5:30-7:15 p.m., Friday, April 13
65 West 11th St., 5th floor, Wollman Hall
Occupy the Media or Occupy as Medium?
This panel asks the simple question of whether the variety of media invented and adopted by Occupy Wall Street should be seen as extensions of the movement or whether the movement can be seen as a medium in its own right. It does so by approaching this problem from three different perspectives: Occupy as a meme, meme-generator, operation, and platform; Occupy as a collective practice through which bodies affect and amplify each other by acting together; and Occupy as a movement that concerns the struggle for symbolic power and against symbolic domination in the urban space.
Occupy as Meme: Socially Mediated Spectatorship, Jokes, and Affective Contagion
This presentation examines Occupy Wall Street as meme, meme-generator, operation and platform. From the initial call by Adbusters to Pepper Spray Cop to the press roundup of 2011’s top examples, OWS has been infused with meme-making. I explore OWS as itself a meme around a number of dimensions: Paolo Virno’s analysis of jokes as public action via repetition and difference; Michel Foucault’s assessment of Kant’s notion of revolutionary “enthusiasm” by spectators (now merged with participants); and the move from online to offline action via what Anna Gibbs calls “affective contagion.” Ultimately, I argue that OWS has mutated from meme to something like a platform or image-board (like 4chan) as well as to one recent result from platforms: an Operation and its collective actor (e.g. Anonymous).
Jack Z. Bratich is associate professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. His research takes a critical approach to the intersection of popular culture and political culture. He is author of Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture (2008) and coeditor, along with Jeremy Packer and Cameron McCarthy, Foucault, Cultural Studies, and Governmentality (2003). His work applies autonomist social theory to such topics as reality television, social media, and the cultural politics of secrecy. He is a zine librarian at ABC No Rio in New York City.
The People’s Mic as a Medium in Its Own Right
This paper explores Occupy’s widespread adoption of the People’s Mic—a call-and-response technique for amplifying the voice of a speaker in public space without recurring to amplified sound. The paper traces different usages of the Mic, from spontaneous appropriations in the course of demonstrations to scripted usages for protesting politicians and CEOs to its codified adoption within the NYC General Assembly. It focuses on the latter, arguing that the primary function of the Mic is to give a body to the principle that all voices should be heard in the same way. Participants in a GA are often reminded that for the Mic to function properly they must repeat every word been said—even when they are not in agreement. Thus, partaking in the Mic means to occupy simultaneously two positions, that of medium (or relay) and that of addressee. I argue that this overlap and the embodied character of the People’s Mic make it a medium with distinctive features.
Marco Deseriis is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Eugene Lang The New School. Along with Giuseppe Marano he is the co-author of Net.Art: L’arte della Connessione (Shake, 2008). His writings on art and activism have appeared in a number of magazines and journals including Mute Magazine, Subjectivity, and Thamyris/Intersecting. This September, Deseriis is slated to join the faculty of the College of Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern University. Deseriis was one of few dozens activists who participated in the preparatory stages of Occupy Wall Street in August 2011.
Occupying Occupy: Space In Conflict, Space As Conflict
Not An Alternative is a hybrid arts collective and non-profit organization with a mission to affect popular understandings of events, symbols, and history. The group curates and produces interventions on immaterial and material space, leveraging the tools of architecture, exhibit design, branding, and public relations.
Not An Alternative’s actions, installations, and presentations have been featured within art institutions, and in the public sphere, where they collaborate with community organizations and activist mobilizations. They host programs at a variety of venues, including their Brooklyn-based gallery No-Space (formerly known as The Change You Want to See Gallery).