Marxist Theory in Revealing Errors

Reading Revealing Errors by Benjamin Mako Hill, the first thing I think about is Marxist theory. Especially Hill’s argument for “rendering invisible technologies visible” in a digital landscape in which everything is simply ones and zeros coded in an infinite number of ways. What we see on screen, like videos, images, texts, is simply surface level to the coding hidden below. So what does this have to do with Communism? In the Communist Manifesto, Marx discusses the alienation of the proletariat, in other words, the separation between the workers and the labor they produce. The way I interpret this is that consumers are connected to the products they buy, but are unaware of the labor conditions that takes to producing said commodities. The proletariat is thus rendered invisible. That’s the parallel I see and would probably not go further than that, as Marx goes on to discuss the need for the proletariat to fight back against oppression and start a revolution. I mean, we won’t need to worry about that until we start replacing all of our workers with androids. Now is not the time to dream about a futuristic dystopia. Anyways, what I take out of comparing Marxist thought to this article is that it is important to reveal what is unseen as a way of better understanding the power that technology has in shaping and maintaining certain ideologies. Oh man, we’re back to Marxism!
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That section about how the American Family Association has a software that modifies language blows my mind. Essentially, you can have a single article, change some words around, and it can produce two distinct and separate reactions. For instance, if a news article was titled “Marriage Equality Passes in the Supreme Court”, and although the content is exactly the same, but the title is rewritten as “Homosexual Marriage is Made Legal by the Government”, it produces two different reactions and sometimes needless fear mongering. Thus, I think it is VERY important that internet users be aware of the manipulation of media, and the technologies behind such subtle, subliminal ideologies.
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2 thoughts on “Marxist Theory in Revealing Errors

  1. Sarah!

    Love your connection of Hill’s argument to Marxist theory. I took a Sociology of Marx course this past Fall and connecting his theory didnt cross my mind but after reading your post, as cliche as it may sound, the invisible and potential interpretations and connections his text has to offer became visible.

    Totally agree that consumers do not see the labor and labor exploitation behind their products. Consumers fail to see the errors. If the exploitation of labor were on the packaging then the error would be visible and the consumer can go from there deciding if they would like to fix the error or abstain but at least the error, the glitch, the composition of the consumer product is visible. Moreover, understanding what is behind and what is the base of our products is crucial in understanding where we can and want to go from there.

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  2. I think that the Marxist connection is the perfect analogy for the invisible technology that consumes the very consumer which consumes them (for lack of any better word). People truly don’t realize how dependent we have become and who knows where it might lead the human race in the distant future? But like you said, that may be taking it too far and is an extremely exaggerated thought, but it’s true that we should consider whether or not people can acknowledge the mindless capitalist consumerism that goes on behind their computer screens.

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