H osted by
the Social Media Narratives Class
Art and Technology Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Facebook and Twitter
November 1 - 6, 2018

Judy Malloy: Introduction

panel logo F rom November 1-6, 2018, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Art and Technology Studies (SAIC ATS) Social Media Narratives online panel on Contemporary Social Media Platforms and Creative Practice took place with parallel conversations on Facebook and Twitter.

In an environment of ethics crises on commercial social media platforms, the panelists confronted issues with contemporary social media platforms in various, sometimes conflicting ways. Importantly -- because art community usage of social media does not necessarily reflect uses of social media by other groups -- this panel served to highlight issues for artists and the arts community.

Contemporary Social Media Platforms and Creative Practice was hosted by the SAIC ATS Social Media Narratives class, who during the Fall 2018 semester created a body of remarkable work using platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Second Life, and eBay. Fittingly, SAIC ATS is currently chaired by Eduard Kac, whose pioneering work in social media includes a 7-feet tall telematic robot, which in the 1986 "Brasil High Tech exhibition", conversed with exhibition visitors in real time.

P anelists were:

Gary O. Larson - Opening Statement: the State of Artmaking on Social Media

Kathi Inman Berens - Instagram Poetry
Joy Garnett - Art Censorship on Social Media Platforms
Robert Gehl - Facebook Algorithms & Alternative Social Media
Ben Grosser - Facebook and Twitter Demetricators
Juana Guzman - Issues in Social Media for Arts Organizations

Social Media Narrative Students were Maca Burbano, Sora Candelario, Jessica Darnell, Nichole Therese Fowler, Amanda Jean Heldenbrand, Bao Thoa Luong, Jose Carlos Pena, Kate Pritchard, Matt Ryerse, Dexter Colin David Stokes-Mellor, Samantha Jordyn Travis, and Chris Tsai. Their work is partially documented in Exploring The Potential Of Social Media-Based Creative Practice.

Several originally scheduled panelists, including Beth Coleman ("City as Platform") and Carla Giannis ("The Non-Facial Recognition Project"), were not able to attend.

This introduction to the Contemporary Social Media Platforms and Creative Practice panel provides background on 2018 ethical issues in social media narrative, information about 2018 exhibitions on social media-based art, and a brief review of issues in using Facebook and Twitter -- and then focuses on the work of the panelists in addressing five core issues regarding creative practice on or about Social Media.

1. The State of Artmaking on Social Media
2. Confronting Ethical Issues with Commercial Social Media Platforms
3. Censorship on Social Media Platforms
4. Critical Art Practice: Ben Grosser's Facebook and Twitter Demetricators
5. Instapoetry?

This is the second online panel in a series that began at the Rutgers Camden Digital Studies Center in November 2016 with an online panel on Social Media Narrative: Issues in Contemporary Practice.

Background

I n 2018, a year of exposure of Facebook violations of privacy, [1] it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested privacy data of 50 million Facebook accounts for use by political advertisers; by mistake Facebook published private posts of over 14 million users; in an attack that gave the hackers control of accounts, hackers stole personal information from millions of FB accounts. In April, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced Senate and House hearings. "If all we do is have a hearing and nothing happens, then that’s not accomplishing anything,” the Washington Post quotes New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the head Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as saying. [2] Meanwhile on Twitter, a bug revealed the passwords of potentially all of its 330 million users, who were subsequently warned to change their passwords.

Nevertheless, the Pew Research Center reports that a majority of Americans use social media platforms with the "median" American using not one but three of eight dominant social platforms. [3]


In 2016, in my introduction to the Rutgers Camden Digital Studies panel, I wrote:

Innovative, interesting, and surprising creative work threads through the vibrant chaos of the social media infosphere, and there are indications that this work is filtering into contemporary art practice. Exhibitions, such as 1stfans: Twitter Art Feed Archive at the Brooklyn Museum, reviews, such as Barbara Pollack's "The Social Revolution," have critically covered social media-based creative work. And there are also indications that social media narrative is receiving mainstream publication and support. For instance, The New Yorker published Jennifer Egan's "Black Box"; Harper Collins India published a print version of Chindu Sreedharan's Epic Retold; and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was the first YouTube-distributed series to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Original Interactive Content.

