Right-Wing Extremism 2.0: The Austrian Presidential Election on Social Media

Right-Wing Extremism 2.0: The Austrian Presidential Election on Social Media

By Christian Fuchs

First published @ https://medium.com/@fuchschristian/










Austria is a small country in the heart of Europe with about 8.7 million inhabitants. In international news coverage, you can normally not find much about Austria. But this small country has made it repeatedly as a headline into world news with events that document the strengthening of the far-right in politics: In 1986, Kurt Waldheim, a former member of the Nazis’ Sturmabteilung (SA), became Austrian President. The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) had many electoral successes under the leadership of Jörg Haider (1986–2000). Haider was the prototype of the far-right populist and demagogue. The likes of Nigel Farage often appear to be Haider-imitators. In 1999, the FPÖ achieved 26.91% in the federal election and became the junior partner in a coalition government with the Conservative Party ÖVP. It was the first time that a far-right party entered a European government since the end of the Second World War. The outcome was Austria’s isolation in the European Union.

In 2016, Austria again made international headlines: In the Presidential Election’s first round, the FPÖ’s candidate Norbert Hofer achieved the largest share of the votes (35.05%). Many observers expected that Austria would soon have a far-right President and feared he could favour authoritarian and xenophobic politics. The run-off saw Hofer competing against the Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. Achieving 50.35% of the ballots cast, Van der Bellen won by 30,863 votes. The FPÖ filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court of Austria that ruled in July 2016 that the run-off election had to be repeated because in a number of districts the postal votes were opened or counted earlier than election legislation allowed. The election rerun was planned for October 2nd. It had to be postponed to December 4th because envelopes used in postal voting had manufacturing faults. It therefore remains an open question whether a far-right or a left-wing politician will become Austria’s next President.

We live in times, where politics to a certain extent takes place online and on social media. Every political campaign today makes use of at least Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. In the new study “Racism, Nationalism and Right-Wing Extremism Online: The Austrian Presidential Election 2016 on Facebook”, I analysed how voters of FPÖ Presidential candidate Norbert Hofer expressed their support on Facebook. They predominantly make use of the Facebook pages of Hofer and FPÖ party leader Heinz Christian Strache. Hofer’s page had in September 2016 around 275,000 “Likes”, Strache’s around 400,000. For Austrian politics, these are very high numbers. Far-right populists and their supporters take to social media in order to communicate ideology online.

The study shows how nationalism 2.0 works. Charismatic leadership is an important element. Supporters commonly expressed an emotional relation to Hofer and called him their “President of Hearts”. Nationalism works with both positive self-presentation of an in-group symbolized by a leadership figure and negative presentations of enemy groups. On social media, Hofer-supporters turned against immigrants and Van der Bellen. Xenophobia was commonly expressed. Users for example argued that immigrants and refugees “do not have our roots, not our religion” or posted: “Please do something before Islam swamps us”, “[There is] mass immigration of criminals…. Rapists, killers etc… Where will this end?”.

In respect to postings about Alexander Van der Bellen, online militancy and calls for violence were not single exceptions. Some examples: “The Austrian Stalin”, “This train station vagabond should go and shit himself”,Those who voted for van der Bellen ought to be burnt on the stake”, “My weapon is unpacked!”, “And then people wonder if the cold lust to kill comes up in a decent Hofer-voter…”.

Jürgen Habermas argues in his Theory of Communicative Action that political communication in a public sphere requires that citizens respect certain validity claims. The lack of direct embodied, physical and emotional encounter in Internet communication makes it harder to achieve the Habermasian validity claims of truthfulness (communicators lay open their intentions) and normative rightness (communicators respect common moral rules of interaction). As a consequence, online communication tends to be more expressive and affective than offline communication. The inhibition to resort to swearing tends to be lower. Coupled with a political context such as the one of the Austrian Presidential Election, where we find a strong schism of the population between the left and the right, a manifestation of this polarity as online hate speech becomes more likely.

But nationalism 2.0 and right-wing extremism online are not moral or linguistic problems. They have complex social and political causes. In Austria, there are a number of influencing factors, including incomplete Denazification, the long history of Austrian nationalism, the rise of neoliberal capitalism and the associated fall of Social Democracy, far-right xenophobic media, the high level of press concentration, the low level of general education, and the patronage system.

There are no easy fixes to far-right populism, online hate speech and nationalism 2.0. One should in this context Theodor W. Adorno’s words: “The past will have been worked through only when the causes of what happened then have been eliminated. Only because the causes continue to exist does the captivating spell of the past remain to this day unbroken”.

Image sources:
By Grtek [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Hermann A.M. Mucke (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Special Issue of the Journal of Communication: Ferments in the Field: The Past, Present and Futures of Communication Studies

Special Issue of the Journal of Communication:
Ferments in the Field: The Past, Present and Futures of Communication Studies
Editors: Christian Fuchs & Jack Qiu
Call for submission of extended abstracts



In 1983, Journal of Communication (JoC) published the special issue “Ferment in the Field” (Volume 33, Issue 3, co-edited by George Gerbner and Marsha Siefert). The issue focused on “questions about the role of communications scholars and researchers, and of the discipline as a whole, in society” (Gerbner & Siefert, 1983, p. 4). The 35 contributions reflected “on the state of communications research today; the relationship of the researcher to science, society, and policy; the goals of research with respect to social issues and social structure; and the tactics and strategies for reaching their goals” (ibid). In 1993, two comparable JoC issues were dedicated to “The Disciplinary Status of Communication Research” (Volume 43, Issues 3-4, co-edited by Mark Levy and Michael Gurevitch). In 2008, a JoC special issue discussed “Epistemological and Disciplinary Intersections” (Volume 58, Issue 4, edited by Michael Pfau).

More than three decades after the original Ferment issue, it is again time to reflect on disciplinary transformations in communication studies. By calling this new special issue Ferments in the Field, we see historical continuity in our efforts along JoC’s tradition of inviting communication scholarship to reflect upon itself. Meanwhile, we ask questions with a special eye on the increasing complexity and diversity of the field:

* What does the field of communication research look like?
* What have been the key tendencies and developments in communication(s) research and its subfields?
* How has the field developed in the past decades? What have been long-term continuities and discontinuities since the 1980s?
* What is the actual and desirable role for communication studies in contemporary academe and society?
* What is the status of theory, methods, critique, ethics, and interdisciplinarity in our field?
* What is the status of critical research and theories?
* How should the field position itself vis-à-vis key contemporary processes and challenges?
* What does the future of communication studies look like?

Contributions to a new edition of “Ferments in the Field” should be provocative essays that offer bold ideas with broad implications for the field as a whole and areas of specializations. This special issue speaks of ferments in the plural in order to spur reflections beyond established academic boundaries and stimulate discussions that encourage scholars to think beyond comfort zones. From multiple theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary perspectives, it asks about the continuities and discontinuities in communication research in an attempt to initiate a new round of debates about the past, present and futures of the field.

The special issue will be published in 2018. The editors are Professor Christian Fuchs (University of Westminster) and Professor Jack Qiu (Chinese University of Hong Kong).

Authors are welcome to submit extended abstracts to the Editors by December 1, 2016. Extended abstracts should have a length of 400-1,000 words (excluding tables, figures, and references). Abstracts should be submitted to c.fuchs@westminster.ac.uk and jacklqiu@cuhk.edu.hk.

For doing so, please complete use the submission form available here:


Subsequently, authors who were asked to submit complete papers will need to submit their manuscripts by May 2, 2017. Each manuscript should not exceed 4,000 words (including tables, figures, and references).

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0.5 FTE Postdoc Research Fellow: Political Economy of the Internet

0.5 FTE Postdoc Research Fellow: Political Economy of the Internet

The EU project netCommons (2016-2018) studies the sociological, technical and legal aspects of the Internet infrastructure in Europe.

The University of Westminster team is a co-operation of the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) and the Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies. It is led by Christian Fuchs and studies the political economy of Internet infrastructure. We are looking to hire as soon as possible and until the end of 2018 a London-based 50% (fixed-term) postdoc research fellow specialising in the political economy of the Internet. Distance-work is not an option for this position. It is a 50% position with a total salary of £19,536.5 – £21,696 p.a. (incl. L.W.A.) [i.e. £20-£21k for 17.5 hours of work per week]. Ideally, we are looking for someone who lives and works in London and is interested in such a part-time position.

The appointee will hold a social science PhD (in sociology or a related field) and will be familiar with the approach of critical political economy of communication as well as foundations of social science-oriented Internet research. A key aspect is that the person will possess excellent skills in both quantitative and qualitative empirical social science research methods. S/he will also have skills in ethical impact assessment of information technologies. The appointee will have a track record of academic publications and be able to leverage contacts and networks in order to organise workshops, events and a survey for this project.

The postoc research fellow will help conducting a both quantitatively and qualitatively focused survey; analyse and interpret the survey results both statistically and qualitatively; conduct interviews; conduct ethical and societal impact assessment of Internet infrastructure’s political economy especially in the context of un/sustainability, ownership and commodification, democracy and civil rights, privacy and surveillance, net neutrality, the digital divide and ideologies; help organising workshops that engage academics as well as non-academics in the wider public and relevant communities of interest; produce and publish research reports and articles in open access journals; present research results; and create accessible materials for the public.

If you are interested to apply, then please submit one sample publication (a published article, a chapter from a collected volume, monograph chapter; unpublished or forthcoming works, works in a language other than English, and unpublished dissertations are not eligible) characteristic for your work together with your application (CV, application form). It is best to combine the CV and the sample publication into one pdf file

Further information: Christian Fuchs, c.fuchs@westminster.ac.uk

Application and job details:
Application deadline: 18 February 2018

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The Trade Union Bill and Social Media

The Trade Union Bill and Social Media
Christian Fuchs

Creative Commons Licence
The Trade Union Bill and Social Media by Christian Fuchs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at http://fuchs.uti.at/1518/.

The British government is planning to introduce legislation (“Trade Union Bill”) that reforms the planning and conduct of industrial actions.

In British legislation, a law passes through five stages in the House of Commons: the
first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage, third reading. On September 14, 2015, the bill passed the second reading and with 317 yes-votes (“Aye”) and 284 no-votes (“Noes”) moved into the committee stage.

