Author Archives: H. A. Dodd

Connected Pedagogy Praxis Assignment

After spending a large portion of this semester discussing, analyzing, and creating annotations in my Doing Things with Novels course, I approached this assignment with a developed understanding of the approaches to scholarly marginalia that I have most benefitted from as both a reader and as a producer. As I worked through Laurence Scott’s The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World, I sought to provide examples of my typical approach to annotation and its focus on the creation of connections and the expansion of the text’s scope through the inclusion of relevant resources and references to theoretical approaches through which the reader might reinterpret their reading of the annotated text.

My first annotation responded to Scott’s statement:

“Increasingly, the moments of our lives audition for digitisation. A view from the window, a meeting with friends, a thought, an instance of leisure or exasperation – they are all candidates, contestants even, for a dimensional upgrade.”

My annotation:
I’m reminded of Byung-Chul Han’s recent work Non-things: Upheaval in the Lifeworld (2022), specifically his discussions regarding the notion of se produire, or to “play to the gallery” in relation to the production of digital identity through the production and staging of information online (14). He goes on to suggest that “digital images transform the world into available information,” intensifying the production of a world enframed purely through curated imagery and amplifying a sense of the Baudrillardian hyperreal. Not the most novel of thoughts but I love Han’s text because his approach can get a little woo-woo at times with statements like, “The decorative and the ornamental are characteristic of things. They are life’s way of telling us that life is about more than mere functioning. In the baroque age, the ornamental was theatrum dei, the theater of the gods. If we submit life fully to functionality and information, we drive the divine out of life. The smartphone is the symbol of our time… it is not embellished in any way” (23). I imagine his work would be a fun read if one was looking to develop a comparative analysis between a theoretical thinker broaching similar subject matter and Scott’s work in Four-Dimensional Human.

My intention with this annotation was to create connections for the reader and to expand their scope of inquiry as they scrutinize this pivotal point in Scott’s piece. Ideally, by pointing them to texts, concepts, and quotes that allowed me to create connections between Scott’s piece and the greater conversations dealing with technology, the production of identity, and time-and-space as impacted by both the digital and capital, it will encourage them to explore, respond, and even disagree with my connections. Any of these would be a fantastic result, as long as it triggers some exploration of the text through searching outside of the text.

My second annotation responded to Scott’s statement:

“Social media, for example, makes a moment four-dimensional by scaffolding it with simultaneity, such that it exists in multiple places at once.”

My annotation:

Having read a decent amount about David Harvey’s notion of time-space compression (or, the rupturing of our experience of time and space as the flow of capital accelerates) this semester, it would be a fun exercise (though maybe redundant) to dig into Scott’s idea of reality “scaffolded with simultaneity” via social media through the theoretical lens of Harvey’s work (+ maybe Virilio’s idea of speed-space or Han’s work in The Art of Lingering).

Though stylistically similar, I’d like to focus on a different portion of my approach that exists in each annotation. In both, I tried to provide the reader with a prompt of inquiry. In the first annotation, this prompt was advancing the idea that a comparative analysis between Han and Scott’s work might act as an interesting rabbit hole to wander down. In this annotation, I suggest that a worthwhile exercise might be exploring Scott’s suggestion of simultaneity in conjunction with analyses of time and space as affected by capitalism through the work of David Harvey, Paul Virilio, and Byung-Chul Han. My intention here is to provide not just possible connections but a prompt for them to explore if such connections actually exist as suggested and whether or not they are worth investigating further.

Essentially, my primary goal for the reader (and for myself) is to encourage a more comprehensive consideration of the text and to enjoy the search that comes with creating and developing intertextual connections.

Voyant Tools & the Paris of Benjamin and Harvey

A quick note: This post will likely be edited and refined. I’m still attempting to find a better way to share my work in Voyant Tools on here but, despite the embedding function working when I preview my custom HTML block, it never seems to function in the same way once I preview the page as a whole. Anyway, if anyone has any tips or tricks as to how to successfully integrate interactive Voyant Tools’ embeddable tools, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Having spent last semester in the second portion of this course clumsily employing Python in a frantic attempt to introduce text analysis machine learning and word embedding to the philosophy of Bernard Stiegler (specifically his Nanjing Lectures, The Neganthropocene, the unpublished Technics & Time, 4, and the collective publication Bifurcate: There is No Alternative), I was thrilled to approach text analysis with a singular focus on the “frontend” hermeneutic experience of experimenting with a text rather than having to build out the backend to support my basic ability to do so. After waffling between a few of the provided examples of open-source text analysis applications, receiving unsolvable error codes from the JSTOR Labs Text Analyzer and SameDiff notifications suggesting that my corpus was too large when trying to evaluate the cosine similarities present between Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Projects and David Harvey’s Paris, Capital of Modernity (weird, right?), I eventually landed on the wildly intuitive Voyant Tools, largely due to the fact that it functions as suggested and allowed me a wide range of investigative potential without trudging through troubleshooting to get there.

As a result of a recently whipped up blog post for my “Doing Things with Novels” course discussing Benjamin’s Arcades as an ideal subject for digital hypertext projects similar to that of Joyce’s Ulysses (despite each hosting their own digital graveyards of DH projects), I proceeded to explore Voyant Tools via Benjamin’s text, primarily due to its size (1073 pages) and scope of subject matter (its convolutes ranging from the iron industry and Parisian fashion to early street lighting and Marx). After converting my PDF of The Arcades Project to a txt. file, I, ever-avoidant of my Pythonic script employing NLTK that is intended to do this very thing, scrounged around for an open-source application that allows for the removal of stop words, dabbling with sites such as Tools.FromDev before I realized that such a function could be done (with ease) in Voyant Tools. Though I had to edit the stoplist to include the French stopwords that appear throughout the piece (and initially dominated the Cirrus) such as le, la, and du, I eventually cleaned the text in such as way that its word cloud (used as somewhat of an indicator of cleanliness at this point) showed ‘Paris (3856),’ ‘Baudelaire (1319),’ and ‘time (803)’ as Benjamin’s most frequently used terms rather than ‘les.’

Somewhat disappointingly, when provided with a numerically indexed list of most-used terms, little was illuminated or surprising by such insight into the text. Beyond providing a cute and colorful arrangement of a book’s most salient and central components, I fail to really understand what “analysis” could be conducted based on a word cloud. Having read The Arcades Project, the Cirrus above did little more than to confirm that a book about Paris, Baudelaire, and the experience of time amidst 19th-century capitalism was (surprise, surprise) precisely about those very things. The TermsBerry, though certainly offering more interaction and interpretation, provided similarly unremarkable results. Rather than determining the collocate frequency of obvious words such as ‘Paris,’ I chose to explore the connections that one of my favorite Benjaminian terms, phantasmagoria, has within the text, primarily due to a curiosity about the concept’s vague and only partially-formulated application within the similarly incomplete Arcades Project (Benjamin died before this “theatre of all his struggles and all his ideas” could be fully achieved). Despite Benjamin’s usage of this term being varied, pervasive, and at times lucid (as a savoring of false consciousness for the bourgeoisie, as the spectacle operating as replacement for reality, in the manifestations of and our experience with products amidst commodity culture), the phantas* TermBerry offered few connections (besides maybe ‘Time’ and ‘Marx’) that would grant any novel insight into the application of this concept that reading the text (or scholarly analyses of the text) wouldn’t work to more effectively provide.

