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Deniz Karahan-Alp

Thesis title

Between Emancipation and Domination: Herbert Marcuse and Social Media

Thesis abstract

(presented for Confirmation August 2020)

This research investigates how Herbert Marcuse’s philosophy of technology might offer a new interpretation of social media analysis. His critical theory is a theoretical framework that we can use to develop a qualitative and dialectical critique of social media platforms. I think that the subtlety of Marcuse’s analysis of technology does not lie in simply revealing technology’s positive and negative sides; rather, it interrogates how it has become a tool of repression while it could be a means of eliminating repressive societies. The main aim of this study will therefore be to explicate Marcuse’s critique of technology, as well as adding emphasis to his utopian view for investigating possible changes on social media platforms in terms of alternative media discussions. In this particular sense, the research is divided into three parts.

The first part of the study analyses Marcuse’s utopian thinking and its relation to technology in light of the contemporary views of technological utopianism. This discussion also allows delineating the differences between the post-industrial societies of mass consumerism that constituted Marcuse’s object and the society of ‘digital capitalism’. In the second part, algorithmic rationality will be taken as a form of new technological rationality developed by Marcuse to describe the repressive character of technology. By turning to Marcuse’s critique of Freud’s civilization theory, I will investigate the possibility of creating radically different social media in the last part of the study. This requires addressing the social media concept in the context of production and consumption relations with capitalism. This section will engage with Marcuse’s concepts using the critique of Freud’s civilization theory and describe their relations with social media platforms. Overall, this work aims to provide a new interpretation of social media analysis by using Marcuse’s corpus, and also to revaluate Marcuse’s philosophy in light of new discussions of technology.

Supervisors

Brett Nicholls

Rosemary Overell

Background

Deniz has an MA in Political Science and Public Administration from Ankara University; she also has a BA in Political Science and Public Administration, from Gazi University.

Reading groups

Deniz is the co-facilitator of the Marcuse Reading Group, with Oliver Dearnley-Smith.