UNLIKE US #2

Date: March 8-10, 2012

Location: TrouwAmsterdam,  Wibautstraat 127, 1091 GL Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Thursday, March 8

16.30 – 17.30 > ART SESSION >

Unlike Art

Bits of code, snippets, plugins and projects investigating social media by Networked Media students of Piet Zwart Institute (Rotterdam)

On the occasion of lectures, workshops and prototyping sessions, Networked Media students often dealt with the field of social media. As a result, a series of works in progress, experiments and ideas that question social media from different points of view, such as, for instance: online identity, monetization of data, privacy, online-offline boundaries.

Works by Dušan Barok (SK), André Castro (PT), Mirjam Dissel (NL), Eleanor Greenhalgh (UK), Fabien Labeyrie (FR), Jonas Lund (SE/NL), Sebastian Schmieg (GE), Bartholomäus Traubeck (GE), Danny Van Der Kleij (NL), Jasper Van Loenen (NL), Marie Wocher (GE), Dave Young (IE). Moderated and curated by Silvio Lorusso (IT).

17.30 – 17.45 > CORALIE VOGELAAR >

Coralie Vogelaar
EAT SHIT AND DIE!

The web is filled with hate comments and death threads. Mainly because people think they are anonymous or don’t think about it at all. For the book ‘Dearest Tinkebell’ Vogelaar researched what kind of people send death threads to TINKEBELL. It turned out hate mail senders are not scary people at all but mostly nice looking teenagers with an active social life on the internet. It was relatively easy to find all the possible details about their lives; contact information like home addresses but also drunken photo’s, diary’s with their personal problems and gossips from friends. A lot of it is recognizable from our own teenage years. The only difference is that nowadays there is a whole generation growing up where everything is recorded.

17.45 – 18.00 > BITS OF FREEDOM >

Joris van Hoboken (Bits of Freedom, IViR):
Making social networks respect privacy and communication freedoms

Bits of Freedom, the Dutch digital civil rights movement, is actively engaged in the debate about the respect for privacy and communication freedoms on social networks in the Netherlands. Now that much of online communications take place in these contexts, respect for fundamental right should follow. Over the last year Bits of Freedom has focused on raising awareness about the lack of respect for privacy and communication freedoms by dominant social network providers and pointed to alternatives. Bits of Freedom has made the digital rights issues relating to social networks one of its priorities for 2012 and it plans to more actively campaign for better protection of privacy and communication freedoms on social networks.

Conference day 1: Friday, March 9

10.00 – 12.00 > SESSION 1 >

Social what? Defining the Social

The term ‘social’ in ‘social media’ is embedded in positive connotations regarding community spirit and participation and is moreover rhetorically used as a given. Within the popular discourse social media are often portrayed as important tools for generating and preserving social interaction within the community, which would supposedly lead to a more engaged and involved society. But to what extent are these media actually social as opposed to commercial when we consider how ‘the social’ is being recreated and exploited for commercial success. By working around the utopian discourse we will further explore this phenomena within this session in order to define the ‘social’ in social media.

Moderator: Geert Lovink (NL)

Speakers:

Jodi Dean (USA)
Society doesn’t exist

Over the last several decades, it has become common to the point of banal to say that “society doesn’t exist.” In Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policies, the radical democracy of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the actor network theory of Bruno Latour, and the anarcho-communism of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri the meme of society’s non-existence reappears. At the same time, for about a decade now, we’ve been barraged social media spam. In my presentation, I will consider the conjuncture of the claim that society
doesn’t exist with that for social media. Is the problem here that social media publicists simply didn’t get the memo regarding society’s non-existence? Or does social media bring (back) into existence what had been said to be an absent fantasy? In other words, does social media restore the missing social or is it a symptom of it? I will argue that it’s a symptom, one that displace attention from the real of political antagonism.

Dylan Wittkower (USA)
Reification 2.0

While The Social Network displayed, for the most part, the sort of understanding of Zuckerberg and Facebook better suited to Revenge of the Nerds V, there is one crucial thing that the film presented which seems to be literally false of Zuckerberg, but figuratively true of social network users in the Facebook age: we are getting lost in the commodification of our relationships. The use of “who you know” in business, and the social climbing which mobilizes relationships towards commerce are nothing new, of course, and neither are their youth equivalents, which trade on the currency of ‘popularity’. And yet, with Facebook we see those connections made ever more clearly into things to be possessed and used—not only by the network’s commodification of our personal data, but through users’ own mutual commodifications of one another: A reification 2.0 to go along with web 2.0.

