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Title: Surgencies – A Personal Protest Statement
Subtitle: Workshop by NXS
Date: 17 May 2019
Remix of the intro text and a debris of tweets, photos, and a poem, complemented with a dispersed editors' note.
*How do we consume? How do we get influenced? <span class='highlight-pink'>How do we protest</span>?*
*<span class='highlight-orange'>NXS – standing for nexus (a connection or bond) –</span> is an Amsterdam based research collective that explores ‘the self’ in the age of digital technology. At its core is a biannual publication that extends to exhibitions, art works, public events, and a working lab. NXS searches for personal viewpoints, experiences, and stories.*
![Notes from Geert Lovink.](images/notes-geert.JPG)
The Surgencies workshop by NXS was aimed at creating <span class='highlight-lightblue'>a collective lexicon of personal viewpoints on ubiquitous technology</span>, by drawing attention to the implementations that are so vowed into our daily lives that they normally go unnoticed. The intangibility and unclarity of where and how exactly digital technology works and affects us, evokes the uncanny feeling of a loss of control, a sense of frustration and anxiety. By investigating and collectively mapping emotional responses to technology and their behavioral implications participants extract inspiration for a personal protest statement that was published in the <span class='highlight-red'>direct surroundings</span>.
![Tweet by the Institute of Network Cultures.](images/tweet-inc.png)
<span class='highlight-applegreen'>The collective ‘research through making’ approach mixes speed and visual and textual assignments with performative elements that require quick responses.</span> They do not allow over-rationalization or over-explanation of implicit constructs but promote the production of associative and subconscious ideas. By exposing the seemingly trivial daily urgencies in life, we can stop asking questions and make strong and profound statements to counter them.
![Tweet by mikrotext.](images/tweet-mikrotext.png)
###Lovesick Poem to a Chat Bot That Has Fallen Silent
Go and rot.
You have disappeared.
But I have not.
*Nikola Richter*
![Picture by Inte Gloerich.](images/personal-protest-statement-inte.JPG)
`Dispersed editors' note: <span class='highlight-applegreen'>Speedy publishing has a bad ring to it: it leaves no time for line-editing, fact-checking, or conspicuous design.</span> What happens if you lay aside these formal objections and ask what speed may have to tell us? This doesn’t mean we have to blurt out everything as it comes to our minds, adding to the pile of braindumps that is too gigantic already and polluting the info-sphere even further. This workshop poses the question what happens when you take another inroad into what you might want to express. Not the rational but rather the emotional one. <span class='highlight-orange'>Not aiming for the unidirectional argument but for a multi-path walk in the woods.</span> <span class='highlight-cornflower'>While the associations we might have with ‘personal’, ‘protest’, and ‘statement’ in an era of post-truth politics are probably not the best, they can also propose an open and involved manner of thinking, writing, and publishing.</span>`


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Title: Memes as Means
Date: 16 May 2019
Remix of a blog by Sepp Eckenhaussen and debris of tweets, notes, and audio, complemented with a dispersed editors' note.
*However trivial and frivolous the meme might seem, its function as a cultural and communicative object deserves investigation. The meme can bear witness to shifts in language and cultural norms. Memes can function as political agent: spread like a virus and change sentiment, become a talking point, or set an agenda. Are memes the ammunition of online culture wars? <span class='highlight-brown'>Have they contributed to the normalization of the alt-right</span>? How to study these symbols and tropes, and how to create our own?*
*Using memes as a starting point, we look at online visual culture and how different popular communication styles have been incorporated into strategies of far-right movements. <span class='highlight-pink'>What are innovative ways to counter these movements on a transnational level?</span> And how does the passing of Article 13 in the European Parliament affect our ability to freely express ourselves online? What does the meme have to say about positioning topical publications or research output?*
![Tweet by Clusterduck.](images/tweet-realclusterfuck.png)
<span class='highlight-blue'>Meme culture can be situated and investigated within a history of online visual culture and the senses of community in it:</span> selfie culture – video culture – meme culture. The notion of ‘means’ moreover addresses memes as having financial capacities, and as ‘means to an end’. What kind of activist strategies can memes as means inform today? Should we use them in every way we can, because ends justify means, or can we employ memes with laser point precision?
