The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age

participationUniversity of Minnesota Press (2016)

Edited by Darin Barney, Gabriella Coleman, Christine Ross, Jonathan Sterne, and Tamar Tembeck

An unprecedented transdisciplinary call to reassess the meaning of participation in the digital age

Just what is the “participatory condition”? It is the situation in which taking part in something with others has become both environmental and normative. The fact that we have always participated does not mean we have always lived under the participatory condition. What is distinctive about the present is the extent to which the everyday social, economic, cultural, and political activities that comprise simply being in the world have been thematized and organized around the priority of participation.

Structured along four axes investigating the relations between participation and politics, surveillance, openness, and aesthetics, The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age comprises fifteen essays that explore the promises, possibilities, and failures of contemporary participatory media practicesas related to power, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring uprisings, worker-owned cooperatives for the post-Internet age; paradoxes of participation, media activism, open source projects; participatory civic life; commercial surveillance; contemporary art and design; and education.

This book represents the most comprehensive and transdisciplinary endeavor to date to examine the nature, place, and value of participation in the digital age. Just as in 1979, when Jean-François Lyotard proposed that “the postmodern condition” was characterized by the questioning of historical grand narratives, The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age investigates how participation has become a central preoccupation of our time.


The Participatory Condition: An Introduction
Darin Barney, Gabriella Coleman, Christine Ross, Jonathan Sterne, and Tamar Tembeck

Part I: The Politics of Participation

1. Power as Participation’s Master Signifier
Nico Carpentier
2. Participation as Ideology in Occupy Wall Street
Cayley Sorochan
3: From TuniLeaks to Bassem Youssef: Revolutionary Media in the Arab World
Jillian C. York
4. Think Outside the Boss: Cooperative Alternatives for the Post-Internet Age
Trebor Scholz

Part II. Openness

5. Paradoxes of Participation
Christina Dunbar-Hester
6. Participatory Design and the Open Source Voice
Graham Pullin
7. Open Source Cancer: Brain Scans and the Rituality of Biodigital Data Sharing
Alessandro Delfanti and Salvatore Iaconesi
8. Internet-Mediated Mutual Cooperation Practices: The Sharing of Material and Immaterial Resources
Bart Cammaerts

Part III. Participation under Surveillance

9. Big Urban Data and Shrinking Civic Space: The Statistical City Meets the Simulated City
Kate Crawford
10. The Pacification of Interactivity
Mark Andrejevic
11. The Surveillance–Innovation Complex: The Irony of the Participatory Turn
Julie E. Cohen
Part IV. Participation and Aisthesis
12. Preparations for a Haunting: Notes toward an Indigenous Future Imaginary
Jason Edward Lewis
13. Participatory Situations: The Dialogical Art of Instant Narrative by Dora García
Rudolf Frieling
14. The Formation of New Reason: Seven Proposals for the Renewal of Education
Bernard Stiegler
15. Zoom Pavilion
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Wodiczko