Poetic Witness in a Networked Age

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Clarke, Jerome D.
Democracy; Internet; Exclusion; Repetition; Race; African American Studies; Comparative Philosophy; Ethics and Political Philosophy
paper description
When online videos mobilize protestors to occupy public spaces, and those protestors incorporate hashtags in their chants and markered placards, deliberative democratic theory must no longer dismiss technology and peoples historically excluded from the arena of politics. Specifically, political models must account for the role of repetition in paving the way for unheard and unseen messages and people to appear in the political arena. Drawing on Judith Butler’s theory of the Performative and Hannah Arendt’s Space of Appearance, this paper assesses that critical and generative role of iteration. Repeating unheeded acts performs the capacity for those acts to be entered into discourse. The World Wide Web evidently augments such performativity with features such as accessibility, potential for ‘viral’ proliferation, and an endurance unlike non-networked acts. This paper eventually grapples with the hazards and risks of networked repetition (e.g. desensitization, trivialization, etc.) in order to propose a poetics of repetition to mitigate those dangers. Such poetics ultimately distinguishes the witness from the spectator.