Panel Performances Five
Viral Media 2
Tina Kendall (Anglia Ruskin University, UK): Bored Media, Virality and #Lockdownlife
This paper will explore the ‘logics of virality’ as these have accrued around—and as they increasingly mediate and control—lived experiences of boredom in the context of the global Covid-19 lockdowns. If metaphors of contagion and virality have long been marshalled by social media corporations as part of their ongoing ‘war on boredom’ (Kendall 2017), in the context of the current Coronavirus pandemic, this virality is—as Tony Sampson and Jussi Parikka (2020) have suggested—now ‘resolutely non-metaphorical’. Indeed, as I will argue in this paper, what the lockdown has exposed and intensified is the pivotal role that boredom plays in the wider policing, management and control of bodies in an age of ‘digital psychopolitics’ (Han 2017). One concrete example of this can be seen in the massive outpouring of advice that was issued in the days and weeks following the imposition of lockdown measures, concerning how people could “beat” the boredom that might inevitably occur in this context. The emerging effort to contain the very real Covid-19 virus was thus underwritten by a ramping up of the metaphorical war on boredom, as governments, cultural organisations, and media outlets everywhere began to issue policy documents, tool kits, watch lists, and recommendations—many of which strangely echo both the structure and tone of bingeable media sites such as Boredom Therapy or Bored Panda. Drawing on work by Byung-Chul Han (2017) and others, my paper attempts to trace some of the ‘strange feedback loops’ (Sampson & Parikka 2020) that cut across the biological, cultural, technological, and affective layers of these experiences of boredom under lockdown. It will focus on a range of bored media that has emerged in this context, including government policy papers, newsletters and marketing material from various cultural and arts organisations, as well as user-generated content (#boredinthehouse; #boredvibes; #lockdownlife) that has flourished on the popular social media site TikTok as a means of documenting, expressing, or avoiding experiences of boredom during lockdown.
Ludmila Lupinacci (London School of Economics): Going with the (social media) flow: Notes on doomscrolling and stream flow-breakers in viral times
This short paper dedicates attention to a mechanism through which much of the online content is circulated, shared, and consumed nowadays: social media’s infinite streams, or ‘feeds’. These informational flows are central socio-technical conditions to the present-day logics of virality and memetics – phenomena that are always contingent on the existence of appropriate structures and vectors. The discussion focusses on what I am referring to as ‘flow-breakers’. These are posts shared by users of stream-based social media platforms targeting other (imagined) users who are scrolling uninterruptedly through a flood of gloomy content – a practice that is now generally called ‘doomscrolling’. Stream flow-breakers not only demonstrate the current normalisation of so-called mindless, endless scrolling as part of regular social media engagements but also serve to evidence users’ reflexive acknowledgement of both the readers’ likely repetitive (often labelled ‘addictive’) behaviour, and of the stickiness of these technologies. In a context of lockdown, the ‘mobility’ in mobile social media is less about portability or physical movement and more about affective motility and tentative practices of dwelling in platforms that are purposefully framed as agitated and restless. Keywords Scrolling; social media; platform; mobile media; flow; infinite stream; lockdown, phenomenology.
Donatella Della Ratta (John Cabot University, Italy): ‘Give it a shot. VVV: on Violence, Visibility and Viruses‘
The ‘shot’ is the figurative device around which we (re)think what happened in the last decade in terms of the relationship between violence, visibility and the body. Ten years ago, the myth of the participatory culture incubated within the ‘social’ web (O’Reilly 2005) had nurtured the absolute faith in virality being the new ‘message’ of a medium that, by virtue of its speed and ‘spreadability’ (Jenkins 2013), had irremediably dissolved content into mere contributions (Dean 2005). The Arab Spring embodied the celebration of this belief. The hashtag ‘domino effect’, in which so many countries, from Libya to Egypt to Yemen, were trapped – dictatorship after dictatorship falling in weeks or months, in a row, first on Twitter, then on the ground –, seemed to be evidence of this virality and spreadability successfully at work. Contagion had finally materialized as a techno-social (and political) condition. This period was marked by the utmost visibility and violence: the more you shoot, the more you are shot at (and viceversa). To the reflection I’ve elaborated in my previous work on the metaphor of ‘shooting’ as in performing violence and producing evidence of that violence performed (Della Ratta 2018), I want to offer, ten years and a pandemic after the ‘Spring’, a further element to the intertwinement between visual media and the military, i.e. the pharmaceutical or, better, ‘pharmapornographic’ (Preciado 2013) aspect of the shot. The ways in which big pharma converges, with the media and the military, in redefining the body and the production of subjects and subjectivities as the ultimate battlefield for contemporary capitalism. From micro cameras to wearable and bio weapons, the ‘shooting’ has become more and more connected to technologies of the body becoming ‘microprostethic’ and ‘incorporated’ (Preciado, 2013) and, at the same time, globally networked. No longer extensions of the body, it is the latter that rather incorporates these pervasive spaces of surveillance and inherent violence. The pharmaceutical, pharmapornographic shot has taken over: endocrinology and the genetic (and semiotic) engineering of the healthy and the sick, from period (and virus) tracking-apps to networked sex toys.