Two years later, there are indications that instead of focusing on social media-based art by itself, social media has become an essential component in exhibitions that address the Internet as a whole.

For example, works installed in Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston from February 7 – May 20, 2018, ranged frpm the collective HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?'s "thewayblackmachine.net" -- that encompassed both violence against African Americans mined from social media hashtags and the presence of African Americans on social media -- to Trevor Paglen's photographs of NSA-tapped cables on the floor of the ocean.

In a Sloan Science & Film interview, ICA Chief Curator, Eva Respini, observes that

"The question we are asking very broadly is, how has the Internet changed art? We talk a lot about how the Internet has changed every facet of our lives. Every field, every industry has been touched and radically changed by the Internet if you think about how we shop, travel, date, how we present our private and public selves. So of course it’s affected art."

Some of the other exhibitions in 2018 and early 2019 that have included social media in the context of art on the Internet as a whole or as source material, are: (in order of appearance)


Affect Me. Social Media Images in Art at KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION, in Düsseldorf, Germany from November 11, 2017 to March 10, 2018.

Proposals on Queer Play and the Ways Forward, Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Guest curator Nayland Blake. February 2 – August 12, 2018.

I Was Raised on the Internet, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, June 23 – October 14, 2018

The Art Happens Here: Net Art's Archival Poetics. New Museum, January 22 - May 26, 2019.

snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, SFMOMA, March 30 - August 4, 2019

In Chicago, also of note was the 2017 exhibition #AiWeiwei at the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the accompanying book of the same title, #Aiweiwei.



A contemporary focus on social media-based creative practice as a part of Internet culture as a whole, places social media- based art in a mainstream Internet context where it should be, particularly considering that social media-based creative practice has a distinguished history that preceded the World Wide Web -- including the many works created under the auspices of pre-web social media platforms, such as ARTEX, Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN), Arts Wire, and THE THING. (all documented in my MIT Press Book, Social Media Archelogy and Poetics).


Hosting a panel on Facebook and Twitter

images of panelists D uring Contemporary Social Media Platforms and Creative Process 2018, Kathi Inman Berens, Joy Garnett, Ben Grosser, and Gary Larson participated on Facebook, using the Facebook Group Social Media Narratives. Although increasingly users are rethinking using Facebook (FB), targeted FB groups in digital media studies fields remain useful, particularly as regards the sharing of information. The FB interface is easy to negotiate, and groups can be set up so that the public can read, but only members can participate. However, the FB conferencing system is not designed for viewing lengthy responses, and both after-the-fact reading and archiving are difficult due to the necessity to open the "more" clicks under which FB hides in-depth content. That said, as I wrote in my introduction to the 2016 Rutgers Camden DSC panel, "In real-time, a Facebook-based panel is lively and stimulating, changeable, and live-jazz-unpredictable."

2018 panelists on Twitter were Robert Gehl and Juana Guzman. Not unexpectedly, Twitter did not prove to be as hospitable a host for discussion as Facebook groups. Hashtags work very well for coverage of conferences or for organizing short bursts of information in content streams, but as a basis for in-depth conversation, Twitter is not very workable. For instance, as the conference began, conversations between Juana Guzman and a Latinx student were inexplicably deleted from the hashtag base. As a result, participants were less likely to include the conference hashtag in their posts, rendering the conference hashtag useless as an index to the panel. Nevertheless, the two panelists on Twitter and their student hosts contributed greatly to the discussion.

