Contemporary culture is haunted by its media. Yet in their ubiquity, digital media have become increasingly banal, making it harder for us to register their novelty or the scope of the social changes they have wrought. What do we learn about our media environment when we look closely at the ways novelists and filmmakers narrate and depict banal use of everyday technologies? How do we encounter our own media use in scenes of waiting for e-mail, watching eBay bids, programming as work, and worrying about numbers of social media likes, friends, and followers?
Zara Dinnen analyzes a range of prominent contemporary novels, films, and artworks to contend that we live in the condition of the “digital banal,” not noticing the affective and political novelty of our relationship to digital media. Authors like Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Sheila Heti, Jonathan Lethem, Gary Shteyngart, Colson Whitehead, Mark Amerika, Ellen Ullman, and Danica Novgorodoff and films such as The Social Network and Catfish critique and reveal the ways in which digital labor isolates the individual; how the work of programming has become an operation of power; and the continuation of the “Californian ideology,” which has folded the radical into the rote and the imaginary into the mundane. The works of these writers and artists, Dinnen argues, also offer ways of resisting the more troubling aspects of the effects of new technologies, as well as timely methods for seeing the digital banal as a politics of suppression. Bridging the gap between literary studies and media studies, The Digital Banal recovers the shrouded disturbances that can help us recognize and antagonize our media environment.
About the Author
Table of Contents
Introduction: Thinking with the Digital Banal
1. David Fincher’s Grammar of Code
2. Jonathan Lethem’s and Mark Amerika’s Common Writing
3. Being Social in a Postdigital World in Catfish and How Should a Person Be?
4. Twenty Years of Californian Ideology in The Bug and The Circle
5. Refresh, Update, Wait, or, Living with the Digital Banal in Chronic City and Refresh Refresh
6. Speculating on the Real Estate of the Digital Banal
Conclusion: After the Digital Banal