After Social Networks

Collective Research Project: AFTER SOCIAL NETWORKS


Whether it is to inform us, to work, to communicate with our loved ones, to take care of our bodies or our affects, audiovisual media are now omnipresent in every aspect of our lives, shaping and producing our identities to the same extent that we produce them. At a time when images are no longer so much characterized by their technical reproducibility as by their “digital appropriability” (Gunthert, 2011), it is more urgent than ever to “build with them[new] relationships[s]” (Hansen 2014: 37). Critical and reflective relationships, developed through patient reflection, that allow us to navigate these new media environments without being overwhelmed by the feeling of constantly circulating in a “supermarket of the visible” (Szendy, 2017).


We propose to conduct this reflection based on the study of artistic objects that shed light on the ideologies, discourses, imaginaries and forms of governmentality that we encounter on a daily basis in the context of our contemporary “mediarchies” (Citton, 2017). Indeed, in response to the massification of text and image production, linked in particular to the participatory web and the rise of online social networks, more and more artists are borrowing, citing and reinventing User-Generated Content (UGC) in their works. The rise of these appropriation and diversion practices seems to confirm the observation of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who wrote in 1995 about Guy Debord’s films: “There’s no need to shoot film anymore, just to repeat and stop” (Agamben, 1995).


Recycling or an ecological gesture? The term “recycling” seems to identify UGCs with digital rubbish that the artist’s creativity would elevate to the rank of art by adding symbolic and cultural credit. On the other hand, the more humanistic notion of “ecology” invites us to consider reuse as a change of environment, providing the appropriate object with new functionalities and meanings while it was condemned to oblivion by contemporary digital hyperproduction. Thinking these artistic practices in terms of media ecology allows us to consider their productions as privileged objects for the study of the media, social and political ecosystem of digital social networks. Taken as a whole, these works question us on the future of the CGUs, whose status is still largely undetermined, both documents and creations in their own right. They also invite us to question the editorialization devices of the social networks themselves, whose mechanisms are reproduced, mocked or subverted by artists.


It is around these questions, and in an interdisciplinary spirit combining artistic practice and theoretical reflection, that the research project After Social Networks is developing. The purpose and methodology of the project is research-creation in arts. Its main modalities of action are the organization of scientific and artistic events, the establishment of a participatory and freely accessible database of artistic works online, and the publication of texts, videos, interviews and other scientific resources also freely accessible online.