![Meme as mean: -methods -financial -direction](images/miriam-note-means.png)
<span class='highlight-green'>There are also questions of authorship and ownership. Crediting meme-makers becomes more widespread on the left flank of the political spectrum.</span> What will be the relation between more severe copyrights and the anonymous army? Is there a chance of meme revenue models, of being paid for previously unpaid work? Is it time to unionize meme-work? Is meming a matter of being professional or of fighting a trench war?
###The World Wide Web of Gatekeepers
*Evelyn Austin (NL) works for Bits of Freedom, a leading European digital rights organization based in Amsterdam. She is also the co-founder of The Hmm, a network of contemporary visual culture enthusiasts.*
Evelyn Austin, who works at Bits of Freedom and co-founded *The Hmm*, considers digital human rights such as freedom of publishing and distributing in the context of Article 13. The internet has always carried the promise to empower the powerless, and indeed it does empower. But as it usually goes, the internet also empowers the already powerful.
![Tweet by Institute of Network Cultures.](images/tweet-inc-evelyn-austin.png)
<span class='highlight-brown'>Many examples show the hampering of communication:</span> Facebook took down pictures of Femen in Yemen on basis of nudity regulations; Dutch pro-choice organization WomenOnWaves were blocked in Ireland four times in the run-up of abortion referendum; YouTube videos with the word ‘trans’ in their titles are systematically categorized as ‘adult’.
<span class='highlight-lilac'>This shows that there is a need for different modes of publishing and for alternative platforms, but also for new strategies of communication and distribution.</span> <span class='highlight-green'>We need good, strong, and wide networks of digital rights organizations and journalists.</span> What we got is Article 13. The article (which in the end turned into Article 17) makes platforms and other ‘hosts’ accountable for what users are saying on their site. An individual’s speech on a company’s website is automatically the company’s speech. This is of course threatening to companies. There are two solutions:
1. Licensing agreements with rights’ holders (however, it would be nearly impossible to come to sufficient agreements in all cases).
2. Upload filters (but this means that all of our content will be monitored and filtered, and that governments are allowing companies to discipline citizens in a way that they’re not allowed to do themselves).
Thus, we find ourselves in a complicated situation. Realistically, we’re stuck with the big platforms for now. This means there will be loads of frustration about filters of ‘possible’ terrorism, child abuse, nudity, etc. We have to remain critical and we do have the means to change things, as for example #gamergate has shown.
###Aphorisms by Citizen Troll
*Clara Balaguer (PH) is a cultural worker. Currently, she coordinates the Social Practices course at Willem de Kooning Academy and teaches Experimental Publishing at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam.*
![As a troll, you must be cunning + obsessive](images/miriam-note-troll.png)
Cultural worker and avid troll Clara Balaguer has been occupied with <span class='highlight-brown'>online troll wars against the rise of authoritarianism in the Philippines for years</span>. Two years ago, it became <span class='highlight-blue'>untenable to do critical cultural programming in the Philippines for under-served communities</span> and Clara decided to come to the Netherlands. In the inevitable comparison of these two countries, it is clear that the levels of ‘urgency’ generally felt in the Netherlands are much lower than those in the Philippines. Reflecting her experiences as troll, Clara shared five aphorisms:
1. *Nobody gives a shit about your kerning, but graphic design is important.* <span class='highlight-pink'>A lot of activists are hold-overs from the 70s (baby boomers trying to understand what’s happening online).</span> But memes should not look like professionally designed (and paid-for) posters, because that makes them less trustworthy. Making ‘nice’ stuff does not work anymore. Professional designers: demodernize and decolonize!
![Tweet by Geert Lovink.](images/tweet-glovink.png)
2. *Trolling is a ladylike pursuit.* The idea many people hold of the troll is a neck-beard guy in his mom’s basement. But when ideology comes into play (political trolling), the alternatively gendered and women become more active. Pro-Duterte trolling in the Philippines is dominated by female and non-conforming voices.
3. *Outside of the echo chamber, check yourself (you are not immune to neurolinguistics programming).* Never assume that you’re above the narcotic effects of being outside of your echo chamber. Still, also from a position of privilege, we have to engage. Use the troll as platform. There has to be that counter-voice, which protects those who feel depressed and alone in a toxic environment.
