Feminist Activism and digital networks :Talk @University of Leeds

9781137504708On Wednesday last week, I had a great time talking about feminist activism and digital media at the School of Media and Communications, University of Leeds, amongst the company of good friends and colleagues. Nancy invited me to speak in the Department’s Research Seminars last year, and I finally made it there this year, just two weeks after my book ‘Feminist Activism and Digital Networks: Between Empowerment and Vulnerability’ got published.

So I thought that talking about feminism in this Research Seminar now was important. Feminist and queer activism are constantly shifting and changing as the identities that are associated with them change, but it is in this historical and sociopolitical conjunction that feminism seems more relevant than ever to people, to their everyday lives and struggles in a very bleak world. In the last few months, we have witnessed how feminism just ‘clicked’ – millions of people recently marched around the world against Trump’s misogyny and right-wing populism, and digital culture has been thriving with feminist memes, hashtags and other forms of participatory media that has given many of us hope about the future of bottom-up organizing. It is the first time after many years that feminist issues are the central issues in cultural and political life, and not just the preoccupations of feminist. The first time in years of feminist backlash when we are not operating within an assumption that feminism has met its aims and is a matter of the past; it clearly has not.
CuNOs3CXYAENcM4But as feminist cultural production flourishes in the streets and online, so does hate speech, cyberbullying and online misogyny. I showed the audience of the talk the top results that my search of the word ‘feminism’ returned on YouTube on Monday. YouTube is populated with Feminist Cringe, a supposedly comedy genre that ridicules feminists who are articulating any kind of counter-discourse to the misogyny in the media and in protests. The hate speech that the comments attract is appalling and worrying, and it begs the question: are we taking one step forward and two stps backwards?

4500But do these comments really matter, you may ask? Can this kind of online anonymous, and perceived as intangible hate speech really hurt a movement that is physically present in the streets? How much power do social media actually have? I think they do – and in what followed in my speech I tried to unravel how I think about the complex dynamics of content production and control that constitute online networks as contradictory spaces of both vulnerability and empowerment for feminist and queer politics. In this long talk, I visited some of the key concept in my new book. A key theoretical concept that I introduce is that of biodigital vulnerability. My argument is that corporeal vulnerability, and the new forms of governmentality that appear due to technoscientific acceleration, when made public can have great political potential and can be empowering for communities and individuals that have been marginalised or victimised due to sexuality or gender.

Through a discussion of the development of the concept of biodigital vulnerability and a key investigation of the different temporalities of digital media and everyday activism, in this talk I revisited the central themes of the book: labour, embodiment, affect, practices and materiality.

Watch this space for the slides from the talk!

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Biointelligence, nanotech and Fantastic voyage

Some eight years ago, in a Yale Medicine article about “smart dust”, the following amazing speculation was written

A world that used to be dumb and unconnected now gets connected, and that information gets shared.

Continue reading “Biointelligence, nanotech and Fantastic voyage”

Searching ‘digital’+’networks’+’feminist’ OR ‘queer’

I’ve been looking around a bit for other projects around feminist & queer politics and digital networks. Meanwhile I’m preparing a digital storytelling workshop for women (cis or trans) – a hands on digital media technologies in everyday feminist (and perhaps queer) politics – I’ll say more about this when practicalities are sorted out.

So I came across the US-based Digital Sisterhood project which seems interesting – and features various feminist voices on a web site, online radio show, Twitter page, and Tweetchats – and even organised events like an online yoga session. I also came across the article Class, the Digital and (Immaterial) Feminism by Jennifer Cotter in THE RED CRITIQUE 13 (Fall/Winter 2008) – which basically builds its entire critique around a reading of Judy Wajcman’s TechnoFeminism, and argues that within digital capitalist conditions

“women are not freed from deepening exploitation and the deterioration of their economic conditions of life in transnational capitalism, even when some become techno-managers”.

and brutally that

“Immaterial feminism is liberal feminism, and liberal feminism is an ally of transnational capitalism, not of exploited women”.

A bit abrasive, but never mind. Then I also found this Queer & Feminist New Media Spaces post in the HASTAC site (which I admittedly visit too often lately for postdoc announcements on the other side of the Atlantic), which gives a review and lists some interesting questions in the end. I run across this older Montreal based Feminist interventions – Locative media project by Andrea Zeffiro (a doctoral candidate in Communication at Concordia University in 2008 when the post was written) which, in a reflection, concludes that

“A critical pedagogical approach – in which social, political and economic factors are made apparent prior to production – will sharpen the necessary tools, enabling feminist curiosities to excavate locative media”.

Luckily, I also found something which is forthcoming (17th of November) – the DIGITAL SITES/QUEER CIRCULATIONS: TRACING ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS AND GLBTQ COMMUNITIES organised by Mary L Gray (Indiana University) – and I’ll check back for the abstracts.

Meccsa 2012: politics, embodiment & digital networks

My paper abstract for the 2012 Meccsa Conference in January has been accepted. I will be presenting something along the lines of:

Materialising practices: The embodiment of politics in digital networks Continue reading “Meccsa 2012: politics, embodiment & digital networks”

PhD Thesis submitted: “Remediating politics: feminist and queer formations in digital networks”

This is the title of my thesis, submitted on the 26th of September 2011. I’m waiting for the viva – which is in January and meanwhile teaching and updating the blog. Here are the chapters of my thesis:

Aristea Fotopoulou, PhD Thesis, University of Sussex

“Remediating politics: feminist and queer formations in digital networks”

CHAPTER 1
Rethinking mediation, politicisation and embodiment

CHAPTER 2
Feminist digital networks: remediating issues and identities

CHAPTER 3
Reterritorialisation and queer counterpublics: producing locality and
referential metacultures

CHAPTER 4
Postporn networks: making scarcity and forming affective intensities

CHAPTER 5
Feminist biopolitics of reproductive technologies: egg donation debates

CONCLUSION
Looping threads

Thesis abstract

My thesis examines feminist and queer actors emerging in highly mediated environments and the forms of political organisation and critical knowledge production they engage in. It indicates that older debates around gender and sexuality are being reformulated in digital networks and identifies alternative understandings of politics and community which arise in this context. The study foregrounds a performative conceptualisation and argues that political realities are produced in dynamic configurations of communication media, discourses and bodies. It suggests that network technologies constitute sources of vulnerability and anxiety for feminists and stresses the significance of registering how embodied subjectivities emerge from these experiences.

To achieve its aims and to map activity happening across different spaces and scales, my doctoral project attended to context-specific processes of mediation at the intersections of online and offline settings. It employed ethnographic methods, internet visualisation, in-depth interviewing and textual analysis to produce the following key outcomes: it registered changing understandings of the political in relation to new media amongst a network of women’s organisations in London; it investigated the centrality of social media and global connections in the shaping of local queer political communities in Brighton; it complicated ideas of control, labour and affect to analyse emerging sexual identities in online spaces like nofauxx.com, and offline postporn events; finally, it traced feminist actors gathering around new reproductive technologies, at the crossing fields of grassroots activism and the academy.

Today, women’s groups and queer activists increasingly use networked communication for mobilisation and information-sharing. In a climate of widespread scepticism towards both representational politics and traditional media, questions about the role of digital networks in enabling or limiting political engagement are being raised. My thesis aims to contribute to these debates by accounting for the ways in which feminist and queer activists in digital networks reformulate the relationship between communication media and politics.