The Crisis of Presence in Contemporary Culture
Vince Miller (Univ of Kent)
Wed, Dec 10
UNiv of Westminster
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In this presentation, Vince Miller problematises the notion of presence
within a contemporary culture in which social life is increasingly lived
and experienced through networked digital communication technologies
alongside the physical presence of co-present bodies. Using the work of
Heidegger, Levinas, Bauman, Rotman (and others), he suggests that the
increasing use of these technologies and our increasing presence in
online environments challenges our tendencies to ground moral and
ethical behaviours in face-to-face or materially co-present contexts.
Instead, the mediated presences we can achieve amplify our cultural
tendency to objectify the social world and weaken our sense of moral and
ethical responsibility to others.
Such a disjuncture manifests itself in a number of popular contemporary
concerns over privacy, ‘anti-social’ behaviour, and the problems of free
speech and inappropriate disclosure. Vince Miller will suggest that the
solution of overcoming such problems lies not in increasing regulation,
but in more scrutiny paid to the software architecture of social media
as the medium by which humans are ‘made present’ online, as well as an
expansion of the notion of being/presence to include virtual
data/presences, so that these may gain ‘ethical weight’.
Vincent Miller is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Cultural Studies at
the University of Kent, where he has research interests in digital
culture and urban sociology. He is author of ‘Understanding Digital
Culture’ (Sage) and is currently writing ‘The Crisis of Presence in
Contemporary Culture: Ethics, Privacy and Disclosure in Mediated Social
Life’, also for Sage.