‘… a total surveillance society looks all but inevitable.’ – Mark Andrejevic

andrejevic-mark-2013 (1)Professor Mark Andrejevic’s sobering interview on surveillance and privacy issues is a highlight of WPCC‘s latest issue on ‘Redesigning or Redefining Privacy‘ where he expresses the concern that ‘monitoring technology is becoming so pervasive, so comprehensive, and so reliant upon the information and communication systems of everyday life’ that a total surveillance society may be unavoidable without a change of course.

He notes to interviewer and issue co-editor Pinelopi Troullinou that ‘information-based rationalization of almost every sphere of social existence’ is in the offing and that the Internet of Things is, ‘not the logical outgrowth of a drive for interactivity: it is a strategy for control and rationalization.’ Research’s challenge he adds ‘is to provide ways of understanding the long and short term consequences of data driven social sorting (and its automation)’.

The full text of the interview may be read on the WPCC website.

‘Redesigning or Redefining Privacy’ a special issue of Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture is co-edited with editorial by Shabnam Moinipour and Pinelopi Troullinou  and is published 31 October 2017.


Christian Fuchs (@fuchschristian) is the co-editor of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism and Critique an open access journal for critical communication studies which has been running since 2003, and is the editor of University of Westminster Press’ open access book series Critical Digital and Social Media Studies. On open access publishing, he co-authored an article with Marisol Sandoval proposing a ‘Diamond’ model for Open Access.

 Professor Fuchs is also Director of CAMRI and Director of the Westminster Institute of Advanced Studies.

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 UWP: Thanks for agreeing to assist with an interview for open access week. Can I ask you what you consider as the most important aspects of open access academic publishing for the academy and its areas of greatest potential?

CF: The three great potentials of open access are a) the de-monopolisation of publishing, b) the de-commodification of academia so that knowledge and not profit are the primary aspect of academic publishing, and c) overcoming the knowledge divide that excludes poor regions and universities from access. But for achieving these aims, we need the right kind of open access models that I call diamond open access. It cannot be denied that there is a significant amount of fake open access that puts profit over knowledge. Publishing is one of the most highly concentrated and monopolised capitalist industries. Elsevier, Springer & Co. are destroying independent academic publishers just like Amazon is destroying your local bookshop. Academia and knowledge ought to be a public service and common good. We do not need green and gold open access, but something much better and precious, namely diamond open access.

 UWP: How has your work on triple C informed your thinking on scholarly communications? And on UWP’s book series Critical Digital and Social Media Studies?

CF: I understand open access not just as a knowledge movement that transforms the way we deal with knowledge, but also as radical open access, a practical movement that aims at transforming the way we organise academia. So for me, having been involved and doing open access since 2003 has been a form of praxis. Given my interest in digital media and digital politics, doing open access was something that immediately appealed to me after Creative Commons had been founded.

UWP: Have any other scholars particularly influenced you on the topic of open access or any particular pieces of research? Any initiatives you would highlight as exhibiting the most promise?

CF: I think Radical Open Access is a great open access initiative and movement that aims at advancing non-commercial and non-profit forms of open access. There are many interesting projects, including radical open access journals and publishers as well as new open access university presses.

UWP: There have been developments such as the Radical Open Access Initiative, numerous academic-led publishers and you have linked Open Access in some of your statements to the wider Commons movement. Are you optimistic that Commons-based philosophies can take hold and lead to wider preference amongst academics of all subjects for viable OA publication routes as opposed to ‘leading’, ‘prestigious’ and very often expensive journal or book publishing imprints?