Inspired by my comparative attempt made earlier in SameDiff, I thought these two tools (Cirrus & TermsBerry) might prove to be more useful when analyzing the use of terms across two distinct texts. As an ideal model for comparative analysis with The Arcades Project, David Harvey’s Paris: Capital of Modernity is a similarly Marxist analysis of Haussmann-era Paris in the 19th century, employing similar cultural and political figures, objects, and phenomenon – the poet-apostle of modernity, Baudelaire, the spatial forms of the Arcades, the time-space compression mentioned in my last blog, along with the transformations in public life via consumerism and the spectacle. In Harvey’s own words, his aim is, “…quite different from Benjamin’s. It is to reconstruct, as best I can, how Second Empire Paris worked, how capital and modernity came together in a particular place and time, and how social relations and political imaginations were animated by this encounter…” (2003, p. 18). All of this considered, the differences between these two theoretical frameworks begin to reveal themselves even through something as simple as a Cirrus word cloud. As one can see, Paris still remains the dominant term but words such as ‘workers,’ ‘labor,’ ‘class,’ and ‘capital’ have risen through the ranks, illuminating Harvey’s more orthodox-Marxist analysis.

Whereas phantasmagoria had a distant assortment of useless connections under Benjamin’s TermBerry, Harvey’s use of phantasmagoria, when the TermBerry is expanded to include 250 terms, only reveals two collated connections: empire & capital. Given phantasmagoria’s limited usage in Harvey’s text, we can return to the text to see exactly how these connections might have occurred;

(18-19): “Benjamin also insists that we do not merely live in a material world but that our imaginations, our dreams, our conceptions, and our representations mediate that materiality in powerful ways; hence his fascination with spectacle, representations, and phantasmagoria.”

(109): “The phantasmagoria of universal capitalist culture and its space relations incorporated in the Universal Exposition blinded even him to the significance and power of loyalties to and identifications with place.”

In each instance, ‘empire’ is located in a nearby sentence but is not directly related to the meaning of the concept. While ‘capital’ makes a certain amount of sense, it is still not enough to determine the core components of a concept purely through the development of a TermBerry. However, it is interesting that, despite Benjamin operating as a primary developer in the conceptual production and employment of phantasmagoria, I feel as if this TermBerry exercise indicates that Harvey’s application more clearly reveals a concise and understandable instance of the concept’s application.

It was around this time that I realized that I could combine the two texts in the same Voyant Tools workspace. Hold your applause. ‘Paris’ and ‘Baudelaire’ still reigned supreme but Harvey’s addition to Benjamin’s tome brought the aforementioned labor-centric terms (‘work,’ ‘workers,’ and ‘class’) into the Cirrus. More than anything, this development provided me with the fun ability to compare the usage of concepts between two texts, as seen below.

For example, while each thinker employs ‘Paris’ to a similar degree, the distinction in their approaches might be said to be seen through Benjamin’s far greater invocation of art in The Arcades Project via his usage of ‘Baudelaire’ and Harvey’s historical-materialist approach via his heightened focus on ‘city.’

This can be made clearer through the trend graph above. From this, we can assume that Harvey’s application of Marxist theory far outweighs Benjamin’s usage of such theoretical frameworks and terminology. Thus far, this comparative tool presents the most scholarly potential in analyzing the ideological, political, and theoretical underpinnings of texts. Additionally, the graph below offers insight into the stylistic methodology each thinker takes in approaching similar subjects – Benjamin, ever the flirt with terminology that invokes a sense of mysticism, is seen using such language (‘dream,’ ‘awaken,’ ‘phantasmagoria,’ ‘reality,’ and ‘enchantment’) to a far greater degree, illuminating again the material approach of Harvey and the uniquely Benjaminian style of analysis that exists in The Arcades Project.

As a last little tidbit, another interesting application of the Trends tool comes through the ability to view a text’s relative frequency of a term’s usage throughout the document’s segments. For example, if I wanted to understand, address, and analyze how both Benjamin and Harvey approached their application of Baudelaire (or how they constructed an argument using Baudelaire as a central element), I could look to the line graphs below to view the rate at which Baudelaire was mentioned and where in the text might be relevant to my investigations of the French poet. I imagine that this could be employed in a multitude of ways and the very basic functionality of this feature represented here barely scratches the surface.

Paris, Capital of Modernity – Baudelaire
The Arcades Project – Baudelaire

Though I feel compelled to conclude this reflection for the sake of the reader, I come to this conclusion shortly after actually realizing the potential of this tool. Having initially approached this blog critical of the insipid simplicity of a word cloud (and haunted by my semi-successfully text analysis project last semester), through my further exploration of Voyant Tools (literally as I wrote this) I came to recognize the potential it offers in the comparative analysis of texts. While working with one text presents many yeah-I-already-know-thats, Voyant Tools’ open-source gift of instantaneous intertextual analysis feels like something I could not only dabble with for hours but also utilize in developing critical approaches to arguments and analyses in the future. In short, I’m excited and this tool is cool.

If I’m able, I’ll attach my Voyant Tools workspace with both The Arcades Project and Paris, Capital of Modernity here.

If that doesn’t work, click below to download Benjamin’s and Harvey’s work. You can easily upload each into Voyant Tools and enthusiastically peruse the endless possibilities that come with the text analysis of two irrelevant texts elucidating how one city briefly functioned two hundred years ago. You’re welcome.

Reflections on “A Life Lived in Media”

Below is a deep dive (possibly complemented with periods of floundering) into Deuze, Blank, and Speers’ A Life Lived in Media. My initial aim was to investigate/interrogate their use of David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity but this led to a jumble of elsewheres. I recall the issue of scope being mentioned in class recently?

In A Life Lived in Media, Deuze, Blank, and Speers advance the notion that an additional ontological turn is necessary for how we understand, interact, and individuate through media. Approaching the question of the “media life perspective,” or the “realization that the whole of the world and our lived experienced” are framed by and mitigated through media, through four terms perspectives (that of invisibility, creativity, selectivity, and sociability), the authors of the piece argue on behalf of the artistic autonomy afforded to us via “media life” and the “endless alternatives and versions” of self-creation that are made possible should one learn to position oneself within media networks and the “always-available global connectivity” that they allow (2012, p. 1, 36). Aware of the possible readings of their piece as a reductive argument made unsuccessfully against the “existential contemplations” of the “panoptic fortresses of governments and corporations that seek to construct a relatively cohesive and thus controllable reality,” Deuze, Blank, and Speers seem satisfied with such a slight-misreading, ultimately concluding their piece with a vapid case of “life being art” bolstered with cherry-picked quotes from the likes of Foucault, Bauman, and Nietzsche (2012, p. 37). With that said, I did like this article.

