https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/feed M/C Journal 2021-04-26T00:00:00+00:00 Axel Bruns editor@media-culture.org.au Open Journal Systems <h1>M/C Journal</h1> <p><em>M/C Journal</em> was founded (as "M/C – A Journal of Media and Culture") in 1998 as a place of public intellectualism analysing and critiquing the meeting of media and culture. <em>M/C Journal</em> is a fully blind-, peer-reviewed academic journal, open to submissions from anyone. We take seriously the need to move ideas outward, so that our cultural debates may have some resonance with wider political and cultural interests. Each issue is organised around a one-word theme (<a href="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/archive">see our past issues</a>), and is edited by one or more guest editors with a particular interest in that theme. Each issue has a feature article which engages with the theme in some detail, followed by several shorter articles.</p> https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2759 A Study in Anxiety of the Dark 2021-03-30T02:24:48+00:00 Toija Cinque Toija.Cinque@deakin.edu.au <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p><span lang="EN-GB">This article is a study in anxiety with regard to <em>social online spaces</em> (SOS) conceived of as dark. There are two possible ways to define ‘dark’ in this context. The first is that communication is dark because it either has limited distribution, is not open to all users (closed groups are a case example) or hidden. The second definition, linked as a result of the first, is the way that communication via these means is interpreted and understood. Dark social spaces disrupt the accepted top-down flow by the ‘gazing elite’ (data aggregators including social media), but anxious users might need to strain to notice what is out there, and this in turn destabilises one’s reception of the scene. In an environment where </span><span lang="EN-GB">surveillance technologies are proliferating,</span><span lang="EN-GB"> this article examines contemporary, dark, </span><span lang="EN-US">interconnected, and interactive communications for the entangled affordances that might be brought to bear. A provocation is that </span><span lang="EN-GB">resistance through counterveillance or “sousveillance” is one possibility. An alternative (or addition) is retreating to or building ‘dark’ spaces that are less surveilled and (perhaps counterintuitively) less fearful.</span></p> <p>This article considers critically the notion of dark social online spaces via four broad socio-technical concerns connected to the big social media services that have helped increase a tendency for fearful anxiety produced by surveillance and the perceived implications for personal privacy. It also shines light on the aspect of darkness where some users are spurred to actively seek alternative, dark social online spaces.</p> <p>Since the 1970s, public-key cryptosystems typically preserved security for websites, emails, and sensitive health, government, and military data, but this is now reduced (Williams). We have seen such systems exploited via cyberattacks and misappropriated data acquired by affiliations such as Facebook-Cambridge Analytica for targeted political advertising during the 2016 US elections. Via the notion of “parasitic strategies”, such events can be described as news/information hacks “whose attack vectors target a system’s weak points with the help of specific strategies” (von Nordheim and Kleinen-von Königslöw, 88). In accord with Wilson and Serisier’s arguments (178), emerging technologies facilitate rapid data sharing, collection, storage, and processing wherein subsequent “outcomes are unpredictable”. This would also include the effect of acquiescence.</p> <p>In regard to our digital devices, for some, being watched overtly—through cameras encased in toys, computers, and closed-circuit television (CCTV) to digital street ads that determine the resonance of human emotions in <em>public</em> places including bus stops, malls, and train stations—is becoming normalised (McStay, <em>Emotional AI</em>). It might appear that consumers immersed within this Internet of Things (IoT) are themselves comfortable interacting with devices that record sound and capture images for easy analysis and distribution across the communications networks. A counter-claim is that mainstream social media corporations have cultivated a sense of digital resignation “produced when people desire to control the information digital entities have about them but feel unable to do so” (Draper and Turow, 1824).</p> <p>Careful consumers’ trust in mainstream media is waning, with readers observing a strong presence of big media players in the industry and are carefully picking their publications and public intellectuals to follow (Mahmood, 6). A number now also avoid the mainstream internet in favour of alternate dark sites. This is done by users with “varying backgrounds, motivations and participation behaviours that may be idiosyncratic (as they are rooted in the respective person’s biography and circumstance)” (Quandt, 42).</p> <p>By way of connection with dark internet studies via Biddle et al. (1; see also Lasica), the “darknet” is</p> <blockquote> <p>a collection of networks and technologies used to share digital content … not a separate physical network but an application and protocol layer riding on existing networks. Examples of darknets are peer-to-peer file sharing, CD and DVD copying, and key or password sharing on email and newsgroups.</p> </blockquote> <p>As we note from the quote above, the “dark web” uses existing public and private networks that facilitate communication via the Internet. Gehl (1220; see also Gehl and McKelvey) has detailed that this includes “hidden sites that end in ‘.onion’ or ‘.i2p’ or other Top-Level Domain names only available through modified browsers or special software. Accessing I2P sites requires a special routing program ... . Accessing .onion sites requires Tor [The Onion Router]”.</p> <p>For some, this gives rise to social anxiety, read here as stemming from that which is not known, and an exaggerated sense of danger, which makes fight or flight seem the only options. This is often justified or exacerbated by the changing media and communication landscape and depicted in popular documentaries such as <em>The Social Dilemma </em>or <em>The Great Hack</em>, which affect public opinion on the unknown aspects of internet spaces and the uses of personal data.</p> <p>The question for this article remains whether the fear of the dark is justified. Consider that most often one will choose to make one’s intimate bedroom space dark in order to have a good night’s rest. We might pleasurably escape into a cinema’s darkness for the stories told therein, or walk along a beach at night enjoying unseen breezes. Most do not avoid these experiences, choosing to actively seek them out. Drawing this thread, then, is the case made here that agency can also be found in the dark by resisting socio-political structural harms.</p> <h1><strong>1. Digital Futures and Anxiety of the Dark</strong></h1> <blockquote> <p>Fear of the dark<br />I have a constant fear that something's always near<br />Fear of the dark<br />Fear of the dark<br />I have a phobia that someone's always there</p> </blockquote> <p>In the lyrics to the song “Fear of the Dark” (1992) by British heavy metal group Iron Maiden is a sense that that which is unknown and unseen causes fear and anxiety. Holding a fear of the dark is not unusual and varies in degree for adults as it does for children (Fellous and Arbib). Such anxiety connected to the dark does not always concern darkness itself. It can also be a concern for the possible or imagined dangers that are concealed by the darkness itself as a result of cognitive-emotional interactions (McDonald, 16). Extending this claim is this article’s non-binary assertion that while for some technology and what it can do is frequently misunderstood and shunned as a result, for others who embrace the possibilities and actively take it on it is learning by attentively partaking. Mistakes, solecism, and frustrations are part of the process. Such conceptual theorising falls along a continuum of thinking.</p> <p>Global interconnectivity of communications networks has certainly led to consequent concerns (Turkle <em>Alone Together</em>). Much focus for anxiety has been on the impact upon social and individual inner lives, levels of media concentration, and power over and commercialisation of the internet. Of specific note is that increasing commercial media influence—such as Facebook and its acquisition of WhatsApp, Oculus VR, Instagram, CRTL-labs (translating movements and neural impulses into digital signals), LiveRail (video advertising technology), Chainspace (Blockchain)—regularly changes the overall dynamics of the online environment (Turow and Kavanaugh). This provocation was born out recently when Facebook disrupted the delivery of news to Australian audiences via its service. Mainstream social online spaces (SOS) are platforms which provide more than the delivery of media alone and have been conceptualised predominantly in a binary light. On the one hand, they can be depicted as tools for the common good of society through notional widespread access and as places for civic participation and discussion, identity expression, education, and community formation (Turkle; Bruns; Cinque and Brown; Jenkins). This end of the continuum of thinking about SOS seems set hard against the view that SOS are operating as businesses with strategies that manipulate consumers to generate revenue through advertising, data, venture capital for advanced research and development, and company profit, on the other hand. In between the two polar ends of this continuum are the range of other possibilities, the shades of grey, that add contemporary nuance to understanding SOS in regard to what they facilitate, what the various implications might be, and for whom.</p> <p>By way of a brief summary, anxiety of the dark is steeped in the practices of privacy-invasive social media giants such as Facebook and its ancillary companies. Second are the advertising technology companies, surveillance contractors, and intelligence agencies that collect and monitor our actions and related data; as well as the increased ease of use and interoperability brought about by Web 2.0 that has seen a disconnection between technological infrastructure and social connection that acts to limit user permissions and online affordances. Third are concerns for the negative effects associated with depressed mental health and wellbeing caused by “psychologically damaging social networks”, through sleep loss, anxiety, poor body image, real world relationships, and the fear of missing out (FOMO; Royal Society for Public Health (UK) and the Young Health Movement). Here the harms are both individual and societal. Fourth is the intended acceleration toward post-quantum IoT (Fernández-Caramés), as quantum computing’s digital components are continually being miniaturised. This is coupled with advances in electrical battery capacity and interconnected telecommunications infrastructures. The result of such is that the ontogenetic capacity of the powerfully advanced network/s affords supralevel surveillance.</p> <p>What this means is that through devices and the services that they provide, individuals’ data is commodified (Neff and Nafus; Nissenbaum and Patterson). Personal data is enmeshed in ‘things’ requiring that the decisions that are both overt, subtle, and/or hidden (dark) are scrutinised for the various ways they shape social norms and create consequences for public discourse, cultural production, and the fabric of society (Gillespie). Data and personal information are retrievable from devices, sharable in SOS, and potentially exposed across networks. For these reasons, some have chosen to go dark by being “off the grid”, judiciously selecting their means of communications and their ‘friends’ carefully.