The Trade Union Bill suggest to change the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 so that a 50% turnout is required in the strike ballot for industrial action to be legal (Trade Union Bill, §2) and a support of 40% of all persons entitled to vote is required in “important public services” (§3). Important public services include according to this bill draft health services, education of those aged under 17, fire services, transport services, decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, border security (§3 [2F]). The draft also wants to introduce union members’ opt-in to contribute to political funds (§10). And it says that unions must appoint a picket supervisor, who wears a badge at the picket line, make him or her known to the police, and ensure that s/he is readily contactable by the police during the picketing (§9).

The government and the opposition fundamentally disagree on the Trade Union Bill. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid (Conservative Party) argued:

“Despite what people may have read in some reports, this Bill is not a declaration of war on the trade union movement. It is not an attempt to ban industrial action. It is not an attack on the rights of working people. It will not force strikers to seek police approval for their slogans or their tweets. It is not a reprise of Prime Minister Clement Attlee sending in troops to break up perfectly legal stoppages. It is simply the latest stage in the long journey of modernisation and reform. It will put power in the hands of the mass membership; bring much-needed sunlight to dark corners of the movement; and protect the rights of everyone in this country—those who are union members and those who are not, and those hard-working men and women who are hit hardest by industrial action”.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Business, innovation and Skills Angela Eagle (Labour Party) argued in contrast:

“The Bill is draconian, vindictive and counterproductive. It is: ‘very provocative, highly ideological and has no evidence base at all’. […] Liberty, Amnesty and the British Institute of Human Rights have all said that the Bill’s purpose is to ‘undermine the rights of all working people’ and amounts to a ‘major attack on civil liberties in the UK’. […] The Bill has been criticised for being OTT, with parts of it resembling the dictatorship of General Franco. […] This is another gagging Bill, and those of us who care for the health of our democracy and civil society are united in opposing it. […] The Bill is a divisive piece of legislation which undermines the basic protections that trade unions provide for people at work. […] The Government are pushing through an agenda of attacking civil society, intimidating charities, threatening basic civil liberties, and undermining access to justice. These draconian measures must be stopped, and I urge the House to deny the Bill a Second Reading”.

London’s Conservative mayor and MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip  Boris Johnson argued: This is an excellent Bill—a serious, sensible Bill”.  Johnson has repeatedly argued in the context of strikes by London transport workers that industrial action in key sectors should be made more difficult and has argued for parts of the legislation the Trade Union Bill wants to realise: “We failed for years to come up with up with proper legislation on thresholds for strikes by essential public services […] This is something I wanted the coalition to do from the very beginning. We haven’t been able to do that and I’m reconciled to that now”. If the key public services rule were applied to the election of MPs, then Boris Johnson would not be in office: He received 50.2% of the votes with a turnout of 63.4%, which means that effectively he achieved  31.8% of the eligible votes. One wonders why parliamentarians, who enact the key political public service, apply rules to trade unions in key public services that do not apply to themselves.

A consultation document associated with the Trade Union Bill suggests that unions have to provide advance notice to authorities it they employ social media in industrial actions: The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills talks in this  consultation document about “a broader question regarding how the Code can be modernised to ensure it covers social media, provides guidance on protests linked to pickets, and makes clearer rights and remedies for non-striking workers, the public and businesses as well as picketers”.

“The Code [of Practice on Picketing and Protests] has not been updated since 1992, and so pre-dates the development of social media. […] The Government is reforming and modernising the rules relating to picketing and associated protests to ensure they cover social media, to make sure they apply to protests linked to pickets, and to make clearer rights and remedies for non- striking workers, the public and businesses as well as picketers. […] Non-striking individuals having photos taken as they cross pickets and posted online as 
a form of public shaming (the current Code pre-dates the rise of social media)”

§25 specifies:
“The Government seeks views on a requirement for a trade union to publish their plans in relation to picketing and protests each time industrial action is called. Such a requirement could be introduced by amending the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act. Unions would need to take into account factors which would be set out in a revised Code. These could include:
* Specifying when a union is intending to hold a protest or picket
* Where it will be
* How many people it will Confirmation that people have been informed of the strategy
* Whether there will be loudspeakers, props, banners etc
* Whether it will be using social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, blogs, setting up 
websites and what those blogs and websites will set out
* Whether other unions are involved and the steps to liaise closely with those unions
* That the union has informed members of the relevant laws”.

The document says explicitly that the “Government believes this step could mitigate some of the risks of protests linked to trade disputes by enabling better policing, without preventing them taking place”. This implies that the government intends to monitor union activists on social media. It is also unclear what is meant by “what […] blogs and websites will set out”. It sounds like unions should specify how exactly they use the Internet in protests. This formulation clearly misunderstands the very nature of the Internet and social media. Social media are dynamic and public, they not just allow union members who are on strike to communicate with each other and the public, but also allow the public to comment on the events, to share information, images and videos, re-tweet Twitter postings, etc. A strike thereby is not limited to a specific locale and specific unionized worker, but becomes a public event.

The UK Government argues that in the light of the digital age it aims at “modernising the rules relating to picketing and associated protests to ensure they cover social media”. It however sounds like “modernising” means traditional politics of control that have the potential to limit the freedoms of assembly, association and speech – both offline and online. If users show solidarity with a strike by spontaneously creating and using hashtags on Twitter and spreading information, then this cannot be planned in advance. The formulations in the consultation document sound like any online activity in the light of strikes that is not reported in advance shall be outlawed. Given the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the Internet, the document profoundly misunderstands the nature of social media. What it suggests is not a modernisation, but way of controlling and thereby limiting the freedoms of online information, online assembly and online association of both striking workers, their unions and those showing online solidarity with them.

Social media liquefies the boundaries between the work place, where strikes take place, and the public. Given the liquid nature of social media, legal requirements to report the use of social media in strikes have the potential to outlaw public communication about strikes. Policing social media by implementing surveillance of activists and striking workers has strongly authoritarian political potential. Such policies do not modernise the governance of social media, but threaten basic civil liberties in the Internet age and completely mistunderstand the very nature of such modern communication technologies.

The question that arises is if the formulations in the consultation document violate Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights:

“Article 10 – Freedom of expression:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
(2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Article 11 – Freedom of assembly and association:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
(2) No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.”

In the Trade Union Bill’s second reading, both government and opposition MPs voiced criticism of the document’s suggestions about social media.

Clive Lewis (MP for Norwich South, Labour Party) argued: “Those who seek justice at work will be tracked and treated like criminals, their social media monitored and their details shared with police. Those who protest will be forced to wear identifying marks and carry letters of authorisation”.

David Davis (MP for Haltemprice and Howden, Conservative Party) said:I also want to raise the issue – it is in consultation at the moment, but because the consultation has been fast it may turn up as a Government amendment later – of restricting the actions of unions on social media. This proposal strikes me as both impractical – how on earth would it be done? – and asking for judicial trouble. There will be judicial review if this line is pursued. It has been argued that the measure is there to stop bullying. Well, fine – then pass a law to stop bullying and intimidation, but make it affect everybody, not just trade unions. We already have quite a lot of laws to prevent intimidation”

Labour Party-Leader Jeremy Corbyn commented:

“Because by calling into question the right of free association of trade unions they are actually in contravention, in my view, of Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  They are also in contravention, as Stephen pointed out in his reply yesterday, to the International Labour Organisation conventions.  So we are going to continue our opposition to this.  They are threatening the right of peaceful protest by looking to criminalise picketing.  They are even threatening the right to free speech by seeking to limit what a union member can say on social media during a dispute.  Are we really going to have teams of civil servants or lawyers or police or somebody trawling through massive numbers of twitter messages, Facebook messages, to find something somebody said about their employer or about an industrial dispute?  What kind of intrusive society are they really trying to bring about.  We have got to fight this Bill all the way, because if they get it through it’s a damage to civil liberties and for everybody in our society.  They will use it as a platform to make other attacks on other sections of our community. Let’s be strong about this.  […] When we have been elected with a majority in 2020, we are going to repeal this Bill and replace it with a workers’ rights agenda and something decent and proper for the future”.

Public, semi-public and private online communication on social media is an important part of 21st century freedom of association, assembly and speech in the Internet age. Workers going online as part of strikes engage in a particular form of digital labour: labour-forces going digital in strike action. In industrial action, online communication on social media and other parts of the Internet is part of digital labour association. Attempts to limit, control and monitor the legal and legitimate use of social media in strike action has the totalitarian potential to limit the freedom of digital labour’s association. Digital workers of the world have to unite in order to defend the freedoms that are the outcomes of long and hard working class struggles.

A petition against the Trade Union Bill can be signed online.

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13 Short Films about Social Media

13 Short Films about Social Media

Students in the University of Westminster’s MA Social Media’s 2015 class created as part of the module “Critical Theory of Social Media and the Internet” short films about social media theory books.

Ebru Sahin produced a movie about the contemporary virtual world, for which she interviewed David Gauntlett and Mark Andrejevic:

Gabriela Rodriguez Moreno talks to Paulo Gerbaudo in the movie “Social media and the streets”:

Rogerio Simoes Silva interviewed Geert Lovink about social media and the Internet:

Ketevan Kantaria made a video about Aleks Krotoski’s book “Untangling the Web”:

Zhiwen Yan had a conversation with Simon Lindgren about the book “New Noise: A Cultural Sociology of Digital Disruption”:

Becca Wei interviewed Nick Couldry about media power in the new media age:

Yuqing Wu talked to Marisol Sandoval about her book “From Corporate to Social Media: Critical Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility in Media and Communication industries”:

Sherry Zhao interviewed Chris Atton about alternative media and alternative perspectives about the Internet:

Bangyan Xie made a movie about Christian Fuchs’ book “Digital Labour and Karl Marx”:

Yanyan Tan talked to Anthony McNicholas, Christian Fuchs and David Feng about blogging’s impacts on society:

Ye Zhang interviewed Mark Andrejevic and Toby Miller about media studies 2.0:

Yubo Liao talked to Christian Fuchs about the Internet and society:

Xingzi Jiang interviewed BJ Mendelson about his book “Social Media is Bullshit”:

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The Role of Internet Politics in the 2015 British Election Manifestos

The Role of Internet Politics in the 2015 British Election Manifestos
Christian Fuchs @fuchschristian

General elections will take place in Britain on May 7, 2015. Whereas the role of digital and social media as a communication tool in election campaigns is often discussed in public, less attention tends to be given to policy questions that concern the Internet. What is the role of media and Internet politics in the contending parties’ election manifestos?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Media Politics

The BBC and the Leveson Inquiry are issues in the majority of the competing political parties’ manifestos. Concerning the BBC, the Conservatives want to review the BBC Royal Charter and ensure that the BBC “delivers value for money”. The Greens want to abolish the licence and fund the BBC out of general taxation. The Liberal Democrats say that it should not rise faster than inflation. Labour argues it is committed to public service broadcasting. Plaid Cymru wants to establish a BBC Trust for Wales. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is committed to the licence fee and wants to increase the budget share of BBC Scotland by £100 million. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) wants to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee.

