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The Symposium Unintended Consequences: Has the Internet created a social myth too big to fail? took place on November 19th, 2012 at La Trobe University, 215 Franklin St., Melbourne, Australia Paper Tigers is thankful for the support of the Humanities department at La Trobe University, and to the many emerging and established scholars who have contributed to the spreading of academic, publishing, and creative ideas in our off-/online community. Created in 2012, Paper Tigers is a postgraduate student-led initiative that aims to create and support a network of emergent scholars and artists in the academia. Working with ideas in and around the arts and humanities, Paper Tigers aims to stimulate contemporary discourse in both and professional and educative context, at collaborative meetings and through online publications and discussions. Publication Editors: Emily Ashman Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier Eloise Ross Contributors (in order of appearance): Markus Breen, Scott McQuire, Hugh Davies, Jenny Kennedy and Alex Lambert Publication Date: September 2014 Layout: Claire Selby Cover and internal images: Renuka Rajiv, 2013, http://pithbull.blogspot.com.au Photographs: Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier Contact: Centre for Creative Arts c/o Media: Screen + Sound La Trobe University Bundoora, Vic 3086 Australia website: www.centreforcreativearts.org.au email: info@centreforcreativearts.org.au ISBN: 978-0-9871189-0-5

Centre for Creative Arts Humanities & Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne VIC 3086 Fax:+613 9479 3638 CentreCreativeArts@latrobe.edu.au www.centreforcreativearts.org.au

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Images: Renuka Rajiv, 2013 Centre for Creative Arts | Humanities & Social Sciences | La Trobe University

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Introduction by Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier

The Internet in all its multifaceted appearances has become a stable and reliable factor in our everyday. The scope of recent discussion around it, though, seems to have taken the dynamic shape of a rollercoaster ride oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. A symposium held in November 2012 gave a diverse group of scholars the chance to present their individual take on the possible ‘unintended consequences’ of the Internet, and predict how these consequences, whether anticipated or unforeseen, will impact their particular fields of research. The intention for the symposium was to create a space for collective discussion and (re-) consideration of the Internet’s vast area of impact. We aimed to identify integral factors that have determined, and continue to define, our shifting relationship to the Internet. We also attempted to clarify how expectations for an overarching social mythology of the Internet have remained in touch with its fluid state of development. Given the variety of opinions and the complex and intertwined nexus of economics, culture, and technology in the scope of our symposium, we decided not to focus on a general discussion of economic models behind the Internet. Instead, the scholars concentrated on “unintended consequences” in the rampant development of Internet they have encountered in their field of research and whether these unintended consequences have let them reconsider existing social mythology of the Internet. Our hope was that this focus would bring particular details to light that would help to analyse integral factors that have determined and continue to define our concepts of the Internet, and help to identify where observation is mingled with ideology and resulting social

mythology. The invited speakers chose the following subjects for their presentations: For Marcus Breen, who gave the keynote at the symposium, the Internet is posing fundamental challenges to the notion of ‘freedom’ in society. Marcus has previously conducted research on the online circulation of transgressive knowledge where he set his focus on Internet pornography and jihadism. His main concern is the amount of ‘psychic suffering’ inflicted by the infosphere of the Internet and the consequences for civil society when we become ‘unable to make choices, apply decision-making strategies or reflect’ because we live in a surrounding of emotional and intellectual overload. In his polemical conclusion presented at the symposium he argued that the current state of the Internet poses a threat to knowledge in a Kantian sense: ‘superficially the current conjuncture is about the struggle between business capital and intellectual cosmopolitanism, while it is actually the possibility of thought.’ Scott McQuire elaborated on the relationship of the urban space and the Internet. His formulation of urban space sees it as a new kind of performative, as well as predictive, public space. He elaborated on the impact of the Internet in contemporary urban public life with reference to Paul Virilio’s notion that the ‘accident’ in every new invention creates its own sense of unexpected repercussions. Virilio considers the erratic and unpredictable scope and scale of the Internet’s viral mishaps an ‘information bomb’ that explodes concrete notions of intentionality, cultural progress, and valuations of positive or negative consequences for the social good. In short, McQuire emphasised an ambivalence within new technologies such as the Internet, that incorporates the co-existence of multiple and sometimes contradictory forces, actors and trajectories. Hugh Davies presented on the politics and apolitical

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Following Marcus Breen’s polemic, the symposium aimed to reflect on the challenges of the digital paradigm of the Internet and the consequences it has posed on society at large - let them be anticipated or unforeseen.

appearance of participation, the economic dimension of this realm of social interaction and its performative nature, which the Internet sets loose, has culminated in social practices like crowd sourcing and gamification. Targeting not simply the digital ephemeral of the Internet, Hugh pointed to its surrounding material objects, and the design ethos of digital devices which exist as status symbols entangled in an economy of class and desire. Coming from a fine art and media production background, Hugh proposed a deconstruction of the promise of agency and empowerment in the socio-techno setting of Internet participation between ‘playbour’ and ‘interpassivity.’ Both notions critique the often propagated notion of ‘untapped potential of user communities as well as drawing attention to the idea that ‘this apparently simple activity of participation exists within a highly developed network and politics of consumption.’

vision is subverted, such as unintentionally witnessing torture and pornography online, Lambert argued that the undesired moment of spectatorship has become so ubiquitous we must confront it in ways that go beyond traditional theories of voyeurism. We must first attempt to understand what it means to bear witness to the intimacies of others on sites such as Facebook, before we rush to look away or critique them. Following Marcus Breen’s polemic, the symposium approached the question whether the Internet can serve as explanation for a particularly acute contemporary ‘thoughtlessness’. A notion, on which not all presenters agreed on. However, Breen’s insistence on the intellectual challenges the Internet poses on us, certainly provided a stimulating starting point to critically reflect on the current affairs around the Internet and its unintended consequences.

Jenny Kennedy discussed the economic fallacies of social practices like ‘online sharing.’ Social myths propagate the belief that sharing frees the individual to develop a sense of virtual self, while establishing new friendships or connections. This, therefore, supposedly satisfies our desire to be a well-rounded personality, onand offline, as well as our desire for popularity; sharing simply makes us ‘feel good.’ However, embedded into the framework of sharing is an extensive industry of data collection and market research that fuels an economy of site traffic and monetary profits largely unrecognised by the users that supply the content. Users are vulnerable to become victim to the fallacy of sharing more of themselves than they would perhaps ‘like.’ Alex Lambert explored the unintended consequences of social media such as Facebook, particular in regards to having to bear witness to the social lives of our online friends. While much has been said about how Facebook seems to encourage and satisfy the desire to see and be seen, Lambert argued that our ever mediated relationships and identities can also produce the ‘desire not to see’. Drawing on other contexts in which the agency of

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Images: Renuka Rajiv, 2013

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Marcus Breen

Unintended Consequences: Is Rethinking Possible? Marcus Breen is Professor of Communication and Creative Media at Bond University, Gold Coast. He has worked as a researcher, academinc, consultant and a journalist in Melbourne, Brisbane and the US where he taught at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Northerastern University, Boston. In April 2013 he became editor of The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society.

