Centre for Internet & Society

This is a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference (IRC) 2016 by Marialaura Ghidini.



In "The Braindead Megaphone" (2007) writer George Saunders discusses the power of 21st century voices of high-tech mass media; the voices with whom one converse mentally all the time and often unaware. Saunders uses the metaphor of "The Megaphone Guy at a party" to describe the effects that such voices have on other people's thoughts, even when they are just passive listeners of what is said. The Megaphone Guy "crowds other voices out" because of "the volume and omnipresence of his narrating voice", and his power does not reside in his intelligence or acuity, but in his "dominance". This guy's rhetoric — read also, the mass media’s rhetoric — becomes central because of its unavoidability", and the web, with its now easy-to-use tools and shiny platforms, along with the seeming global interconnectedness of the Internet have made his dominance more portable and accessible, less unavoidable.

Simultaneously, such easiness and interconnectedness have allowed the reversal to happen, that is the development of strategies aimed at obstructing or diverting the dominant rhetoric. Artistic practices from all over the world have shown us different modes of intervention that disrupt the hegemonic discourses facilitated by the adoption of 'global' platforms of communication, entertainment and commerce. From the duo ubermonger to artists Paolo Cirio and IOCOSE and the labs like F.A.T. Lab, artists have developed strategies to weaken the power and dominance of The Megaphone Guys; they have developed methods of research, analysis and action which effects go beyond the art circuit and being on the internet.

All that said, however, the question of accessibility remains pressing and open to discussion: the bandwidth of common internet access and the way in which the web is entangled with everyday life still differs according to geographical areas. And this factor has often been overlooked in the researches into artistic practices online and their potentials to generate discourses that offer an alternative to the dominant ones. This difference in infrastructure and cultural uses has determined a diversity in artistic interventions aimed at disrupting dominating narratives: India shows a different history and approaches that this session would like to bring to light with the help of the participants.

Both through looking within the art field and outside it, such as in the work of social and community enterprises like the collective BlankNoise, this session aims to look artistic practices as methods of research and intervention that can be used to understand the effects of the Internet and web tools on society and, in turn, to put forward new ways in which web technology can be critically used by many, and non-artists, in their everyday life.



Led by a curator/researcher, in collaboration with an artist and another curator/researcher, this discussion session will start with a general overview of artistic interventions, i.e. methods, aimed at disrupting the world's views created by mass media. This general overview will include examples of both national and international artists and community-based projects, from artists ubermonger, IOCOSE, Paolo Cirio and labs like F.A.T. Lab outside India, to the work of collectives such as Cybermohalla and BlankNoise, and artist like Archana Hande in India. It will be then followed by a discursive moment during which the participants will be divided in groups, according to specific key words collectively agreed upon, to discuss artists works and non-artistic activities pertaining the subject of the session. What will emerge from the group discussions will be presented to all participants in a short session, and will be followed by an attempt to create a mapping of current methods of intervening and acting online. Prior to the workshop participants will be given suggested readings and a series of questions that will help them for the breakout groups.

With this structure the session will not be based on one-way communication but it will allow to generate collective research into online behaviours—of platforms, corporations, people and communities of interest—through expanding on the views proposed by the proponents of #DisruptingRhetorics.



Tatiana Bazzichelli, Networked Disruption. Rethinking Oppositions in Art, Hacktivism and the Business of Social Networking. DARC PRESS (Aarhus University), Denmark, 2013 (Excerpts)

George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone. Riverhead Books, US, 2007

F.A.T. Lab, We Lost, http://fffff.at/rip/


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