Digital is Dead: Techno-Seduction at the Colonial Difference, from Zapatismo to Occupy Wall Street

Digital is Dead: Techno-Seduction at the Colonial Difference, from Zapatismo to Occupy Wall Street

Santos Felipe Ramos (Independent Scholar, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5150-0.ch013


This chapter draws from a 6-month participant-observation with an Occupy Wall Street group in Richmond, Virginia—Occupy Richmond—to deliver an ethnography of public discourse in postcolonial, queer, and multimedia contexts, as part of a critical analysis of imperialism in the digital age. The author develops techno-seduction as a term to deconstruct the lure of technological determinism that promotes static interpretations of democracy, participation, and the digital, in addition to considering how these interpretations impact intrapersonal and group identity formation. Finally, the chapter asks that we suspend our conception of the digital/non-digital dichotomy by thinking of the digital as dead, as a force that guides and influences our sociopolitical interactions, rather than as an isolated concept wholly separable from the non-digital.
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The concept of the DD was introduced in the late 20th century as a way of conceptualizing the separation between people with varying level of access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)—usually based on their preexisting economic conditions—and the term was subsequently expanded to also take into consideration differences in race, gender, age, and literacy (Jackson, 2008; Norris, 2001; Pew, 2002; Ruecker, 2012). Despite these complications, much of the scholarship addressing the DD falls short of utilizing a truly intersectional approach that would focus on the interdependency of various cultural, economic, and social dynamics at play within the DD. A “single-axis framework” typically scaffolds the work of scholars who address the DD—the tendency to treat race, gender, age, and literacy as mutually exclusive categories of experience and analysis. It is necessary for us “to examine how this tendency is perpetuated by a single-axis framework that is dominant in antidiscrimination law and that is also reflected in feminist theory and antiracist politics” (Crenshaw, 1989, p. 139). One pathway to constructing a more intersectional analysis is to decolonize the framework of digital technology that we have constructed through a lens of the DD.

Decolonizing digital technology does not presume a distinct opposition to the development or use of these technologies. Rather, such a decolonization effort challenges the assumption that bridging the DD is an adequate method for correcting vast economic inequality perpetuated by, and the cultural dominance of, White America. Borrowing from the work of contemporary decolonial scholars allows us to take developing terms and conceptual approaches—such as “coloniality” and “the colonial difference”—that are more commonly applied to social constructions of race, gender, age and literacy (Lugones, 2010; Mignolo, 2000; Quijano, 2000) and apply them to the emergence of digital as an identity category that also functions as a tactic of colonialism.

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