My original intention at the symposium in Melbourne was to offer some comments about Transgressive Knowledge. In Uprising: The Internet’s Unintended Consequences (2011) I suggested that the Internet offers a fresh and unique way for human beings to ‘know,’ in the Kantian sense. That is, to connect our sentient selves with rational-logical imperatives that lead us to ‘maturity.’ As human beings the ultimate goal of maturity is constituted by social and personal emancipation. Or as Kant put it in The Critique of Pure Reason: ‘the concept of freedom … constitutes the keystone of the whole structure of a system of pure reason’ (1996). Seeking emancipation is in itself transgressive and should be central to any claims we make to be critically engaged intellectuals. What we actually do once we achieve the condition of emancipation is the ‘intellectual, moral and political question,’ as Dudley and Englehard noted, echoing Kant himself (2011, p. 4). This articulation of transgressive knowledge with the Internet inspired concept of emancipation and the resulting analysis was all well and good until I read the notes sent around by the symposium organisers. They asked: ‘to what degree’ do we need ‘to rethink our current ideological and practical conceptions of the Internet?’ This question prompted a transgressive moment of my own, a kind of resistive hiatus thanks to the prompting of the organisers. Is it possible to rethink? Before we arrive at rethinking, is it even possible to think? In an epoch where the Internet is imbricated in everyday life, surely cognition and related categories of rationality are up for grabs?

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There seems little doubt then that the conditions for terror have come about as the systems of civility have shrivelled within the superstructures of everyday life.

Furthermore, as the symposium notes asked, is it possible to rethink ‘Utopian applications’ in this era? Clearly, the move from thought to utopianism assumes that thought continues into action. And yet the logic is based on assumptions about the embedded human element that strives for emancipation even as the transgressive question is asked: is thought possible? If that question is permitted the logic of the domino effect becomes obvious. Cognition collapses along with knowledge as we have known it. Within that dynamic the conditions under which we live have changed. My theory is that the fragmentation of everyday life in the Internet era is characterised by enormous amounts of energy generated to capture fragments of emancipation. As humans we share knowledge of the instinct for freedom that operates as part of the circulation of many fragments. However, within the dominant headlong and digitally mediated rush to freedom, the feeling we really share is terror In reaching this point I am indebted to seminar organiser Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier for pointing me to a short essay by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, ‘Reassessing recomposition: 40 years after the publication of antiOedipus’ (2012). Berardi suggests that the current situation is described by the term ‘psychic suffering.’ The kind of mental anguish that tracks into terror is a condition that should not be set aside as a poststructuralist, psychoanalytic cul-de-sac. Terror is a descriptor of the prevailing mental condition provoked by the madness of high-speed materiality. Indeed, Berardi suggests that psychic suffering is produced by ‘hyper-expressive compulsions, from competition and acceleration of the infosphere’ (2012). While it makes sense to pull back from the abyss of terror by claiming the more manageable category of ‘psychic suffering,’ it is necessary to acknowledge that death, the end point of life, has always been philosophically recognised as a point of terror. The difference now is that terror is upon us for two reasons. Firstly, we cannot keep up with the information in the infosphere, to bring it into a knowledge formation in order to be

rationally managed. And secondly, terrorism itself stalks us. It is no wonder that in Berardi’s scenario, ‘a new consciousness of exhaustion’ is upon the world, where cognition has reached its limits. As I suggested in Uprising, fundamentalism is the response to Internetinduced terror. It is also the manifestation of the Internet’s unregulated communication, which I sought to capture in the redefinition of proletarianisation. There seems little doubt then that the conditions for terror have come about as the systems of civility have shrivelled within the superstructures of everyday life. That is, civil society is now difficult if not impossible to realise. As Michael Hardt argued:  The decline of the paradigm of civil society correlates to a passage in contemporary society toward a new configuration of social relations and new conditions of rule. This is not to say that the forms and structures of social exchange, participation and domination that were identified by the concept of civil society have ceased entirely to exist, but rather that they have been displaced from the dominant position by the new configurations of apparatuses, deployments and structures (1998, p. 30) Keeping in mind that this comment is hardly contemporary, the new configurations now have the Internet front and centre and as such have been determined by it. This means that thought is disarticulated by the Internet from civil society and civility, the term that describes civil society’s core social relations, its individuated manifestation. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that terror results from the way thought is unhinged from the traditions of rationalism, maturity and cognition? Is it any wonder that the Internet degrades the cognitive by enhancing the sensory, the glossy promises of contemporary capitalism on every monitor? The question might well be: why think, when you can emote?

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These assertions are not all that novel. Gilles Deleuze, Arthur Kroker, Dona Harraway, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri and Brian Massumi, have offered observations on a field generally referred to as post-human philosophy, ranging from dystopian uncertainties to left optimism. Combined, the cosmopolitan injunctions to be more wary, circumspect and reflective are well made in the face of terror. However, the techno-boosters working in cahoots with assorted uncritical intellectuals in the developed world’s business class have mobilised their own image of utopianism against academicians. They have done this regardless of the apocalyptic scenarios that undermine Enlightenment notions of citizenship in civil society. Perhaps there is just too much money to be made to stop the headlong rush to riches. As a character in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012) says to the young IT entrepreneur, ‘I think you acquire information and turn it into something stupendous and awful.’ We are already beyond this point of stupor and awe. Superficially, the current conjuncture is about the struggle between the alliance between business capital and uncritical intellectuals. Substantially, it is actually about the impossibility of thought. Where epistemology has been and in fact still is constructed within the logics of Kantian rationality (computer mathematics is actually supremely and deterministically rational), everyday life hangs on at the edge of that construct. And in the current context everyday life is in an increasingly determined relationship with media and communication through the Internet. As a result experience takes place in a limited dialectical sphere. Like life in a bell jar, consciousness is constrained by confused and confusing oscillations. Even the nature of dialectic has been reconditioned, reconstructed and restrained within the Internet’s new configurations. An analogue is the Arab Spring, Egypt style. Removal of the autocrat Hosni Mubarak and his regime was marked by his departure on 11th February 2011 and his replacement with a democratically elected government led by the Muslim Brotherhood. This shift has been

described as a social media inspired event. Late in 2012 its continuation turned into chaos, with little evidence of an improvement for the masses and increasing concern about the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is every reason to believe that this analogue will become more like a material embodiment of the Internet as nonwestern ways of government emerge, terrifying western powers and the advisors who believe in the self-evident truth of Enlightenment political theory. Added complexity will emerge as Internet-inspired ideas produce what Alain Badiou called ‘a desire for the West,’ within Egypt (2012, p. 48). As can already be observed in the confusing mess of Egyptian politics in 2013, civility and civil society will be redefined by outside forces as well as those inside Egypt seeking to be like the West. These interests will intensify against traditional and religious priorities defined by the Muslim Brotherhood. All groups will, as I suggested in Uprising, have access to the Internet’s ‘ideological grooming’: a limiting ideological bell jar offering a contained space in which ideas circulate. The collision of values will be terrifying and increase in intensity. Western powers are well advanced in utilising the Internet to generate terror for those who do not comply with western preferences, for those peoples who exist in their own bell jars. Predator Drones are arguably the most telling example of this shift into a territory that involves unthinkable acts performed in the name of liberalism and Enlightenment against innocents and nonEuropeans (Breen 2012). There is an escalating body of evidence suggesting that the Internet will be mobilised for western enforcement of its interests through securitisation, militarisation and information warfare, including against democratically elected governments which act independently of NATO/US alignments. In contradistinction to the history of progressive claims for emancipation in post-colonial history, independence and national autonomy (utopia) will be met with derision, violence and renewed efforts at imperial domination (dystopia). The ensuing chaos will be real, irrational and terrifying.

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Western powers are well advanced in utilising the Internet to generate terror for those who do not comply with western preferences, for those peoples who exist in their own bell jars.

