Natalie Fenton (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)

Fake Democracy, Digital Media: Reinventing our Democratic Futures?

Liberal democracy has been eviscerated, hollowed out from within and emptied of liberalisms many promises that have failed to materialise. Meanwhile inequality has increased exponentially, ecological crisis beckons and the often unaccountable power of elites (in politics, media, finance, corporations etc) increases dramatically.  Media that were once assumed to have important democratic responsibilities – as a public sphere, fourth estate, critical watchdog and a check on power – have been commercialised, starved of funding, attacked and restructured – such that they have increasingly been drawn into neoliberal logic. As citizens feel ever more cut adrift from the decisions that make their lives livable so global capital continues to prosper and shape politics. At the same time, the digital age gives us information abundance and unprecedented connectivity. Under these conditions, this lecture asks some crucial questions of our time: How might we rediscover a critical politics of transformation adequate to the materiality of how increasing inequalities in societies leads to vastly impoverished democracies? How do the politics of emancipation form and materialise? How are the progressive political values of politics in common forged, moderated and channelled into concrete practices? And importantly, how can scholarship contribute to the reinvention of our democratic futures and search out what democracy could become?

Natalie Fenton is a Professor in Media and Communications in the Department of Media and Communication, Goldsmiths, University of London. She is Co-Director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre and Co-Director of Goldsmiths Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy.  Her latest book Digital, Political, Radical is published by Polity. Other recent books are, (2010) New Media, Old News: Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age (ed.) Sage; and (2012, 2016) Misunderstanding the Internet (with James Curran and Des Freedman) Routledge. She is on the Board of Directors of the campaign group Hacked Off and a founding member of the Media Reform Coalition.

Vincent Mosco (Queen’s University, Canada and Fudan University, China)

The Next Internet

The Internet is changing from a loosely organized, decentralized, and pluralistic system into a tightly managed, centralized and commodified network under growing business and government control. To understand this transformation, it is useful to adopt a political economy perspective, which examines the social relations, particularly the power relations that mutually constitute the production, distribution, and consumption of resources, including communication.

The Next Internet is founded on three interconnected technical systems encompassing cloud computing, data analytics, and the Internet of Things. The cloud shifts storage and processing to centralized private- and government-run facilities; data analytics advances algorithmic decision-making; and the internet of things “brings things to life” by equipping and networking devices with intelligent sensors. The Next Internet is increasingly run by a handful of history’s richest companies, all based in the United States, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, along with the military and surveillance arms of the U.S. government. The only genuine challenge to this military-information complex comes from China and its tight nexus between a handful of companies and the national government.

The keynote identifies social problems associated with this transformation and the prospects for the resistance that would create a democratic Next Internet. It is openly available HERE

Vincent Mosco (PhD Harvard) is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Queen’s University where he held the Canada Research Chair in Communication and Society. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Communication, New Media Centre, Fudan University, Shanghai. Dr. Mosco is the author or editor of twenty-three books including The Digital Sublime (2004) and The Political Economy of Communication (2009). His To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World, was named a 2014 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. His latest book is Becoming Digital: Toward a Post-Internet Society (Emerald, 2017). Dr. Mosco is currently writing a book on The Next Internet and “Smart” Cities.


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