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Session R4929 (Social Media, Feminist Praxis, and State Power), 2017
Feminist approaches to social media visualizations and 3D modeling of Twitter and Internet data from 2011 Arab uprisings and revolutions have emerged from an intention to remix discourse in order to include the input of a “community-author” rather than a single subjectivity—whether expert, popular, or imaginative. The configuration of a “community-author,” a subjectivity that is virtual and hybrid, by definition, activates landscapes of discourse that present a virtual embodiment of what can only be a twenty-first century “virtual” imagination. These visualizations of Internet data are not about claims about material bodies or the intentions of communicators, but traces of an embodied moment of intentional use of digital media. Every data point has an embodied analogue at some moment. And tweets have a very particular (historically specific, geo-specific) moment of origin that is exceedingly tangled with materials bodies. My aim here is to determine what the emerging patterns tell us about a virtual body politic.
However, the transnational scale of media circulation has posed serious challenges to feminist scholars eager to understand how media are decoded and translated as they travel from one cultural context to another. The decentralized, sometimes autonomous, collective, and networked nature of culture production requires academic accounts that are themselves decentralized, collaborative and networked. This paper will interrogate a feminist digital humanities method and its focus upon affect, networks, scholarship, and practice. Do such approaches offer insight into the infrastructural disposition of a media system or platform, particularly in the same fashion that feminist digital scholars understand venues, spaces, archives as computers that store and process most of its data as embodied, interactive, and live exhibition.
This research builds upon the history of a research network of Arab women techies who continue to foster work in practice-led research, encourage collaborative and co-authored work among scholars, students, artists and activists, and institute a networked infrastructure for virtual, broadcast, and face-to-face encounters. Such creative and critical aesthetic engagements are firmly located in the feminist politics of the contemporary moment, an age marked by the proliferation of new media that have radically reconstituted not only the character of visual culture but also its channels of transmission and circulation.