4. *Meatspace is just as important as cyberspace for the troll farmer. *<span class='highlight-pink'>Don’t stick to fingertip activism but go to conventions and meet-ups.</span> <span class='highlight-coralred'>You have to be present physically as well.</span> We can troll together, run organic troll farms. <span class='highlight-blue'>So, we should also get communities involved.</span> Families that troll together will survive together.
5. *You are what you eat, a.k.a. trolling is an embodied, physical experience.* Trolling is exhausting and stressful, and it can be harmful. Consciousness about food and drink consumption influences the troll experience. Learn when to stop. Learn how to exit the vortex. Confuse yourself.
###Memes as Means
*Isabel Löfgren (BR) is a Swedish-Brazilian artist, educator, and researcher based in Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro. She currently works as a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden.*
![Mindmap shared by Isabel Löfgren.](images/meme_mindmap-Isabel.jpg)
Isabel Löfgren, a Swedish-Brazilian artist and educator currently based in Stockholm, took up <span class='highlight-brown'>the theme of memefascism vs. autonomous zones of resistance in Brazil.</span> The fact that memes are a serious means is very clear by the fact that Jair Bolsonaro has been elected president thanks mostly to ‘bolsominions’: an army of trolls campaigning for Bolsonaro through WhatsApp. Jair Bolsonaro has even claimed to be, next to president, the official controller of memes.
<span class='highlight-cornflower'>This situation also shows us something about the so-called post-truth condition.</span> Studies show that half of the troll messages during the election campaign came from WhatsApp family groups. This signals that, first, it’s not about truth but about trust, and, second, that the crisis of authority in relation to truth effectively splits families and social structures as we know them. In the presidential palace, there is even an official social media farm. The most successful bloggers and vloggers from the campaign are hired to work for Bolsonaro’s official PR bureau. Together, they effectively create a bombardment of disinformation.
![Facebook post by Isabel Löfgren.](images/photo-Memes-Isabel-FB_post_8.JPG)
However, Bolsonaro’s disinformation and repression of minority voices is not unbreakable. When, during carnival, black, poor, and gay voices let themselves be heard on the streets, Bolsonaro started tweeting about golden showers, subsequently asking: What is a golden shower? He was met with cunning and humor, when Twitter and Facebook accounts named Golden Shower started asking: What is Jair Bolsonaro?
![Meme from Golden Shower Facebook account.](images/photo-Memes-Isabel-Golden_shower_1.JPG)
In fact, <span class='highlight-blue'>this type of humorous grass-roots mobilization is a consistent trend in Brazil.</span> Already during the election campaign, women, black people, and other minorities repressed by Bolsonaro came together in the Not Him-campaign (#elenão), which was huge and powerful.
<span class='highlight-brown'>It is clear that the far-right kidnaps forms and thereby subverts democracy,</span> <span class='highlight-pink'>but that counter-meming can be a powerful means of the Left, too.</span> The questions that rise include: How to level out this battlefield of meme-wars? What is the role of poetic justice in memes? How can art collapse meaning and contribute to meming?
`dispersed editors' note: The gap between traditional research publishing and meme culture appears unbridgeable. <span class='highlight-applegreen'>Not only because the first may take years to produce a single publication, while the latter spawns offspring seemingly effortlessly,</span> or because <span class='highlight-green'>both relate in opposite ways to notions such as referencing, originality, and authorship.</span> Memes thrive in a polarized environment that rewards the in-your-face punchline. Researchers value nuance and seriousness more than anything. This begs the question whether memes actually have potential outside of digital culture, even if they have shown to be an inherently political instrument over the past years. Moreover, don’t memes serve the (radical) right of the political spectrum best, tailoring to its desire for just such polarization? <span class='highlight-brown'>It surely isn’t a coincidence that right-wing presidents such as Bolsonaro or Trump associate themselves with meme-ification?</span> This style of politics, as Isabel Löfgren says, loves binary oppositions. Aren’t memes inherently binary themselves? And what then, could ‘serious’ publishing learn from that? Some answers are given here: their humor of course, their use of language (so not only their visuality), the way they tell a story, <span class='highlight-blue'>the way they build trust and organise communities around them, and their commonality.</span> `
![Are memes inherently binary?](images/notes-miriam-binary.png)
*Noel David Nicolaus (DE) is an independent scholar and editor living and working in Berlin. He is currently working as an editor and is part of the Digital Art Collective Clusterduck, an interdisciplinary group working at the crossroads of research, design, and filmmaking.*
*Silvia dal Dosso (IT) is a creative in the digital field and researcher of internet trends and subcultures. She wrote and directed The 1 Up Fever (2013). With Clusterduck she created #MEMEPROPAGANDA, an interactive exhibition built to create active engagement and awareness about the process of memetic propaganda.*
A last contribution to the panel was made by Silvia dal Dosso and Noel David Nicolaus, as representatives of Clusterduck, a hypergeeky online environment for the study, production, and exploration of memes.
