#55, choose to be digitally productive rather than reactive
March 22, 2017
In 5 #hardtruths and 2 new pledges @#50 I wrote:
“Producing internet content, rather than simply consuming or sharing it, feels productive; in this time of desolation and destruction, good feelings and actions have real use and value.”
As much as I believe this—I said it—I’d like to use this format, another blog post, to develop some of the contradictions that underwrite my cliché, starting with some of the founding illogics of writing and reading in various internet formats. This is to say, one of the deepest paradoxes for me in this, and every online effort, is how the tight grip of digital architectures, capitalism, and other infrastructural truths that seed these platforms also produce norms for digital cultural production and consumption that both enliven and deaden all that we do here, and all that it might mean or matter:
- Twitter holds platitudes and their illustrative pix. Facebook is for emotion and its depletion. Instagram centers images and flattens their affect. And blogs are dead because the devil’s in the details (see the following two bullet points)
- Every morning I wake up and work on this project. There’s a lot of steps: I read the news and my various other feeds, choose a subject, write a post, find images and links, then move it to Facebook, Twitter, its website. This all takes real time and effort. I have to think hard. I know some people will read it, that it will last, and perhaps might even be returned to in the future at the end of its 100-day cycle of high-speed production. By the end of the process I feel invigorated. It has given my 100 first days under Trump some shape and purpose. I honor this feeling. It is mine.
- As the day continues, however, the underlying morass of truths regarding internet habits, uses, and infrastructures—and their linked contradictory feelings—begins to build. I am pretty sure only a small number of people engaging with this project actually read this far into the post (there’s too much other content competing for their precious time and energy, and it might not even be that interesting or useful to others. So be it. Plus, they’re finding it on platforms that dissuade their deep reading, but I was the one who put it there in the first place!). This makes me feel dejected and duped, like, why did I waste the time and energy? Then I think: do I write for others, anyway? what is it that I want or need from you? how much of this need and pressure and desire is baked into false promises of the internet, like I have or even need an “audience”? And why and how are those who are reading actually engaging with this, or any other internet project, anyway? I am pretty sure people only hit “like,” or maybe “share,” if I write a pithy title or share a meaning-rich photo, and also to signal to me that they are there (with me), which feels great for a second, with an intense buzzy warmness attached as good as caffeine, and then something sort of lousy, too, comes to bear, with a more lasting interior dig like a sucker-punch. I’d prefer for you to engage with me through my words, which we most likely will never do here (because of how the title or the picture that drew us together in the first place is such a small place from which to interact). So, I feel swindled, and worse still, that I am the biggest swindler of myself.
- Having this place for expression, “audience,” friends, interaction, validation, non-validation, the production and consumption of knowledge and culture, feels like something. It’s not a nothing. Here I am doing it. Yet, I know it is a sorry substitute for the building, engaged, place-based, interactions that sustain me and other people and movements. I have often called it (the production, movement, and connecting to and through well-made digital words and images) proto-political, a step toward well-being and world-changing but not those things themselves. But here I’ll go farther, and name it is a kind of proto-being, a half-life pointing to great possibility.
- Thus, the real use and value of producing internet content is the potentiality written into words and images and their reception: mine, yours, and ours. Online, alone together, we acknowledge to ourselves that we are here, and momentarily heard and seen, if not really in the ways that feel most human, or that might be most productive for change.
Now look at that! Without planing to, it appears I have just authored my own version of my 2nd #100hardtruths at halftime: Choose to know, name, and share your own internet truths. I feel good about that circularity for now.
- Zero Comments, Geert Lovink
- Blog Theory, Jodi Dean
- “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?” Hito Steyerl
- #100hardtruths-#fakenews: a primer on digital media literacy