Panel C- Beyond Twitter

Wednesday, May 24
Room C 0.17

How “free” is speech on Twitter, and how can it be liberated from the platform? This panel invites us to think outside the borders of Twitter’s digital “town square.” These papers reflect on efforts to archive and preserve the forms of speech it enables, to experiment with identity, and to rethink the design of social media for the global commons.

The Structures of Hyperspatial Politics
Nick Haflinger, The Philosopher’s Meme

A comparative survey of the designs of today’s dominant social platforms — from Twitter and Facebook to 4chan, reddit, and Tumblr — and how the political movements which have arisen from them have been commensurate with the ways in which they organize the relations of users and content. How has Twitter’s design promoted a politics of micro-celebrity and its concomitant pile-ons? How is it that 4chan birthed both the anarchistic Anonymous and fascistic alt-right? When did reddit move past it’s Ron-Paul libertarian roots to become the epicenter of Sanders’ democratic-socialist organizing? Why are Facebook mememakers at the forefront of unionization efforts by content producers? After exploring such questions of intensive design, the talk will elaborate a landscape of hyperspatial politics that looks outward from particular platforms towards the larger fight for control of the (social) Web.

Nick Haflinger‘s work focuses on the impact of the organizational structures of Web platforms on user behavior, the economics of the Web from data to advertising to digital labor, and the populist, low-art meme scene. He agitates for an Internet free from corporate enclosures and ads-driven privacy violations. Haflinger is associated with The Philosopher’s Meme, a Facebook memepage and collective that studies the aesthetics, ethics, and politics of the social Web.

A Simple Twitter Experiment: Gender, Race and Trolling
Sunny Singh

As a non-white woman who has spent much of her adult life online as a blogger, writer, journalist and social media user across five continents, I am particularly aware of how visible markers of race – especially name and photograph – add to the gendered interactions. Women of colour specifically face – IRL and online – a harassment on both axes.

While there is increasingly work on online harassment, it must take into account what Professor Liz Kelly – writing about violence against women and girls – has called the ‘continuum of violence’ (1988). Such a conceptualisation places the drip feed of gendered, sexualised and racialised micro-aggressions (such as derailment, dismissal, sealioning) that all women, and more acutely, women of colour must survive and manage online. Such a conceptualisation also helps place legally defined online harassment, abuse, threats of violence in a wider context of violence directed against women.

This presentation describes a simple, spontaneous and yes entirely ad hoc experiment I conducted on Twitter in early 2016. In addition to explaining the experiment that required a series of changes to Twitter handles and avatar pics, the presentation places what I call ‘virtual violence’ in the wider context of violence against women and girls as well as their full spectrum of impacts.

Sunny Singh is a London based writer and researcher. She has published three critically acclaimed novels and a non-fiction book on the lives of single women in India. Her short stories have been published by prestigious international literary journals including The Drawbridge, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and World Literature Today. Now living in London, she teaches creative writing, literature and film studies at the London Metropolitan University. She has contributed to a collection selected by Khushwant Singh, stories in honour of Ruskin Bond; American anthologies, The Drawbridge, International PEN, numerous academic journals and newspapers worldwide. An expert on Bollywood, she has just finalised a book on Amitabh Bachchan commissioned by the BFI for their film star series. Sunny’s research interests include but are not limited to gender, sexuality, armed conflict, and postcoloniality(-ies). She is particularly interested in research projects exploring representations of the above in literature and cinema.

Vine as a Microhistory of Amateur Media
Marek Jancovic, University of Mainz, Germany

Vine, Twitter’s short-lived 6-second video platform, is a marvelous case study in the history of amateur media. Within just 4 years, this “strange side-project of Twitter” sprouted from an experiment into a mass phenomenon, prominently catapulting amateur videographers into mainstream meme fame, provoking new forms of narration, quickly becoming obsolete, and finally discontinued in January 2017. On economic terms, Vine was a failure or dead-end, yet its ephemerality contrasts with the significant cultural influence (and notoriety for piracy) it wielded during its peak.
During its lifetime, Vine occupied an ill-defined transitional space, irritating distinctions between amateur and professional, private and public, and legal and illegal. In North America, the platform was especially popular with black creators, whose informal labor often got recuperated into mainstream culture. This contribution will retrace Vine’s history while paying particular attention to issues of piracy and the racial politics of amateurism, both of which were prominently at play within the unique aesthetic and narrative patterns of Vine’s short video format. Taking into account Twitter’s multiple (and often contradictory) attempts to incorporate moving images into the microblogging platform, I will examine some of the parameters necessary to document and preserve fast-paced, ephemeral amateur media cultures.

Marek Jancovic is a lecturer and PhD candidate at the Institute for Film, Theater and Empirical Cultural Studies at the University of Mainz, Germany. His research interests include archaeologies of early media technology, formal and informal economies of global media and preservation practices of contemporary archival institutions. He holds a research MA degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam and a BA degree in Translation Studies from the University of Vienna.

Social Media Archiving: Cultural Memory and Community Activism
Tashina Blom, University of Amsterdam & Mirjam Schaap, Amsterdam City Archives
After the 2015 student protests in Amsterdam (which led to the occupations of the Bungehuis and the Maagdenhuis), a group of activists started a collaboration with the Amsterdam City archive in order to archive the vast amount of material produced during the protest. The protest was characterised by a combination of hands-on tactics and social media activism and we are currently archiving both in a digital archive. We are also developing an open source toolkit which will allow other protest movements to easily archive their own social media. The quantification embedded in many social media platforms (number of likes or retweets, e.g.) presents itself in the digital archive as a tool for archival analysis and selection criteria, however this emphasis on statistics also drives such charges as Morozov’s “slacktivism.” In this way, social media activism raises methodological, epistemological and ideological questions for archivists. I would like to address some of these questions by discussing examples from our own initial attempts to archive social media.

Tashina Blom is a Research Master student in Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam and has previously worked as a research assistant for UvA’s Diversity Commission. She is the co-initiator of the Maagdenhuis2015 archive project, worked for the National Student Union and is an editor for The Omslag, an online magazine about higher education. She occasionally rants/grumps/tweets here.

Mirjam Schaap is a historian and digital archivist working for the Amsterdam City Archives. She is researching new approaches and methods to appraise and select digital archives and collections for long-term preservation in the City Archive’s digital repository. She is supervising the Maagdenhuis archive project and is involved in (the initiating of) other participative projects.