Personalities Without People
This talk discusses a phenomenon I call “Personalities Without People,” using as a case study a big data psychometrics company, Cambridge Analytica, and its activities in U.S. politics. I suggest that psychometrics is an example of a predictive data practice that is eroding traditional notions of “self.” I will also share examples of my artwork, in which I further call to question the position of the self or the human, in data, looking at the self’s constitution, transmutation, and disappearance in data.
Perspective collectives of the shared self
I will discuss a series of videos and installations made between 2009 and 2017 composed of fragments of large archives of first-person videos, all but one of the archives found and shared online. Out of the archives I create sonic and visual montages of collective assemblies that offer harmonic or dissonant melodies of the contemporary shared self. The work explores contemporary identity as the intimate and singular intersects with the public and collective, shaped within and pushing against the constraints and ideological underpinnings of commercial technological forms.
This presentation will explore definitions of authentic actions within network algorithms and how these do or do not relate to mediated values of “reality” and “truth.”
Anonymous–the masked activists who have contributed to hundreds of political operations around the world since 2008–were perfectly positioned to earn the title of cyberterrorists. In this talk I consider the various factors, especially the role of the Guy Fawkes icon and mask, that allowed them to narrowly escape this designation.
Fabio Cristiano & Emilio Distretti
Along the Lines of the Occupation: Playing at Diminished Reality in East Jerusalem.
Augmented reality enables videogame experiences that are increasingly immersive. For its focus on walking and exploration, 2016 Niantic’s location-based videogame, Pokémon Go (PG), has been praised for allowing players to foster their understanding and relationship to surrounding spaces. However, in contexts where space and movement are objects of conflicting narratives and restrictive policies on mobility, playing relies on the creation of partial imaginaries and limits to the exploratory experience. Departing from avant-garde conceptualizations of walking, this article explores the imaginary that PG creates in occupied East Jerusalem. Based on observations collected in various gaming sessions in the city, it analyzes the ways in which PG’s representation of Jerusalem legitimizes a status quo of separation and segregation. In so doing, this article argues that playing in East Jerusalem, instead of enabling an experience of augmented reality for its users, produces a diminished one.
Marx identified ways capitalism produces its own gravediggers. What, then, is the corresponding move in communicative capitalism? I look to the “commoning of faces” as a possibility. To explore this commoning, I develop the idea of ‘secondary visuality’ as a feature of communicative capitalism. Reflecting on the repetition of images and circulation of photos as communicative practices, I present secondary visuality as an effect of communication that blends together speech, writing and image into something irreducible to its components, something new. With secondary visuality, faces lose their individuating quality and become generic. Faces in common push back against the individualism of contemporary capitalism, suggesting a way that it is producing new possibilities for collectivity.
Can the Dividual Self be Organized?
This presentation asks whether the “dividualization,” or segmentation, of the contemporary self in a myriad electronic transactions can be considered as a point of departure for the emergence of new processes of subjectivation. According to Gilbert de Poitiers, a unuum dividuum is a singularity that is divisible and governed by the principle of similarity. As compared to the individual, which is governed by the principle of dissimilarity and distinction, a dividual can be easily combined with other dividuals that share some properties with it. Nowadays, “con-dividual” assemblages that emerge from the combination of dividual transactions can be found everywhere in the online world, from financial derivatives to Big Data to networks of infected computers known as botnets. But if this type of condividuality is predicated upon an algorithmic reduction of heterogenous elements to homogeneous data sets, there is also a condividuality that can be conceived as a process of becoming different. For this to be possible, we will have to look for a type of con-dividuality that is not a functional interaction of dividual components, but emerges instead from a shared ethos and a memory of its prior individuations.
Digital Subjects and the Capturing of the World
The face has been traditionally regarded as the site of authenticity, the mark of presence, unique subjectivity and truth. In the recent years, the face has become affirmed even more as such, – through the impetus to create an online presence for the face, and self, through selfies and other pictures. Face on social media becomes an authentic proof of presence. At the same time, on a different scale, the face has become the new fingerprint. Facial identification via documents such as a biometric passport has doubled up with automatic facial recognition. Having to present your face is a condition for a technique of governance, where face acts within the apparatus of capture. In this talk I argue that the current regime of data assigns the face and the body the status of the “real world,” itself an update on the notion of biopolitics, to generate forms of abstraction that anchor upon the indexical promise of the body and of the biometric “truth”. The data realities then process the bodily and the symbolic alike, layering and stitching whatever abstractions into the new maps available for recruitment by different forms of power.
Heretical Facial Machines, or the Ambivalence of Faciality in the Politics of Digital Dissent of Anonymous
Deploying heterogeneous media actions under a shared moniker is one of the key aspects of the digital resistances of Anonymous. The multiple-use name of Anonymous implies a radical, collective form of subjectivity that allows minor processes of subjectivation, guaranteeing the continual proliferation of differences (Deseriis). Accordingly, Anonymous connects to a longer lineage that had opposed the emergence of always-novel power relations, but this time confronting with the mass distribution of digital networks. Furthermore, Anonymous deploys its media resistances under a common face/mask, which signals the decisive involvement of processes of faciality in its active media resistances. The process of making (or ‘dis-making’) a face – or faciality (visagéité) – is a political affair, since despotisms hierarchically originate faces with the objective of separating from otherness and defining themselves (Deleuze and Guattari). The employment of a common visage – the white face with black moustaches – in Anonymous is a heretical stratagem. It is the attempt to turn around despotic facial machines without taking a reactive path that returns to pre-modern, idyllic collective facial traits. However, this is a very ambivalent process too: it allows the reformation of asymmetries, which are key to strike distributed power nodes, but it equally entails specific power relations, because the many forces at play are caught under one leading face. This paper discusses the politics of digital dissent of Anonymous arguing that its potency of active resistance resides precisely in the ambivalent attempt to originate a refraining point, a temporary crystallisation that stratagematically operates as a fixation of heterogeneous assemblages: a face/mask that allows the (un)stable manifestation and deployment of various media actions, a face/mask that is able to let multiplicity swarm and combine within the possible creative outputs that are continually originated.
