Anglia Ruskin lecturers examine impact of digital technology on society

Published: 16 February 2011 at 13:48

Launch event to focus on new directions in Media Studies

Important issues in communication technology, including the role social media has played in the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia, will be on the agenda on 22 February when Anglia Ruskin University lecturers Dr Joss Hands and Dr Jussi Parikka discuss their new books.

“New Directions in Media Studies: Questioning The Digital Turn”, sponsored by the Cultures of the Digital Economy (CoDE) Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, will address the relevance of innovative cross-disciplinary themes in contemporary Media Studies.

Both Dr Hands’ book, @ is for Activism, and Dr Parikka’s Insect Media examine issues such as the impact of digital networks on collective action and the interconnection of science and arts. In @ is for Activism, Dr Hands offers an original perspective on networks and political change, including case studies on the anti-war and global justice movements, peer production, user created TV and Twitter activism.

Dr Hands, Senior Lecturer in Communication, Film and Media, said of the events in North Africa and the Middle East:

“Twitter, social media or the Internet as a whole, can’t be isolated as the cause, or not, of anything, because they are part of the fabric of social life and the terrain of struggle. What is significant in these uprisings is that Twitter, whatever its actual role, is a new element in the struggle.

“Thus when there is discussion about a ‘Twitter Revolution’ in Tunisia and Egypt it is not quite as stupid as the sceptics suggest. The phrase should not necessarily be taken literally, but read as part of the necessary task of articulating a new element into the revolutionary process, in which new dynamics and new capacities need to be absorbed and understood.”

Dr Parikka, reader in Media Theory and History at Anglia Ruskin and Director of CoDE, has recently published Insect Media, in which he analyses how insect forms of social organisation—swarms, hives, webs, and distributed intelligence—have been used to structure modern media technologies and the network society, providing a radical new perspective on the interconnection of biology and technology.

Explaining how digital network societies operate, Dr Parikka said:

“Network culture is a rather peculiar phase in our modern technical civilisation, as it seems to be a combination of high technology and a fascination with such seemingly simple life forms as insects.  We continuously make sense of emerging media and technology through references and metaphors borrowed from the biological world: viruses, worms, swarms, and other similar eclectic ideas that suggest a complex view of scientific culture.”

“New Directions in Media Studies: Questioning The Digital Turn” will take place between 5pm-6.30pm on Tuesday, 22 February at Helmore 251, which is at the East Road campus in Cambridge. The event will also feature a Q&A session chaired by Dr David Skinner.