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!
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.

Glitch Feminism & the Queer Error

Legacy Russell’s article Digital Dualism And The Glitch Feminism Manifesto grabbed my attention with the proclamation that “The glitch is the digital orgasm.” In the digitization of today’s hook-up culture, this idea seems less abstract than others, but still was hard to totally agree with at first, because orgasms are associated with extreme pleasure, and glitches usually come hand in hand with interruption or frustration. However, the explanation of this theory made the concept become clearer to me, because the build-up of an orgasm and the glitch share the same stutters that incite the anticipation of something pleasurable- like the buffering of a video. Furthermore, both initiate an escape from conservative learned structures- both of how to conduct ourselves in our daily lives and on the internet and computer programs. While the glitch addresses the medium of the software that constrains our digital activities, the orgasm unearths the unspoken sexual desire that everyone experiences but is told not to freely talk about. The article emphasized the fact that “the glitch is the catalyst, not the error,” which destigmatizes the idea of the glitch as a sign of a faulty system, and shifts one to the realization that the existence of the system itself is the real issue due to the power structures in place.

The concept that really rocked my world was that of the glitch’s role as the split between our digital life and our real lives… I often think about how our lives are constructed through our online personas, and wonder how connected or disconnected these identities make us from our true selves. The glitch forces someone sucked into the Internet back into the real world, and allows a brief period of reflection on their actions and existence. This links back to themes of sex especially when a person watching porn experiences poor Internet connection or buffering. It makes one consider the position of their own desires and pleasures, either as purely online fantasies or part of their identities as sexual beings. I also think Russell’s coining of the term “Glitch Feminism” brings a plethora of new possibilities to feminism and art, and that the medium of the glitch is a perfect tool because it reflects the need to deconstruct the patriarchy that we often accept as the standard structures in place.

The article Queer/Error: Gay Media Systems and Processes of Abjection by Chad Parker and Jessica Rodgers also brought up many deep questions about the term queer and its relation to glitch. They point out that “Queer Theory itself constructs queerness as a kind of error” by defining the it as “whatever is at odds with the normal” (211). This claim privileges mainstream society’s definition of what is and is not “normal,” and constructs the “queer” outside of the acceptable realm. This may lead to a negative connotation to queerness, just as glitches are usually seen as negative occurrences. I think that this makes glitch the perfect medium to disrupt heteronormative societal values, because a glitch artist takes back these two alienated concepts- the queer and the glitches- and flips them on their heads to prove a point about their ability to create positivity and fight against the real hegemony in place.