Much of what Deuze, Blank, and Speers discuss in this piece struck me as salient, familiar, and interesting, such as Harvey’s notion of flexible accumulation and Hearn’s discussion of compulsive outer-directed self-presentation. However, I feel as if whatever conclusive argument was being attempted lacked both clarity and an applied awareness of the severity of the inevitable “loss of self” through the increasingly imperceptible “Mediapolis” (Deuze, et al., 2012, p. 3). In what follows, I will attempt to outline, critique, and expand on Deuze, Blank, and Speers’ four provided terms (invisibility, creativity, selectivity, and sociability), addressing both the arguments made in their respective sections and the appropriate or misplaced employment of thinkers therein.


In addressing media’s ontological possibilities, the term invisibility is used by Deuze, et al. to represent “the disappearance of media from active awareness” (2012, p.1). This disappearance of massive forms of psychological power into our societal, cultural, and political background despite their ongoing creation of the world, to paraphrase Brian Arthur, is discussed in reference to David Harvey’s work on space-time relationships (Bourdieu’s symbolic violence might have found apt application here as well) and their ongoing compression through the transition to “flexible accumulation” and the “rapid deployment of new organization forms” and new technologies of production (Harvey, 1989, p. 284). This brings about the first point of contention I had with the authors’ approach and development of their argument. In Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity, flexible accumulation is said to accentuate the “volatility and ephemerality of fashions, products, production techniques, labor processes, ideas and ideologies, values and establishing practices,” perhaps acting as the groundwork for Deuze, et al.’s referencing of it as something of an origin for the fragmentation of self-identity that (ultimately/supposedly) leads to the “potential power of people to shape their lives and identities” to be found in the ever-evolving forms of media available amidst such precarity (Harvey, 1989, p. 285; Deuze, et al., 2012, p. 5). This suggestion that a life lived in media, that the media life perspective, offers some political, economic, artistic, or spiritual program of agency, expression, or self-realization contra the will of the market and in opposition to the logic of production will operate as the crux of my critique throughout what follows. Harvey’s employment of flexible accumulation doesn’t operate as a function in the formation of “fragmented identities” but rather an economic condition that begets “capital flight, deindustrialization of some regions, and the industrialization of others, the destruction of traditional working-class communities as power bases in class struggle” impacting everything from “local networks of influence and power” to the “accumulation strategies of ruling elites” (1989, p. 295). As flexible accumulation found new virtual materials of accumulation in the Digital Age, the precarity found in its nascent neoliberal form has been exacerbated due to the hyper-speed at which technologies of power have advanced and continue to accelerate far beyond our capacity of understanding, leading to what Baudrillard described as a crisis of explanatory logic (1986) and what Bernard Stiegler has simply described as disruption. Perhaps I included references to these thinkers and their decontextualized concepts primarily to highlight the hazy methodology of Deuze, et al. here and the occasional ineffectual nature of academic namedropping in advancing a point. Perhaps I just did it to be cool. Moreover, in a statement intended to align their scholarly approach with Harvey’s, suggesting that along with him, “we do not see people as hapless victims of this seemingly disjointed worldview,” I fail to see or understand how Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity distinctly participates in this notion. In fact, Harvey laments this disjointed worldview via the “fragmentation which a mobile capitalism and flexible accumulation can feed upon,” suggesting that it is difficult to “maintain any sense of historical continuity in the face of all the flux and ephemerality of flexible accumulation… [resulting in] the search for roots [ending] up at worst being produced and marketed as an image, as a simulacrum or pastiche…” (1989, p. 303).

While I know these authors are attempting to draw optimistic attention to the potentialities of individuation still existent through digital networks, their borrowing of Hjarvard’s notion of mediatization, suggesting that “media may no longer be conceived of as being separate from cultural and other social institutions” points to what I perceive to be the complete opposite outcome. The production of the self (and each other), as advocated by Deuze et al. in a compressed space in which the interweaving of simulacra into the quotidian forges a cohesive world of life and commodity such that it “conceals almost perfectly any trace of origin, of the labor processes that produced them, or of the social relations implicated in their production” renders any individuation of the self solely mobilized by invisible market forces (Harvey, 1989, p. 300). As I will touch on shortly, this degree of immersion in mediatization does not allow for resistance to anything but the outward protocol of these mediated structures of power, rather than addressing the way in which such protocol clandestinely sculpts life itself (Galloway & Thacker, 2007, p. 78).


Deuze, Blank, and Speers, as they do throughout the majority of this piece, fluctuate between being on the mark and offering a hodgepodge of tech-optimism-somehow-effectuated-via-quotes-from-tech-pessimists. For example, the authors state, “When the organizing categories and principles of life are in constant motion, uncertainty reigns” (2012, p. 10). Though I would trace this uncertainty as leading that which was mentioned briefly above (i.e., the “perfected completion of nihilism” posited by Stiegler as being the effective accomplishment of computational capitalism or the hyperreality of Baudrillard – cool, huh?), the authors here, despite their acknowledgment (or celebration?) of the dissolving distinctions between man and machine, posit that a “life lived in media inspires a “creative” outlook to one’s world (2012, p. 13). Deuze et al. briefly root this force of creation in James Carey’s emphasis on “the ritualistic nature of the way people use media and technology to make sense of the world,” drawing the emphasis on this potential for creation away from the “categories of media production and consumption within the parameters of the capitalist project” and shifting focus to how such technology impacts the creative potentials of those interacting with that which is produced-from-above. However, if we are to understand rituals are symbolic acts that stabilize and structure time, then Deuze et al.’s subsequent advocacy for increased production via widespread multimedia literacy directly opposes this notion of the ritual. The “relentless consumption” of rapidly produced and disseminated media, such that we exist within it and are unable to notice, surrounds us with “disappearance, thus destabilizing life,” to borrow the words of Byung-Chul Han (2019, p. 4). Han goes on to note that “rituals produce a distance from the self, a self-transcendence,” rather than a production-of-the-self via “a life lived in media” as advanced by Deuze et al. (2019, p. 7). The authors’ arguments on behalf of data and information networks positioned through this piece that work to advance the necessity of engagement with media platforms in order to continue “existence in a networked digital age” not only negate the symbolic incapacity of such platforms to meaningfully bind people together (Stiegler’s symbolic misery, anyone?) and restore a solid structure to time, but also seemingly fails to recognize their political program is doing little more than advocating the melding of oneself into the digital under the “threat” (hyperbolic, sure) of nonexistence.

