Reviews of "Telesthesia" and "Uncoding the Digital" by McKenzie Wark and David Savat
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media
Publication Date: May 2015
While it is no longer debatable that in order to comprehend contemporary politics one must first understand digital media, the work of theorizing the political dynamics of the digital age is still very much in its infancy—in fact, one might even say such theoretical work is still in an embryonic stage, given that so many of the commonly cited works on the topic predate popular adoption of the World Wide Web (let alone the emergence of smartphones). However, two recent books, McKenzie Wark’s Telesthesia and David Savat’s Uncoding the Digital, set about the pressing task of historically situating the recent explosion of digital technologies and the new political conditions of the digitally mediated lives we now lead. The books, though forward-looking in their subject matter, reject the sort of late/post-modern fatalism that so often accompanies discussion of the social and economic relations afforded by digital technologies. Rather than dismissing these shifts as footnotes to a history whose logic is total and whose movement has ended, Wark and Savat construct old-fashioned grand narratives that position digitally mediated action and interaction as constituting a new historical moment with open possibilities. By no means are the authors naively techno-Utopian, but they do believe that the new or newly intensified networked relations emerging from these socio-technical shifts create opportunities for meaningful political action, and they attempt to imagine what such action might look like.