Whose lifestream is it anyway? – Week 3 summary

This is a visual interpretation by Jen Maddox of one of my favourite songs from the amazing musical, Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and throughout this week I’ve kept going back to this song and its message about history. Or, maybe George Orwell was right when he wrote that “history is written by the winners”.

Cybercultures, or the history of the internet, is relatively recent history. Most of us have lived through it, and we may feel some sense of ownership over it. We might experience the kind of nostalgic determinism that The Buggles exhibit both in Video and in The Age of Plastic. My lifestream this week has been a reflection of my attempt to question this. I’ve been preoccupied by whose voices we hear. For example, I’ve questioned the ‘cultural sensitivity’ appreciated by care robots, and whether this is agitated by the fact that we’re approaching this from a strictly Western perspective. In my digital artefact, and influenced by Sterne’s project, I tried to expose one or two of the narrative nooks and crannies when we’re presented with new technology: commercialism, consumerism, the bottom line.

This is leading me to the conclusion that the socio-materialists have got it right: there’s a need to account for the affordances of technology as a complex assemblage, and it’s crucial to ensure that voices other than those of the Western, privileged classes aren’t black-boxed in these interpretations. This too should help us to keep sight of the culture of cybercultures, and the ways in which our chronicling of the history of the internet is influenced by culture, in practically every sense of the word.



Silver, D., Massanari, A., & Sterne, J. (Eds.). (2006). The Historiography of Cyberculture. In Critical cyberculture studies (pp. 17–28). New York: New York University Press.

The power of three

Three boats

I’ve just finished the pre-semester reading (Critical Education and Digital Cultures, by Jeremy Knox, in Springer’s 2015 Encyclopaedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory).  It’s a short piece introducing the main themes of a ‘digital cultures’ approach. Knox proposes that these approaches provide a critical lens by which to view – I barely know how to describe it – the history of the Internet and Internet usage. So in this three-stage history, ‘cybercultures’ refer to the early days, when the Internet was other and radical; ‘community cultures’ concerns the social bit, communications and participation, and what back in the day we used to call Web 2.0; and ‘algorithmic cultures’ is where we are now, with powerful non-human algorithms influencing our behaviour and decisions and causing all kinds of ethical dilemmas.

My thoughts are jumbled, but I’m struck by several things. I’m wondering what digital cultures’ approaches think will happen next; I’m assuming (possibly wrongly) that it isn’t just a means of thinking critically about what happened in the past, or where we are now. How can digital cultures’ approaches drive our thinking forward? What can these approaches tell us about what might replace algorithmic cultures? Where will the ‘fourth stage’ stand between determinism and instrumentalism? I’m looking forward to finding out.

In addition, I’m excited about thinking critically about the digital cultures’ approaches themselves. The short encyclopaedia entry, understandably, doesn’t seem to get stuck into the nitty-gritty of it. At first glance, it struck me as a Western, privileged account of Internet adoption and usage, and even maybe a little nostalgic. And I was concerned by its problematic exclusion of those in our society (even in the West) without access and the benefits and challenges it affords. An old quote, but a goodie from Manuel Castells (2001, p. 247):

[t]he centrality of the Internet in many areas of social, economic and political activity is tantamount to marginality for those without, or with only limited, access to the Internet, as well as for those unable to use it properly

So, anyway, more questions than answers right now, but I’m really looking forward to this…


Castells, Manuel (2001), The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on Internet, Business and Society (Oxford: OUP)

Knox, Jeremy (2015), ‘Critical Education and Digital Cultures’, in Encyclopaedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory (Singapore: Springer)

Image from Pixabay