Media Sousveillance on its Back

By VJ Um Amel
Submitted to Session P4933 (Art and Mediation: Affective and Socio-political Practices of Revolutionary Challenges, 2017 Annual Meeting
Media Arts
Cinema/Film; Cultural Studies; Media; Pop Culture; Technology; Theater; Theory;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Elements of the virtual become actualized under unique, local, temporal conditions that cannot be predicted. They happen only in the "now." It helps to approach this logic from a visual arts lens, as Laura Marks does in her book, Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, where she traces new media art along a historiography of Islamic thought from the birth of the algorithm in ninth-century Iraq through fifteenth-century Islamic mysticism and neoplatonism, or “beginnings of virtual reality.” One of the critical points Marks builds upon is a notion of events in time as unique and foldable, and therefore, transformative. This talk will critique several creative media projects by illustrating and improving our understanding of the sensibilities and cultural logic(s) that are being expressed by the people on virtual platforms.

One example is an interactive digital mosaic of the surveillance image that went viral of the Baker boys killed on the beach in Gaza, along with computerized sound files of the tweets in English and Arabic and an organized gallery of the images most tweeted. The images give a layered sense of how people responded to Israel’s massive destruction of Gaza on that day: in their percussive urgency, there is a lot of repetition…When a beholder navigating [this] interface takes the time to look at and listen to some of these millions of posts, the time and place of the senders begin to unfold. This is one example of new media art that uses social media extraction and data analysis of contemporary global struggles, people’s movements and national crises (using Egypt and the US as foci) in order to study our communications over such crises as the recent war in Gaza and the Ferguson protest, and what they say about us.

Building on the example above, this presentation will examine several recent new media art that make a global call for participants to view, study, and use virtual networks, social media, and other digital archives . I will argue these expressions as a form of counter or (sous)veillance.