Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Prince Harry - a digital case in point

Those many millions of republicans who do not care about royalty and inherited privilege groaned a collective sigh of despair this week as news emerged of military exploits by England's Prince Harry. The reports prompted republicans to say, "What an idiot!"

There were two parts to the reports about his action as an Apache helicopter pilot in the British Army: He admitted to killing Afghans, possibly Taliban  from the safety of his airborne machine, plus he considered his expertise in the theatre of warfare to be informed by his heavy participation with PlayStation game consoles. Here is a case of  cause and effect - a player of computer video games offering a claim to killing skill due to playing computer games.

As readers of this blog and my 2011 book Uprising will know, I am disinclined to play the tired academic game of pretending that technological determinism is unproven. All the evidence suggests that human history is the result of knowledge that translates to innovation through the combined might of technology, industry and business. Cause and effect - albeit uneven.

As my friend and colleague Christian Fuchs has noted,  there is still plenty of debate about technological determinism.New Media and Society I suspect much of it is the result of a conservative  intention to assert the absence of a relationship between human agency and human impact because this would lead to critical engagement with innovation and technology itself. In turn, that would lead to suggestions that human beings generate pollutants which in turn create changed atmospheric conditions and global warming/climate change. Denialists are as they do: backed with major financial  support from the corporations who have a lot to lose from changes in human behavior. There's a nice piece by Robert Mann on denialist strategy in The Monthly magazine. The Monthly

Meanwhile Prince Harry puts the digital pieces together for everyone, perhaps unwittingly. After all, royals are not expected to be intellectuals. They are however expected to be circumspect. The following effort suggests that he knows enough to make sure everyone shares the blame for killing Taliban, Afghans and innocents - the casualties of war.
"If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game, I suppose," he said. "Take a life to save a life … the squadron's been out here. Everyone's fired a certain amount."Guardian
It was the gaming mention that caught my eye.

The prince, who was in charge of firing the Apache's Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, rockets and 30mm gun, called his job a "joy" in interviews released on Monday.
"It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful," he said. Guardian 
Here we are with a fresh definition of "joy."

I recently argued in "Killing the Thing You Love: Predator Drones, Wilful Neglect and the End of the Internet," that the Internet is rapidly becoming nothing like what it was envisioned. Breen article This is due to a number of forces at work, not least of which is that idiots rip the original meaning from language and redefine it for nefarious and ignorant purposes: Harry describing killing with high technology game-based digital technology as "joy."

Republicans -  at least defend the language!  

It is probably unwise to give the last word to the Taliban, but here goes. In an article in The Guardian headlined Taliban retaliate after Prince Harry compares fighting to a video game, a spokesperson (it's going to be a man!) said::
"I think he has a mental problem, that's why he is saying it is a game," he said. "These kind of people live like diplomats in Afghanistan, they can't risk themselves by standing against the mujahideen." The Guardian
Whatever we make of that - the voice is clear: this is not a game.