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Hermes on the Hudson: Notes on Media Theory after Snowden

Slogans for 2014: “Hope is the mother of fools” (Polish saying) — Search for Yourself — “Views stated in this email are not my own and cannot be used against me” (footer) — The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Anarchism (book title) — Tame Your Junk (three-day course) — “Hardwired for Nonsense” — “Make the most hegemoney with a career in Gramscience” (Ian Bogost) — “Why [popular technology] is [unexpected opinion]” (4chan) — Encountering Algorithmic Flags on Content — “not just anti-aesthetic, but anaesthetic” — “you restored our world” — “Why I stopped coding to focus more on my blog,” with 39,123 comments — “Please note: I am not checking my spam folder anymore. If your message is not answered soon, please rephrase and resend.” — Happy Dark Ages — “I have seen dancing soldiers on Facebook” — “Modest and quiet cryptographers have superior ethics over word artists” (John Young) — Yiddish expression: “Man plans, and God laughs.” — Petition to Google shareholders: “Be Sociable, Share!” — “You sound like the drunk guy who won't put down his bottle as though it's stuck in his hand all the while calling alcohol bad and terrible” — “We don't need your aid, please fund our budget deficit” (African saying).

Enlightenment not only promises new knowledge, it also shatters mythologies. The Snowden revelations in June 2013 mark the symbolic closure of the “new media” era. The NSA scandal has taken away the last remains of cyber-naivety and lifted the “internet issue” to the level of world politics. The integration of cybernetics into all aspects of life is a fact. The values of the internet generation have been dashed to pieces: decentralization, peer-to-peer, rhizomes, networks. Everything you have ever clicked on can and will be used against you. In 2014, we’ve come full circle and returned to a world before 1984. That was not only Orwell’s year, but also the moment Apple hit the mediascape with the personal computer. Until 1984, a small conglomerate of multinationals such as IBM, Honeywell-Bull, and GE defined the public imagination of computers with their sterile, corporate mainframes that processed punch cards. Until then, computers had been used by large bureaucracies to count and control populations and had not yet shaken off their military origins. Now, thirty years later, the computer is once again the perfect technical instrument of a cold, military security apparatus that is out to allocate, identify, select—and ultimately destroy—the Other. The NSA, with the active support of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and allied secret services, has achieved “total awareness.” Precisely at the moment when the PC is disappearing from our desks, large and invisible data centers take their place in the collective techno-imaginary.

The Turkish-American web sociologist Zeynep Tufekci reflects on the new state of affairs:

Resistance and surveillance: The design of today’s digital tools makes the two inseparable. And how to think about this is a real challenge. It’s said that generals always fight the last war. If so, we’re like those generals. Our understanding of the dangers of surveillance is filtered by our thinking about previous threats to our freedoms.

Read the full article here.