ARTISTIC ACTIVISM AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Thomas Teekens and Matthijs Punt

Video

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5 thoughts on “ARTISTIC ACTIVISM AND SOCIAL MEDIA

  1. Nagua El Sabagh and Iris Bakkum says:

    Thomas and Matthijs have discussed interesting points about the use of social media. In the video, Thomas and Matthijs argue that artistic practices and social media can be used by almost everyone to break the silence, challenge the hegemony, and express their thoughts as a form of social activism online. In the Western world, we believe that social media offer a low-cost, accessible way to share an artwork and with just a “click” it possible to sign a petition, allowing people with either strong or weak social ties to connect over a common cause. In our opinion, this form of online protest can result in a sort of “slacktivism”, and the use of social media for protest in the West can have little or even negative effects for the cause people are supporting. On the other hand, we believe that the argument of “slacktivism” overgeneralizes the role of social media in the West, and as Thomas and Matthijs have showed, social media can indeed play a crucial role in achieving social change. Secondly, Thomas and Matthijs argue that, in emerging markets, social media can be used to challenge the hegemony and to bypass state censorship by sharing or performing artistic practices. However, in emerging markets such as Iran, the online behavior of citizens is tracked, most social media websites are blocked, and all media are censored. Therefore, we believe social media is not the most appropriate tool to achieve social change through sharing artistic practices and social media cannot be used to challenge the hegemony in developing countries where the Internet is censored. Although social media can be a useful tool to communicate an artistic project on a large scale, when the state does not agree with the project, the sharing or performing of the artistic project online will be very likely state-regulated, censored, or not be possible at all.

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  2. Annabel & Rosa says:

    We think the video of Thomas and Matthijs is very engaging due to the editing and the many interesting examples they give. They illustrate how the Internet can spread and stimulate artistic activism in both Western context and in emerging markets. They make an interesting point about social media being more effective in emerging markets than in Western societies. In the latter, one can view social media activism as ‘slacking’, referring to Western citizens sharing a protesting message with little effort and little effect on the cause in real life. Thomas and Matthijs argue that in the emerging markets social media is a much stronger tool when it concerns artistic activism.
    However, we wonder what makes that difference between the power of social media as a tool for artistic activism. Are there perhaps other factors that play a part in this difference? Perhaps this difference can be explained by the fact that in emerging markets, the message is stronger and has more impact, because there is much more to win. In many ways, there are more social, economic and political inequalities in these societies than in Western societies, so there is a much higher need for change and because of this, protest. Therefore, perhaps it is rather the message that is stronger and has more impact than social media itself, especially in the context of emerging markets.

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  3. Willemijn Dortant & Jochem van Noord says:

    Critical comments:

    – After watching the movie for the first time, we are left with a kind of disoriented and overwhelmed feeling. Due to the great amount of visuals; humorous shots; audial differentiation etc.,the complexity of the video is remarkable, making it hard to capture the main argument put forward. Although the combination of humorous fragments; theoretical backgrounds; and illuminating examples, definitely makes the video substantive to some extent; we would rather say the condension of the visuals by time/space limits; gives the video the outlook of a slightly chaotic bricolage. While we want to emphasize the editorial skills would work perfectly in a lengthier documentary, for the current exercise a more timid expression would have been better.
    – We really like the fact social activism is brought into association with the artistic field. Thereby, Thomas and Matthijs add a new element to the content of the read literature, that mainly focuses on the duality of bodily activism vs. social media. Artistic protest, actualized using social media as a tool, offers a bridging element in this debate. The video is thereby not merely a replication of what we read already, but really a more profound elaboration of the debate.
    – Matthijs and Thomas use many recent and illuminating examples. The combination of both popular (Rage Against the Machine; Ai-Wei-Wei) and more niche-cultural artifacts (Cuba-case) allows for engagement of both the more superficial watchers, as well as those looking for intellectual challenge. However, the amount and intensity of examples, goes a little bit at the expense of the main argument that the editors try to make. Only after the second view, we managed to encounter how the examples relate to the opposition between artistic protest vs. social media within the West and the non-West. Choosing only a few examples from the current overload might have made the discussion more focused; and more easy to conceive for the viewer.

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  4. Mick & Luna says:

    The video of Matthijs and Thomas was very clear and engaging, the introduction which immediately stated cases and the accompanying music immediately captures the attention. Also, the way in which it is edited and its division with titles make the line of argument easy to follow. By comparing the West to the ‘not-so-West’, they show how artistic activism on social media can have different effects. In the West, it is considered to be redundant; social media does not seem to add any benefits when it comes to artistic activism. Also, social media activism is labeled as ‘activism for the lazy’, as it often involves a simple, rather passive action such as clicking the ‘like’ or ‘share’ button. Nevertheless, one should be cautious with labeling activism slacktivism, as the main question remains: What is the goal? With the help of social media, a message can reach people worldwide, which helps raise awareness on a wide variety of topics. Even though campaigns do not always have the desired effect in terms of the money they raise or the policy changes they fuel, the effect that social media has when it comes to bringing a topic under the attention should not be overlooked. In the non-Western countries, on the other hand, social media is argued to help achieve social change. However, the censorship that is prevalent in many of these countries should also be taken into account in this discussion as this could significantly influence the effect of these campaigns. A possible solution that we discussed in our previous session was the use of irony to get around censorship of the message. Still, activism in strongly regulated countries remains a difficult task and social media might aid in this respect but cannot represent the solution in and of itself. Even though the role of social media in achieving social change is a complex one, we think you did a good job elucidating the main arguments in this creative video!

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  5. Payal Arora says:

    Nice topic of choice on artistic activism and social media and full of engaging and interesting examples. At the very start though, you separate online entertainment like cat videos (leisure) from more instrumental uses of new media (activism). However, there has been much research arguing that people, especially in oppressive regimes, leverage on leisurely acts to hide and embed their acts of protest so its harder to detect by the authorities and censor. Check out Ethan Zuckermans Cute Cat theory of Activism: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/03/08/the-cute-cat-theory-talk-at-etech/
    Or for instance, look at the playfulness of memes in China as a way to get around censorship: http://www.thewire.com/global/2013/06/how-memes-became-best-weapon-against-chinese-internet-censorship/65877/
    Also, when talking about artistic practice in the public sphere and how that transfers online, think about the role of bridging the digital and the urban commons for a more mediated citizen experience.
    I like the way you end with provocative and thoughtful questions on your topic but am concerned that you have drawn a line between the West and emerging markets on the power of the internet for activism. Remember, there are plenty of significant examples like occupy movement in the West that was organized via social media vs. ISIS promoting themselves via social media for recruiting, complicating this story.

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