Perhaps the oddest element of this section is Deuze and friends’ awareness and inclusion of quotes from Alison Hearn, who suggests that “social media are forms of self-branding mandated by a flexible corporate capitalist project that ‘has subsumed all areas of human life…’”, and Zygmunt Bauman, who states that people “recast themselves as commodities: that is, products capable of catching the attention and attracting demand and customers,” and fail to do anything substantial with these provided frameworks of thought (2012, p. 18). Rather, the authors advance a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” program to “take advantage” of the potential of creativity provided by the media and the golden possibility of sustained existence should one find success in doing so. To semi-conclusively return to Harvey, he states presciently in The Condition of Postmodernity, “Images have… themselves become commodities. This phenomenon has led Baudrillard to argue that Marx’s analysis of commodity production is outdated because capitalism is now predominantly concerned with the production of signs, images, and sign systems rather than with commodities themselves” (1989, p. 287). As Deuze et al. advance the mastery of creative production in opposition to the forces they seem so frustratingly aware of, one must recognize that that which is created through the “life lived in media” is little more than a baby gazelle being born under the gaze of a pack of lions. To paraphrase Gramsci, when incurable structural contradictions have revealed themselves (thanks Netflix’s The Social Dilemma!), and through their incessant and persistent efforts to maintain power despite the growing acknowledgment of their toxicity, a new “terrain of the conjunctural” will form, and “it is upon this terrain the forces of opposition organize” (Gramsci, 1971, p. 178). The terrain of resistance to the exploitative nature of digital capitalism can not be formed on the virtual terrain that such institutions have created and continue to maintain.

Selectivity & Sociability

For the sake of whoever has made it this far, I’ll condense these two critiques together and attempt to keep it brief. In their analysis of the ways in which social systems or institutions are depicted via the media, Deuze et al. note, “All institutions are dependent on societal representation… This means that an institution’s success in the media becomes necessary for the exertion of influence in other areas of society. Therefore, all functional areas within society have learned to look at themselves through media glasses” (2012, p. 20). Through a process of exaptation, institutions and organizations, regardless of their ethos, have adopted a methodological amalgamation of market strategies, public relations campaigns, and propagandistic approaches, prioritizing (by necessity) their status and position amidst digital networks to the same degree (or, perhaps even greater) that they must in the “real world.” Regarding the subsumption of societal institutions into the wider networks of media, the article does a great job detailing stances on the “non-neutrality” of such networks and their deindividuating effects, primarily through Bauman’s suggestion that “benevolent readings of networked potential of contemporary media life” can quickly lead one to engage in fallacious “internet fetishism (2012, p. 22) and Žižek’s (optimistically framed by the authors) “being together alone” (ibid, p. 23). Seeing as I have neither the blog-space nor the comprehensive understanding of networks as such to tackle each of the authors’ rattled-off references individually, I’ll briefly detail what I found in reference to networks in my readings of outside texts I came across in trying to grapple with the arguments presented here.

In Robert Hassan’s The Condition of Digitality: A Post-Modern Marxism for the Practice of Digital Life, the author resembles Harvey in his assertion that “there is no meaningful past or future in the network, only the digital present,” suggesting that such a resultant time-space compression (à la The Condition of Postmodernity), amplified by the hyper-industrial nature of capitalism and the culture industry, has destroyed the capacity of cultural signs and symbols to linger, producing what Han has described as serial perception, or “a constant registering of the new incapable of producing the experience of duration… instead rushing from one piece of information to the next” (Hassan, 2020, p. 174; Han, 2019, p. 7). Through this process, the marketization and distribution of commodified symbols are accelerated, creating a logic in which the aforementioned institutions and their associated cultural forms are “marked by an inherent lack of originality… where culture ‘eats its tail…”, creating an assimilated sameness that operates fluidly in an “Otherless” market – Han discusses this in The Expulsion of the Other (Hassan, 2020, p. 163). Considering this (and many more salient points made in this work that I won’t include here), networked systems of computational capitalism work to facilitate the flexible accumulation that Harvey described,” rather than to act as an element in the evolution of “media as a playground for the search of meaning and belonging,” as advanced by Deuze et al (2012, p. 5). Sure, networks might allow for novel forms of individuation and transindividuation across networked digital communities but there is no possibility of this occurring without such connections producing raw material for programs of virtual accumulation that allow for the individuation of the network as an entity itself.

So, what’s to be done?

As per usual; I dunno.

However, I did find and partially read a wildly interesting and topical book called The Exploit: A Theory of Networks that provided some unconventional approaches to addressing the issues at hand. To keep things short, I’ll provide a quote from the work rather than trying to slyly incorporate it into a greater discussion:

“When existence becomes a measurable science of control, then nonexistence must become a tactic for any thing wishing to avoid control. ‘A being radically devoid of any representational identity,” Agamben wrote, “would be absolutely irrelevant to the State.’ Thus we should become devoid of any representable identity. Anything measurable might be fatal. These strategies could consist of nonexistent action (bonding); unmeasurable or not-yet-measurable human traits; or the promotion of measurable data of negligible importance. Allowing to be measured now and again for false behaviors, thereby attracting incongruent and ineffective control responses can’t hurt. A driven exodus or a pointless desertion are equally virtuous in the quest for nonexistence. The band, the negligible the featureless are its only evident traits. The nonexistent is that which cannot be cast into any available data types. The nonexistent is that which cannot be parsed by any available algorithms. This is not nihilism; it is the purest form of love” (Galloway & Thacker, 2007, p. 136).

I found this bizarre, Schopenhauerian “denial-of-the-digital-will” approach to becoming-through-a-digital-unbecoming to be totally fascinating. As Thacker and Galloway later note, John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, the prescient authors of Networks and Netwars, once noted that where programs of resistance once focused on “bringing down the system,” many current network-based political movements have shifted their focus to developing and maintaining connections, to hyper-communication via “a life lived in media” rather than on addressing material mechanisms of control. Much in the same way Deuze et al. advocate for individuation through media forms, Thacker and Galloway note that networks are similarly continuously expressing their “own modes of individuation, multiplicity, movements, and levels of connectivity,” developing with a rapidity that the human is increasingly surpassed by, creating a sense of malaise, impotency, and disempowerment. As Nietzsche notes (since the authors also enjoyed employing his thought in their finale), mankind has always “mercilessly employ[ed] every individual for heating its great machines,” degrading him to a mere “instrument of general utility (Nietzsche, 1986, p. 585; 593). Perhaps continuing to operate these networked machines, despite the different attitudes, protocols, and programs applied from-within in an attempt to simultaneously resist and exploit the digital tools afforded to us via media, does not offer the effective, fulfilling means of self-creation that the authors suggest? Perhaps the tech-pessimists and network-skeptics Deuze, Blank, and Speers reference throughout this piece have more to offer than whatever point it is that they are really trying to get at? I’m not sure. However, to “round out” a quote from Thacker and Galloway used above (as a Deleuzian motion to “look for new weapons“);
“The set of procedures for monitoring, regulating, and modulating networks as living networks is geared, at the most fundamental level, toward the production of life, in its biological, social, and political capacities. So the target is not simply protocol; to be more precise, the target of resistance is the way in which protocol inflects and sculpts life itself” (2009, p. 78).