</p> <h1><strong>2. Is There Room for Privacy Any More When Everyone in SOS Is Watching?</strong></h1> <p>An interesting turn comes through counterarguments against overarching institutional surveillance that underscore the uses of technologies to <em>watch the watchers</em>. This involves a practice of counter-surveillance whereby technologies are tools of resistance to go ‘dark’ and are used by political activists in protest situations for both communication and avoiding surveillance. This is not new and has long existed in an increasingly dispersed media landscape (Cinque, <em>Changing Media Landscapes</em>). For example, counter-surveillance video footage has been accessed and made available via live-streaming channels, with commentary in SOS augmenting networking possibilities for niche interest groups or micropublics (Wilson and Serisier, 178). A further example is the Wordpress site <em>Fitwatch</em>, appealing for an end to what the site claims are issues associated with police surveillance (<a href="http://fitwatch.org.uk">fitwatch.org.uk</a> and <a href="http://endpolicesurveillance.wordpress.com">endpolicesurveillance.wordpress.com</a>). Users of these sites are called to post police officers’ identity numbers and photographs in an attempt to identify “cops” that might act to “misuse” UK Anti-terrorism legislation against activists during legitimate protests. Others that might be interested in doing their own “monitoring” are invited to reach out to identified personal email addresses or other private (dark) messaging software and application services such as Telegram (freeware and cross-platform).</p> <p>In their work on surveillance, Mann and Ferenbok (18) propose that there is an increase in “complex constructs between power and the practices of seeing, looking, and watching/sensing in a networked culture mediated by mobile/portable/wearable computing devices and technologies”. By way of critical definition, Mann and Ferenbok (25) clarify that “where the viewer is in a position of power over the subject, this is considered surveillance, but where the viewer is in a lower position of power, this is considered sousveillance”. It is the aspect of sousveillance that is empowering to those using dark SOS. One might consider that not all surveillance is “bad” nor institutionalised. It is neither overtly nor formally regulated—as yet. Like most technologies, many of the surveillant technologies are value-neutral until applied towards specific uses, according to Mann and Ferenbok (18). But this is part of the ‘grey area’ for understanding the impact of dark SOS in regard to which actors or what nations are developing tools for surveillance, where access and control lies, and with what effects into the future.</p> <h1><strong>3. Big Brother Watches, So What Are the Alternatives: Whither the Gazing Elite in Dark SOS</strong><strong>?</strong></h1> <p>By way of conceptual genealogy, consideration of contemporary perceptions of surveillance in a visually networked society (Cinque, <em>Changing Media Landscapes</em>) might be usefully explored through a revisitation of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, applied here as a metaphor for contemporary surveillance. Arguably, this is a foundational theoretical model for integrated methods of social control (Foucault, <em>Surveiller et Punir</em>, 192-211), realised in the “panopticon” (prison) in 1787 by Jeremy Bentham (Bentham and Božovič, 29-95) during a period of social reformation aimed at the improvement of the individual. Like the power for social control over the incarcerated in a panopticon, police power, in order that it be effectively exercised, “had to be given the instrument of permanent, exhaustive, omnipresent surveillance, capable of making all visible … like a faceless gaze that transformed the whole social body into a field of perception” (Foucault, <em>Surveiller et Punir</em>, 213–4).</p> <p>In grappling with the impact of SOS for the individual and the collective in post-digital times, we can trace out these early ruminations on the complex documentary organisation through state-controlled apparatuses (such as inspectors and paid observers including “secret agents”) via Foucault (<em>Surveiller et Punir</em>, 214; <em>Subject and Power</em>, 326-7) for comparison to commercial operators like Facebook. Today, artificial intelligence (AI), facial recognition technology (FRT), and closed-circuit television (CCTV) for video surveillance are used for social control of appropriate behaviours. Exemplified by governments and the private sector is the use of combined technologies to maintain social order, from ensuring citizens cross the street only on green lights, to putting rubbish in the correct recycling bin or be publicly shamed, to making cashless payments in stores. The actions see advantages for individual and collective safety, sustainability, and convenience, but also register forms of behaviour and attitudes with predictive capacities. This gives rise to suspicions about a permanent account of individuals’ behaviour over time. Returning to Foucault (<em>Surveiller et Punir</em>, 135), the impact of this finds a dissociation of power from the individual, whereby they become unwittingly impelled into pre-existing social structures, leading to a ‘normalisation’ and acceptance of such systems. If we are talking about the dark, anxiety is key for a Ministry of SOS. Following Foucault again (<em>Subject and Power</em>, 326-7), there is the potential for a crawling, creeping governance that was once distinct but is itself increasingly hidden and growing. A blanket call for some form of ongoing scrutiny of such proliferating powers might be warranted, but with it comes regulation that, while offering certain rights and protections, is not without consequences.</p> <p>For their part, a number of SOS platforms had little to no moderation for explicit content prior to December 2018, and in terms of power, notwithstanding important anxiety connected to arguments that children and the vulnerable need protections from those that would seek to take advantage, this was a crucial aspect of community building and self-expression that resulted in this freedom of expression. In unearthing the extent that individuals are empowered arising from the capacity to post sexual self-images, Tiidenberg ("Bringing Sexy Back") considered that through dark SOS (read here as unregulated) some users could work in opposition to the mainstream consumer culture that provides select and limited representations of bodies and their sexualities. This links directly to Mondin’s exploration of the abundance of queer and feminist pornography on dark SOS as a “counterpolitics of visibility” (288). This work resulted in a reasoned claim that the technological structure of dark SOS created a highly political and affective social space that users valued. What also needs to be underscored is that many users also believed that such a space could not be replicated on other mainstream SOS because of the differences in architecture and social norms. Cho (47) worked with this theory to claim that dark SOS are modern-day examples in a history of queer individuals having to rely on “underground economies of expression and relation”.</p> <p>Discussions such as these complicate what dark SOS might now become in the face of ‘adult’ content moderation and emerging tracking technologies to close sites or locate individuals that transgress social norms. Further, broader questions are raised about how content moderation fits in with the public space conceptualisations of SOS more generally. Increasingly, “there is an app for that” where being able to identify the poster of an image or an author of an unknown text is seen as crucial. While there is presently no standard approach, models for combining instance-based and profile-based features such as SVM for determining authorship attribution are in development, with the result that potentially far less content will remain hidden in the future (Bacciu et al.).</p> <h1><strong>4. There’s Nothing New under the Sun (<em>Ecclesiastes</em> 1:9)</strong></h1> <p>For some, “[the] high hopes regarding the positive impact of the Internet and digital participation in civic society have faded” (Schwarzenegger, 99). My participant observation over some years in various SOS, however, finds that critical concern has always existed. Views move along the spectrum of thinking from deep scepticisms (Stoll, <em>Silicon Snake Oil</em>) to wondrous techo-utopian promises (Negroponte, <em>Being Digital</em>). Indeed, concerns about the (then) new technologies of wireless broadcasting can be compared with today’s anxiety over the possible effects of the internet and SOS. Inglis (7) recalls,</p> <blockquote> <p>here, too, were fears that humanity was tampering with some dangerous force; might wireless wave be causing thunderstorms, droughts, floods? Sterility or strokes? Such anxieties soon evaporated; but a sense of mystery might stay longer with evangelists for broadcasting than with a laity who soon took wireless for granted and settled down to enjoy the products of a process they need not understand. </p> </blockquote> <p>As the analogy above makes clear, just as audiences came to use ‘the wireless’ and later the internet regularly, it is reasonable to argue that dark SOS will also gain widespread understanding and find greater acceptance. Dark social spaces are simply the recent development of internet connectivity and communication more broadly. The dark SOS afford choice to be connected beyond mainstream offerings, which some users avoid for their perceived manipulation of content and user both. As part of the wider array of dark web services, the resilience of dark social spaces is reinforced by the proliferation of users as opposed to decentralised replication. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can be used for anonymity in parallel to TOR access, but they guarantee only anonymity to the client. A VPN cannot guarantee anonymity to the server or the internet service provider (ISP). While users may use pseudonyms rather than actual names as seen on Facebook and other SOS, users continue to take to the virtual spaces they inhabit their off-line, ‘real’ foibles, problems, and idiosyncrasies (Chenault). To varying degrees, however, people also take their best intentions to their interactions in the dark. The hyper-efficient tools now deployed can intensify this, which is the great advantage attracting some users. In balance, however, in regard to online information access and dissemination, critical examination of what is in the public’s interest, and whether content should be regulated or controlled versus allowing a free flow of information where users self-regulate their online behaviour, is fraught. O’Loughlin (604) was one of the first to claim that there will be voluntary loss through <em>negative liberty </em>or freedom from (freedom from unwanted information or influence) and an increase in <em>positive liberty </em>or freedom to (freedom to read or say anything); hence, freedom from surveillance and interference is a kind of negative liberty, consistent with both libertarianism and liberalism.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>The early adopters of initial iterations of SOS were hopeful and liberal (utopian) in their beliefs about universality and ‘free’ spaces of open communication between like-minded others. This was a way of virtual networking using a visual motivation (led by images, text, and sounds) for consequent interaction with others (Cinque, <em>Visual Networking</em>). 