Lunenfeld’s claim that “when fans appropriate the materials and aesthetics of commercial culture, and then make new things out of them, they are indeed ‘producing,’” but that this production is only “sticky” to fans with similar interests (28-29) illustrates one of the problems of online communities—or really, of any community. Personal interest or, as Sara Ahmed argues, in her book Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, orientations always color our understanding of both spaces and the products of/within those spaces. As we face certain things, we exclude others. Sometimes this exclusion is intentional. Sometimes it is unintentional. Nonetheless, facings, as we understand them now, always demand from us not-facings.
However, to blame a medium for its exclusion is not productive. Instead, we learn to face things with the understanding that our facing isn’t the only facing. By opening up our conceptions of spaces, tools, objects, people so that we approach them with an understanding that difference is not only possible but inherent and expected, we can learn to take from our positioning the positive elements of them, and attempt to build new lines of connection. By seeing information and activities as sticky, Lunenfeld opens up the possibility for those seemingly disparate activities to find new connections with individuals who aren’t necessarily “committed fans” (29). A good example of this would be the spread of Kpop (Korean pop music). Originally the genre was little known outside of Asia, however with the rise of idol groups such as DBSK and Shinee, and their incorporation of elements of genres such as R&B and American Pop, people are coming into contact with not only Asian cultures, but bits of the West as well. The mashup incorporated into Kpop is allowing multiple genres to expand in their contact.
Hactivism is a controversial term . . .
Peter Krapp, “Terror and Play, or What was Hactivism?”
Krapp has a point. Not only is hacking a controversial act, but attempting to romanticize it by combining the term with activism—an attempt to highlight social ills—is a bit troubling. But then again, what is even more troubling is that hactivism is perhaps a scategoat for corporate and government hacking that has occurred for decades. Society has always been hacked by a certain few. By those privileged with the knowledge and the means by which to do so. This can be seen as governments harangued individual identities through the use of birth certificates, and then social security numbers. This practice (especially the practice of hacking identity by way of birth certificates) can be seen during slavery when the births of slaves were not recorded—except as property numbers. Identities were not given to the slaves so as to prevent them from “acquiring” a sense of personhood—a sense of right(s). As Foucault would argue, the express purpose of the discourse around slavery was to disrupt, or at the very least challenge, the ownership of personhood.
So, what is the wrong with hactivism? As Poster argues, “acts which may be regarded as acceptable in certain contexts become moral issues owing to their media proximity. The media, in this case the Internet, change the ethical environment. They do so by juxtaposing actions, images, sounds, and texts from diverse subcultures” (Poster 148-49). It is not that the actions of highjacking someone else’s information, thoughts, property is bad. It is the fact that this ability has been expanded and given over to the “everyday.” If Michel de Certeau argues that there is power in the everyday usage of social tools, hacktivism proves this by allowing the everyday person the chance to redirect, or at the very least challenge, social discursive practices that aim to disrupt their liberties and personhood.
“Social media is not some space separate from the offline, physical world. Instead, social media should be understood as the effective merging of the digital and physical, the on- and offline, atoms and bits. And the consequences of this are erupting around us.”
Nathan Jurgenson, “Welcome to the ‘augmented revolution’
I am inclined to agree with Jurgenson. First, social media is not distinct from our everyday physical existence. It is media, tangible and an experience. We flock to sites like Facebook to discuss daily joys and tribulations, rarely seeing it as different from, perhaps, a phone conversation. In fact, if our claim for virtuality is something that is distant and disembodied, it could possibly be argued that, with the increased use of technologies such as texting and video calling, phone conversations can be seen as virtual experiences. We just don’t speak as much. People have become more personal, more fluid online and through social media sites, and less so in person-to-person (or voice-to-voice) communications. The increasingly diminishing number of minutes allotted to cell phone contracts may be a testament to this becoming-virtual of phone conversations.
In addition to this, these (new) social media are inescapable. We encounter Facebook requests when visiting stores, when eating at restaurants, and even driving down the highway. Requests to “like us on Facebook” have become omnipresent. Even if we don’t like things—or people for that matter—we feel a sense of guilt by not complying. Our real bodies are extensions of . . . I mean, social media is an extension of our physical lives. To see them as being anything but is to live in a box. A very small and dark box. (While “bubble” may have been the more logical of choices, this didn’t seem to fit. Even in a bubble without contact, you can still witness the presence of these technologies, and are thus still affected. So, yes: a bubble.)
Alan Bigelow’s “Brainstrips” present an interesting way to interpret digital-born media. By appropriating an offline based text (the comic strip) in the online world, allowing for motion and the potential for sound to be layered on top of the traditionally two-dimensional media, Bigelow has called readers to question the boundaries between flat spaces and more rounded-out spaces. (I’m hesitant to call these spaces 3-D because they maintain very real traces of the flat world.)
