Joss Hands (Anglia Ruskin University)
In recent years we have seen an increasing reliance on new forms of social media platform to coordinate and augment political movements around the world, often short-circuiting traditional means of corporate and state control. In the same period we have seen a widespread revival in the currency of the the ‘idea of communism’ being consciously rehabilitated by a number of thinkers such as Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and numerous others. This paper looks to the relationship between these two tendencies and asks whether there might be such a thing as a ‘platform communism’, what this might look like and what confronts its realisation.
Joss Hands is reader in media and critical theory at Anglia Ruskin University where he is director of the Anglia Research Centre in Media and Culture, he is author of ‘@ is For Activism: Dissent Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture’ from Pluto Press, 2011.
February 25th: (note: on a Monday in ETB10)
Helen Keegan (University of Salford)
“alt.media: Create to Engage”
I will describe the use of alt.media to create learning experiences for undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts in a transdisciplinary context. Exploring themes around identity, creativity, engagement, remix culture, spreadable media and curiosity, I will present a series of projects which centre on open educational practices where formal education and informal learning practices collide, subverting traditional methods through folk creativity, identity play, performance and transmedia intertextuality. Following Jenkins et. al. (2013) in their critique of the notion of ‘virality’, and developing ideas around ‘spreadability’, I will highlight our use and exploration of memes and remix culture through open production practices and crowdsourced research. I will also present an experiment in Alternate Reality Gaming to introduce mystery and intrigue into the curriculum, raising questions around produsage, identity play, and hoaxes online. Through highlighting a range of practices, many of which resonate strongly with open media and creative activism, I will encourage participants to consider everyday creativity, audience engagement and media production, consumption and critique.
Helen Keegan (@heloukee) is a National Teaching Fellow (UK Higher Education Academy) and Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Salford, UK. Her expertise lies in curriculum innovation through social and participatory media, with a particular focus on creativity and interdisciplinarity. She is known for her work on digital cultures and identities, social technologies and the interplay between formal and informal learning; Helen works across sciences and media arts, developing partnerships and creative approaches to learning and collaboration. As a regular international speaker, recent engagements have included the New Media Consortium at MIT, BBC Global News and the European Distance Education Network.Alongside presenting and consulting, Helen has published in journals and edited collections including the European Journal of Open and Distance Learning, Selected Papers of Internet Research, and the Handbook of Research on Social Software and Developing Community Ontologies. For more info see http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/profiles/keegan/
Ruth Catlow (Furtherfield)
“We Are Open: Openness in a new public art gallery and social space.”
I will talk about how concepts and practices of openness have shaped the values, programmes and infrastructures of Furtherfield as an independent community for arts, technology and social change. In Spring 2012 Furtherfield opened a new public gallery and social space in the heart of Finsbury Park in North London. We want to connect the local audience (many of whom are new to art) with the work of a long-standing community of artists, technologists and activists who have a longstanding engagement with a range of open practices. “Such participatory production and “media democratisation” counters elitist propaganda that art is a special activity for special people… and returns the outcomes of inventiveness to the common for mutual enjoyment and open-ended reiteration. (Da Rimini, 2010) I will draw on artworks and curatorial projects from the Furtherfield Programme that are informing our work and some of the strategies that we are developing.
Artist, curator and co-founder with Marc Garrett of Furtherfield, an online community for art, technology and social change since 1997; now also a public gallery in the heart of Finsbury Park, London. Her collaborative, intermedia artworks and projects are exhibited and hosted in international venues and include Rethinking Wargames (Lowfi netart commission 2003) VisitorsStudio (awarded the Grand Netart Prize in 2009), WeWontFlyForArt (2009) and Zero Dollar Laptop (2010-ongoing). Co-editor of Artists Re:Thinking Games (2010) and Collaboration and Freedom– The World of Free and Open Source Art (2011) a collection for Arts Council England and P2P Foundation. Currently collaborating on a public game art project with Mary Flanagan called Local Play. Ruth is also Head of Writtle School of Design, for arts and design in the environment. http://furtherfield.org http://writtle.ac.uk/design
Paolo Ruffino (Goldsmiths, University of London)
‘Narratives of Independent Production in Video Game Culture’
In this presentation I will discuss some of the latest iterations of independent gaming. The notion of ‘independence’ has been introduced in video game culture in order to define a way of producing video games where developers are also responsible for the publication and distribution of their own work. This phenomenon has often been described in revolutionary terms by video game magazines and industry practitioners, as representing the democratisation of the production process of a video game which is allegedly no longer dependent onexternal figures to reach its public. A significant network of independent developers has been emerging in the last few years, assisted in reaching public visibility by a large number of events and institutions. The Independent Games Festival, started in 1998, is the most famous event. Other conferences include Indiecade and, in Scandinavian countries, the Nordic Game Jam, on top of many other events and industry exhibitions which now tend to display at least one independent session or track. In 2012, the documentary ‘Indie Game: The Movie’ has been awarded at Sundance Film Festival and has gathered further attention on this phenomenon.