13.00 – 15.15 > SESSION 2 >

Artistic Responses to Social Media

Artists play a valuable role in visualizing power relationships and revitalizing prefab subliminal daily routines of social media usage. Artistic practice provides an important analytical site in the context of the proposed research agenda of Unlike Us. Artists are often among the first to deconstruct the familiar, and to facilitate an alternative lens to explore and critique new cultural contexts and the technologies that evoke them. Is there such a thing as a social ‘web aesthetics’? It is one thing to criticize Twitter and Facebook for their primitive and bland interface designs, but is it possible to imagine the techno-social in completely different ways? Could we maybe design and implement new interfaces that give us more freedom to enable our mediated selves to be the evolving and layered identities we know ourselves to be? In this session we will present a few examples of artistic interventions in well-known social media platforms, and discuss their role and impact.

Moderator: Josephine Bosma (NL)

Speakers:

Thomas Cheneseau (FR)

FacebookFeedback is an original visual expression which examines the limits of the interface of this social network and deconstructs the temporal space of the website. Facebook is diverted and used both as media and medium, as a medium for dissemination and exposure, but mainly as a space of creation and existence of an artwork. This artistic research consists of a series of screenshots (pictures and videos) which appropriate plastic material such as codes of Facebook, as well as a series of progressive visual feedback, which makes possible towards the end to break down the timeline imposed by the social network. Thomas also directed the project HEKKAH, an interactive installation generated by the Facebook news feed in real time.

Tobias Leingruber (DE)
Can I see your Facebook ID?

Next time someone asks for your ID – How about showing a Facebook ID card instead of the documents your government gave you? On the web this is common practice. Whenever asked we agree on identity checks through “Facebook Connect” or post comments with our Facebook identity. Facebook Inc. is establishing order on the world wild web – They clean-up the mess of anonymity and push the establishment of identities through their system. There are close to 900 million FB citizens, and they all have a (digital) ID. “Offline” governments like Germany offer passports with online identity systems as well, but does anyone still care? Who is in charge of your identity, and how can this affect us in only a few years from now? Read more: http://fbbureau.com and http://fbresistance.com

Walter Langelaar (NL)
Web 2.0 Suicide Machine

Seamless connectivity and rich social experience offered by web2.0 companies are the very antithesis of human freedom. Users are entrapped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world. We do have an healthy amount of paranoia to think that everyone should have the right to quit her 2.0-ified life by the help of automatized machines. Facebook and Co. are going to hold all your information and pictures on their servers forever! We still hope that by removing your contact details and friend connections one-by-one, your data is being cached out from their backup servers. This can happen after days, weeks, months or even years. So merely deactivating the account is just not enough! We are doing our best to expand possibilities of erasing your entire presence, however it is a work in progress. Please note, that we are not deleting your account! Our aim is rather to remove your private content and friend relationships than just deactivating/deleting the account!” http://suicidemachine.org/

Alessandro Ludovico (IT)
Face to Facebook, smiling in the eternal party

Social networking is naturally addictive. It’s about exploring something very familiar that has never been available before: staying in touch with past and present friends and acquaintances in a single, potentially infinite, virtual space. The phenomenon challenges us psychologically, creating situations that previously were not possible. Before the rise of social networking, former friends and acquaintances would tend to drift away from us and potentially become consigned to our personal histories. Having a virtual space with (re)active people constantly updating their activities is the basic, powerful fascination of the social network. But there’s another attraction, based on the elusive sport to position ourselves. The answer to the fundamental identity question, “who am I?” can be given only in relation to the others that we interact with. And the answer to this question seems clearer after we take a look at our list of social network friends.

Olia Lialina (DE)
Imaginary Origins of Social Networks

The Web’s history is reaching back only  two decades, but researching the history of Digital Folklore quickly leads into uncertain territories.  Because hardly anything of users’ efforts was deemed worthwhile to archive and document, we are left with assumptions, based on fragmentary memories of actual participants and the “best effort” archive The Wayback Machine.  The quality of interacting with the web as a whole 15 years ago is lost and it is possible to remember things that never happened. The past is still under construction. Once Upon (2011) is three important contemporary web sites, recreated with technology and spirit of late 1997, according to the  memories of Dragan Espenschied and Olia Lialina.