The Leveson Inquiry is directly mentioned in all manifestos, except the ones by UKIP and Plaid Cymru. Whereas the Conservatives stress the establishment of the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, and the Greens express that they feel the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry have not been adequately implemented and more needs to be done.

Media plurality and freedom as well as public service broadcasting are certainly not the big issues in the 2015 British election campaigns that are rather dominated by topics such as the National Health Service, the economy and employment, social security, taxation, the budget, immigration, crime and security, housing, and Europe. The party manifestos show that some attention is given to the role of the media in society. The BBC and Leveson are about classical issues that concern journalism, media quality and plurality, and public service broadcasting. But what is the role of the Internet and digital media in the 2015 British election manifestos?

Right Wing Internet Politics: Internet Control

Both the Conservatives and UKIP frame the Internet and social media predominantly as a threat that enhances terrorism and crime and needs to be controlled by policing, surveillance and tough laws.

The only time UKIP mentions the Internet, it speaks of it as “growing as a medium to commission and commit crime”. Therefore the party wants to come up with “up to date sentencing procedures and processes for internet/cyber crime”, invest “in new technology such as communications equipment and personal CCTV to combat crime”, and foster surveillance of communications (“Increasing Intelligence Capabilty”):UKIP will create a new over-arching role of Director of National Intelligence (subject to confirmation hearing by the relevant Commons Select Committee), who will be charged with reviewing UK intelligence and security, in order to ensure threats are identified, monitored and dealt with by the swiftest, most appropriate and legal means available. He or she will be responsible for bringing all intelligence services together; developing cyber security measures; cutting down on waste and encouraging information and resource sharing”.

For UKIP, the Internet poses a threat of terrorism and crime, which is why it takes a right-wing law and order and control approach in online politics. Whereas the passages about the Internet are rather scarce in UKIP’s manifesto, more space is devoted to digital media in the Tories’ manifesto.

Like UKIP, the Tories believe that Internet surveillance stops crime, radicalisation and terrorism: “To restrict the harmful activities of extremist individuals, we will create new Extremism Disruption Orders”. The Conservatives also want to introduce legislation that bans certain people from using the Internet and thereby abolishes the freedom of online use for some individuals: “These new powers might, for instance, prevent those who are seeking to radicalise young British people online from using the internet
or communicating via social media”. “We will keep up to date the ability of the police and security services to access communications data – the ‘who, where, when and how’ of a communication,
but not its content. Our new communications data legislation will strengthen our ability to disrupt terrorist plots, criminal networks and organised child grooming gangs, even as technology develops. We will maintain the ability of the authorities to intercept the content
of suspects’ communications, while continuing to strengthen oversight of the use of these powers”.

The Tories take a policing and control approach towards questions of copyright in the online world: “We will protect intellectual property by continuing to require internet service providers to block sites that carry large amounts of illegal content, including their proxies. And we will build on progress made under our voluntary anti-piracy projects to warn internet users when they are breaching copyright. We will work to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites”.

The Conservatives want to use taxpayers’ money in order to create and accelerate infrastructures, including broadband and mobile phone networks, that are controlled by private companies: “We have set out a plan to invest over £100 billion in our infrastructure over the next Parliament”: “And we will continue to ‘top-slice’ the licence fee for digital infrastructure to support superfast broadband across the country”. We will “roll out universal broadband and better mobile phone connections, to ensure everyone is part of the digital economy”. “Improving our trains, roads and broadband helps local businesses grow and create more jobs and opportunities”. “We will deliver faster internet, to help you work and communicate more easily. […] We will also release more spectrum from public sector use to allow greater private sector access. […] We will boost mobile coverage, so you can stay connected. […] We will ensure that Britain seizes the chance to be a world leader in the development of 5G, playing a key role in defining industry standards”.

The Tories’ Internet politics is a combination of right-wing Internet control and neoliberalism that invests taxpayers’ money into communications companies’ provision of networks as for-profit services in order to accumulate capital. Both UKIP and the Conservatives share the idea that the Internet poses a threat of terrorism, radicalisation and crime and therefore needs to be monitored. The terms privacy, surveillance and Snowden are absent from their election manifestos. They want to advance policing and surveillance capacities, which however are superficial measures that threaten liberal freedoms and overlook that crime has societal causes and can best be prevented by fostering social, educational and job security of at-risk individuals. Right-wing law and order and control politics furthermore tend to scapegoat specific groups (immigrants, Muslims, people of colour, etc.), to create a culture of fear, mistrust and discrimination that can amplify the actual criminal behaviour of discriminated groups, and to undermine the presumption of innocence. Such politics has totalitarian potentials.

Both…And Internet Politics

The Labour Party wants to appeal to both the right and the left and therefore ends up with a vague and paradox form of Internet politics.

It wants to have an Internet that foster capitalism and that at the same time public efforts, but the latter only for non-users and the digital illiterate: Capitalist in the first instance, public efforts only for the poor: “We will work with the industry and the regulator to maximise private sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure. And we will support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology”. Digital neoliberalism with a human face? In the last instance, digital politics is for Labour all about fostering capitalist innovation: Labour’s longer-term approach will drive innovation and build on our strengths as a leader in digital technology. We are just at the start of the internet revolution. Digital technology has transformed start-up costs making it easier to run your own business. There is a widening in the application of new transformative technologies in the fields of robotics, genetics, 3D printing and Big Data. Our economy is developing a network of connections that will revolutionise innovation”.

Labour neglects that after more of 20 years of the commercial WWW, Britain and Europe have not caught up with and will not outcompete and overtake Silicon Valley Internet companies that dominate the digital world. It does not realise that Europe may have to concentrate on what it is good at – public service and community media – and apply this approach to the Internet.

In eGovernment, Labour does not promise radical novelties or more participatory democracy, but more services and open data: “To create a more connected society we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable. We will continue to back the principle of ‘open data by default’, releasing public sector performance data wherever possible”.

“Britain needs to be prepared to counter the threat of cyber-attacks. […] We will need to update our investigative laws to keep up with changing technology, strengthening both the powers available, and the safeguards that protect people’s privacy. This is why Labour argued for an independent review, currently being undertaken by David Anderson. We will strengthen the oversight of our intelligence agencies to make sure the public can continue to have confidence in the vital work that they do to keep us safe”. Labour seems to want to further expand surveillance laws as well as privacy. It is unclear how more law and order and monitoring should go together with the protection of users’ fundamental rights, given that since 9/11 the tendency has been the expansion and intensification of surveillance and surveillance ideologies at the expense of privacy and civil rights.

Labour also wants to further expand the British defence and security industry: “The UK defence and security industry is a key contributor to our economy, with a turnover of £22 billion a year. We will work to secure defence jobs across the UK, protect the supply chain and support industry to grow Britain’s defence exports. In partnership with industry, we will put accountability, value for money, interoperability and sustainability at the centre of defence procurement”.

Labour’s Internet politics promises digital capitalism with a bit of public service for the digitally excluded as well as the paradoxical combination of fostering law and order and civil liberties. It wants to appeal to everyone – from the left-wing activist concerned about monopoly power, human rights violations and Internet surveillance to the right-wing extremist fearing a terrorist and criminal attack all over the Internet and in every neighbourhood with a population consisting of more than zero non-whites. Such Internet politics that wants to appeal to everyone turns out to stand for nothing.

Neoliberalism and Empty Promises

In relation to the information economy, the Liberal Democrats pursue a neoliberal innovation strategy that develops this sector of the economy in a purely capitalist way: “The UK’s creative sector has been one of the great success stories of the past five years, and a critical driver of our recovery. […] We will: […] Support growth in the creative industries, including video gaming, by continuing to support the Creative Industries Council, promoting creative skills, supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules, and addressing the barriers to finance faced by small creative businesses”. The Lib Dems say they will work “to deepen the EU single market in the energy sector, in the digital economy and for services.”

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto appears to offer a programme of transformation for those who are concerned about the violation of civil rights online. It promises “a complete overhaul of surveillance powers in 2016”, to “[e]nsure proper oversight of the security services”, and to pass a Digital Bill of Rights.

Such a Bill enshrines “the principle that everyone has the right to control their own personal data”, gives “increased powers and resources for the Information Commissioner and introduce custodial sentences for egregious breaches of the Data Protection Act”, ensures “that privacy policies and terms and conditions of online services, including smartphone apps, must be clear, concise and easy for the user to understand”, protects “free speech by ensuring insulting words, jokes, and non-intentional acts, are not treated as criminal, and that social media communications are not treated more harshly than other media”, opposes “the blanket collection of UK residents’ personal communications by the police or the intelligence agencies”, and gives the state “[a]ccess to metadata, live content, or the stored content of personal communications […] only […] without consent where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or to prevent threats to life”.

On the one hand the Lib Dems put emphasis on policing. They want to “[e]nsure we continue to provide the appropriate resources to the police and intelligence agencies to meet the threat, including of cyber attack” and “[r]ecognise the expansion of warfare into the cybersphere, by investing in our security and intelligence services and acting to counter cyber attacks”. On the other hand, they do not believe in policing civil society and social media and therefore say they want to “[w]ork with religious and community leaders, civil society groups and social media sites to counter the narratives put forward by extremists, and create the space for the expression of contrary viewpoints and religious interpretations”.

The general approach is that the Liberal Democrats believe that “security and liberty are two sides of the same coin: you cannot have one without the other. The police and intelligence agencies do vital work to protect the public and we are rightly proud of them. But we always have to be vigilant that the state does not overreach itself, as it has done at times through corruption, heavy-handedness or illiberal laws”.