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Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003.</p> <p>Von Nordheim, Gerret, and Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw. “Uninvited Dinner Guests: A Theoretical Perspective on the Antagonists of Journalism Based on Serres’ Parasite.” <em>Media and Communication</em> 9.1 (2021): 88-98.</p> <p>Williams, Chris K. “Configuring Enterprise Public Key Infrastructures to Permit Integrated Deployment of Signature, Encryption and Access Control Systems.” <em>MILCOM 2005-2005 IEEE Military Communications Conference</em>. IEEE, 2005.</p> <p>Wilson, Dean, and Tanya Serisier. “Video Activism and the Ambiguities of Counter-Surveillance.” <em>Surveillance &amp; Society</em> 8.2 (2010): 166-180.</p> 2021-04-27T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Toija Cinque https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2755 Digging in Crypto-Communities’ Future-Making 2021-03-30T02:07:00+00:00 Alexia Maddox alexiamaddox@gmail.com Luke J Heemsbergen luke.h@deakin.edu.au <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>This article situates the dark as a liminal and creative space of experimentation where tensions are generative and people tinker with emerging technologies to create alternative futures. Darkness need not mean chaos and fear of violence – it can mean privacy and protection. We define dark as an experimental space based upon uncertainties rather than computational knowns (Bridle) and then demonstrate via a case study of cryptocurrencies the contribution of dark and liminal social spaces to future(s)-making. Cryptocurrencies are digital cash systems that use decentralised (peer-to-peer) networking to enable irreversible payments (Maurer, Nelms, and Swartz). Cryptocurrencies are often clones or variations on the ‘original’ Bitcoin payment systems protocol (Trump et al.) that was shared with the cryptographic community through a pseudonymous and still unknown author(s) (Nakamoto), creating a founder mystery. Due to the open creation process, a new cryptocurrency is relatively easy to make. However, many of them are based on speculative bubbles that mirror Bitcoin, Ethereum, and ICOs’ wealth creation. Examples of cryptocurrencies now largely used for speculation due to their volatility in holding value are rampant, with online clearing houses competing to trade hundreds of different assets from AAVE to ZIL. Many of these altcoins have little to no following or trading volume, leading to their obsolescence. Others enjoy immense popularity among dedicated communities of backers and investors. Consequently, while many cryptocurrency experiments fail or lack adoption and drop from the purview of history, their constant variation also contributes to the undertow of the future that pulls against more visible surface waves of computational progress.</p> <p>The article is structured to first define how we understand and leverage ‘dark’ against computational cultures. We then apply thematic and analytical tactics to articulate future-making socio-technical experiments in the dark. Based on past empirical work of the authors (Maddox "Netnography") we focus on crypto-cultures’ complex emancipatory and normative tensions via themes of construction, disruption, contention, redirection, obsolescence, and iteration. Through these themes we illustrate the mutation and absorption of dark experimental spaces into larger social structures. The themes we identify are not meant as a complete or necessarily serial set of occurrences, but nonetheless contribute a new vocabulary for students of technology and media to see into and grapple with the dark.</p> <h1><strong>Embracing the Dark: Prework &amp; Analytical Tactics for Outside the Known</strong></h1> <p>To frame discussion of the dark here as creative space for alternative futures, we focus on scholars who have deeply engaged with notions of socio-technical darkness. This allows us to explore outside the blinders of computational light and, with a nod to Sassen, dig in the shadows of known categories to evolve the analytical tactics required for the study of emerging socio-technical conditions.</p> <p>We understand the Dark Web to usher shifting and multiple definitions of darkness, from a moral darkness to a technical one (Gehl). From this work, we draw the observation of how technologies that obfuscate digital tracking create novel capacities for digital cultures in spaces defined by anonymity for both publisher and user. Darknets accomplish this by overlaying open internet protocols (e.g. TCP/IP) with non-standard protocols that encrypt and anonymise information (Pace). Pace traces concepts of darknets to networks in the 1970s that were 'insulated’ from the internet’s predecessor ARPANET by air gap, and then reemerged as software protocols similarly insulated from cultural norms around intellectual property. ‘Darknets’ can also be considered in ternary as opposed to binary terms (Gehl and McKelvey) that push to make private that which is supposed to be public infrastructure, and push private platforms (e.g. a Personal Computer) to make public networks via common bandwidth. In this way, darknets feed new possibilities of communication from both common infrastructures and individual’s platforms.</p> <p>Enabling new potentials of community online and out of sight serves to signal what the dark accomplishes for the social when measured against an otherwise unending light of computational society. To this point, a new dark age can be welcomed insofar it allows an undecided future outside of computational logics that continually define and refine the possible and probable (Bridle). This argument takes von Neumann’s 1945 declaration that “all stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control” (in Bridle 21) as a founding statement for computational thought and indicative of current society. The hope expressed by Bridle is not an absence of knowledge, but an absence of knowing the future. Past the computational prison of total information awareness within an accelerating information age (Castells) is the promise of new formations of as yet unknowable life. Thus, from Bridle’s perspective, and ours, darkness can be a place of freedom and possibility, where the equality of being in the dark, together, is not as threatening as current privileged ways of thinking would suggest (Bridle 15). The consequences of living in a constant glaring light lead to data hierarchies “leaching” (Bridle) into everything, including social relationships, where our data are relationalised while our relations are datafied (Maddox and Heemsbergen) by enforcing computational thinking upon them. Darkness becomes a refuge that acknowledges the power of unknowing, and a return to potential for social, equitable, and reciprocal relations.</p> <p>This is not to say that we envision a utopian life without the shadow of hierarchy, but rather an encouragement to dig into those shadows made visible only by the brightest of lights. The idea of digging in the shadows is borrowed from Saskia Sassen, who asks us to consider the ‘master categories’ that blind us to alternatives. According to Sassen (402), while master categories have the power to illuminate, their blinding power keeps us from seeing other presences in the landscape: “they produce, then, a vast penumbra around that center of light. It is in that penumbra that we need to go digging”. We see darkness in the age of digital ubiquity as rejecting the blinding ‘master category’ of computational thought. Computational thought defines social/economic/political life via what is static enough to predict or unstable enough to render a need to control. Otherwise, the observable, computable, knowable, and possible all follow in line.</p> <p>Our dig in the shadows posits a penumbra of protocols – both of computational code and human practice – that circle the blinding light of known digital communications. We use the remainder of this short article to describe these themes found in the dark that offer new ways to understand the movements and moments of potential futures that remain largely unseen.</p> <h1><strong>Thematic Resonances in the Dark</strong></h1> <p>This section considers cryptocultures of the dark. We build from a thematic vocabulary that has been previously introduced from empirical examples of the crypto-<em>market</em> communities which tinker with and through the darkness provided by encryption and privacy technologies (Maddox "Netnography"). Here we refine these future-making themes through their application to events surrounding community-generated technology aimed at disrupting centralised banking systems: cryptocurrencies (Maddox, Singh, et al.). Given the overlaps in collective values and technologies between crypto-communities, we find it useful to test the relevance of these themes to the experimental dynamics surrounding cryptocurrencies. We unpack these dynamics as construction, rupture and disruption, redirection, and the flip-sided relationship between obsolescence and iteration leading to mutation and absorption. This section provides a working example for how these themes adapt in application to a community dwelling at the edge of experimental technological possibilities.</p> <p>The theme of <em>construction</em> is both a beginning and a materialisation of a value field. It originates within the cyberlibertarians’ ideological stance towards using technological innovations to ‘create a new world in the shell of the old’ (van de Sande) which has been previously expressed through the concept of constructive activism (Maddox, Barratt, et al.). This libertarian ideology is also to be found in the early cultures that gave rise to cryptocurrencies. Through their interest in the potential of cryptography technologies related to social and political change, the Cypherpunks mailing list formed in 1992 (Swartz). The socio-cultural field surrounding cryptocurrencies, however, has always consisted of a diverse ecosystem of vested interests building collaborations from “goldbugs, hippies, anarchists, cyberpunks, cryptographers, payment systems experts, currency activists, commodity traders, and the curious” (Maurer, Nelms, and Swartz 262). Through the theme of construction we can consider architectures of collaboration, cooperation, and coordination developed by technically savvy populations. Cryptocurrencies are often developed as code by teams who build in mechanisms for issuance (e.g. ‘mining’) and other controls (Conway). Thus, construction and making of cryptocurrencies tend to be collective yet decentralised.</p> <p>Cryptocurrencies arose during a time of increasing levels of distrust in governments and global financial instability from the Global Financial Crisis (2008-2013), whilst gaining traction through their usefulness in engaging in illicit trade (Saiedi, Broström, and Ruiz). It was through this <em>rupture</em> in the certainties of ‘the old system’ that this technology, and the community developing it, sought to <em>disrupt</em> the financial system (Maddox, Singh, et al.; Nelms et al.). Here we see the utility of the second theme of rupture and disruption to illustrate creative experimentation in the liminal and emergent spaces cryptocurrencies afford. While current crypto crazes (e.g. NFTs, ICOs) have their detractors, Cohen suggests, somewhat ironically, that the momentum for change of the crypto current was “driven by the grassroots, and technologically empowered, movement to confront the ills perceived to be powered and exacerbated by market-based capitalism, such as climate change and income inequality” (Cohen 739). Here we can start to envision how subterranean currents that emerge from creative experimentations in the dark impact global social forces in multifaceted ways – even as they are dragged into the light.