Today’s internet is built on, with, and through an unruly sea of lies, deceptions, and distortions, as well as a few certainties, cables, and algorithms.

At first blush, it may appear that here I am referring to the rather benign oceans of user-generated content forming the meat of today’s internet: the half-truths of tweets, the fix-ups of Photoshop, the embellishments of Facebook updates, our insincere thumbs-up and self-serving re-posts. But this isn’t the half of it. Bots post as tweeters. Corporations pose as consumers. Outright lies might be fact-checked and yet still saturate and linger in virtual space. Propaganda stands in for journalism and YouTube videos become presidential addresses surrounded by ads and suggestions to watch SNL and “Racist White Woman Trump Rant in Chicago Store 11/23/16.”

These very visible manifestations direct our attention to something else we know to be true that remains often harder to see: the internet’s hidden corporate architecture and governmental backbone. The foundational lies of today’s internet—that it is a public good rather than a monetized commodity; that it promotes or is even interested in freedom of expression and civil discourse; that our actions there are activism rather than consumerism—are papered over by facetious platitudes. The fake news, in other words, is not new, and it should not come as a surprise. In reality, the internet is primarily a place of censorship, capitalism, surveillance, distraction, and entertainment: the perfect incubator for fake news and all that might result from it.

See Some Infrastructure:

 

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This was one of the best conferences I ever attended. The take home message for future conference organizers is hard to replicate: 1) carefully chosen speakers 2)  given ample time (2 speakers in 1 and 1/2 hour sessions) and 3) beautifully choreographed two-day flow, where distinct areas of approach, method, discipline and theory, hit against each other to build to a crescendo. Not one dud. Here’s the rap sheet of one-liners:

Diana Taylor: Archives, repertoires, and the digital are each made from practices, things, and places (riven with power) in distinct configurations.

James Chandler: Animating archives through re-presenting holdings in translated forms itself has a history as long as modernism’s.

Sharon Daniel: Poetics and aesthetics can be written into the ethics of the archive.

Matthew Fuller: The relational archive links through a messy rhetoric of power that includes findable “flubs” like deletions and leaks.

Kelly Gates: Corporations hope to catch the face, an unmappable archive of feeling, to better find us out.

Amelie Hastie: The body’s archive of memory, desire, longing and loss fuels a search for objects that might objectify their trace.

Josh Kun: Digital music generates mobile archives of local/transnational style and taste.

Lawrence Liang: Ownership is not only a matter of capital but also of proximity and love. To own can be to owe, a matter of ethics.

Janine Marchessault: A life on-line might map the lost as it pools into a shared computer dream of all seeing.

Trevor Paglen: The military-industrial complex litters our skies with evil digital eyes, the better to see you with. So,

Lisa Parks: we must look up, not across, in a shot-reverse of accountability.

Abby Smith Rumsey: The evidence of things remains for our loving re-use. Digital things will be lost without stewardship.

Ramesh Srinivasan: Embrace the incommensurability when the local(e) gets to gather, save and organize the complex, adaptive, fluid stuff they love.

James Tobias: We engage in a history-free media-logic to the peril of the complex lineages of local practices.