Doubts about this approach arise however for example when the Lib Dems state they want to “[e]stablish in legislation that the police and intelligence agencies should not obtain data on UK residents from foreign governments that it would not be legal to obtain in the UK under UK law”. The formulation can imply that it should be legal for the police and intelligence services to obtain data about non-UK residents from foreign governments, which proposes a nationalist separation: some privacy for British residents, surveillance of foreigners.

The Lib Dems’ promises to secure civil liberties on the Internet are overshadowed by the political reality created by their coalition government with the Tories in the years 2010-2015. During this period, policing of and surveillance on the Internet have been massively advanced. Since 2012, the Pirate Bay and other file sharing platforms have blocked in the UK. Although the Lib Dems blocked the Conservatives’ idea to pass a permanent Communications Data Bill that would have implemented a 12-month retention of all connection data from phones, e-mail, Internet browsing, online games and social networks, they supported passing the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) as express law in July 2014. DRIP implemented a requirement of communication network providers to retain communications connection data for up to 12 months after the European Court of Justice had declared such retention unconstitutional. It allows UK authorities to obtain communications data from operators located outside the UK that collect data for communications conducted over systems they provide and that are used by people inside the UK. It also extends the definition of “telecommunication service” in a way that makes interception of content with the help of a warrant and the requirement to store connection data not just possible for phone and Internet service providers, but for all kind of Internet platforms in and outside the UK, including webmail providers, social media platforms, and all other platforms enabling online communication.

The Lib Dems were politically silent when the Investigatory Powers Tribunal found against the complaints by human rights groups Liberty, Privacy International and Amnesty International that the Tempora programme, under which the British spy agency GCHQ taps into fibre-optic cables, is legal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000. The Lib Dems were again politically silent when the same Tribunal found that the sharing of intelligence data (phone and e-mail records) between GCHQ and the NSA was illegal for seven years until 2014.

The Lib Dems combine neoliberal information economy politics with promises about online civil liberties that have been violated by their own coalition government, which undermines credibility. A parallel is that in 2010 the Lib Dems’ election manifesto promised to “[s]crap unfair university tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, […] saving them over £10,000 each” and to “phase fees out over six years”, while they in actual politics together with the Tories tripled the fees to £9,000 per year. There is a gap between the Lib Dems’ political promises and reality, between their ideal and actual political world.

Social Democracy

To a certain extent, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is more of a classical social democratic party than Labour has been in a long time. Its manifesto suggest for example to end austerity, increase the minimum wage, end nuclear disarmament, expand public childcare, and increase public expenditures. For achieving the latter, it wants to increase taxes on high incomes, bankers’ bonuses and mansions as well as end tax avoidance by companies and individuals who are classified as resident, but not domiciled in the UK.

The SNP argues that “public sector organization should be able to bid to operate rail services, as allowed in EU law but currently prevented by UK legislation”. It wants to re-nationalise the Royal Mail, but other than the Green Party and Plaid Cymru does not explicitly demand the nationalisation of the rail system. The SNP wants to invest in infrastructures for renewable energy, rail transport and broadband in order to achieve an “improved connectivity and infrastructure that is fit for the 21st century”. It argues for a “more rapid roll out of superfast broadband and 4G across Scotland”, “increased investment in 4G”, to “support wider and affordable access to the internet in our most disadvantaged communities”, and to introduce a “Universal Service Obligation to be applied to telecoms and broadband providers ensuring everyone is able to access the communications they need”.
So in relation to communications infrastructure, the SNP wants to regulate private providers so that they have are obliged to provide services universally, for example also in the sparsely populated Scottish Highlands. Commercial providers tend to neglect remote and sparsely populated areas or to treat them differently because provision tends to be less profitable there.

A different approach however is to think of and support publicly and community-owned networks. The SNP is addressing this issue by suggesting free Wi-Fi in public buildings: “We also recognise the importance of improving access to the internet, especially for some of our more remote or disadvantaged communities. In government we are working to maximise the availability of high-speed broadband across Scotland and are also providing funding of £1.5 million to increase free provision of Wi-Fi in public buildings”. This approach could however be taken further by creating public Wi-Fi areas and financially supporting non-profit community-operated Wi-Fi areas. A public investment of £1.5 million is extremely modest.

In relation to surveillance, the SNP does not explicitly take an approach that focuses on fostering national security by advancing social security, as the Green Party does. But it speaks out against mass surveillance:  “We do not support Tory plans for the reintroduction of the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’, which would see all online activity of every person in the UK stored for a year. Instead, we need a proportionate response to extremism. That is why we will support targeted, and properly overseen, measures to identify suspected extremists and, if necessary, examine their online activity and communications”. The SNP also calls for being “more effective at combatting cyber-terrorism” and leaves open if this means a law and order- or a different strategy.

The SNP calls for tax reliefs and public support for the video games industry that is particularly strong in Scotland. It here however wants to publicly support an industry that is predominantly capitalist in character. A different approach could be taken by arguing that public support is especially provided to cultural, media and digital media companies if they are organised as non-profit, worker controlled co-operatives. The SNP has given up its idea to decrease the corporation tax in Scotland, but also its approach to make targeted tax cuts has a somewhat neoliberal aura.

Uneven Development

Wales is as a periphery within Britain. It faces social problems such as deindustrialisation, higher unemployment, deprivation and poverty as well as lower educational standards, life expectancy and wages than in England. Plaid Cymru’s manifesto is especially focused on fostering regional development and independence, which manifests itself also in its Internet politics.

The Report Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Wales concludes: “Wales has among the highest rates of child poverty in the UK, and that 119,000 older people are estimated to be living in poverty – as meanwhile, working-age poverty is also higher than the UK average. […] there are 
especially strong links in Wales, by international comparison, between socio-economic disadvantage and educational under-achievement. […] [There is] a less-than-reassuring picture of the prospects for improving housing for those in Wales on low incomes. […] health inequalities are widening, […] poor access to fuel, online resources, financial
 services and transport [contribute] to the wider sweep of inequality. 
For those committed to the aim of reducing such inequalities, the panoramic view is by no means a happy one”. The report Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Wales 2013 concludes: “The main problem in Wales is lack of jobs. […] Jobs will be scarce in Wales for a long time”.

Britain’s uneven regional development also affects access to, speed and use of the Internet. The report Broadband Internet in Wales (2013) argues: “Wales currently has the largest proportion of premises in potential not-spots, and the lowest availability of superfast – or next generation – broadband services in the UK. […] a number of Welsh local authorities are rated by Ofcom as being among the worst performing in the UK for broadband services. […] people in the South Wales Valleys are less likely to subscribe [to broadband] than those in the rest of Great Britain”.

Given that Wales is strongly affected by uneven social, economic and digital development, it is clear that regional development is a particular issue in Plaid Cymru’s election manifesto. Plaid Cymru opposes austerity, argues for economic fairness and devolvement, a Green New Deal, and employee ownership of companies.

In relation to Internet development, Plaid Cymru argues: “We want to see an improved broadband connection, getting everybody online so that people can do business from home, with a target that all parts of Wales have access to speeds of at least 30Mbps and ensure that mobile phone operators provide a better service in all parts of Wales”. Overcoming the regional digital divide that affects Wales faces the problem that Internet and telecommunications are non-devolved policy areas, meaning that the development of communication infrastructures is at the moment determined by agendas that aim at treating communication, technology and networks as for profit-businesses. Plaid Cymru supports “the public ownership of railways” and to turn “local newspapers” into “community assets” so that “owners could not close them without communities having the opportunity to keep their paper”. It does not apply the same logic to communications infrastructures, which would mean questioning the for-profit character of such networks and demanding community and/or public ownership of these networks.

Plaid Cymru favours a civic nationalism that aims at preserving and fostering the Welsh language and also manifests itself in its Internet politics: “We support establishing a new Welsh language multimedia service to operate online, on radio and other platforms, in order
to reflect the needs of Welsh language audiences and improve current affairs coverage in Wales”.

Although Plaid Cymru takes in general a progressive political position, it in at least one realm resorts to conservative control politics when it suggests technological control measures in order to tackle cyber attacks: “Increasing reliance upon technology leaves countries open to attack by foreign powers without the need for conventional weapons. We will bolster cyber-security defence capabilities to increase security and prevent cyber-attacks”.

The Greens’ Digital Agenda

The Green Party mentions Edward Snowden’s revelations directly and argues that mass surveillance must be avoided. It says it opposes “any case for secret unaccountable mass surveillance of the type exposed by Edward Snowden. We do accept that government law enforcement agencies may occasionally need to intercept communications in specific circumstances. Such specific surveillance should be proportionate, necessary, effective and within the rule of law, with independent judicial approval and genuine parliamentary oversight”. According to the Greens, surveillance should only be possible if it is targeted at suspects and with judicial approval. State authorities and the technologies they use should be transparent, accountable and democratically controlled: “The Green Party supports a world of open, freely flowing information. We don’t want disproportionate or unaccountable surveillance or censorship. We want a transparent state, but we want control over the data that our digital lives create. We need copyright laws that reward creators but that are consistent with digital technologies. Above all we want democratic political control of this technology. We would consider combining elements of the policies below into a comprehensive Digital Bill of Rights”. The Greens call for an overhaul of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

They like the Lib Dems suggest introduction of a Digital Bill of Rights. The one the Greens have in mind is however more advanced, not just suggesting to strengthen data protection and outlawing mass surveillance, but also making “copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible, and prevent patents applying to software”, introducing “a more satisfactory law on so-called malicious comments made on social media than the blanket and crude section 
127 of the Communications Act 2003”, opposing “the privatisation of data held by the government that should be open to all, such as the Postcode Address File, or by companies providing public services, such as data on the progress of buses that can be used by Smartphone apps to predict waiting times”, and opposing “the sale of personal data, such as health or tax records, for commercial or other ends”.

Although the Green Party’s Digital Bill of Rights has in general a politically progressive agenda, it does not extend to the realm of the communications infrastructure, in respect to which it only demands regulation that requires for-profit technology companies to roll out networks so that they are accessible to anyone: Government should “[e]nsure that all have digital access and give BT and other public telecommunications operators an obligation to provide affordable high-speed broadband-capable infrastructure to every household and small business. This in particular will encourage video- conferencing, helping to reduce both business and family travel”. The Greens do not extend their agenda to turn railways into a public service to communications networks. Both Plaid Cymru and the Greens question private control of railways and do not question private control of communications infrastructure, although both railways and communications are important transport infrastructures. The Green Party’s manifesto is titled “For the Common Good”, but forgets that also communication is a common good that is damaged if it is treated as a commodity.