</p> <p>Within a disrupted environment characterised by rupture, <em>contention and redirection</em> is rife (Maddox "Disrupting"). Contention and redirection illustrate how competing agendas bump and grind to create a generative tension around a deep collective desire for social change. Contention often emerges within an environment of hacks and scams, of which there are many stories in the cryptocurrency world (see Bartlett for an example of OneCoin, for instance; Kavanagh, Miscione, and Ennis). Other aspects of contention emerge around how the technology works to produce (mint) cryptocurrencies, including concern over the environmental impact of producing cryptocurrencies (Goodkind, Jones, and Berrens) and the production of non-fungible tokens for the sale of digital assets (Howson). Contention also arises through the gendered social dynamics of brogramming culture skewing inclusive and diverse engagement (Bowles). Shifting from the ideal of inclusion to the actual practice of crypto-communities begs the question of whose futures are being made.</p> <p>Contention and redirections are also evidenced by ‘hard forks’ in cryptocurrency. The founder mystery resulted in the gifting of this technology to a decentralised and leaderless community, materialised through the distributed consensus processes to approve software updates to a cryptocurrency. This consensus system consequently holds within it the seeds for governance failures (Trump et al.), the first of which occurred with the ‘hard forking’ of Bitcoin into Bitcoin cash in 2017 (Webb). Hard forks occur when developers and miners no longer agree on a proposed change to the software: one group upgraded to the new software while the others operated on the old rules. The resulting two separate blockchains and digital currencies concretised the tensions and disagreements within the community. This forking resulted initially in a shock to the market value of, and trust in, the Bitcoin network, and the dilution of adoption networks across the two cryptocurrencies. The ongoing hard forks of Bitcoin Cash illustrate the continued contention occurring within the community as crypto-personalities pit against each other (Hankin; Li).</p> <p>As these examples show, not all experiments in cryptocurrencies are successful; some become <em>obsolete</em> through <em>iteration</em> (Arnold). Iteration engenders mutations in the cultural framing of socio-technical experiments. These mutations of meaning and signification then facilitate their absorption into novel futures, showing the ternary nature of how what happens in the dark works with what is known by the light. As a rhetorical device, cryptocurrencies have been referred to as a currency (a payment system) or a commodity (an investment or speculation vehicle; Nelms et al. 21). However, new potential applications for the underlying technologies continue emerge. For example, Ethereum, the second-most dominant cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, now offers smart contract technology (decentralised autonomous organisations, DAO; Kavanagh, Miscione, and Ennis) and is iterating technology to dramatically reduce the energy consumption required to mine and mint the non-fungible tokens (NFTs) associated with crypto art (Wintermeyer). Here we can see how these rhetorical framings may represent iterative shifts and meaning-mutation that is as pragmatic as it is cultural. While we have considered here the themes of obsolescence and iteration threaded through the technological differentiations amongst cryptocurrencies, what should we make of these rhetorical or cultural mutations?</p> <p>This cultural mutation, we argue, can be seen most clearly in the resurgence of Dogecoin. Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency launched in 2013 that takes its name and logo from a Shiba Inu meme that was popular several years ago (Potts and Berg). We can consider Dogecoin as a playful infrastructure (Rennie) and cultural product that was initially designed to provide a low bar for entry into the market. Its affordability is kept in place by the ability for miners to mint an unlimited number of coins. Dogecoin had a large resurgence of value and interest just after the meme-centric Reddit community Wallstreetbets managed to drive the share price of video game retailer GameStop to gain 1,500% (Potts and Berg). In this instance we see the mutation of a cryptocurrency into memecoin, or cultural product, for which the value is a prism to the wild fluctuations of internet culture itself, linking cultural bubbles to financial ones. In this case, technologies iterated in the dark mutated and surfaced as cultural bubbles through playful infrastructures that intersected with financial systems. The story of dogecoin articulates how cultural mutation articulates the absorption of emerging techno-potentials into larger structures.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>From creative experiments digging in the dark shadows of global socio-economic forces, we can see how the future is formed beneath the surface of computational light. Yet as we write, cryptocurrencies are being absorbed by centralising and powerful entities to integrate them into global economies. Examples of large institutions hoarding Bitcoin include the crypto-counterbalancing between the Chinese state through its digital currency DCEP (Vincent) and Facebook through the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51730772">Libra project.</a> Vincent observes that the state-backed DCEP project is the antithesis of the decentralised community agenda for cryptocurrencies to enact the separation of state and money. Meanwhile, Facebook’s centralised computational control of platforms used by 2.8 billion humans provide a similarly perverse addition to cryptocurrency cultures. The penumbra fades as computational logic shifts its gaze.</p> <p>Our thematic exploration of cryptocurrencies highlights that it is only in their emergent forms that such radical creative experiments can dwell in the dark. They do not stay in the dark forever, as their absorption into larger systems becomes part of the future-making process. The cold, inextricable, and always impending computational logic of the current age suffocates creative experimentations that flourish in the dark. Therefore, it is crucial to tend to the uncertainties within the warm, damp, and dark liminal spaces of socio-technical experimentation.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Arnold, Michael. "On the Phenomenology of Technology: The 'Janus-Faces' of Mobile Phones." <em>Information and Organization</em> 13.4 (2003): 231-56.</p> <p>Bartlett, Jamie. "Missing Cryptoqueen: Why Did the FCA Drop Its Warning about the Onecoin Scam?" <em>BBC News</em> 11 Aug. 2020<em>. </em>19 Feb. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53721017">https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53721017</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Bowles, Nellie. "Women in Cryptocurrencies Push Back against ‘Blockchain Bros’." <em>New York Times</em> 25 Feb. 2018. 21 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/25/business/cryptocurrency-women-blockchain-bros.html">https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/25/business/cryptocurrency-women-blockchain-bros.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Bridle, James. <em>New Dark Age: Technology, Knowledge and the End of the Future.</em> London: Verso, 2018.</p> <p>Castells, Manuel. <em>The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture</em>. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.</p> <p>Cohen, Boyd. "The Rise of Alternative Currencies in Post-Capitalism." <em>Journal of Management Studies</em> 54.5 (2017): 739-46.</p> <p>Conway, Luke. "The 10 Most Important Cryptocurrencies Other than Bitcoin." <em>Investopedia </em>Jan. 2021. 19 Feb. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.investopedia.com/tech/most-important-cryptocurrencies-other-than-bitcoin/">https://www.investopedia.com/tech/most-important-cryptocurrencies-other-than-bitcoin/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Gehl, Robert, and Fenwick McKelvey. "Bugging Out: Darknets as Parasites of Large-Scale Media Objects." <em>Media, Culture &amp; Society</em> 41.2 (2019): 219-35.</p> <p>Goodkind, Andrew L., Benjamin A. Jones, and Robert P. Berrens. "Cryptodamages: Monetary Value Estimates of the Air Pollution and Human Health Impacts of Cryptocurrency Mining." <em>Energy Research &amp; Social Science</em> 59 (2020): 101281.</p> <p>Hankin, Aaron. "What You Need to Know about the Bitcoin Cash ‘Hard Fork’." <em>MarketWatch</em> 13 Nov. 2018. 21 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-bitcoin-cash-hard-fork-2018-11-13">https://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-bitcoin-cash-hard-fork-2018-11-13</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Howson, Peter. "NFTs: Why Digital Art Has Such a Massive Carbon Footprint." <em>The Conversation</em> April 2021. 21 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://theconversation.com/nfts-why-digital-art-has-such-a-massive-carbon-footprint-158077">https://theconversation.com/nfts-why-digital-art-has-such-a-massive-carbon-footprint-158077</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Kavanagh, Donncha, Gianluca Miscione, and Paul J. Ennis. "The Bitcoin Game: Ethno-Resonance as Method." <em>Organization</em> (2019): 1-20.</p> <p>Li, Shine. "Bitcoin Cash (Bch) Hard Forks into Two New Blockchains Following Disagreement on Miner Tax." <em>Blockchain.News</em> Nov. 2020. 19 Feb. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://blockchain.news/news/bitcoin-cash-bch-hard-forks-two-new-blockchains-disagreement-on-miner-tax">https://blockchain.news/news/bitcoin-cash-bch-hard-forks-two-new-blockchains-disagreement-on-miner-tax</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Maddox, Alexia. "Disrupting the Ethnographic Imaginarium: Challenges of Immersion in the Silk Road Cryptomarket Community." <em>Journal of Digital Social Research</em> 2.1 (2020): 31-51.</p> <p>———. "Netnography to Uncover Cryptomarkets." <em>Netnography Unlimited: Understanding Technoculture Using Qualitative Social Media Research</em>. Eds. Rossella Gambetti and Robert V. Kozinets. London: Routledge, 2021: 3-23.</p> <p>Maddox, Alexia, Monica J. Barratt, Matthew Allen, and Simon Lenton. "Constructive Activism in the Dark Web: Cryptomarkets and Illicit Drugs in the Digital ‘Demimonde’." <em>Information Communication and Society</em> 19.1 (2016): 111-26.</p> <p>Maddox, Alexia, and Luke Heemsbergen. "The Electrified Social: A Policing and Politics of the Dark." <em>Continuum</em> (forthcoming).</p> <p>Maddox, Alexia, Supriya Singh, Heather Horst, and Greg Adamson. "An Ethnography of Bitcoin: Towards a Future Research Agenda." <em>Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy</em> 4.1 (2016): 65-78.</p> <p>Maurer, Bill, Taylor C. Nelms, and Lana Swartz. "'When Perhaps the Real Problem Is Money Itself!': The Practical Materiality of Bitcoin." <em>Social Semiotics</em> 23.2 (2013): 261-77.</p> <p>Nakamoto, Satoshi. "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System." <em>Bitcoin.org</em> 2008. 21 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf">https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Nelms, Taylor C., et al. "Social Payments: Innovation, Trust, Bitcoin, and the Sharing Economy." <em>Theory, Culture &amp; Society </em>35.3 (2018): 13-33.</p> <p>Pace, Jonathan. "Exchange Relations on the Dark Web." <em>Critical Studies in Media Communication</em> 34.1 (2017): 1-13.</p> <p>Potts, Jason, and Chris Berg. "After Gamestop, the Rise of Dogecoin Shows Us How Memes Can Move Market." <em>The Conversation</em> Feb. 2021. 