Catalyst Talk with Joss Hands
Digital communication devices such as mobile phones, tablets and ‘smart’ devices of all kinds have become increasingly associated with both escalations in the potency of networked ‘control’ societies, yet also are redolent of acts of defiance, protest and activism. Thus, the question of agency and the human relation to such technology has often been understood through the lens of this binary. This is manifest in debates over the role of social media in global insurrections, balanced against increasingly totalising forms of biopower. Here we can see the nature of ‘intervention’ in two ways, one in which agency is recovered by human intervention in technological development and application, and another where the technological intervenes in the capacity of humans to make choices and escape control.
This presentation asks how such devices or ‘gadgets’ can be commonly seen, quite reasonably, as simultaneously at opposite ends of the freedom/control spectrum, and what this confusion means for our understanding of technology and political action more broadly. The paper argues that we need to return to the fundamental question of what kind of things our gadgets are, and explores how such an understanding can help inform political intervention.
About the Speaker:
Joss Hands is Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies and at Newcastle University, UK. He is a series editor for the 'Digital Barricaders' book series with Pluto Press and the author of Gadget Consciousness: Collective Thought, Will and Action in the Age of Social Media (Pluto Press, 2019) and @ is For Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in Digital Culture (Pluto Press, 2010).