CF: Digital media is not the cause of the increased interest in the commons. There are not just digital/cultural/knowledge commons, but also the social commons and the natural commons. It is not a coincidence that the deepening crisis of capitalism has been accompanied by the rising interest in commons philosophy and commons projects. The commodity form is in a crisis and in many realms of life, not just publishing and the media, people are looking for alternative models for the organisation of life, the economy, politics and culture. There is not just one philosophy of the commons, but a diversity of approaches that are not always compatible and also stand for different political projects. In terms of political philosophy, there are certainly neoliberal, social democratic, socialist/commonist and anarchist versions of commons philosophy. The approaches by Michael Hardt/Toni Negri, Yochai Benkler and Elinor Ostrom are certainly all three philosophies of the commons. But they stand for different political economies of the commons.

UWP: Numerous commentators have pointed to the additional difficulties faced in transitioning books to open access compared to journals. What are your thoughts?

CF: The digital economy is not weightless. In order to organise something open access, you still need material resources, especially working time for organisation, copyediting, proofreading, design, technical work, management, etc. Open access book publishing is more resource-intensive than open access journal publishing. Proofreading and copyediting books is very work-intensive. Leaving this work to the authors would result in many ugly books full of mistakes. Doing proofreading and copyediting unpaid out of political idealism is also not a feasible solution. So one needs professional knowledge workers involved in open access. Using book processing charges in order to fund that knowledge work plus profits tends to create high charges that are unaffordable for all but the richest universities and luckiest researchers who have access to large grants and private or semi-private open access funds. The outcome of such models are new inequalities. And politically this brings you back to the questions: What university do we want? What academic system do we want? What should the role of academia be in society? Public support and funding is necessary for sustainable and fair open access.

UWP: Do you share concerns expressed by some that Open Access in general and OA gold policies in particular that have been encouraged might lead to defunding of humanities and social sciences at the expense of science, medicine and enterprise-orientated subjects?

CF: Open access is not the cause of the crisis of the social sciences and humanities. Neoliberalism has resulted in the defunding of the humanities and social sciences at large. We have experienced the business-schoolification of the social sciences, humanities and academia at large. The mind-set and logic of the business school have colonised and harmed the university system. Academia is about reflective and critical knowledge practices. If the logic of the business school takes over everything, then we are in trouble.

UWP: On the face of it Open Access when functioning is an aspect of the globalisation of higher education but the impacts are very uneven and greatly influenced by national systems or contexts. Would you like to see more international coordination? Might that be possible through scholarly or library associations?

CF: Academic associations and libraries have a very important potential role to play in making open access and academic a common and public good. The academic library of the future is among other things also a non-profit publisher. The international academic association of the future is among other things also an open access platform. At least in the social sciences, international academic associations have thus far been rather reluctant to adopt and advance radical open access. They are used to traditional publishing models. International associations of libraries, international academic associations and international networks of public universities certainly have a great potential for advancing commons- and public-service based models of non-profit open access.

UWP: Do you think that HE and even many academics are reluctant to talk about inequality of itself and in relation to open access? After all availability of books and journals at different institutions seems to vary widely and in the UK competition is encouraged in education so that it is inevitable resources will not be evenly shared.

CF: Yes, openness has a strange ideological aura of equality. But as I already mentioned, the dominant models of open access have combined with a neoliberal economy resulted in new inequalities in the academic sectors. There is really a lack of vision and concrete utopian spirit in large parts of academia.

UWP: Can you cite for us three of your favourite open access publications where you feel open access made a difference either to you, to readers or to the impact of the publication?

CF: Here are three examples for developments that I think made a difference: The founding of Creative Commons in 2001 was a very important development for advancing open access. tripleC makes a difference to the fields of communication studies and critical theory because it has a unique academic approach that wouldn’t be feasible within traditional academic publishing structures. Although I do not agree with the libertarian open access politics of Peter Suber that aims at advancing the CC-BY version of open access, the fact that his Open Access book was published open access certainly helped to advance the very idea of open access.

UWP: On a more practical level more and more material gets published year on year. With open access that does not appear to be about to change. Do you have any recommendations or tips for readers on how to navigate the torrent of material, any systems of organisation that enables you (it seems) to read more material than many of the rest of us and stay on top of your own research?

