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CfH Lectures


This lecture is introduced by Prof. Rosi Braidotti.

The initial enthusiasm about social media and their alleged means of emancipation has somewhat cooled off. Instead, programmatic conferences, such as The Internet as Playground and Factory, or Unlike Us, have addressed the commercial quality and power asymmetry of social media. Scholarly research — often informed by a Marxist reading — has emerged to provide a critical analysis of the role of social media in public discourse. The current critique of social media focuses mainly on privacy breaches and the so-called immaterial labour carried out by users. In their critique of social media, activism and scholarship sometimes blurs. Fuelled by a vague anger against anyone making money from these services and combined with an often uninformed, yet stylish anti-capitalist attitude, the issue of free, alternative or public social media is frequently raised. Harking back to a 20th century rhetoric of collective action and labour organization, the critique also manifests in proposing forms of resistance and political correction of power asymmetries. Speaking to an idealized multitude of fellow users, who want to unite and to overcome their self-incurred immaturity, these critiques tend to completely neglect how social media are actually used by the majority of their users. This presentation reviews current concepts of social–media critique and contrasts them with classic arguments of critical theory. Referring to examples, this presentation discusses issues of audience mobilization, user participation and platform governance in social media. While this presentation regards the strive for public social media, alternative social media and the unionising of users as ineffective, superfluous and even harmless, it aims at discussing lines of action for regulation and societal implementation of connected media.

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht organizes the series of presentations, conversations, seminars, and workshops Posthuman Glossary. The series takes place in the form of intensive two-day gatherings with artists, scholars, and activists around the critical issues of posthumanity in present-day artistic and intellectual work. Posthuman Glossary is a part of BAK’s research program Future Vocabularies (2014–2016) and its chapter Human-Inhuman-Posthuman, which is developed in dialogue with BAK Research Fellow Professor Rosi Braidotti and organized in collaboration with the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. The series leads to the publishing of the Posthuman Glossary in 2016, edited by Braidotti and BAK’s Artistic Director Maria Hlavajova.