Vlogging from unlike us, Amsterdam, on social media monopolies and their alternatives, day 1


Conference day 1: Friday, March 9

10.00 – 12.00 > SESSION 1 >

Social what? Defining the Social

The term ‘social’ in ‘social media’ is embedded in positive connotations regarding community spirit and participation and is moreover rhetorically used as a given. Within the popular discourse social media are often portrayed as important tools for generating and preserving social interaction within the community, which would supposedly lead to a more engaged and involved society. But to what extent are these media actually social as opposed to commercial when we consider how ‘the social’ is being recreated and exploited for commercial success. By working around the utopian discourse we will further explore this phenomena within this session in order to define the ‘social’ in social media.

ModeratorGeert Lovink (NL)


Jodi Dean (USA)
Society doesn’t exist

Over the last several decades, it has become common to the point of banal to say that “society doesn’t exist.” In Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policies, the radical democracy of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the actor network theory of Bruno Latour, and the anarcho-communism of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri the meme of society’s non-existence reappears. At the same time, for about a decade now, we’ve been barraged social media spam. In my presentation, I will consider the conjuncture of the claim that society
doesn’t exist with that for social media. Is the problem here that social media publicists simply didn’t get the memo regarding society’s non-existence? Or does social media bring (back) into existence what had been said to be an absent fantasy? In other words, does social media restore the missing social or is it a symptom of it? I will argue that it’s a symptom, one that displace attention from the real of political antagonism.

Dylan Wittkower (USA)
Reification 2.0

While The Social Network displayed, for the most part, the sort of understanding of Zuckerberg and Facebook better suited to Revenge of the Nerds V, there is one crucial thing that the film presented which seems to be literally false of Zuckerberg, but figuratively true of social network users in the Facebook age: we are getting lost in the commodification of our relationships. The use of “who you know” in business, and the social climbing which mobilizes relationships towards commerce are nothing new, of course, and neither are their youth equivalents, which trade on the currency of ‘popularity’. And yet, with Facebook we see those connections made ever more clearly into things to be possessed and used—not only by the network’s commodification of our personal data, but through users’ own mutual commodifications of one another: A reification 2.0 to go along with web 2.0.

13.00 – 15.15 > SESSION 2 >

Artistic Responses to Social Media

Artists play a valuable role in visualizing power relationships and revitalizing prefab subliminal daily routines of social media usage. Artistic practice provides an important analytical site in the context of the proposed research agenda of Unlike Us. Artists are often among the first to deconstruct the familiar, and to facilitate an alternative lens to explore and critique new cultural contexts and the technologies that evoke them. Is there such a thing as a social ‘web aesthetics’? It is one thing to criticize Twitter and Facebook for their primitive and bland interface designs, but is it possible to imagine the techno-social in completely different ways? Could we maybe design and implement new interfaces that give us more freedom to enable our mediated selves to be the evolving and layered identities we know ourselves to be? In this session we will present a few examples of artistic interventions in well-known social media platforms, and discuss their role and impact.

ModeratorJosephine Bosma (NL)


Thomas Cheneseau (FR)

FacebookFeedback is an original visual expression which examines the limits of the interface of this social network and deconstructs the temporal space of the website. Facebook is diverted and used both as media and medium, as a medium for dissemination and exposure, but mainly as a space of creation and existence of an artwork. This artistic research consists of a series of screenshots (pictures and videos) which appropriate plastic material such as codes of Facebook, as well as a series of progressive visual feedback, which makes possible towards the end to break down the timeline imposed by the social network. Thomas also directed the project HEKKAH, an interactive installation generated by the Facebook news feed in real time.

Tobias Leingruber (DE)
Can I see your Facebook ID?

Next time someone asks for your ID – How about showing a Facebook ID card instead of the documents your government gave you? On the web this is common practice. Whenever asked we agree on identity checks through “Facebook Connect” or post comments with our Facebook identity. Facebook Inc. is establishing order on the world wild web – They clean-up the mess of anonymity and push the establishment of identities through their system. There are close to 900 million FB citizens, and they all have a (digital) ID. “Offline” governments like Germany offer passports with online identity systems as well, but does anyone still care? Who is in charge of your identity, and how can this affect us in only a few years from now? Read more:http://fbbureau.com and http://fbresistance.com

Walter Langelaar (NL)
Web 2.0 Suicide Machine

Seamless connectivity and rich social experience offered by web2.0 companies are the very antithesis of human freedom. Users are entrapped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world. We do have an healthy amount of paranoia to think that everyone should have the right to quit her 2.0-ified life by the help of automatized machines. Facebook and Co. are going to hold all your information and pictures on their servers forever! We still hope that by removing your contact details and friend connections one-by-one, your data is being cached out from their backup servers. This can happen after days, weeks, months or even years. So merely deactivating the account is just not enough! We are doing our best to expand possibilities of erasing your entire presence, however it is a work in progress. Please note, that we are not deleting your account! Our aim is rather to remove your private content and friend relationships than just deactivating/deleting the account!” http://suicidemachine.org/

Alessandro Ludovico (IT)
Face to Facebook, smiling in the eternal party

Social networking is naturally addictive. It’s about exploring something very familiar that has never been available before: staying in touch with past and present friends and acquaintances in a single, potentially infinite, virtual space. The phenomenon challenges us psychologically, creating situations that previously were not possible. Before the rise of social networking, former friends and acquaintances would tend to drift away from us and potentially become consigned to our personal histories. Having a virtual space with (re)active people constantly updating their activities is the basic, powerful fascination of the social network. But there’s another attraction, based on the elusive sport to position ourselves. The answer to the fundamental identity question, “who am I?” can be given only in relation to the others that we interact with. And the answer to this question seems clearer after we take a look at our list of social network friends.

