Background information about the Unlike Us research network can be found here.

Date: March 22-24, 2013
LocationTrouwAmsterdam (Wibautstraat 127, 1091 GL Amsterdam, The Netherlands) & MediaLAB Amsterdam (Studio HvA, Wibaustraat 2-4, 1091 GM Amsterdam, The Netherlands)


Click here to view the full program on Issuu (opens in new tab)


Friday, March 22


09:30 – 10:00 | Doors open, coffee and tea | TrouwAmsterdam
10:00 – 12:15 | Session 1 | TrouwAmsterdam

1. Theory and Critique of ‘Social’

What is the meaning of ‘social’ when social media like Facebook and Twitter are structured around the individual from the start? Social seems to require a form of collective that isn’t to be found in these networks. Let’s take the theory and critique of ‘social’ a step further, towards rethinking the power relations between the social and the technical in what are essentially software systems and platforms. We are more and more aware that social media aren’t just happy-go-lucky neutral platforms; while at the same time it’s too easy to dismiss them as the bad boys of capitalism. How to understand the social networking logic? Even if Twitter and Facebook implode overnight, the logic of befriending, liking and ranking will further spread across all aspects of life.

Moderator: Geert Lovink (NL)


Bernard Stiegler (FR)
Social Networking As a Stage of Grammatization and the New Political Question

Social networking and engineering are dimensions of the digital stage of a process of grammatization that began thirty thousand years ago. With the advent of digitization, psychic and collective memory as well as social relations have all become objects of exchange value. What this means is that, given digital technologies are organs of publishing, that is, of the production of public space and time, digitization is a process of privatization of the public thing – of the res publica. Privatization here means: commodification. In short, what is occurring is the destruction of the psychic and collective process of individuation that began with the Greek polis. Furthermore, the domination by those giants that are Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon is possible above all because very little genuine work is being done on the stakes of digitization by either the academic sphere or the political sphere.

Petra Löffler (DE)

A History of Distraction From a Media-Archaeological Perspective

Petra Löffler will reconstruct the rise of a notion of distraction as distributed attention and the role it has played in articulating modern modes of perception, especially the reception of modern mass media like cinema. In doing so, she will focus on the gawker or gazer as a figuration of a mass audience which has to distribute attention in order to react on different stimuli almost simultaneously. Such a media-archaeological perspective can help to understand why nowadays distraction again has become a hotspot of cultural criticism.

Tristan Thielmann (DE)
Account-Able Networking: Harold Garfinkel’s Contribution Towards a Theory of Social Media

Tristan Thielmann draws paradigmatic parallels between the development of ethnomethodology and media studies by outlining Harold Garfinkel’s theoretical and praxeological contributions to social media research. Based on the analysis of his “Sociological Theory of Information”, Thielmann demonstrates how the thingification of information within accounts determines the agency of communicative nets. Social media are, therefore, distinguishable from other document-based media mainly through their increased accountability. Taking this into account, it is possible to expose patterned socio-techniques already described by Garfinkel in the 1950s that remain characteristic of the web today.

12:15 – 12:30 | Launch: Unlike Us Reader Launch | TrouwAmsterdam

The Institute of Network Cultures is proud to be launching its first-ever Unlike Us Reader, the eighth reader in its collection. It offers a critical examination of social media, bringing together theoretical essays, personal discussions and artistic manifestos. How can we understand the social media we use everyday, or consciously choose not to use? We know very well that monopolies control social media, but what are the alternatives? While Facebook continues to increase its user population and combine loose privacy restrictions with control over data, many researchers, programmers, and activists turn towards designing a decentralized future. Through understanding the big networks from within, be it by philosophy or art, new perspectives emerge. Contributors include Bernard Stiegler, Leighton Evans, Seda Gürses, Spideralex, Harry Halpin, Ippolita, Vincent Toubiana, Simona Lodi, Marc Stumpel and Lonneke van der Velden.

12:30-13:30 | Lunch | TrouwAmsterdam
13:30-15:15 | Session 2 | TrouwAmsterdam

2. Are you distributed? The Federated Web Show

The best way to criticize platform monopolies is to support alternative free and open source software that can be locally installed. In the Federated Web Show we are setting the terms of decentralization. A lot of alternative social networks are being developed with the aim to give users greater power, for example over their data. Just think of Lorea or Diaspora. Which choices have to be made for a decentralized design and what are the traps? Is it necessary to take the sharing individual as a starting point of the network? A different kind of social networking is possible, but there are many questions to attend to. Are you ready for constant decision-making? How deeply does your trust in the community you share your data with reach? In a lively talk show, guests on stage or participating on screen discuss the possible future of decentralization and concepts for alternatives. Open or closed, commercial or anarchistic, distributed or centralized: join the Federated Web Show.

