Forms of Resistance by Juan Martín Prada

9 04 2009

With the expansion of “social media”, the design of forms of human relationships has become the primary instrumental base of the new economic production. The companies that manage these media produce interpersonal relationships and social life in a highly profitable strategy based on the blurring of economics and communication, from which a new capitalism is emerging which could be called “social” or “affective”.

The management of sociability and personal interactions is one of the main drivers of the bio-political production inherent to the business model of “social media”, which enables the complex systems characteristic of the new, powerful “industries of consciousness” to be put into use. The policies of affection and their production, management and manipulation are actually the aesthetics that characterize the bio-power inherent to this second phase in the Network Society.

Therefore, power in networks has become diffuse, immanent in the connected social body, definitively located within it. We are speaking here not of power but rather of power relationships, as control is no longer a unilateral relationship. Instead, it operates through shifting, unstable power plays based on seductive, diffuse strategies for the circulation and transmission of communicative and affective pleasures.

The primary aim of the large corporations that promote “social media” is that there be nothing we can be against. To that end, they constantly foster the proliferation of strategic plays of liberties and personal initiatives based on participatory logic and pleasurable flows of communicative social activity. Consequently, there is an almost inevitable acquiescence to the economic interests the entire system rests on, given that they are based on the most inalienable aspects of life: interpersonal communication, friendship, contact among people, feeling close to others, etc.

However, resistance to the fascination exerted by “social media” involves first and foremost a political analysis of their operating dynamics, limitations and exclusions. For “to resist” is to reflect critically on the processes of inclusion of the individual in the new network economy and his or her adaptation to it, demonstrating the strategies and effects that characterize the process as corporative interests colonize the forms of human interrelations. And the top priority of new forms of resistance must be an attempt to rescue –although in a merely anecdotal or symbolic way- the principles that currently comprise the foundations of online economic production, which are communication, affection, cooperation, friendship, company, etc., from the control of business.

And as artistic practices may be the most creative dimension of the exercise of this form of dissention, it is logical that their most interesting approaches focus not only on the creation of works about the social conditions of what occurs and is managed in the field of networks, but also and above all on the presentation of the networks as a spectacle in their own right. They should aim to take part in actually structuring the systems of production and circulation of meanings and operating processes, exposing how the new forms of power act in them. As a result, the most critical artistic practices—optimal forms of resistance in the context of the new networks—would be an extreme forecast of the constituent power of the multitude. That is, the world the connected multitude could build at a time of “freed liberties”—that is, of freedom without economy as its parasite—is foreseen constituted by the most critical artistic proposals, always evidence of the demands of interpretive thought and critical and meaningful communication.

In sum, we must oppose the destruction of uniqueness inherent to the connected multitude. That is, stand against the coercive unification of the multiplicity of active individualities comprising that multitude, which corporate interests attempt to simplify to regulate it and adapt it to fit their business models. And perhaps only through this form of resistance will we be able to see what is truly “social” about “social media”.

Juan Martín Prada is the author of numerous articles and essays about digital aesthetics, and of the following books: La apropiación posmoderna. Arte, práctica apropiacionista y Teoría de la posmodernidad (published by Fundamentos, 2001) and Las nuevas condiciones del arte contemporáneo (Briseño Editores, 2003). He is a contributor to many printed and digital publications including journals such as REIS, Red Digital, Papiers d’art, A minima, Temps d’art, Transversal, Exit Books, Exit Press, Mecad e-Journal, or the newspaper La Vanguardia. He has been a member of the Art-Science-Technology commission at FECYT, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. He has a PhD from the Universidad of Madrid (1998) and he is currently a professor at the Social and Communication Sciences School at the University of Cádiz (Spain). He has curated shows of digital media art and since 2007 he coordinates the platform “Inclusiva-net.org” at Medialab-Prado (Madrid).

Tagged with affection, biopolitics, resistance, social capitalism, social media.





Identity As a Multilayered Self in Web 2.0 Environments by Alessandro Ludovico

9 04 2009

The dissolution of the ‘identity’ as we used to know it (before the networks) has led to an ongoing fragmented and fast evolution. In the networked era identities can be formed by extremely varied and juxtaposed layers of the enriched self. This process derives from the constant mediation that internet applies to every identity through multiple platforms and standards such as the popular web 2.0 ones. This leads to multiple partial representations of the self in a multilayered form. What happens is that out of the ordinary physical life, our mind has already started to think in this terms.

We feel our identity not anymore as an indivisible whole, but as composed of different pieces that are deeply and reciprocally influenced by our online experience. Aesthetically wise these juxtaposed layers have different shades of transparency and they are redundant, hosting similar scattered bits of personal content. And the transparency of the self seems to be reflected in different cultural fields. Mainly aesthetically as in the pervading use of glass in public architecture or in the transparency textures of fancy dresses, or functionally in the continuous recording of every electronic move we do. We are then (voluntary and involuntary) coding new parts of our informational body. That’s why real persons can be undistinguishable from the character they should assume on an online platform. The avatar, for example, has evolved from an iconic pixelated representation of the self into only one of the many virtual layers on which we stratify our public presence. Online identities can be typified in a sort of “species” taxonomy. It’d be summarized as: the real person, a real person assuming a famous character and playing as him/her, a real person creating and playing a plausible fictitious character, and finally a computer generated and self-sufficient character. Cheating in an online profile is as common as the projection of a desire or an emotion on a networked environment, and in the end conscious and unconscious emotions are actively building the enriched self.

The emotion of triggering off a new or re-enabling an old human relationship, for example, is one of the most precious goods that social network platforms sell to customers. In a certain sense, it can be pushed to the extreme, as Ramsay Stirling does in his “Internet delivers people”, with user identities being analyzed as the final goods traded on the net. But it’s not only about emotions and meeting of individualities. It’s also about the intertwining of the different relationships that starts to move on the matrix where the loosely attached piece of the self move onto. The hundreds of Facebook “friends”, coupled with the offline ones, and the others scattered on the other different platforms are writing a sort of automatic narrative that can always be dreamed as “fatally wonderful” at some random point. In this sense “The Big Plot” by Paolo Cirio is a multifaceted plot that after creating the intertwining paths between its four protagonists let user create other characters that would interact with them in a quite engaging and complex narrative. This narrative involves the so-called “alternate reality game”, then actively implementing a part of it in real life as well. This “recombinant fiction” results then quite close to our multi-mediated and multi-dimensional self of the everyday. This injection of reality into the screen-based relationships is then definitely balancing the fictitiousness of programmable illuminated pixels with the flesh of reality. This definitely adds a stable character of fluctuation to the self, that varies continuously and in multiple forms the individual position in the contemporary mediated social landscape.

Alessandro Ludovico is a media critic and chief editor of the Neural magazine  from 1993. He is the author of several essays on digital culture, and he co-edited the ‘Mag.Net Reader’ book series. He’s one of the founding contributors of the Nettime  community, one of the founders of the Mag.Net (Electronic Cultural Publishers) organization. He teaches at the Academy of Art in Carrara  and is a research fellow at the Willem de Kooning Academy . He also served as an advisor for the Documenta 12’s Magazine Project. With Ubermorgen and P.Cirio he developed ‘Google Will Eat Itself’ (Honorary Mention Prix Ars Electronica 2005, Rhizome Commission 2005, nomination Prix Transmediale 2006) and ‘Amazon Noir’ (1st prize Stuttgarter Filmwinter 2007, Honorary Mention Share Prize 2007, 2nd prize Transmediale08) art projects.

Tagged with alternate reality game, facebook, identity, plot, web 2.0.





Tag Ties and Affective Spies by Daphne Dragona (exhibition curator)

9 04 2009

subjectivity – collectivity – production – consumption – exposure – surveillance – affection – exploitation – participation – resistance…

The social web, commonly known as web 2.0, is characterized by promises and contradictions. In the new public spaces of the social platforms, people meet, communicate, interact and inter-define themselves while they are being creative and productive, they spy and they are being spied . They make friends wishing to find common points of reference. They seek a feeling of “familiarity” and “belonging”. If as Virno has noted, the fear of the contemporary multitude is that they are “not feeling at home”, the social platforms of the web 2.0 suggest a model for new “common spaces” that function as a shelter. The users of networks such as the YouTube, the Facebook or the flickr upload photos, videos and comments in order to share beliefs and experiences, to communicate and connect and – above all – to form and support their own subjectivity.

The wishes and the needs of today’s users form and structure today’s internet. By tagging, linking and posting, a form of labour which is immaterial and affective develops the content and the navigation of the web. Folksonomies, today’s web taxonomies, which are based on users’ creativity, sociality and affection, phase out forms of objective hierarchy and static appearance. Everything becomes changeable, interconnected and rhizomatic; personified, exposed and exploitable. The controversial character of the social web brings out new questions: What happens when taxonomies and structures become social? How is the affective element exploited by the market? What is the role of the users who are producers and consumers at the same time?Such issues are tackled by the creators who are working on art and new media. A basic feature of their work is the utilisation of the medium itself for its subversion. The structures, the contexts, the features and aesthetics of the social web become the tools of this new form of art practice that are used in a playful, ironic and cynic mode in order to de-structure and redefine it.

Tag ties and affective spies presents a selection of online works that move in this direction and highlight the different aspects of the social web. They therefore refer to its human and affective character [We Feel Fine], to the way the networks feed and influence our everyday lives [L’ attente – the waiting] as well as to the inability of the users to transcend borders, prejudices and beliefs when forming their online identities [Folded in]. They question the actual possibility of the users to form the content [IOUs] and they present how the user still remains a victim of the companies, offering now his subjectivity as a product [Internet delivers people]. They point out how the social media themselves can record and reflect the current trends of the users using their own contributions [ A tag s life] and how they can also construct fake realities [The big plot]. With a sense of humour, they refer to the redemption of language by the internet companies [Dadameter] and they encourage users to escape the conventions and the formalisms the social networks cleverly impose [delicious – winning information, Subvert] .

