Tag ties and affective spies

by Daphne Dragona

subjectivity – collectivity – production – consumption – exposure – surveillance – affection – exploitation – participation – resistance…

The social web, commonly known as web 2.0, is characterized by promises and contradictions. In the new public spaces of the social platforms, people meet, communicate, interact and inter-define themselves while they are being creative and productive, they spy and they are being spied . They make friends wishing to find common points of reference. They seek a feeling of “familiarity” and “belonging”. If as Virno has noted, the fear of the contemporary multitude is that they are “not feeling at home”, the social platforms of the web 2.0 suggest a model for new “common spaces” that function as a shelter. The users of networks such as the YouTube, the Facebook or the flickr upload photos, videos and comments in order to share beliefs and experiences, to communicate and connect and – above all – to form and support their own subjectivity.

The wishes and the needs of today’s users form and structure today’s internet. By tagging, linking and posting, a form of labour which is immaterial and affective develops the content and the navigation of the web. Folksonomies, today’s web taxonomies, which are based on users’ creativity, sociality and affection, phase out forms of objective hierarchy and static appearance. Everything becomes changeable, interconnected and rhizomatic; personified, exposed and exploitable. The controversial character of the social web brings out new questions: What happens when taxonomies and structures become social? How is the affective element exploited by the market? What is the role of the users who are producers and consumers at the same time?Such issues are tackled by the creators who are working on art and new media. A basic feature of their work is the utilisation of the medium itself for its subversion. The structures, the contexts, the features and aesthetics of the social web become the tools of this new form of art practice that are used in a playful, ironic and cynic mode in order to de-structure and redefine it.

Tag ties and affective spies presents a selection of online works that move in this direction and highlight the different aspects of the social web. They therefore refer to its human and affective character [We Feel Fine], to the way the networks feed and influence our everyday lives [L' attente – the waiting] as well as to the inability of the users to transcend borders, prejudices and beliefs when forming their online identities [Folded in]. They question the actual possibility of the users to form the content [IOUs] and they present how the user still remains a victim of the companies, offering now his subjectivity as a product [Internet delivers people]. They point out how the social media themselves can record and reflect the current trends of the users using their own contributions [ A tag s life] and how they can also construct fake realities [The big plot]. With a sense of humour, they refer to the redemption of language by the internet companies [Dadameter] and they encourage users to escape the conventions and the formalisms the social networks cleverly impose [delicious – winning information, Subvert] .

These creative approaches are not romantic, nor utopian. Their authors, who work within the networks and are dependent on them, recognise and mark out that their heterogeneity and their multicultural aspects render them powerful and vulnerable at the same time. The aim of these practices, which has also been termed as net art 2.0, is not to condemn the social media but to instigate users, who share, exchange and invest their thoughts on the social web, to realise and contemplate the ways these networks function. In a way, creativity is being introduced once again to remind us, in the current social context, the right of disobedience that is crucial for the liberation of networking and interrelation from modes of surveillance, control and exploitation.

* Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of Multitude, Semiotext(e), 2004
** Prada, Juan Martin. “Web 2.0 as a new context for artistic practices”. Antisocial Notworking, http://project.arnolfini.org.uk/projects/2008/antisocial/

Daphne Dragona is a media arts curator and organiser, based in Athens. Her exhibitions and events the last few years have focused on the notion of play and its merging with art as a form of networking and resistance. She has been a collaborator of Laboral Centro de Arte y Creacion Industrial (Spain) for the international exhibitions Gameworld and Homo Ludens Ludens and of Fournos Center for Digital Culture (Greece) for the International Art and Technology Festival, Medi@terra. She is a also PhD candidate in the Faculty of Mass Media & Communication of the University in Athens conducting a research on social media and a member of the Media Arts Collective Personal Cinema.

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