In Internet and society: Social theory in the Information Age, Christian Fuchs suggested the following: The political system of modern society is based on competitive logic that drives actors towards competing for the accumulation of power, the capacity for influencing collective decisions in society. The underlying antagonism is one between competition and cooperation that takes on the form of an antagonism between domination and participation (2008, p. 294). This model proposes a phenomenological sociology, based on logic. It suggests a modality of binaries that does not reflect the move to chaos within the limited and limiting terms suggested above. Furthermore, there is in Fuchs’s argument faith in thought which has a kind of theological foundation in western sociology and liberalism. Fuchs’s model does not accommodate the true conditions brought about by the Internet, the wild oscillations of narrowed (bell jar) irrationality. The most uncompromising response to Fuchs, given the earlier interrogation of ‘thought’ and knowledge as at or beyond exhaustion, suggests that logic has to be critiqued as an Enlightenment construct and secondly logic needs to be recognised as near-to-obsolescence in the Internet context. This is in part due to the determination of the network to filter out the public sphere in favour of what we already like and will therefore buy, as Eli Pariser argued in The filter bubble (2011): ideological grooming. Two conditions can be briefly described that influence my reading of the end of thought as it has been known: intensification and affective immediacy. Intensification makes thinking impossible (and collides with Fuchs’ claim to the dualism of competition and cooperation). The real transgression of the Internet may be that it has created the conditions in which it is no longer possible to locate oneself in a cognitive space. The significance of this outcome is the impossibility of ideas and concepts within Enlightenment categories

of rationality. This was a secondary theoretical tactic in Uprising. The first was to deploy the term proletarianisation in a new way. That is, as noted above, to describe the unregulated flow of knowledge on a global scale through the Internet. Since writing the book, the Internet has diversified its content so that speed has become the new communicative condition, further unmaking previous existing conceptions and categories of knowledge producing, as Berardi noted, an infosphere-inspired consciousness of exhaustion. Alternatively, intensification is the condition of the Internet era as it encourages the momentum for change with unknown outcomes, as the Arab Spring indicates. As Badiou put it: ‘[d]uring a massive popular uprising, a general subjective intensification, a violent passion for the True occurs, which Kant has already identified at the time of the French Revolution under the name of enthusiasm’ (2012, p. 90). This enthusiasm continues and is the flower of hope. Three or four years ago William Dutton proposed ‘the Fifth Estate’ as a way of reconfiguring political changes. They can be seen in the Arab Spring as the people’s iterative engagement with politics through social media. [The]… network of networks [that] can enable political movements to be orchestrated among opinion leaders and political activists in ‘Internet time’, which can be far quicker than real-world time. This provides a novel means for holding politicians and mainstream institutions accountable through the online interaction between ever-changing networks of individuals, who form and re-form continuously depending on the issue that is generating the particular network (2009, p. 8 emphasis added) While novel in its optimism, the flaw in such a model is that Internet time is unlikely to be concerned with real time concepts like accountability and institutionality. Here again we see the limits of Enlightenment logic, where the relationship between Internet time and real-world

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The intensification of Personal Computer and Internet applications everywhere has focused everyday social-communicative life into the monitor space.

time of accountability and institutions is a space and time impossibility. In other words, legal and regulatory ideas are directly challenged by the Internet. Their anachronistic qualities were in evidence during the UK Government’s Levenson inquiry, an inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press (2012). The inquiry into print newspapers was prompted by digital phone hacking: two incompatible worlds which cannot be managed by a single set of liberal democratic ideas about jurisprudence when applied to digital media. The intensification of Personal Computer and Internet applications everywhere has focused everyday socialcommunicative life into the monitor space. While we ‘inhabit’ that space we are also at the point of being unable to make choices, apply decision-making strategies or reflect, in keeping with the immediate past configurations of culture. Discussing the Computer Age in Technology and American society: A history, Gary Cross and Rick Szostak noted that ‘the vast expansion of choice may also lead to personal confusion’ (2004, p. 339). ‘Media clutter’ is now added to by ‘data smog’ as David Shenk called it, a condition where too much information undermines clarity, rationality and control (2004, p. 339). The intensification of unregulated information, knowledge production-dissemination, news, data and human experience within proletarianisation includes one further move. That is, the direct result of the Internet is its connection to affect. Emotion has been successfully articulated with intensification, producing new media praxis. Like the perfect storm, the mathematical determinism of computer science captures everything in its pixilation, amplifies it as culture while reinforcing it with affect. Fundamentalism has rarely had such a rich and deep ocean in which to swim. In this environment thought or even rethinking is replaced by re/action. The Arab Spring was initially a social media celebration of affective immediacy, shifting into the marriage of democracy with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Affect is everything, as Enlightenment categories of rational human behaviour, organising categories and regulations give way to the spectrum of affective immediacy: collapse, chaos and competition. Sadly, cooperation suffers a deconstructed negation. In putting these comments together some of my thinking has been prompted by the creative interventions of artists like David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis) but more powerfully still by the collective who wrote The coming insurrection (Comité Comité invisible 2009). It describes the world of the Banlieues, the high-rise housing spaces in the outer suburbs of Paris. It is not an easy book to read, yet it is a must read for those of us who live well and are removed from the suffering of people in the cities where we work. Curiously, perhaps counter-intuitively The coming insurrection is not about the Internet. It is about the rage being felt by those millions left behind within the developed world because they experience the intensification, they have glimpses of the affect and see it as privileged even while having little to eat, parlous hope and constant despair. The Internet is a symbol of their status as outsiders. They know the pressure that is impossible to bear. Their sensibility is not constructed within Enlightenment ideas, rationality or data fog but in a direct quest for emancipation. I suspect that The coming insurrection is what the future looks like and it is a remove from much of the conventional discourse around the Internet. I will conclude with a question, an intentionally openended gesture towards something better. Could the Internet’s combined forces of thoughtlessness, intensification and affective immediacy create such transgressive knowledge that the outcome is a hopeful future, a place where civil society and thought combine in fresh new configurations?

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References Badiou, A 2012, The rebirth of history: times of riots and uprisings, Verso, London. Berardi, F 2012, Reassessing recomposition: 40 years after the publication of anti-Oedipus, http://th-rough.eu/ writers/bifo-eng/reassessing-recomposition-40-yearsafter-publication-anti-oedipus%3E.

Kant, I 1996, Critique of pure reason, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis. Levenson, B 2012, An inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, The Stationery Office (TSO), UK. Pariser, E 2011, The filter bubble: What the Internet is hiding from you, Penguin Press, New York.

Breen, M 2011, Uprising The Internet’s Unintended Consequences, Common Ground Publishing, USA. Comité invisible 2009, The coming insurrection, Semiotexte, Los Angeles, CA. Cosmopolis 2012, Entertainment One, New York. Cross, G & Szostak, R 2004, Technology and American society: A history, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Dudley, W & Engelhard, K 2011, Immanuel Kant: Key concepts, Acumen, Durham, UK. Dutton, W 2009, ‘The Fifth Estate emerging through the network of networks’, Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 1-15. Fuchs, C 2008, Internet and society: Social theory in the information age, Routledge, New York. Hardt, M 1998, ‘The withering of civil society’, in E Kaufman & K Heller (eds), Deleuze and Guattari: New mappings in politics, philosophy and culture, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

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Images: Renuka Rajiv, 2013

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Scott McQuire

Accidental publics, or some unintended consequences of the Internet on urban life Scott McQuire, media scholar and urban theorist at the University of Melbourne, focuses on the permeating impact of networks on situated and material spaces of the urban everyday. McQuire addresses the ambivalent nature of pervasive networks in terms of the spontaneity and serendipity so important to the modern city, as well as their utilization as intensive integrated surveillance.

