Playing the Game of Discernment: Truth and trust in digital space in the absence of the body

TitlePlaying the Game of Discernment: Truth and trust in digital space in the absence of the body
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Hong, S. H.
Affiliation (1st Author)The Annenberg School for Communication University of Pennsylvania
Section or WGEmerging Scholars Network Section
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodeESNF4a
Slot Code (Keyword)ESNF4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleDigital Media, (Re) presentations, and Social Theory
Submission ID5370

Our everyday discernment of truth and trust in social life is anchored in the phenomenological experience of bodily intersubjectivity; what happens to these ‘games of discernment’ in digital space, where the body recedes from the immediacy of experience? Simply put, how do we make judgments on truthfulness and trustworthiness in digital space in the immediate absence of the body as referent? The paper charts a trajectory from bodies to truth to trust in order to propose an analytics of ‘games of discernment’. (1) Firstly, I problematise the ‘bodily turn’ in recent digital theory and argue that although the body remains ultimately present in the last instance, it is immediately absent in many areas of the experience of digital communication. (2) I then draw on Michel Foucault’s history of parrhesia, or truth-telling in Antiquity, to demonstrate how the body traditionally functioned as a referent and guarantor of judgment and knowledge, truth and trust, and how the body’s partial absence creates a vacuum that needs to be filled. (3) On this basis, I propose an analytics of the games of discernment in digital space. How do users navigating digital space develop practical, learned skills of reading digital performativity and semiotics? This constitutes what Pierre Bourdieu calls ‘practical reason’ – the concrete, everyday ways in which social actors build working standards of behaviour. Here, I focus on astroturfing as a specific scene of games of discernment, and the historical ideal of ‘disinterestedness’ as one standard by which the game is played. Drawing on these examples, I show how digital space has developed its own games of discernment that provide a working ‘faith’ in digital space as social space, and enable ways of judging truth- and trust-value in the immediate absence of the body. The paper thus illustrates and proposes future work on online games of discernment.

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