Baudrillard, J. (1986). America. Verso.

Deuze, M., Blank, P., & Speers, L. (2012). A Life Lived in Media. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 6(1).

Galloway, A. R., & Thacker, E. (2009). The Exploit: A Theory of Networks. University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. International Publishers New York.

Han, B.-C. (2019). The Disappearance of Rituals: A Topology of the Present. Polity.

Harvey, D. (1989). The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Wiley-Blackwell.

Hassan, R. (2020). The Condition of Digitality: A Post-Modern Marxism for the Practice of Digital Life. University of Westminster Press.

Nietzsche, F. (1986). Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits. Cambridge University Press.

Reflections on Unfinished Live (A Non-Workshop Workshop)

Last month, I attended day two of Unfinished Live at The Shed in Hudson Yards, an event that, in its own words, “brings together leading thinkers and changemakers from a wide variety of disciplines to engage in today’s most pressing questions about the impact of technology on our civic lives.” Though it wasn’t necessarily a Digital Humanities workshop focused on the development of a particular skill, Unfinished Live offered a series of lectures, discussions, interviews, and forums dedicated to illuminating the past, present, and future of ongoing tech-centric conversations pertaining to everything from tech careers after incarceration to the potential for subversive feminist art and activism via emergent Web3 technologies. With the speakers including a variety of digital artists, tech theorists, crypto-evangelists, and venture capitalists, Unfinished Live offered a mixture of diverse insights into the state of Big Tech (for lack of a better term) and the attitudes that exist both within it and on its fringes. Though day passes were exorbitantly expensive, likely prohibiting many of the discussions from reaching the people they were seemingly intended for, I was able to attend thanks to a student discount available in a forwarded message from Unfinished Live representative Rebecca Turner via email-wizard Jason Nielsen. Through this reflection, I intend to briefly highlight the events that I attended and their relevance to the Digital Humanities, followed by a critical analysis of one panel in particular in an attempt to evaluate the motivations, ideologies, and financial incentives at work beneath its seemingly benign and egalitarian exchanges.

My experience at Unfinished Live began with a panel discussion titled “The End of Tech Feudalism: Rethinking the Internet’s Balance of Power” hosted by founder and editor-in-chief of blockchain news organization Forkast, Angie Lau. Starting with a spurious anecdote by Tomicah Tillemann, Chief Policy Officer at recently founded crypto-investment firm Haun Ventures, detailing his 17th-great-grandfather’s life during the feudal age and the ways in which it mirrors our present era of Tech Feudalism, the discussion soon blossomed into an exposition of the ways in which Web3’s decentralized structure can work to emancipate digital serfs from their tech overlords. Niki Christoff, a former Republican operative and current CEO at Washington-based boutique consultancy Christoff & Co., and Dante Disparte, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Global Policy at peer-to-peer payments technology company Circle, joined the stage as well, each offering their vision of freedom from the confines of Web2 through political and economic programs that were coincidentally beneficial to their company’s advancement. Though this panel was initially intriguing and appeared to align with that which I had hoped to find at such a conference, the discussion quickly evolved into something else entirely, thus prompting my desire to dissect the underlying dynamic of this event as I make an attempt at doing below.

Following this provoking introduction to the conference, I attended a panel titled “The ‘Trustless” Trap: Why a Responsible Web3 Needs a Bit of Messy Humanities” that worked to counter Web3 enthusiasts’ rallying cries of “just trust the math” and advance the still-existent value of trust in programs of human-centric transparency, inclusion, and governance against the desires of accelerationists and automaton advocates. Though informative to some degree, the loosely moderated discussion quickly turned its focus onto that of NFTs, which, admittedly, I have little interest, before once against turning to the necessity for the proactive trust and safety measures necessary in the emergent technologies of Web3. Perhaps the most interesting element of this discussion was that of the decentralized community’s right in the creation of norms and who has the right to create such norms if not the community. The government? Corporations? Some other entity? The conversation that followed grew into a discussion of the role of regulatory government intervention in the growth of emergent technologies (one panel member advocating the creation of an equal floor, rather than a ceiling) which was countered by arguments regarding the government’s inability to keep regulatory pace with such developing technologies. Executive Director of Internet Without Borders, Julie Owono, concludes the discussion by asking the ever-salient question, how do we design rules that touch everyone equally and create a sense that those touched by them had a hand in their development?

Shortly after, I attended “Building the Web We Want: How to Protect Human Rights on the Internet” featuring Research Manager at The Markup, Angie Waller, and Ben Moskowitz, who acts as Vice President at Innovation Lab. Out of the three “main events” that I attended, I probably retained the least from this panel, as questions such as “How do we protect speech and privacy?”, “How can we create a more equal global society where the disadvantaged are not further marginalized?”, and “How can we ensure that those with power don’t silence the more vulnerable among us?” are much easier to ask than they are to answer. Though associated problems were rightfully and skillfully addressed, I found that some of the “answers” provided were doing little more than semi-tackling behaviorally targeted information, advertisements, and propaganda found on Facebook, something that has long been subject to discussion and is anything but innovative in such a technologically-forward-thinking space. However, I did find Moskowitz’s notion of a “consumer data union” and the collectivization of data-subjects to reposition power into the hands of those who are producing the data to be wildly interesting, and was disappointed that these two speakers exited the stage shortly thereafter with little elaboration. This was followed with a great deal of moseying, a beer drank at the downstairs bar, and a few books purchased at a kiosk displaying works written by figures featured throughout the conference, each of which still sits cozily on my shelf with unbent spines.

So, returning to “The End of Tech Feudalism: Rethinking the Internet’s Balance of Power,” I’d like to first discuss the elements of the panel discussion that left a sour taste in my mouth and why I felt compelled to dig into the lives and professional breadcrumbs of this merry band of technocrats. Since the cast of characters has already been somewhat established above, I’ll briefly give an extended overview of each as to contextualize these figures within the economic and political landscape. Venture capitalist Tomicah Tillemann stood out initially, due in part to his recounting of the night before and his namedropping everyone from Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova to Hilary Clinton. Tillemann’s background is impressive, previously working as the Global Head of Policy for the crypto team at Andreessen Horowitz, once serving as senior advisor to two Secretaries of State, and working in the State Department in 2009 as Hilary Clinton’s speechwriter. On the panel, Tillemann is the first to draw an equivalence between the farming implements of feudalism and the “modern digital equivalence,” gesturing to his phone and suggesting that, similar to his 17th-great-grandfather, we “go to work creating valuable digital data,” sending it up to “manor houses” in Silicon Valley to “cultivate a landscape that we do not own and we will never control.” Tillemann follows this metaphorical framework, suggesting that feudalism ended through a series of systemic, exogenous shocks, such as plague and conflict, and, given the state of the world today, we are offered an unfortunate but potentially hopeful opportunity to develop new ideas that produce novel infrastructure and new mechanisms that uproot the dynamic presently in place and allow for a “new renaissance” that mirrors that which followed the original end of feudalism. Nodding in agreement, moderator Angie Lau turns to the crowd to ask, “How many of you feel that we are digital commodities?” to a small swell of murmurs.