I want to begin with the proposal made in an early Situationist manifesto to put switches on public streetlights. It is not so much the practicality – or impracticality – of the idea of allowing members of the public to control the lighting of public space according to their own desires that I love. It is the way the suggestion provokes us to recognise just how much we take for granted that the ambiance of large swathes of our living environment are controlled in ways that are inaccessible to us. This example situates my approach to thinking about the impact of the Internet on urban public space. How does this relatively new infrastructure (‘the Internet,’ a term which here necessarily embraces the diverse logistics of computerisation, networked distribution, and, increasingly, mediatisation in general) modify our ways of acting and interacting in public? But, before I approach this issue directly, I want to think about the idea of ‘unintended consequences.’ As I will argue in this essay, one of the tendencies I perceive is a fundamental alteration in the default mode of relating to others in the modern city. If the Internet produces accidental effects, one of them is a new modality of the accident.

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The accident of technology According to the great contemporary philosopher of technology, Paul Virilio (2007), every new technology produces a new accident. Virilio’s first example is the train crash, which emerged alongside the invention of steam engines and railways. While the railway is clearly more than just a set of individual mechanical devices but a complex system or network technology (Schivelbusch 1986) – Virilio argues that the train accident remains traditional in some respects. It is still a localised accident that occurs in a single time and place. Virilio contrasts this with the new type of accident that emerges with the computerised network technologies that he dubs ‘the information bomb’: non-localised or distributed accidents that spread unpredictably, according the now dominant metaphor of viral propagation, to produce effects of novel scale and temporality. The ‘accident’ of a computer virus produces cascading effects that are less usefully plotted to specific sites but in their multiple, simultaneous and distributed existence, are best sketched according to bands of probability. They inhabit a grey zone between the intentional and the unintentional, one that can best be apprehended – as the Y2K bug etched into popular consciousness – through risk scenarios. In Aristotelian philosophy the accident was defined as the non-essential; it was not part of essence. Virilio contends that the accident assumes a different status in technological modernity, in which it becomes the essential. In some respects, this argument follows the logic underpinning Ulrich Beck’s (1992) concept of risk society. For Beck, risk society is a threshold produced by the accumulating unintended consequences of social ‘bads’ – the opposite of social ‘goods’ – which are an integral part of the process of modernisation. While ‘bads,’ such as pollution, global resource depletion or the health impacts of urban life might be unwanted, for Beck they can no longer be said to be accidental in a traditional sense. Rather they have to be recognised, and accounted for, as essential attributes of technomodernity.

Increasingly, such ‘accidents’ condition everyday life, like the software glitch in a control room that shut down Melbourne’s ‘Citylink’ tollway for a day in late October, 2012. Network outages affecting power, communication and co-ordination reach are the flip side of the ‘space of flows’ of network society.

The Internet and the accident of networked public space Placing the accident as essential to modern techno-culture allows us to think about unintended consequences in a new light. It weans us away from the grand visions of technology-led progress and attunes us to the ambivalence of new technologies such as the Internet, in which multiple forces, actors and trajectories co-exist producing diverse and sometimes contradictory tendencies. One of the contradictions I’d like to pick up here relates less to network failure than to its apparent success. This example might help us to think: what kind of accident is the Internet for urban public space? To approach this question you first need to consider the specific social and cultural milieu of the modern city. The modern city is distinguished from previous urban inhabitations above all by the scale, diversity, and heterogeneity of its inhabitants. This is conditioned by a range of factors (including new technologies of transport and industrial production) but is the direct consequence of the transformative impact of large-scale migration. The types of cities that emerged from the mid 19th century in the context of large-scale migration produced a historically distinctive social milieu. This was first recognised by urban sociologists such as Georg Simmel, who emphasised the experience of living among strangers as a novel trait of the modern city. For Simmel the modern city produced a new type of stranger. Unlike the stranger in the village who either passes through, or, if they stay, becomes known to others, the stranger in

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the modern city remains a stranger. In other words, we become used to a social environment in which most of the people surrounding us are not personally known to us. While this mutual anonymity can result in isolation and dislocation – and was often analysed by sociologists in terms of anomie – it has also provided the novel environment for personal and cultural reinvention that has been part and parcel of modernity. It is precisely the loss of the connective but constrictive bonds of ongoing personal knowledge that charges the new milieu with excitement. Mixing with people from different cultural backgrounds, and being exposed to different ways of doing things, underpins Richard Sennett’s (1978) positive appraisal of the ‘logic’ of urban life. Sennett argues it is harder be absolutist – to believe in a single way of doing something – when you are continually exposed to other modalities in daily life. This is not so to idealise urban life, or to deny the long history and continued existence of racist and ethnocentrist conflicts. But it is to acknowledge that this novel setting incubates an extraordinarily dynamic milieu in which the creative inventions of new social and cultural modalities flourish. How does the Internet intersect this milieu?

Performative and predictive public space Far from the earlier conceptualisation of the relation between ‘virtual’ and real space, it is increasingly recognised that digital networks are today co-constitutive of the experience of urban space (McQuire 2008). What is most striking about contemporary networked urban space is the way counter-tendencies co-exist, often in the same devices and platforms. At the risk of over-generalising, we can distinguish between the tendency towards a more performative public space, and a predictive public space. Performative public space registers the way that spatial ambiance can now be reflexively reworked by social actors using new modes of low cost, easily available distributed communication

for self-organised actions and collaboration. Here digital networks contribute to what Brian Massumi (2003) calls the logic of the ‘virtual appointment’, adopting the Deleuzian sense of virtual as potentiality, in which the articulation of media space and public space afford new modes of agency. These can take on a political valence (citizen journalism, the various nodes of the Occupy movement, the uprisings glossed as the ‘Arab Spring’) but can equally be channelled towards commercial orientations, such as the rapid capture of the idea of ‘flash mobs’. Running counter to this communicative/performative trajectory is the logic of predictive public space in which ubiquitous cameras, sensors, and RFIDs, generate vast quantities of data. Here ‘the Internet’ becomes a key mechanism for managing unwanted actions, according to Deleuze’s well-known dystopian scenario of postdisciplinary control space. In this context public space starts to be affected at several levels. First, as David Lyon (2003) and others have demonstrated, pervasive digital networks create the conditions in which everyday transactions create detailed data footprints that can be monitored and rapidly assembled. This could potentially lead to the loss of mutual anonymity between urban inhabitants, resulting in fundamentally changing the social space of the city. Second, public space as a ‘commons’ starts to be converted into something else. This is not just a matter of surveillance, for instance by external parties using CCTV cameras, but increasingly involves the voluntary submission of personal information by users of network services. The pervasive use of GPS technology, especially in mobile Internet, which is the fastest growing Internet sector, means such data is increasingly correlated with location. Location-based data is crucial to targeted advertising, and place-based search has become central to the online economy. This development situates the growing competition over online mapping that became public in 2012 as major players such as Apple sought to loosen Google’s dominance in this

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This is not just a matter of surveillance, for instance by external parties using CCTV cameras, but increasingly involves the voluntary submission of personal information by users of network services.

area. It also demonstrates the convergence between contemporary commercial and security practices which both depend on data-gathering and detailed profile building. Of course, the two trajectories I am describing as performative and predictive public space are not entirely separate, but asymmetrically joined. Performance as ‘participation’ is becoming a key modality through which profile data is gleaned. It is precisely this asymmetry which should focus our attention on the current settings informing hardware, software and interface design. We need to understand the Internet less as an abstract technological force than as an amalgam of specific and situated regulatory, technical and cultural protocols relating to data gathering, storage, and use. As Clay Shirky argues, all current successful online social media feature a combination of ‘a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain for the user’ (2008, p. 260). Growing political contestation over the current terms of this ‘acceptable bargain’, including the role of cookies, of one-sided EULAs and TOS agreements, and of the rise of ‘apps’ as aggressive forms of software that target user data, is fast becoming the political face of networked public space.