15.45 – 17.30 > SESSION 3 >

The Private in the Public

The advent of social media has eroded privacy as we know it, giving rise to a culture of self-surveillance made up of myriad voluntary, everyday disclosures. New understandings of private and public are needed to address this phenomenon. What does owning all this user data actually mean? Why are people willing to give up their personal data, and that of others? How should software platforms be regulated?

Moderator: Lonneke van der Velden (NL)

Speakers:

Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius (NL)
The Ecosystem of Online Audience Buying

Behavioural targeting is the monitoring of online behaviour of internet users over time, in order to build a profile of these users, to target them with advertising matching their inferred interests. Users of social networking sites help marketing companies by profiling themselves. Profiles can be further enriched with up to date location data of users of mobile devices, and with other data that are gathered on and off line. Providers of social networking sites use profiles to provide advertisers with detailed audience segments to target with advertising. Other companies enrich their consumer profiles by extracting information from social network sites. A complex ecosystem of companies emerges, in which collected data are combined, analysed, and auctioned off in almost real time. The presentation gives an overview of this ecosystem.

Seda Gürses (TR/BE)
Privacy in Online Social Networks: A requirements engineering perspective

Social networks have been at the front line of introducing new services that raise privacy concerns previously unthought of. Not only have these outcries shown that privacy is an ever changing and contextual notion, they underline the variety of activities that can lead to privacy concerns and the variety of tools needed to counter the raised issues. Privacy itself is a debated notion with various definitions that are also often vague. While this increases the resilience of the privacy concept in social and legal contexts, it poses a considerable challenge to defining the privacy problem and the “appropriate” solutions to address those problems in a technical system-to-be. When engineering systems, the stakeholders of the system ideally step through a process of reconciling the relevant privacy definitions and the (technical) privacy solutions in the given social context. During the talk, I will discuss how this reconciliation can be approached during requirements engineering using examples from the interdisciplinary project on Security and Privacy in Online Social Networks (SPION).

Caroline Nevejan (NL)
Being and Bearing Witness in Communities of Systems and People

Next generation material and immaterial infrastructres are merging networks for commodities like water and energy with social networks in which human intentions and behavior are expressed. The design of such networks needs a new design paradigm to which an individual human being’s perspective is core. Human beings need to be able to accept repsonsibility and liability in such a context. Responsibility and liability, being witness and bearing witness, establishing trust and truth are foundationall for social structures. What are parameters for such a new design paradigm?

Arnold Roosendaal (NL)
Who decides who I am online?

You decide who you are online. Or do you? Via internet you send information for education, work, recreation or shopping, stay in contact with friends on social networking sites, etc. Next to information you share deliberately, additional information about online behavior is collected. With this information other parties create, build, trade and use your online identities. Do we know and should we care? This presentation and provides an insight in the way commercial companies construct your online identity, and how individual autonomy is affected by preset choices and inclusion or exclusion mechanisms. It also shows how profiling is no longer group based, but strictly individualized, with direct impact on each separate individual. Commercial companies gain a central position on the internet, function as identity providers, and therewith make individuals dependent on them. Escaping becomes more and more difficult.

Conference day 2: Saturday, March 10

(9.30 Unlike Us org. meeting)

11.00 – 12.30 > SESSION 4 >

Software Matters

One of the important components of social media is software. For all the discourse on sociopolitical power relations governed by corporations such as Facebook and related platforms, one must not forget that social media platforms are thoroughly defined and powered by software. We need critical engagement with Facebook as software. That is, what is the role of software in reconfiguring contemporary social spaces? In what ways does code make a difference in how identities are formed and social relationships performed? How does the software function to interpellate users to its logic? What are the discourses surrounding software?

Moderator: Korinna Patelis

Speakers:

David M. Berry (UK)
Thinking Software: Realtime Streams and Knowledge in the Digital Age

As software/code increasingly structures the contemporary world, curiously, it also withdraws, and becomes harder and harder for us to focus on as it is embedded, hidden, off-shored or merely forgotten about. The challenge is to bring software/code back into visibility so that we can pay attention to both what it is (ontology/medium), where it has come from (media archaeology/genealogy) but also what it is doing (through a form of mechanology), so we can understand this ‘dynamic of organized inorganic matter’. In this talk I want to present some of the questions raised by thinking about software/code but also to explore some of the implications of code/software for critically understanding social media and more broadly for knowledge and the university itself.

