New media technologies are leading to the emergence of vibrant public spaces in countries like China and Tunisia, facilitating previously restricted dissent and political deliberation. Similarly, scholars, journalists, and activists are using networking and social media to organize coalitions and mobilize resistance in contexts as diverse as the Wisconsin protests, the Wall Street protests, and the so-called “Arab Spring.” In an ironic self-critique, smartphone applications like the newly released “Phone Game” are even exposing the global working conditions and problematic material production of contemporary consumer technology through their very gameplay.
With the implicit resistance to hegemony and material critique in these examples, Marxism offers both methodological and interpretive tools for interfacing with new media, not least among them a dialectical analysis of the global relations of production. However, writing in the *Nation*, Chris Lehmann has recently argued that the Internet is less the harbinger of post-capitalist cyber-Utopia than a “digital plantation” in which unpaid digital labor and leisure time become transmogrified into ad revenue. In their article, “The Internet’s Unholy Marriage to Capitalism,” John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney likewise argue that the Internet and related media signify not the suspension of the laws of capitalism, but rather their final perfection.
It seems, then, that a number of unresolved questions linger concerning the ways new media both participate in and creatively resist institutional power. As such, we hope to provide a fresh articulation interrogating the intersection between the theories and practices of new media technologies and Marxist critique. For example: how should we consider the economic, environmental, and human costs incurred in the production of new media technologies? How might resistance and radical change emerge among the ongoing institutionalization, and the incumbent conservatism, of both Marxism and new media studies? How will we navigate through the internal divisions of an academy that has eagerly appropriated new media as a strategy to “reinvigorate” the humanities through renewed funding and (often) corporate partnership?
We invite both papers and creative/artistic work that address these issues and others that deal with the engagement of Marxist thought and the study of media technologies. Papers may intervene at points of seeming incompatibility, address the current place of this convergence in one or many institutional and cultural settings, or perhaps look forward to emerging discourses relating to this intersection.
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