Moderator: Seda Gürses (BE)


Capo (Cyberspace) and Spideralex (ES) from Lorea
The Lorea project creates secure social cybernetic systems, in which a network of humans will become simultaneously represented in a virtual shared world. Its aim is to create a distributed and federated nodal organization of entities with no geophysical territory, interlacing their multiple relationships through binary codes and languages.

George Danezis (UK)
George Danezis is a researcher and advocate of online privacy. His interests include anonymous communications and peer-to-peer and social network security. On the design side, he has worked on the traffic analysis of deployed protocols such as Tor and is a lead designer of Mixminion, an anonymous remailer.

Harry Halpin (US)
Harry Halpin is a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C/MIT) Team member, under the direction of Tim Berners-Lee, where he leads efforts in social standardization and cryptography. His work is aimed at evolving the web into a secure platform for free communication in order to enable collective intelligence. Halpin contributed to the article “Collective Individuation: The Future of the Social Web” in INC’s Unlike Us Reader (2013).

Reni Hofmüller (AT)
Reni Hofmüller is an artist and activist in the areas of new media, free software, open hardware, technology and politics in general. She is a member of the Institute for Media Archeology.

Vincent Toubiana (US)
Vincent Toubiana is an engineer at the IT expert department of the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL). His PhD research focused on web search privacy and privacy preserving behavioral targeting.

VIDEO: Arvind Narayanan (IN/US)
Arvind Narayanan is an Assistant Professor in Computer Science at Princeton. He studies information privacy and his research has shown that data anonymization is broken in fundamental ways. Narayanan contributed to the article “Unlikely Outcomes? A Distributed Discussion on the Prospects and Promise of Decentralized Personal Data Architectures” in INC’s Unlike Us Reader (2013).

15:15 – 15:30 | Q&A with Peter Olsthoorn | TrouwAmsterdam

Peter Olsthoorn (NL)
Interviewed by Geert Lovink

With The Power of Facebook, Dutch IT journalist Peter Olsthoorn wrote a ‘journalistic bible’ about many aspects of the 1 billion-person empire and areas of tension on Facebook: its kitchen secrets, privacy and marketing, crime and surveillance, terrorism and revolution, sociology and philosophy, ICT principles, Mark Zuckerberg and the money. His book was published in a long and short edition in Dutch last year and will soon be released in English. Olsthoorn is both a fan and critic of Facebook, as he is of the Unlike Us movement. He argues for the possibilities of Facebook to become a real social network and an extension of the open internet, with open trade in privacy as an asset. Geert Lovink will discuss his views in a short interview.

15:30 – 15:45 | Coffee and tea break | TrouwAmsterdam
15.45 – 17.30 | Session 3 | TrouwAmsterdam

3. Political Economy of Social Networks: Art & Practice

What better way to counter political economical issues than by art and creativity? Artists play a crucial role in visualizing power relationships and disrupting the daily routines of social media usage. Artistic practice is also a tool for analysis, as artists are often first to deconstruct the familiar and present an alternative vision. How can we imagine the political economy of the social – whether on the big and closed platforms or on newly arising alternatives? Artists and researchers talk about creative projects questioning and criticizing the commercial side of social media. What alternative visions do the arts present towards free labor, commodification, alienation and the like? And how do they manage to keep out of the web of economics themselves?

Moderator: Miriam Rasch (NL)

Simona Lodi (IT)
Art as Networked Machinery: When Art Becomes Anti-Social for Being More Social

An inquiry into the assumption that artists are not just aesthetic mediators, but also social mediators who use networks to redefine relational and media space. Simona Lodi gives a process-oriented analysis that relies mostly on a set of common-sense terms, such as ‘networks’, ‘users’, ‘people’, ‘artists’ and ‘connections’, in social and political performances. By uncovering the artists’ methods, she delves into the multifaceted levels of human activities, their networked machinery and the actions of art. The underlying question concerns the relationship between technology and art. Technology does not invent new art forms by itself; rather it opens up new possibilities for artists. In this sense, the artist’s function is no longer that of conveying traditional values and thoughts. Instead, artists are intermediaries who offer audiences new values and perceptions based on their interaction with an original approach to networked technology as an alternative economy and common system.

