Kevin Weiskirch: The Impacts of Digital Technology on Democratic Capitalism

Stack of library books

My studies are centered around ways of understanding how digital technology has impacted democratic-capitalism. I want to explore the ways that recent advances in digital technology have impacted political theory. There are three main areas of concern that I want to focus on: knowledge generation and dissemination, political community formation, and labor and social relations. My theoretical foundations largely come from Benedict Anderson’s idea of the ‘imagined community’ and Karl Marx’s writings on the base-superstructure model, with my goal to explore how their theories can inform on the present moment as well as exploring their insufficiencies. 

I’ve begun doing a literature review of those who have similarly used either Anderson or Marx to explore the impacts of technology, and am already noticing some common themes across these works. 

The first is that, while trying to determine which discipline or methodology would best suit my task, I’ve encountered that digital technology has acted to disrupt academic disciplines; take, for instance, John Hartley, who argues in his book “Digital Futures for Cultural and Media Studies” that these disciplines need to reorient themselves to be able to adapt to the ways that digital technology is changing culture itself. The second is that, since ‘digital technology’ is such a broad concept with such widespread impact on society, it’s difficult to say that one discipline should be used over another — interdisciplinary thinking seems to be more or less necessary. To understand these effects of digital technology on knowledge generation and dissemination, one needs journalism studies and philosophy; to understand political communities, one could pull from disciplines like ethnography, sociology, and cultural studies; to understand labor and social relations, one could use political theory and public policy. And even beyond that, writings from science and technology studies, feminist theory, queer theory, post-colonial theory, and more are all necessary tools to properly engage with digital technology. 

As I move forward with my research, I can already tell that one of my biggest issues will be sifting through the voices to find those that are most relevant and useful to my research, and to figure out how many ‘voices’ I need to listen to to feel confident that I have a thorough enough understanding. As much as I want to read what prominent scholars of each field have to say about digital technology, I also recognize that reading that much material in a relatively short time frame likely isn’t a pragmatic approach. My goals moving forward are to finish my literature review of the topic before settling on a specific methodology to use for the rest of my research and writing. 

A stack of some of the books that I have read or plan on reading for this project
Perhaps it’s a bit ironic that I still prefer to do my work in a physical library despite the fact that technology has made it possible for me to access most, if not all, of the texts I need online and thus allowing me to work remotely