[-empyre-] Week 4 - a nod to Guattari and the Krokers as we head into the last week on Social Media: algorithms, untruths and insurrection

Justin Blinder justin.blinder at gmail.com
Tue Feb 23 15:10:45 AEDT 2021

Many thanks to Renate, Ben, and Tim for inviting me to join this
urgent conversation. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discussions thus far
and am excited to take part.

Like many here, I’m curious about how we might confront mechanisms of
surveillance capitalism, especially when they feel like totalizing
assemblages. Much of my artistic practice engages with political
economies of data collection, analysis, and visualization. I wanted to
share two projects that feel relevant to the ongoing discussions.

I’ve found much resonance in Ben and Leo’s work on obfuscating
behaviors, especially ways of co-opting existing technologies as a
form of resistance. For instance, I’ve been working to name some of
the constituent dynamics of how information is shared on dominant
social platforms, and experimenting with creating alternative
platforms that attempt to recontextualize them. The first project was
motivated by questions of how curation is controlled and enforced, and
how misinformation proliferates. Specifically, I kept wondering about
the slippery dynamics between what is considered official, what is
shared overtly, and what is shared passively.

My initial investigation into these areas resulted in Dumpster Drive
[1], a file-sharing tool that allows users to share their digital
detritus with one another. Using dumpster diving (digging through and
reclaiming  physical detritus) as a distribution model, the software
creates a sharing network that lets users repurpose files that others
delete. Downloading the Dumpster Drive application creates a virtual
dumpster on each user’s desktop that sits alongside their default
“trash bin.” Users can remove files from their hard drive by placing
them into this collective dumpster. These files then become available
for the Dumpster Drive community to claim. When a user downloads a
deleted file, it is permanently deleted from the collective dumpster,
so that each discarded file can only be repurposed by one user.

Through this work, I aimed to interrogate different potential pathways
of sharing and engagement, ones that could resist commodification,
behavioral tracking, and controlled curation. What might passive
models of online sharing-- whereby content isn’t shared with the aim
of algorithmic and clickbait curation-- look like? How do we share
personal artifacts while avoiding these algorithmically curated
panopticons altogether?

I really appreciate Jennifer and Derek’s fascinating and crucial
interventions, especially in how they tactically grapple with COVID-19
misinformation. In addition to how social media plays a significant
role in the spread of pandemic misinformation, I want to draw
attention to how social media also operates in ways that inure the
public to accurate information. Whether by obfuscating accurate data
or through information overload, social media has also helped fuel
“pandemic fatigue,” whereby many express feeling desensitized to any
discussion of the very real, dangerous effects of the COVID-19 virus.

In response, I created Pandemic Pulse [2], an application that drains
a computer's resources at the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths
in a user’s location. It exhausts CPU power at the rate of local
infections and dims the screen at the rate of local COVID-19- related
deaths. The application recontextualizes relevant statistics about the
pandemic and tries to make them relatable and tangible on a personal
level. As social media platforms algorithmically curate statistics and
overly reductive COVID-19 charts/ maps on feeds to encourage
doom-scrolling, these platforms are also commodifying epidemiological
data and victims of the virus. Within this calculated onslaught of
information, can tactical modalities re-sensitize many of us to the
macro-impacts of this virus?

Both of these projects attempt to reconfigure certain apparatus of
social media (platforms) in order to make them deeply felt and expose
the behavioral repercussions of surveillance capitalism. I think that
alternative, speculative tools and platforms can create important
dialogic spaces. These could help others analyze and confront power,
control, and transactional structures within social media.

I look forward to hearing more from others on potential modes of
resistance to mass (mis)information, surveillance capitalism, and

