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Databite No. 84: Molly Sauter

the politics of "disruption"


June 30, 2016 - 12:00 pm

Data & Society
36 West 20th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY, 10011

Databites are Data & Society's weekly lunch conversations focused on unresolved questions and timely topics of interest to our community.

RSVP required. To request an invitation, please email events at data society dot net.

Molly Sauter presents Radical Nostalgia and the Politics of “Disruption”:

“Disruption” has been drafted into service in the open-plan offices of Silicon Valley, where the term is used as a desirable hallmark of creativity, innovation, and success. When used in the context of social movements, “disruption” or “disruptiveness” describe a set of tactics, an event, or a particular theory of change.

What are the politics of “disruption”? Can it be interpreted to have a political meaning that holds across the contexts in which it’s used? If it does have an underlying politics, what are the implications for the use of “disruption” as a descriptive term and a guide to action?

In this talk, Molly Sauter will outline the argument that disruption’s politics are primarily tied to radical, ideological nostalgia. Its conceptual opposite is not “continuation,” but rather “progress” and progress’s special form, “innovation.” Its closest conceptual synonym is “interruption,” and the main project of disruptive or interruptive politics is to arrest the liberal drive of “progress.”

Molly will unpack the concept of radical nostalgia as it appears in disruptive politics and will examine the special case of disruptive politics within Network Communication Technology (NCT) spaces.

Molly Sauter is a PhD candidate at McGill University in Montreal, and the author of The Coming Swarm: DDoS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet.