Networks Without a Cause, A Critique of Social Media

Posted: June 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm  |  By: margreet  |  Tags: ,

Networks Without a Cause, A Critique of Social Media by Geert Lovink (forthcoming January 2012)


Author: Geert Lovink
Publisher: Polity Press 2012
Design: Studio Leon Loes

With the vast majority of Facebook users caught in a frenzy of friending’, ‘liking’ and ‘commenting’, at what point do we pause to grasp the consequences of our info-saturated lives? What compels us to engage so diligently with social networking systems? Networks Without a Cause examines our collective obsession with identity and self-management coupled with the fragmentation and information overload endemic to contemporary online culture.

With a dearth of theory on the social and cultural ramifications of hugely popular online services, Lovink provides a path- breaking critical analysis of our over-hyped, networked world with case studies on search engines, online video, blogging, digital radio, media activism and the WikiLeaks saga. This book offers a powerful message to media practitioners and theorists: let us collectively unleash our critical capacities to influence technology design and workspaces, otherwise we will disappear into the cloud. Probing but never pessimistic, Lovink draws from his long history in media research to offer a critique of the political structures and conceptual powers embedded in the technologies that shape our daily lives.



Geert Lovink discusses his book: Networks Without a Cause
Videos: produced by Linda Wallace and shot & camera and editing by Emile Zile
Interviewer: Morgan Currie


Critique of Social Media

Most participatory platforms emphasize a model of weak links (think 'friends of friends') that attract a community just to 'hang out', conveniently for the corporations that exploit our social relationships. Organized networks should be seen in opposition to these social sites and are based on people joining together for a common purpose, building strong-ties among dispersed people, and bringing goal-driven organizing to the internet.
Networks Without a Cause employs net criticism to produce new concepts such as org nets that can scale up out of the blue and bring transformations in the vein of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

Politics of Wikileaks

Wikileaks is an example of a critical concept that blows up from the confinements of web 2.0 and participatory culture. There's no wiki involved, users are not redacting documents. What's interesting isn't Wikileaks itself but how it facilitates whistle blowers to give up sensitive documents online. The big shift is tightened security online, but also more projects that use software and digital media to create a powerful, disruptive phenomena.


Aesthetics of Online Video

Online video provides a social, mobile way of watching, and its database structure can be seen as allowing a proactive audience. But what are the constraints of YouTube, and what alternative platforms of online watching could we see moving ahead?


Society of the Query: From Link to Like

How can we make the politics of the algorithm and culture of search more transparent? How is search influencing our lives? The tremendous switch from learning and memorizing to searching changes our relationship to knowledge. What would alternative search engines look like, and what ethics could they reproduce? How are social network's recommendation engines (do you 'like' my song?) treading into the territory of search?


Anonymity, Facebook and Information Overload

Today our intense cultivation of a singular self is tied up in the drive to constantly produce and update. The image is one of a safe intimate space, but what are the new risks for users as political actors and producers of exploitable data? What possible responses could we have to these online identity traps - should we leave altogether or return to new cultures of anonymity as creative or subversive play?
Also how should we respond to the pressure for constant, real-time presence? We could exercise self-mastery of our devices and promote smart design as we integrate them into our lives.


Principles of Net Criticism

Contemporary critics too often comment from the sidelines. Networks Without a Cause by Geert Lovink (Polity 2012) instead sees criticism as productive for its capacity to develop alternative concepts that can be implemented in design - for this reason the critic's relationship with coders and artists is important. Yet how do these fluid ideas take hold and scale up? How do theorists keep their ideas relevant in the so-called age of hyperspeed? Net criticism responds this fundamental issue by claiming that we should not only theorize about our state, but actively steer it - moving beyond the outsiders perspective towards real strategies of collaboration and cooperation.


Lecture in Bucharest (RO) by Geert on online video

Posted: March 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm  |  By: margreet  |  Tags: , ,


A lecture by Geert Lovink about the Aesthetics and Politics of Online Video at the Universitatea Nationala de Arte Bucuresti (Romania) on Thursday the 21st of March, 17.00.

The UNA gallery, Street no. 10 Budisteanu General.

Check for more information:

Video on Wikipedia – Ben Moskowitz and Michael Dale

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday 11 November, Hilversum
by Serena Westra
After the lunch, the pre-conference seminar continues with three parallel working groups. I joined the working group ‘Video on Wikipedia’, which was moderated by Ben Moskowitz and Michael Dale. This working group was held in a smaller room where all the attenders, about 14, sat around a table. Ben and Michael introduce themselves. Before starting the discussion on video on Wikipedia, they ask us to introduce ourselves and explain our interest in this workshop. There is a big variety of people in the room, from video journalists to hackers and from students to researchers.