Additionally, Bigelow also calls into question the reader’s sense of nostalgia, questioning the mixture of the past and present. The tone and texture mimic aged comics, giving the reader a text that appears to connect with the past. Even though he selected comics from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and has “re-colored” them, he chose to maintain the aged feel of the image. It’s almost as if he has undertaken the task of restoring old sepia photographs. However, his addition of the digital text and the overlay of images add an element of modernity, forcing the two into a collision that is both nostalgic and unsettling. Eyes peering through windows, rocking seas. The reader’s imagination is in ways stifled, since it no longer has to image the images in such a way; yet, at the same time, the imagination is multiplied, since new possibilities of not only the story, but the technology cause more questions of both story and motive.
In his combination, Bigelow presents interesting questions regarding both Benjamin’s argument for mechanical technologies in the production of art and Baudrillard’s simulacra. Where technology has aided in the expansion of access to these strips, as well as aiding in the production of investing them with new discourses that are distinct from, yet complicit with, the discourses of their pasts, Bigelow has managed to lose the original aura of the work within the novelty of his creation. This appropriation is as troubling as it is powerful.
“the test of community-based knowledge communities in the broader public domain is not whether they generate relevant information, but how they negotiate the border with established systems of knowledge production, expertise, and credentialization…online knowledge communities show us, at the very least, how to place a premium on those modes [of expertise] that report to a large community” (David 194).
What I find interesting in the above epigraph, which is taken from Shay David’s “Toward Participatory Expertise,” is that, instead of calling for a of privileging of participatory forms of knowledge, he calls for a “border[ing]” of systems. In doing this, he seems to recognize that new technologies do not necessarily have to be considered superior to the old ways of doing things, but that they should be respected and appreciated as alternative modes. David’s theory of border sharing parallels Mark Poster’s argument for technologies ability to institute new paths of behavior. As Poster argues, “new technologies lead to disruptions of old ways of doing things—disruptions that are unanticipated and unpredictable—and so it has been and will continue to be with networked computing” (192). While Poster’s argument seems a bit more aggressive and contains an almost revolutionary tone, it falls in line with what David proposes in that it calls for an understanding of technologies to be seen as valid forms of knowledge and behavior. Where Poster steps beyond David is in his declaration that these technologies, instead of “border[ing]” (David 194) older established systems, are “disrupt[ive]” and “unpredictable” (Poster 192).
I believe that these technologies can be both disruptive in that they force new understandings of or openings into established systems of knowledge and yet can, as David seems to suggest, more peacefully border those same systems. Perhaps when the battle between old and new is seen less as a struggle for survival, they can work with one another, extending and expanding one another in ways that are productively “unanticipated and unpredictable.”
Here is a link to my investigation of my online identities:
Hope this works! (FYI: The link is attached to “this.”)
“A skeptic might wonder what difference a temporary disturbance makes, but for tactical media there is a certain power in the spontaneous eruption, the momentary evasion of protocological control structures, the creation of temporary autonomous zones, that sure play their part in making possible the opening for political transformations” (Raley 27).
It seems that one of the most powerful weapons new media “activism”/resistances have is their ADD-like motions. If a symptom of the new media is that it has eroded individuals’ ability to focus for long durations, it can also be said that this symptom is of great benefit because it allows for on-the-spot creativity and almost untraceable paths of thought. Yet, Raley’s desire for the recognition of how tactical media parallels guerrilla warfare (10) seems both right and yet troubled. It should be clear that the non-linear assaults on information systems seems to replicate the actions of soldiers hiding in trees and dilapidated buildings. Individuals, from behind anonymous IP addresses or other “untraceable” locations carry out “random” attacks (Raley and others have argued the sometimes clandestinely structured nature of such assignments) on sites and corporate data banks. This is the obvious part.
However, as correct as she is in her comparison, a problem exists within it. If she argues that citizens engage in tactical media with no hope of a grandiose victory, she also seems to argue for a sort of complicity with the system without really appreciating the beauty of this dynamic. In saying this, I think of the Matrix trilogy. Like Neo, those engaging in tactical media must use secure lines within the system to fight that very system. This is not necessarily the problem. What becomes interesting is the virtual aspect of tactical media. In The Matrix, everyone (of importance) knew Neo. And because they knew him, he could not stay still (whether it was within the Matrix or hovering in the pipes on the Nebuchadnezzar). In other words, no matter where Neo was, there was always a risk of being caught. Those who engage in tactical media can carry out their actions and then return to the real world and rather silently slip back into their lives. This digital space offers a similar cover that Foucault understands exists in the function of the author. (Yes. This needs a bit more explication; but I think you get the picture.)
