[Air-L] kick-off event Unlike Us network (Cyprus, November 23)

Geert Lovink geert at desk.nl
Wed Nov 9 09:22:51 PST 2011

Unlike Us Limassol is the kickoff event for the Unlike Us research  
network that promotes alternatives in social media. It will take place  
in Limassol, Cyprus, at the Cinema & Photography Lab of the Cyprus  
University of Technology on Wednesday, November 23 2011.

The Unlike Us kickoff event focuses on how the facilitation of free  
exchanges and the commercial exploitation of social relationships,  
which lie at the heart of contemporary capitalism, belly social media.

Wednesday, November 23
09.30 – 10.30 >
 > Launch Speeches


Geert Lovink (Institute of Network cultures)
Korinna Patelis (Cyprus University of Technology)

10.30 – 12.30 > SESSION 1
 >Social Media in the Middle East and Beyond

The justified response to downplay the role of Facebook in early 2011  
events in Tunisia and Egypt by putting social media in a larger  
perspective has not taken off the table the question of how to  
organize social mobilizations. Which specific software do the  
‘movements of squares’ need? What happens to social movements when the  
internet and ICT networks are shut down? How does the interruption of  
internet services shift the nature of activism? How have repressive  
and democratic governments responded to the use of ‘liberation  
technologies’? How do these technologies change the relationship  
between the state and its citizens? How are governments using the same  
social media tools for surveillance and propaganda or highjacking  
Facebook identities, such as happened in Syria? What is Facebook’s own  
policy when deleting or censoring accounts of its users? How can  
technical infrastructures be supported which are not shutdown upon  
request? How much does our agency depend on communication technology  
nowadays? And whom do we exclude with every click? How can we envision  
‘organized networks’ that are based on ‘strong ties’ yet open enough  
to grow quickly if the time is right? Which software platforms are  
best suited for the ‘tactical camping’ movements that occupy squares  
all over the world?

Moderator: Christopher Kyriakides [ETHCOM]


Sara Hamdy El Khalili [EG ]
Rasha Allam [ EG ]
Bassyouni Hamada [ EG ]

12.30 – 14.00 < Lunch – Iroon Square >

14.00 – 15.00> SESSION 2

Moderator: Geert Lovink [ NL ]


Oliver Leistert [ HU ]- “Generation Facebook“

Facebook -as it seems- is here to stay; at least for some time.  
Further and further it digs into the social fabric. Misusing people’s  
desire for belonging to commodify everyday life and the immaterial.  
With “Generation Facebook” , Theo Röhle and Oliver Leistert have  
published a collected volume that discusses the Facebook machine  
roughly from the perspectives of: i. political economy, business  
model, users involved ii. neoliberal subjectivation, pastoral power  
iii. issues of “privacy” and data protection iv. protest and campaigns  
v. methodological issues how to research Facebook. This presentation  
will share the findings of the book and sketch some thoughts about   
why Facebook is so sucessful.

Marc Stumpel [ NL ] – “FB Resistance“

FB Resistance is a research initiative accepting the status quo of  
Facebook being the dominant social identity management system,  
researching on the ways to change its rules and functionality from  
inside the system. Facebook sets the rules of how-to behave, so we’re  
asking: Are we happy with the interface, features and rules or do we  
want to change them? This creative intervention is all about  
challenging and bending the rules to make the best of the book many of  
us cannot put down. What happens when fed-up users choose to stay on  
Facebook and modify it through their browsers? How can we best explore  
the freedom acquired through ‘augmented browsing’?

15.00 – 17.00 > SESSION 3
 >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?


Achilles Peklaris [GR ] -”Send tweets, not troops”

On February 2010 the U.S. State Department organized a trip for thirty  
internet oriented journalists from all over the world, called “The  
Social Media Tour”. They took us to all big Washington DC  
institutions, like the White House, the Capitol and the State  
Department, to explain to us Obama’s obsession on diplomacy via social  
networks and spotlight his famous speech in Cairo and Hillary’s tweets  
to the Arab world. Then, they took us straight to the West Coast and  
the Silicon Valley headquarters of Facebook, Google/YouTube and  
Twitter to confirm their very important role in the US foreign policy.  
It all sounded quite good – “Send tweets. Not troops” – and that’s a  
major shift in America’s diplomacy.

Exactly a year after that, on February 2011, the “Arab Spring” bursts  
out in Egypt and Tunisia – and guess what: it’s all organized through  
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. A few months later, I find myself in  
Athens’ Syntagma Square, where this time nearly a million Greeks  
gather in anger to protest against the austerity measures of  
Papandreou government – and again, Facebook is what got them together  
and youTube is the place where all the police brutality is being  
revealed. Today, I just arrived in Shanghai, China and just realized  
that all american-based social networks aren’t functioning here – the  
access is denied to everyone who’s standing on chinese territory. So,  
do chinese communists know best? Maybe. But then, if Gaddafi, Ben Ali  
and Mumbarak were chinese, would they still be around?

