Home > Uncategorized > Pushing Back Against “Networked Publics”

Pushing Back Against “Networked Publics”

I’d like to start by underscoring that Ito is, it seems, correct: the massive technological shifts we’ve all observed (and participated in) are (and will continue to be) accompanied by corresponding cultural and social shifts. This seems self-evident.

Here’s where she starts to go wrong:

wtf

On my way to read about the “pervasive networked connectivity” of the digital age, I bump heads against a barrier, a point of disconnect between the usual transparency of websurfing (to go back to Bolter and Grusin) and its sudden hypermediacy. I’m not authorized; and my lack of authority means, in this case, a lack of access. Or, put another way, the author’s authority (the author of the site, the author(s) of the book) remains in tact, while I, the enlightened produser of the digital age, am blocked, without even a link to redirect my path. I’m left to scramble off to Google on my own.

So much for “Accessibility.”

Without denying the obvious significance of the rise of “networked publics,” it seems important not to efface the physical realities of computer culture: the whir of mechanical fans, the heat generated by processing data, the fiber-optic cables collecting crustations at the bottom of the North Atlantic. Ito acknowledges, albeit briefly, the digital divide, but only in terms of infrastructural roadblocks; what of the material detritus — the mountains of e-waste leaching chemicals into the groundwater in India, for instance? Benkler’s sparkling rhetoric about “radically decentralized, collaborative, and nonproprietary” resources seems panglossian beside the plain fact that more and more server farms are being centralized in Iceland, to be cooled by cheap geothermal energy. How can we inject a little bit of hardware reality into the “speed and light” of Ito’s medial ideology?

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