Open Seminar – Selfie Democracy: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and the New Digital Politics

The seminar is held by Elizabeth Losh and it takes place on 15th of February at 3 PM at TLU Baltic Film, Media and Arts School at room N-315. The seminar can be followed also in Zoom.
Based on interviews with White House insiders, archival research, and a trove of digital data, this presentation provides a preview of the author’s forthcoming book about digital literacy in the White House. It reveals important insights about the smart phone practices of the most significant actors in recent American politics—Barack Obama and Donald Trump as presidents and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden as presidential candidates— and how their approaches to domestic governance and crisis management related to their everyday technological choices as users of computational media. Such powerful political leaders often reinforce certain cultural assumptions about the power of the smartphone that perpetuate myths about connection, transparency, participation, and access. These myths are further amplified in rhetoric borrowed from Silicon Valley about how these technologies supposedly strengthen social bonds, enable exploration, encourage engagement, and overcome barriers. Obama might have been the anti-Trump and Trump the anti-Obama, but they both used mobile computing in ways that redefined the office of president. This talk exposes the unintended consequences of wireless technologies on political leadership and shows how seemingly benign mobile devices that hold out the promise of direct democracy can ultimately undermine representative forms of government, as the January 6th, 2021 storming of the US Capital by a selfie-taking mob livestreaming the insurrection demonstrates.

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