21 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://theconversation.com/after-gamestop-the-rise-of-dogecoin-shows-us-how-memes-can-move-markets-154470">https://theconversation.com/after-gamestop-the-rise-of-dogecoin-shows-us-how-memes-can-move-markets-154470</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Rennie, Ellie. "The Governance of Degenerates Part II: Into the Liquidityborg." <em>Medium</em> Nov. 2020. 21 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://ellierennie.medium.com/the-governance-of-degenerates-part-ii-into-the-liquidityborg-463889fc4d82">https://ellierennie.medium.com/the-governance-of-degenerates-part-ii-into-the-liquidityborg-463889fc4d82</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Saiedi, Ed, Anders Broström, and Felipe Ruiz. "Global Drivers of Cryptocurrency Infrastructure Adoption." <em>Small Business Economics</em> (Mar. 2020).</p> <p>Sassen, Saskia. "Digging in the Penumbra of Master Categories." <em>British Journal of Sociology</em> 56.3 (2005): 401-03.</p> <p>Swartz, Lana. "What Was Bitcoin, What Will It Be? The Techno-Economic Imaginaries of a New Money Technology." <em>Cultural Studies</em> 32.4 (2018): 623-50.</p> <p>Trump, Benjamin D., et al. "Cryptocurrency: Governance for What Was Meant to Be Ungovernable." <em>Environment Systems and Decisions</em> 38.3 (2018): 426-30.</p> <p>Van de Sande, Mathijs. "Fighting with Tools: Prefiguration and Radical Politics in the Twenty-First Century." <em>Rethinking Marxism</em> 27.2 (2015): 177-94.</p> <p>Vincent, Danny. "'One Day Everyone Will Use China's Digital Currency'." <em>BBC News</em> Sep. 2020. 19 Feb. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/business-54261382">https://www.bbc.com/news/business-54261382</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Webb, Nick. "A Fork in the Blockchain: Income Tax and the Bitcoin/Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork." <em>North Carolina Journal of Law &amp; Technology </em>19.4 (2018): 283-311.</p> <p>Wintermeyer, Lawrence. "Climate-Positive Crypto Art: The Next Big Thing or NFT Overreach." Forbes 19 Mar. 2021. 21 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawrencewintermeyer/2021/03/19/climate-positive-crypto-art-the-next-big-thing-or-nft-overreach/?sh=78b11b71b0e6">https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawrencewintermeyer/2021/03/19/climate-positive-crypto-art-the-next-big-thing-or-nft-overreach/</a>&gt;.</p> 2021-04-27T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Alexia Maddox, Luke Heemsbergen https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2761 ‘I’m Not Afraid of the Dark’ 2021-04-13T22:54:51+00:00 Bronwyn Fredericks b.fredericks@uq.edu.au Abraham Bradfield a.bradfield@uq.edu.au <h1>Introduction</h1> <p>Darkness is often characterised as something that warrants heightened caution and scrutiny – signifying increased danger and risk. Within settler-colonial settings such as Australia, cautionary and negative connotations of darkness are projected upon Black people and their bodies, forming part of continuing colonial regimes of power (Moreton-Robinson). Negative stereotypes of “dark” continues to racialise all Indigenous peoples. In Australia, Indigenous peoples are both Indigenous and Black regardless of skin colour, and this plays out in a range of ways, some of which will be highlighted within this article. This article demonstrates that for Indigenous peoples, associations of fear and danger are built into the structural mechanisms that shape and maintain colonial understandings of Indigenous peoples and their bodies. It is this embodied form of darkness, and its negative connotations, and responses that we explore further.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/lukejh/2761-research-materials-8097-1-2-20210305.jpg" alt="" width="1364" height="900" /></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Figure 1: </em><em>Megan Cope’s ‘I’m not afraid of the Dark’ t-shirt (Fredericks and Heemsbergen 2021)</em></p> <p>Responding to the anxieties and fears of settlers that often surround Indigenous peoples, Quandamooka artist and member of the art collective ProppaNow, Megan Cope, has produced a range of t-shirts, one of which declares “I’m not afraid of the Dark” (fig. 1). The wording ‘reflects White Australia’s fear of blackness’ (Dark + Dangerous). Exploring race relations through the theme of “darkness”, we begin by discussing how negative connotations of darkness are represented through everyday lexicons and how efforts to shift prejudicial and racist language are often met with defensiveness and resistance. We then consider how fears towards the dark translate into everyday practices, reinforced by media representations. The article considers how stereotype, conjecture, and prejudice is inflicted upon Indigenous people and reflects white settler fears and anxieties, rooting colonialism in everyday language, action, and norms. </p> <h1><strong>The Language of Fear</strong></h1> <p>Indigenous people and others with dark skin tones are often presented as having a proclivity towards threatening, aggressive, deceitful, and negative behaviours. This works to inform how Indigenous peoples are “known” and responded to by hegemonic (predominantly white) populations. Negative connotations of Indigenous people are a means of reinforcing and legitimising the falsity that European knowledge systems, norms, and social structures are superior whilst denying the contextual colonial circumstances that have led to white dominance. In Australia, such denial corresponds to the refusal to engage with the unceded sovereignty of Aboriginal peoples or acknowledge Indigenous resistance.</p> <p>Language is integral to the ways in which dominant populations come to “know” and present the so-called “Other”. Such language is reflected in digital media, which both produce and maintain white anxieties towards race and ethnicity. When part of mainstream vernacular, racialised language – and the value judgments associated with it – often remains in what Moreton-Robinson describes as “invisible regimes of power” (75). Everyday social structures, actions, and habits of thought veil oppressive and discriminatory attitudes that exist under the guise of “normality”. Colonisation and the dominance of Eurocentric ways of knowing, being, and doing has fixated itself on creating a normality that associates Indigeneity and darkness with negative and threatening connotations. In doing so, it reinforces power balances that presents an image of white superiority built on the invalidation of Indigeneity and Blackness.</p> <p>White fears and anxieties towards race made explicit through social and digital media are also manifest via subtle but equally pervasive everyday action (Carlson and Frazer; Matamoros-Fernández). Confronting and negotiating such fears becomes a daily reality for many Indigenous people. During the height of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, which extended to Australia and were linked to deaths in custody and police violence, African American poet Saul Williams reminded his followers of the power of language in constructing racialised fears (saulwilliams). In an Instagram post, Williams draws back the veil of an uncontested normality to ask that we take personal responsibility over the words we use. He writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>here’s a tip: Take the words DARK or BLACK in connection to bad, evil, ominous or scary events out of your vocabulary. We learn the stock market crashed on Black Monday, we read headlines that purport “Dark Days Ahead”. There’s “dark” or “black” humour which implies an undertone of evil, and then there are people like me who grow up with dark skin having to make sense of the English/American lexicon and its history of “fair complexions” – where “fair” can mean “light; blond.” OR “in accordance with rules or standards; legitimate.” We may not be fully responsible for the duplicitous evolution of language and subtle morphing of inherited beliefs into description yet we are in full command of the words we choose even as they reveal the questions we’ve left unasked.</p> </blockquote> <p>Like the work of Moreton-Robinson and other scholars, Williams implores his followers to take a reflexive position to consider the questions often left unasked. In doing so, he calls for the transcendence of anonymity and engagement with the realities of colonisation – no matter how ugly, confronting, and complicit one may be in its continuation. </p> <p>In the Australian context this means confronting how terms such as “dark”, “darkie”, or “darky” were historically used as derogatory and offensive slurs for Aboriginal peoples. Such language continues to be used today and can be found in the comment sections of social media, online news platforms, and other online forums (Carlson “Love and Hate”). Taking the move to execute personal accountability can be difficult. It can destabilise and reframe the ways in which we understand and interact with the world (Rose 22). For some, however, exposing racism and seemingly mundane aspects of society is taken as a personal attack which is often met with reactionary responses where one remains closed to new insights (Whittaker). This feeds into fears and anxieties pertaining to the perceived loss of power.</p> <p>These fears and anxieties continue to surface through conversations and calls for action on issues such as changing the date of Australia Day, the racialised reporting of news (McQuire), removing of plaques and statues known to be racist, and requests to change placenames and the names of products. For example, in 2020, Australian cheese producer Saputo Dairy Australia changed the name of it is popular brand “Coon” to “Cheer Tasty”. The decision followed a lengthy campaign led by Dr Stephen Hagan who called for the rebranding based on the Coon brand having racist connotations (ABC). The term has its racist origins in the United States and has long been used as a slur against people with dark skin, liking them to racoons and their tendency to steal and deceive. The term “Coon” is used in Australia by settlers as a racist term for referring to Aboriginal peoples. Claims that the name change is example of political correctness gone astray fail to acknowledge and empathise with the lived experience of being treated as if one is dirty, lazy, deceitful, or untrustworthy. Other brand names have also historically utilised racist wording along with imagery in their advertising (Conor). Pear’s soap for example is well-known for its historical use of racist words and imagery to legitimise white rule over Indigenous colonies, including in Australia (Jackson).</p> <p>Like most racial epithets, the power of language lies in how the words reflect and translate into actions that dehumanise others. The words we use matter. The everyday “ordinary” world, including online, is deeply politicised (Carlson and Frazer “They Got Filters”) and comes to reflect attitudes and power imbalances that encourage white people to internalise the falsity that they are superior and should have control over Black people (Conor). Decisions to make social change, such as that made by Saputo Dairy Australia, can manifest into further white anxieties via their ability to force the confrontation of the circumstances that continue to contribute to one’s own prosperity. In other words, to unveil the realities of colonialism and ask the questions that are too often left in the dark.