Marco Deseriis is an assistant professor in the program in media and screen studies at northeastern university and his work revolves mostly around the production of subjectivity in the information society. His forthcoming book Improper names (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) is a genealogy of shared pseudonyms that brings together the history of the labor movement (Ned Ludd, Alan Smithee) with the post-modern avant-garde (Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot) and current struggles for the commoning of information and information technologies (Luther Blissett, Anonymous). As assemblages of enunciation that are simultaneously common and singular, impersonal yet individuated, improper names allow us to think of a third way between the quantified self of the Web 2.0 and the specular politics of anonymity and obfuscation.
Nonhuman Solidarities: The Impact of Crowdsourcing on Media Activism and Hacktivism
In this collaborative presentation, Renzi and Deseriis examine the impact of crowdsourcing on contemporary forms of media activism and hacktivism, using Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of “machinic enslavement” and “social subjection.” While the notion of social subjection is useful to think of the generalization of exploitation that goes under the name of crowdsourcing, the notion of machinic enslavement points to a-subjective and a-significant transformations and information exchanges that occur within a machinic assemblage. Social subjection and machinic enslavement reinforce each other. Yet they also allow us to grasp how different aspects of crowdsourcing play out in the information economy. Using the lens of social subjection, exploitation and expropriation can be analyzed through neo-Marxist approaches such as those of Vincent Mosco, Christian Fuchs and Mark Andrejevic. Through the lens of machinic enslavement, however, repetitive human tasks such as the filling of CAPTCHAs and the production and circulation of information objects are read as part of a wider machinic assemblage whose components are partly human and partly nonhuman. By following this second trace Deseriis and Renzi take in consideration two distinct sets of case studies: 1) The use by media activists of crowdsourcing platforms for the production of documentaries; and 2) the use of botnets for the organization of DDoS attacks for political ends. In both circumstances, the software and the infrastructure are not seen as mere tools but, following Gilbert Simondon, as machines whose ability to reproduce themselves depends on their ability to be open and in-formed by the surrounding environment. This drive towards indetermination, which has both a subjective side and a techno-logical side, allows us to interrogate forms of “digital solidarity” whose ethos cannot be defined in strictly human terms and which trouble anthropocentric notions of resistance and activism.