As regards archiving social media, in the 2016 panel, Jay Bushman, Transmedia Producer and a staff writer for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the first YouTube-distributed series to win a Primetime Emmy Award noted that:

"There are limited toolsets - thank Zod for Storify - that can help in some cases, but they are usually limited to small scale compilations, or to single platforms. They do not scale for multi-voiced, multi-format, multi-platform stories. For example, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries sprawled across 35 individual social accounts on a dozen platforms. Social platforms are already not great at helping you find something that happened last week, last month or last year, and it's almost impossible to find an old story if the pieces of it are spread across multiple sites."

A fair amount of time has been involved in designing and developing archiving systems for panel discussions held in my Social Media Narratives classes. But, as we look to the future of the arts on contemporary social media platforms, the time spent is not regretted. Onward...

1. The State of Artmaking on Social Media

T he panel opened with Gary O. Larson's presentation on "The State of Artmaking on Social Media". Larson worked in a variety of capacities at the National Endowment for the Arts between 1980 and 1996, and subsequently has been a writer/editor at both the Center for Media Education and the Center for Digital Democracy. Gary has been a friend of mine for many years. since, while working for the National Endowment for the Arts, he was on the Arts Wire board. Thus our sometimes differing opinions should be considered friendly.

Gary O. Larson's student guide for the discussion was Chris Tsai.

In his opening statement, while lauding creative work on Social Media, Larson cautioned that "I'm not yet convinced, on the other hand, that social media represents a new promised land for the arts in the U.S." To back up his argument he pointed to the hoped for but ultimately elusive promise of "radio, and then television, cable TV, direct-broadcast satellite, and finally the so-called Information Superhighway itself (along with all of the toll roads, business loops, and red-light districts it spawned over the years)"

"None of this is news to those artists who have plied their trades online, of course," Larson observes.

"Most of them, I suspect, are not interested in either fame or fortune, but are committed to exploring social media as new forms of publication and performance -- a way to get their work 'out there,' and as all artists must at the conclusion of the creative process, simply 'see what happens.' Moreover, to the extent that social media art is interactive and fluid, even participatory in some instances, these new platforms offer advantages that galleries, recital halls, and print publications generally don't: the opportunity to extend the creative process based on viewer feedback and response..."

A primary point that Larson makes -- his entire statement is available at gary_larson.html -- is that with exception of sources, such as the American Music Center's online pages (now (New Music USA), finding art online is difficult.

"My basic question, then," he emphasizes

"is how can we contribute to a creative online environment that is even more accessible and accommodating than the nonprofit institutions that have served artists and audiences for the last hundred or so years? How can we map that nonprofit cultural sector, so clearly delineated in the real world, onto an online landscape that is still evolving -- and growing more commercial every day? And how can we best organize, curate, archive, and promote the countless cultural treasures, major and minor, that are currently scattered across the vast reaches of the Internet."

In response, I begin by focusing on artists building online community for their own works. What I mean is that as a young artist, it is important to build community by going to other artists' exhibitions and by both talking up your own work and supporting the work of other artists. The same is true for Internet-based works.

resources suggested on the panel Larson takes this to a higher plain, observing that building longer term community and knowledge-building efforts are important.

"Properly designed and executed, in fact, such efforts can represent new forms of arts education and audience building, tailored specifically for the online environment. As far as I know, there’s not an app for that, but once funders catch up to the realities of art and art-making in the 21st century, there may be a grant or two available."

Chris Tsai points out the maturity and success of music online. Additionally, as a two-pronged approach, he relates how a couple of his friends started a gallery last year in Chicago, and that one of their shows was not in their gallery but on their website.

I call attention to the work that many artists and curators did to bring early video art to wider audiences, saying

"I'm remembering that the work of many artists, curators and critics was important. In San Francisco, La Mamelle's catalog sold video art, and their PRODUCED FOR TELEVISION series put artists video tapes on real tv, including works by Chris Burden, Lynn Hershman, among others. In Berkeley, Pacific Film Archive began hosting entire programs of artists videos. In NYC, Electronic Arts Intermix's long history is now on the web -- https://www.eai.org -- and The kitchen, founded by Woody and Steina Vasulka, was important in the emergence of video and performance art.

