Dialogue with Geert Lovink on Media Art in the Age of Platform Capitalism

Dialogue with Geert Lovink

I first met Geert Lovink in 2013, while attending the Unlike Us #3 conference at the Institute for Network Cultures in Amsterdam (INC). I was there to speak about Facebook Demetricator, in what was at that time one of the first talks I’d given about the project. INC, which was founded by Geert, “analyzes and shapes the terrain of network cultures through events, publications, and online dialogue. [Their] projects evolve around urgent publishing, alternative revenue models, critical design and making, digital counter culture and much more.” Before and since, I have regularly looked to and read their free publications as a timely and astute critical lens on social media, networks, and platforms in the 21st century. Further, Geert’s books (such as Sad by Design, Social Media Abyss, Networks without a Cause, and more), blog posts, and other writings constitute an evolving analysis of the internet that blends European theory with practice-based research and aesthetics. If you aren’t already familiar with Geert and INC’s work, check it out.

Since the publication of Geert’s latest book and the release of my recent film (which Geert wrote about here), we’ve been talking, and one outcome of that is the recently published dialogue on the INC blog, where we wrote back and forth about platform capitalism, software recomposition, post-digital and the new aesthetic, the broad shift from text to image, the state of online video (including TikTok), whether an avant-garde can happen on social media at all, and, as always, more.

Read our exchange here <--

Ben Grosser Presents at The WRONG TV

The Wrong TV (click to view Channel 3)

The latest project to come out of The Wrong (which runs The Wrong Digital Art Biennale) is The Wrong TV–a new online tv platform for digital art, music & culture, with 24/7 free live streaming. David Quiles Guilló reached out and asked me to curate a program for one of the channels, and that program has just opened.

A 9+ hour loop of video-based work from about 60 artists (including myself), “Ben Grosser Presents” is a mix of computational video, multidisciplinary performance, net art documentation and promos, critical supercuts, video art, and, as always, more.

So, starting Tuesday, 7 April 2020, the program starts on channel 3 (and on the main channel beginning mid-day). GO WATCH, or view the final program below.

Also, El Pais has just written about The Wrong TV, including my segment on it.

Final Program (in no particular order):

Ben Grosser Presents
THE WRONG TV (channel 3)
7 Apr, 2020

Mark Zuckerberg Haircuts
Sam Lavigne

Crowd-Sourced Intelligence Agency
Jennifer Gradecki and Derek Curry

Bittercoin, the worst miner ever
Martín Nadal & César Escudero Andaluz

Number Pad
Ben Grosser

All the Ways (The Simpsons)
Jason Salavon

AdNauseam – Clicking Ads So You Don’t Have To
Daniel Howe and Helen Nissenbaum

Reload the Love!
Ben Grosser

Fly the Flag
Paul Shortt

Pizzabook turns your facebook into pizza
Carrie Gates

Notepad 2018
Matt Kenyon

167 (single channel version for preview)
Kennedy Browne

Playing A Girl (short excerpt)
Angela Washko

Everything but the Clouds
Patrick LeMieux

Computers Watching Movies
Ben Grosser

SENSELESS DRAWING BOT
So Kanno

Breathing a Doily into my Trachea
Nicki Werner

ELEPHANT segments
Deke Weaver

scrollbarcomposition 2013
Jan Robert Leegte

UIUC_Drain_Mitchell_Oliver
Mitchell Oliver

Head Swap for Amplified Violin and Interactive Robotic Painting Machine
Ben Grosser and Zack Browning

keytweeter
Kyle McDonald

Unerasable Images
Winnie Soon

Singing with Code – Excerpt
Sophia Brueckner

You like my like of your like of my status
Ben Grosser

Facebook Demetricator
Ben Grosser

Touching Software (House of Cards)
Ben Grosser

Wire Bath
Faith Holland

Speculation
Kevin Hamilton

PREDICTIVE ART BOT [intro]
disnovation.org

State of Affairs_3 minute clip
Bob Bicknell-Knight

Vertical Abstract Video
Dominik Podsiadly

there there Performance at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Jeff Kolar

