Wednesday, November 14, 2012


In "Our Weirdness is Free," Gabriella's Coleman mentions the peculiar nature of the rise of Anonymous, a group now synonymous for many people with democratic mass interventions and freedom of speech, from the culture of 4chan. Coleman does a good job at pointing out the tension that resulted from Anonymous' slow drift from 4chan; where did all the lulz go? Both organizations, if they can be termed that, utilize the power of interconnected masses in order to accomplish goals which could never be imagined without the internet and its accompanying multitude, anonymity, and access. However, the motivations behind the two organizations' actions vary from slightly divergent to completely contrary. Online enclaves, such as groups within 4chan, derive satisfaction from, and thus have as their final goal, pure, unadulterated lulz.  Lulz can be thought of as the pleasure derived from watching hilarity and chaos unfold. Anonymous on the other hand, while it was born from a culture which values lulz above almost anything else, has branched out into the political realm. While lulz is still one goal, Anonymous saw the potential for positive political action within the structure and networks that already existed. Whether it be helping to organize protests or acting as resource coordinators or conduits for those whose freedom of speech is restricted, Anonymous' "ops" are clearly political despite the emphasis they still place on chaos and hilarity.

Groups who hold lulz to be paramount, often see Anonymous as cop-outs and compromisers. There is some interesting truth behind these claims. The power behind group actions comes not just the anonymity of the members, but the unexplainable and random nature of their actions. The power of controversy, attention, and public perception derives from the fact that acts of lulz are impossible to explain for any other reason than the group wanted to screw with someone for fun - and that idea scares people. It is as though political demonstrations, though they can be just an unruly or dangerous, are somehow more excusable (and in the social context of a democracy, any mass gathering of people seem inherently political, as Professor Chun pointed out in lecture). People strive to find political meaning behind actions of lulz because finding an explanation takes away the fear of the unknown. When Anonymous introduces political motivations, easier for people to grasp and explain, into the equation, do they lose some of the power of mystery? Could politics be destructive to the sheer potential of lulz? On the other hand, one could also see Anonymous' tandem principles of political action and lulz as mutually reinforcing. Lulz can be seen as a type of affect - an emotion of glee and satisfaction which circulates between a collective of bodies. One could even go so far as to say that lulz could be what Berlant would call a motivating passion, a trigger for progressive politics. Perhaps this combination within Anonymous is key; perhaps lulz, and the passion that it creates and binds its community with, is what other mass political groups are in fact lacking.

I am curious to think about how lulz functions, or as Ahmed would say, what work does it do? How does it bring bodies together? In what way can pure lulz motivate people and in what ways does it work alongside politics? While I feel as though there is a spectrum of motivations ranging from pure lulz to pure politics, can any motivations truely be separated from politics? This seems like far too broad of a claim, and perhaps I am just another person who "doesn't get it" struggling to provide an explanation for lulz when that just isn't possible. But, all the same, I feel as though what we describe as lulz is incredibly difficult to separate from a cultural politics that works inherently among bodies, whether connected to the internet or not.Take for example the hacking group LulzSec, who in one in/famous attack, broke into Sony and retrieved personal information from tens of thousands of individuals who had accounts with the company. While LulzSec claims its motivation is amusement and mayhem, their actions do not seem to be entirely lulz-derived. Hacking into Sony was seen by many as a direct response to Sony's lawsuit against a hacker who had been jailbreaking PlayStation 3's. In this light, their attack can be seen as motived by rights management and even freedom of speech politics. While this situation appears more obvious, I feel as though an investigation into the interrelation of lulz and socio-political motivations could be fruitful. For example, in what way are expressions of lulz connected to free speech?

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