In regard to the question of how to address terrorism and crime, the Greens question law and order politics and surveillance ideologies and suggest addressing these issues in terms of their context. “Crime has a context”: education, skills, employment, family life, equality, etc. “There is more crime in more unequal societies”. They argue for creating a secure society by providing social security: “education, employment and security for all – this is the heart of Green Party crime policy”. “Take proportionate measures to protect against terrorism, ensuring that civil liberties are not undermined in the process, that communities are not scapegoated and that action reflects a genuine assessment of the threat to our security. We need targeted policing and security service activities, not mass surveillance, prisons that rehabilitate those convicted of terrorism offences and effective programmes to prevent radicalisation and to deradicalise individuals”.

Left-Wing Internet Politics?

Internet politics is not a major issue in the 2015 British election campaigns and manifestos. It gets some attention especially in relation to online privacy and surveillance after Snowden’s revelations.

The Tories and UKIP favour right-wing politics that see control and monitoring of the Internet as a solution to social and political problems. The Labour Party wants to appeal to everyone and to advance politics that at the same time advance control and freedom as well as digital capitalism and the public interest, which creates political paradoxes. The Liberal Democrats combine digital neoliberalism and a cyberlibertarian stress on online freedom that has been delegitimised by their support of right-wing control politics in a coalition with the Tories.

Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, and the SNP occupy a rather left-wing political position and demand the strengthening of public services as well as, in the case of Plaid Cymru and the SNP, the nationalisation of the railways. Their digital media strategies are however too tentative and to a certain degree give in to ideas of cyber-security and capitalist control of communication networks and platforms. They lack a more committed digital politics that aims at strengthening and decommodifying the communications and digital commons. The politics these three parties suggest certainl certainly have a potential for being developed into left-wing net politics, but at the moment lack visions and ideas.

Plaid Cymru favours employee ownership of companies. Co-operatives have since the start of the economic crisis in 2008 proliferated in many parts of the world, including Britain. The cultural and media sector is particularly attractive for young people. Fostering public support of this sector and combining it with the condition that young people form non-profit cultural, digital and media co-operatives could therefore be a promising alternative economic strategy.

The Internet economy is dominated by targeted advertising. Think for example of Google and Facebook: They are not communication companies, but the world’s largest advertising agencies. Advertising is hardly mentioned in the 2015 British election manifestos. The Lib Dems argue to “[r]estrict the marketing of junk food to children”. The Greens want to “[s]trengthen controls on advertising directed at children”. These two instances are the only times advertising is mentioned in the election manifestos.

That many people find advertising annoying, have privacy concerns about targeted advertising, that advertising is often biased and can foster economic concentration, and that the advertising industry exploits the unpaid labour of users and audiences is not an issue in the election manifestos. One could think of introducing an advertising tax and using the resulting state revenues for funding non-profit media organisations, non-commercial journalism, alternative online projects, etc. and introducing a participatory media fee.

The SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, and Labour want to ban Zero Hours contracts that are part of the problem of precarious labour. More could however be done to overcome precarious labour. One issue that is not addressed by any party manifesto concerns online freelancing. Online freelancing platforms are one of freelancers’ most used information sources when looking for work. They are however also largely unregulated. Given that these platforms are online and make freelancers compete against each other globally, the introduction of a reasonable minimum wage for online freelancing at the European and transnational level would therefore help to challenge the problem of low remuneration in the online freelance and sharing economy. One must take into account that most online freelancing is professional knowledge work, so a minimum wage at the level of the national minimum wage won’t suffice.

Internet politics is a minority issue in the 2015 British election campaigns. No party has a full-fledged left-wing Internet strategy, although there are certainly opportunities to think about what progressive digital politics should mean today.

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Call: RN18 Panel “Critical Media Sociology Today” at the ESA 2015 Conference

Call: RN18 Panel “Critical Media Sociology Today”
12th Conference of the European Sociological Association
August 25-28, 2015. Prague
ESA Research Network 18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research

Abstract submission (max. 250 words):
Deadline February 1, 2015
Submission: http://esa12thconference.eu/abstract-submission
Please indicate the session number to which you submit (see below, e.g. RN18_1) and provide one session number only for this purpose.

Critical Media Sociology Today

We live in times of ongoing crisis, the extension and intensification of inequalities concerning class, gender, and race, a return of the importance of the economy and political economy, a lack of imaginations of alternatives to neo-liberalism and capitalism, an intensification of right-wing extremism and fascism all over Europe, a lack of visions and power of the political Left, an intensification and extension of extremely repressive forms of state power such as communications surveillance conducted by secret services, ideological scapegoating conducted by conservative and far-right parties, and law and order-politics. Left-wing movements and parties have in some countries emerged or been strengthened, but the crisis has overall brought a further political shift towards the right and an intensification of capitalism and inequality.

We today require politically a renewal of the Left. For critical media sociology this means that it needs to ask questions, theorise, and conduct critical analysis of media and communications in the context of capitalism, class, ideologies, racism, fascism, right-wing extremism, gender, state power, activism and social movements, challenges for public service, media reforms, crisis, globalisation, the rise of China, digitalisation, consumer and advertising culture, information/cultural/media work, digital labour, the new international division of cultural and digital labour, warfare and military conflicts, the new imperialism, financialisation, etc.

ESA RN 18 calls for contributions that shed new light on questions that Critical Media Sociology needs to ask today and on theoretical and analytical insights that help to shape Critical Media Sociology in the 21st Century.

RN18’s panel at the ESA 2014 Prague Conference “Differences, Inequalities Sociological Imagination” and its contributions are organised in the form of specific session topics.

ESA RN18 calls for contributions to the following sessions:

RN18_1: Critical Media Sociology and Karl Marx Today:
What is the role and legacy of Karl Marx’s works and Marxist theory for critical media sociology today?

RN18_2: Critical Media Sociology and Capitalism Today:
How does capitalism shape media and communications today?

RN18_3: Critical Media Sociology and Critical Theory Today:
What is a critical theory of 21st century society? What role do communication, media and culture play in such a theory?

RN18_4: Critical Media Sociology and Stuart Hall Today:
How do Stuart Hall’s works, projects, and collaborations matter for critical media sociology today?

RN18_5: Critical Media Sociology and Cultural Materialism Today:
How does Raymond Williams’ approach of cultural materialism matter today for understanding the sociology of media and communications?

RN18_6: Critical Media Sociology, Patriarchy and Gender Today:
What is the role of and relationship of identity politics and anti-capitalism for feminist media sociology today?

RN18_7: Critical Media Sociology and the Critique of the Political Economy of the Internet and Social Media:
How does capitalism shape the Internet and social media?

RN18_8: Critical Media Sociology and Ideology Critique Today:
What are the main forms of ideology today and how do they operate in the media? Which forms and approaches of ideology critique do we need to understand them?

RN18_9: Critical Media Sociology, Right-Wing Extremism and Fascism Today:
What is the relationship of far-right movements and parties, the media and communication?

RN18_10: Critical Media Sociology and Digital Labour Today:
What forms of digital labour and digital class struggles are there and how can they best be theorised, analysed, and understood?

RN18_11: Critical Media Sociology and the Left:
How could a 21st century Left best look like and what is the role of media and communications for such a Left? What is the historical, contemporary, and possible future relationship of critical media sociology to the Left? What is the role of media, communications, the Internet, and social media in left-wing movements? What problems do such movements face in relation to the media, communications, the Internet, and social media?

RN18_12: Critical Media Sociology and China:
How can critical media sociology understand the media in China and the role of China and Chinese media in global capitalism? What are differences and commonalities between European and Chinese media understood with the help of critical media sociology?

RN18_13: Critical Media Sociology, Democracy and the Public Sphere Today:
How can we best theorise and understand potentials and limits for the mediated public sphere in the 21st century?

RN18_14: Critical Media Sociology, the Commons, and the Alternatives Today:
What are the problems and post-capitalist potentials of alternative projects such as cultural and media co-operatives, left-wing and radical media projects, alternative social media, alternative online platforms, alternative media, community media projects, commons-based media, peer production projects, etc.?

RN18_15: Critical Media Sociology and State Power Today:
How does the relationship of media, communication and state power’s various forms of regulation, control, repression, violence and surveillance look like?

RN18_16: Critical Media Sociology, the University and Academia Today:
What are the challenges and problems for teaching and conducting research about the media and communication from a critical perspective? What can be done to overcome existing limits and problems?

RN18_17: Critical Media Sociology and Cultural and Communication Labour:
What are characteristics of cultural and communication labour in capitalism today? Are there potentials that they can transcend precarity? What is the role of alternative economic models such as co-operatives (self-managed companies) in this respect?

RN18_18: Critical Media Sociology and Political Communication:
What is the role of political communication for a critical sociology of the media?

Please submit only to one session. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers. Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Conference fee: http://esa12thconference.eu/fee

ESA/RN18 membership:
Paying members of ESA and RN18 have strongly reduced conference fees:

Mailing list, Facebook:
You can join RN18′s media sociology mailing list http://lists.jacobs-university.de/mailman/listinfo/esa-rn18 and follow RN18 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/esarn18?ref=ts&fref=ts

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5th ICTs and Society Conference 2015: The Internet and Social Media at a Crossroads: Capitalism or Commonism? Perspectives for Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory.

The 5th ICTs and Society-Conference: The Internet and Social Media at a Crossroads: Capitalism or Commonism? Perspectives for Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory.



Part of the ISIS Summit Vienna 2015: Information Society at the Crossroads: Response and Responsibility of the Sciences of Information.
Vienna University of Technology.
Vienna, Austria
June 3-7, 2015.
Keynote speakers: http://summit.is4is.org/programme/speakers

The information society has come with the promise  to restore information as a commons. The promise has not yet proven true. Instead, we face trends towards the commercialisation and commoditisation of all information; towards the totalisation of surveillance and the extension of the battlefield to civil society through information warfare; towards disinfotainment overflow; towards a collapse of the technological civilisation itself.

The Vienna Summit is a multi-conference and is at the same time the 5th ICTs and Society-Conference: The Internet and Social Media at a Crossroads: Capitalism or Commonism? Perspectives for Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory.