Public space in the data city The application of ‘big data’ to urban space leads not just to wholesale loss of anonymity, in the sense that we all leave digital footprints that can be tracked. Ubiquitous networks and accelerated processing power mean that the temporality of surveillance is shifting from past towards present and future. The logic of risk scenarios is to use informational analysis to tame, in advance if possible, undesired happenings. This makes sense when seeking to avoid disaster (such as fire in a subway). But, as a philosophy for designing and managing public space, the ubiquity of data and the application of various filters – police profiles of likely offenders, corporate databases segmenting the public as advertising targets, personal filters alerting individuals

to the presence of friends/acquaintances, or to those who share certain orientations (sexual preference) or interests (game players)—can easily tip over into a chilling effect on the contingent encounters that have historically defined public space in the modern city. Network temporality increasingly enables ‘real time’ availability as we move through the city—to friends, and also to marketers. The growth of the mobile Internet is currently driven by a vision of the entire city as the expanded site for stimulating the kind of impulse buying associated with the ‘Gruen transfer’. Is this really what we signed up for? How much this matters depends partly on the value you put on contingent social encounters. Personally, I sympathise with all those who have extolled the importance of the surprise urban encounter as transformative because it moves you outside your comfort zone. It would be unfortunate if an unintended consequence of the networking of public space were the elimination of the type of accidental encounters that have historically made the city a site for cultural creativity. While I do not want to overstate the extent to which informational cocoons are currently filtering out dissonance and social difference, part of the problem is that this kind of future scenario is barely considered in current debates. As a result we see networked public space being colonised by rampant data gathering with few restrictions. Addressing this problem cannot simply be a matter of restricting the ways in which Google, Facebook, Foursquare, and others, collect, aggregate and analyse data, although this is part of the equation. There is also an urgent need to invent positive cultural protocols and practices. We need to imagine digital platforms that are motivated by desire for genuine social encounters and new modalities of communication, rather than contenting ourselves with allowing the wholesale conversion of our intimate social relations into data generation on the pathway to super-profits.

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References Beck, U 1992, Risk society: towards a new modernity, Sage, London. Lyon, D 2003, Surveillance after September 11, Polity and Blackwell, Malden, MA. Massumi, B 2003, ‘Urban appointment: a possible rendezvous with the city’, in J Brouwer & A Mulder (eds), Art of making databases, V2/Dutch Architecture Institute, Rotterdam. McQuire, S 2008, The media city: media, architecture and urban space, Sage, London. Schivelbusch, W 1986, The railway journey: the industrialisation of time and space in the nineteenth century, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. Sennett, R 1978, The fall of public man: on the social psychology of capitalism, Vintage Books, New York. Shirky, C 2008, Here comes everybody, Penguin, New York. Virilio, P 2007, The original accident, Polity, Malden, MA; Cambridge, UK. .

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Images: Renuka Rajiv, 2013

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Hugh Davies

Interactions and Transactions

Hugh Davies is a thinker and maker. Working across sculpture, screen and play, his theory and practice based research explores the implications of networked culture, physical interaction and serious games. Based in Melbourne, his works as a visual artist and as an academic researcher have appeared in galleries and publications internationally. Hugh is currently a senior lecturer at LaTrobe University within the Media: Screen + Sound program, operates as deputy director at Latrobe’s Centre for Creative Art, and is board chair for the FreePlay Independent Games Festival.

Vincent Mosco’s book, The Digital Sublime (2004), examines how the rise of the Internet and its spectral domain of cyberspace has been largely underpinned by myths about what the technology could do and how it would revolutionise people’s lives. Mosco situates these myths in relation to past media technologies—from the radio and telegraph to cable television—all of which promised to radically alter their users’ lives in utopian visions. Since the inception of World Wide Web, its champions have made much of the notion of leveraging community networks to uncover new possibilities and solve world problems. Kevin Kelly’s projection of the Internet as a collective ‘hive mind’, Pierre Levy’s concept of ‘collective intelligence’ and more recently, Seth Priebatschs’s notion of a ‘community discovery dynamic’ all point to an ideological elevation of the mass of users into a highly evolved community of incredible intelligence, agency and, as yet, untapped potential (Kelly 1994, p. 11; Levy 1997, pp. 10-11; Priebatsch 2010). But if we are to correctly discuss a community of users and their potential for leverage, we must consider for whom they are productive and what they produce. Furthermore we must interrogate the very premise of the Internet’s primary action, that of interaction recognising that this apparently simple activity of participation exists within a highly developed network and politics of consumption. To explain these ideas, this essay undertakes a critical exploration of the historical ideology and mechanics of interaction. Since its beginnings in the participatory art forms in the 1960s, interactivity’s promise of empowerment has seen it grow into a ‘highly marketable’ and ‘packaged notion’ of liberation and democracy, which Australian games researcher Laetitia Wilson has described as a

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‘utopian discourse of active agency in dialogue with technology’ (Wilson 2003, p. 1). Interactivity, like the Internet itself has grown from a fringe phenomenon to become the dominant aspect of today’s cultural and political mainstream. But to what extent has its promises of agency and empowerment been realised? How interactive and indeed active are we? Wilson points to an early critique of interactivity in Mona Sarkis’ (1993) paper in which Sarkis coins the term: interpassivity. Sarkis notes that within interactive environments ‘the user remains a ‘user’ who will not magically turn into a ‘creator’ but will continue to resemble a puppet’; one that responds solely to the technician’s programmed vision (Sarkis 1993, p. 13). Interactivity, she argues, means interpassivity. One decade later in 2003, the Austrian philosopher Robert Pfaller (2003) contributes a crucial addition to the definition suggesting that interpassivity is not simply an absence of activity as Sarkis denotes, but an absence of passivity too. Pfaller describes interpassivity as the delegation of personal emotions and agency to exterior objects so that the individual is relieved of all participation whatsoever. Pfaller evokes Žižek’s reading of television’s canned laughter as an exemplary instance of interpassivity in daily life, in which the content includes our own response, making our need to express or feel anything redundant. Wilson ultimately finds significant implications for games in the concept of interpassivity with avatars representing a virtual, surrogate self, ‘enacting a dynamic of agency by proxy’ (Wilson 2003, p. 35).These findings resonate with the work of Jodi Dean (2002), who notes the capacity of interactivity to satisfy popular appetites for democratic action without actually fulfilling them politically. For Dean the myriad ways we daily perceive ourselves as having made a difference simply by clicking on a button taps into a desire for democratic change, yet the political efficacy of these forms of participation is ambiguous at best. As Dean has written, ‘our deepest commitments - to inclusion, equality and participation within a public space, bind us to practices whereby we submit to global capital’ (2002,

p. 151). Dean pushes these concerns to their limit in her concept of communicative capitalism. Contrary to common notions of freedom and participation within digital interaction, Dean suggests communication technologies actually reinforce power asymmetries within the global information economy by reducing values held as central to democracy (inclusion, discussion, debate and participation) to the material exchange of technology proprietors. Within this framework, the idea of democracy simply acts as a marketing slogan for perpetual interaction, activity that generates revenue for owners through delivering advertisements to and gleaning personal information from its users. Participation, she argues, is not simply an expression but a compulsion. This ‘hyperactive interactivity’ of which Glyn Daly sites Facebook as a paragon, sees the democratic urge devolve into a kind of ‘self-driving centrifuge’ (Daly 2010, p. 13). Ensuring our engagement are the numerous emotionally targeted technological devices. Not simply tools, but personalised objects of perceived survival. These devices exist as status symbols entangled in an economy of class and desire, a fact revealed by their rapid obsolescence and the social imperative to upgrade. The underlying ideology that propagates this industry is hidden in plain view. At Apple’s iPhone 4 launch, Žižek identified in Steve Jobs’s speech what Adorno and Horkheimer (2001) had stated about consumer products sixty years earlier: that they sell not because of what they do, but because of how they make us feel. Third world economies play a central role in the production of such devices. Discount labour allows for larger profits while the injustices of the workers’ low wages and working conditions can be directed toward the policies of countries in which the factories are situated, despite the markets and profits remaining mostly Western. With the unpleasant intricacies of manufacturers and e-waste recycling farmed out to the Third World, the first can maintain an ideological facade of socially and ethically enlightened tech industries. But just as Jameson argued that the truth of 19th