The concept of independence seems to have emerged in video game culture as a discursive redefinition of some of the practices of production of a video game. As such, it is not only descriptive but also generative of further practices and interpretations. The argument I want to put forward is intended to contrast with the view of independent gaming as founded merely on shifts in technological, economic or managerial practices. I propose that independent gaming should also be understood in terms of the influences it receives and replicates, such as those coming from the creative industries and contemporary forms of immaterial labour. From this perspective I will discuss how ‘independence’ might work as a discursive justification for the introduction of individualised forms of work in the game industry. Also, this change appears to be framed on similar discourses currently emerging in video game culture, where forms of openness, user-generated content, hacking and players’ engagement are narrated as revolutionary and positive practices of production and consumption. Independent gaming can thus be seen as part of a broader phenomenon and as a form of re-interpretation of existing discourses which have been emerging in different contexts, such as Web2.0, software engineering and creative industries.
Paolo Ruffino is a Visiting Tutor and PhD student at the Media and Communications department at Goldsmiths, University of London, Lecturer at the Game Cultures programme at London South Bank University, and Research Fellow at Leuphana University. His research project is based on a cultural analysis of video game consumers and, particularly, of the emergence of the prosumer in the video game industry. It involves a study of the concepts of consumer and producer, the history of the medium of the video game and phenomena such as ‘modding’, independent gaming, gamification and game art. His interests include video game theory and culture, semiotics, cultural analysis, digital media and ‘new media’ art.
Eva Weinmayr and Lynn Harris (AND)
‘Men Meets Machine’
It is the technological advances of the analog printing press that construct our contemporary idea of books as fixed objects. Here, immutability is a key factor allowing for mass and consistent reproduction. But now, with digital printing technologies, mass production and mutability live hand in hand. The values and attributes that define books are much more malleable than we wish to face and we must be diligent of where knowledge is being generated. It is undeniable that books are an incredible technology that will most likely never be abandoned, but that doesn’t mean they will remain the same. They have never remained the same.
Eva Weinmayr is a German artist, writer and editor based in London. In her work she focusses on bordercrossings between mainstream and independent media, digital and print media, cultural piracy, the fluidity of authorship, translation processes, collaborative strategies and open culture. Since 2009, she has been co-founder and director of AND Publishing in London.
She has exhibited at Contemporary Art Museum St Louis, Whitechapel Gallery London, KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin, Zacheta National Art Gallery Warsaw, FormContent, Matt’s Gallery and The Showroom in London. She has been teaching at Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths College, London College of Communication, The Ruskin in Oxford and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Her published books include (pause) 21 scenes concerning the silence of Art in Ruins (Occasional Papers, London) Water Found on Mars (Hatje Cantz, Stuttgart) and Suitcase Body is Missing Woman (Book Works, London)
Lynn Harris is an American artist living and working in London. She is interested in dematerialised art, the digital domain, collaboration, publishing as practice and socially binding act, and in developing copyleft and methods of open production. Since 2009, she has been co-founder and director of AND Publishing. Since 2003 she has been co-founder and director of Unrealised Projects, a web-based archive of unrealised ideas, series of publications, events and exhibitions involving over 200 artists.
Her work has been shown internationally and she has been invited to speak at several institutions including Wysing Arts Centre/Bourne, Institute of Contemporary Art/London, The Model/Ireland, Chisenhale Gallery/London. Cornerhouse/Manchester, VOID/Derry, NGCA/Sunderland, Milton Keynes Gallery/London, A Foundation/Liverpool, Museum of Image and Sound/Sao Paulo.
Caroline Bassett: (University of Sussex)
‘Silence, Delirium, Lies: An Uncoded Response to Social Media’
One way to respond to the monopoly of commercial social media is to stop communicating. Resist terminal integration into expanding communicative circuits reaching far beyond the screen. Switch off, turn away, mis-speak, refuse to play – or become silent. Don’t make the kind of social noise that generates the exploitable signals.
To suggest that a critical response to social media’s voracious demands for more material might be developed around calls to produce less of it, doesn’t seem to be acceptable at all. Even amongst many of those wary of the commoditized modes of communication social media enables, proposing tactics that might frustrate communication – to refuse to network, to un-compute – provokes suspicion and unease. This unease perhaps arises because of justifiable concerns to defend freedom (and freedom of speech). But this presumes the consequences of continuously expanding social media monopolies (with their seductive appeal: speech for free/free speech/more speech/more freedom) will be positive; that the network effect is automatically good for everybody as well as good for the network’s functioning. I would rather start with growth and with the assertion that to fail to contribute to the volume or density (and volume becomes capacity alarmingly fast) of the social environment is heretical in a world in which growth is deified and in which technological growth is aligned with progress.
Having no problems with such heresy, in this talk I investigate ways in which various form of communicational revolt – silence, delirium, lies, all of which involve forms of refusal – might constitute an appropriate response to social media monopoly. It is partly because the demand for less – which at its most extreme becomes a demand for silence, but which is not restricted to that – is thoroughly unacceptable that it is also intriguing. In the context of a seminar on Open Media, I also want to argue that this approach, appearing to produce a kind of closure, may open new possibilities: not least for forms of sonic solidarity.
Caroline Bassett is Reader in Digital Media and researches and teaches in the Department of Media and Film at the University of Sussex. Her research explores cultural impacts of digital media focusing on gender, narrative, mobile media and public space. She is currently completing a monograph exploring cultural hostility to computerisation and undertaking two funded projects: the first exploring science fiction and innovation and the second, digital economies in relation to cultures and communities.