Given that the information society and the study of information face a world of crisis today and are at a crossroads, also the future of the Internet and social media are in question. The 5th ICTs and Society Conference therefore wants to focus on the questions: What are the main challenges that the Internet and social media are facing in capitalism today? What potentials for an alternative, commonist Internet are there? What are existing hindrances for such an Internet? What is the relationship of power structures, protest movements, societal developments, struggles, radical reforms, etc. to the Internet? How can critical political economy and critical theory best study the Internet and social media today?

Presentations and submissions are organised in the form of 23 panel topics (ICT&S1-ICT&S23; please indicate the panel identification number to which you submit in your submisison):

* ICT&S1 The Internet and Critical Theory:
What does it mean to study the Internet, social media and society today in a critical way? What are Critical Internet Studies, Critical Political Economy and Critical Theories of Social Media?

* ICT&S2 The Internet, Karl Marx, and Marxist Theory:
How can classical forms of critical theory and critical political economy – e.g. the works of e.g. Karl Marx, the Frankfurt School, Critical Political Economy of the Media and Communication, Critical and Marxist Cultural Studies, Socialist Feminism, Theories of Imperialism, Raymond Williams’ cultural materialism, etc – be used for understanding the Internet and social media today?

* ICT&S3 The Internet, Commodities and Capitalism:
What is the role of the Internet and social media in the context of the commodity logic in contemporary capitalism?

* ICT&S4 The Political Economy of Online Advertising
How can we best critically understand, analyse and combat the role of advertising on the Internet and the role of online advertising in capitalism? What are the problems of online advertising culture? How would a world without advertising and an advertising-free Internet look like?

* ICT&S5 The Internet and Power:
How do power structures, exploitation, domination, class, digital labour, commodification of the communication commons, ideology, and audience/user commodification, and surveillance shape the Internet and social media? What is the relationship of exploitation and domination on the Internet?

* ICT&S6 Raymond Williams’ Cultural Materialism and the Internet:
How can we use theoretical insights from Raymond Williams’ cultural materialism for critically understanding the Internet and social media today?

* ICT&S7 Dallas Smythe and the Internet:
How can we use insights from Dallas Smythe’s political economy of communication for critically understanding the Internet and social media today?

* ICT&S8 Critical Cultural Studies Today: Stuart Hall, Richard Hoggart and the Internet:
What is the legacy of Stuart Hall and Richard Hoggart’s versions of cultural studies for critically understanding the Internet? What kind of cultural studies do we need in the 21st century? And what is in this context the relationship of culture and capitalism and the relationship of critical cultural studies to Marxist theory?

* ICT&S9 The Frankfurt School and the Internet:
How can insights of various generations of the Frankfurt School be used for critically theorising the Internet? What are commonalities and differences between a Frankfurt School approach and other forms of critical theory for understanding the Internet?

* ICT&S10 Marxist Semiotics, Marxist Linguistics, Critical Psychology, Marxism and the Internet:
How can Marxist semiotics and Marxist theories of language, information, psychology and communication (e.g. Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, Valentin Voloshinov, Klaus Holzkamp, Georg Klaus, Lev Vygotsky, Aleksei Leontiev, Mikhail Bakhtin, etc.) be used today for critically understanding the Internet?

* ICT&S11 The Internet and Global Capitalism:
What is the role of the Internet and social media in contemporary global capitalism? What is the role of developing countries, especially Africa, and emerging economies such as China and India in the world of the Internet and social media?

* ICT&S12 The Internet and Neoliberalism with Chinese Characteristics:
Chinese WWW platforms such as Baidu, Taobao, Qq, Sina, Weibo, etc. are besides Californian platforms the most prominent ones on the web. What is the role of social media in Chinese capitalism? What is the role of the Internet in networked working class struggles in China?

* ICT&S13 The Political Economy of Digital Labour:
What is digital labour and how do exploitation and surplus-value generation work on the Internet? Which forms of exploitation and class structuration do we find on the Internet, how do they work, what are their commonalities and differences? How does the relation between toil and play change in a digital world? How do classes and class struggles look like in 21st century informational capitalism?

* ICT&S14 The Political Economy of the Internet and the Capitalist State Today:
How does the relationship of capitalism, state power, and the Internet look like today? What is the role of state surveillance and surveillance ideologies in policing the crisis of capitalism? How does the relationship of the Internet and state power’s various forms of regulation, control, repression, violence and surveillance look like and what is the influence of capitalism on state power and vice versa in the context of the Internet?

* ICT&S15 Ideology Critique 2.0: Ideologies of and on the Internet:
What are ideologies of and on the Internet, web 2.0, and social media, how do they work, and how can they be deconstructed and criticised?

* ICT&S16 Hegel 2.0: Dialectical Philosophy and the Internet:
What contradictions, conflicts, ambiguities, and dialectics shape 21st century information society and social media? How can we use Hegel and Marxist interpretations of Hegel for critically understanding Internet dialectics?

* ICT&S17 Capitalism and Open Access Publishing:
What changes has academic publishing been undergoing in contemporary capitalism? What are the potentials of academic open access publishing for the re-organisation of the publishing world ? What problems do non-commercial open access publishing face in capitalism and capitalist academia? How can these problems be overcome? What are the problems of capitalist forms of open access publishing? What progressive political measures and demands should be made in order to foster non-commercial open access publishing?

* ICT&S18 Class Struggles, Social Struggles and the Internet:
What is the role of counter-power, resistance, struggles, social movements, civil society, rebellions, uproars, riots, revolutions, and political transformations in 21st century information society and how (if at all) are they connected to social media? What struggles are needed in order to establish a commonist Internet and a 21st century democratic-commonist society? How can we use critical theory for interpreting phenomena such as online leaking, Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, Wikipedia, federated social networks, Anonymous, hacktivism, Pirate Parties, privacy advocates, the free/libre/open source (FLOSS) movement, the open source, open hardware and open content movement, etc., and what is the relationships of such political expressions to capitalism, anti-capitalism, liberalism, and socialism?

* ICT&S19 Critical/Radical Internet Studies, the University and Academia Today:
What are the challenges and problems for teaching and conducting research about the Internet a critical and radical perspective? What can be done to overcome existing limits and problems?

* ICT&S20 The Internet and the Left:
How could a 21st century Left best look like and what is the role of the Internet for such a Left? What is the historical, contemporary, and possible future relationship of Critical Internet Studies and the Left? What is the role of the Internet in left-wing movements? What problems do such movements face in relation to the media, communications, the Internet, and social media?

* ICT&S21 Anti-Capitalist Feminism and the Internet Today:
What is the role of and relationship of identity politics and anti-capitalism for feminist studies of the Internet today? How can we best study capitalist patriarchy in the context of the Internet and social media?

* ICT&S22 The Internet, Right-Wing Extremism and Fascism Today:
How do far-right movements and parties use the Internet and social media? How should a left-wing anti-fascist strategy that combats online right-wing extremism look like?

* ICT&S23 An Alternative Internet:
What is a commonist/communist Internet? What is an alternative Internet? What are alternative social media? How do they relate to the commons and commonism as a 21st century form of communism? Which problems do alternative Internet platforms face? What needs to be done in order to overcome these problems?

Please submit an extended abstract of 750-2000 words:
First register and then select the conference “ISIS Summit Vienna 2015” and the conference stream “ICTS 2015”
Only one submission per person will be considered
Please indicate the number/ID of the panel to which you are submitting at the start of your abstract (ICTSxx). Submissions without panel identifier or that fall outside the topics covered by the 23 panels will not be further considered.

Submission deadline:
February 27, 2015

Registration Fee:
120 Euros (early bird registration in the ICTs and Society conference stream, registration no later than April 3, 2015)

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Capitalist and Commonist Social Media

Capitalist and Commonist Social Media

What’s wrong with capitalism and capitalist social media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, etc. ? How would a commonist social media world look like?

With contributions and images by Carolina Cambre, Mario Haim, Teresa Alves, Han-Teng Liao, Matheus Lock, Tsai Hui-Ju, Jim Fearnley, Patricia “Jav” Zavala Gutiérrez, Shudipta Sharma, Marcin Koziej, Simon Schöpf, and Jolnas Jørgensen

tripleC contest in context of the publication of Christian Fuchs’ book OcucpyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism





















By Carolina Cambre:

This image encapsulates many of the worrisome issues around capitalist social media browsers and platforms such as Google, Facebook and others: they turn our communications and information into shiny hot air minions for sale. For one thing they are the epitome of un-freedom. Just like our information, not only is the balloon tethered, but it is perpetually available to be seen and manipulated on these capital propelled sites. We are seduced by the shiny and attractive venue, but it is a mirage of shimmering foil. Our information is perpetually open to examination, the single eye making it something that is seen more than something that is capable of seeing. Similarly the mechanisms and workings of capitalist social media browsers are hidden from view just as we, as users, become more and more transparent.

Because the control is on the other end of the rope, like minions we can only operate or communicate on someone else’s terms, and we have no options as to what happens to our information once shared via these channels. At the same time, we need to communicate and we are hemmed in by the ubiquity and prevalence of some forms of communication over others. And thus we must join the party to some extent or be on the wrong side of the digital divide.

A commonist social media would, for one, never change the rules, or standards or agreements without general consensus on the part of users. The commonist perspective would not allow data to be harvested from individual users, neither would it force users to reveal personal information. Needless to say, anonymity often legitimates harsh or unkind types of communication but a commonist platform would allow users to monitor and set their own rules within sub-groups. There should not be any control over communication whatsoever, just as if someone is walking down the street. Concerns over illegalities and illicit uses of the platform would be group administered, with measures in place for alerting authorities regarding abusive types of communication. There would have to be mechanisms for accountability and arbitration.

Set the minions free!











By Mario Haim:

What we experience today is a post-pivacy phenomenon: On the one hand, technology has driven us towards capabilities that enable us to work, shop, or socialize whenever and wherever we want. As this comes with a flaw, though, namely an information overload, algorithms help us to filter and prioritize the information “we want”. On the other hand, both the technological ressources as well as the algorithms mentioned are provided by capitalist companies from a few selected countries. Their services are based on connections within and aggregations of huge amounts of data. To come full circle, today’s technological advances are partly due to a sale of our own privacy as we are the sources of this data. Moreover, since this has become everybody’s daily life and business, there is no realistic opt-out option. Currently, we have to “sell” our privacy to capitalist companies in order to be part of our own society.