Olia Lialina (DE)
Imaginary Origins of Social Networks

The Web’s history is reaching back only  two decades, but researching the history of Digital Folklore quickly leads into uncertain territories.  Because hardly anything of users’ efforts was deemed worthwhile to archive and document, we are left with assumptions, based on fragmentary memories of actual participants and the “best effort” archive The Wayback Machine.  The quality of interacting with the web as a whole 15 years ago is lost and it is possible to remember things that never happened. The past is still under construction. Once Upon (2011) is three important contemporary web sites, recreated with technology and spirit of late 1997, according to the  memories of Dragan Espenschied and Olia Lialina.

15.30 – 17.30 > SESSION 3 >

The Private in the Public

The advent of social media has eroded privacy as we know it, giving rise to a culture of self-surveillance made up of myriad voluntary, everyday disclosures. New understandings of private and public are needed to address this phenomenon. What does owning all this user data actually mean? Why are people willing to give up their personal data, and that of others? How should software platforms be regulated?

ModeratorLonneke van der Velden (NL)


Raoul Boers (NL) and Ñusta Nina (NL)
Disliking the Like: User policy change and perception of the internet as a democratic medium

The European Union is currently focusing on ‘the right to be forgotten’. Several forms of legislation have been brought into force aiming to enhance the protection of personal data of European citizens. This European protectionism often clashes with the privacy policies of, largely American, commercial organisations such as Facebook and Google. Whether or not the European Union will be able to improve online privacy through legislation remains to be seen. One should wonder whether citizens need protection from -what is perceived as- infringement to the rights of privacy, while these citizens are actually consumers, using commercially provided services with policies that they have agreed to. On the other hand one could question whether most users of webservices like Facebook are equipped with the proper level of media literacy skills in order to manage such responsibility for their own privacy. Blindsided by tendencies akin to digital narcissism many users choose to remain indifferent to questions of privacy and the moral issues concerning their personal data. Herein lies the essence of the problem and the key to its solution.

Arnold Roosendaal (NL)
Who decides who I am online?

You decide who you are online. Or do you? Via internet you send information for education, work, recreation or shopping, stay in contact with friends on social networking sites, etc. Next to information you share deliberately, additional information about online behavior is collected. With this information other parties create, build, trade and use your online identities. Do we know and should we care? This presentation and provides an insight in the way commercial companies construct your online identity, and how individual autonomy is affected by preset choices and inclusion or exclusion mechanisms. It also shows how profiling is no longer group based, but strictly individualized, with direct impact on each separate individual. Commercial companies gain a central position on the internet, function as identity providers, and therewith make individuals dependent on them. Escaping becomes more and more difficult.

Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius (NL)
The Ecosystem of Online Audience Buying

Behavioural targeting is the monitoring of online behaviour of internet users over time, in order to build a profile of these users, to target them with advertising matching their inferred interests. Users of social networking sites help marketing companies by profiling themselves. Profiles can be further enriched with up to date location data of users of mobile devices, and with other data that are gathered on and off line. Providers of social networking sites use profiles to provide advertisers with detailed audience segments to target with advertising. Other companies enrich their consumer profiles by extracting information from social network sites. A complex ecosystem of companies emerges, in which collected data are combined, analysed, and auctioned off in almost real time. The presentation gives an overview of this ecosystem.

Seda Gürses (TR/BE)
Privacy in Online Social Networks: A requirements engineering perspective

Social networks have been at the front line of introducing new services that raise privacy concerns previously unthought of. Not only have these outcries shown that privacy is an ever changing and contextual notion, they underline the variety of activities that can lead to privacy concerns and the variety of tools needed to counter the raised issues. Privacy itself is a debated notion with various definitions that are also often vague. While this increases the resilience of the privacy concept in social and legal contexts, it poses a considerable challenge to defining the privacy problem and the “appropriate” solutions to address those problems in a technical system-to-be. When engineering systems, the stakeholders of the system ideally step through a process of reconciling the relevant privacy definitions and the (technical) privacy solutions in the given social context. During the talk, I will discuss how this reconciliation can be approached during requirements engineering using examples from the interdisciplinary project on Security and Privacy in Online Social Networks (SPION).

Caroline Nevejan (NL)
Being and Bearing Witness in Communities of Systems and People

Next generation material and immaterial infrastructres are merging networks for commodities like water and energy with social networks in which human intentions and behavior are expressed. The design of such networks needs a new design paradigm to which an individual human being’s perspective is core. Human beings need to be able to accept repsonsibility and liability in such a context. Responsibility and liability, being witness and bearing witness, establishing trust and truth are foundationall for social structures. What are parameters for such a new design paradigm?


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