Browsing Facebook with Safebook
Ben Grosser

Assorted Vision: The Matrix (Hue)
Ben Grosser

Unknown Armature (1): Breath Sensor Organ
Sara Hendren

Tape_book
César Escudero Andaluz

More Like This
Ben Grosser

meBot
Niky Reynolds

Follower
Lauren McCarthy

ContactRot: A Time Sensitive Address Book App for iOS
Jonah Brucker-Cohen

The making of Leap second festival 2016
BrowserBased

Granular Space
Ryan Griffis

s6-rlp-3a
Ben Grosser

Self Portrait (animated)
Ben Grosser

Body Betrayal
Avalon Ruby

THE PIRATE CINEMA
disnovation.org

ScareMail
Ben Grosser

Treatises-compressed
Mitchell Oliver

Artist’s Statement
Faith Holland

What do machines sing of?
Martin Backes

Patterns of Life
Julien Prévieux

Stranger Visions
Heather Dewey-Hagborg

Art for Spooks
N. Adriana Knouf and Claudia Pederson

fécamp Fagnet n°6 – 1R
Jacques Perconte

dead air 2017
Mitchell Oliver

I Know Where Your Cat Lives
Owen Mundy

corner to corner / roaming walk through an empty house / unedited
Hugh Sato

Go Rando
Ben Grosser

What is 500 Years of Amazing Latte Nail Art with Salt?
Erica Lapadat-Janzen

“Empty Apartments” Walk-through
Jeff Thompson

ORDER OF MAGNITUDE
Ben Grosser

Social Turkers: Crowdsourced Relationships
Lauren McCarthy

X by Bjørn Magnhildøen, Spain (Jury Award 2017)
Bjørn Magnhildøen

Present day, Present time: a 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) moment – jonCates (2020)
jonCates

CH2 unattendedVaporware app trailer
Channel TWo (Jess Parris Westbrook and Paige Treebridge)

__Others__
Ynfab Bruno

The Art of Simon Fischer
Carl Burton

The Eighth Alps
Jacques Perconte

60 Chords 60 Colors
Andreja Andric

15 Seconds of Fame
Aram Bartholl

Captioned
Liza Sylvestre

STAIR DOT (CHANNEL 1 OF 4)
Kathleen Durkin

Two Questions for Gina Cheri Haspel
Abram Stern (aphid)

Quick Fix – the vending machine selling likes and followers
Dries Depoorter

Interview with Artribune Magazine in Rome

Interview with Artribune Magazine in Italy

Last fall I did an interview with art critic and curator Valentina Tanni at Artribune Magazine in Rome. We talk about social media platforms, metrics, demetrication, the challenges of working against big tech, the wider world of net art, the role of art in society, and a bit about future projects. An excerpt of the interview was originally published in Artribune’s print magazine (issue #52, p. 75). The full interview was just published online. Both are Italian translations, so in case you’d prefer here’s the original exchange in English.

Long-form Podcast Interview with 2343.org

Long-form interview with Simone Salis of the 2343.org podcast. We talk at length about my film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE, Zuckerberg’s skewed sense of “community,” how ideology gets embedded in tools, the need for cross-disciplinary translators, our obsessions with metrics, a metric’s own obsessions (do metrics have egos?), and computational agency more broadly.

Listen via the embed below, or you can access it via Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Recorded in Chicago during summer of 2019.

I will also suggest you visit 2343.org and see what Simone is up to—he’s building out a new online community of which his podcast interviews are only a part. Free membership includes a newsletter and podcast access. There’s also options for an online forum he’s assembled too (I’m in the midst of trying it out myself).

Reviews of ORDER OF MAGNITUDE at 24/7 in London (and other recent press reactions)

ORDER OF MAGNITUDE reviewed in The Guardian (as part of 24/7 in London)

My film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE, currently on view as part of 24/7 at Somerset House in London, has received specific mention in a number of reviews of the exhibition. Here’s a few of the best quotes and links:

  • “a hilarious satire on 24/7 overlords” — The Guardian
  • “to which circle of hell have I descended?” — New Scientist
  • “We are losing sleep [but] …maybe it helps to be deafened by the sampled voice of Mark Zuckerberg” — La Stampa
  • “very funny …[has] Facebook billionaire endlessly repeating “more” …like a nodding dog” — Financial Times
  • “has [Zuckerberg] firing out growth figures like an auctioneer on speed” — The Spectator

In addition to exhibition reviews, ORDER OF MAGNITUDE has been the subject of other press features (unrelated to 24/7). A few choice quotes, with links to the full articles:

Finally, I’ve been collecting reactions made online by individuals (e.g., on social media). These are often the most useful for me personally (and also can be the most humorous). Here’s a sampling:

  • “needs the equivalent of a strobe light warning” – Maria Lantin
  • “fun against a background of horror” – Frische Broetchen
  • “Zuckerberg as insatiable black hole” – Francis Wu
  • “silly, annoying, disturbing, profound” – Dharma Won
  • “nobody has gone beyond 7m without experiencing PTSD” – Tony Roberts

“More, More, More” — Talking metrics, more, and ORDER OF MAGNITUDE on the 24/7 Podcast

My film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE is currently part of 24/7, an exhibition at Somerset House in London curated by Sarah Cook. As part of that exhibition, which closes in late February, Somerset House is producing a podcast series with artists showing in 24/7. The first episode, which was just released, features me talking about social media metrics, the desire for more, and the film. Listen below:

If you prefer, here’s a direct link to “More, More More” at Somerset House.

Interviews with Ireland Public Radio

When I was in Dublin last month for events at The Hugh Lane, I sat down with Luke Clancy for the show Culture File on RTÉ Lyric FM (Ireland Public Radio). Culture File is “RTÉ Lyric FM’s flagship daily arts feature, offering a unique and accessible take on creativity in the world around us; taking in music, media, technology, craft, art, play, comedy, food and design.” The interview aired over two nights, with the first episode “Mindful Facebooking” and the second on my film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE (which had a public screening at The Hugh Lane the next night). Listen to each episode below:

It was a great conversation, easily one of the best I’ve had in a media interview. Thanks to Luke–as well as Virginia Tech professor and friend Aisling Kelliher who made the connection.

ORDER OF MAGNITUDE at Somerset House in London

Short GIF from ORDER OF MAGNITUDE

My film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE will be part of 24/7, an exhibition at Somerset House in London that “explore[s] the unrelenting pressure to produce and consume around the clock … and holds a mirror up to a society where complex systems are exerting control, causing us to sleep less and disrupting our instincts to daydream and pay attention to the world around us, and each other.” 24/7, which is curated by Sarah Cook, is on view from 31 October 2019 to 23 February 2020.

Screening, Workshop, and Lecture in Dublin

Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, Ireland (image credit)

Next week I’m headed to Dublin, Ireland for a number of events. Two are at the Hugh Lane Gallery (aka Dublin City Gallery) as part of events associated with The Redaction Trilogy, an exhibition by Irish duo Kennedy Browne. As part of their work, which examines the cultural effects of digital technologies, they are hosting a series of “Digital Self Defence” workshops by several artists and scholars. I’ll present one of these, titled Less Metrics, More Rando: Practical Techniques to Regain Agency Over Your Technological World. The night before, I’ll do a screening of and discussion about my film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE. I’ll also give a lecture about software, metrics, and code as material at the National College of Art and Design.

Twitter Demetricator part of NEoN Festival in Scotland

NEoN Festival in Dundee, Scotland

Twitter Demetricator will be part of next week’s NEoN Festival in Dundee, Scotland via the online exhibition titled “Sous le web, la plage!” Curator Martin Zellinger writes: “Echoing the famous call-to-arms of the ‘68 protest movements, this online exhibition explores how art can continue to inspire change ‘IRL’ (in real life) from the immaterial spheres of digital media and the web. Does the digital at times become a kind of intangible vacuum, a zone of (self-)banishment for artists, or is it, instead, a site for empowered engagement with activist communities and ever-larger audiences around the world?” Happy to be a part of the wider festival, which is directed by Joseph DeLappe.

Works on view as part of The Wrong Biennale

The Wrong Biennale (artwork image by Mit Borras)

The Wrong Biennale is a bi-annual worldwide exhibition of digital art that is now in its 4th edition. Located in physical exhibitions, web-based spaces, and specialized routers across the world, the Biennale will present the work of more than 2000 artists.

I’m happy to have several works on view as part of this year’s edition. I’ll have a few net art related videos in the Biennale’s main embassy and exhibition titled EPICENTRE at the Centre del Carme in Valencia, Spain. I’ll also have works in the online pavilions VERY LARGE WORKS and Perfect Users, and at #nfcdabatthewrong showing in the Circle/Triangle Modern Art Gallery in Wroclaw, Poland. My project from the last edition of The Wrong, NET ART FOR STORAGE, is also a “tunnel” for the pavilion called The Burrow. Through this tunnel I’ll be archiving another artist’s durational work throughout The Wrong (stay tuned for more on that).