Hypothesizing about a communist social media world is not my field of specialty but it seems to offer me two possible extrema: A deconstruction or a deprivatisation of the mentioned capitalist social media companies.

To start with the latter, converting these companies into governmental or publicly owned NGO’s would most likely lead to a slow-down of their technological innovations. This, in my opinion, is due to two theses: (1) As the internet is a global phenomenon a complete commonist internet is highly questionable, and thus there would be other capitalist players left. (2) The ones driving the innovations, IT experts such as developers, would then be harder to employ as their high personnel costs could more easily be covered by capitalist companies. Furthermore, a deprivatisation would not solve the main post-privacy issue as I explicated in the beginning.

Ultimately then, a complete deconstruction of such companies reveals the full dilemma: Our Western society does not work without today’s technology anymore. We are reliant on the social networks and the internet that the capitalist companies offer us in a oligopolistic way. Global contacts, always-online mobility, the never-ending stream of available information, and, lastly, the algorithms that help us cope with all this data and, hence, decide whether our information is findable or not, are a one-way development.

Privacy, however, is a high price for that. Even worse, it seems, that it even isn’t the complete truth (i.e. compared to global surveillance). A commonist social media world would, in my opinion, solve the problem of the involvement of capitalist companies at the cost of technological innovation, which would probably lead to other (again, capitalist) providers. Hence, in the long run, it would not solve but move the problem.

By Teresa Alves:

As every social organism in this capitalist world, media is broadly subservient to the power of capital. As great part of capital in the world is concentrated in the hands of an elite, media is also dominated by a range of interests that reflect the  concentration of income and wealth among the top earning 1%. Pragmatically, this means that mass media and social media are often a channel conveying thoughts, ideals and goals that are not representative of the other 99%.

For this reason, a commonist social media world would allow participation of the people across social classes, genders, ages, races, ethnicities and religions, allowing multicultural and transverse representation. Independent, alternative and free systems would improve the way people communicate among each other and with one another. Privacy laws and cryptography practices are extremely relevant, in order to build new forms of communication that are not controlled by the capitalist system and its flows of private interest. Let us build a world based on equality, freedom and justice with the help of social media that are actually controlled by the people.













By Han-Teng Liao:

Nothing is wrong with social media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, etc. except for the fact corporate social media for profit may prosper at the expense of the commonist vision that “social media of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the World-Wide Web”.

















By Matheus Lock:

The question about what is wrong with capitalism and digital media is a tricky one because there are so many nuances and complexities that could lead one to analyse this relation in a very superficial way.

Before even to start thinking about a commonist social media, it is relevant to bear in mind that the development of digital technologies were only made possible because of the capitalist’s dynamics of production. In other words, immaterial capitalism and new digital technologies have become mutually interdependent. It means digital technology is not only a network structure that serves as a productive base to capitalism, but capitalists also invest in it with all their strength to extract as much value as possible; there is a movement of expansion of digital technology propelled by capitalism. Such a materiality presents an ambiguous potentiality.

On one hand, digital technology allows people to communicate, exchange information and knowledge, in order to create and share their own symbolic content, in a much faster, more accessible and dynamic way than previous communication technologies. This kind of technology enables people to engage in social interaction and in the production of their own political opinions and narratives. This potentiality of actions of the digital technologies introduces new practices, forms of sociability, political actors, groups, etc. There is a pluralisation of voices, collective production and political action.

On the other hand, there is a double movement made both by capitalism itself and by government towards complete control over digital technologies. It is well known that corporations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon track people’s consumer behaviour online to extract profit from it. They also try to limit collective creation of knowledge and sharing of information, controlling such production by restricting the flux of discourses and practices, and by lobbying for the privatisation and patenting of intellectual property. The second movement, the one made by governments, is as invasive and brutal as the one made by corporations. Nonetheless, as governments hold the monopoly of law creation and legal violence, their movement to control the flux of information and surveillance data is much more complex and deceiving than those put in practice by companies, which, in most cases have to respect some limitations imposed by sovereign states.

This is what can be labelled as a contemporary paradox; a paradox that presents all the potentialities and fragilities of digital media. For this reason it is very troublesome to state how a commonist social media world would look like. But we can risk toelaborate some basic principles of it:

* The internet should be kept neutral
* A common digital platform of social interaction should be posited outside capitalist relations of productions; which means that it should be an open source and open code platform created and maintained by anonymous peers
* All the information of the participants of this platform should be totally private
* This platform should be encrypted so as to make sure the information would be safe against government and capitalist surveillance.

















By Tsai Hui-Ju:

Influencing everyday lives and changing social relationships online and offline, Facebook, which has 1 billion active users, has become the most influential social media channel. However, some critics have cautioned that, the more routine communication is mediated through online social media software, the more information technology companies oversee our digital trajectories. Facebook, a commercialized system, is not the panacea for human emancipation. Although we can see how social media helped people involve in the revolutions of the Arab Spring to communicate in real-time the places and times of events. Facebook, however, can be accused of invading its users’ privacy by the immoral practice of selling their personal data without their consent.

Today, Facebook users appear to operate freely but this freedom is in fact constrained by invisible controls. Facebook has been adept at hiding its complex privacy policy and its selling of personal data, a serious issue. In addition, Facebook’s strategies undermine the basic rights of its users. The social media site purports to offer a free service: chatting with friends, uploading personal photos, expressing comments, with not a cent changing hands. But Facebook is a company not a public service and this means that it has to sell something to make its profits.

To an extent, Facebook’s privacy policy gives more protection to big corporations and to the rich than to private individuals. It can be argued that the big corporations work in conjunction with Facebook whose users, under corporate surveillance, become consumers, consumers whose data, behaviors, and consumption habits are gathered and recorded ‘for accumulating capital, for disciplining them, and for increasing the productivity of capitalist production and advertising…’ (Fuchs 2012, p.141). Added to this is the fact that users’ personal background data is sold by Facebook and the day to day content, produced by its users, feeds into Facebook’s profitability.

Moreover, it is not only about the issue of ‘privacy policy’, but also reflects the problem of ‘surveillance’. These commercialised social media and ‘free’ online service always claim that they provide the open, free, and public space for everyone. However, Zuckerberg’s words could be the self-deprecating satire. He has given an interview on the ABC News ‘Nightline’ program arguing that ‘When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place. So, what we view our role as, is giving people that power’ (ABC News Nightline, July 21 2010). Ironically, Zuckerberg’s words are a kind of propaganda for Facebook advocating democracy.

However, similar ideas such as emancipation, multi-polarism, empowerment, and grassroots movements have long existed on the Internet without the manipulation practiced by Facebook which has the potential to disempower people. So we can argue that people may have power, but Facebook itself is not empowering. Therefore, exposing Facebook’s strategies and analysing users’ interactions could help imagine ‘a new, public Facebook’ that would solve the current dilemma. In addition, the commonist social media could be done by several ideas, such as cooperatives, Public Service Broadcasting, local communities, and the national universities with public value.

ABC News (2010, July 21). Nightline: Inside Facebook. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSSeDJPVfrY
Fuchs, Christian (2012). The Political Economy of Privacy on Facebook. Television New Media, 13(2), 139-159.

By Jim Fearnley:

The major underlying premise of the Occupy movement is of a mutually-recognised community of interest among the “99%”, who are in alleged contention with the 1% who own the vast bulk of the world’s wealth. This is untrue, and the failure of a call to arms in the name of a traditional leftist proletariat, (implicitly composed of white, male, manual workers) will not be challenged by speculating an oppositional movement whose identity is so pluralist as to devalue the meaning of the term.

The New Left that developed before, during, and after the struggles of the 1960s represented a mixed blessing. ‘Struggle’ was siloed into partial identities based on ethnicity, culture, nationality, sex, sexuality, age, (dis)ability, etc., and thus recuperated by the equal opportunities agenda, while, however, analysing the specific experiences of distinct demographic groups. Class and economic status were routinely omitted from social taxonomies, which allowed for the recuperation of contestation, by, e.g., creating a black bourgeoisie to neutralise the radical threat of US street insurrections.

At the same time, the definition of the ‘impossible’ class was broadened to become far more contemporary and realistic. It now has the potential to embrace the relationship of the individual with the economy, perhaps best exemplified by the term ‘precariat‘. Those who have no reliable stake in the success of the economy thus become the new alienated class, including the redundant erstwhile bourgeois, displaced in the West by the encroachment of the digital economy and other developments.

However, the re-appraisal of the global economy in terms of its fundamental transformation over the last 20-40 years betrays an ongoing over-emphasis on Western societies. The concentration of the digital means of data production/storage in the hands of a few monopolistic players, indicates that traditional capitalist business is alive and well. Of equal concern is the extent to which the use of data (and traditional labour) as commodity enables a form of self-managed enslavement, which presaged and runs alongside ‘intern culture’, where individuals voluntarily work for free, sharing information about their consumer preferences and trialling new versions of software, for example.

Equally, alleged enemies of transnational ‘surveillance capital’, confuse changes in the form of commodities and their production (i.e. from ‘things’ to ‘services’ and ‘ideas’) in the West with a (non-existent) change in social relations. Because Western production now focuses on artefacts, affect, and communication does not mean this is the only terrain on which social struggles can be waged.

Indeed, it can be argued that an academicist prioritisation of mind over body (as beloved by ‘left’ and post-modernist schools as any other) repeats the division of labour expressed in all bourgeois revolutions, where consciousness is brought to us miserable serfs, thrashing about in ‘meatspace’. However, for the physical critique of the State to be meaningful, it will have to supersede symbolic demonstrations of ‘anger’, and thus diminish the notional 99% power base.












By Patricia “Jav” Zavala Gutiérrez:

Both Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, cared about the future of capitalism, and the society. Both feared that future. And yet both for different, and apparent contradictories, reasons. Now we can be certain that both got the issues right. The present economic politics it is nothing more that the old tramp but with new clothes.

Big-money people have assumed the old role of a monarchy, and worse. The different ways to obtain money and power have changed from the open terror and violence and scams to democracy and media. The oppressor justifies its rhetorical movements and hides its real intentions, not by using the theological justification for monarchy but for the delusion of democracy, and the corresponding manipulation of the media.

