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Shared entanglements – Web 2.0, info-liberalism & digital sharing

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This essay situates digital sharing in ‘info-liberalism’, a neologism encompassing critiques of the close alignment between neoliberal capitalism and digital communication, to capture the affective motions of online sharing and its links to neoliberal capitalism. Digital sharing is a keyword with positive semantic associations that encapsulates a contradictory impulse: by definition, sharing is not premised on a monetary exchange for goods or services, yet Web 2.0 enables and celebrates a culture of sharing and sharing-economy that it obliquely exploits to fuel its algorithmically regulated economy. The essay elaborates how algorithms create affective situations and build in philosophies of interaction through ‘affective priming’ [Massumi, B. (2015). The power at the end of the economy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.] and ‘procedural rhetoric’ [Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; Bogost, I. (2008). The rhetoric of video games. In K. Salem (Ed.), The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games and learning (pp. 117–140). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.] that cue user participation in digital sharing. It uses everyday vignettes to illustrate the ordinary, ubiquitous ways that Internet companies design new media technologies to create affective situations that induce user participation while expanding their business base. Entanglement is proffered as a conceptual alternative to digital sharing. This concept extends a view of the web and the Internet as a whole as a socio-technical apparatus that merges the affective, symbolic and material, and entwines human and nonhuman entities together through digital sharing to fuel neoliberal capitalism. As a fundamental feature of the apparatus, online sharing greases the wheels of the neoliberal machine and co-opts some of the best impulses of humanity, the affective and altruistic esprit de corps aspect of sharing, to fuel its practices of economic exploitation.
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Keywords: affective situation; digital sharing; entanglement; info-liberalism; neoliberal capitalism; socio-technical apparatus

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication, University of Colorado – Boulder, UCB 270, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA

Publication date: April 2, 2016

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