Finally, I’m happy to be on this year’s The Wrong Council, the organizing group for the Biennale. I’ve been delighted to help in small ways, though would point to all my colleagues on the Council as having contributed more than myself! The Council is: Erica Lapadat-Janzen, Florian Kuhlmann, Graziela Calfat, Guilherme Brandão, Janire Goikoetxea, Miyö van Stenis, Jon Cates, Pablo Hannon, Moises Mañas, and Patrick Lichty. As always, The Wrong is organized by David Quiles Guilló—though “organized” doesn’t really capture the amazing feats of coordination David demonstrates in his leadership of this project.

The Wrong Biennale opens on 1 November and runs through 1 March 2020. Many of the exhibitions will change throughout the run, so keep checking back!

Computers Watching Movies at Reboot Festival in Lisbon

My work Computers Watching Movies is part of the Reboot Digital Arts Festival, opening today at Palácio Baldaya in Lisbon. Reboot is a new festival—assembled by some of the same folks involved with the PLUNC—that describes itself as:

…a digital restart – [Reboot] cleans a digital system of some saturating element, reviving it. In the tangible world, the concept of Reboot is sold to us in many forms – restful sleep, detox treatments, therapeutics, and the like – but it hardly parallels with this digital recurrence. This Reboot is an invitation to speculation, to criticism, to a fresh scientific production, and to formal, transdisciplinary artistic interventions.

The festival includes a two-day symposium that has some great looking talks. More available at the festival site.

Demetricators on Vox’ Today, Explained Podcast

On the latest episode of Today, Explained, Arielle Pardes of Wired talked with Vox about her experience of using my social media Demetricators:

When I first started using the Demetricators, it was a little bit scary. But over time it sort of led me to believe that I was putting too much value in things like how many likes or retweets or comments that my posts were getting. It really made me aware of how quickly I was judging other people’s profiles for how many followers they had or how quickly I was judging somebody else’s posts for how many likes it received. … there is a sort of blissful oblivion when you don’t know how well something is performing.

To hear the rest, listen to the episode by clicking play above (or, alternatively, here’s links for Apple and Spotify).

ORDER OF MAGNITUDE at Galerie Manqué in Brooklyn

Portrait of Zuck at Galerie Manqué in Brooklyn

My work ORDER OF MAGNITUDE will be part of the exhibition Portrait of Zuck. Opening this Friday at Galerie Manqué in Brooklyn, the show presents work that focuses on Mark Zuckerberg’s role(s) as:

“tech billionaire, ultimate data merchant, CEO of the world’s largest social media corporation, enabler of Cambridge Analytica and Russian trolls, goat slayer, Puli owner, embodiment of insatiable capitalism, awkward person, possible robot, probable alien, privacy violator supreme, etc.”

The exhibition features work by Sandra Araujo, Marion Balac & Carlos Carbonell, Bob Bicknell-Knight, Ryan Garvey, Ben Grosser, Claire Jervert and Lane Twitchell.

Demetricators and Safebook in Aftenposten (Oslo) and FAZ (Frankfurt)

Screenshot of Aftenposten

Aftenposten (Oslo) and FAZ (Frankfurt) both wrote about my efforts with social media demetrication as it relates to current experiments at Twitter and Instagram. Unfortunately, both are behind a paywall. But here’s a couple excerpts (using Google Translate):

FAZ:

The last few weeks show that Grosser was ahead of his time. Instagram, which belongs to the Facebook group, is now testing a kind of “metric light” in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand following successful tests in Canada. Users can no longer see how many Likes have been received by the photos of other users, only [one’s] own can be seen. Instagram’s commentary on the test sounds much like Grosser’s: “Helping users focus on their shared photos and videos – not how many likes they get.” Or: “We do not want Instagram to be a competition.”

Aftenposten:

“It’s really hard not to focus on [our social media metrics],” says Ben Grosser. The art professor has been fighting the role of numbers in social media for seven years. Grosser sits back in his own home, with dark curly hair and beard, and talks enthusiastically about how the numbers control us. He thinks we lose an important part of the conversation when everything is measured. … Grosser is not among the influential giants of Silicon Valley. He works at the University of Illinois, on almost the opposite side of the United States. His job as an art professor gives him no shortcuts to power. But he knows that Facebook knows his work. When the Facebook Demetricator was new, he saw a lot of traffic from the Facebook offices by looking at the IPs that tested the program, “but I didn’t hear anything from them for many years. It doesn’t seem like they cared enough to do anything,” says Grosser. (until 2016 when they got Demetricator kicked off the Chrome web store —bg)