These creative approaches are not romantic, nor utopian. Their authors, who work within the networks and are dependent on them, recognise and mark out that their heterogeneity and their multicultural aspects render them powerful and vulnerable at the same time. The aim of these practices, which has also been termed as net art 2.0, is not to condemn the social media but to instigate users, who share, exchange and invest their thoughts on the social web, to realise and contemplate the ways these networks function. In a way, creativity is being introduced once again to remind us, in the current social context, the right of disobedience that is crucial for the liberation of networking and interrelation from modes of surveillance, control and exploitation.

* Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of Multitude, Semiotext(e), 2004

** Prada, Juan Martin. “Web 2.0 as a new context for artistic practices”. Antisocial Notworking, http://project.arnolfini.org.uk/projects/2008/antisocial/

Daphne Dragona is a media arts curator and organiser, based in Athens. Her exhibitions and events the last few years have focused on the notion of play and its merging with art as a form of networking and resistance. She has been a collaborator of Laboral Centro de Arte y Creacion Industrial (Spain) for the international exhibitions Gameworld and Homo Ludens Ludens and of Fournos Center for Digital Culture (Greece) for the International Art and Technology Festival, Medi@terra. She is a also PhD candidate in the Faculty of Mass Media & Communication of the University in Athens conducting a research on social media and a member of the Media Arts Collective Personal Cinema.

Tagged with affection, participation, resistance, subjectivity, web 2.0.





MEDIA ART 2.0 (MANIFESTO) by Aristarkh Chernyshev, Roman Minaev, Alexei Shulgin

9 04 2009

Today, when any critical artistic statement is drained of its power within the rigid frameworks of the unilateral capitalist world, a critical artist can no longer create while contemptuously looking down at commercial art and design that is governed exclusively by market laws.

At the same time as it becomes smarter and more refined, capitalism intrudes into most revolutionary, autonomous, and secluded areas of human activity. This is not to suggest that avant-garde art creation always stood in opposition to capitalism. The modernists, taking part in the evolution of design, worked in factories developing furniture and fabrics in order to bring art to the masses. Parallel to the evolution of Dada, the ready-made, and later, pop art, the theory and philosophy of art and culture contemplated the balance between the poles of capitalism and art, unique and mass-produced objects, high and low culture, professional and amateur, practical and dysfunctional. As the newest weapon of capitalism, information technologies dictate new social and cultural contexts and within these, uncover new challenges.

Our answer to the dilemma: Media Art 2.0

Media Art 2.0 goes beyond the limits of new media art

New media art today consists overwhelmingly of one-of-a-kind works presented by the authors themselves at festivals and specialized exhibitions. As a rule, such pieces are high-maintenance and complex in configuration — and thus are destined to remain in a media art ghetto. We propose all-in-one plug-and-play solutions. Media Art 2.0 presents art objects as technological products that are ready to be consumed here and now by anyone.

Media Art 2.0 is market-friendly art

We produce a limited number of copies (like Ferrari) and sell them at affordable prices (like Sony). This is possible because we develop our own reliable electronic devices and thus do not depend on overly complex multi-functional digital systems. Each piece has a unique edition number and the authentic signatures of its authors. We also offer limited lifetime warranties for our products.

Media Art 2.0 goes beyond the know-how of IT corporations

These corporations are not capable of transcending the pragmatism of their products. While attempting to enrich their products with artistic qualities, corporate designers follow the path of banal adornment — decoration with gold, Swarowski crystals, and diamonds — which raises the price and renders the products “exclusive.” Such an approach does not make a mobile phone or an MP3 player a work of art. Limited lifetime of electronics contradicts the apparently “eternal” value of the decorative materials.

Media Art 2.0 is the answer to the stagnation of the art market

It proposes a solution when the art market acquiesces to the demands of traditional art forms and is incapable of digesting truly contemporary artistic ideas. Our products harmoniously combine actual art, up-to-date techno-culture, design, and media art. We return to the roots of the avant-garde and occupy our own niche in the system of capitalist production and consumption. We address advanced consumers who are not satisfied by mass products – whether cool design gadgets or the endlessly reproduced traditional art forms.

Media Art 2.0 is the avant-garde of today

We return to art the things that design borrowed from art at the beginning of the 20th century: the search for new form and content; the artistic experiment as play; and the joy of everyday life. We live in a world of visual interfaces. Televisions, print advertisements, politics, shop-windows, show-business, internet services, bank systems are primarily interfaces whose task is to shape the process of information transfer and the translation of ideas. Working with visual interfaces, we make them visible and tangible. We uncover the structures of today’s world. This approach fills our products with a critical charge. In answering the challenges of today, we flush clean the media channels and establish new standards. By infiltrating public spaces and private homes, we bring art and alternative aesthetics into people´s everyday lives.

Moscow, June-September 2007.