Benjamin Grosser (US)
Facebook Demetricator and the Easing of Prescribed Sociality

The Facebook interface is filled with numbers. These numbers, or metrics, measure and present our social value and activity, enumerating friends, likes, comments and more. Benjamin Grosser presents his software intervention called Facebook Demetricator. Demetricator allows Facebook’s users to hide these metrics. The focus is no longer on how many friends one has or on how much people like their status, but on who they are and what they said. Friend counts disappear. ‘16 people like this’ becomes ‘people like this’. Through changes like these, Demetricator invites Facebook’s users to try the system without the numbers, to see how the experience is changed by their absence. This open source browser add-on thus aims to disrupt the prescribed sociality these metrics produce, enabling a network society that isn’t dependent on quantification.

Karlessi from Ippolita (IT)
Minds Without Bodies: The Rites of Religions 2.0

In performance societies, we need help to be at the level of our online identities. Social networks are caregivers, through a series of rituals that make us feel part of the people networks. The good shepherds of the digital ‘good news’ automagically lead us to the green pastures of freedom. Priests, gurus and martyrs of online sociality instruct us on what tools to use, how many times, where and with whom. They warn us against viruses; they protect us from the bad guys, at reasonable prices: we just have to say always, here and now, what we think, believe, want. Who our friends are. This feeds Big Data’s algocracy that makes us obedient sheep to the radical transparency, the key-value of performance societies. Others are: emotional pornography, the cult of ephemeral creativity, the holy war for the extension of connectivity everywhere, moral panic against net-wolves threatening children online. How to imagine self-managed, immanent rituals?

VIDEO: Interview with Richard Metzger (US)
When Richard Metzger published his article “Facebook: I Want My Friends Back” on, it quickly went viral. The article outlined how Dangerous Minds’ Facebook reach suffered after the introduction of Promoted Posts. Metzger shares his experience and critique in a short video interview.

Hester Scheurwater (NL)
Shooting Back

“The mirrored self-images encompass my private fantasies. They are my way of reacting on the imitated and fake media images, which are constantly calling upon our imagination, without intending to be taken too seriously. I try to deconstruct this call’s effect with my reactions by switching the ‘subject-object’ relationship, without being victimized by it. My self-images show I am not a victim of an imposed sexually charged visual culture, instead I give a self-aware answer, in which I try to show my feelings and/or views on the unreal and fake imagery, which is forced upon us daily. This series of photos emerged from a collection of daily uploads on Facebook and my personal blog. In the digital public space, I try to reinforce the exhibitionist nature by presenting them in the context of a living room or a living room setting. In this context exhibitionism and voyeurism come together.”

Tobias Leingruber (DE)
The Future of Identity in a Digital World

With more than 1 billion (monthly active) users Facebook is the dominant identity system on the web. When signing up for new services around the open web it’s quite common and sometimes mandatory these days to use ‘Facebook Connect’ instead of creating a new and independent user account. People stop ranting on blog comments because those only allow comments connected to a ‘real name’ or ‘Facebook identity’—‘til the end of time. For the good or bad we are losing anonymity and Facebook Inc. is establishing order in our digital world. The project “Social ID Bureau” draws a possible near future of Facebook Inc. actually giving-out ‘real life’ passports ( Leingruber will give an overview on this project, the vision and where we are today. How is Facebook Inc. already controlling our digital identities and inf luencing our everyday lives? Where are the issues and what are the opportunities?

20:00 – 22:00 | Facebook Resistance | MediaLAB Amsterdam

Workshop with Tobias Leingruber and Marc Stumpel
Facebook Resistance is a creative intervention and research initiative that focuses on the ways to change Facebook’s rules and functionality from inside the system. Its aim is to investigate and instigate modification of the platform to make it better suited to the users’ needs and desires, e.g. changing Facebook’s color. In this workshop we gather to reflexively resist hierarchical decisions in the programming of the software with browser hacks. The participants are given the opportunity to experiment with browser hacks in order to go beyond the ‘default freedom’ that restrains users in customizing the Facebook interface and features. Join us to modify your Facebook profile and experience it like never before! Bring your laptop. No programming knowledge required. Please RSVP to larissa[at]networkcultures[dot]org.

