The Crisis of Presence in Contemporary Culture
Ethics, Privacy and Speech in Mediated Social Life
- Vincent Miller - University of Kent, UK
Cultural Studies (General) | Cultural Theory | Media & Society
- Christian Fuchs, University of Westminster, Author of Social Media: A Critical Introduction
By investigating three issues which have captured the public imagination as 'problems' emerging directly from the contemporary use of communications technology (anti-social behaviour, privacy and free speech online), Vincent Miller explores how the digital revolution is challenging our notion of 'self' and 'presence'. Through a critical and philosophical examination of each of these cases, he argues that they have at their root the same phenomena: ‘a crisis of presence’.
Focussing on the concept of presence, and the challenges that our changing presence poses to our ethics, privacy and public discourse, Miller illustrates how ubiquitous communication technologies have created a disjuncture between how we think we exist in the world and how we actually do exist through our use of such devices.
The solution, he claims, is not to focus exclusively on ‘content’ and its regulation as much as it is to examine, understand and resist the alienating aspects of the media itself, such as the technological ordering, metaphysical abstraction and mediation which increasingly define our social encounters and presences. He suggests that such resistance involves several ambitious revisions in our ethical, legal and technological regimes.
Discussions about the contemporary online world are often in a one-dimensional manner shaped by moral panics about online trolling, cyberbullying, cybercrime, terrorists online, etc. The associated right-wing extremist agenda for Internet politics is about control, surveillance and censorship. Vince Miller’s book questions this agenda and is an excellent work for understanding how to use philosophical thought for the analysis of ethics, privacy and disclosure in this turbulent world of the Internet in the information society. It shows how to come to grips with the contested relationship between online freedom and control.
This book addresses a gap in the market, in that it offers a much-needed, theoretically-driven reflection on the nature and experience of online communication. It promises a significant contribution.
In his unfaltering cyber-skepticism, Vincent Miller provides a welcome ethical and philosophical critique of the drawbacks of our contemporary digital existence. Remaining vigilant about how digital technologies inherently objectify the social itself, he calls for both reclaiming the value of embodied presence and for rights for our distributed selves. This is a timely and provocative book on the impasses of our imperiled digital human condition, but it also offers a long overdue ethics for networked humankind.
In the context of globalization, the internet and social media, presence has returned as an important term for social science and cultural studies. This book explores a key concept for our generation. Now that we have a distributed presence in digital networks, this is no longer just a topic for philosophers. We are turned into abstract avatars and data profiles. Presence covers a range of social issues around care, intimacy, relationships, privacy, local versus global, and the felt impact and “reach” of cyber bullies as much as state surveillance. Presence was once the hallmark of face-to-face interaction, but now we have to learn to deal with timeless forms of presence thanks to online photos, profiles, and information unwittingly made public.
Sample Materials & Chapters
The Crisis of Presence in Contemporary Culture: Introduction