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March 04, 2011


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Michael McIntyre

Proust: four-volume, leather-bound Éditions de la Pléïade. Can Kindle ever match that?

I'm wondering about this in the context of next term's course on social movements. Initial, very fragmentary thoughts:
(1) In an era of virtual panopticality, the material becomes invisible. But the virtual is still parasitic on the material (someone has to make the hardware, after all), and organizing that takes place in that space escapes the virtual gaze. (Given its scale, what gets less attention than the organizing taking place among industrial workers in China?)
(2) As virtual relationships replace face-to-face relationships, organizing that brings bodies into a common space becomes experientially bracing. Think of a more politicized version of the resurgence of vinyl or the slow-food movement. (Perhaps one day they'll do a remake of "The Graduate" in which "social media" takes the place of the word "plastics").
(3) And yet with all this, the reach and speed of virtual networks can't be forsworn. In an era (probably already arrived) in which data-mining and sock puppetry (formerly known as spying and infiltration) have become normal, we need to think about how to create clandestine virtual networks. This means more, not less, geekery, because the ability to create and maintain secure virtual networks now has to be part of our ordinary toolkit.


Michael - I particularly like #3. Isn't "Anonymous" doing something like this already, at least in a very specific context?

And Jodi, I think Michael's general point that the virtual is to a degree parasitic is a clue to your search for net methodone. What is happening in Wisconsin or what happened in the middle east were real bodies in motion, coming together, in solidarity for a common cause. They are, at a minimum, a retaking of the commons. Certainly, they are impacted by social media, both in content and dissemination. But that really does seem secondary to what is essential - people coming together in common cause, for the common good. These are very old school ideas, very cliche, and absolutely real.

Hank Stolte

My take on how Facebook/Twitter might be analyzed form a positive stance http://linesoffracture.blogspot.com/2011/03/enframed-mirror-or-beyond.html It would jive with Michael's #3 as well instead of only viewing technology and social media as alienating maybe we can begin to endorse the ways it enframes our understanding of mobilization.


As you know, I've been fasting from Facebook and Twitter since the February 9th and going on until the Equinox on March 20th. From what I can tell by being friends with you on the former, I think I may have been much more intensely involved with it too. I haven't had much difficulty de-coupling, but there have been moments where I simply wanted to forward something I read.

I have paid more attention to the news and blogs (noticing almost with pain how slow they seem to move sometimes). I have thrown myself into reading a world history text from an AP course I never finished in high school (I transfered to a community college in the middle of my senior year in 2003), and more recently into The Left Hand of Darkness. I have written on my blog a few times in the last couple weeks, but I have been busy with other stuff to keep it up. I think fiction is the best way to de-couple.


Interesting post, interesting comments. Yes, Twitter is flooded with commercial interests. I get followed by lots of bots and lots of sales teams. When I can be bothered, I block them; I only follow people I'm interested in and who have inspiring ideas - and that would include a lot of friends and family but on the whole I use Facebook for those connections and Twitter is more about connections with strangers, some of whom become friends.

I don't quite understand the anxiety about Twitter, Facebook etc and their commercialisation. A number of my friends express it, but I don't think I share it. Yes, the Facebook news feed is sometimes just a flow of people advertising something - an upcoming art show, a link to something they found amusing on YouTube, a new blog post (and I use it myself to post notices about my own new blog posts!). But I think that's OK - it's through those little 'adverts' that I have learned about new artists, new ideas, discovered memes, and felt connected, not just with people I already know well but with a circle of people I know only lightly or even have never met. Can this sort of interaction be the foundation of anything meaningful? I think it can, even without the examples of the recent events in Egypt as indicators of how there are times when ANY kind of information-sharing is potent and necessary.

I've heard people say that Facebook and twitter interactions are 'only' virtual and thus 'not real'. This often seems to be said be those who don't use these media. What I think is interesting is that these comments seem to evince a desire for FB and Twitter interactions not-to-be - as though saying they are not meaningful will make it so. The thing is, that these little exchanges can't be undone. Some of them don't matter (in the sense of having no material impact upon the affect, bodies or relations of those who read them); others can have surprising force. One artist, whom I had never met, wrote on Twitter that his cat was dying; on an impulse I sent him a message to sympathise. We have now met, and become good friends, although he lives in New York and I in Melbourne. In some ways this example is banal; in other ways, it's a reminder that actions can follow on from the least of moments, that 140 characters can form the basis of something... I can see no reason why politics, social change, legal debate or cultural opinion should be different. The mechanics of evoking change might be different (and more complex) than the mechanics of initiating friendship after the exchange of 2 tweets, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't think them through and try to work with them, if we can...


Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Hank and Images--it doesn't seem to me that looking at the positive side of Facebook and Twitter is a useful exercise--we are constantly inculcated with the ideology of how great they are and, without specific gestures (like Joe mentions) of withdrawal it's difficult to escape them, whether we have a positive assessment or not.

Alain--most def on taking of the common and bodies in motion. I wonder even if the feeling of people engaged in this, so crucial and so alive, has enhanced my sensitivity to the ways Facebook and Twitter are participating in another, contrary and opposed, kind of taking.

My sense is that Facebook and Twitter have turned relations between people into relations between things. Updates from friends are drowning in everything else. Human tweets are rarer in the flow of tweets. For myself, it's kinda weird--I'm finding that the more media I write in, the less I feel free and able to say what I want. Or, better, the more what I want changes and this change feels constraining. So if all tweets and updates are announcements of events and petitions, it feels quite wrong (inappropriate) to say something about my day or my mood. And I notice that my friends are less likely to say something like that as well; instead, they share links. So the links meet each other while we have retreated. And, in searching for the connection again, trying to find the bits of life and feeling, I (maybe we) get even more captured--constantly checking to see if there are people and if I am one, too.

(which makes me think of a comment Alain made on the sock pocket thread--Alain, I think my position is actually that of a persona, bot, or sock puppet; when that mode is dominant, the subjective position becomes the same--which also may be why I've been not feeling like a human for at least 10 days now).

Thomas Kiefer

"The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves, but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don't stop people from expressing themselves, but rather, force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying." (Gilles Deleuze, "Mediators")


I absolutely love that quote. Thank you.

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