Anne Helmond (NL) and Carolin Gerlitz (UK)
Reworking the fabric of the web: The Like economy

In recent years, Facebook has increasingly expanded beyond the limits of its platform, first through social buttons and the Open Graph, and more recently through new possibilities of app development, frictionless sharing and differentiated Facebook actions. These digital devices allow Facebook to turn user interactivity instantly into valuable data, creating what we have described as a Like Economy. In this paper, we explore how the platform produces a very particular fabric of the web with its software design by focusing on social buttons, apps and actions. The introduction of social buttons and social plug-ins allowed for a partial opening of the platform as walled garden – carefully regulated by its Graph API – and led to an increasing decentralisation of the web. Yet, the new apps, sharing possibilities and actions introduce a recentralisation as content and user activities are designed to remain within the platform. By tracing the data- and content flows enabled between the platform and the web, we suggest that the Like Economy cuts across straightforward ideas of Facebook as a walled garden but instead creates complex spatial relations, organised through a number of new relationship markers beyond the hyperlink which create new multi-layered dataflows.

Ganaele Langlois (CA)
Language, Subjectivation and Social Technologies

This presentation will engage with the works of Virno, Bifo, Lazzarato and Guattari to understand how language can be used as a site of analysis to understand the processes of subjectivation at stake in the neoliberal, post-fordist context. The starting premise is that capital, through new communication technologies, has invested heavily in subjective areas of life such as sociality and affect, most visibly through the development of online social networks and user-generated content platforms. In contrast to industrial capitalism, which sought to destroy the human psyche, the post-fordist context promotes the integration of previously alienated and resistant dynamics of individual and collective expressions of subjectivity. Language in particular should now be studied as a site of expression of such processes of subjectivation, and should therefore be understood as more than pure linguistic signs uttered by human actors. Rather, language involves not only social power relations, but also technolinguistic processes (automated and personalized recommendations, ratings and rankings) that create the dynamics through which subjectivities are encircled. In so doing, a theoretical shift should be undertaken from a focus on the content of communication to the semio-technical conditions that manage a seeming plurality of exchange.

13.30 – 15.30 > SESSION 5 >

Pitfalls of Building Social Media Alternatives (Debate)

It is not only important to critique and question existing design and socio-political realities but also to engage with possible futures. The central aim of this project is therefore to contribute and support ‘alternatives in social media’. What would the collective design of alternative protocols and interfaces look like? We should find some comfort in the small explosion of alternative options currently available, but also ask how usable these options are and how real is the danger of fragmentation. How have developers from different initiatives so far collaborated and what might we learn from their successes and failures? Understanding any early failures and successes of these attempts seems crucial. A related issue concerns funding difficulties faced by projects. Finally, in what ways does regionalism (United States, Europe, Asia) feed into the way people search for alternatives and use social media.

Moderator: Caroline Nevejan (NL)

Speakers:

Carlo v. Loesch/lynX (DE) from Secushare

Most applications have become dependent on Internet servers with serious man-in-the-middle privacy implications. You might expect in the year 2012 we should have technology that allows us to deliver messages or data between phones and computers in absolute safety, but this isn’t the case. Exchanging keys is a hassle, protocols are inefficient and side effects of encryption need to be considered. Secure Share intends to provide a new communication paradigm for the Internet as it enables applications to interact securely between the personal devices of people while letting servers be of occasional help in an innocuous way. It combines a flexible and efficient social communications protocol (PSYC2) with an advanced encrypted routing technology (GNUnet). One such application for this would be a social platform equivalent to Faceboogle, but distributed and encrypted straight from your phone or desktop. In this workshop we’ll try to get some undeniable privacy onto our phones and laptops for a start.

Michael Rogers (UK) from Briar
Briar: A Secure News and Discussion System

The Briar project is building a news and discussion platform to enable people in authoritarian countries to communicate without fear of government surveillance or censorship. We’re developing software that uses whatever media are available locally — from internet connections to Bluetooth, WiFi and even USB sticks — to create encrypted, delay-tolerant networks for distributing news, files and conversations.

Elijah Sparrow (USA) from Crabgrass
Crabgrass – online social organizing and group collaboration

Crabgrass is a software libre web application designed for social networking, group collaboration and network organizing. Our goal is to create communication tools that are tailored specifically to meet the needs of bottom up grassroots organizing. While social movements have grown more adept at using the web to communicate publicly, we are still mostly using inadequate tools to communicate amongst ourselves. Most groups rely heavily on email, lists, and wikis–but these tools are not suited for the complexity of relationships that activist organizations face in the real world. The internet may herald a deep change in democratic communication, but the internet is simultaneously the most effective tool for mass surveillance ever devised. The goal of Crabgrass is to become a secure alternative to surveillance-based online tools
that most activists rely on today.

