Digital Media and the Cybertouch of War
Transnational Feelings in the Middle Eastern Conflict
By Adi Kuntsman
Routledge – 2014 – 172 pages
Series: War, Politics and Experience
This book examines the digital space as a battlefield, where wars and conflicts are transformed and replayed, and where the effects of new media technologies on are complex and contradictory. In particular, it focuses on the ‘cybertouch’ of war.
The cybertouch of war refers to the digital media’s impact on Internet users’ experiences of warfare, violence and suffering, their feelings and affective responses to it, and the broader cultural and political changes that such affective responses might bring. While most research on war and digital media focuses either on the new tactics of warfare and terrorism in the digital age, or on the changes to traditional media practices in reporting and representing war, this book asks another set of timely and urgent questions: How can war and suffering touch us through the monitors of PCs, laptops and mobile phones? How do digital technologies affect people’s feelings towards and experiences of war, violence, victimhood and testimony? How can we examine and conceptualise the changes in ‘structures of feeling’ that follow the constant transnational availability of information via blogs, social networks, mobile phones and other digital technologies of connection? And what are the changes to cruelty and compassion, resistance and indifference, brought by these new affective and political formations?
This book aims to explore these questions by examining the role of digital media in Internet users’ perceptions and experiences of the recent warfare and conflict in Israel-Palestine (the Gaza war in 2008-09, the attack on the Freedom Flotilla to besieged Gaza in 2010, and the everyday military violence in the occupied West Bank and Gaza). The research into three linguistic and geo-cultural locations – Israeli, Hebrew-speaking news audiences; the Russian-Jewish diaspora; and the international, English-speaking social networks – allows us to address the ‘cybertouch of war’ as a matter of national, international and diasporic identities, feelings and affective attachments.
Offering a complex analysis of the ways warfare in Israel-Palestine is perceived and experienced by ordinary digital media users in various national, international and diasporic communities, this book is an important addition to the literature in both its empirical content and its broader theoretical contributions. In putting forward the concept of the ‘cybertouch of war’, the book also offers new theoretical ways to think about war and experience at the intersection of the digital and the affective. The book thus makes a bold interdisciplinary intervention by bringing together two fields that are receiving growing scholarly attention but rarely intersect: cultural studies of affect, public feelings and the politics of emotion, on the one hand, and scholarship on digital culture, new media and information-communication technologies, on the other.
This book will be of much interest to students of cyberconflict, critical security studies, war and conflict studies, Middle Eastern conflict, and IR in general.
1. The Cybertouch of War 2. The (Non-)Performativity of On-line Engagement 3. Breaking out of the Frame: Affective Fabrics of Transnational Circulation 4. Digital Archives of Feelings 5. Digital Horizons of War, Dehumanisation and Death
Adi Kunstman is Simon Research Fellow at the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures at the University of Manchester, UK.