A few weeks ago, I saw a collaborator of mine give a talk in which he outlined a position on social media which was roundly cast as anti-technological by those in the room i.e. reflecting an unsustainable blanket judgment of social media as a category of technology. I could see where they were coming from and my point in writing this isn’t to criticise them, only to observe the performativity of these judgments. His argument overlapped hugely with one I’ve made myself in public situations, unsurprising as it has emerged from a collaboration between the two of us. No one has ever accused me of being anti-technological when making it. Rather as if the property of being pro-technological and anti-technological is a matter of how an argument is performed, as well as how that performance is received, rather than part of the conceptual logic of the argument itself.
In her wonderful weekly newsletter, Audrey Watters writes about how these categories play out in media coverage of educational technology and how people respond to her work:
“Will anyone ever write another positive story about a tech startup?” an entrepreneur recently asked Wired writer Erin Griffith. She responded, “probably not.” Oh come on, I say. Of course they will.
But I’d add too: positioning “positive stories” versus “negative stories” is not a terribly useful or sophisticated frame. I say this, of course, as a critic myself, and as someone constantly chastised for being “too negative.” “Say more nice things.” “Smile more.” That sort of crap. Someone tweeted today that they know “what I’m against,” but have no idea “what I’m for.” Why, it’s almost as though the ethical and moral questions my work raises gesture toward nothing other than some grandiose “thumbs down.”