[-empyre-] Social Media Use across Campaigns for Social Justice

Davin Heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Sat Dec 13 06:10:40 EST 2014

This is a great thread here.  I think it is important, as David notes, we
conflate the efficacy of specific instances of use (this campaign or that
campaign) with the fact that it is really just a blank kind of power.  What
I see more readily is the real difference between a top down deployment of
categorical notions under the old media to crowd sourced categories of
thought.  What Twitter is really good at is in refining the many divergent
notions and boiling them down to a basic hashtag or concept…  So, instead
of Walter Cronkite dictating the basic terms of the debate for tomorrow's
water cooler conversation, we supply vocabularies, often idiosyncratically,
and then these are the things that we use.  What used to take analysts and
focus groups, we have streamlined.  But in the end, we end up with
rigorously policed concepts that are, perhaps, even more potent for the
fact that we can no longer operate under the negotiated or oppositional
postures that one forms in relation to top down media.  Now, we interact
directly with the normative communities that manage the encoding and
decoding of a specific set of terms…  So, as humans relate to humans, there
is a difference.  I am reluctant to declare this difference significantly
better than what came before it…  like any powerful institution at its
peak, we tend to see its glory and will blind ourselves to its flaws as
long as it is working for us.  It is potent because it is reduces and
channels social activity, while offering the feeling of an expansive and
unfettered potential.  In this way, social media is a refinement of
neoliberal individuation and presentation of self (so much so for being a
"public space" on private property).

My own participation with Twitter-based netprov performances has me
convinced that any group of people conversing actively enough over Twitter
can forge concepts that attain a kind of substance through discourse.  Over
and over again, I have seen purely imaginary accidents converted into
events that can be discussed at length.  And I have seen behavior steered
by through the cooperation of cunning players.  The degree of affective
involvement in something that is complete and utter moonshine is what makes
netprov fun.  And, after playing in this way, I have found that it has also
robbed me of some of the pleasures of earnest social media use by unveiling
its process.  Sure, you can do good things with it.

But more than the human process of hegemonic wrangling over meaning, there
is the point that John Cayley brings up: the machine participant in this
activity.  Where we experience a kind of affective stimulation as we see
divergent opinions and eccentric words filed away into a coherent
trajectory…  the machine watches with with a vision that is at once
microscopic and macroscopic.  And, it too, adjusts and nudges and massages
our work of consensus until it becomes useful.  In the most basic ways,
this machine vision can give the old powers access to vocabularies that
will tickle our ears in various ways.  And, publics will join their voices
to the old powers, effectively advertising the success of the platform.
But this is the most rudimentary use. As John notes, "the power of Big
Software" is happening.  The only reason to sink so much capital into such
a resource is the safe speculation that it will be able to contain and
control our process of making meaning and make it into a commercial good
for the people who have invested in it.


On Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 11:09 AM, Tim Murray <timm750 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thank you, Ricardo.  as also evidenced by the posts of Richard and Rahul
> this week, it's the nuanced approach to social media of activist artists
> and organizers that we have hoped to hear about this week.  What you have
> taught us over the years is how one miight shift platforms of art and
> protest in response to fluctuating expressions and manifestations of
> power,  Thanks  so much.  timp
> Sent from my iPhone
> > On Dec 12, 2014, at 9:15 AM, Ricardo Dominguez <rrdominguez at ucsd.edu>
> wrote:
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Hola Tod at s and David,
> >
> > While the research and scholarship you present is extremely important to
> > consider
> > and to understand. It also assumes that artists and activist have no
> > critical awareness of these issues of power above all things or below all
> > things (of algorithms or robots), and I think this wrong. At least for me
> > since my days  (80's) with Critical Art Ensemble, ACT UP, and spending
> our
> > days and nights reading Adorno to Virillio, from the Pentagon Papers to
> > the SCUM. Manifesto, working with the Zapatistas and Electronic
> > Disturbance Theater in the 1990's and now under the weight of Cloudy
> > Empires etc., - we have never been utopian about technology or imagined
> > the power and computing in the 20th century would be or become platforms
> > of justice or concern. But we also did not want to fall into the no-way
> > out zone of the apocalyptic-that seems to some degree at play in your
> > scholarship.
> >
> > And I would add that this critical stance allowed us to continue to
> > consider the importance of being in as artivist in support of social
> > justice causes (of being advertisement or the platforms of concern) who
> > would use whatever means to do it-including current expressions of the
> > technological.
> >
> > Finally, a number of artivist and activist are investigating type exodus
> > protocols to
> > become what Max Headroom called "blanks."
> >
> > Thanks for all your research links and pushing us to consider other
> types of
> > powers-without-concern.
> >
> > Best,
> > Ricardo
> >
> >
> >> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >> On December 10, 2014 at 11:37:36 AM, David Golumbia (
> dgolumbia at gmail.com)
> >> wrote:
> >> power does not know social justice, however we construe that term. it is
> >> just power.
> >> On December 10, 2014 at 11:37:36 AM, David Golumbia (
> dgolumbia at gmail.com)
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >> it is everywhere in the scholarship on social media in particular: "I'm
> >> going to look exclusively at the thing I consider good and how social
> >> media contributes to it, and put aside any consideration of the things I
> >> consider bad." That's not scholarship: it's advertising.
> >> Power does not know social justice and neither does algorithm or robot.
> >> Rather, now, the power of Big Software - more or less explicitly
> >> overdetermined by venal human desire - constructs systems of
> >> algorithmically driven robots in its service. The robots are reactive
> and
> >> generative in the sense that they react to symbolically structured
> >> cultural forms and then generate (more from less) cultural forms which
> are
> >> fed back to human subjects and also to other robots and systems.
> >>
> >> Big Software now builds these networked computational systems chiefly
> and
> >> massively to render commerce (not art or politics or culture or anything
> >> else except perhaps the flourishes of 'entertainment media') as
> >> frictionless as possible: by facilitating real tractions (between
> capital
> >> and its (co-)subjects) and by advertising hyper-effectively on behalf of
> >> capital. Big Software - McKenzie Wark's vectoralists - must make their
> >> income by charging capital for 'services.' But they have also discovered
> >> (and I will only briefly touch on this real, historical injustice) that
> >> they are easily able to steal Big Data from people everywhere merely as
> an
> >> unregulated function of the self-stated 'terms' of 'use' for these
> >> 'services'.
> >>
> >> Social Media is perhaps the most important manifestation of this
> pathology
> >> of sociopolitical economy.
> >>
> >> In so far as we may no longer be able to 'build our own' systems of
> social
> >> media, and in so far as the algorithms and robots of real existing
> social
> >> media are designed by and in the service of this pathology, I believe
> that
> >> there is an argument against Social Media as we know it. Social Media -
> in
> >> the form of robots and algorithms - will tend, inevitably, to generate
> >> more and more in the way of pathological cultural forms addressed to
> human
> >> subjects, regardless of those subjects intentions in terms of social
> >> justice or its opposite or anything else.
> >>
> >> And this is quite apart from the historical fact of Big Data theft and
> >> accumulation that is routinely and tacitly accepted as a function of the
> >> pathology - our contemporary pharmakon as Bernard Stiegler has it - with
> >> and within which we must try to live. The uses and values of all that
> >> 'data' (and it's not really data anyway, its only everything that our
> >> devices can so far collect) are all but entirely beyond democratic
> >> control, let alone beyond our control as individuals or progressive
> >> institutions/collectives.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> empyre forum
> >> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> >> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> >
> >
> > --
> > Ricardo Dominguez
> > Associate Professor
> >
> > Visual Arts Department, UCSD
> > http://visarts.ucsd.edu/
> > Principal Investigator, CALIT2
> > http://bang.transreal.org/
> >
> > email: rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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