[-empyre-] Next level the Zapatistas

Gradecki, Jennifer j.gradecki at northeastern.edu
Fri Feb 12 03:06:48 AEDT 2021

I’m so happy to see the Zapatistas and temporary autonomous zones referenced here by Ana. I think the Zapatistas can continue to serve as a model for radical tactics to assert autonomy against a seemingly insurmountable techno-capitalist regime. We’ve seen examples this month of swarming tactics used by artists who are critically engaging with social media. Grounding these recent projects in this history may help us to see more possibilities for ways to organize. In a time of hyper-individualization, bypassing the cult of the leader, as Ana describes it, and looking to alternative models such as rotating leadership and syndicalist tactics for building solidarity can provide us with good countermeasures. 

It’s great to hear from Brian Holmes. I completely agree that artworks can function as epistemological artifacts that offer an embodied experience that can register on emotional and intellectual levels simultaneously. I think it’s important to move beyond a conception of the viewer/participant as a fully rational actor, especially when dealing with topics like microtargeting, which seeks to manipulate users with well-worn propaganda techniques, and social media monitoring, where decisions are made within a socio-technical apparatus that can influence judgments with algorithmic labels (a social media post being pre-labeled as a threat) and the montage or juxtaposition of media (the order in which an analyst sees content can shape their perception of whether or not something is a threat). 

I think it’s also an important point that tactical media artists today are navigating a highly polarized social sphere and it can be tricky to avoid further polarization, especially when dealing with overtly political topics. We found this to be the case with our social media game WarTweets [1], which we started working on as soon as Trump was elected. As he was running for President, it was already clear that he was going to incite violence through his Twitter account. When his Twitter account was declared to be a designated public forum, so he couldn’t block users, and it was determined that the Presidential Records Act applied to his account, we wanted to encourage people to register their opinions so it would become part of the official public record. In the game, Trump’s tweets are missiles that players intercept by actually tweeting at Trump. When we exhibited the work, there were two main responses: some players were hesitant to participate because they were worried about pro-Trump trolls targeting them, while others found it to be quite cathartic and hilarious. And online, some pro-Trump Twitter users sent us nasty messages and tweets, while others seemed to think that the hashtag #WarTweets was actually in support of Trump. Once players registered for the game, they could play by simply using the hashtag, but this seemed to be lost on some Trump supporters, who just started using it without playing the game. The dividedness of the responses seems to reflect the state of the US electorate in some ways. This project was the most blatantly political work we’ve done, which seemed appropriate when we started the project, but considering the current state of extreme polarization, employing a bit of ambiguity and subtlety could help to draw participants in and may prevent further polarization. 

I wanted to end with a question for Geert, in the hopes that he will elaborate on his compelling Five Year Plan. In point 1 of the plan, you mention that there are many reasonable social media alternatives that are currently available. I’d love to hear more about these alternatives, and any thoughts you might have on how mass exodus could become possible. 

1.	WarTweets: http://www.war-tweets.org/

Jennifer Gradecki, PhD
Assistant Professor, Art + Design
Lake Hall 213A


On 2/10/21, 8:35 PM, "empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Ana Valdés" <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au on behalf of agora158 at gmail.com> wrote:

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