Summary of Wendy Chun’s Control and Freedom

A summary of Wendy Chun’s Control and Freedom, Power and the paranoia in the age of fiber optics

Link: Summary Chun Control and Freedom

In Power and the paranoia in the age of fiber optics, Wendy Chun explores how the internet, as a commercial medium that thrives on control, has also been conceived as a medium of freedom. According to Chun this conflation of control and freedom is characteristic for our current political situation where information technologies have become more ubiquitous, commercial and distributed over private users and corporations. Deleuze already showed in his work on the control society how such developments, with the emergence of the internet as it most important representative, challenge the traditional disciplinary workings of society. Where in the era of the cold war dangers and enemies could easily be mentally mapped, they have now become as invisible and uncertain as the new technologies they supposedly use. Furthermore these technologies also open up our private domains, resulting in a paranoia that makes us unjustifiable look for freedom in dreams of gated communities and control enabled by paradoxically these same technologies. These paranoid misunderstandings of information networks and the subversion of freedom restrict us from really enabling the democratic potentials of network technologies. These delusional rhetoric’s currently lead to paranoia and actions that undermine the democracy and freedom we try to achieve and protect. Chun responds with this work, to Katherine Heyle’s call for media specific criticism, asin ‘engaging visual and nonvisual aspects of networked machines-human and machine readings-as well as their economic and political impact’, by examining four layers of networked media: hardware, software, interface and extra medial representations. Along this way Chun explores how the internet emerged technologically and culturally as a medium through a particular series of events and contradictory discourses. By exposing these shaping forces and by subsequently criticizing them Chun allows for a better understanding of the effects and practices they engender. Through discourses around race, sexuality and freedom Chun reveals where the power of the internet lies, manifested in the ‘linking of freedom and democracy to control, and the justification of this linking through technologically determinist explanations. Chun’s critic on today’s deterministic attitude on information technologies as bringers of equality are not mend to say that such technologies have no power of their own, but rather that they alone can not solve political problems, and that the cost of such attempts is too high.


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