Category Archives: rhetoric of computation

How to Prove Bitcoin Isn’t Swarming With Racism

racism in bitcoin

A few weeks ago we got a nice object lesson in the rhetorical strategies the right tries to rebut arguments about itself. Whether these are deliberate trolling strategies or just ones that propagate among the right in a more-or-less organic fashion, they are still fascinating to observe. My point here in collecting them, beyond the […]

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We Don’t Know What ‘Personal Data’ Means

Mark Zuckerberg Data

It’s Not Just What We Tell Them. It’s What They Infer. Many of us seem to think that “personal data” is a straightforward concept.  In discussions about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, GDPR, and the rest of the data-drenched world we live in now, we proceed from the assumption that personal data means something like “data about […]

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The Terribly Thin Conception of Ethics in Digital Technology

robot teacher fooled students

Thanks in part to ongoing revelations about Facebook, there is today a louder discussion than there has been for a while about the need for deep thinking about ethics in the fields of engineering, computer science, and the commercial businesses built out of them. In the Boston Globe, Yonatan Zunger wrote about an “ethics crisis” […]

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Article: “The Militarization of Language: Cryptographic Politics and the War of All against All”

boundary 2 cover

I have an article in the latest boundary 2 titled “The Militarization of Language: Cryptographic Politics and the War of All against All.” It is my most sustained attempt to locate and critique a political philosophy in the discourse of encryption advocates, a project I’ve addressed as well in pieces like “Code Is Not Speech” […]

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The Destructiveness of the Digital Humanities (‘Traditional’ Part II)

We don’t want to save the humanities as they are traditionally constituted

In what purport to be responses or rebuttals to critiques I and others have offered of Digital Humanities (DH), my argument is routinely misrepresented in a fundamental way. I am almost always said to oppose the use of digital technology in the humanities. This happens despite the fact that I and those I have worked […]

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The Destructiveness of the Digital

EVE Online

I’ve argued for a long time along different ways that despite its overt claims to creativity, “building,” “democratization,” and so on, digital culture is at least partly also characterized by profoundly destructive impulses. While digital promoters love to focus on the great things that will come from some new version of something over its existing […]

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Race, Technology, and the Word “Traditional” in the World-System

Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism (Verso, 1982)

“Traditional” is one of the more interesting words to keep track of in contemporary discourse, particularly when it comes up in discussions of technology. For the most part, it is used as a slur. It is a word used to disparage an object or practice, to compare it to whatever one wants to posit as […]

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Trump, Clinton, and the Electoral Politics of Bitcoin

blockchain transformation CGI

My new book, The Politics of Bitcoin, is not directly about electoral politics, but rather the political and political-economic theories that inform the development of Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain software. My argument does not require that there be direct connections between promoting Bitcoin and supporting one candidate or party or another. Rather, what concerns […]

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Code Is Not Speech

code is speech

Brief version Advocates understand the idea that “code is speech” to create an impenetrable legal shield around anything built of programming code. When they do this they misunderstand, or misrepresent, free speech law (and rights law in general), which rarely creates such impenetrable shields, the principles that underlie that law, and the ways those principles […]

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Right Reaction and the Digital Humanities

UKIP

A while back, I had an encounter that struck me at the time, and continues to strike me, as perfectly emblematic of the Digital Humanities as an ideological formation. While it includes a kind of brutal incivility that I associate with much of the politics that persists very near the “nice” surface of DH (of […]

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