Responding to Tillemann, Niki Christoff states that she “doesn’t believe Silicon Valley” intended to be malicious in their development of the present economic situation in which our “information, data, attention, privacy” is exploitatively and elusively extracted, proceeding to lament to her feeling of being held hostage by her phone and suggesting that through blockchain technology, there exists the possibility of a “new internet” that “moves power from consolidated multinational companies” back into the hands of the masses. Somewhat similar to Tillemann, Christoff has had a prosperous career in Silicon Valley prior to her appearance at Unfinished Live, including a spokesperson role at Google and Head of Federal Affairs at Uber, during the latter of which she is quoted in countless articles for her praising of Trump appointed Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao due to her alignment with labor regulations that benefit the gig economy. Marking the beginning of a pattern that will exist throughout the duration of the panel, Christoff, notably named by Fortune in 2019 as one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Politics, is the first to introduce leftist language into the dialogue, stating, “To have a revolution, you can’t a small group of elites talking about a concept… You need to have masses that are demanding an end to the system.” Ironically, this statement is voiced by a small group of elites, offering an answer to the masses that bears both the potential to concomitantly “end digital feudalism” and line their pockets and those of their company’s shareholders. Rather convenient, no?

Dante Disparte responds in kind, suggesting “…to end feudalism, [people need to be empowered.] I believe there is no greater representation of empowerment than financial empowerment. The biggest revolt that the emergence of cryptocurrencies has caused is a revolt against some deeply entrenched interests… Cryptocurrency is a response to failures within the traditional economy.” More than anyone, Disparte’s involvement in the conversation illuminates what might be said to be its truest intention; to encourage the public to view financial investment in their crypto-programs as emancipatory, revolutionary, and politically empowering. In a similar vein, Tillemann positions this technology as an escape from the entrapment of tech as binarily existing in either an authoritarian or commercial framework while Christoff suggests that through such tools, people can “govern themselves” and subsequently “save democracy.”

As I sat in the dimly lit room, gazing on a beautifully arranged stage featuring some of the “top minds” supposedly at forefront of the next era of technological advancement, such calls for the end of tech feudalism that I would otherwise recognize as urgent and fundamentally agree with started to appear more and more as an advertisement for the ideologies and technological programs inherent in the organizations that these three individuals represent. During Tillemann’s Time at Andreessen Horowitz, the aim was always “how to win the future,” not how to benefit the masses that are being swept along with the technological blitz being orchestrated in order to achieve this “victory.” At Andreessen Horowitz, a company that is as well known for its early investments in companies such as Facebook and Twitter as they are for being uncooperative and opaque with the media and the public, Tillemann’s career started when he was brought on by crypto-investor Katie Haun, who was at the time tasked with spearheading Andreessen Horowitz’s lobbying effort in Washington. Now, Haun and Tillemann are reunited at Haun Ventures, an investment firm focused on crypto start-ups, with Tillemann simultaneously taking speaking gigs touting their power as political solutions to the malaise and exploitation of hyper-industrial society. Similarly, Disparte’s role at Circle is explicitly dedicated to eliminating friction in the flow of value globally. In other words, Disparte is advocating greasing the wheels of unregulated, unfettered capitalism, under the guise of guaranteeing “instant, permissionless” financial freedom should one invest in the future that blockchain technologies promise. And lastly, Christoff, describing herself at the tail end of the panel as “a radical and an institutionalist,” suggests that this is all aimed toward building “access to the global economy” and works to ultimately ensure that no one is left outside of such financial infrastructures. Who would not want to be touched by the loving hand of global technocapitalism?

Each of these figures, in some way, has built and benefited from the exact systems that they now describe as tech feudalism. Each of these figures, in their own way, now offers a “solution” to the exploitation that is inherent in the structures they worked to produce. Each of these figures has untold capital invested in these “solutions” and is scrambling to be at the forefront of Big Tech’s next set of elite organizations as Web3 technologies emerge and develop. Though I’ve gone on for far too long at this point, the takeaway from this analysis should be evident. And perhaps it already was and this post is wholly unnecessary. However, as Digital Humanists, the tech optimism of Silicon Valley or its defectors should always be approached with a healthy degree of skepticism and analysis. I suppose this, in some way, operated as a workshop for this critical approach, and a reminder of the ways in which the technological landscape differs from that of the Digital Humanities and what our role as Digital Humanities is within this landscape to counter and critique that evolving faces of new technologies of power.

“Don’t mourn, visualize!”: Union Affiliation & the Tableau Public Struggle

In light of the recent influx of discussion regarding unionization along with efforts being made by Starbucks employees across the country and, more recently, by Trader Joe’s employees in New York City, I thought it might be particularly interesting to look into data regarding how this swelling conversation and viral push for the rights of workers might have manifested in increased national membership with and representation by labor unions. Utilizing the available databases provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I initially intended on accumulating the four collections of data pertaining to union affiliation into an aggregate visualization to follow Johanna Drucker’s advocacy for a more nuanced approach to graphical expression and to show the ambiguities and complexities undeniably inherent in the labor discussion (Drucker, 2011). However, upon being confronted with the ambiguities and complexities of Tableau Public, I chose to focus on a reduced version of a single dataset. After finding it exceedingly tedious to format the “Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by occupation and industry” dataset to be Palladio-friendly, I reduced the data to its core components in order to make it more user-friendly as I clumsily explored the suggested data visualization tools.

Upon finding Tableau Public more accessible, I proceeded to build four simple data visualizations illustrating different elements of the “Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers…” dataset. The first visualization is a broad overview of the data, detailing the Total Members of Unions, Total Represented by Unions, and Total Employed in the United States in 2020 vs. 2021. From a glance, one can see that this almost embarrassingly straightforward graph counters my initial assumption that union involvement has experienced an uptick in recent years, instead illuminating a 1.79% decline in union representation even as the metric for “Total Employed” increased amidst the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labor Union Affiliation 2020-2021

In order to explore the intricacies of this further, the following visualization breaks down Employment by Occupation & Industry in 2020 vs. 2021. While the original dataset includes subsets of each industry, with categories such as “Service Occupations” including a thorough account of the jobs that it encompasses (healthcare support occupations, food preparation related occupations, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, etc.), I couldn’t conceive of how to go about visually presenting this information in a comprehensible and digestible way. By reducing the data to exist within its broader (and vaguer) categories, users can certainly get a clear sense of the general growth of each sector in 2021 from the user-friendly visualization but are ultimately left without a thorough understanding of the complex occupational ebbs and flows at play within each industry during this period, mirroring Drucker’s warnings regarding the bureaucratic processing of “human activity through statistical means” and the violation of basic principles of critical thought produced through the crude reduction of data (Drucker, 2011). While I know this is not the precise point that Drucker was advancing, I couldn’t help but feel that my limited ability in creating data visualizations caused me to produce exactly that which her article had rightfully argued against.

