Social Notworks

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Organized by project.arnolfini, "antisocial notworking" is an online hub for critical and creative practices appraising the contradictory agendas of many of the internet's most popular websites. As Art & Social Technologies Research member Dr. Geoff Cox persuasively argues, in an essay accompanying the project, websites like Facebook and Myspace have amassed tens of millions of users through a promise of providing virtual spaces built upon user-generated content and geared towards positive interpersonal relations. While a peer-to-peer (p2p) system engages the same democratic project in the web's public realm, these social networking sites exist in the private sector, operating through a top-down, server-client relationship with its membership and harvesting social relations towards their own economic benefit. 'antisocial notworking' does not propose abandoning these programs, but rather seeks to elucidate the process by which social positivity became a marketable tool of capitalistic enterprises, and to consider how antagonism (to Cox, a necessary component of politics) may be constructively introduced into the virtual demos. Notable among the current projects on the site is Linda Hilfling's "Participation 0.0 - Part I" (2007), documentation of the 112 billboards the artist installed throughout "Second Life" that collectively display the full 7,000 words of the Terms of Service which users traditionally skim and agree upon before gaining access to the program. By planting this text on "Second Life" land, Hilfling allows users to recognize their tenuous position in a virtual world in which they may develop businesses and purchase land, but from which they may also be erased, according to Hilfling's reading of the terms, "for any or no reason." In keeping with its critical agenda, "antisocial notworking" will retain a dynamic, open-ended structure, to which people can add further texts, projects, and documents of their own navigation through similarly fraught online terrain. - Tyler Coburn


Image Credit: Linda Hilfling, Participation 0.0 - Part I, 2007 (Screengrab)

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