![Berniepepe meme.](images/berniepepe.png)
Memes cannot be consistently explained, as mainstream media often try to do. For example, <span class='highlight-brown'>the narrative of the American election running from alt-right sentiments living on social media, to Trump endorsing these memes, to Hillary falling into the troll trap, to Russian bots intervening in the campaign is as linear as it is inaccurate.</span> Have we forgotten that there were also Berniepepes? To really understand memes, we have to go deeper into the actual images and see how they’re currently used as means.
The history of memes is <span class='highlight-green'>a history of exodus, in which meme communities migrate from one medium to another.</span> The most recent major example would be memelords changing to Instagram after Tumblr changed its terms of use.
Even though <span class='highlight-blue'>there seems to be some agency in this mobility of communities,</span> it is a complicated issue. There is <span class='highlight-green'>an on-going effort to make a memers’ union, to start protecting the authorial rights of meme-makers</span>. The initiative went viral and was picked up on by the media. However, the union itself has not been very successful in terms of members.
<audio controls>
<source src="isabel-organize.m4a" type="audio/m4a"></audio>
<p class='caption'>Isabel Löfgren on how to organize and the role of communication.</p>
<audio controls>
<source src="noel-clusterduck.m4a" type="audio/m4a">
<p class='caption'>How to co-opt meme activism? Noel David Nicolaus on the stories that we tell.</p>
The discussion around memes as means comes down to one lesson, which is as powerful as it is simple: democracy is not a given. <span class='highlight-brown'>Fascism is a reality, which has to be faced.</span> It is time for the Left to stop being disdainful to the means of memes, to co-opting, and to organization, because this why the Right is winning right now. The Right organizes, has money (which comes with being in power), doesn’t claim a moral high-ground, and is willing to accept pluralism. <span class='highlight-applegreen'>We should not give in to the instantism we’re being pushed into by dominant modes of knowledge-producers, but start taking back initiative, and: start to troll.</span>


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Title: #synchronicityofparasites
Subtitle: @Zinedepo/Motel Spatie
Date: 17 May 2019
Remix of a blog by Florian Cramer and debris of tweets and photos, complemented with a dispersed editors' note.
*The evening #synchronicityofparasites is organized by Marc van Elburg of the Zinedepo in Motel Spatie, Arnhem. Working with theories on <span class='highlight-gray'>the parasite as a metaphor for media culture</span>, Marc found himself in a hotel in Ljubljana one day right next to an art space called P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. which he did not previously know of. This coincidence can be explained by the inherent synchronicity of parasites, which is probably also why we planned our publishing conference on the exact same day as Marc’s event.*
<span class='highlight-coralred'>Motel Spatie is a DIY space founded in 2010 on the principles and with the attitude of squatter culture.</span> Housed in Motel Spatie is the Zinedepo, a collection and public library of more than 1,200 international zines (i.e. small-edition, inexpensive DIY periodicals), founded and maintained by Marc van Elburg.