</p> <h1><strong>Lived Experiences of Darkness</strong></h1> <p>Colonial anxieties and fears are driven by the fact that Black populations in many areas of the world are often characterised as criminals, perpetrators, threats, or nuisances, but are rarely seen as victims. In Australia, the repeated lack of police response and receptivity to concerns of Indigenous peoples expressed during the Black Lives Matter campaign saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets to protest. Protestors at the same time called for the end of police brutality towards Indigenous peoples and for an end to Indigenous deaths in custody. The protests were backed by a heavy online presence that sought to mobilise people in hope of lifting the veil that shrouds issues relating to systemic racism. There have been over 450 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to die in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 (<em>The Guardian</em>). The tragedy of the Indigenous experience gains little attention internationally.</p> <p>The negative implications of being the object of white fear and anxiety are felt by Indigenous and other Black communities daily. The “safety signals” (Daniella Emanuel) adopted by white peoples in response to often irrational perceptions of threat signify how Indigenous and other Black peoples and communities are seen and valued by the hegemony. Memes played out in social media depicting “Karens” – a term that corresponds to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-23/too-strong-for-you-karen-viral-video-prompts-mildura-rally/11823082">caricaturised white women (but equally applicable to men) who exhibit behaviours of entitlement</a> – have increasing been used in media to expose the prevalence of irrational racial fears (also see Wong). Police are commonly called on Indigenous people and other Black people for simply being within spaces such as shopping malls, street corners, parks, or other spaces in which they are considered not to belong (Mohdin). Digital media are also commonly envisioned as a space that is not natural or normal for Indigenous peoples, a notion that maintains narratives of so-called Indigenous primitivity (Carlson and Frazer).</p> <p>Media connotations of darkness as threatening are associated with, and strategically manipulated by, the images that accompany stories about Indigenous peoples and other Black peoples. Digital technologies play significant roles in producing and disseminating the images shown in the media. Moreover, they have a “role in mediating and amplifying old and new forms of abuse, hate, and discrimination” (Matamoros-Fernández and Farkas). Daniels demonstrates how social media sites can be spaces “where race and racism play out in interesting, sometimes disturbing, ways” (702), shaping ongoing colonial fears and anxieties over Black peoples.</p> <p>Prominent footballer Adam Goodes, for example, faced a string of attacks after he publicly condemned racism when he was called an “Ape” by a spectator during a game celebrating Indigenous contributions to the sport (Coram and Hallinan). This was followed by a barrage of personal attacks, criticisms, and booing that spread over the remaining years of his football career. When Goodes performed a traditional war dance as a form of celebration during a game in 2015, many turned to social media to express their outrage over his “confrontational” and “aggressive” behaviour (Robinson). Goodes’s affirmation of his Indigeneity was seen by many as a threat to their own positionality and white sensibility. Social media were therefore used as a mechanism to control settler narratives and maintain colonial power structures by framing the conversation through a white lens (Carlson and Frazer “They Got Filters”). </p> <p>Indigenous peoples in other highly visible fields have faced similar backlash. In 1993, Elaine George was the first Aboriginal person to feature on the cover of <em>Vogue</em> magazine, a decision considered “risky” at the time (Singer). The editor of <em>Vogue</em> later revealed that the cover was criticised by some who believed George’s skin tone was made to appear lighter than it actually was and that it had been digitally altered. The failure to accept a lighter skin colour as “Aboriginal” exposes a neglect to accept ethnicity and Blackness in all its diversity (Carlson and Frazer “They Got Filters”; Carlson “Love and Hate”). Where Adam Goodes was criticised for his overt expression of Blackness, George was critisised for not being “black enough”. </p> <p>It was not until seventeen years later that another Aboriginal model, Samantha Harris, was featured on the cover of <em>Vogue</em> (Marks). While George inspired and pathed the way for those to come, Harris experienced similar discrimination within the industry and amongst the public (Carson and Ky). Singer Jessica Mauboy (in Hornery) also explains how her identity was managed by others. She recalls,</p> <blockquote> <p>I was pretty young when I first received recognition, and for years I felt as though I couldn't show my true identity. What I was saying in public was very dictated by other people who could not handle my sense of culture and identity. They felt they had to take it off my hands.</p> </blockquote> <p>Mauboy’s experience not only demonstrates how Blackness continues to be seen as something to “handle”, but also how power imbalances play out. Scholar Chelsea Watego offers numerous examples of how this occurs in different ways and arenas, for example through relationships between people and within workplaces. Bargallie’s scholarly work also provides an understanding of how Indigenous people experience racism within the Australian public service, and how it is maintained through the structures and systems of power. </p> <p>The media often represents communities with large Indigenous populations as being separatist and not contributing to wider society and problematic (McQuire). Violence, and the threat of violence, is often presented in media as being normalised. Recently there have been calls for an increased police presence in Alice Springs, NT, and other remotes communities due to ongoing threats of “tribal payback” and acts of “lawlessness” (<em>Sky News Australia</em>; Hildebrand). Goldberg uses the phrase “Super/Vision” to describe the ways that Black men and women in Black neighbourhoods are continuously and erroneously supervised and surveilled by police using apparatus such as helicopters and floodlights.</p> <p>Simone Browne demonstrates how contemporary surveillance practices are rooted in anti-black domination and are operationalised through a white gaze. Browne uses the term “racializing surveillance” to describe a ”technology of social control where surveillance practices, policies, and performances concern the production of norms pertaining to race and exercise a ‘power to define what is in or out of place’” (16). The outcome is often discriminatory treatment to those negatively racialised by such surveillance. Narratives that associate Indigenous peoples with darkness and danger fuel colonial fears and uphold the invisible regimes of power by instilling the perception that acts of surveillance and the restrictions imposed on Indigenous peoples’ autonomy are not only necessary but justified.</p> <p>Such myths fail to contextualise the historic colonial factors that drive segregation and enable a forgetting that negates personal accountability and complicity in maintaining colonial power imbalances (Riggs and Augoustinos). Inayatullah and Blaney (165) write that the “myth we construct calls attention to a darker, tragic side of our ethical engagement: the role of colonialism in constituting us as modern actors.” They call for personal accountability whereby one confronts the notion that we are both products and producers of a modernity rooted in a colonialism that maintains the misguided notion of white supremacy (Wolfe; Mignolo; Moreton-Robinson).</p> <p>When Indigenous and other Black peoples enter spaces that white populations don’t traditionally associate as being “natural” or “fitting” for them (whether residential, social, educational, a workplace, online, or otherwise), alienation, discrimination, and criminalisation often occurs (Bargallie; Mohdin; Linhares). Structural barriers are erected, prohibiting career or social advancement while making the space feel unwelcoming (Fredericks; Bargallie). In workplaces, Indigenous employees become the subject of hyper-surveillance through the supervision process (Bargallie), continuing to make them difficult work environments. This is despite businesses and organisations seeking to increase their Indigenous staff numbers, expressing their need to change, and implementing cultural competency training (Fredericks and Bargallie).</p> <p>As Barnwell correctly highlights, confronting white fears and anxieties must be the responsibility of white peoples. When feelings of shock or discomfort arise when in the company of Indigenous peoples, one must reflexively engage with the reasons behind this “fear of the dark” and consider that perhaps it is they who are self-segregating. Mohdin suggests that spaces highly populated by Black peoples are best thought of not as “black spaces” or “black communities”, but rather spaces where white peoples do not want to be. They stand as reminders of a failed colonial regime that sought to deny and dehumanise Indigenous peoples and cultures, as well as the continuation of Black resistance and sovereignty.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>In working towards improving relationships between Black and white populations, the truths of colonisation, and its continuing pervasiveness in local and global settings must first be confronted. In this article we have discussed the association of darkness with instinctual fears and negative responses to the unknown. White populations need to reflexively engage and critique how they think, act, present, address racism, and respond to Indigenous peoples (Bargallie; Moreton-Robinson; Whittaker), cultivating a “decolonising consciousness” (Bradfield) to develop new habits of thinking and relating. To overcome fears of the dark, we must confront that which remains unknown, and the questions left unasked. This means exposing racism and power imbalances, developing meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples, addressing structural change, and implementing alternative ways of knowing and doing. Only then may we begin to embody Megan Cope’s message, “I’m not afraid of the Dark”.</p> <h2><strong>Acknowledgements</strong></h2> <p>We thank Dr Debbie Bargallie for her feedback on our article, which strengthened the work. </p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p><em>ABC News</em>. "Coon Cheese Changes Name to Cheer Cheese, Pledging to 'Build a Culture of Acceptance'." 13 Jan. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-13/coon-cheese-changes-name-cheer-racist-slur-stephen-hagan/13053524">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-13/coon-cheese-changes-name-cheer-racist-slur-stephen-hagan/13053524</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Alter, Adam L., et al. 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DOI:10.1080/14623520601056240.</p> <p>Wong, Julia "The Year of Karen: How a Meme Changed the Way Americans Talked about Racism." <em>The Guardian</em>, 27 Dec. 2020. 15 Jan. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/27/karen-race-white-women-black-americans-racism">https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/27/karen-race-white-women-black-americans-racism</a>&gt;.