Platforms and Potency: Democracy and Collective Agency in the Age of Social Media

Article


Gilbert, J. 2020. Platforms and Potency: Democracy and Collective Agency in the Age of Social Media. Open Cultural Studies. 4 (1), pp. 154-168. https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2020-0014
AuthorsGilbert, J.
Abstract

Attitudes to digital communication technologies since the 1990s have been characterized by waves of optimism and pessimism, as enthusiasts have highlighted their democratic and liberating potentials, while critics have pointed to the socially, politically and psychologically deleterious consequences of unchecked digital capitalism. This paper seeks to develop an analytical framework capable of appreciating and assessing the capacities of such technologies both to genuinely enhance democratic agency, and to become tools through which capitalist power is enhanced with widespread negative consequences. The paper in particular deploys my concept of ‘potent collectivity’ in order to name the type of democratic agency that such media technologies can be seen both to enable and enhance under certain circumstances, and to inhibit under others. It also considers the affective qualities of ‘potent collectivity’, and in particular the utility of a Deleuzo-Spinozan concept of ‘collective joy’ as designating the affective quality typical of ‘potent collectivity’. The paper uses the specific example of left-wing political activism in the UK during the period 2015-17 to illustrate the potential for platform technologies to enable new forms of democratic mobilization, while arguing for an analytical position that eschews any simple celebration of the liberating potential of new technologies; remaining sensitive to the negative features of ‘platform capitalism’.

KeywordsPlatform capitalism; democracy; social media; affect; collectivity; agency; surveillance capitalism; activism
JournalOpen Cultural Studies
Journal citation4 (1), pp. 154-168
ISSN2451-3474
Year2020
PublisherDe Gruyter
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Repository staff only
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Anyone
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2020-0014
Publication dates
Online31 Dec 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted08 Sep 2020
Deposited02 Dec 2020
Copyright holder© 2020 The Author
Permalink -

https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/88qxw

  • 36
    total views
  • 21
    total downloads
  • 0
    views this month
  • 1
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

Anti-Bourgeois for What? A Reflective Response to Gary Hall’s ‘Anti-Bourgeois Theory’
Gilbert, J. 2020. Anti-Bourgeois for What? A Reflective Response to Gary Hall’s ‘Anti-Bourgeois Theory’. Media Theory. 4 (1), pp. 181-186.
Education for a Healthy Democracy
Gilbert, J. 2019. Education for a Healthy Democracy. Institute for Public Policy Research.
Talkin’ Transindividuation and Collectivity: A Dialogue Between Jason Read and Jeremy Gilbert
Read, J. and Gilbert, J. 2019. Talkin’ Transindividuation and Collectivity: A Dialogue Between Jason Read and Jeremy Gilbert. Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry. 1 (4), pp. 56-77. https://doi.org/10.22387/CAP2019.27
Anticapitalism and culture: radical theory and popular politics
Gilbert, J. 2011. Anticapitalism and culture: radical theory and popular politics. London Berg.
Signifying Nothing: 'Culture', 'Discourse' and the Sociality of Affect
Gilbert, J. 2004. Signifying Nothing: 'Culture', 'Discourse' and the Sociality of Affect. Culture Machine.
The Forum and the Market: The Complexity of the Social and the Struggle for Democracy
Gilbert, J. 2005. The Forum and the Market: The Complexity of the Social and the Struggle for Democracy. ephemera. 5 (2), pp. 221-239.