Spideralex (ES) from Lorea

Lorea is a seedbed of free social networks linked by federation protocols that allow them to communicate. Lorea is not just software, but also a technical and political tool for the federated web, bringing back autonomy, freedom and total control over our data and our memory to the hands of the users of social networking sites themselves. The federation knocks down the walls of the panopticon 2.0 run by corporations and political interests, and offers a non-profit alternative to regain our technological sovereignty in the world of social networks. The project is aimed at civil society as a whole, i.e. Citizens and social collectives and political change organisations that are motivated by the desire to interact, share, change things together, devise solutions. We seek to address all people and groups who value their online identities and ther security and privacy . We value the right to freedom of expression, and the right to share information and knowledge and do so within a free and neutral social web.

James Vasile (USA) from Freedombox

FreedomBox will put in people’s own hands and under their own control encrypted voice and text communication, anonymous publishing, social networking, media sharing, and (micro)blogging. FreedomBox integrates privacy protection on a cheap plug server so everybody can have privacy. Data stays in your home and can’t be mined by governments, billionaires, thugs or even gossipy neighbors.

15.45 – 17.30 > SESSION 6 >

Social Media Activism and the Critique of Liberation Technology

While the tendency to label any emergent social movement as the latest ‘Twitter revolution’ has passed, a liberal discourse of ‘liberation technology’ (information and communication technologies that empower grassroots movements) continues to influence our ideas about networked participation. This discourse tends to obscure power relations and obstruct critical questioning about the capitalist institutions and superstructures in which these technologies operate.

What are the assumptions behind this neo-liberal discourse? What role do ‘developed’ nations play when they promote and subsidize the development of technologies of circumvention and hacktivism for use in ‘underdeveloped’ states, while at the same time allowing social media companies at home to operate in increasingly deregulated environments and collaborating with them in the surveillance of citizens at home and abroad? What role do companies play in determining how their products are used by dissidents or governments abroad? How have their policies and Terms of Use changed as a result?

Moderator: Oliver Leistert (HU)

Speakers:

Philipp Budka (AT)
Indigenous cyber activism: the case of K-Net and MyKnet.org in northwestern Ontario, Canada

In 1994 the Kuhkenah Network (K-Net, http://www.knet.ca/), a tribal council initiative, started to connect people in the remote region of northwestern Ontario, Canada, through digital communication technologies. It started with a simple bulletin board system and now includes the construction and support of a whole broadband internet infrastructure. This infrastructure allowed for the creation of services that have become widely popular among First Nation people, from telemedicine and online learning to free webspace. One of those services is MyKnet.org (http://myknet.org/) which provides free personal homepages, particularly for the youth. Those homepages can be understood as local representations of indigenous cultures, lives and identities within the world wide web. This paper discusses K-Net and MyKnet.org as agents of an indigenous cyber or digital activism that aims to change living conditions in the region’s remote and isolated communities.

Max Schrems (AT)
Europe versus Facebook

The first part of the presentation will explain the data use of Facebook by focusing on the background data our group got by making access request at Facebook. The second part will focus on some of the complaints that we filed against Facebook, claiming that their use of personal data is illegal under European data protection regulations. By the time of the presentation there will also be the first results of these complaints that will be analyzed in the presentation. Additionally questions concerning the factual monopoly of Facebook, alternative ways of shaping social networks and user duties under European data protection laws will be discussed.

Eleanor Saitta (USA)
Networks and Nation States

Moving from a centralized, institution-driven culture to a network structure would imply massive disruption even without the simultaneous failure of neoliberalized capital and onrushing climactic and resource catastrophe.  As we understand of our current position, we must expect an unprecedented degree of societal disruption. The shape of that disruption is determined in part by the nature of institution to network transition.  If we want to understand this disruption, we have to start here.

In this talk, we’re going to look at a couple of specific, concrete projects that point to that shape, namely the Constitutional Analysis Support Team and our work in conducting a threat model of the Icelandic constitution and the Sukey project in London, a crowd-sourced, distributed, real-time activist counterintelligence system.  With these projects, we’ll paint a picture of the structures of institutional failure and reconstitution and what a hollow institution looks like in practice.  We’ll close with discussion of the problems of institutional discretion and the jurisprudence of networks.

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