The Burden of an Exit Strategy

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The confusing scandal around Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of personal data have stirred a wide search for a coping strategy post Facebook, once the campaign #Delete started to gather momentum. Over fifty million people have become victims of an algorithm and the finger points in both directions. It points at the corporation and the guilty pact between the rich and the political class to maintain ‘the distribution of wealth’ (Chomsky). And it points at the victims too, as they gave into temptation and filled in the vilified personality test, the intelligence test, the ‘what Disney character are you’ test or ‘is the dress white or gold’ test. And the list could include other hundreds of tests and surveys which were strategically used to collect data and profile the population.

But why did people take the online tests in the first place? Was it out of curiosity, boredom, self-absorption, confusion, insecurity? Possibly, but not exhaustively, being constantly overfed information, the individual, the person behind the computer screen, started to lose the sense of identity and the fear of rejection kept on creeping in. A sign of an increasing collective anxiety.

The need for constant external validation could be a symptom of what de Botton calls ‘status anxiety’. But this is not, by far, a new philosophical discovery. In 1929, Bernays used collective anxiety in his campaign ‘Torches of Freedom’ and successfully convinced women to start smoking cigarettes. One can only see that psychological profiling started a long time ago, when Sigmund Freud clarified the notion of a dark, unconscious self. It comes as no surprise now that among my friends without online social presence there is a sense of ‘told you so’ vindication, whilst the rest is struggling to find a way out.

On a tweet published yesterday by a friend I read a stark and final confession: ‘took a while to decide, but happy I finally cleansed myself. After 11 years I am off…forever.’ But have they actually managed to escape with such ease? Is ‘deleting’ as simple as ‘liking’ or ‘accepting’ the terms and conditions of a virtual contract? There are two immediate identifiable issues here.

The first is that the Facebook license does not end upon the deactivation of your account. The content will only be released from license when all the other users (family, friends, acquaintances, nobodies) have also broken their ties with it. Online freedom will come only after successful negotiations with thousands of friends one gathered during a decade of social media use. The second issue is that Twitter, the online space the online user migrated towards, has a more insidious ‘rights’ clauses. In accepting the terms and conditions, they granted the platform editing rights. Which means the right to edit, modify, translate and format any content posted on the platform. And this can be highly problematic when the content is translated to other languages.

The society’s architecture has dramatically changed to redefine the concept of freedom within the limits of an acceptable platform. It is now symptomatic that ‘deleting’ is a form of virtual social rejection, which leads to real constrains in terms of access to information. But, a while ago, this free access used to be a fundamental attribute of a healthy democracy.

‘The concept of liberty and individual choice are nothing but a mirage’ notes an online user on Twitter who admits that ‘today, Facebook deleted my account because I did use the title DeleteFacebook in one of my paintings’ (TArt). The elite culture is openly biting back displaying the fangs of bigotry ‘as it pretends there is no other alternative’ (Berger).
What facets do we need to explore now in order to redesign our ‘spectre of hope’?

Maria Stadnicka, 1st April 2018

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Movement

Photograph ©John Stadnicki 2017

 

If we want the world to move forward,

we must hold hands. Documenting the pain and the joy,

on the same page,

with water, with fire, with ashes

not with ink.

 

Freedom means nothing when the healthy and the sick

eat at separate tables.

Even the trees sit together. They know that life is actually simple.

But once people renounced their entitlement,

it will take more than a revolution

to reclaim such a right.

 

For too long we took the wrong turn.

 

What kind of world is this if

the madman tells us that

we should be ashamed of ourselves?

©Maria Stadnicka, 2017

 

Published today in International Times with illustration produced by Nick Victor.

Stand out

Someone has to. It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom.‘ (Snyder T. ‘On Tyranny, 2017 )

Photograph ©Harry Oliver / Instagram @harryowns

The Politics of Engagement – ‘Tears in the Fence’ Poetry festival 15th-17th September 2017

It is a great privilege to be a guest at ‘Tears in the Fence’ poetry festival this year. 15th-17th September 2017.

I will be reading from my latest collection Imperfect and discuss the relationship between journalism and censorship as well as the role of the poetic discourse within the current socio-political climate.

This year’s Festival weekend will be at The White Horse and Village Hall, Stourpaine and The Festival’s theme is the politics of engagement.

Further details and programme to follow.

Thank you David Caddy and ‘Tears in the Fence’ Festival and I am looking forward to it.

Imperfect is available at AmazonWaterstones and Yew Tree Press website.

 

International Times and ‘Imperfect’…pre-election dossier, 19th May 2017

The box arrived. The first books now being sent to the British Library. And, in the middle of it, a new poem published this morning in ‘International Times’ – the newspaper of resistance.

‘A Day at the Office’ – pre-election dossier.

http://internationaltimes.it/a-day-at-the-office/

 

In Other Words, Freedom

The fatal morning Europe woke up and thought it had something to say,

there was nobody else left in the world able to listen.

Oh, earth, the bones had gathered to queue for bread,

by the front door at Saint Joseph seminary.

 

An ordinary day for ordinary death.

The bakery opened and closed.

The workers arrived on time for a last shift then went home.

The ovens had no traces of grain.

 

The ink stained hope filled up rusty water pipes.

The crowds’ whisper went on, up the hill, out of the city.

 

After that, freedom meant nothing.

It all came down to

who could hold the front running place the longest.

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Conversation with a Stone

(‘Perhaps this is not a poem…’ C. Milosz)

And because I was made a poet
a lot of blood is spilt
on the neat grass, when I walk.

For fear that I will have
nothing to give back
I collect old books.

My word confesses to its imperfection
with the honesty of a fractured second.
Not that I mind,
not that I have high hopes,
only tall steps.

Because of this self deluded truth,
it happens that waking up in a desert
is not a surprising coincidence,
but a certainty, like a niggling pain in a missing limb.

I am not grateful to sleep facing the wall
but hey! someone needs to show a bit of courage
and say nothing
when nothing is to be said.

And though no one will remember
the poem once written but me,
after all, forgotten things are
the only possessions worth keeping.

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Photo: John Stadnicki
http://www.johnstadnicki.co.uk/Site/Welcome.html