![Photo by Clusterduck.](images/photo-Motel Spatie-Clusterduck.jpg)
Van Elburg has been a zine maker and zine collector since the early 1990s. He is also an experimenter with generative/rule-based zine making, and a zine theoretician. His Zinedepo manifesto of radical zine culture clarifies Zinedepo’s overall understanding of zine culture in between (a) <span class='highlight-pink'>1980s/1990s zinemaking as anti-mainstream, countercultural publishing</span> and (b) today’s zinemaking renaissance where zine culture positions itself as <span class='highlight-lilac'>an alternative to the internet (particularly, to blogging and social media), often emphasizing the handmade, visual, and material qualities of its medium.</span> Here, the Zinedepo manifesto sees the danger of fetishizing and over-designing:
> The radical zine format is basic; several pages, black & white, folded and stapled together. Zines = zineculture <span class='highlight-blue'>Zineculture = proto social network</span>. The radical zine format is not about printing and printing techniques (but its content can be). The radical zine format is not about bookmaking (but its content can be). Zines are about social networking (global and local). Most zines have an ‘open structure’, (this way they are also a network of meaning). The radical zine is primarily about personal interest (from the individual to the general). Radical zine ideology is ‘do it yourself’ ideology. Radical zine culture is not technophobic; a robot may produce and promote a zine completely automatically as long as it is a product of its personal expression.
In researching radical zine culture, Van Elburg became interested in the notion of the parasite and parasitic publishing. <span class='highlight-gray'>In his book *The Parasite* (originally published in 1980), philosopher Michel Serres suggests rethinking the relations between humans and parasites:</span> "We parasite each other and live amidst parasites. Which is more or less a way of saying that they constitute our environment."
For Van Elburg, <span class='highlight-brown'>the concept of the parasite is thus opposed to the ideology of autonomy and freedom as it is nowadays promoted by right-wing populists,</span> because from a parasitic perspective, we are never free but live in complex systemic dependencies. <span class='highlight-gray'>The interrelation between parasite and body is so deep that separation would be deadly. The negative connotation of the ‘parasite’ thus needs to be turned around and ‘parasites’ need to be thought of as positive forces.</span>
In this spirit, the Urgent Publishing symposium parasitically dwelt on Motel Spatie’s and Zinedepo’s symposium, the Synchronicity of Parasites. Coincidentally, this event was planned to take place at the same time as Urgent Publishing, and the two joined forces.
`Dispersed editors' note: The notion of parasitic publishing has taken hold in many ways, both conceptually and concretely. Conceptually, <span class='highlight-gray'>the stress on the interdependencies of host and parasite can be transferred to a renewed relationship between publisher and reader,</span> moreover: between publisher, writer, editor, reader, and book, bookshop, platform, etc. Another lesson learned deals with the <span class='highlight-lilac'>accepting the evolution of publication into new forms, allowing them to flourish beyond your control.</span> Parasitic publications need each other to come into being and can start to thrive on one another when allowed the space to do so. <span class='highlight-yellow'>The afterlife might just become a new start.</span>`
###On the Emergence of Humanist Parasite Studies
*Anders M. Gullestad is associate professor at the Department of Linguistic, Literary, and Aesthetic Studies at University of Bergen, Norway.*
Gullestad introduces parasite studies as something that became his own endeavor and academic specialization through his PhD thesis. There are a number of negative, often political attributions of ‘parasite’. For example, <span class='highlight-gray'>both capitalists and socialists have been called parasites by their respective enemies</span>. The literal meaning of the word, however, is <span class='highlight-gray'>someone who sits at a dinner table next to the regular guests and eats the food</span>. Gullestad focused on Herman Melville’s Bartleby and his "I would prefer not to", and its adoption as a political slogan for Occupy Wall Street in 2011. Bartleby has been interpreted as a corpse or ghost, as a slacker, schizophrenic, the narrator’s double, a symbol of artists under marketplace conditions, as the patron saint of writers who stopped writing, as an exploited proletarian or even as a revolutionary. And as a parasite.
![Slide from Anders Gullestad's presentation.](images/photo-MotelSpatie-AndersGullestad3-Miriam.jpg)
<span class='highlight-gray'>While there are several scholarly readings of Bartleby as a parasite, he actually does not feed on anyone or anything.</span> So maybe the narrator himself is the parasite, feeding on Bartleby, and resulting in a symbiosis of parasite and host? Alternatively, <span class='highlight-gray'>the formula "I would prefer not to" could be seen as a parasitic meme</span>, spread via Bartleby, with what Gullestad calls the ‘Bartleby [interpretation] industry’ being its performative proof.
