Autonomous Misdirection

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Woolaver, John
Philosophy , Baudrillard , Social Media , Epistemology
This thesis will examine how the way we experience knowledge has changed due to the ubiquity of electronic media. Specifically, there will be an examination of how the new digital media – and social media in particular – are structured to continuously redirect the attention of the thinking subject into a series of logically enclosed spaces. The structure of this thesis follows two core arguments. The first will be an examination of how misdirection evolved as a rhetorical technique whose origins are fundamentally grounded in the project of persuasion. This thesis will argue, that misdirection as a technique uses rhetoric to distract a thinking subject, as a means of persuading that subject to the rhetorician’s point of view. The foundational theory will derive primarily through an examination of Plato’s Republic and Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit to trace the origins of this rhetorical technique and to sketch a brief chronology of its evolution to the present day. Secondly, misdirection will be placed in the context of a changed epistemological and technological landscape. Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation will provide an examination of how the electronic landscape has transformed misdirection from a rhetorical technique into a means of experiencing the world. This thesis will argue that Baudrillard’s simulated hyperreality – the constant act of imitating a poorly represented reality which leads to an enclosed world that no longer remembers its point of origin – is made possible by the self-referential and algorithmically determined structure of digital media that renders misdirection autonomous. Finally, the thesis will conclude by taking this theoretical framework and using it to interpret recent real-world events that have occurred between the new millennium and the present day. Several phenomena, from art to political transformations, will be contextualised and interpreted as examples of autonomous misdirection.
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