Ben starts the discussion. He wants to get rid of the top-down structure of video and broadcasting, and spread video. But how can you do this? Open source software can play a significant role in the solution. ‘We don’t need the entire community to use open source software, as long as a part does.’ There needs to be a standard system and browsers need to support it. The structures needs to be collaborative. Video is already used in Wikipedia. It is working, but can we go beyond it? There are three questions Ben Moskovitz and Michael Dale want to address in the discussion about video on Wikipedia.

First, how do we get content and where does it come from?

Some people in the room try to give an answer to this question, but it is hard to find one that fits. For example, the content can come from the users, like in YouTube, but as Ben says: ‘Wikipedia will never be YouTube.’ How can we convince the mass to spend time on video for Wikipedia? This is incredibly difficult, the tools are immature and there are some technical complications and Wikimedia cultural implications. ‘The people [of Wikimedia Foundation] are very consistent, could be good or bad.’ Another problem is that the best users who contribute to Wikipedia, are a bit resistant about video coming on Wikipedia. Some think it should be purely text based. Geert Lovink disagrees with this point: ‘It was never purely texted based, there has always been use of images and maps’.

There are some other solutions, like Geert Lovink suggests: ‘Maybe we can start with some experts as an example, like TED does only in a slightly different way. It needs to be open.’ Some one else agrees that there are some good examples that work already, like Open Images and Beeld en Geluid. Maybe we can work with them?

Another problem is that if you want to build on this software, you need a really solid base. Wikipedia doesn’t really have this. Do you want to change this too? As Michael Dale points out, Wikipedia is experimenting with software to solve this problem. This is more valuable that something perfect planned to him. Video should be accessible for people all over the world.

The second question of the addressed in the workshop is: What should/will be the relationship between the encyclopaedia and video?

Wikipedia is a genre, it is relatively fixt. Video is going to blow this away. It has to be verified, but how do you use the Wikipedia policy on video? Is it own research? You filmed it. How can you use NPOV [natural point of view] on video? Maybe the existing rules need to be set a side for video. For example, the users could decide if something is neutral. Or, the video can be seen as an artefact. They have a specific point of view, but are a part of a certain context.

What the role of video on Wikipedia will be is a difficult question. The video can be an illustration, supplanting the article or be something else? The people in the workshop can't come to a perfect answer to this question. I guess we have to wait and see how it will turn out in a few years.

The last question addressed in the workshop was: Can the collaborative editing model work with video?

Michael wonders if the open, collaborative editing model of Wikipedia can really work on video. Ben answering this question: ‘no, I’m sorry Michael but I don’t think so.’ But Michael is not so sure about this: ‘the tools can change as well.’ For example, the collaborative model can be realised through editing the basic time line. Everybody can provide a time line; maybe an user can choose the best one. Another example, suggested by Michael, is to create subsections. When you divide the video in smaller bits, which people can own, it is easier to use a collaborative model.
Beside that, according to Geert Lovink, tv, radio and film has always been collaborative. That is what the credits is all about: to see who collaborated.
Another attender of the workshop suggests the sandbox idea: person A has an idea and makes a raw version, person B has a the right technical equipment and can make the movie thanks to the creativity of person A.

However, the problem is not a technical one, as Michael discovered, but a social one. Will the users come? And how will they use it? According to Ben, video will be based on conflict. The video whit the most time and effort invested in it will win.

To find out how video on Wikipedia really works, the group is divided in two parts. The first group is taking a look at the technical elements of Wikipedia, the second group wants to post a video on Wikipedia. By the end of the workshop, they have uploaded two videos. One of them replaced an existing article on the online encyclopaedia, as a small experiment how it works and how long it stands. The second video addresses a new subject on Wikipedia where no article existed about yet.

As Ben and Michael concluded in their workshop, the direction of video on Wikipedia is not clear yet and will show in one and a half or two years. I think we just have to wait and see!

example of video on wikipedia: Polar bear

Wird Facebook auseinanderfallen?

Posted: September 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm  |  By: admin  |  Tags: , ,

Ute Leimbach from Future Zone did an interview with Geert Lovink during the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz from 2 - 11 September 2010. The interview (in German) you can find here:

Der Netztheoretiker Geert Lovink setzt sich seit den 1980er Jahren kritisch mit neuen Medien und dem Netz auseinander. hat mit Lovink über Offenheit im Internet und der Gesellschaft, Onlinebezahlsysteme, die radikale Transparenz der Whistleblower-Plattform WikiLeaks und die Zukunft Sozialer Netzwerke gesprochen.