In Chicago there's the Video Data Bank -- https://www.vdb.org -- founded by School of the Art Institute of Chicago video artists."

In a closing statement, Larson states that "Despite ample evidence to the contrary...I remain convinced that it’s still possible to make the arts more prominent online." Looking in detail at the current funding and leadership climate for online arts he predicts that:

"In time, with sufficient support and a lot of collaborative effort, we’ll develop similar signposts and indices online, too. In the process, online culture will become much more accessible, at least to those who are actively seeking various forms of artistic expression -- or reliable information about such expression -- but who aren’t certain just where to find those items. The arts online will remain a needle-in-a-haystack proposition, of course, but for those who seek them, those needles will be a little easier to find."



2. Confronting Ethical Issues with Commercial Social Media Platforms

M eanwhile on Twitter, approaching the discussion from different positions, both Rob Gehl and Juana Guzman set forth benchmarks for continuing discussions.

Gehl, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah and the author of Reverse Engineering Social Media (Temple UP, 2014) and Weaving the Dark Web (MIT Press, 2018), argued strongly for deleting Facebook. And -- responding to questions about identity and hospitality from SAIC student guides Samantha Travis and Dexter Stokes-Mellor -- he explored the Dark Web as a potential option.

Juana Guzman, a distinguished arts advocate and former Vice President of the National Museum of Mexican Arts (NMMA) in Chicago, pointed out the value of Facebook and other commercial social media platforms for arts organizations, while at the same time she advocated confronting these platforms. SAIC art student Sora Candelario served as guide for this conversation. Candelario pointed out the need to create specific strategies with which to confront commercial social media platforms. I, who know Juana from the Arts Wire years and for her work as the Director of Community Cultural Development for the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, also participated in the conversation.

discussion about arts organization uses of social media Juana reminded us that since the preweb years, "Social Media has exploded into a thousand options and platforms, from Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, Instagram, Link-in and so much more. Just about every artist, arts worker and arts organization I know has a social media presence in one form or other."

She also emphasized that at the same time arts organizations still face a need for a sustainable source of funding, observing that:

"While Social Media has increased opportunities for arts organizations to be more visible, diverse arts organizations -- small to mid-size -- continue to struggle to keep up with social media opportunities, especially those rooted in communities. Arts organizations need to be able to increase their audiences and actively engage with their supporters, capture data, develop a broader donor base and increase their earned income opportunities."

Juana Guzman's complete statement is available at juana.html





discussion about hospitality and identity on the dark web In his statement at rob_gehl.html, Rob Gehl explains that

"The relationship between advertising and our sociality –- our connections to our friends, family, colleagues -– is precisely what I became interested in during the writing of my first book, Reverse Engineering Social Media. As I suggest in that book, Facebook and other social media are almost direct outgrowths of the late 1990s online advertising industry, which created the concept of surveillance capitalism: monitor what people do online then sell them things based on their activities.

discussion about hospitality and identity on the dark web Noting that Facebook is primarily driven almost entirely by the needs of marketers, he strongly advises supporting the alternatives:

If you're worried about Facebook's desire to know everything about you, consider leaving Facebook for non-profit, open source systems, such as Mastodon, diaspora*, or Twister (check out the Omeka Archive on the S-Map site for more). These systems often do two things that differ greatly from Facebook: they don't sell your data to marketers, and they don’t shape the content you see with algorithms.

Gehl ended his statement with a link to <-- #deletefacebook

Additionally, in a closing statement, he comments on the value of discussion:

"After participating in the Social Media Narratives discussion with some smart students, and in my discussions with people these days, I feel a bit more vindicated. A lot of people are questioning why Facebook should do what it does with seemingly no consequence. And they are starting to look at alternatives. As the discussion we had (on Twitter, another corporate social media system) illustrates, the students are not naive about moving from Facebook to alternatives. There are serious questions for any alternative to Facebook: questions about hate speech, questions about identity and trust. Even as I argue that we need to leave corporate social media behind for the alternatives, I also celebrate these sorts of hard, critical questions people are asking of the alternatives."

