Cfp and artworks deadline 21st Feb 2020
International Conference and Sensorium Art Show
25-26th June 2020
University of East London, Stratford Venues: USS Building and The Dome Stratford Campus
Carolyn Pedwell is Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on affect, habit, embodiment, digital culture and social transformation. Carolyn is the author of Transforming Habit: Affect, Assemblage and Social Change in a Minor Key (forthcoming, McGill-Queens UP), Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Empathy (2014, Palgrave) and Feminism, Culture and Embodied Practice (2010, Routledge). Her new research project, ‘Digital Media and the Human: The Social Life of Software, AI and Algorithms’, examines the production of the human, non-human and more-than-human in the context of emergent media ecologies.
Tero Karppi is Assistant Professor at the ICCIT & Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. A Finnish-born new media scholar, his book Disconnect: Facebook’s Affective Bonds was published by the University of Minnesota Press in October 2018. In it Karppi contends that platforms like Facebook see disconnection as an existential threat — and have undertaken wide-ranging efforts to eliminate it— Karppi’s focus on the difficulty of disconnection, rather than the ease of connection, reveals how social media has come to dominate human relations.
Registration opens soon: £20, Concessions £10
>Call for Papers and Artworks>200 word abstract DEADLINE: 21st Feb 2020
Please email 200 word abstract to t.d.sampson[at]uel.ac.uk. Be sure to include your name, any affiliations and contact email in the same text.
The call for the 5th international, interdisciplinary Affect and Social Media conference and Sensorium Art Show asks established academics, postgraduate writers, artists and media practitioners to broadly conceive of a more-than social media.
The corporate rhetoric of digital enterprise has often couched connectivity in celebratory terms. There can never be too much connectivity! Expanding on the ambitions and tools of Web 1.0, the social technology paradigm promised to (as Tim Berners Lee put it) connect users to everything and everybody. A social media business model swiftly followed that monetized too much connectivity by way of platform architectures designed to persuade users to spend increasingly more time connecting to each other. Users would now produce more and more relational data through linking to friends (more friends than they had offline!), building groups and communities, posting, sharing, and liking, liking, liking!
>More-Than Data Power
Social media is a corporate Empire of Like. It extracts value made from these abundances of connectivity and data. This is an empire that knows no bounds. An empire of excess wherein the endless accumulation and surveillance of all this data seems to be infinite. There can never be too much data. There is so much of the stuff that marketers and consumer researchers often ponder over what exactly to do with it all. What do Facebook really know? Do they know more than we think they know or do they know too much to compute?
Counterintuitively perhaps, these information excesses do not equate to user empowerment. The surpluses of connectivity and data have not produced the assumed information fuelled age of enlightenment. This is a dark age of social media in which James Bridle contends, we may well ‘know more and more about the world,’ but at the same time we are ‘less and less able to do anything about it.’
Platform architectures are designed to do more than make more information available. The behavioural data science teams behind the scenes claim to produce predictable user performances. But more than this, social media developers, researchers and marketers want to stir up a profusion of emotion, feelings and mechanical habits. They want impersonal affects to overflow their threshold points and spread contagiously through transmedia communities. These are viral flows and contaminations that produce affective bonds (Karppi, 2018), keeping users engaged in the process of making more and more sharable data. It is indeed these affective bonds of social media which become entangled with a more-than-human user experience (Clough, 2018).
>More-than User Experience
Much attention has been paid to the negative effects social media can have on a user’s emotions and mental health. Social media addictions and potential overdoses are endemic to a discourse of care. Are We All Addicts Now? Systems of withdrawal, detox, and disengagement have been proposed as an antidote. Yet, as personalities and technologies collapse into Clough’s impersonal user experience (and Chun’s YOU), what kinds of care system can ease the pain of identity loss? What happens when the “I” of the user collapses into these impersonal experiences to become a Facebook lookalike audience?
The failure to produce mass disconnection shows the extent to which digital dependencies are produced by a kind of Skinner’s Box. It is the seemingly endless circulation of impersonal affects in these boxes that bring users together in involuntary acts of collective mimicry, and keeps them pecking for more.
Should we be surprised? Social media appears to have been predesigned for More-Than. As Vaidhyanathan (2019) argues, Zuckerberg’s original design intentions have been dramatically supervened by unanticipated uses of the original Facebook architecture. The overproduction of online harms, hate speech, rumours, conspiracy and fakery are surplus platform productions that algorithms churn and digital immune systems struggle to frustrate. This is a design that has proven to be the perfect environment for a divisive populist politics with further excesses of hate and online harm.
Zuckerberg thinks the solution to these immunological breaches will be AI. And yes, AI is of course a More-Than production of experience. It produces digital emotions which portray, detect, and manipulate predictable patterns. In the social media behaviourist labs, the psych-corps are able to clandestinely experiment on users as if they were Skinner’s pigeons. Users become caught up in a teleological suspension of ethical research. This is a More Than production of pecking subjectivities.
Peck! Peck! Peck! Peck!
Like! Like! Like! Like!
Peck! Peck! Like! Like!
But at least this overproduction is kept to online phenomena only. It all seems so clean. The user experiences of social media is a world away from the smog filled streets and bush fires of climate disaster. Up here in the fluffy whiteness of the digital clouds, it would appear that the only waste users have to manage is the limitless waste of time these platforms offer for thumb exercises.
But of course, digital clouds are not fluffy white areas for excess data storage. The cloud is itself a more-than atmosphere. It is an ideological avatar. More precisely, these clouds are not virtual, but are toxic clouds that obscure the actual dirty heat of the corporate social media server centres. What we find, then, in the cloud, is a user experience of time wasting readily aligned to the excesses of digital junk and the toxic sludge of the Anthropocene.
But after all this dystopian media theory dirge is expended, could there not be a more promising More Than, yet to come? Can the user experience be wrestled back from the clutches of the dark refrains of corporate social media and poisonous populisms? Or will the finite overproductions; the endless acceleration of more thans, reach a point where perhaps endless accumulation turns in on itself. A point where more thans become other thans or more than more thans, perhaps? Like Deleuze and Guattari’s final affirmative more than in What is Philosphy? is there a new people yet to come. We might already be seeing the start of a new ‘intuitive digital subject’ (Serres, Pedwell) whose habits and addictions are not steered by way of behavioural marketers any longer, but instead delegated and synthesised to digital technologies, opening up cognitive capacities and affective atmospheres in which users might experience ‘intuitive’ modes of being-in-the-world.
Evidently, the list is endless, but here are some other More-Than topics to ponder…
More-than connectivity>More-than data power>More-than information>More-than user experience>More-than democracy>More-than words>More-than feelings>More-than art>More-than design>More-than atmospheres>More-than human>More-than-more-thans>More-thans, yet to come
- The light and dark ages of social media data excesses
- Surplus affect
- Breaching thresholds
- Frustrating immunological systems
- Anomalous overproduction
- Too much harm, too much hate!
- Designed excess
- Time/waste management
- Waste/time management
- Viral architectures
- More-than atmospheres
- Dirty clouds
- Toxic sludge
- Psychologies of the more-than-human
- More-than-human strategies
- More-than potentialities
- Other more than, more thans