One way to respond to the monopoly of commercial social media is to stop communicating. Resist terminal integration into expanding communicative circuits reaching far beyond the screen. Switch off, turn away, mis-speak, refuse to play – or become silent. Don’t make the kind of social noise that generates the exploitable signals.
To suggest that a critical response to social media’s voracious demands for more material might be developed around calls to produce less of it, doesn’t seem to be acceptable at all. Even amongst many of those wary of the commoditized modes of communication social media enables, proposing tactics that might frustrate communication – to refuse to network, to un-compute – provokes suspicion and unease. This unease perhaps arises because of justifiable concerns to defend freedom (and freedom of speech). But this presumes the consequences of continuously expanding social media monopolies (with their seductive appeal: speech for free/free speech/more speech/more freedom) will be positive; that the network effect is automatically good for everybody as well as good for the network’s functioning. I would rather start with growth and with the assertion that to fail to contribute to the volume or density (and volume becomes capacity alarmingly fast) of the social environment is heretical in a world in which growth is deified and in which technological growth is aligned with progress.
Having no problems with such heresy, in this talk I investigate ways in which various form of communicational revolt – silence, delirium, lies, all of which involve forms of refusal – might constitute an appropriate response to social media monopoly. It is partly because the demand for less – which at its most extreme becomes a demand for silence, but which is not restricted to that – is thoroughly unacceptable that it is also intriguing. In the context of a seminar on Open Media, I also want to argue that this approach, appearing to produce a kind of closure, may open new possibilities: not least for forms of sonic solidarity.
Caroline Bassett is Reader in Digital Media and researches and teaches in the Department of Media and Film at the University of Sussex. Her research explores cultural impacts of digital media focusing on gender, narrative, mobile media and public space. She is currently completing a monograph exploring cultural hostility to computerisation and undertaking two funded projects: the first exploring science fiction and innovation and the second, digital economies in relation to cultures and communities.