Sunday, May 8, 2011

Have computers taken away our power?

My experiences working in new media combined with a new life as a history student means that I often find myself playing around with ideas about the ways that technology shapes us. It’s crunch time at uni at the moment (and the worst possible time to get distracted by new ideas) but I am compelled to post about a new documentary by film-maker Adam Curtis, ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’, which begins on BBC2 on 23 May.

Curtis argues that, far from liberating us, computers have distorted and simplified our view of the world. We are enamoured by the idea of a ‘network society’ because we have become disillusioned with politics.

I’ve been doing a lot of work this semester on the workings of Power and Knowledge within society and parts of this article rang true. According to Curtis;
"We never talk about power these days. We think we live in a non-hierarchical world, and we pretend not to be elitist now – which is, of course, an emotionally attractive idea, but it's just not true. And that's dangerous".

I’m not sure I’m wholly convinced by Curtis’ thesis however there are undoubtedly some powerful and important insights here. Particularly salient is his analysis of the role of social media recent Arab uprisings;

"The internet played a key role in guiding revolutions that had no guiding ideology, except a desire for self-determination and freedom. In all those revolutions, that sense of freedom lasted only for a moment. The people were brilliant at overturning the power – but then what? Democracy needs proper politics, but people have given up on saying that they're going to change the world. It's as if these people assembled spontaneously on Twitter and they just want freedom. But what kind of society do they want?"

You can read a fantastic article about the new series or take a look at his blog here.

1 comment:

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