Tugce OKLAY

 Language of Resistance: Social Movements and Online Artivist Projects

We’ve been witnessing with social movements all over the world, an accumulation of practices of the last century; the idea of class struggle with the slogan of Occupy Wall Street “99%”, its reference to communism (in a way); a “cultural revolution” as legacies of feminist, LGBTI and ecologist movements over 50 years; also discussions about age of information: hackers, pirates, social media, intellectual property and creative commons, open data, Wikileaks, Snowden, etc., etc.

As urban people, we have been spending a remarkable amount of time on the internet, an interesting phenomenon is noticeable: the relationship between online artivist projects and social movements. Artivism is a combined word of « art » and « activism », artivists do activism by the means of art; they use various traditional or untraditional mediums, some of them are culture jamming, subvertising, street art, spoken word, protesting. In this paper we will be analyzing online productions. Our PhD research is an essay for an interdisciplinary theoretical reading of the contemporary online contents in light of the contemporary aesthetic theories, media studies and politics. It focuses on online artivist productions and websites which are related to the resistance movements in USA, Spain, Egypt and Turkey. The crisis is not only economical but also cultural; today, the financial world, the multinational companies invaded our lives. The social movements are not only questioning governors for not finding solutions but also criticizing this ill-considered model of globalization. These resistance movements also target the « idealized » life promoted by the system.

It is especially interesting to investigate the training and the uses of language in those online contents which are hoax news websites, fake personalities, hacking-code writing, manipulated posters and memes. This paper aims to understand and analyze the use of language and the transnational character of the language in those productions. It also aims to observe the ancestors of those projects especially net art projects of the 1990s in USA and in Europe. We also look at new materials of production (new media, internet, and social media) and training and use of language as an artistic material and as a message in those projects. Language as a “material” means computer code, acts of piracy or electronic sit-ins; while written content and shared images as a “message”. Young people have a new common language, their productions in the streets and on the internet are intelligent and ironic; these productions also have their own language(s). Especially when we observe their online productions, we have realized some of these communities also have their own jargon. The resistance with language always existed and has always been against the status quo or conservatism, so it’s not surprising that we find a critical language in these new social movements. Those new languages of the resistances are positioned away from the language of the authority, the power, but also of the traditional left and right.

We may refer to a struggle of language between the authorities and the protestors/resistants, the authorities adopt a pejorative language for the protestors and in response the protestors find humoristic and ironic strategies to fight against in this battle. For us, first important thing is the medium (internet, social networks) and its role in this struggle. The second important thing is “the satire” or humoristic language, the neologisms and the détournements.

How can these projects be read with the perspectives proposed by Jacques Rancière and John Dewey? Who co-produce the content, and who “consume” it? How does the production and distribution process work? What are the peculiarities of their language (s), what similarities with the language of the mass media, is it a community language? What is their relationship with social and political events? We seek answers by conducting a data analysis, but also by interviewing the founders and the editors of these projects.


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