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New Media, New Publics?

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In this special issue, we examine how publics are brought into being through historically specific media practices. We treat the question of new media as an invitation to explore changing conditions of communication across a number of ethnographic locations. We argue that these changing conditions have challenged our capacity to understand the nature of publics. It is important to emphasize that none of the contributors perceives new media as a coherent object of attention that can easily be isolated as an entity; nor do the contributors locate its novelty in its digital format. Instead, they examine modes of mediation that entail the technological but are not reducible to it. This approach allows anthropologists to keep the referent of new media open and remain attentive to emerging forms of public life that are working outside of or adjacent to the logics of both the digital and the technological. Our hope is that this collection of essays contributes to an anthropological understanding of media that illuminates important aspects of the political economic present, attends to the erosion and reanimation of anonymity in public life, and captures dynamics of staging, projection, and response within and across ethnographic sites.

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