversification, and flexibility of the new media, the networked integration of multiple communication modes enhances the absorption of all forms of cultural expression into the same symbolic environment in which the distinctions between different types of contents and codes are blurred and adapted to a pervasive cultural logic in which entertainment value is predominant. Moreover, previously bottom-up developed platforms are increasingly incorporated by existing media and information companies and provide profitable resources – in the form of user data – for online businesses (van Dijck, 2013, Jordan, 2015). The recent development of Blockchain technology is ingrained into a libertarian ideology with the goal to give power and control back to the people. The discourse surrounding the Blockchain is again one of liberation and participation. The course will finish with a discussion of ethical questions related to techno-moral changes in our digital cultures.This course is labelled as a humanities course, but the discussion will include literature from qualitative social science research as well.
The aims of this course are to familiarize students with topics relevant for digital culture and society such as:
- Introduction to the field of digital media from the perspective of humanities and qualitative social sciences
- Introduction to transformations we experience with respect to the use of media and technology (e.g., net activism, self-tracking, gamification, AI and robotics but also digital literature and art)
- Overview of different media platforms and user practices
- The relation between technological development, techno-moral change and user practices as e.g., blockchain, self-tracking, AI and robotics).
- Relevant topics related to digitalization as e.g., ethics, surveillance and privacy will be discussed.
- Online sources.