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Off the Network

Disrupting the Digital World

Ulises Ali Mejias

Publication Year: 2013

The digital world profoundly shapes how we work and consume and also how we play, socialize, create identities, and engage in politics and civic life. Indeed, we are so enmeshed in digital networks—from social media to cell phones—that it is hard to conceive of them from the outside or to imagine an alternative, let alone defy their seemingly inescapable power and logic. Yes, it is (sort of) possible to quit Facebook. But is it possible to disconnect from the digital network—and why might we want to?

Off the Network is a fresh and authoritative examination of how the hidden logic of the Internet, social media, and the digital network is changing users’ understanding of the world—and why that should worry us. Ulises Ali Mejias also suggests how we might begin to rethink the logic of the network and question its ascendancy. Touted as consensual, inclusive, and pleasurable, the digital network is also, Mejias says, monopolizing and threatening in its capacity to determine, commodify, and commercialize so many aspects of our lives. He shows how the network broadens participation yet also exacerbates disparity—and how it excludes more of society than it includes.

Uniquely, Mejias makes the case that it is not only necessary to challenge the privatized and commercialized modes of social and civic life offered by corporate-controlled spaces such as Facebook and Twitter, but that such confrontations can be mounted from both within and outside the network. The result is an uncompromising, sophisticated, and accessible critique of the digital world that increasingly dominates our lives.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Electronic Mediations


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Gilles Deleuze observed, “We write only at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other.”1 This attempt to breach the frontiers of my own ignorance was aided by the Grace of the Guide but also by many people whose support and knowledge greatly contributed to the work. ...

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pp. xi-xviii

On May 31 , 2010, an estimated thirty-three thousand people1 committed suicide in a collective wave of global proportions. In the opinion of the media, however, the aggregated death of those thousands was essentially insignificant.2 Thankfully, no blood was spilled that day, since the act of annihilation in question involved permanently deleting one’s Facebook account ...

Part I. Thinking the Network

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1. The Network as Method for Organizing the World

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pp. 3-18

This book investigates how the digital network forms part of a capitalist order that reproduces inequality through participation and how this participation exhibits a hegemonic and consensual nature. It describes the emergence of a network episteme that organizes knowledge according to reductionist logic and exposes the limits of trying to counter this logic on its own terms. ...

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2. The Privatization of Social Life

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pp. 19-36

In his book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yochai Benkler suggests that the information economy has ushered in an era of human cooperation in which the limits of capitalism are transcended by new models of social production, facilitated to a large extent by digital networks.1 ...

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3. Computers as Socializing Tools

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pp. 37-54

In his book Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan proposes a way of understanding organizations through the metaphors employed to describe them. One can imagine organizations, he argues, as machines that process inputs and outputs, organisms that interact with their environments, brains that learn from their experiences, ...

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4. Acting Inside and Outside the Network

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pp. 55-78

Digital networks mediate our social realities according to templates where certain forms of sociality are algorithmically operable and others are impossible for the algorithm to perform. Because these templates are increasingly subordinated to for-profit interests, it is important to explore how they structure the formation of the self, ...

Part II. Unthinking the Network

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5. Strategies for Disrupting Networks

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pp. 81-94

Whereas it took seventy-one years for the telephone to reach half of the homes in the United States, it took only ten years for the same portion of households to get access to the Internet.1 Certainly, the possibilities associated with the Internet—and with digital networks in general—have not run out their course. ...

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6. Proximity and Conflict

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pp. 95-122

Harish lives in Chennai, India. He works for a U.S. company that has outsourced most of its operations. The company’s clients are located in North America, while those who provide them with services, like Harish, are in India. His daily routine is not atypical for someone in similar circumstances. ...

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7. Collaboration and Freedom

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pp. 123-142

The terms commons-based peer production, social production, Wikinomics,1 open content, infoanarchism, or as I will simply refer to it here, peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing, may not describe exactly the same thing, but they collectively outline a new model of production and sharing in which people—organized in nonhierarchical digital networks— ...

Part III. Intensifying the Network

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8. The Limits of Liberation Technologies

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pp. 145-152

During the most intense days of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, comedy writer Haisam Abu-Samra wrote about the challenges, and the opportunities, of suddenly experiencing a government-imposed Internet shutdown (in what has become a standard practice during popular revolts, the administration of Hosni Mubarak— ...

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9. The Outside of Networks as a Method for Acting in the World

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pp. 153-162

Imagine a network map, with its usual nodes and links. Now shift your attention away from the nodes, to the negative space between them. In network diagrams, the space around a node is rendered in perfect emptiness, stillness, and silence. But this space is far from barren. ...


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pp. 163-176


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pp. 177-188


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pp. 189-193

Other Works in the Series, About the Author

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pp. 213-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780816684526
E-ISBN-10: 0816684529
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816679003

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Electronic Mediations