congress / people

Richard Barbrook

Living place: London, UK

Theme: political science, media, the Internet

ECC Participation: panel member

photo: private archive

Barbrook analyzes new media and technology and their influence on modern societies and the formation of new ideas. He’s a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster.

In the early 1980s, he helped to set up the multi-lingual Spectrum Radio station in London. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he worked on mass media regulation in the European Union. Part of his research on that subject was later published in his book, “Media Freedom: The Contradictions of Communication in the Age of Modernity.” From 1995 to 2005, Barbrook served as coordinator of the Hypermedia Research Centre in the University of Westminster’s School of Media, Art & Design.

”However good it is, new technology cannot solve fundamental social and political problems by itself.”

He published many influential essays on subjects like the history of reformist idea, paradoxes of the modern information society and the relationship between politics and the Internet. His better known essays include “The Hi-Tech Gift Economy,” “Cyber-communism,” “The Regulation of Liberty,” and “The Class of the New.” In collaboration with Andy Cameron, he wrote “The Californian Ideology”, a critique of the neoliberal politics of “Wired” magazine. His book “Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village” won the 2008 Marshall McLuhan Award for outstanding book in the field of media ecology. In that book, Barbrook analyzed the intellectual debates of the second half of the 20th century and wondered about the source of visions of technological happiness and whether the cure for society’s ails lies in technological progress.

Barbrook also contemplated the ideas of Guy Debord, the founder of Situatonist International, the author of the famous “Society of the Spectacle,” and intellectual hero of May 1968. He co-authored the screenplay of “Guy Debord’s The Game of War,” a movie about a wargame created by Debord that served as a warfare manual to be used in the oppressive society of spectacle. The movie depicted how Debord’s ideas can be taken up in the era of neoliberal capitalism.