CF: The growth of academic knowledge is a historical feature of modernity. Open access is not its cause, but just one of its manifestations. That there is ever more knowledge should not disconcert us. Talking about information overflow on the Internet etc. is cultural pessimism. You have to be selective in what you read. My criterion is that I prefer to read and deal with critical knowledge that helps us to think about how to advance a better world and a better society.

UWP: And the Desert Island question. I suspect you may have a copy of Das Kapital with you but you have a choice of three films and three music albums to accompany you. What would you like to keep you company there?

CF: The three albums I would not want to miss on my desert island are Mogwai’s ‘Come On, Die Young’, Sonic Youth’s ‘Daydream Nation’, and Sigur Rós’s ‘Ágætis byrjun’. The three films to watch there are Midnight in Paris, Before Sunrise, and Inglourious Basterds. But given that there may be no electricity on the island, I’d certainly bring many books printed the traditional way on paper.

UWP: Thank you.

All titles in the Critical Digital and Social Media Studies series edited by Christian Fuchs series are available open access including Christian’s own title Critical Theory of Communication: New Readings of Lukács, Adorno, Marcuse, Honneth and Habermas in the Age of the Internet (2016).

This interview was conducted as part of International Open Access Week and is reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Like a free print copy of UWP book title?

A year on from our first book title the University of Westminster Press to celebrate International Open Access Week is running a competition for a free print copy of any of our six published book titles* for two winners.

These include such titles as Naval Leadership: in the Atlantic World: The Age of Reform and Revolution (eds. Harding & Guimerá); Collaborative Production in the Creative Industries (eds. Graham & Gandini) and Knowledge in the Age of Digital Capitalism (Zukerfeld).
To enter just email openaccess@westminster.ac.uk listing the year that Creative Commons (creativecommons.org) was founded and the name of your preferred free print book title. Winners will be chosen randomly from correct answers after the end of International Open Access week. Competition closes midnight Western Standard Time on the 29th.

(*Does not include History of the University of Westminster titles distributed by UWP).

Digital Warfare, a Global Project Considered: An Interview with Scott Timcke

Digital Warfare, a Global Project Considered: An Interview with Scott Timcke

In a first blog interview for UWP Scott Timcke author of Capital, State, Empire: The American Way of Digital Warfare talks to us about his intellectual influences, developments in the USA in  since the book was recently published and some of his recent and current reading.  Scott’s research has taken him from South Africa to Canada to Trinidad and Tobago where he is Lecturer in Communication Theory in the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies at the University of the West Indies. Capital, State, Empire is the 4th title to be published in UWP’s open access series Critical Digital and Social Media Studies edited by Christian Fuchs

UWP: Thanks for volunteering to be the UWP’’s blog first interviewee as well as one of its first published authors in the Critical Digital and Social Media Studies Series. Capital, State, Empire is a book with many big themes, one of which might be said to be the global project of American power, militarily and economically. Has working in the West Indies given any new perspectives on how that power is felt in different parts of the world outside of the USA itself?

ST: Thanks for the invitation, I am really looking forward the impact of the series. Its mandate for open access scholarship is so valuable in this day and age, certainly one that helps students and scholars in the Global South and elsewhere gain access to books that are otherwise prohibitively expensive.

But to your question. It is a good one, in part because of the central role the Caribbean has played in the development of the modern world. As the famous anthropologist Sidney Mintz observed, the Caribbean is the cradle of modernity, the surpluses from this region funding the creation of the modern European society. Working at The University of the West Indies it is near impossible not to see the legacies of imperial encounters and oppression. Several empires expanded and fought one another, each seeking regional supremacy, from the Spanish and Dutch to the British and the American. Unlike, say South Africa and Canada, places where I have previously studied, in the Caribbean you see how peripheral territories are used and then discarded without a second thought. So it a reminder about the effects of raw power.