All my best,

[1] https://justin.work/#/dumpster-drive/
[2] https://pandemicpulse.io/

On Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 1:57 PM Renate Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>  Many thanks to our Week 3 guests who joined us:  Alex Taek-Gwang Lee, Robby Collins, Domenico Barra, Paul O'Neill, Kerry Guinan and Ricardo Castellini.  I invite you to stay on this week if your schedule permits.  It has been so generous of you to share your work, research, and thoughts. I will also welcome warmly Justin Blinder, Rahul Mukherjee, David Quiles Guilló, and Ulises Mejias for joining us this week.  We look forward to their own contributions as we head into the end of this month's discussion, Social Media:  algorithms, untruths and insurrection
> To those of you who have been following all of the contributions have extended our thoughts on surveillance capitalism, but I would like to lead us into next week particularly thinking about Alex's insightful post from a few days ago. Here is the link to Guattari's article he cited, Towards a Post-Media Era. https://www.metamute.org/editorial/lab/towards-post-media-era
> Thanks for that Alex.  I also reposting the last sentence of your post which I think might be interesting to think about as we head into next week,
> <snip>There is no perfect Big Brother in surveillance's mechanical function, but many potential resistances within them because its control always fails. This is the reason why we should organize the possible resistance against mechanical governmentality. <snip>
> I want to also nod to our colleague and friend in Western Canada, Arthur Kroker and Marylouise Kroker who passed away last year.  Their collaborative work on these issues and more have been seminal to me.  I share their edited collection published in 1987, Digital Delirium.  If you have a university connection you may be able to link in to this https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/handle/1828/7131 or pick it up via the internet.  It is really worth the read from beginning to end.
> In a nod to both Marylouise and Arthur I will quote this substituting in my mind's eye social media for mass media:
> "Mass media have never been about reciprocity, exchange, interaction, or even communication.  They replace reciprocity with false simulation, exchange, with the tyranny of information overload producing a numbed culture that shuts down for self-protection, interaction with a dense operational network substituting polls and focus groups and high -intensity marketing warfare for genuine solidarity, data for communication and speed for meaning."
> So, hoping that the juxtaposition between Guattari and the Krokers will incite all of you who have joined in so far to comment as well as those of you lurking from afar.
> Best,
> Renate
> Biographies
> Justin Blinder is a Brooklyn-based artist, technologist, and researcher. His work examines how bottom-up, immersive, and poetic approaches to technology can help us to better understand socio-political institutions, built environments, social networks, and others’ lived experiences. His work has been included in exhibitions at the MoMA, New York, NY; Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York, NY; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany; the Collection Museum, Lincoln, England; Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI; Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, New York, NY; and BRIC, Brooklyn, NY. Selected personal projects of his have been featured in online publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, BBC, The Guardian, and The Verge among others Justin is currently a Research Assistant in the City Science group at the MIT Media Lab. He was previously a Creative Technologist at The New York Times R&D Lab, Eyebeam Honorary Fellow, and NEW INC member. He holds a BFA in Design and Technology from Parsons.
> https://justin.work/
> Rahul Mukherjee completed his doctoral studies in Film and Media Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, with graduate emphases in ‘Technology and Society’ and ‘Global Studies’. His academic preoccupations often meander into imaginings about media’s role with(in) alternative futures for/of politics and technology. He has been a fellow at the Center for the Humanities, Utrecht University and Atkinson Center for Sustainable Future fellow at the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University (2017-18). Drawing on the conceptual lenses of cultural studies, media theory, and science studies, he has written on database management systems, advertising cultures of mobile telephony, Bollywood thrillers, development discourses, chronic toxicity, and translocal documentaries. He has been part of two collaborative projects related to mobile media practices: one concerned with the circulation of locally produced SD-card enabled music videos in parts of India and the other exploring ICT usage in Zambia. Rahul’s work has appeared in many peer-reviewed journals including New Media & Society, BioScope, Media, Culture & Society, Science, Technology and Human Values, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (with Lisa Parks), and Asiascape: Digital Asia (with Abhigyan Singh). His book titled “Radiant Infrastructures: Media, Environment, and Cultures of Uncertainty” (forthcoming from Duke University Press, Apr 2020) involves mediations of debates/controversies related to radiation emitting technologies such as cell antennas and nuclear reactors. Rahul’s second book project “Unlimited: Aspirational Politics and Mobile Digital Practices in India” examines aspirational mobilities unleashed by mobile media technologies (under review). He is beginning a third book project on the histories of wireless signals and plant ecologies interwoven in the work of biophysicist JC Bose. Rahul received the Nicholas C. Mullins award from the Society for Social Studies of Science in 2014. At Penn, Rahul is part of the Digital Humanities and Environmental Humanities initiatives. He is part of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Visual Culture and Media+Environment.
> David Quiles Guilló. born artist in 1973. now also tech entrepreneur, curator, writer, composer and full publisher at large with a family. right now: working on a new project, incubated by telefónica's open future alicante, and warming the jets for the 5th edition of the wrong biennale. founder and director of: - The Wrong Tv (since 2o2o) live streaming exhibitions & love - 7tNbjV (since 2017) releasing abstract literature graphic novels and art projects as paperback books - Abstract Editions (since 2o15) publishing house to deliver the new abstract literature genre printed to the world - The Wrong Biennale (since 2o13) the most compelling digital art biennale ever - Nova (from 2o1o to 2o12) a contemporary culture festival - Rojo® (from 2oo1 to 2o11) a visual magazine & platform to promote creativity and visual art lectures & workshops in many institutions since 2oo1; mis museum for image and sound, sesc paulista, sesc pompeia and cinemateca brasileira in são paulo, sesc copacabana and eav parque lage in rio de janeiro, centre d’art santa monica, elisava school for arts & hangar in barcelona, european cultural foundation in rotterdam, university of málaga, casino luxembourg, arco art fair in madrid, instituto cervantes in nyc and casablanca, hagaram design museum in seoul, university of art in linz, pxl-mad school of arts in hasselt, and saic, school of the art institute of chicago, to mention a few https://davidquilesguillo.com
> Ulises Mejias
> Ulises Ali Mejias  is professor of communication studies and director of the Institute for Global Engagement at SUNY Oswego. His research interests include critical data studies, philosophy and sociology of technology, and political economy of digital media. Ulises' work has appeared in various journals in his field and he is the author of "Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World" (2013, University of Minnesota Press) and, with Nick Couldry, of "The Costs of Connection: How Data is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating it for Capitalism" (2019, Stanford University Press). Ulises is co-founder of Tierra Común (tierracomun.net), a network of activists, citizens and scholars working towards the decolonization of data, and he is in the process of launching a Non-Aligned Technologies Movement (nonalignedtech.net). He serves on the board of Humanities New York, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. ulisesmejias.com.
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Associate Professor
> Director of Undergraduate Studies
> Department of Art
> Tjaden Hall 306
> rferro at cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu


Justin Blinder Technologist, Researcher, Artist


+1 617.645.0327

More information about the empyre mailing list