Thursday 16 July

7:00PM ET Surveillance of Black Lives

Apryl Williams
To kick off TtW Presents, we’re launching with a powerful and timely dialogue: Dr. Allissa Richardson and Mutale Nkonde will discuss the layered and multifaceted impact of surveillance on Black people in the context of the Movement for Black Lives and the Covid-19 pandemic. Moderated by TtW Committee member Dr. Apryl Williams, this talk will demonstrate how facial recognition systems used in policing; tracing software associated with the pandemic; and Black death imagery have created a treacherous techno-mediascape that extends both state matrices of power and systems of racialized, anti-Black oppression in the United States.

Wednesday 26 August

2:00PM ET Watching Me, Watching You

Zachary Kaiser
Today, everyone seems to be impacted by technologies of surveillance and pervasive data capture. And yet, systems ranging from Nextdoor to Palantir’s software reinforce asymmetries of privilege and power in surprising and often similar ways, shaping both the identities of their subjects and the discourses in which they engage. Whether you’re calling your neighbor a “terrorist” on Nextdoor or a Palantir algorithm has labeled your neighbor a “terrorist,” we are positioned in relationship to one another via both these technologies in ways that cater to authoritarianism and that reify prejudice and contribute to practices of oppression and marginalization.

The Moralisation of Predictivity in the Age of Data-Driven Surveillance

Technologies of datafication engender the belief that whatever can be predicted must be, and that whatever needs to be predicted surely can be. Yet this excessive faith in data is paradoxically leading to more uncertain and speculative technologies. I focus on the post-9/11 evolution of counter-terrorism surveillance, where longstanding biases and prejudices creep back into seemingly objective, data-driven efforts to predict and pre-empt the ‘lone wolf’ terrorist. For certain kinds of bodies, to appear ‘correctly’ in databases can be the unhappy obligation on which their lives depend.
Sun-ha Hong,

“What is Nextdoor for?” Spaces of Imagining and Politics of Performing Community

I examine the online platform Nextdoor with particular interest in my own community, Santa Cruz, California, a site of struggle over land, housing, resistance against big real estate, and the local ordinances that criminalize homelessness in particular and poverty in general. Nextdoor demonstrates how imagined communities online are sustained through mechanisms of exclusion that are built into the platform and mimic models of governance that prioritize wealth and private property. While users on Nextdoor share a common goal of building a sense of community, hinged on safety and genuine human connection, the virtual space for collective imagining and community building becomes a battleground to hash out ideals of belonging, inevitably amplifying racial and class biases, and sustaining ideals of authoritarianism upon which the suburban surround thrives.
Keli L Gabinelli,

Wednesday 9 September

2:00PM ET Bad Company

Apryl Williams
We use metaphors to get a grasp on the more intangible aspects of technology. From the ruthless loyalty demanded by startups to the rhythmic nature of a life shot through with technology, we reach for more familiar language like cults, music, immune systems and religion to understand our new society.
[Bad Company],

Ordering the (anti)social: How the advertising industry orders your mediated experience

In this talk I'm proposing a new media power theoretical framework which uses two sound concepts - processed listening and rhythmedia. Sound is better suited for networked territories like the web because of its ability to cross boundaries ofactors (users, workers, and nonhumans), spaces, channels and temporalities. As a case study I examine the web standardization process in the European Union (EU) in the early 2000s and show how the digital advertising industry and tech companies standardized different categories of behaviour, catering for their business models.
Elinor Carmi,

Can We Call A Startup A ‘Cult’?

The cultural power of startups is certainly a cause for alarm: they make striking claims to power through their founding stories and leaders, and, especially when they grow into massive tech companies, their values play a formative role in shaping the childhood experiences and embedded theologies of coming generations. But startups are not cults; in fact, the grave harms committed by the anti-cult movement should compel us to eschew the use of “cult” as a label in any context. Sustainable confrontations of startups’ harmful practices must avoid emphasizing "cult"-like alterity or unprecedented characteristics, and instead connect startups’ beliefs and practices to those of larger historical and economic trends.
Adam Willems,

Wednesday 23 September

2:00PM ET For the Gram

Jonathan Flowers
The next episode of Theorizing the Web Presents, "For the Gram," features two new takes on visual culture in social media. In "The Secret Life of Pet Instagrams," Dr. Jess Maddox demonstrates how pet content on Instagram provides joy and creates communities of care through a process of follower fragmentation. In "Century of the Selfie," Emily Stainkamp shows that, while selfies may be relatively new, cultural anxiety about what a "self" should be is at least 100 years old -- and is often connected to the emergence of new media.
[For the Gram],

The Secret Life of Pet Instagrams: Follower Fragmentation, “Warm Fuzzies,” and Digital Care

Why do we love pets on social media, and what would compel someone to make an Instagram account exclusively for their pet? Dr. Jess Maddox’s talk, “The secret life of pet Instagram accounts: Joy, resistance, and commodification in the internet’s cute economy” sheds some light on one of the internet’s most adorable phenomena.
Jessica Maddox,

Century of the selfie: On the cultural history of narcissism as a social problem

In this talk, I will propose a research program that examines the contemporary idea that social media have created a generation of narcissists. The work examines periods in twentieth-century American history where the proliferation of new media technologies was accompanied by increased scholarly, artistic, and cultural interest in the nature of the individual. I will propose that social anxiety about pathological selves has been connected to new media during Freud's heyday in the 1920s and 30s, as well as following the height of new Left social movements in the 1970s, and finally during the neoliberal turn toward self-esteem in the 1980s.
Emily Stainkamp,