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Consumers are invited to protest the injustice and assuage guilt through online petitions, virtual campaigns, informative sites, apps and games which invite yet more clicking, liking, tweeting and re-tweeting while simultaneously reinforcing the very economy they aim to protest. century British Capitalism lay in India, equally the truth of Communicative Capitalism can be found in China’s Foxconn factories, India’s call centres and Congo’s cobalt mines. While these may appear as unfortunate exceptions to an otherwise functioning global system, one should understand that they are not exceptions at all; they are fully integrated cogs of the system, intrinsic to its functioning. Knowledge of these systematic injustices is not hidden. Consumers are invited to protest the injustice and assuage guilt through online petitions, virtual campaigns, informative sites, apps and games which invite yet more clicking, liking, tweeting and re-tweeting while simultaneously reinforcing the very economy they aim to protest. As Dean asks: ‘What is the efficacy of organising politically, dissenting, even revolting when doing so reproduces the production and circulation of capital?’ (2002, p. 141). Confirmation and adaptation of Dean’s Communicative Capitalism is realised in the concept of playbour. First coined by the video-game theorist Julian Kücklich (2005), playbour can be applied to any interaction or experience which uses the techniques of play (absorption, immersion, repetition, recombination) to extract some kind of use value labour from a user which might ultimately contribute to a corporate bottom-line.

dating, transportation, communication and sleeping habits. Even as you browse the Internet your browser browses you, ingesting relevant information of its own accord in order to demographically define your interests and interactions, into a much larger economic model into which you become an unwilling participant. For Dean, the forces of contemporary communicative capitalism do not simply resist but actively commodify criticisms launched against it, with corporations controlling not only workstations and playgrounds, but also the very circuits of information that subjects use to imagine better worlds. Game theorists Kücklich and Wilson, trace a critical history of interactivity and arrive to find within its development and realisation the very antithesis of its promise of agency and empowerment. Mosco recognises the myth of cyberspace as a form of depoliticised discourse, but also observes that if myths do evacuate politics, then the critique of such myths and of the ideology of the Internet itself can restore and regenerate the political, for as much as it is a community, the Internet is also deeply ideological and political. By exposing its tensions and conflicts, we might find ways to address its inequities and revive its political status; conversely, the most submissive gesture possible would be to continue to interact under the terms presented to us by the forces currently in place.

Although Kücklich devised the term to describe the monetisation of game modding, the term has been extended to encompass countless online activities that encourage users to contribute immaterial labour and surrender personal information through playful activity to the benefit of the owner companies. Even the process of devising techniques to extract such information has been playbourised by sites like Kaggle which invite coding entrepreneurs to compete by solving data collection problems for the inconspicuous gleaning of user information. Through engaging with games, apps and social media sites users assist companies to compile an intimate snapshot of their eating drinking, meeting,

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References Daly, G 2010, ‘Causes for concern’, International Journal for Žižek Studies, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 1-23. Dean, J 2002, Publicity’s secret: how technoculture capitalizes on democracy, Cornell University Press, New York.

Wilson, L 2003, ‘Interactivity or interpassivity: a question of agency in digital play’, paper presented at the MelbourneDAC, the 5th International Digital Arts and Culture Conference, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia, 19-23 May, 2003, http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/papers/ Wilson.pdf%3E.

Hockheimer, M & Adorno, TW 2001, ‘The culture industry: Enlightenment as mass deception’, in MG Durham & D Kellner (eds), Media and cultural studies: keyworks, Blackwell Publishers, Malden, MA. Kelly, K 1994, Out of control: the new biology of machines, social systems, & the economic world, Perseus, New York. Kücklich, J 2005, ‘Precarious playbour: modders in the digital games industry’, Fibreculture. Levy, P 1997, Collective intelligence: mankind’s emerging world in cyberspace, trans. R Bononno, Helix, New York. Mosco, V 2004, The digital sublime: myth, power, and cyberspace, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Pfaller, R 2003, ‘Little gestures of disappearance: interpassivity and the theory of ritual’, J E P, vol. 16. Priebatsch, S 2010, ‘Welcome to the decade of games’, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Publishing, http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/09/welcome_to_the_ decade_of_games.html%3E. Sarkis, M 1993, ‘Interactivity means interpassivity’, Media Information Australia, vol. 69, pp. 13-14.

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Images: Renuka Rajiv, 2013

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Jenny Kennedy

Sharing’s False Freedoms

Jenny Kennedy is based at Swinburne University of Technology, social media researcher Jenny Kennedy, critiques the rhetoric of sharing in social media with special emphasis on the cultural imaging of these practices. Drawing from her qualitative research in this area, Jenny explores the tensions and complexities of sharing practices performed in everyday life in relation to media technologies.

‘Share is everywhere’ said Chris Hughes on the Facebook blog in 2006. Indeed, sharing is one, if not the, new keyword of networked culture (John 2012). Sharing (by liking, posting, linking, tweeting etc.) generates data and traffic, both of which have commodity value. The argument I have made elsewhere is that these activities are framed in such a way that their commodity value is purposefully downplayed through a manipulation of the cultural imaginary of sharing (Kennedy 2013). I will expand on that idea further here. Though profitability is a frequent consequence of sharing in networked culture, it is not readily imagined by the majority of users. From the proliferation of share buttons to tag lines and prompts that invite users to share their life, stories, love, status and information, social media platforms encourage the sociability enabled by their services. While users become increasingly aware that their use of social media platforms sites is, in fact, commercially structured, the use of such sites persists because there is perceived social value (for some) in being present and sharing on such sites. The supposed social freedom to connect, engage, create and share is coerced and venerated by the data-driven machines of power and money. Social media platforms shape and mould practices towards their own commercial interests. Sharing through social media sites is purported to support, if not, advance social integration. Social media platforms suggest that sharing through their sites makes people

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‘feel good.’ Moira Burke, writing on research conducted within Facebook, posted, also on the Facebook blog, that ‘the more people use Facebook, the better they feel and that those who share and communicate the most with their friends feel even better’ (Burke 2010). The social myths of sharing are that it is a necessary part of societal integration; that it makes people ‘feel good’ about themselves, and; that it is free from commercial logic. One of the most effective cants of social media has been the impossibility of socialisation beyond their site’s pages. Yet presentations of self on social media sites can cause affective conflict and crisis, not least the stress of keeping up with it all. Furthermore, while monetarily the use of the sites is free there is, as we know, a price being paid in terms of access to the data we generate. Further social myths persist around the problem of oversharing, especially by youths (Agger 2012). But if oversharing is extending the boundaries of disclosure further than necessary or intended, then all sharing through social media platforms has the potential to be overshared given that the creator of that content has little control over how her content or interactions with content shared by others is used and shared by the site. Continually changing user terms and conditions persistently highlight the instability of control over content shared. There is an uneasy tension between users that provide content and traffic, sites that own access to that content, and those that wish to have access to that content (Kennedy 2013). Each has a particular invested interest in sharing. Users wish to engage with one another, ‘self present,’ demonstrate taste and knowledge, and exhibit and develop relationships. Sites want to increase their user base to generate traffic on their site, and data associated with this traffic, that they can sell or rent access to. Sites manage access to data and traffic for external parties that wish to make use of it, and are willing to pay to do so. To evoke Marshall McLuhan’s maxim ‘Culture is Our Business’ (1970), in this playing field, sharing is their business.

