Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Anonymous Friction - A Paper Proposal

For my final paper I would like to expand upon one of my previous blog posts "Lulz" and discuss the question of motivation behind viral actions in communities connected through networked technology. 

A topic which we have been addressing continually this semester is the role of technology, particularly that of cell phones and the internet, in facilitating (or complicating) mass gatherings, political demonstrations, and online campaigns. We have discusses not only the ways in which the social and the technological combine, but also how to judge the effectiveness of virtual campaigns and whether or not "knowledge" translates into action. Of particular interest to me in these discussions is the group Anonymous and its relationship with online communities such as 4chan. For groups such as Anonymous, motivation is difficult to understand. Stemming out of the idea of "lulz," amusement derived from chaos and mayhem, but morphing into an arm for freedom-of-speech rights, Anonymous' motivations are complex, and often in conflict. I plan to argue that it is this conflict that make Anonymous so powerful, what gives it the potential for productivity when so many other virtual campaigns struggle to keep afloat or are weighted down by criticism over their methods. Anonymous is created out of conflicts - conflicts over motivation behind their passion (political vs. lulz), over membership (the individual vs. the crowd), over platform/location (virtual vs. physical). It is this very structure of Anonymous which allows it to have a continual membership and brave through, if not thrive off of, criticism. Anonymous seems to embody the conflict which is central to productivity for many of the theorists we have read during this course - Tsing's "friction," Terranova's signal versus noise, Rancière's democracy. It is this friction in groups like Anonymous that keeps them in movement, that keeps them from stalling or being overwhelmed.

To be more concise, my thesis would be something along the lines of: It is the tension inherent in the motivations and platforms of diverse online communities such as Anonymous which give their viral actions the potential and force that many other virtual campaigns lack due to their more coherent framing and makeup.

The texts that I would like to address include Coleman's article "Our Weirdness is Free," Terranova's Network Culture, and Tsing's Friction. I don't want to overextend myself, but is it okay to briefly reference ideas from other works? I do not have to do this, but if I talk about passion and motivation I might include a reference to Berlant or Ahmed, as well as a quick reference to Ranciére in relation to the universal vs. the particular in politics. 

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