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Limits of the Imaginary: Challenges to intervening in future speculations of memory, data, and algorithmic archiving

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Over three years, researchers, artists, and activists collaborated on eight public
engagement experiments in five countries. All focused on building critical
consciousness about digital futures. The interventions worked: Once
participants broke through the seamlessness of interface surfaces, they
immediately thought more critically about how digital platforms actually operate.
Yet even as participants reached into these black boxes, they didn't imagine
alternatives. This article offers a critical theory reading of this theme of
inevitability, using the concept of discursive closure, whereby we can see how
particular values and (infra)structures are naturalized, neutralized, and
legitimated, closing off discussion of alternatives that might counter current
hegemonic power. This article highlights the importance of confronting the limits
of the imagination in speculative interventions, as well as the need, in ongoing
interventions focused on imagining different digital futures, to iteratively focus
on creative ways to identify and then overcome the current resignation to the
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media & Society
Pages (from-to)382-405
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • Critical data studies, critical pedagogy, critical theory, discursive closure, imaginaries, social imaginary, speculative fabulation, speculative fiction, systematically distorted communication, technological determinism

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