UWP: One of the minor surprises of working on a book in a series focused very much on the contemporary was to alight upon your second chapter which takes a very long historical view of the development of the US State prior to the 2007/8 financial crisis. Do you think it is easy for students and early career researchers not studying history to be able to take that kind of long view or even sometimes understand that it is missing in discussion?

ST: I think the virtues and vices of Communication and Media Studies more generally comes from our attention to new and interesting technological or cultural developments. I mean, that is somewhat the point of the discipline and what makes it unique and attractive in the broader university. You can see this dynamic at play in undergraduate classrooms; students take media history begrudgingly to get to the parts of the curriculum that focus on big data and social media analysis. This isn’t a new problem. Paul Gilroy was motivated to write The Black Atlantic precisely because of this difficulty. Still, he suggests that history and theory are inseparable if one wants to understand patterns of ‘movement, transformation, and relocation,’ topics that are core to the discipline today.

Granted, it takes some time and persistence to achieve historical consciousness, but I do think that it is a valuable exercise as that knowledge permits a range of conversations and observations might not be seen otherwise. Gilroy provides a great example for emerging career researchers to try explain to their students how the problems they study and lecture about even came to exist in the first place.

UWP: It is not fair to ask, but could you name 3-4 major intellectual influences on your work in the book and the direction it eventually took? Have you found these influences have changed significantly since the financial crash?

ST: I’ve spoken before about some of the books that influenced me during my undergraduate and early doctoral studies, so I’ll talk about more recent influences. First, I’ve been greatly influenced by the faculty and graduate students at Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication. Although there are too many to list here, Rick Gruneau and Gary McCarron are outstanding scholars whose conversations had a lasting impact. But there are many others who I have learnt a great deal from.

On that note, I started graduate school in September 2008 and the effects about the recession were ever-present. I don’t think I put too much thought into it, but if you want to understand capitalist crises, you study Marx. So that’s what many of us did and continue to do. Along the way I got a healthy dose of Western Marxism and then read a lot from G.A. Cohen, John Roemer, Erik Olin Wright. At the moment, I am reading a lot of Black Radicals, from C. L. R. James to Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor because this is an area in which I require much needed supplementation.

At the same time, I’ve been returning to C. Wright Mills’ work. His insights into the domestication of social critique through bureaucratization of research with mass surveys, I believe, is even more relevant now than in the early post war period, in part because of the sheer scale, scope, and promise of computational social science. This is a development that several Communication scholars talk about because of how easy it is encode instructional bias into digital platforms.

UWP: As the book neared completion and with the election of Donald Trump it became increasingly difficult editing the book to keep a track of references to appointments made to the White House and then the departures. As the anniversary of the election approaches, do you feel the fundamentals have changed with American military and foreign policy or are things a little more business-as-usual than we might like to think?

ST: I think the American military will continue to fulfil their functional role, so I don’t expect too many changes on that front. What is worrying about Trump is how he will deploy this military power, by for instance in escalating conflicts in Yemen or on the Korean Peninsula. By contrast with Barack Obama’s Administration, like others before him, there was a consistency and predictability to foreign policy, what American analysts call ‘credibility.’ Trump, of course, is an unknown variable, and so it can appear like that predictability is gone. What is certain is that he has stoked domestic white supremacist violence and that is of grave concern especially as his administration has restarted formal police-militarization programs; but as to whether he has the clout to alter the Pentagon, I’m not so sure.

At the moment, I think the security state is robust and will weather the Trump Administration. If anything, they might use him to advance their interests by using the rhetoric of American decline to sway Trump et el to increase spending on the American arsenal. Already there are reports from US military research centres that in order to stall this decline, the US must recapitalise their weapons and armaments, items that have been neglected as the military has been deployed non-stop for nearly two decades.

UWP: Social inequality is a significant theme in the book and in some of your earlier research. In our transnational and globalizing world, is there a way of talking about class or stratification that does not sound as if it were from another era – say the 1970s – that can actually resonate within and without the academy?

