Collective Volition: Twitter and the Many in One

24 April 2014, 13:30 - 15:00

Room SG2, Alison Richard Building

Joss Hands (Anglia Ruskin) speaks at the Digital Humanities Network Seminar


One of the most revisited concepts in critical and media theory is that of ‘general intellect’, as originally outlined by Karl Marx in his celebrated ‘Fragment on Machines’. The concept is often framed as containing a liberatory promise, that is 'empowerment' via the destruction of the value of labour power, and thus the end of the capacity of capital to generate surplus value. While autonomist theories have speculated that this concept pre-empts characteristics of the digital revolution and the creation of cooperative common, there is a potential dark side of a digitally enhanced or ‘living’ general intellect. The paper explores the context of current questions of collective action, the crowd and social action. It will explore the balance between the mob like characteristics that have recently been ascribed to social media supported events, and the possibilities for managing the digital ‘multitude’ as a multiplicity, a ‘many-in-one’. The paper will ask whether this can contribute towards a new form of digitally augmented democratic general will, or the preferred term of ‘collective volition’.

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