Employment by Occupation & Industry 2020 - 2021

The following graphical displays elucidate both Labor Union Membership and Representation between 2020 and 2021. Though they follow extremely similar patterns of growth and decline, such that it almost seems unnecessary to provide both, I thought it was an interesting exercise primarily to distinguish the two categories. The number of workers represented by a labor union is generally higher than that of union membership due to instances of employees in a unionized workplace receiving union benefits despite not being official members of said workplace’s union (Shierholz, et al., 2022). Though I feel as if union representation is a more salient metric due to its inclusion of those who might want (and deserve) the protection and rights afforded to them through a labor union but might not be in a place to engage in legitimate union membership, it is interesting to include both primarily due to anomalies within the dataset (for example, instances of falling union membership with union representation rising within the same industry).

Labor Union Affiliation by Occupation & Industry 2020 - 2021
Labor Union Representation - By Industry - 2020 - 2021

Though my experience with Tableau Public was ultimately limited by my amateur status as a data visualizer, my “findings,” as simple as they were to come across and to reproduce graphically, did challenge my assumption that union involvement has been steadily increasing as labor organizations become “cool again,” as labor expert and professor at CUNY Ruth Milkman stated earlier this year. Upon seeking inspiration for how my approach to displaying this information might have been improved, I came across predominantly geographically and temporally plotted presentations of the declension of labor organization over the last century (NPR’s 50 Years of Striking Union Membership in One Map, a “trends over time” map of global Trade Union Membership from 1880 to 2010 from Harvard Business School). However, both of these visualizations (and my own) neglect to comment on such pertinent factors as “the power relations of financial actors or the social construction of race” involved in the unmaking of worker power, as Tressie McMillan Cottom advocates visual inclusivity for in her work More Scale, More Questions: Observations from Sociology (2016). Such knowledge is invaluable in the advancement of worker organization and, though some relevant information can be found through resources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Union Membership Annual News Release, opportunities for successful integration and visualization of this information’s complex components, such as Black workers continuing to have the highest unionization rates in 2021 at 12.9% or the standardization of corporations to hire “avoidance consultants to coordinate intense anti-union campaigns” at the whisper of organization, are lost amidst reductive recreations of complicated corporeal power struggles as easily understood graphs and maps (Shierholz, et al., 2022).

More than anything, in attempting my own data visualization, the calls of authors such as Bonilla and Hantel for representations that reveal the complexities of structures of power while simultaneously challenging normative understandings of one’s sovereignty within such systems became increasingly relevant (2016). Upon realizing that union activity is decreasing despite the vocal desire for unionization amidst non-union workers growing (48% of non-union workers said they desired to create a union within their workplace in 2017, years before the semi-shift of consciousness brought about through trends such as “The Great Resignation”), I found it tremendously difficult to conceive of how to communicate this effectively through the tools provided (Shierholz, H. (2022). If anything, I think my experience attempting to do so has shed further light on the necessity of projects found in our coursework and effectively conveyed the essentiality of critical and creative approaches to data visualization in order to produce the “slow, thoughtful, inclusive, and collaborative” work fundamental to the flourishing of an effectual and equitable Digital Humanities (Guiliano & Heitman, 2019).

P.S. This data visualization of union density and minimum wages by state is fantastic and provides an example of something to aim for in the future.


Bonilla, Yarimar, and Max Hantel. 2016. “Visualizing Sovereignty.” Sx Archipelagos, no. 1 (May).

Cottom, Tressie McMillan. 2016. “More Scale, More Questions: Observations from Sociology.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. University of Minnesota Press.

Drucker, Johanna. 2011. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5 (1).

Guiliano, Jennifer, and Carolyn Heitman. 2019. “Difficult Heritage and the Complexities of Indigenous Data” Journal of Cultural Analytics 1 (1).

Shierholz, H. (2022). Latest data release on unionization is a wake-up call to lawmakers: We must fix our broken system of labor law. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from

Mapping, Dispossession, & Digital Colonialism

Below is a response to Myaukh Sen’s Dividing Lines. My intention was the synthesize the readings into a more “inclusive” piece that touched on each but time did what time does and suddenly its approaching midnight on Tuesday. Anyways, I’m not necessarily married to anything stated in this post so I look forward to hearing your thoughts, disagreements, etc. (Also, I’m writing this under the assumption that our required responses to weekly readings listed on the course syllabus can be done at any point during the semester and can be approached however we like?)

In July of this year, Google Maps announced the launch of Street View in India after an eleven-year regulatory struggle, partnering with local mapping solutions company, Genesys International, and multinational information technology services company, Tech Mahindra, to potentially mend the problems associated with the barely intelligible images of Indian villages lamented by Mayukh Sen (Garg, 2022). Throughout their piece Dividing Lines, Sen rightfully critiques the “hierarchies of dominance of the West” that reproduce such cartographic invisibilities and erasures, labeling Google a “de facto neocolonial force” that reifies and recreates “inequities created by colonial-era decisions, ultimately calling for a “humane approach to mapping” that doesn’t work to revitalize uneven developments in the globalized economy through increasingly ubiquitous digital systems (Sen, 2017). For the most part, Sen’s point, despite it being predicated almost entirely without mentioning India’s resistance to participating in such mapping projects (Sen waits until the second-to-last paragraph to mention this as an element of the issue), is a necessary one that deserves further recognition and understanding by those of us existing primarily in a framework built from Western cartographic perspectives and traditions. However, I feel that components of Sen’s conclusion miss the point entirely.

While advocating for a precise approach to mapping that doesn’t allow “glib sentimentality” to influence the crucial necessity of attention to “political divisions and geographical inequalities,” Sen seems to intermittently fall into such sentimentality throughout this piece, anticipating “the promise” of Google Earth offering some medicinal program for homesickness or displacement as something the company (or, a similar program) might eventually learn to strive for, that the “essentialist white, Western perspective” is, at this point in the development of unfettered digital capitalism, driven by anything but a perspective of profit (Sen, 2017). Google’s profit-driven desire to exist in and extract data from the physical spaces of countries such as India has long existed, prohibited only due to a terror attack in Mumbai that Google Earth was subsequently deemed liable for, rather than some underlying logic in the company’s structure that values the nostalgia incited through the crystal clear image of a New Jersey home more than that of villages in Balrampur. The drive of corporate interests to globally colonize public space, best exemplified by Google’s cartographic projects, certainly meets the criteria of Sen’s labeling of them as “de facto neocolonial forces,” but seemingly not for the reason that he intends. Sen seems focused on Google’s approach to an economy of exploitation and dispossession, grounding his understanding of this approach in the outmoded model of colonialism and critiquing this “neocolonialism” for its disregard for the homes and identities of those not represented through its ostensibly “global” reach, rather than advancing contestations against the very existence and expanding scope of such programs.

