I recently helped to put together a proposal for a project headed by Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures/HvA, Amsterdam) and Korinna Patelis (Cyprus University of Technology, Lemasol) called Unlike Us – Understanding Social Media Monopolies and their Alternatives.
The project is just getting started (no events or outcomes have been planned yet), but the proposal delineates the following objectives:
The aim of this proposal is to establish a research network of artists, designers, scholars, activists and programmers who work on ‘alternatives in social media’. Through workshops, conferences, online dialogues and publications, Unlike Us intends to both analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media platforms and to propagate the further development and proliferation of alternative, decentralized social media software.
See the full proposal for more details and info on how to join.
Anyway, my contributions to the Unlike Us proposal were inspired by an article I just submitted to an open journal, and which should be coming out in the Fall, hopefully. The article is titled “Liberation Technology and the Arab Spring: From Utopia to Atopia and Beyond.” Here’s the abstract:
While the tendency in the West to refer to the Arab Spring movements as “Twitter Revolutions” has passed, a liberal discourse of “liberation technology” (information and communication technologies that empower grassroots movements) continues to influence our ideas about networked participation. Unfortunately, this utopian discourse tends to circumvent any discussion of the capitalist market structure in which these tools operate. In this paper, I suggest that liberation technologies may in fact increase opportunities for political participation, but that they simultaneously create certain kinds of inequalities. I end by proposing a theoretical framework for locating alternative practices of participation and liberation.