[iDC] Participationism (was "why do we need physical campuses")

beka economopoulos beka at notanalternative.net
Tue Jun 22 14:11:02 UTC 2010

Hi all,

Apologies for my post and run a couple of weeks ago, my computer kicked the
bucket and I've been traveling.

Jodi, your book Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies, as well as
writings by Markus Miessen and Claire Bishop certainly sharpened our
thinking around this critique of participationism.

Filmmaker/writer Astra Taylor is exploring these issues as well. She
authored an essay, The Limits of Participation, to correspond with an
installation on the theme, linked to in this post:

As social media / open gov / participatory art / participatory marketing /
voting / etc continue to explode a critical perspective is needed.  The
biggest implications, distinct yet related, have to do with subsumption, and
the dismantling of institutions.


Not An Alternative

On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 1:32 PM, Dean, Jodi <JDEAN at hws.edu> wrote:

> Here! Here! Thanks, Beka. The critique of participation you and your group
> raise is compelling. I fully agree. This strikes me as exciting, powerful,
> and fresh, an authentic counter to the mainstream.
> Jodi
> Jodi Dean
> ________________________________________
> From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net [idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net] on
> behalf of beka economopoulos [beka at notanalternative.net]
> Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2010 12:07 AM
> To: idc at mailman.thing.net
> Subject: [iDC] Participationism (was "why do we need physical campuses")
> Hi all,
> With due respect to the current thread, I won't speak directly to the issue
> of education, but rather I want to share a more general statement about the
> internet and power.
> It feels relevant to introduce in light of George Siemen's Open University
> post "Why do we need physical campuses", which in my mind promotes a
> techno-utopic open source logic, one that often celebrates the dismantling
> of contemporary institutions as the distribution of power.
> Below is (one of) the curatorial statement(s) of a show that Not An
> Alternative has curated with Upgrade NY! and Eyebeam, called Re:Group:
> Beyond Models of Consensus<
> http://www.notanalternative.net/regroup-beyond-models-of-consensus>, about
> the subjects of collaboration and participation. After constant debate, the
> curatorial committee never came to consensus about the thesis for the show,
> and so we've presented two distinct positions.
> Below is that of our group, Not An Alternative. The opening is tomorrow,
> with a curators talk at 5pm, so if you're in NY and you're ready for a
> rumble join us there.
> Best,
> Beka
> These days everyone – individuals, corporations, governments and DIY punks
> – idealizes participation. Many believe that when horizontal structures of
> participation replace top-down mechanisms of control, hierarchy and
> authoritarianism, this will eliminate apathy and disenfranchisement. While
> we acknowledge that distributed systems are proven and powerful tools for
> dismantling certain monolithic structures, we question an unalloyed faith in
> participation. As co-curators of the show we fought the temptation to simply
> celebrate the subversive potential of networked collaborations. Instead, we
> sought to critically analyze the contours of this emergent ideology, and to
> re-evaluate refusal, non-engagement, antagonism, and disagreement as
> fundamental to a participatory framework.
> We are all the time besieged to Participate! Choose! Vote! Share! Join! And
> Like! And yet, we are all, already, integrated into structures of
> participation (whether we “like” it or not). We worry that a veneer of
> engagement only obscures deep flaws in the participation paradigm. Too
> often, it seems, progressives believe that power operates exclusively from
> above, that command and control emanate from some centralized, closed
> authority. It is no wonder that many latch on to notions of openness,
> transparency, and participation as radical ends in themselves; however we
> must not fetishize process over product.
> Participatory frameworks are not in and of themselves politically
> significant, nor is power limited to distant and impersonal structures.
> Power is diffuse and distributed, operating through us and on us;
> participation therefore can turn into a vector for dominant ideologies as
> easily as it can liberate.
> If participatory frameworks are to have any meaningful political
> consequence or activist import, they must intervene on some object, to
> operate in service of an end. Conflict is a necessary result of such
> collaboration, and a key driving force within it. Current conversations
> around participation idealize harmony and unison, but we ask whether
> synthesizing perspectives and valorizing consensus might actually subsume
> dissenting viewpoints, through the tyranny of compromise and the rule of the
> lowest common denominator. From this view, we fear a disavowal of power
> rather than an honest discussion about it.
> And so we pass on politesse, and draw a line in the sand. We aren’t
> interested in raising questions, exploring models of participation or
> experiments in collaboration. We take a position: that participationism
> plagues us. More than dismantling or distributing power, we’ve invisibilized
> and extended it. An intervention is in order, and we offer practices and
> programming that contribute to this conversation: foregrounding the contours
> and boundaries inherent in participation, the contradictions and conflicts
> in a fruitful collaboration.
> --
> Not An Alternative
> http://notanalternative.net
> The Change You Want To See Gallery
> http://thechangeyouwanttosee.org
> Fission Strategy
> http://fissionstrategy.com
> Phone: 917-202-5479
> Skype: bekamop
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/bekamop

Not An Alternative

The Change You Want To See Gallery

Phone: 917-202-5479
Skype: bekamop
Twitter: http://twitter.com/bekamop
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