Leading internet researcher Christian Fuchs, a professor of Media and Communications at Uppsala University, is visiting Umeå University for two days and giving two seminars. These are not pure methods seminars, but are co-presented by qumu, The Department of Culture and Media Studies and HUMlab, and will no doubt be relevant to the qumu field of interest.
December 14, 15:15-16:30, C204 Humanities building
The Political Economy of Social Media
The task of this presentation is to analyze the political economy of social media in contemporary capitalism. Prosumption is the convergence of production and consumption of goods and services. First, I discuss the prosumption concept in relation to the approaches of Karl Marx, Alvin Toffler, George Ritzer and Manuel Castells. A critique of Manuel Castells’ “theory” of communication power in the “network society” is presented. Second, the idea of authors like Henry Jenkins or Yochai Benkler that online prosumption (“social media/web”, “web 2.0”) has resulted in a “participatory Internet” or a “participatory culture” is criticized. It is in contrast stressed that in the contemporary situation of global capitalist crisis it is important to remember the socialist origins of the concept of participatory democracy (Crawford Macpherson, Carole Pateman) and of Jürgen Habermas’ concept of the public sphere.
Third, prosumption on the Internet is discussed by analyzing to which extent the following web platforms advance prosumption-oriented participatory democracy and the public sphere or not: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks.Fourth, it is maintained that in order to understand social relations offline and online in the current turbulent times a renewal of Karl Marx’s theory and of critical political economy is needed. The contributions to class theory by Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Erik Olin Wright and Michael Hardt/Antonio Negri are discussed. A specific model of class in contemporary capitalist society is used for explaining and criticizing the exploitation of Internet prosumers. Based on the theory tradition of the critical political economy of the media and communication, the concept of Internet prosumer commodification is introduced.Finally, it is maintained that discussing political-economic alternatives is important. Based on Slavoj Žižek’s, David Harvey’s and Alain Badiou’s recent contributions, it is suggested that a commons-based society is needed that acts as framework for a commons-based Internet and thereby allows the democratization of prosumption and communication.
December 15, 13:15-15:00, HUMlab
Critical Theory and Alternative Media/Journalism
The presentation deals with the category of alternative media from a critical theory perspective. It aims at developing a definition and to distinguish different dimensions of alternative media. I discuss different ways of how scholars have defined alternative media. The notion of alternative media as critical media is introduced. Critical media product content shows suppressed possibilities of existence, antagonisms of reality, potentials for change. It questions domination, expresses the standpoints of oppressed and dominated groups and individuals and argues for the advancement of a co-operative society. Critical media product form aims at advancing imagination, it is dialectical because it involves dynamics, non-identity, rupture, and the unexpected. The category of critical media is connected to Negt’s and Kluge’s notion of the counter public sphere. Critical media can be seen as the communicative dimension of a counter public sphere. I also discuss one specific example from the sphere of online media: WikiLeaks. I deal with the question if WikiLeaks a) is a form of journalism or not and b) can be seen as an alternative medium or not.