</p> 2021-04-27T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Abraham Bradfield, Bronwyn Fredericks https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2756 Embodied Perceptions of Darkness 2021-03-10T22:13:00+00:00 Jess Hardley j.hardley@murdoch.edu.au <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>The past decade has seen a burgeoning new field titled “night studies” or “darkness studies” (Gwiazdzinski, Maggioli, and Straw). Key theorists Straw, Shaw, Dunn, and Edensor have spearheaded this new field, publishing a recent flurry of books and other scholarly work dedicated to various aspects of the night. Topics range, for instance, from the history of artificial lighting (Shaw), atmospheres of urban light and darkness (Sumartojo, Edensor, and Pink), street music and public space at night (Reia), the experience of eating in the dark (Edensor and Falconer), walking at night (Morris; Dunn), gendered experiences of the city at night (Hardley; Hardley and Richardson “Mobile Media”, “Mistrust”), and <a href="https://www.lonewomeninflashesofwilderness.com/">women’s solo experiences of the wilderness at night</a>.</p> <p>Contributing to this new field, this article considers some of the embodied ways mobile media have been deployed in the urban night. To date, this topic has not received much attention within the fields of mobile media or night studies. The research presented in this article draws on a qualitative research project conducted in Australia from 2016-2020. The project focussed on participants’ use of mobile media in urban spaces at night and conducted a specific analysis of pertinent gendered differences. Throughout my iterative and longitudinal research process, I engaged various phases of data collection to explore participants’ night-time mobile media practices, as well as to consider how darkness and the night impact networked practices in ways that speak to the postphenomenological concept of multistability (Ihde <em>Postphenomenology and Technoscience</em>). I highlight the empirical findings through a series of participant stories, exploring salient insights into embodied perceptions of darkness and various ways of co-opting mobile media practices in the urban night.</p> <h1><strong>Methods: Data Collection, Interpretation, and Representation</strong></h1> <p>My research took place in Perth and Melbourne from 2016-2020. A total of 98 individuals, aged 19 to 67 years, participated. Participants came from diverse backgrounds, including urban and rural Australia, Sweden, America, Ethiopia, Italy, Argentina, USA, and England. They were students, teachers, chefs, unemployed, stay-at-home-parents, miners, small business owners, retired, doctors, and government scientists. They identified across the sexuality and gender identity spectrums.</p> <p>My techniques for data collection were grouped into four main phases: (i) an initial survey; (ii) home visits, which included interviews, haptic experiments, observations, and my own situatedness in participants’ homes; (iii) geo-locative tracking and text messaging; and (iv) online follow-up interviews. The study was open to anyone who lived in Perth or Melbourne, was over 18 years old, and used a smartphone. All phases of the data collection were conducted during the day or at night, depending on participant availability.</p> <p>My focus on darkness and the night, in relation to mobile media, evolved over time. The first question regarding mobile media and the night was posed in 2016 during initial data collection, using an online survey to cast a wide net to gather insights on networked functionality afforded by mobile phones and perceptions of safety and risk in urban and domestic space. Participants frequently referred to the differences between day and night. During home visits and face-to-face interviews in 2017, as well as online interviews in 2020, I sought to gain deeper insights into participants’ sensory experiences of darkness and the night. My interpretation and representation of the data adopts a similar approach as vignettes, which are described by Berry in her book on creative practice and mobile media. For Berry, vignettes are a way of “braiding” (xv) accounts of participant experience together. My particular use of this approach has been published in detail elsewhere (Hardley and Richardson “Digital Placemaking”). </p> <h1><strong>Postphenomenology, Multistability,</strong> <strong>and Mobile Media</strong></h1> <p>Throughout this article I frame engagement with mobile media as a particular kind of body-technology relation. As the founder of postphenomenology, Ihde, writes, “technologies transform our experience of the world and our perceptions and interpretations of our world, and we in turn become transformed in this process” (<em>Postphenomenology and Technoscience </em>44). Ihde adapted phenomenology (from Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, and Heidegger) by shifting away from an essentialist body-subject to non-essentialist contextualisation. As Ihde explains (he uses archery longbows and arrows to make his point), all tools are the “same” in an abstract sense; however, “radically different practices fit differently into various contexts” (<em>Postphenomenology and Technoscience</em> 16). In other words, tools (including mobile media) are <em>never</em> neutral and are <em>always</em> multiple and variable depending on context and practice. All tools are therefore situated and embodied in culturally specific ways.</p> <p>Postphenomenological scholarship can, thus, be said to capture the cultural specificity of all human-technology relations. The following examples help illustrate this defining characteristic of postphenomenology, as distinct from phenomenology. It could be argued that Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological description of the blind man with his cane is an essentialist notion of what it’s like to experience blindness. On the other hand, Wellner’s postphenomenological description of using a mobile phone describes how the same technology can be used by different people in multiple ways, as people assign different meanings to the technology. This notion is best captured by the term multistability, which suggests each technology has numerous uses, applications and purposes.</p> <p>As Irwin explains, the term multistability—one of Ihde’s central concepts within postphenomenology—conveys the inherent adaptability and mutability of both bodies and media engagement, depending on the context or situatedness of a tool’s use. In the following sections, I first explore embodied perceptions of darkness and the night, and then explore how mobile media have modified participants’ embodied perception of darkness and how it informs their situated awareness of their urban surroundings. In terms of my research, this concerns how mobile media users embody their devices in an array of different ways, especially at night.</p> <h1><strong>“Feeling” the Night: Embodied Perceptions of Darkness</strong></h1> <p>Darkness, and the night, are not simply about the lack of vision. Indeed, while sensory perception in the dark, such as obscured vision and the heightening of other senses, comes into play, we also encounter the night through an enmeshed cultural relationship of darkness and danger. Shaw describes this relationship in the following way:</p> <blockquote> <p>darkness has been equated with danger: the night was a time when demons, criminals and others who presented a threat were imagined to be present in the landscape. Darkness was thus imagined as a space in which both real and mythical dangers were present. (“Controlling Darkness” 5)</p> </blockquote> <p>Chris, a young gay man living in a medium-sized town close to Melbourne, leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and laughed when I asked him if he has ever been scared of the dark. He responded:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Silence] Yeah! I have! Wow, what a funny question. [Laughter] I remember always checking my closet as a child before getting into bed. And the door had to be closed. I could not sleep if the closet door was open.</p> </blockquote> <p>When asked what he thought might be in the closet at night, he laughed again and shared:</p> <blockquote> <p>I have no idea. I don’t think I ever thought it was a person, just the unknown. How funny to think about that now—as a gay man I was scared of what might come out of the closet! [Laughter]</p> </blockquote> <p>Chris’s observation of his habitual childhood behaviour illustrates an embodied cultural imagery of darkness and the role of fear, anxieties and the unknown in the dark. He also spoke of “growing out of” his fantastical fear of the dark as he entered adulthood. This contrasts with what many women in my study described, noting their transition from childhood “fears of the dark” to very real and “felt” experiences of darkness and danger. This opened up a major finding in my research, and uncovered navigational and connectivity strategies often deployed by women in urban spaces at night (Hardley and Richardson “Mistrust”).</p> <p>For instance, Leah (a woman in her late 40s living in Perth), revealed her peripatetic engagement with the (sub)urban night when she described her cycling routes with her 8-year-old daughter. While talking with me via Zoom in 2020, she explained:</p> <blockquote> <p>I have an electric bike—it’s great. I can zip around the city and I have a kid’s seat on the back for my daughter. Sometimes I feel like a hybrid pedestrian—I can switch quickly between being on the road or the footpath. Recently, my daughter asked why we always take the long way home at night. I had to think quickly to come up with a response because I think she’s too young to know the truth. I told her that parks are often empty at night, so if something happens to us then there will be no one to help. In a way that’s true, but really, it’s because as a woman and a child it’s safer for us to remain on well-lit streets.</p> </blockquote> <p>Leah’s experience of the city and her mobility at night are distinctly gendered; she reflects on her experience as a “hybrid pedestrian” in relation to what <em>could</em> happen to her and her daughter if they were to ride through the park at night instead of remaining on the well-lit bike path. Overwhelmingly, the men who participated in my study did not share similar experiences or reflections.</p> <p>Introducing the embodiment of darkness and the night, along with associated fears and anxieties, in a general sense sets the atmospheric scene for a postphenomenological analysis of embodied experiences of the urban night and how users co-opt mobile media functionalities to manage their embodied experiences of the dark. Chris and Leah’s stories both suggest how we “feel” at night has important implications for the practical way(s) in which we engage, navigate and curate our experiences of the dark.</p> <p>In the following section, I consider how mobile devices are literally “handled”, particularly by women in the urban context, to mitigate fears and anxieties of the night. I contend that our embodied experience of the urban night is mediated by, and through, our collective and individual fears, anxieties and perceptions of danger in the dark.</p> <h1><strong>Co-opting Mobile Media: Multistable Experiences of the Urban Night </strong></h1> <p>Reflecting on his own practices of walking at night, Dunn writes,</p> <blockquote> <p>walking at night, however, offers something different, having the capacity to alter our ingrained, seemingly natural predispositions towards the urban surroundings, and our perceptions along with it. (9)</p> </blockquote> <p>Indeed, the night <em>can</em> offer a “capacity to alter”; however, I suggest that it <em>can</em> also reinforce anxieties and fears of the dark (both real and imagined). As such, walking at night can also reinforce “ingrained, seemingly natural predispositions”. Postphenomenology is useful here, as it offers a way to think through practices of what Ihde calls “amplification” and “reduction” of the corporeal schema. Through both actions, mobile media users habituate themselves or take up residence in the urban night by and through their use of smartphone functionalities, as well as their sense of networked connectivity.