Juana closed her discussion on Twitter by responding to Sora Candelario's concerns how to put pressure on commercial social media platforms:

putting pressure on commercial social media platforms



3. Censorship on Social Media Platforms

C ensorship on social media platforms can be devasting to the work of artists. Indeed, for artists working online, one of the most difficult questions is: what precisely can be posted on commercial social media platforms without incurring censorship?

Joy Garnett, a visual artist and writer, who works as Arts Advocacy Program Associate at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) in New York and hosts the NCAC's new Artist Rights website, begins her statement for Contemporary Social Media Platforms and Creative Process by saying:

Venus of Willendorf "Social media increasingly determines what people may or may not see or read about the world Artists, who have grown to depend on visual platforms like Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) to share their work, are in a constant battle over the removal of their works and take-downs or suspensions of their accounts. These frequent removals often stem from a vaguely worded no-nudity policy and confusion over what constitutes 'artworks' or images of cultural import in their Terms of Service.

That all-too-loosely interpreted wording frequently leads to the flagging and removal of images of historical, artistic or journalistic merit."

In her statement -- available in full at joy_garnett2018.html -- she gives examples of past FB censorship, including the censorship of an image in The Art Newspaper of the 30,000 year-old Venus of Willendorf (in the collection of the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna).

"While Facebook has admitted the difficulty in creating distinctions between different kinds of images containing nudity, it has done nothing to work with artists, whose problems remain unresolved. Twenty-first century artists, particularly those without global name recognition, depend on social media to distribute, advertise and even sell their work. They are understandably frustrated, but have little recourse and no clear alternatives to using existing social media platforms."

SAIC student, Matt Ryerse, who served as Joy Garnett's student guide for the panel, asks if Joy has any thoughts on:

"decentralizing Facebook as one of the main players in dissemination/creation of content? Platforms like Twitter and Tumblr have more lenient guidelines, particularly around nudity, but somehow Instagram and Facebook are still more widely used by creatives, progressives, etc. Do you see a future where artists and content creators construct digital counter-culture on alternative or new social media platforms, or do you think it's more important to find ways to reform existing platforms' policy?"

interface1 Joy responds that

"Having lived through numerous attempts to create alternative platforms that have all failed...and considering what happens to said alternative platforms once they succeed and are sold, it makes more sense to force the hands, so to speak, of existing flawed platforms. Just how to do that is always tricky, but it's not impossible."

I say:

"I'm happy to see the approach of working with existing platforms well stated! At the same time, I advocate a two pronged approach.

Attempting to create a more ethical and in Jim Brown's words 'hospitable' environment for arts and arts organizations -- and for everyone -- on existing platforms is worth trying.

But also, having worked 11 years for Arts Wire, I know that social media for the arts can be done.

Arts Wire was in existence from circa 1992 - 2002 (I stayed on until 2004 to edit Arts Wire/NYFA Current) This year while I was writing Arriving Simultaneously, among the books I read were Julia Angwin, Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America; Nick Bilton, Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal; and David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World.

My first reaction was shock -- as I compared Arts Wire's low-budget survival in a good-hearted arts funding environment -- with the huge amounts of VC money thrown at the missionless small groups of young men who founded MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

My second reaction, was: If they can do it why can't we?"


Despite some differences of opinion in our subsequent discussion, Joy's point that the arts need to be a part of larger social media platforms is vitally important.

I agree with this, saying: "...I would not like to see the arts lose the wider audiences and opportunities to be a part of the whole that the commercial social media platforms offer."



4.Critical Art Practice: Ben Grosser's Facebook and Twitter Demetricators

B en Grosser, who creates interactive experiences, machines, and systems that examine the cultural, social, and political implications of software, is an assistant professor of new media at the School of Art + Design, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jose Pena was his SAIC student guide for the panel.