As I noted above, the recent acceptance of Google Street View’s project and its intention to map 50 Indian cities by 2022 might provide some sense of recognition as the landmarks of hometowns become discernible and the Western haze is lifted from the street signs that might lead one to interactive images of one’s childhood homes. There is undeniable value in such an experience and this critique of Sen’s work is not meant to discredit this. However, to quote Shoshana Zuboff’s remarks on the work of historian of cartography John B. Harley, “‘Maps created empire.’ They are essential for the effective ‘pacification, civilization, and exploitation’ of territories imagined or claimed but not yet seized in practice. Places must be known in order to be controlled” (2019, p. 154). Though Sen hints at an understanding of this throughout his piece, even going so far as to say that “concerns about surveillance and data harvesting” shouldn’t be invalidated while doing nothing to validate them, I feel as if Sen’s emphasis on digital colonialism’s exclusion of the Global South negates the severity of the grip with which Google’s novel empire is indexing the physical world in a growing number of nations and societies that are growing wholly dependent on the consumer technologies such companies provide, ultimately leading to an erosion of possibilities of existence outside of the market everywhere. Zuboff goes on to note that it is Google’s prerogative to “empty every place of the subjective meanings that unite the human beings who gather there,” mirroring Adam Greenfield’s warnings in Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life that the tailoring of environmental depictions via the smartphone to each individual user creates a different atomized map that “subtly erodes an experience of the world in common” (Zuboff, 2019, p. 141; Greenfield, 2017, p. 24). Despite Sen’s hesitant hope that Google can someday amount to “its promise of offering something like home,” the company, by design, will never provide anything outside of its “commercially oriented representation of the world,” to borrow the phrasing of Anne Marie Gardenier, and to expect, ask for, or demand humanity, recognition, or dignity from a structure rooted purely in exploitation demonstrates an unfortunate lack of consideration for that which we are truly up against (Gardenier, 2020, p. 3).

To India’s credit, their 11-year resistance to Google Maps’ invasive engagement with their public spaces is noteworthy and their recent entrance, only permissible due to its collaboration with two Indian corporations, seemingly counters the passive consumption of strictly Western corporate content that Olivia Colon once described as a foundational component to digital colonialism (2017). Lastly, I recognize that such a critique of Sen’s argument from the exact Western perspective this piece is advocating an escape from might come across as banal or as devaluing his work and well-warranted motivations in creating it. My intention was merely to highlight a component of Google’s universal project of exploitation as the next unprecedented phase of the cycle of dispossession (i.e., digital dispossession and the proletarianization of the mind), rather than purely an exacerbation of inequities and injustices of the previous era (though this is obviously an element of such a process). Cartography is, and always has been, an instrument of power, and when a map of the world exists in the pocket of the multitude as a catered augmentation attuned to the desires and drives of one’s behavioral surplus, providing harvested data to an algorithm that responsively works to automatically feed these desires and drives with curated stimuli and sedatives, our sovereignty is overthrown and we are left with few tools existing outside of the market to redefine what it is to be autonomous, self-determining, and unconstrained by the technologies that increasingly normalize themselves not as mere augmentations but as a prerequisite to properly exist and be recognized in the world.

Essentially, Bonilla and Hantel’s advocacy for a revisualization of sovereignty seems to bear a great deal more emancipatory and revolutionary potential than working towards spatial recognition from a program of global corporate colonization with an infinite appetite for the exploitation of the same human experience that allows us to cherish and recognize our selves in the hum of a song, in the Proustian smell of a dessert on a stove in the next room, and in the now-foggy objects that furnished our childhood struggling for shape in our memories. How’s that for glib sentimentality?


Colon, O. (2017, July 27). ‘it’s Digital Colonialism’: How Facebook’s Free Internet Service has failed its users. The Guardian. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from

Gardenier, A. M. (2020). Analyzing Google Maps from a critical cartography perspective: (dissertation). Online Culture / Department of Culture Studies / School of Humanities and Digital Sciences, Tilburg.

Garg, A. (2022, July 27). Google maps in India finally gets Street View, coming to these cities first. India Today. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from

Greenfield, A. (2017). Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life. Verso.

Sen, M. (2017, March 27). Dividing Lines. Real Life. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from

Zuboff, S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Public Affairs.

Week 1 – Approaching the Digital Humanities

The trajectory of the Digital Humanities delineated from Gold and Klein’s work in 2012 through Josephs and Risam’s 2021 work in The Digital Black Atlantic provides a traceable account of the evolution of the field into that which now fosters invaluable projects such as The Colored Conventions Project and The Early Caribbean Digital Archive. Questions posed in The Digital Humanities Moment regarding the necessity of theory and politics in the field, as well as concerns raised addressing the inadequate attention paid to issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality, appear to have been (and continue to be) gradually answered and addressed, with works such as Wernimont and Losh’s Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and the Digital Humanities pushing the discipline into territories initially recognized as neglected. Projects such as The Early Caribbean Digital Archive and Torn Apart / Separados further speak to this progress, with the former working to illuminate the erased narratives of those subjugated and enslaved through European imperial domination in the Caribbean, and the latter functioning as an effective tool of digital scholarly activism in the fight for justice at the Mexico-U.S. border in opposition to policies of family-separation and the vast web of money circulating the United States’ Congress working to preserve ICE’s draconian influence over immigration policy. Having read what the Digital Humanities aspired to be a decade ago at the embryonic stage of Tom Scheinwelt’s suggested period of maturation, experimentation, and play, it’s both exciting and inspiring to see the resultant synthesis of practice and theory once advocated for in Klein & Gold’s Digital Humanities: The Expanded Field take shape in these unique and effective approaches to Digital Humanities scholarship.

If one were to ground their understanding of the Digital Humanities in a single project, Torn Apart/Separados would likely do the most to both define DH as it exists currently and to advance the possibility of recalibration and redefinition in the future. TA/S operates as a paragon of engagement with “the world beyond the academy,” providing a material analysis of the structures of power perpetuating an ongoing humanitarian crisis at the Mexico-U.S. border (Gold & Klein, 2019). Such projects seeking to elucidate fiscal networks of influence provide activists and digital humanists with the resources to develop further projects of resistance and disclosure, with TA/S explicitly stating this intention and allowing their data sets and models to be readily available to the public for future engagement. Through the open-source nature of the project’s findings, Torn Apart/Separados directly answers Gold and Klein’s question, “…how can digital humanists ally themselves with the activists, organizers, and others who are working to empower those most threatened…?” (Gold & Klein, 2019). Torn Apart/Separados works to define the Digital Humanities due to its awareness of itself as a “building block of large collective actions,” extending an effective strike on the clandestine nature of ICE’s fiscal entanglements to those who might continue such a project in the future as both the Digital Humanities and activism continue in becoming restructured, redefined, and recalibrated (Gold & Klein, 2019).


Gold, Matthew K., and Lauren F. Klein. 2019. “A DH That Matters” In Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019, edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein. University of Minnesota Press.