The scholarship on the subject of parasites exploded after 2000. <span class='highlight-gray'>Gullestad therefore imagines Humanist Parasite Studies</span> as a <span class='highlight-lilac'>new field of research spanning literary studies, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, film studies, media studies, cultural studies, art history, linguistics, theology, classics, and more.</span> However, this comes with a number of issues and challenges:
* The question of metaphoricity: <span class='highlight-gray'>when are we literally or metaphorically referring to parasites?</span> – To give an example: calling plants and animals parasites is a historically much newer phenomenon than calling people parasites, and therefore more metaphorical.
* The question of ethics: how can one revise the stigmatization of parasites without falling into the opposite extreme of glorifying them? How can parasites be made productive and not simply remain in a pejorative realm? An example of this are colonial languages that are, in the most literal sense, parasitic languages.
Since parasites are always with us and cannot be avoided, they are not a matter of good or bad. They disturb and upset control and therefore disturb hierarchies.
###The Synchronicity of Feminist Parasites
*Anna Poletti is associate professor of English Language and Culture at Universiteit Utrecht. *
Poletti introduced herself as a literary scholar who does not study what is canonically recognized as literature, but marginal publications such as zines. Poletti relocated to the Netherlands from Australia where she had been involved with one of the world’s longest-running and (within international zine communities) <span class='highlight-coralred'>most famous zine spaces, Sticky Institute, which is located in a pedestrian underpass in Melbourne’s city center.</span> Prior to her talk at Motel Spatie, she had <span class='highlight-blue'>published her manuscript as a zine and distributed it among the visitors who were invited to read along her lecture.</span>
![Zine by Anna Poletti.](images/poletti.png)
The lecture focused on three now-canonical woman writers: Virginia Woolf, Audre Lorde and Chris Kraus. Riffing on Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s question "Can the subaltern speak?", Poletti asks: "Can the parasite write?" She suggests to look at "femininity as a parasitic position that must be thought in relation to its host."
Poletti’s lecture sparks a lively debate with the audience. One question concerns the ethics of Kraus’ novel (which contains intimate details published without consent). Another question concerns the master’s tool as being central to almost any countercultural and critical publishing strategy: The Xerox machine with which most zines are produced happens to be a master’s tool, the internet is a master’s tool as well. Lorde did not literally speak of tools, but of practices and patriarchy, calling upon a new way of scholarly thinking, instead of continuing old modes of discourse.
###Parasite Game
*Wilfried Hou Je Bek is zine maker, writer, squatter and psychogeographic computationalist, and game developer. *
Wilfried Hou Je Bek gives an introduction into systems, organization and the theory of the ‘invisible hand’ of Adam Smith. He proposes <span class='highlight-gray'>to look at the parasitic through the lens of game theory.</span> Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ was a rather obscure concept within his work until it became singled out and highlighted by the 20th century neoliberal ‘Austrian economists’ who advocated an uninterrupted free market without outside (i.e. state) interference.
![Marc van Elburg en Wilfried Hou Je Bek.](images/elburg-houjebek.png)
The equilibrium theory of the invisible hand seems to leave no room for parasitic actors. This also includes the game theory of the Nobel Prize-winning economist John Forbes Nash Jr. Margret Thatcher’s famous quote that <span class='highlight-blue'>‘there’s no such thing as society’ is derived from it: there is no society, only egoistic actors. This theory solves the free-rider problem through making everyone a parasite.</span>
To put these observations into practice, Hou Je Bek programmed <span class='highlight-gray'>a small multiplayer browser game called Parasite Game</span>. In this economic simulation, players can choose to be either contributors or parasites. Parasites will always win more money than contributors, but the game ends when everyone acts as a parasite. Wins accumulate so that in the end, wealth will be unevenly distributed. There are two ways of being parasitic: out of strength or out of hopelessness. If everyone contributes, the game ends after 40 rounds; with a certain but limited number of parasites, the game will last longer. This is an empirical proof of the parasite being beneficial to the system as a whole.
![Tweet by Miriam Rasch.](images/tweet-mirias-wc.png)