Ben is a software artist, "software recomposition" in his words, whose work inhabits the territory of critical art practice "treating existing websites and other software systems not as fixed spaces of consumption and prescribed interaction but instead as fluid spaces of manipulation and experimentation."

For example, Grosser's Facebook Demetricator removes all likes, shares, and other metrics from the Facebook interface, and his Twitter Demetricator removes all likes, retweets, and other metrics. "Feedback from Demetricator's users," he observes, "has revealed that hiding social metrics blunts feelings of competition and removes compulsive behaviors. Perhaps most interestingly, Demetricator has helped users realize that they craft rules for themselves about how to act (and not act) within Facebook, based on what the numbers say."

Twitter with metrics removed

Ben begins his statement for Contemporary Social Media Platforms and Creative Practice by saying:

"As an artist, I focus on the cultural, social, and political effects of software. How is an interface that foregrounds our friend count changing our conceptions of friendship? Why do we care about how many 'likes' we get, and what makes us want *more* (rather than, say, less)? Who benefits when a software system can intuit how we feel? To examine questions like these, I construct interactive experiences, machines, and systems that make the familiar unfamiliar, revealing the ways that software prescribes our behavior and thus, how it changes who we are."

In a response to a comment from SAIC Social Media Narratives student Jose Pena -- "This idea of competitiveness on social media is very much related to capitalism because capitalism relies on being competitive" -- Grosser points to his Computational Culture paper "What Do Metrics Want?", summarizing his argument in this way:

"...understanding this relationship begins with our evolutionarily developed need for esteem. To survive, we need to feel valued, whether it’s respect from others or confidence in ourselves. This need now plays out in the context of capitalism, where value is quantifiable and growth is a constant requirement for success. The result of this intersection -- our need for esteem and capitalism's need for growth -- has led us to develop a deeply ingrained 'desire for more.' We see this desire for more play out in all aspects of life (steps on the fitness tracker, choices at the grocery store, etc.), but it becomes hyper in the face of social media metrics. Never before has our every social interaction been quantified and shown back to us in real-time. The result is an extreme focus on whatever the numbers say, and a need to excel in metric terms. IOW, when we see metrics that reflect our sociality ... and we see metrics of others reflecting their sociality ... we can't help but compare ourselves to them, to feel competitive, to want our metrics to be better than their metrics."

question about likes removsl on Twitter In response to a question about the then rumors that Twitter is considering removing the "like" button, Ben began his reply by saying:

"Jack Dorsey (Twitter's CEO) has been hinting for months about possible changes. The first time was in an interview with the Washington Post, where he said Twitter was thinking about the potential negative effects of the follower metric's prominence in the interface (almost as if they finally woke up and realized oh, maybe our design choices have had consequences!). Another was a similar suggestion he made in front of Congress during his testimony this past summer. The article you linked is the latest suggestion they're rethinking things.

Yet despite all this talk, nothing has changed yet. Frankly, several tech journalists, such as Will Oremus (Slate) are quite skeptical about this latest report, and Twitter has not confirmed any intention to remove the "like" button ... only, that once again, they’re rethinking things. Talk, but no action."


5. Instapoetry?

interface1 M eanwhile in another thread of the FB-based panel, Kathi Inman Berens, Assistant Professor at Portland State University’s English Department, who works on digital-born literature, contemporary book history, and digital contexts of book publishing, began with a sobering graphic on the success of print-published Instapoetry.

We began this panel by talking about the difficulty of finding Internet-based art. It should be noted that Berens is discussing print books that reprint works first published on Instagram -- print poetry first published online, not electronic literature. Nevertheless, the work of Instagram poets represents a sizeable percent of print books sold.

"Why do fans of Instapoetry buy printed versions of exactly the same poems they can get in the Instagram app for free? Why buy what they already have?" Kathi Inman Berens asks in her statement at kathi_berens.html.

