By Cassidy Havens
Marco Deseriis, “No End in Sight”
In Marco Deseriis’s essay entitled “No End in Sight: Network Art as a Participatory Form of Storytelling,” he discusses the relationship between narratology and networks. There are three aspects of a narrative text (Mieke Bal’s “the material of the fabula”), which include the presence of actors, unfolding of events that transition from one state to another, and the guiding of the story by a narrator. For storytelling in a networked environment, Marco describes three types of functions: denotative (“describes an initially unsolved situation, a conflict, a clue, or a dilemma”); performing (“demands its addressee to undertake action and play a role in it”); and pragmatic (“allows for the transmission of set rules, an ethics, or a system of beliefs that resonate with the nodes of the network to which it is addressed”).
Marco then transitions into talking about hypertexts (text displayed on a computer) and the possibility of the reader becoming a producer rather than only a consumer. He says that, “When a reader discovers unforeseen and creative ways of reading a story, she begins to cross over to an authorial position,” which becomes relevant to the hacktivist narratives of groups such as ®TMark (a pseudo-corporation whose mission was to “correct the identity” of other businesses), The Yes Men (who organize web parodies), and the Electric Disturbance Theater’s Zapatista FloodNet (which functions as a virtual sit-in by jamming websites). By “hacking new information out of the old,” these organizations fulfill Bal’s idea of the fabula, indulging in the denotative function through website descriptions, the performing function by asking the reader to play a role, and the pragmatic function by creating a set of rules or beliefs. Another example of a hacktivist group Marco gives is Les Liens Invisibles’s A Fake is A Fake, in which software is used to parody other websites. Most notably, this group parodied the New York Times with a headline saying the Iraqi War had ended.
One of the main hacktivist groups that encouraged Internet users to participate and perpetuate the ideas is Toywar, brought about by art group etoy as they battled the corporation eToy for the domain name etoy.com. Supporters could register then perform certain tasks, like writing their own reports and providing legal advice. etoy is something known as net.art, which is “Internet-based art and the art of networking.” Net.art is focused on the aesthetic exploration of machinic assemblages, manipulation of information flows, and identity play. He ends by saying that the only narratives that stick around are those that are appealing to a community.
Gabriella Coleman, “Old and New Battles Over Free Speech and Secrecy”
In Gabriella Coleman’s talk entitled “Old and New Battles Over Free Speech and Secrecy,” she addresses hacker group Anonymous’s war on the Church of Scientology. She says the reason that Anonymous has chosen to attack Scientology is that they have proved to be the perfect nemesis, with inverted views of technology and science than those of hacker geeks and the propagation of secrecy. The war against Scientology began with the creation of alt.religion.scientology on UseNet message boards, which exposed “secret documents” of Scientology. Coleman also discusses the real-life protests by Anonymous in 2008 and the proliferation of raids, arrests, and lawsuits by the Church of Scientology after documents and videos had been exposed.
She also brings into play the culture of trolling on 4chan. 4chan is a website composed of different subboards on a variety of topics. The members are mostly anonymous, and it’s known for its rampant trolling, including generation of memes. Trolling is the act of causing discord, usually for the “lulz,” or laughter at someone else’s expense. Coleman says that trolling is a type of argot, which encodes technical expertise, defines insiders vs. outsiders, and maintains secrecy. She also poses some interesting questions at the end of her talk, which are worth thinking about.
- Why are people attracted to protest some injustices and not others?
- Is there a positive role for the troller to play on the Internet?
- How does Anonymous fit into Marco’s idea on narratology?
- How does Anonymous’s production of the spectacle benefit them?