Over the course of a talk, a conversation, and a screening, this event enabled its participants to talk through how publics are imagined, visualised, simulated and targeted as data, while reflecting on the shifting grounds of politics and propaganda in networked society. It was discussed how different models of networks – and the place of people in them – enable or foreclose forms of action. Finally, an attempt was made to open up the question of data and time, and the kinds of futures that can be imagined today.
Network Politics / Network Aesthetics is part of Real Time Tactics, curated by Mila Samdub, in the context of ‘The earth is still going around the sun’: Curatorial Intensive South Asia 2019 Exhibitions, a project by KHOJ International Artists’ Association.
The Phantom Public, talk by Amber Sinha; discussant: Radha Mahendru
Networks, whether in the form of Facebook and Twitter or WhatsApp groups, are exerting immense, unchecked power in subverting political discourse and polarizing the public in India. If people’s understandings of their political reality can be so easily manipulated through misinformation, then what role can they play in fostering deliberative democracies? The talk discussed the biases that make the public susceptible to misinformation, how digital platforms and their governance impact the public’s behaviour on them, and the changing face of political targeting in this data-driven world.
Aesthetics of New Media Propaganda, conversation between Nayantara Ranganathan and Manuel Beltrán
At a time when the political and cultural implications of algorithmically mediated realities are beginning to draw popular attention, it is urgently necessary to reckon with what is different about propaganda in the networked world. The creators of ad.watch, a project and intervention collecting and presenting datasets of political ads on social media networks, discussed time as an active ingredient in algorithmic decisions about political advertising.
Transformation Scenario (dir. Clemens von Wedemeyer, 2018, 20 minutes), screening
Simulated life began in the movies and computer games, but is influencing many fields today. In architecture, city planning, traffic navigation, and market and trade predictions, virtual scenarios of human behavior change the way we live. Clemens von Wedemeyer’s new multi-screen video installation ‘Transformation Scenario’ creates a speculative narration on the impact of emulated group behaviour in society.
Amber Sinha is a lawyer interested in technology, the Internet, and how the law engages with them. He works as a Research Director at the Centre for Internet and Society, where he manages programs on privacy, big data, digital identity and artificial intelligence.
Nayantara Ranganathan is a researcher and lawyer working on the politics and culture of technologies. Previously she was exploring questions of what it might mean to have a feminist politics of data at the Internet Democracy Project, where she developed work related to freedom of expression, surveillance, net neutrality and the gendered use of the internet. She co-conceptualised Gendering Surveillance, a project on exposing the gendered nature of surveillance in the Indian context. She has been working with groups in India to explore how digital technologies are affecting fights for social justice. She also co-founded ad.watch, a project on political advertising on social media.
Manuel Beltrán is an artist, activist, and researcher. His artworks and projects have been widely presented in Europe and abroad. He researches and lectures on contemporary art, activism, contemporary social movements, post-digital culture and new media. As an activist, he was involved in the Indignados movement in Spain, the Gezi Park protests in Turkey and several forms of independent activism and cyber-activism in Europe and beyond. In 2015, he founded the Institute of Human Obsolescence, through which he explores the future of labour, the social and political implications regarding our relationship with technology and the economic and governance systems surrounding the production of data. He is also the co-founder of ad.watch, a project exploring new forms of political propaganda in social media.
Radha Mahendru is a researcher, curator and creative practitioner. She is the Senior Curator & Program Manager at KHOJ, where she has conceptualised, planned and executed residencies, exhibitions, and seminars, and led socially engaged art practice, public programming and fundraising projects. Trained as a filmmaker at the Srishti School of Art and Design, Bangalore, she has previously worked with oral history archives and provided film and video support to grassroots organisations towards their advocacy work. Focussing her research on the productive overlaps between ecology, gender and digital humanities, she is currently imagining how we can weaponise our digital habits to disrupt algorithmic echo chambers.