166 | Session D | CCN: 15074

Practices of Rhetoric, Law, and Politics

Digital Democratization and Anti-Democratization Under the Law

Instructor: Dale Carrico,

4 Units

How did the promise of peer-to-peer participatory democracy devolve into twitter harassment, doxxing, toxic comment sections, and zero comments? Is techno-progressive "disruption" merely reactionary deregulation, venture capitalist "innovation" merely marketing hyperbole, futurological "acceleration" merely social precarization, tech's vaunted "sharing economy" merely a digital sharecropping society, its "openness" vacuity, its "participation" another form of television? How did early legal and political squabbles over privacy and property online set the stage for our current distress? How might the "end-to-end principle" defining internet architecture across its many layers comport with the ideologically reactionary figure of "negative liberty" playing out in generations of anarchic, spontaneist, populist online activism? What are the politics of a digitality figured as an immaterial spirit realm, when digital networks abet financial fraud and military surveillance via an "internet" powered by coal smoke, accessed on toxic landfill-destined devices manufactured by wage slaves in overexploited regions of the real world? Setting aside the logical possibility and engineering plausibility of "artificial intelligence" does AI as a rhetorical trope in legal and cultural discourse facilitate and rationalize unaccountable algorithmic mediation and muddy our thinking about "autonomous" weapons systems? How does social media facilitate the transformation of factual disputes over climate change, harm reduction, and the macroeconomics of public investment into polarizing culture wars? Are there appropriate and appropriable techniques at hand through which democratizations might resist these degradations? Might "The Future" still be more evenly distributed? Can we still count on the street finding its own uses for things?

We will be reading critics, philosophers, and legal scholars who ask (and sometimes answer) these and other questions about the democratizing and anti-democratizing vicissitudes of what has passed for "technological change" especially in and for the US in recent years: Hannah Arendt, Paulina Borsook, David Golumbia, Katherine Hayles, Lawrence Lessig, Evgeny Morozov, Frank Pasquale, Audrey Watters. We will also be laughing (if ruefully) at plenty of loose but lucrative talk by digi-utopians and techno-boosters.