The business of sharing is highlighted in the project ‘Share-Wars’ (www.share-wars.com), which examines the sharing practices of ninemsn.au and other news publishing platform users. The project sets out to identify what kind of content people share, and why, as a way of ‘maximising’ audiences. They identify that highly shareable content is familiar yet unexpected; depicts deviant behaviour; is highly emotive; lifts spirits and aspirations or involves animals. Sharing is also a process of ‘norming’, based around expectations of common values (Crawford 2012). Recognising what kind of content is likely to be shared, content producers attempt to construct a systematic model for producing content that is highly shareable and measure the success of their content by the volume of sharing activity and market distribution. Tracking the sharing of news content through social media sites is just one example of how the traffic and data on sharing is used. The distribution of share buttons linked to social media platforms across the web provides another means of channelling these activities. In sharing content, users of social media sites are also ‘self presenting’, monitoring the sharing of content therefore not only illustrates market volume but can also be combined with further data on sharing practices to develop complex demographic profiles. There are tangible consequences of monitoring and harvesting data on sharing practices providing the sharing occurs in ways, or through channels that can be monitored. Data brokers, such as the Acxiom Corporation, collect and sell information about such user habits and activities to business that can make use of such data, namely banks, advertisers and retailers. ‘Frictionless’ sharing identifies what users are accessing and distributes this information to their social network which complicates (and potentially conflicts) the presentations of self otherwise constructed within profiles, as well as having serious privacy implications. Users pushed back against passive sharing primarily for these reasons and in September 2012 Facebook acknowledged that it would focus on developing selective sharing tools for users. Selective sharing tools

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require active engagement (liking, commenting etc.) though it is debatable how active such engagement is. Active sharing simply requires an action from the user. It could be perceived though that selective sharing is more meaningful, and consequently that social investment in sharing may be better translated into monetary investment. Sharing in networked culture is not free, all sharing has consequences that locate users in the data collection marketplace as commodities. Sharing is permissible only as particular, guided practices within territorialised systems, such as indicating which content is appropriate or permissible, and affording specific engagements with that content (i.e., ‘liking’ as opposed to ‘disliking’). Furthermore, the data generated by user’s sharing is accessible at a price and only to a select few. Lastly, sharing is costly in terms of affective labour; the production of affect through strategies and skills of presentation, maintenance and development of social networks are the foundations of capitalist accumulation.

References Agger, B 2012, Oversharing: Presentations of self in the internet age, Routledge, New York. Burke, M 2010, The role of sharing in social wellbeing, The Facebook Blog, viewed 26 February 2013, http:// blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=382236972130%3E. Crawford, H 2012, How to make contagious content, Share-Wars, viewed 2 November 2012, http://share-wars. com/2012/09/how-to-make-contagious-content/. Hughes, C 2006, Share is everywhere, The Facebook Blog, viewed 18 September 2012, http://blog.facebook. com/blog.php?post=2215537130%3E. John, H 2012, ‘Sharing and Web 2.0: The emergence of a keyword’, New Media Society, 15 no. 2 167-182. Kennedy, J 2013, ‘Rhetorics of sharing: Imagination, data and desire’, in G Lovink & M Rasch (eds), Unlike us reader: Social media monopolies and their alternatives, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam. McLuhan, M 1970, Culture is our business, McGraw Hill, New York.

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Images: Renuka Rajiv, 2013

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Alex Lambert

The Desire Not to See: Moral Contradictions of the Mediated Gaze on Facebook Alex Lambert is a researcher in the fields of social media and networked public spaces. He has previously taught and researched at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is currently engaged in a year long, mobile auto-ethnography of European mediated places.

Between mid-2010 and mid-2012 I performed an ethnographic study of a small group of Facebook users. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 45, but shared various cultural similarities, lived in similar areas, and attended the same Australian university. This study soon became an exploration of how Facebook influenced the kinds of interpersonal intimacy these people desired. In this paper I want to reflect on one aspect of this process, the way in which my participants experienced ‘the desire not to see’. That is, the desire to block from view certain kinds of information, discovered through Facebook. Myths of perception In the spirit of this colloquium, my argument connects with some key myths associated with the Internet. One concerns the Internet’s supposed convenience. Information and communications technology companies create this myth when extolling how their latest products facilitate quick and easy connectivity, information and services, taking the laboriousness out of life. Contrary to this, I argue that many aspects of the Internet intensify social labour. For example, on Facebook we connect with a heterogeneous amalgam of social ties. Consequently, we must decide and act on people whom we may have otherwise forgotten about — editing privacy settings, judiciously tagging posts, culling unwanted audiences and so forth. New forms of social labour arise. In

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particular, Facebook intensifies what can be called ‘perceptual social labour’, to paraphrase Lev Manovich (1995). That is, the labour of mediated interpersonal surveillance, of seeking out furtive information and grappling with when and when not to look. Subtly running through the work of key thinkers such as Rheingold (2000), Negroponte (1995), and Jenkins (2006), the Internet is also mythologised as a kind of ‘participatory utopia.’ Various scholars have addressed this fallacy, both in terms of unequal access to the Internet, and in terms of unequal capabilities, concerns and digital illiteracies when it actually comes to ‘participating’, a fuzzy concept in itself (Hargittai & Walejko 2008; Van Dijck & Nieborg 2009). To participate is to act, but actions are always determined by existing structures which may empower or constrain agency. Facebook, I argue, is part of a broader social, cultural and technological assemblage which limits and challenges our ability to act on what we see. Ironically, the desire not to see represents a refusal to participate in certain optical spaces. However, this refusal is often not easy, demanding new forms of social labour.

Forms of social surveillance The dominance of Facebook reveals a state of affairs in which social ties are now largely sustained through mediated surveillance. More than ever before, we invisibly gaze at our friends. This surveillance can take various forms. First, surveillance can be a necessary part of communication. One is always invisibly monitoring, but this can often be in aid of eventually replying to a post or entering a conversation. Second, surveillance can be a tacit routine. After logging on, one’s eyes often pre-reflectively skim the news feed, check notifications, and click to pages. Third, surveillance can be a selfconscious, goal-oriented activity. This is often the case when seeking out information which would be inappropriate or impossible to gather in other situations; for instance, seeking out images of a long estranged lover. My participants often called this ‘spying,’ and

although they said it was ‘normal’ and ‘everyone does it,’ they also called it ‘voyeuristic’ and they tried not to ‘do it too often,’ thus signalling that it remained morally problematic at some level. Participants talked with their friends about spying, reassuring themselves that it is indeed a widespread and hence ‘normal’ phenomenon. But the very act of talking about how and what to look at suggests that looking itself is troubled. These forms of surveillance can lead to moments of ‘indeterminate vision.’ These are moments of surprise or shock which result from stumbling over information which one did not expect to encounter, say, highly intimate and embarrassing statements or photos. Facebook users possess large, heterogeneous networks, so it becomes inevitable that people will encounter unexpected disclosures. Moreover, when disclosing information on Facebook, people are often unencumbered by behavioural rules which govern localised, co-present interactions. Hence, people can sometimes perform their identities differently online, disclosing information which may come as a shock or surprise to others. Depending on the content of what is perceived, these moments of indeterminate vision can cause ‘the desire not to see,’ the desire to block off information, rather than to seek it out. This constitutes a challenge to the spectator’s visual agency and inverses the traditional logic of voyeurism. Usually it is the voyeur, by virtue of anonymity, who holds power over the person he or she gazes at (Baruh 2010). However, in this case the voyeur’s power and agency has been destabilised by the unwitting subject of his or her attention.