20:00 – 22:00 | Hackathon Catalyst | MediaLAB Amsterdam

With proposals by: Spideralex (Lorea), Vesna Manojlovic (Technologia Incognita), Eleanor Saitta (Briar) and others
The Hackathon Catalyst aims to explore alternative social media trajectories. We get together, pitch projects and provide the conditions to start working. The discussions at the Catalyst will provide a basis for Sunday’s hackathon. Proposals will be pitched by Vesna Manojlovic from Technologia Incognita (the Amsterdam Hackerspace), Spideralex from Lorea (an alternative social network), Eleanor Saitta from the Briar project (a secure news and discussion platform) and others. Lonneke van der Velden will moderate. Please RSVP to larissa[at]networkcultures[dot]org.


Saturday, March 23


11:00 – 12:30 | Social ID Bureau | MediaLAB Amsterdam

Presented by Tobias Leingruber
Next time someone needs to “see your ID” – How about showing a Facebook ID card instead of the documents your government gave you? On the web this is common practice for millions of people already. The Social ID Bureau is handing-out personal identification cards for a limited number of Facebook Social Network citizens, interested in alpha testing. Be the first among your friends to pick-up your social identification card and explore the future. Please RSVP to larissa[at]networkcultures[dot]org.

11:00 – 12:30 | Unlike Us Coordination Meeting  | MediaLAB Amsterdam

Everyone is invited to this town hall-style meeting to help plan the next Unlike Us conference and the future of the Unlike Us initiative. Topics for discussion include the location for the next conference and areas of research to be explored.

12:30-13:30 | Lunch | TrouwAmsterdam
13:30 – 15:15 | Session 4 | TrouwAmsterdam

4. Mobile Use of Social Media

Everyone agrees: mobile is the next big upheaval, changing what we know about social media all around. Location matters. Tagging space and time and adding location information and context prolongs data value into new complexities. Users are embracing Facebook with their smartphones, causing trouble to revenue streams and thereby making it even more apparent that the user is the commodity. Meanwhile Facebook has developed a clever strategy to lock-in new users in the emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America by inventing the Facebook SIM Card and free apps for feature phones. You can now make friends on a black and white 200-character screen. For many first-time connected users Facebook becomes the default. Tracking mobile data streams in real time provides a gold mine that has only just been discovered. Who are the key players in the mobile data business and what are their practices?

Moderator: Oliver Leistert (DE)


Leighton Evans (UK)
Buying and Selling People and Places: The Political Economy of Mobile Social Media

The emergence of mobile phones in society has provoked theoretical and popular debate for three decades. As phone technology improves in developed markets and gains footholds in others, the possibility of a political economy of mobile phone usage becomes clearer, and while there are technological differences in the phones used, there are similarities in the commoditization of people and places. In the West, smartphone technology with GPS capability allows for databases of place to be constructed and data sold based on user generated content. In the developing world, ‘dumbphone’ technology allows for less sophisticated but equally effective commoditization of usage and location. The commoditization of place through user – generated content demands an examination of emerging power relations in light of ubiquitous mobile computational technology, and how social capital and commoditization intersect in the new media world to reconfigure the experience of place and the visibility of places to users.

Marion Walton (ZA)

Prepaid Social Media and the Mobile Internet in South Africa: Patterns in Young People’s Mobile Discourse

Mass appropriation of mobile messaging by young people in South Africa has placed texting and (more recently) many-to-many communication via the internet within the reach of many. Marion Walton tackles ongoing issues of differentiated access to and use of mobile communication, and particularly the specificities of mobile-centric access to the internet. These differences have important implications for the mediatization of talk in general and political talk in particular, via new interfaces to political discourse. Examples come from some recent qualitative studies of youth mobile participation in South Africa, highlighting the specific local patterns of adoption and participation, in particular the influence of differential commodification of mobile communication, the tiered functionality of phones and local preferences for Bluetooth over more costly forms of online media sharing, and case studies of participation via messaging on Mig33 and MXit profiles, comparing them to participation in a popular Facebook group.

Nathan Freitas (US)

‘Checking-In’ for the Greater Good

What secret power of mobile technology is it that has such a profound effect on reducing the inhibition of those that come in contact with it? Why is it that acts which no one would perform in view of a CCTV security camera (which would only be seen by a few), are commonly done in front of a higher resolution mobile phone camera that can instantly broadcast to millions? There is something intoxicating about the real human connections made through these devices, that dramatically changes risk tolerance of the participants. Our task is to figure out how to harness this behavior to have a net positive impact on the world, as opposed to just scoffing at its narcissism. Can ‘check-ins’ be transformed into ‘sit-ins’? Can an instagram of your dinner be used to battle Genetically Modified foods? Can we find a balance between security and social? Join us to find out!