Disaster in the Second Plane: Selfies as Indirect Reports of Unsafe Reality
Self-portraits, precursors of selfies, were commonly described in terms of impossibility and discontinuation of the self-perception and self-mediation (Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind, 1993), or a limited world set in front of the viewer, the mirror in which someone was perceiving the own self. Still, with mobile phone imaging technology with incorporated wide lenses and selfie sticks controls, much more space is depicted as – «the world behind a back» of a selfie-maker. Such a «world behind a back» reports on people dying in hospitals, suicidal people jumping from the bridge, or even bomb explosions and terrorist attacks, similarly to CNN-s live reports from disasters sites… Reality becomes yet another story, and at first, it seems that it does not make much of the difference if it is the Auschwitz or another tourist site behind. But, the second plane can be described in terms of the epistemology of the image, in which the world is becoming a secondary, mediated experience in general, a world whose direct perception become a painful experience. And the mediation of reality, clearly, is a quote from the mass media report.
The divided Subject – A new Definition of the Online Self
Considering the current response on social media platforms to nationalist reactions toward migrants and refugees in Europe, the first thesis of this paper will be that social media users are acting within a framework of power, institutions, economy and politics. Since they are no longer understood as a (passive) audience but as a part of the system, they are participants. It is therefore important to ask about the role of social media in international politics. Following Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, political identity, and, as a result of this, the social selfunderstanding, cannot be stable. A society’s identity is produced through the defining of social groups and the claim of dominance of one of these groups, resulting in the repression of other groups. Thus the constitution of hegemony evokes strategies of hierarchy (Antonio Gramsci). The paper will discuss how we find this strategy in all social media platforms, and will argue that social media structures accept this cultural separation in order to stabilize a social and political hegemony. To explore the state of the online self, it is important to scrutinise the political role of online communication, which seemingly encloses the users in their social, cultural and political environment. In this light, some media and communication theorists argue for a new perspective of collectivity that describes a ‘dividual’ form of behaviour and communication (Michaela Ott, Gerald Raunig), leaving the subject divided into data records, presumptions and likeliness by the political-economic capitalism of online platforms. But unlike the ‘individual’, the ‘dividual’ enables new forms of resistance. We can understand this as a new heterogeneity, which re-creates our understanding of ‘community’. The ‘dividual’ describes processes of evolution and continuous change, resulting in new perspectives on self-determination, which includes social and political acting. To design new models of subjectivity, we need a higher understanding of the politicised aspects of an increasingly mediated communication. In a medial context, theoretical constructions of social hegemony, power and political self-understanding are important for digital communication. As social media formats reflect political actuality and, in consequence, reality in form of everyday life, the paper will argue that we need a new definition of the online self and its representational capability.
Jillet Sara Sam
I use Bourdieu’s conceptual framework to examine the #selfiewithdaughter campaign initiated by the Indian prime-minister, Narendra Modi, in June 2015. It employs these conceptual tools to examine the becoming of the digital self-as-citizen in the context of the #selfiewithdaughter campaign. To do so, I focus on the construction of empowerment – who can empower whom and how – in the announcement of this campaign through the PM’s popular radio broadcast to the nation. It also considers who could and did post selfies – fathers, mothers or daughters – to participate in this campaign. Critiques initiated against and through participation in this selfie campaign are also considered. I argue that in the digital political field, the limits of the digital self-as-citizen are set both by gendered habitus and the struggles between heterodoxy and orthodoxy around gender norms.
Hoax: Israel’s Occupation and the Digital Arts of Repudiation
Over the course of the last ten years, the language of “the fake” has been increasingly taken up by right-wing Israeli publics, and their international supporters, as a way to manage the digital field of Palestinian testimonial images and videos – that is, eye-witness videography, circulating chiefly on social media, documenting state violence against Palestinians in the occupied territories. Within the Palestinian West Bank, the growing penetration of smartphones and internet connectivity have, in the last few years, enabled a growing visual archive of these damning testimonial videos. Today, the repressive violence of Israeli military rule, as filmed from the standpoint of its Palestinian targets and victims, is available for global consumption in something close to real time. The Israeli discourse of fakery attempts to solve the political problem of this damning exposure by stripping the online visual field of its Israeli perpetrators and its Palestinian victims. This essay charts the range of digital strategies, and amateur online forensics, employed by right-wing publics as they attempt to cleanse the digital field, mindful of the long history of Israeli repudiation tactics with which the current digital project resonates.
Daniel de Zeeuw
Anyone-Subjectivity and the Grotesque Media Body: Performing the Impersonal Self in Anonymous Imageboard Culture
Anonymous imageboards like 4chan continue to defy the trend towards persistent personal identity that has become the new normal in social media culture and the platform economy. With its emphasis on the unique, individual face, the profile picture is one of the main emblems of this new paradigm. By contrast, 4chan gave rise to a different configuration and cultivation of what I call an “impersonal” self. I will discuss two exemplary representations of this impersonal online identity: the “stock avatar” and the “naked man behind the computer” memes, which I analyze by means of the concepts of “anyone-subjectivity” and the “grotesque media body”.