Geoff Cox on Antisocial Notworking
"antisocial notworking is a repository of projects that explore the pseudo-agency of online social platforms. It takes a number of recent software projects as its inspiration to reflect upon the fashion for 'participation' with the arts sector and culture in general. The concern is how the Internet is increasingly charactised as a 'platform' (or collective machine) for 'social' uses, but to question what is meant by the term social in such descriptions. Although social networking platforms rely on user-generated content, what is the nature of this participation? What alternatives (or antitheses) can be identified?"
“Clemente Pestelli: In your “Notes in support of antisocial notworking”, you writes about how, during the ascent of social networks, social relationships were emptied of every form of antagonism and so, in short, of every form of politics. I think the analysis is right. But if we think about the first period of the World Wide Web, we cannot but be impressed by the fact that exactly the Internet was the privileged ground of political experimentation, exploited by movements and activists from all over the world: an example is the “ Battle in Seattle ” of 1999 and the role of Indymedia. Today, corporate communication platforms such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo allow to share and spread even more information than before, but although this fact, I can’t see any conflictual approach that is as much efficient. What do you think has happened? Is it something depending on a precise strategy of the global corporations or is it something that has to do with the health of movements?
Geoff Cox: Both I suppose. I would stress how the production of non-antagonistic social relations has become absolutely central to social control. In the notes I cite Rossiter who argues that without identifying the antagonisms that politics simply cannot exist. As far as network cultures are concerned this is a technical and social truism. Of course there is nothing new in this, and earlier iterations of the net are full of examples of antagonistic tactics.
As for your main question about what has happened more recently, I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this. However I suppose the issue for me is how contradictions are evident in new ways, and that organisational forms are more networked in character. There are a number of examples of network-organized forms of political organization, enhancing the open sharing of ideas - such as Indymedia, as you mention, and what is referred to as the “multitude” more generally. Contemporary forms of protest tend to reject centralized forms for more distributed and collective forms, but the tendency has both positive and negative consequences, both releasing and limiting future possibilities.
The example of Facebook exemplifies the point in that it both demonstrates the potential for self-organisation and at the same time the drive to commodify collective exchanges. Capital recuperates emergent tendencies really well, as we know. The autonomists refer to the “cycle of struggle” to emphasize that resistance needs to transform itself in parallel to recuperative processes. In a really nice description, Tronti says the restructuring of capital and the recomposition of resistance “chase each others tails”. More tactical and strategic alternatives need to be developed all the time and I don’t think there’s a way out of this recursive loop. Antagonism is a necessary part of this but I’m not sure where to look for specific examples on the web, better to look elsewhere I think, to peer production more broadly.”
“Clemente Pestelli: NotWorking, antithetic to networking, is the other key word of the project. In particular, in the introductory notes to the project, you refer to Tronti’s essay “The Strategy of the Refusal” (1965). What relationship is there, today, between job and social networks, when the time you spend at work can be less and less distinguished from the time you don’t spend at work? How do you think it’s possible to combine the idea of “refusal of work” with the completely absorbing dimension of the Web 2.0?
Geoff Cox: As you say, the confusion over what constitutes work and non-work turns attention to what constitutes effective action. Refusal to work is one established oppositional tactic in recognition of exploitation in the workplace. But it’s harder to see how exploitation takes place in relation to nonwork, or how notworking in itself might be productive. To simply refuse to take part in social networking platforms or refuse to submit personal information is not particularly effective in itself. The point, as I tried to say in the notes, is how to think about “well-assembled collectives” that can be involved in production that is not an exploitative situation. As well as Tronti, I refer to Paolo Virno’s “Grammar of the Multitude” for this reason.
What is required are strategies and techniques of better organization founded on different principles. Peer production offers one example of the opportunity to explore the limits of democracy and rethink politics. I think this is a really interesting area of activity that seems to be gathering momentum - as both an expression of”non-representational democracy” and as an alternative economic system altogether. Social networks hold the potential to transform social relations for the common good but only if held within the public realm and outside of private ownership.” (http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=1282)