ST: In some ways I think that the older language like stratification helps researchers and students cut through the current policy platitudes, so I am reluctant to dismiss it. Watching from afar, it seems like Jeremy Corbyn has had great success with this kind of political language in the UK; that many British people felt it best captured their lived experience.

The next step I think is connecting one country’s success with another’s exploitation. Without essentializing, it seems to me that because of their migrations, diasporic communities have encountered these inequalities and so are able to articulate those connections in ways that jar neoliberal narratives. Also, recent discussions of reparations have helped advance the broader understanding of global inequality and capital accumulation. A decade ago I would have thought that this idea was indicative of the 1970s and 1990s, but due to hard work, it is back in discussion.

UWP: Since the book has been published we have seen altercations in Charlottesville and over the NFL US national anthem protests. Have these developments suggested any new interesting lines of enquiry for future research to you? Or perhaps instead some technological or military development?

ST: A couple years ago I bought Ben Fountain’ Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; entirely because of the title and cover I might add—knew nothing else about it. In addition to Fountain being a wonderful writer, the book was a precise dissection of the relationship between media, sports, and war. On those topics, I can’t think of a single book that surpasses it. (I still have to watch the movie.)

My thoughts for future research are tentative at the moment, but the ideas I am jotting down tend to all pull towards AIs in military decision making. But again, these are just initial thoughts.

UWP: Could you expound on any policy or campaigning responses you would like to see in the face of the increasing strength of the surveillance-industrial-military complex?

ST: Two fronts are important, I believe. Campaigning for nuclear disarmament must continue as that is the highest priority. On the surveillance front, I think genuine democratic oversight, can, at the local level nix automated and real-time identification projects. That small achievable step shows a pathway to substantial democratization over all parts of government which can in turn lead to more restraint or projects entirely being defunded. New networking tools could also be invented, but I don’t think it is wise to put faith in technological salvation.

UWP: There seem to quite a few debates about the shape and direction of the field of communications and media. What areas would you like to see the major associations and figures in the field encourage and develop the most and not necessarily in your primary research interests but more generally?

ST: Hmm, tough question. As you know I speculate a little about this in the early part of the book, there is a critique of communicative idealism, a development that unnerves me more generally because of the past two decades of economic turmoil, rampant war, and ecological crisis. In that light, I admit that I don’t have much time for celebratory fan-, game-, or platform-studies. This isn’t to say these topics aren’t important. They are, and when done in a genuinely critical manner greatly advance our knowledge. So I would like to see new scholars nurture the radical spirit that the discipline has re-cultivated in the last decade or so.

UWP: And if UWP could offer you another chapter to add to the book now [we are not offering by the way], what might you want to discuss in that?

ST: I spoke about state based violence, but I would like to see this theme of violence extended to American arms-manufacturing and domestic gun sales. (We can leave that for a second edition.)

UWP: Lastly if you could or had to take three books to the putative desert island and one LP what might they be? At least one of the books has to be an academic work!

ST: I suppose I had a similar challenge when I accepted my position at UWI. Book selections had to be made and the library trimmed down! The first book to be set aside for safekeeping were Tom Lodge’s South African Politics Since 1994, a book I bought just before commencing my undergraduate studies. A few others followed, including Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People and J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians. As for LPs, it would have to be Simon & Garfunkel’s  ‘The Concert in Central Park

UWP: Thank you.


‘Naval Leadership’ docks at Greenwich

‘Naval Leadership’ docks at Greenwich

The University of Westminster’s Richard Harding delivered the keynote address at ‘The State of Maritime History Research’ at the University of Greenwich 9 September organised by The Society of Nautical Research with understanding maritime history research the theme of his address. UWP were pleased to make available for sale print copies of Naval Leadership in the Atlantic World: The Age of Reform and Revolution co-edited by Professor Harding and Agustín Guimerá to attendees. The book is also free to download. Recently reviewed by The Mariner’s Mirror praising the book for its ‘transnational scope. Here is an extract from the book’s Afterword on questions still to be addressed in maritime research on naval leadership and some contrasts with land warfare.