Pavlos Chatzopoulos [ GR ] – “Becoming cockraches @Syntagma square”

Demonstrations create the conditions for the production of new  
subjectivities. The storming of the winter palace in St. Petersburg or  
the evasion of the red lines of the Seattle police was a constituent  
moment for the proletarian masses and the multitude, respectively. The  
presentation explores the possibilities opened up by the tactics of  
becoming cockroach for the indignados movement with reference to the  
continuing protests in Athens’s Syntagma square. How do the tactics of  
becoming cockroach (a mixture of stasis, perseverance and endurance,)  
potentially subvert the existing power relations within urban /  
digital networks?

D. E. Wittkower [ U.S.A. ] - “Terrorism, Technology, and Direct  

Terrorism is a technique of asymmetric warfare in which the weaker  
side does not attempt to destroy the offensive capability of the  
stronger (as in sabotage), does not attempt to create or subvert  
strategic advantage (as in espionage), and does not attempt to remove  
command capabilities (as in assassination), but instead attempts to  
raise an issue in the public mind. The goal of terrorism is not death  
and destruction, but a change in awareness and values, and the  
fundamental concerns of terrorism have to do with combat against  
apathy, nihilism, and the tyranny of bureaucracy that Arendt called  
“rule by Nobody.” This structural analysis is borne out by the words  
of terrorists and those associated with terrorism, and evidence will  
be presented from the writings of Usama bin Laden, Sayyid Qutb,  
Theodore Kaczynski, Paul Hill, and Joseph Stack.

The implicit and explicit purpose of terrorist action, while details  
may vary, is generically oriented toward a revolutionary insurgency  
against a society which has desires and market forces at its center  
rather than human values and identity. The process of this insurgency,  
based as it is on an asymmetrical struggle, should be based on the  
appropriation and repurposing of the technologies of nihilism. The  
proper response to terrorism, I argue, is to find non-terrorist means  
of taking direct action in technologically-enabled insurgency.

17.00 – 18.00 < Coffee Break >

18.00 – 20.30 > SESSION 4
 >Political Economy: Social Media Monopolies

Social media culture is belied in American corporate capitalism,  
dominated by the logic of start-ups and venture capital, management  
buyouts, IPOs etc. Three to four companies literally own the Western  
social media landscape and capitalize on the content produced by  
millions of people around the world. One thing is evident about the  
market structure of social media: one-to-many is not giving way to  
many-to-many without first going through many-to-one. What power do  
these companies actually have? Is there any evidence that such  
ownership influences user-generated content? How does this ownership  
express itself structurally and in technical terms? What conflicts  
arise when a platform like Facebook is appropriated for public or  
political purposes, while access to the medium can easily be denied by  
the company? Facebook is worth billions, does that really mean  
something for the average user?

Moderator: Korinna Patelis [ CY ]


Robert W. Gehl [ U.S.A ]- “Real (software) abstractions: On the rise  
of Facebook and the fall of MySpace”

How did Facebook become the social media monopoly it is? Although  
there are many factors determining Facebook’s dominance of social  
networking, one answer to this question lies in the ways in which  
Facebook overcame its former rival MySpace. This paper argues that the  
failure of MySpace and the rise of Facebook in the social networking  
site market is due in part to the degrees in which either site  
associates users, technology, and marketers into a successful “real  
software abstraction.” Real software abstraction is a synthesis of the  
software engineering concept of abstraction and the Marxian political  
economic concept of the real abstraction. This concept is used to  
examine MySpace and Facebook at the levels of aesthetics, code,  
culture, and appeal to marketers. I argue that instead of creating an  
architecture of abstraction in which users’ affect and content were  
easily reduced to marketer-friendly data sets, MySpace allowed users  
to create a cacophony of “pimped” profiles that undermined efforts to  
monetize user-generated content. In contrast, Facebook has proven to  
be extremely efficient at reducing users to commodifiable data sets  
within a muted, bland interface that does not detract from marketing  
efforts. In sum, Facebook’s architecture and culture is one that (from  
the perspective of new media capitalism) properly disciplines the user- 
laborers who contribute content, even while it allows users just  
enough autonomy to keep coming back.

Martha Michailidou [ GR ] – “New media work and the production of  

The presentation discusses the issue of new media work, concentrating  
on the forms of labour arising in the new media industries in Greece.  
Continuities and discontinuities with the forms of labor of  
traditional media industries will be discussed as well as the  
valorisation of new media labour within the creative industries. The  
presentation will argue for the usefulness of a ‘production of  
culture’ perspective for the analysis of the formation of new media  
labour in Greece.

Vasilis Kostakis [ EST ] – “The Political Economy of Information  
Production in the Social Web: Chances for Reflection on our  
Institutional Design”

This presentation is based on the assumption that information  
production on the Web is mainly taking place within either proprietary- 
based or Commons-based platforms. The productive processes of those  
two distinct “workplaces” of information production not only share  
certain characteristics, but also have several crucial differences.  
These two modes of production are discussed  investigating how  
production is organized in each case. In addition, the presentation  
concludes by articulating the lessons taught by the investigation of  
the structural relationships of information production for enhancing  
modern societies’ institutional design. Keywords: peer production,  
Commons, governance, co-operation, social policy

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