Granted, people need to live. Even those who resist. What needs to be recognized along with this, however, is the beauty held within this system. I can be one of you all while I fight you. Hmm. It seems like those engaging in tactical media are our modern super(wo)men.
“In their suit of September 2003, the RIAA acted as if downloading music files is the same thing as taking a music CD from a retail store without paying for it. This claim of equivalence is a political move that ignores the specificity and differences of each media—CDs and digital files. When the CD is taken from the store, the store no longer has it; when the file is downloaded, the person sharing the file still has it” (Poster 189).
Poster’s explication of the difference between taking a tangible object and taking a digital file is very similar to his argument on identity theft, where he argues an understanding of identity theft as being different from “fraud” or other forms of theft because, with identity theft, multiple people can possess the same information (files) simultaneously. Here we see his distinction being extended to draw a line between the physical and the virtual (or more accurately the transphysical) so that it can be understood that, in instances of file sharing, objects are not removed from the possession (from the control) of another. Instead, what occurs is a transfer of simulacra. As Baudrillard argues, the original digital file is never “exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference” (Simulacra and Simulation 6). In this instance, the original item never materializes as files are digitized. Each file, then that is copied is never a theft of the original file—which typically remains with the record company or producer (or somewhere else outside of the marketplace)—and can, therefore, never fully reach the same “aura.”
From here, Poster goes on to argue a connection of acts such as the DMCA to the actions of the Soviet Union, stating that:
“If the argument of the RIAA were correct, then the twelve-year-old girl who was subpoenaed by them and settled the threatened suit out of court was capable of performing the same social functions as the music industry, that is, copying and distributing music. And in this case, clearly, the music industry is superfluous and redundant, far less efficient than the girl, who accomplishes the tasks at almost no cost” (189).
While his argument seems well intentioned, it is problematic because it seems to ignore—or at least minimize—the (f)act of production. It is not the original item that the girl produced, but rather a copy of (a copy of?) the original. What is more at stake here is the girl’s ability to function as a site of re-production than as a site of production which includes the creation and distribution of an object. This then, threatens his comparison of the DMCA to the Soviet Union’s control of not only production but reproduction. While they share commonalities, likening the two in this way is a dangerous political game of instilling fear through a sense of panic. In other words, since the girl can only ever—unless through some unexpected feat—possess a simulacra; therefore, she lacks the power to dismantle, or render useless, the original mode and facility of production.
“The second criterion sets ethics in relation to language and social interaction. Here we are closer to the problem at hand. Habermas, however, specifies the communication situation again without references to the media. Discourse ethics occur for him in the “lifeworld”: “The symbolic structures of every lifeworld are reproduced through three processes: cultural tradition, social integration, and socialization” (Habermas 1990, 102, qtd. in Poster 157-58).
These processes might be elaborate to include media, but Habermas does not venture in that direction. Without such an elaboration, the question of ethics in the age of information machines cannot even be posed (Poster 158).
While, for Poster, Habermas’ refusal to enunciate the form that the lifeworld embodies disallows “the question of ethics in the age of information machines…[to] be posed” (158), this may not necessarily be the case. It can be inferred that Habermas’ “move toward an ethical theory related to language ends in assuming only the context of face-to-face speech” (15), but this is perhaps a limited reading of the lifeworld. By not delineating a media, Habermas allows the lifeworld to assume all forms of discourses. Rather than restricting the lifeworld to an embodied—corporeal or textual—experience, he allows any discourse that involves tradition, integration and socialization to be folded into its understanding. Since all discourses meet these requirements—especially media (or the Internet)—the lifeworld theory can be applied. Internet discourses require individuals to learn traditions, to integrate themselves into the discourse, and to become socialized in the ways of the community and therefore should be understood in the same terms as Habermas’ theory.
Considering Poster’s previous arguments concerning identity and the face-to-face ethics, one would assume that this refusal would thrill him. Instead, it seems that Poster himself has become blind to the idea that discourse does not require corporeal bodies in order to function. Ethics, language, and discourse seem, for him, to infer physical bodies and without specifying otherwise, cannot be separated from them. Poster’s reluctance to see beyond Habermas’ refusal of definition is especially distressing because it seems to belie the bulk of Habermas’ critical theory. Habermas’ connection to the Frankfurt School should be enough to infuse the aforementioned statement with an discussion of all media, especially since one of the Frankfurt School’s main interest was [the] media and examining its contributions to social domination.
In the end, Habermas’ second criterion does coincide with his argument that one can base “ethics in communicative practices where individuals reach consensus by recognizing the validity claims of other in the group” (Poster 157) seems to be exactly what Poster is desirous of. The internet as a social practice in communication thrives on consensus and recognition. Without this, the Net would fail to be a social force at all.