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

Davin Heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Sun Dec 14 14:59:58 EST 2014

Renate, I don't know that David or Johan were saying that social media is
evil as much as they were pointing out the tendency for people to soften
judgment of tools like Twitter because they have proven useful in this
instance or that instance.  This is the design of something like Twitter…
 with little messages that whistle at us(!)…  using our relationships to
earn our gratitude and personalizing it in the way that Ronald McDonald
could never quite manage.  And, of course, points to the ill uses of these
very same tools for repressive projects.  I took away from these comments a
bit of context, rather than an absolute admonition.

Things become a bit difficult because they deal with the unseen powers of
the web as a repository of ever increasing amounts of human activity, which
are then mined.  We see a tool, and we evaluate it for its relationship to
human users…  but we do not realize that the virtual hammer we grasp when
we start typing tweets is not being help by us at all.  The interface we
type into is not the handle of the hammer, it's the head.  And the hand
swinging the hammer is located elsewhere.  It's a concern that I share with
many others…  we can wrangle over the question of whether or not digital
media is a net harm or benefit based on a comparison of personal
interactions that they facilitate….  but the true test of its power is not
in the personal interactions themselves, but in its capacity to contain
them, coordinate them, and organize them.  It is so funny because the
rhetoric of the digital…  often talking about rhizomes,
deterritorialization, and such….  is creating structures that our eyes
cannot detect, labeled with taxonomies that correlate to definitive machine

Is it discouraging?  Daunting?  Terrifying?  Yes.  What can we do about
it?  My suggestion is to begin with a critique because I don't know what
else to do. It's like asking an artist to stop the glaciers from melting.
Does this undermine Ricardo's contribution to human society?  I don't think
so.  I didn't see any of these comments as directed at Ricardo (but I could
be wrong, as I often am). I do worry when, increasingly, even critical
conversations are being optimized, our vocabularies wedded to hash tags,
our attention spans getting shorter, our interactions more volatile, etc.
Soon, the tools we use to find each other will become the containers for
our thoughts, and entire worlds of sensation will be mapped onto a few
hundred of emojis.  The nice thing about having email or a phone or even a
place to drink a cup of coffee (however unjust the global trade might be)
is that it gives us a chance to talk about these things.

I think I am probably on the side of the apocalyptic.  Or I would be, if I
did not love anyone.  But, if you love someone, it gives you a reason to
think about ways beyond the catastrophe…



On Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 5:43 PM, Renate Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear David, and John,
> Your critiques of Ricardo's post seem unfair to me. Your claim that
> all social media is problematic and that artists who work through
> these platforms in a critical way seems to provide little leeway.  The
> point of an artist using any tool (and social media is a tool) as a
> means to make a critical engagement is what artists have been doing
> for years.
> Are you saying that social media is evil and that therefore we as
> artists need to find other tools?  Is all digital bad so therefore
> artists need to go back to the analog methods of the canvas, paint,
> pencil, and paper?
> It is very difficult for me to imagine that this is what you intended.
> Where would you then position this very list serve -empyre?
> Renate Ferro
> Ricardo writes:
> > 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.  - 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-waynout zone of the apocalyptic-that
> seems to some degree at play in your scholarship.
> --
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art,
> (contracted since 2004)
> Cornell University
> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office:  306
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Email:   <rferro at cornell.edu>
> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>       http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20141213/40109305/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list