In the last post I anticipated some (more) news, but then months passed and the last post was still the last post. Worry not: I’m finally updating this with a link to the first of a series of articles that will come out on Digicult in the next weeks/couple of months. If you read my blog you know I have already written for them (most notably this big essay about Silvio Lorusso’s work), but now we’re getting into my own PhD research and some of the interviews I’ve been doing. This output marks a bit of a return to my original interest in aesthetics (and, why not, to my art school days) after all the sociology and even social psychology I have been reading during the first years of my PhD, but the introductory essay puts together quite an interdisciplinary conceptual ensemble. I’m posting the beginning below.
“The following essay introduces a series of interviews that will be published on Digicult in the following weeks. I have been conducting these and other interviews within the scope of my doctoral research at the University of Salford, with the goal of exploring critical approaches to the construction of online identity. The premise of my research is that categorization is a key part of the way we organize our online self, and in so doing we engage with stereotyping and polarization in ways that are not only reductive, but also creative.
Ultimately, I’m interested in the double-edged nature of stereotypes and how online networks and communities are shaped by contradictory cultural avatars like the Gangster, the Nomad, and the Troll. The following interviews do not address those specific figures, but center on identity models, formats, keywords, and algorithms through which cultural identity is processed into computable elements.
Although that was the common denominator by which I chose my interviewees, the resulting tactics are heterogeneous: trollish Instagram accounts, performative approaches to machine learning, appropriation of marketing techniques for social justice, (new) hashtags against (old) hashtags.
The goal of these accounts is to try and understand if it’s possible to resist cultural polarization and stereotyping within digital environments that have user profiling and categorization baked into their very architecture.
Regardless of their success, these episodic acts of resistance offer in fact a type of localised knowledge we can learn from. Their subversive and playful attitude towards tagging, in the widest sense possible, is thus the basis to start building a glossary of tactics that might, if we are lucky, be a starting point for future resistance.”