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  • 2017kirkphd

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New media hauntings: digital aesthetics of haunting, context collapse, and networked spectrality

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Neal Kirk
Publication date2017
Number of pages354
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis introduces the critical methodology ‘networked spectrality’ to theorise depictions of new media hauntings. Ghost stories often include the latest technologies to establish the realistic setting, but technological advance also affords new opportunities to depict ghost stories. I argue that the early twenty-first-century technologies that are collectively known as ‘new media technologies’ are changing the historic dynamics of ghosts, themes of haunting, and conceptions of spectrality. I use networked spectrality to theorise depictions of ghosts and hauntings in recent films, television programmes, and Internet culture that are transitioning from singular, personal, and analogue representations to ghosts that are multiple, participatory, and immanently digital.
As constitutive and illustrative examples of networked spectrality and new media hauntings, this thesis considers Ghost (1990); Pulse (2006); the digital aesthetics of haunting employed by the hacker and activist collective, Anonymous (2004 - present); the participatory Internet haunting of The Slender Man (Knudsen, 2009); Black Mirror (2011 - present); Unfriended (2014), and CSI: Cyber (2015- 2016). I use networked spectrality to analyse these texts around the structural concepts of the relevant historical, technical, social and political dynamics of digital networks and new media technologies as they relate to conceptions and depictions of haunting.
The identification of the spectral character of data is an important outcome of my application of networked spectrality because it enables proficient users, hackers, and agents of the State to blur the roles traditionally afforded to ghosts, themes of haunting and spectrality. From the spectral architecture of the Internet, to the changes in social behaviour, to the way new media technologies are used to shape politics and policing, networked spectrality offers insights into the cultural work the theme of haunting is evoked to do.