"The answer to this question wends through immigration offices and CreateSpace automated book publishing software, through an ocean of likes, reposts, hashtags and comments, and plants a flag onto bestseller lists with such unambiguous force that almost half (47 percent) of poetry books sold in the United States in 2017 were written by Instapoets. Here's the same awesome metric in different terms: twelve of 2017's top twenty bestselling poetry books-- 60%--were by Instapoets. In 2012, Instapoetry didn't exist. It is a publishing industry disruptor par excellence."

interface1 In a response to SAIC student Sora Candelario, who asks for examples of Instapoetry, Kathi responds with a list of examples (see image).

When the panel host and editor of this publication has to issue an apology to Instagram poets, we know that Kathi Berens' presentation was important. Yes I overreacted. The voices of Instagram poets should be respected. Particularly, as Berens points out, because often they come from underrepresented communities. As an example, published earlier this year, [Dis]-Connected: Poems & Stories of Connection and Otherwise, edited by Michelle Halket (Central Avenue Publishing), presents the voices of some of these poets, including Sara Bond, Nikita Gill, Alex Jeanty, Amanda Lovelace, Cyrus Parker, Yena Sharma Purmasir, and Iain S. Thomas, among others. A Kindle copy of this work is available from Amazon. I bought one, and I note that the strategy with which this book was created -- poets were invited to write poems and within the group to write short stories in response to the poems of others -- is of interest as regards social media collaborative strategies. The success of Instapoets is also a good example of the importance of building community in social media environments.

That said, a good advocacy approach would be to set forth examples of powerful works of print poets from minority communities -- often published by small presses -- such as the work of Elizabeth Alexander, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Sandra Cisneros, Teju Cole, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Nikki Giovanni, Garrett Hongo, Sonia Sanchez, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Cale Kenney, Maxine Hong Kingston, Carmen Maria Machado, Dorothy Miles and all the deaf poets published by Gallaudet University Press, Janice Mirikitani, alix olson, Ahmad Danny Ramadan, Lois Red Elk, Tracy K.Smith, John Trudell, Al Young, and Jenny Xie, and all the Black poets of Cave Canem. There are many, many more. A study of the role of the Internet in promoting small press writers, would be a good companion work to Kathi's scholarship on Instapoetry.

And there are in depth works of electronic literature from immigrant communities, such as Matt Huynh's vertical scrolling The Boat, (adapted from Nam Le's The Boat) about which I wrote for The Electronic Manuscript, "in which a harrowing narrative of Vietnamese 'boat people' refugees unfolds amidst animated falling rain, storm-rocking graphics, voiced laments, light and dark, moving text, and floating images."

In the early days of social media, conversations were often more heated than they are in contemporary scholarly communities. It could be noted that in attempting to eliminate harassment, some academic communities have weakened discussion to the point that no one dares to disagree. I think we should ask: is that really workable? However, there are better ways of expressing disagreement than my initial rant against Instapoetry. Kathi is much more guarded in her response:

"To what extent does the legacy of literary modernism influence what counts as 'poetry' today? Is the 'slow reading' necessitated by richly allusive, complex, text-only poetry an artifact of print culture? ...What to make of poetry—Instagram and otherwise -- in a faster age powered by inhumanly fast computers and byte-sized attention snacks?"


Closing with the Work of Students in SAIC ATS Social Media Narrative

Throughout the Fall 2018 semester, I was impressed, inspired, challenged and amazed by the different ways in which the students in my Social Media Narratives class explored the potential of social media-based creative practice. Their work is partially documented in Exploring The Potential Of Social Media-Based Creative Practice. -- Judy Malloy


Notes

1. Vivian Ho, "Facebook's privacy problems: a roundup", The Guardian, December 14, 2018.

2. Tony Romm, "Facebook’s Zuckerberg just survived 10 hours of questioning by Congress", Washington Post, April 11, 2018.

3. Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson, "Social Media Use in 2018". Pew Research Center, March 1, 2018.



content | code | process, last update, February 11, 2019