Gadget Consciousness

Gadget Consciousness

Collective Thought, Will and Action in the Age of Social Media

Pluto Press, 2019 more...

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  • Controversial
  • Analytical
  • For Experts


Gadgets like smartphones don't just reflect human thinking, they change it, copy the brain and affect consciousness, says scholar Joss Hands in this theoretical discussion framed in terms of political and social systems. Will people lift their consciousness via shared connection or let the capitalist “gadget brain” push consumerism? He explores how people use and get used by gadgets, positing two futures: rebel “gadget communism,” where tech frees people for the common good, or exploitative techno-capitalism. His best option: a socialist gadget consciousness of “care, becoming and collectivity.” 


What Is a Gadget?

Before considering what “gadget consciousness” is, consider the gadget itself. Philosopher Martin Heidegger defined a “thing” as something “ready to hand,” embedded in the concrete collection of “equipment” that people use to interpret and build the world. 

Gadgets, like smartphones, are more complex than things. People carry them in their pockets, but their complex, modular interfaces make them more than simple tools. Integrated into people’s daily lives, gadgets form part of a “general system of social relations.”

Capitalism is the structural apparatus, or “dispositif,” in which the gadget has become a “strategic imperative.” Gadgets – like email, for example – expand work into all aspects of daily life. Capitalism made the gadget, and it reinforces capitalism’s logic. In unscrupulous hands, the gadget can dominate and control its users.

Gadgets are not objects outside of people; they are part of people. Historically, self-consciousness “locks” into dominant technologies and uses them to reflect humanity back to itself. With gadgets, it is philosophically important...

About the Author

Joss Hands is senior lecturer in media and cultural studies at Newcastle University, UK. His book is part of the Digital Barricades series, which he co-edits with Jodi Dean and Tim Jordan. 

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