The Political Economy of Communication
This paper applies and develops Marx’s concept of the fetish generally and technological fetishism specifically to how digital ICTs are influencing the craft of journalism. Although largely theoretical, its analysis of technological fetishism is applied to the findings of a survey conducted in 2013 among Canadian journalistic workers. The paper finds that these workers hold mixed and often contradictory views on how digital technologies are shaping their work and profession. By understanding ICTs to be both constitutive of journalism and, more precisely, the technological fetish as a mediating force in its development, the paper argues that the survey respondents are not ‘wrong’ to recognize that digital technologies seem to possess inherent powers. Because the fetishization of digital technologies is rooted in the relational conditions of contemporary journalism and neoliberal capitalism, redressing these – rather than just efforts to think reflexively about them – is what needs to be strategically prioritized. Indeed, both critical thought, using the concept of technological fetishism, and political action are needed if the insecurities and deleterious transformations taking place in journalism are to be modified and the democratizing potentials of digital ICTs fully realized.