1:1 / Re-calculating Virtual Ratios. Session 1: Opacity

Symposium with Jesse Darling, Julian Oliver, Nadim Samman, Jenna Sutela. Organised by Elvia Wilk

Early text-based in­ter­net medi­ums reached out for au­tonomous space and flex­i­ble iden­tity. In this self-built do­main, dom­i­nated by role-play­ing and chat en­vi­ron­ments where anonymity and in­vented iden­ti­ties pre­vailed, one could pre­sent one­self as one imag­ined (de­sired) one­self to be. The com­mu­ni­ties that de­vel­oped were pred­i­cated on a mu­tu­ally-ac­cepted fic­tion that al­lowed for the con­struc­tion of Many Selves : 1 Body.

Such cy­ber-body free­dom has been sti­fled as the in­ter­net has be­come a vi­sual arena in which we are sub­ject to con­stant imag­ing, sur­veil­lance, and the work­ings of the in­for­ma­tion econ­omy. So­cial media pro­files are sti­flingly lit­eral. The NSA wants you to be who you say you are. Today, your sin­gu­lar on­line self is locked down to your sin­gu­lar body – and the bound­ary be­tween it and you is in­creas­ingly trans­par­ent.

But the back-end struc­tures of so­cial media and com­mu­ni­ca­tions soft­ware are ob­scured. Your on­line iden­tity tied into var­i­ous plat­forms is con­stantly processed by in­vis­i­ble al­go­rithms: chew­ing and di­gest­ing your data, con­dens­ing your in­for­ma­tion, dig­ging and spy­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing at an un­re­lent­ing speed. In re­sponse, there is an emerg­ing ten­dency in on­line com­mu­ni­ties to­wards ob­scur­ing one­self, shroud­ing one­self in non-(ratio)nal in­for­ma­tion.

While in po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions this ten­dency takes the form of pri­va­ti­za­tion, data en­cryp­tion, and al­ter­nate meth­ods of uti­liz­ing so­cial media, in the arts it takes the form of re-ap­pro­pri­at­ing new-age phi­los­o­phy, mys­ti­cism, and oc­cult prac­tices. These are dual tac­tics of opac­ity in the face of the wide­spread com­pul­sion to re­veal every­thing.

The re­turn of the de­sires for opac­ity, ex­clu­siv­ity, and mys­ti­cism that were in­her­ent in early on­line prac­tices, when iden­ti­ties could be cre­atively in­vented rather than gov­erned by al­go­rithms in pre­made en­vi­ron­ments, is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the urge to find in­cal­cu­la­ble, per­sonal, cor­po­real, and sub­jec­tive ways of being that can­not be cap­i­tal­ized upon. Can you still ob­scure your­self? How can you amp up the opac­ity of the screen sep­a­rat­ing body from self?

Wed, 23 Oct, 20.00h
23 Oct 2013

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