Painting of an abstract depiction of networked relations

The Post-modern Ritual

By Lia Serpentini, Spencer Gordon, Ciara Rose, Yasmine Mazouzi, Alynn R. and Evan Hanec

Vibrant social movements like Black Lives Matter emerge out of social and networked media. Yet our attentiveness to “likes” and other forms of feedback lead to an echo chamber, detached from other perspectives entirely.

What does it mean to live existentially in the New Media Age?  As Evan explains in this audio essay’s introduction, “the decision to exist online–in the face of users, profiles and algorithms–is riddled with existential questions.”   Moreover, as Lia points out, Hannah Arendt wrote that “no one has ever doubted that truth and politics are on bad terms with each other” (“Truth and Politics,” The Portable Hannah Arendt 545).  Posing a question that draws out the existential impact of social media, Spencer asks: “to what degree does social media have the ability to impact us and those around us?”

Is it important to be true to one’s self online?    And what does it mean to participate in the rituals of social media? And what’s the impact of social media on our very understanding of free will?    What would Arendt think about the truth, representation and “fake news” that we encounter in social media?  If thinking is a solitary and individual activity, where’s the line between thinking and our networked lives on social media?  After all, as Paul Gillin states, “Transparency may be the most disruptive and far-reaching innovation to come out of social media.”

Thank you 

Special thank you to Cam, Jonathan and everyone else who spent the time to share your ideas with us!

References and suggested resources 

Hannah Arendt, “The Two-in-One,” as excerpted from The Life of the Mind vol. 1 in The Portable Hannah Arendt. Ed. Peter Baehr  (Penguin Books 2003, 408-418).

For more on the social and political import of social media, consider:  Nadja Sayej on the #metoo movementThe Guardian Dec 1, 2017

For more on the phenomenon of “unthinking” and Arendt’s own analysis, see Margarethe von Trotta, Hannah Arendt (Zeitgeist films, 2012)

For resources that examine the conceptual impact of social media:

Larry Rosen, iDisorder: Understanding our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its hold on us. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.

David Faris, Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt. I. B. Tauris, 2015.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. MIT Press, 1994.

Robert Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst.  Penguin Books, 2017.

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