Over at the blog of The Baffler, Will Meyer talks to Geert Lovink about his new book, Social Media Abyss: Critical Internet Cultures and the Force of Negation, the central thesis of which is: “Tomorrow’s challenge will not be the Internet’s omnipresence, but its invisibility.” In addition, loving critiques "Silicon Valley logic" and explains why dominant forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter are terrible places to organize social movements. Here's an excerpt:
W.M.: You spend a lot of time considering “outsiders”—“geeks,” “artists,” “hackers”—different bohemian figures in the book. You both pin hopes on their potential to create change (like alternatives to corporate platforms) and also lament how neoliberal austerity is pushing them towards the margins.
G.L.: Well we can only say that this withdrawal, this further marginalization of these figures that you just mentioned is only beginning. Twenty or twenty-five years ago, artists, geeks, and designers were the ones who were experimenting most, they were exploring cyberspace. There is very little room at the present moment to do that. Nowadays, time is spent on staying connected, manicuring an online presence. How can we build up new forms of underground in this environment? For that, we first need to unplug. Not because we’re against technology but because the current platforms are not serving our goals. The question is, “Will we have time, and, can we defend such ‘temporary autonomous zones’ in which these experiments happen over the course of time, without being bothered by ‘likes’? Can we define and defend this new form of underground?”
W.M.: As much as you’re excited about the potentials of social movement’s ability to effect change, you are quick to spell out the limitations of social movements that are dependent on social media. What are these limitations and how can they be overcome?
G.L.: Like I said, with social media, social movements can only focus on mobilization and on news, the spreading of news. But in fact, the key issue of social movements—and everyone who’s been involved will, I believe, agree—is the mystery of social uprising, the mystery of becoming a movement, the creation of resistance. Because the news is what happens at the end, the big secret is what happens before. That is the moment of organization. And social media doesn’t do anything at that level. I am very much in favor of using the computer for organizational tools, but these tools are for small groups, and that’s why we (The Institute of Network Cultures) have been developing this idea of the organized networks that are built on strong links and oppose social media for the simple fact that these platforms only exploit weak links. And they can only further spread the word to the friends of the friends of the friends. We all know this logic, but the hard work, the really decisive stuff, cannot happen in a weak link environment. No way.
Image of Geert Lovink via The Baffler.