There is no doubt that the period between 1700 and 1850 saw major social, political and economic changes. There is equally no doubt that naval leadership penetrated far more deeply into the public consciousness by the end of the period, principally as a result of the wars of 1793–1815. However, what is far less clear is how far the practice of officership actually changed in the period. Compared to the dramatic tactical and operational changes in land warfare brought about by the ‘levée en masse’ and Napoleonic organisation, the war at sea seems to have retained its essential character from the ancien régime. The totality of land warfare, with societies engaged more fully in all aspects of conflict from large-scale conventional armies to guerrilla wars and intense economic engagement, seemed to be of a different character from the wars that had dominated the previous 100 years. From it there seemed to emerge a more professional approach to war and a desire to establish a universal theory of war which developed during the nineteenth century. Social background and courage in the field were still vital attributes, but there were the faltering first steps towards a more professionally educated army officer and a more ‘scientifically’ organised military force; the latter eventually being exemplified by the Prussian Great General Staff. Navies appear to have been untouched by this military revolution. The technologies remained largely unchanged. The organisation of navies, their operational imperatives and tactical concepts were very similar to those that had been inherited from previous generations. The idea of a universal theory of naval warfare only really attracted interest in the last decade of the nineteenth century. This needs far more investigation across a range of navies, and it is probably wise to be cautious at this stage about drawing too large a distinction between the higher education of naval and army officers in this period. Progress in military education was slow and varied greatly between states. Officers in both armies and navies had to master the essentials of their professions. Surviving at sea required a far more demanding and formally tested initial education than that required on land. This understanding applied to both naval officers and the common seaman. Both services relied on the ability of officers to command a disciplined performance from soldiers and sailors. Both services were strongly influenced by a geometric approach to movement and manoeuvre. There was always a fundamental difference in the demands placed upon army and naval officers, however. Armies are essentially people who have weapons, and in the chaos of combat people have options. Maintaining control in a crisis was an important role for an army officer. Conversely, ships are weapons that have people. The weapon only works when the people are carrying out their function exactly as demanded. Individual options in combat are very limited and the nature of control in a crisis consequently differed. While this is a highly simplistic distinction, it points to the fact that from daily routines of existence to the ultimate crisis of battle, armies and navies were different.

Image from book cover:  Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University, USA 



WPCC Radio & Revolution issue published

WPCC Radio & Revolution issue published

WPCC’s Radio & Revolution issue has now finally been published in its entirety.

The journal’s editorial reflected on key themes: the motivations of free radio practitioners, key phases in development of community broadcasting, radio’s potential for social liberation of several kinds and radio’s claims to be a form of mass self-communication in which users also take charge of the media platform itself. Lastly it considers radio’s presence alongside social media like Twitter in contemporary activism and protests.

To quote:

‘This issue we hope illustrates that radio studies despite being something of a Cinderella amongst media disciplines can offer fresh perspectives, is for many parts of the world vitally important in contemporary contexts and has a serious and still under-appreciated historical role as an agent of revolutionary change.’ And it notes how ‘radio can amplify
the ‘blind spots’ of visual cultural histories’ (Lacey 2009)

The final articles and commentaries published yesterday were:

Freedom Waves: Giving People a Voice and Turning It Up! Tuning into the Free Radio Network in the Basque Country by Jason Diaux, Ion Andoni del Amo and Arkaitz Letamendia

Radio as a Recruiting Medium in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle
by Everette Ndlovu

Invisible Revolutions: Free Radio Music Programming in Barcelona
by Lola Costa Gálvez


Lacey, K. (2009). Ten years of radio studies: The very idea. Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media, 6(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/rajo.6.1.21_4