In this way, whoever is trying to uncover these facts is treated as a madman, an enemy of freedom and society. The victim is not only subdued, but the proper language for his condition of victims is taken away, cutting from the very beginning any possibility of changing the situation. Capitalists provide the money necessary in order for the politicians to win elections. This in turn creates laws that benefit capitalists. They frequently accept bribes for governmental contracts, which in turn make the rich and capitalists richer, and so everyone within the dominant class is happy. They are the ones who own democracy in our countries. And social media follows that pattern.

There is no need to encourage civil virtue: entrenched levels of corruption limit the possibilities of real change of the government. And corruption not only implies taking bribes, but also the lack of accountability. It is easier to cheat the public, to ask or force social media to signal whoever is trying to change things, than try to make the right decisions. Public and health services have suffered cuts for the sake of the economy, yet these same time laws and government rules have barely touched capitalist interests: While governments and normal people have been forced to be deprived for the last twenty years, in the same period capitalists have seen their fortunes grow at historical levels. There is a strong reluctance to question the fundamental basis of our culture and society, which in itself is crippling free enquiry, and freedom of speech, hiding the consequences of capitalism. Capitalist social media backs all of this. We are thus tracing the path of ancient Rome. The class war that Marx described is not over, yet. It’s still there, and more dramatic and violent than ever.

Is there any pathway out of this maze? I think education and honest and active politic actions could be a starting point. I don’t think they would/could be sufficient, but we have to start from somewhere. And a problem is that social media has to be involved in the creation of revolutionary class-consciousness. If that is possible then we can find ways that make sure that we are on the right track to the future.








By Shudipta Sharma:

The main problem of capitalism is that it always tries to ensure profit. Even in the name of social responsibility it tends to do its business. Capitalist media industry is not different. From the print media to today’s new media we are experiencing the same scenario. Though it always tries to represent itself as a pro-people social institution that makes a bridge between people and the government, we see, the main goal of the capitalist media is to making money. People are the second priority for them. They sell their audiences to their advertisers and tend to create a consumer culture.

On this background, many people think, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Weibo etc. come as a boon for general people. Social media platforms also paint themselves that they facilitate an interactive space for all to express their opinion, views, feelings, emotion, etc. on any issue freely. They also try to get the credit of creating a real public sphere. However, we are noticing that the web 2.0 technology provides the capitalists a new opportunity to do business and they are utilizing it. In the name of public sphere they are also doing business. This new technology gives them a unique opportunity to exploit unpaid labour. Their unpaid users are acting as prosumer who creates and consumes their own content. Paid staff is merely managing the whole activities. Moreover, in many senses, social media platforms are a threat to people’s privacy that was almost secure in the traditional media era. In fact, social media platforms instigate its users to provide their personal information so that they can do business. The capitalist social media platforms record every single activity of its users. Without users’ concern they sell this information to advertisers, which facilitates targeted advertisements. In fact, their privacy policy allows them to do this. But most of the users are not aware of it.

Social media also help the authorities to create a surveillance society, where everything is being watched by ‘Big Brother’. Social media platforms provide its users’ information to the law enforcing agencies and help them to monitor anyone’s activities. So, we can say that users are not safe at all on this type of social media platforms. Moreover, their policy also allows them to deactivate any account whenever they want to. This is also a threat to users’ freedom and information. That is why, I think, this type of social media platforms are not pro-people, but rather a threat to people’s privacy.

So, I think, a commonist social media should be developed and maintained by its users. It would not store any information and there should not be any advertisement. It will be run with the help of users’ donations. It will be true a public sphere where anybody can join and express whatever they think. Users’ privacy will be strictly protected there. Nothing will be provided to the law enforcing agencies in any case.


















By Marcin Koziej:

Current social media are placing too much focus on the individual. Users are nodes who make up the networks, and their digital relations are forming its links.

This is turning networking into an ego game, where users struggle to win by being a better node: tweet more, share more, and make a perfect impression. It is also creating index authorities [1], where nodes with more links (followers, friends) are holding a position of power.  Such a mechanic is turning communication into competition, where the goal for each individual is to accumulate attention for him- or herself only, so s/he can be looked at and rewarded with likes and retweets.

Commonist social media, on the contrary, should turn communication into collaboration, by making various commons and common issues a basic building block of the network. When they would become nodes, relations, dependencies, and flows between them would become links. They would become focal points of attention, and us, humble users, would finally be just defined not by what we show off online, but what we participate in

[1] A term taken from Mathieu O’Neil, Cyberchiefs: Autonomy and authority in online tribes, 2009, Pluto Press, London

















By Simon Schöpf:

Capitalist social media plays the game of distraction. The more we engage, the more we click, the more we ‘like’, the more we comment, the more we wipe our thumbs, the more money for the digital monopolies, paid by advertisers. Frankly, this distraction does get annoying in everyday life.

In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr presents a lot of scientifically backed research on the increasing fragmentation of our consciousness and argues that the web distorts our ability of ‘deep reading’, constantly throwing little snippets of information at us and not allowing the user to engage with one topic, at length and in depth. The “media work their magic, or their mischief, on the nervous system itself”, Carr says. How about extending this phenomenon to a new level and claim that capitalist social media, on another layer, also influence our ability of ‘deep listening’ and drastically further even, ‘deep being’? Does anyone remember the times when you could go to a rock concert or merely sightseeing and were still able to see the stage or the sight? Often today, the objects are somewhat hidden behind a fence of glowing devices, recording action just to never look at it again, just for the sake of recording. Not making use of the possibility to ‘share’ seems like ‘losing out’ by not letting everybody know what amazing things you are doing right now. And even though we end up not sharing our experiences anyway, the mere feeling of needing to share is what distracts from the real experience. We were made the main players in the game of distraction.

Communist social media would play a different game. It would not be financed primarily by advertisers, so it would not be primarily interested in distracting our minds from everyday life for the sake of likes and thumb-strokes. It would allow us to again re-gain our ability to think deeply, to listen deeply, to be deep. Such media would focus on the true needs of users that can be found in communication, co-creation, and co-operation; not in constant distraction.

Heidegger calls our ability to engage in meditative thinking the very essence of our humanity; “The frenzied-ness of technology threatens to entrench itself everywhere”, he says. Everywhere? We better act, then.













On Common Ground
By Jonas Jørgensen:

Last week it was reported in the media that more than fifty so-called ‘geoglyphs’ had recently been discovered in the northern Kazakhstan (Cf. http://www.livescience.com/47953-geoglyphs-in-kazakhstan-photos.html). These figurative or geometric ancient land art structures, that range from 90 to 400 meters in diameter, are usually hard to see from the ground, but known from other parts of the world as well, notably the Nazca region of Peru. What was novel about the recent discovery in Kazakhstan, however, was that, according to the researchers, it had been made by using images from Google Earth.

About a month ago, a different story was making the rounds on social media. ‘Google Maps Has Been Tracking Your Every Move, And There’s A Website To Prove It’, the headline declared, and the article further elaborated: ‘Today, Google is tracking wherever your smartphone goes, and putting a neat red dot on a map to mark the occasion.’ (Cf. http://junkee.com/google-maps-has-been-tracking-your-every-move-and-theres-a-website-to-prove-it/39639).

Vogelfrei (literally ‘bird free’, but meaning an outlaw (a person without legal rights) in German) was the term Marx used to describe the proletariat, created with the decline of feudalism through ‘the forcible expropriation of the people from the soil’. Some researchers have suggested that the geoglyph markings made on the soil have a ritualistic and cultic origin, while others think that ancient tribes used them to mark off ownership of land.

The image I have included shows a portion of my tracking data from Google from the last thirty days that I have reproduced manually. It is superimposed on a creative commons licensed photo of the hummingbird geoglyph at Nazca (Image credit: Irina Callegher, “Famous hummingbird, Nazca lines,” via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), as the images of the Kazakhstan geopglyphs are all copyrighted by DigitalGlobe, the company that supplies Google Earth and Google Maps with their images.

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Win a copy of Christian Fuchs’ new book “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism”

Win a copy of Christian Fuchs’ new book “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism”















You can win one of 20 copies of Christian Fuchs’ new book “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism” http://fuchs.uti.at/books/occupymedia-the-occupy-movement-and-social-media-in-crisis-capitalism/
by participating in tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique’s (http://www.triple-c.at) commonist social media contest:

Send tripleC a self-made picture (jpg format) as well as a 500 word short text that symbolises and deals with the following two questions:

What’s wrong with capitalism and capitalist social media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, etc. ? How would a commonist social media world look like?

Send your digital picture (just one), text (500 words, not more), and postal address until Saturday Sep 27 to the tripleC office: office@triple-c.at

The books will be given to the senders of the first 20 submissions (submissions affirmative of capitalism and opposed to commonism are excluded from winning because they contradict question #1). Only one submission per person is possible.

By participating you agree that your picture and text will be published together with other submissions in a blog post on http://fuchs.uti.at/blog (if you don’t want to have your name mentioned, then say so in your submission)

Zero Books will publish the book at the end of October 2014, so the winners will be among the first getting to read it.

About the book:

The Occupy movement has emerged in a historical crisis of global capitalism. It struggles for the reappropriation of the commodified commons. Communications are part of the commons of society. Yet contemporary social media are ridden by an antagonism between private corporate control (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and self-managed, commons-based activist media. In this work, Christian Fuchs analyses the contradictory dialectic of social media in the Occupy movement. Drawing on a political economy framework and interpretation of the results of the OccupyMedia! Survey, in which more than 400 Occupy activists reported on their social media use, OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism shows how activists confront the contradictions of capitalism and communication in the age of crisis and social media. The book discusses the contradiction between commercial and alternative social media and argues that the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex expressed in the PRISM system shows the urgent necessity to create social media beyond Facebook and Google.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Crisis of Capitalism

2. Protests in Crisis Capitalism

3. Occupy and Digital Media

4. Research Method: The OccuyMedia! Survey

5. Results of the OccupyMedia! Survey
5.1. Analysis of the Respondents’ Demographic Data
5.2. Defining the Occupy Movement
5.3. Occupy and Social Media
5.4. Communicating Activism
5.5. Corporate and Alternative Social Media

6. Interpreting the Data: Social Movement Media
in Crisis Capitalism
6.1. Defining the Occupy Movement
6.2. Occupy and Social Media
6.3. Communicating Activism
6.4. Corporate and Alternative Social Media

7. Alternatives

8. Conclusion: Activism and the Media in a World of Antagonisms

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