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#Neoliberation: The Self in The Era of New Media

Is liberation passé? Or has liberation, in light of the potentialities offered by a spectrum of new media, gained new relevance as a concept and ideal—in other words, are we seeing the emergence of a ‘neoliberation’? This is what we asked the participants of the conference ‘#Neoliberation: The Self in the Era of New Media’ that took place at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, on 9th and 10th June 2015[1]. As the pun behind the word ‘neoliberation’ already indicates, a certain scepticism underlay the formulation of our call for proposals.The tearing pace at which new media and technologies have developed in the last decades, accompanied by ever-increasing social inequalities and the ascendancy of neoliberal capitalism, renders a critique of this new globalised, networked and synchronised context necessary. ‘Liberation’, both as an individual and political goal, has seemed out-dated and naïve ever since Michel Foucault’s fierce criticism of what he called the ‘repressive hypothesis’ (Foucault, 1978). Because concepts like ‘liberation’ and ‘emancipation’—so important to both Marxist and Freudian genealogies of thought—presuppose a teleology of historical progress and the existence of a human essence waiting to be freed from repression and alienation, they have lost currency after postmodern critique. However, in the wake of Foucault’s impact on the humanities and social sciences, we have been left with the question of what a positive vision of sociality might be. There is a need to ask not only what these developments ‘do’ within contemporary culture, but also to ask normative questions again: are new media and new technologies just new forms of domination, both on the macro-level of governments and corporations and on the micro-level of ‘subjectivation’? Or are there, in fact, ways of thinking liberation from oppressive structures through these technological advancements? In other words: should we liberate ourselves from or through new media?

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