Abstracts

Natalie Fenton
Department of Media and Communications,
Goldsmiths College,
New Cross, London, UK

Mediating Hope: New Media, Politics and Resistance

New media, it is claimed, has re-invented transnational activism. The Internet with its networked, additive, interactive and polycentric form can accommodate radically different types of political praxis from different places at different times. This paper addresses the question, 'from where and under what circumstances can a democratic social imaginary emerge from this mediated politics of the 21st century?'

In this frame the paper argues for a rethinking of the concept of hope in non-mainstream mediated political mobilization that will take us beyond a focus on resistance to one of political project(s). This approach is advanced through a critique of 4 main social theorists in the field: Harvey (2000), Bauman (2000) and Hardt and Negri (2004). In Harvey we find a belief in the necessity of utopian imagining against all who say "there is no alternative." He outlines a new kind of utopian thought, which he calls dialectical utopianism. If any political ideology or plan is to work, he argues, it must be a collective deliberation, with participation in the construction of spaces of hope using every dialogical tool we have at our disposal.

Bauman (2000:22) argues that "the utopian model of a 'better future' is out of the question" because of 1) its reliance on fixity both in terms of geographical context and the immobility of the meta-narrative; 2) the tendency to locate the secret of happy life in social reform that is now discredited; and 3) the detachment of trust from the future and faith in progress from the flow of time. This has resulted in a shift from a focus on a better tomorrow to the more tangible, securely within reach, 'today': "Happiness and more happiness are desired now as they used to be in bygone times of utopia-writing; but happiness means now a different today rather than a more felicitous tomorrow as it did in the past" (ibid).

Hardt and Negri (2004) call on us to reclaim the concept of democracy in its radical, utopian sense: the absolute democracy of "the rule of everyone by everyone" (307). The multitude, they argue, is the first and only social subject capable of realizing such a project. They propose that what our labour increasingly produces is the common – the basis upon which any democratic project will be built. Conceived in these terms, they propose a description of the multitude as "an open network of singularities that links together on the basis of the common they share and the common they produce" – a union which does not, however, in any way subordinate or erase the radical differences among those singularities. A network analysis well suited to the webbed communication of the Internet.

Through a critical appraisal of the above theorists I look at ways in which new media may allow a re-imagining of hope so that a collective consciousness can be maintained and developed in this complex, confusing and contradictory tangle of mediation, politics, culture and community.

References:

Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity, Cambridge:Polity
Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2004) Multitude, London: Hamish Hamilton.
Harvey, D. (2000) Spaces of Hope, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

 
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Peace Institute Slovenian Communication Association Dep't of Media Studies