The morality of nausea The desire not to see has various dimensions. For example, participants felt betrayed when witnessing friends tell secrets which they were not privy to, or organise gatherings to which they were not invited. They desired ignorance when seeing an ex-lover publicly declare love for his or her new partner. But the chief

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In order to understand the cultural modalities of this phenomenon I find it valuable to ask: ‘Where else does this desire not to see occur?’

cause of the desire not to see involves disclosures which ‘fail’ to negotiate intimacy in public. For example, highly personal information, ‘lovey-dovey’ exchanges between couples, or, as one participant reported, graphic video of a friend’s baby being born. These disclosures provoke a feeling of ‘nausea’, a moral reaction which reveals the spectator’s attitude that people should not expose their deep intimacies and the intimacies of others in public. Here I depart from orthodox opinion which holds that Facebook users unequivocally want to see and be seen (Rosen 2007). In fact, these new public spaces are challenging people’s values of public intimacy and what they feel they should show and see. This leads to a moral negotiation of intimacy which is often contradictory and remains open-ended.

Cultural modalities of mediated looking In order to understand the cultural modalities of this phenomenon I find it valuable to ask: ‘Where else does this desire not to see occur?’ Visual agency is challenged when we look at images of pain and suffering. Here lies a complex moral issue. Does looking at such images make the spectator complicit in the atrocities they depict? Or, does looking away create an ignorant apathy that assures these atrocities are repeated? In a late work, Susan Sontag (2003) supports the latter position and insists that we ‘bear witness’ to such images. However, bearing witness can be hard given how these images often impede on our moral spaces and challenge our consciences. One can imagine how the photos of torture at Abu Ghraib might impede on a kind of American, national moral space, and challenge a nation’s collective conscience. Can we compare images on Facebook with images of torture, in this context? I believe we can, and the comparison reveals a more general way in which media, and the Internet specifically, are collapsing social

contexts and challenging spectatorship. Sue Tait (2008) explores the way in which images of pain and suffering are distributed across the Internet in a far more fluid and unconstrained manner than through television, in which the flow of content is highly controlled by advertising and specific cultural conventions. On the Internet, the flow of images has become so intensive and ubiquitous that we must force ourselves to act on them, to bear witness. But this is difficult when this flow of images circulates through moral spaces which we create online. Facebook is one such space. It is very difficult not to participate in Facebook if all our friends are doing so. Hence, we want to make it sacred, un-defiled, and sanitised. We want to make it like our favourite TV shows, a place of safe consumption where a certain kind of gratification is anticipated. Inasmuch as we seek this gratification, it reflects our desires and moral dispositions. Hence, the moral nausea which is at the heart of the desire not to see reveals the way in which we have been betrayed by the spaces we are helplessly bound to.

Conclusion: Bearing Witness Responding to this problem, people attempt to circumscribe what they can and cannot see online. These solutions are forms of ‘perceptual social labour.’ People filter their News Feeds, apply privacy settings, avoid pages, and ‘unfriend’ those who reveal nauseating information. However, unfriending can be difficult. One may want to avoid hurting people’s feelings, or other kinds of conflict. Moreover, some of these people may be genuine friends, not weak ties. The desire not to see one’s friends engages the morality of interpersonal relationships in challenging ways. Do we cull our friends, and hence act by not looking, or do we ‘bear witness,’ and act toward recognition and acceptance? As mediated surveillance becomes a key characteristic of interpersonal relationships, perhaps we should try to understand what we discover, rather than deny what we know about our friends.

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References Baruh, L 2010, ‘Mediated voyeurism and the guilty pleasure of consuming reality television’, Media Psychology, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 201-221. Hargittai, E & Walejko, G 2008, ‘The participation divide: Content creation and sharing in the Digital Age’, Information, Communication and Society, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 239-256. Jenkins, H 2006, Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide, New York University Press, New York. Manovich, L 1995, ‘The labor of perception’, viewed 21 January, 2012, http://manovich.net/TEXT/labor.html Negroponte, N 1995, Being digital, Knopf, New York. Rheingold, H 2000, The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier, MIT Press, Massachusetts. Rosen, C 2007, ‘Virtual friendship and the new narcissism’, The New Atlantis, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 15-31. Sontag, S 2003 Regarding the pain of others, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. Tait, S 2008, ‘Pornographies of violence? Internet spectatorship on body horror’ Critical Studies of Media Communication, Vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 91-111. Van Dijck, J & Nieborg, D 2009, ‘Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos’, New Media & Society, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 855-874.

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Image: Renuka Rajiv, 2013

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About Paper Tigers Networking and Collaborative Publishing Mission: Paper Tigers aims to create a networking hub based in Melbourne for emergent creative practitioners, early career researchers and postgraduate students in the Arts and Humanities. Description The Paper Tigers project is a postgraduate student-led initiative to create a network of emergent scholars and arts practitioners to generate discussion, new formats of online publication and collaboration with an eye to further academic professionalisation.

General Information Paper Tigers’ four main objectives are: 1) to connect academic and creative researchers online to a stream of relevant updates regarding opportunities and events in Melbourne and beyond 2) to stimulate lively exchange on the state of contemporary discourse in the Arts and Humanities through face-to-face meetings in Melbourne 3) to identify common fields of interest for future collaboration and tailored seminar series and curating projects 4) to ultimately encourage the production of tangible outcomes, such as online publications and rich media editions, including interviews and video or photoessays.

Paper Tigers believes that face-to-face communication is an essential part of fostering professional networks and critical discussion. Seminars and social networking gatherings are key events in our programme that we hope will become springboards to further collaboration and online publishing.

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The Centre for Creative Arts is an interdisciplinary research centre, based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The Centre supports research in established creative arts practices, including Media Arts, Theatre and Performance, Creative Writing, and Visual Arts and Design. It focuses on advancing creative arts in the digital and networked environment and promotes a collaborative and project based approach to creative arts.

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The Centre’s projects foster experimentation and innovation in creative practice as research and in associated scholarly research. The Centre establishes the unique transdisciplinary and convergent public profile of Creative Arts at La Trobe. It promotes Creative Arts at La Trobe through artists’ residencies, public events and lectures – online and in Melbourne and Regional Victoria. The Centre supports research partnerships across the Creative Arts community and professions in Melbourne and Regional Victoria. The Centre’s Director is Professor Norie Neumark, Chair in Media Studies. Visit www.centreforcreativearts.org.au

Centre for Creative Arts Humanities & Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne VIC 3086 Fax:+613 9479 3638 CentreCreativeArts@latrobe.edu.au www.centreforcreativearts.org.au

paper tigers 01  

These are the proceedings from the paper tigers symposium: The Internet's Unintended Consequences (November 19 2012, La Trobe University,...