15:15 – 15:30 | Coffee and tea break | TrouwAmsterdam
15:30 – 17:15 | Session 5 | TrouwAmsterdam

5. Facebook Riot: Join or Decline

The tendency to praise Twitter and Facebook for their revolutionary powers has mostly passed. We might even think first about the London riots and Project X when it comes to the mobilizing qualities of these networks. Still, the concept of ‘liberation technology’— information and communication technologies that empower grassroots movements—continues to influence our ideas about networked participation. Could there even be something like #Occupy without social media? Activists use social media to further their goals, but in that way are also dependent on the platform. Is a non-commercial, free and open network essential in that respect? But then, how do you reach as many people as possible? How do social media and the control issues of internet influence the practice of protest? Governments can use the same social media tools for surveillance, propaganda or detection. We need to envision organized networks based on strong ties, yet open enough to grow quickly if the time is right.

Moderator: Mirko Tobias Schäfer (NL)


Miriyam Aouragh (UK)
Social Media as Damocles Sword: The Internet for Arab Activists

The Arab revolutions were based on people-power rather than imperial regime-change. With the help of the internet this unique bravery had global ramifications as it transcended the local, thereby inspiring activists in Wisconsin, Barcelona, Athens and Amsterdam alike. But the role of the internet during political change balances between its empowering and disempowering implications. There are two difficulties with the ‘liberation technology’ approach: first, a peculiar fascination with technology (‘Facebook Revolution’) that echoes previous civilization narratives (Arabs awaking by the availability of non-native modern technologies); second, the celebratory projections overlook other (offline) dynamics and consequences and little emphasis is given to the negative impact of neo-liberalism, such as the geo-political interests in the distribution of counter-revolutionary internet tools. The highly contentious case of Syria demonstrates that local activists have gained some but also suffered a lot from the internet. Surveillance tools and extensive counter-revolutionary social media pages are two of the venue points that help to indicate the power structures.

Simone Halink (NL)
Dutch Data Requests: Fighting for Transparency

Over the last couple of years, Bits of Freedom has been fighting for transparency of communications surveillance. Such transparency is required to ensure that this measure is only used if provided by law, necessary, and proportionate to a legitimate aim. Until now, the Dutch government has provided very little information on communications surveillance—despite repeated requests for more transparency. This refusal as well as the Dutch careless attitude towards wiretapping, is reason for grave concern. Simone Halink of Bits of Freedom will share experiences and strategy in fighting for transparency of communications surveillance in the Netherlands.

Thomas Boeschoten (NL)
Project X Haren: Participation and Mobilization on Facebook

Prior to the 21st of September 2012, media speculated about the possible outcome of a party that was originally proposed on Facebook and had virtually grown to epic proportions. After what seemed an innocent invitation at first, it turned out that thousands of people turned up and finally the evening ended in riots. Thomas Boeschoten discusses the role of Facebook and its design elements in a broader context of youth culture, media attention and the authorities to gain insight into how this could have happened.

Simona Levi (ES)
TACTICS 2.0: Learn in the Net, Act Everywhere

Some practical notes about the type of struggle that has been constructed over the past few years in Spain. The previous struggle—for the defence of the internet and sharing—has been crucial for arriving at the #15M movement. Firstly for the maturity it has created, which cuts right across all layers of public opinion, both in terms of defending something that belongs to it and is in danger of being snatched away—the neutral internet—and secondly in terms of ethical ways of relating to others. Now, thanks to those skills we have learned on the net, we are evolving to a highly effective way of fighting back and to constructively hacking the system. Simona Levi will show some examples to explain why something new is really happening.

21:00 – 01:00 | Social-R-Us Party | Op de Valreep

On Saturday night, we can relax and enjoy visuals by Freyja van den Boom and background music by the Unlikables. The finishing touch will be provided by Eindbaas, a DJ duo that will be playing nostalgic “chip tunes” from game consoles favourites like Nintendo, Atari and Sega. The venue is a former animal shelter-turned squat and creative space. Join us for a unique night out in Amsterdam! Entrance is free.

View larger map


Sunday, March 24


12:00 – 19:00 | Hackathon | MediaLAB Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Hackerspace, Techologia Incognita, will present a full day hackathon in the MediaLAB Amsterdam. The hackathon will build on the proposals presented at Friday night’s Hackathon Catalyst. Please RSVP to larissa[at]networkcultures[dot]org.