</p> <p>In the context of this article, the corporeal schema undergoes an amplification and reduction via the co-opting of mobile media, such as an embodied sense of networked connectivity or a tactile prop, to generate a “tele-cocoon” (Habuchi), “shield” (Verhoeff), or “bubble” (Bull <em>Sounding</em>). The corporeal schema can be understood as our lived experience of the world (Merleau-Ponty), whereby our “perceptual reach and bodily boundaries, is always-already extendible through artifacts and technologies” (Hardley and Richardson “Mistrust”). The digital cocoon afforded by mobile media is often gendered and overtly concerned with issues of personal safety and privacy, especially at night. For many women, generating an imagined boundary between the self and others in shared urban spaces is an important function of mobile media. As one Perth participant reflected,</p> <blockquote> <p>my phone’s a good distraction when I’m alone in a public place, especially at night if I’m waiting for someone. Sometimes guys will come up and try to start a conversation—it’s so annoying. If I focus on my phone, it’s like telling them to leave me alone.</p> </blockquote> <p>This tactical use of mobile media to carve out one’s own space in crowded social places was especially common among the women I interviewed. Yet, such practices are also deployed by men, albeit for different reasons. In Melbourne, Dane described the strategic use of his mobile phone as both a creative tool of connection and a means of communicating—especially to women at night—that he was non-threatening.</p> <p>As a proud late-adopter of smartphones, he explained to me that his main reason for buying one had been the camera function; he refers to his smartphone as “a camera that rings”. He particularly enjoys taking photos at night, during which time his familiar streets become “moody and strange”. He spends many hours walking in his neighbourhood, capturing shadows and uploading the images to his public Instagram account. Referring to his dark skin and shaved head, he joked, “I’d look great in a line-up” and added:</p> <blockquote> <p>sometimes I feel a bit self-conscious on the bus or train, particularly late at night, I think maybe I could seem like a threat or something. So, I’ll play a game or chat to friends about my photos via Instagram. I figure it works both ways—I don’t notice anyone and people don’t notice me.</p> </blockquote> <p>As these participant stories reveal, the personal privacy bubble offered by our mobile devices is co-opted differently. Turning to Ihde’s notion of multistability, these examples can be analysed and understood as mobile technologies’ potential variabilities with multiple outcomes (Ihde <em>Postphenomenology and Technoscience</em>). To explore and explain this further, I consider the following participant story in which Britta, an American living in Melbourne, reflected on her night-time pedestrian practices across two cities, sharing:</p> <blockquote> <p>at night, in Australia, my phone would be in my bra. In Philadelphia, it would be in my hand. It's totally different because of safety. When at University in the U.S., I would always talk to a friend while walking from one place to the next. It doesn't even cross my mind to do that in Australia. In Philadelphia, I would call one of the girls I lived with and if someone approached me, I could say, "Oh shit, I'm about to get mugged, this is where I am” and they could call the cops. It's a sense of being on guard. I would never walk using headphones in Philadelphia. In Australia, if I go running at night I listen to music with one earphone in.</p> </blockquote> <p>In this vignette, Britta has habituated an acute awareness of her corporeal schema. As Wellner suggests, “the world is always a negotiation between humans and their tools, their artifacts, their technology, and their devices” (5). In this context, Britta has an amplified awareness of her situatedness, and uses her mobile phone to listen to music in different ways depending on her geographical location. There is a direct connection to her use of headphones to listen to music and her embodied perception of personal safety at night.</p> <p>Turning to Ihde, this participant story can be explained through the term “non-neutrality”, which describes how “no technology is ‘one thing,’ nor is it incapable of belonging to multiple contexts” (Ihde <em>Technology and Prognostic</em> 47). Such an example points to the non-neutrality of mobile media, and how “our perception and environment are mediated by the technology” (Wellner 15).</p> <p>This analysis can be extended further to consider the use of headphones (as an extension of the mobile phone) and geographical location in relation to the concept of multistability—that is, the specificity of use. As Irwin writes, “how is it to be an earbudded body in the world? ... Earbuds are non-neutral and they are becoming deeply imbedded in daily life” (81). Indeed, Bull’s influential work on how personal stereos and iPods change users’ experiences of public spaces (<em>Sound Moves</em>) is useful here in understanding the background of what Irwin refers to as “keeping sound in and sound out” (81). It is, according to Irwin, “about privacy and isolation” (81); however, as Britta’s vignette shows, mobile media practices of privacy and isolation in urban spaces can be impacted by geographical location and urban darkness, and are also distinctly gendered.</p> <p>Applying the concept of multistability allows me to consider how, in some instances, mobile phones are often deployed as a proxy <em>Do Not Disturb </em>sign when alone in public (Hardley and Richardson “Mistrust”). While, in other instances, one’s embodied experience of being an earbudded body in the world can increase their perceptual sense of risk based on various factors, such as geographical location. Beyond this, it also speaks to the relational ontology between body and technology and the mutability of perception. In Britta’s example, her corporeal schema in the urban night is amplified by and through her personal and situated embodiment of mobile media use, particularly her decision to use headphones in specific ways depending on her geographical location.</p> <p>In 2017, I conducted a home visit with Dominique, a woman in her 30s living in Perth. During this visit, she reflected on her use of a Bluetooth earpiece, especially at night, sharing:</p> <blockquote> <p>I use a Bluetooth earpiece to talk over the phone. I also sometimes wear it at night even if I'm not on the phone or expecting a call as I can quickly request that Siri call someone for me without having to actually dig out my phone, unlock it and make the call. I prefer having my hands free. It can make me feel safer at night.</p> </blockquote> <p>Dominique’s description of having her mobile phone on standby can be understood as a habituated practice to overcome her anxieties of being alone at night in urban space, as well as to apprehend her sensory experience of the urban night by remaining “hands free”. Similar to Britta, Dominique’s embodiment in the urban night had become habituated and sedimented over time—or, in other words, “[a] force of habit” (Rosenberger and Verbeek 25). In this way, Dominique’s embodiment is configured depending on her contextual specificity, such as being alone in public spaces at night.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>This article contributes to the emerging interdisciplinary field of “night studies” and “darkness studies” by focusing on the relationship between mobile media practices and the urban night. I based my methods, including data collection, interpretation and representation, in a postphenomenological framework, and detailed how this framework is useful in reflecting deeply and critically on mobile media use at night. Drawing from the framework’s key concept of multistability, I suggest a particular analysis of how users co-opt mobile media functionalities in situationally unique and personal ways in the urban night. The ways in which users co-opt these functionalities are often gendered.</p> <p>I unpacked how some of my research participants deploy mobile media functions as a means of managing their fears and anxieties of darkness and the urban night, and suggest that such uses are always dependent on the users specific situatedness, both within urban spaces and toward other city dwellers. 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Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2012.</p> <p>Wellner, Galit. <em>A Postphenomenological Inquiry of Cell Phones: Genealogies, Meanings, and Becoming.</em> Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.</p> 2021-04-27T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Jess Hardley https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2764 Between, Behind, and Out of Sight 2021-03-31T01:18:04+00:00 Naomi Smith n.smith@federation.edu.au <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>I am on the phone with a journalist discussing my research into anti-vaccination. As the conversation winds up, they ask a question I have come to expect: "how big do you think this is?" My answer is usually some version of the following: that we have no way of knowing. I and my fellow researchers can only see the information that is public or in the sunlight. How anti-vaccination information spreads through private networks is dark to us. It is private and necessarily so. This means that we cannot track how these conversations spread in the private or parochial spaces of Facebook, nor can we consider how they might extend into other modes of mediated communication.</p> <p>Modern communication is a complex and multiplatform accomplishment. Consider this: I am texting with my friend, I send her a selfie, in the same moment I hear a notification, she has DMed me a relevant Instagram post via that app. I move to Instagram and share another post in response; we continue our text message conversation there. Later in the day, I message her on Facebook Messenger while participating in a mutual WhatsApp group chat. The next day we Skype, and while we talk, we send links back and forth, which in hindsight are as clear as hieroglyphics before the Rosetta stone. I comment on her Twitter post, and we publicly converse back and forth briefly while other people like our posts. None of these instances are discrete conversational events, even though they occur on different platforms.</p> <p>They are iterations on the same themes, and the archival properties of social media and private messaging apps mean that neither of you forgets where you left off. The conversation slides not only between platforms and contexts but in and out of visibility. Digitally mediated conversation hums in the background of daily life (boring meetings, long commutes and bad dates) and expands our understanding of the temporal and sequential limits of conversation.</p> <p>In this article, I will explore digitally-mediated cross-platform conversation as a problem in two parts, and how we can understand it as part of the 'dark social'. Specifically, I want to draw attention to how 'dark' online spaces are part of our everyday communicative practices and are not necessarily synonymous with the illicit, illegal, or deviant.</p> <p>I argue that the private conversations we have online are also part of the dark social web, insofar as they are hidden from the public eye. When I think of dark social spaces, I think of what lies beneath the surface of murky waters, what hides behind in backstage areas, and the moments between platforms. In contrast, 'light' (or public) social spaces are often perceived as siloed. The boundaries between these platforms are artificially clean and do not appear to leak into other spaces. This article explores the dark and shadowed spaces of online conversation and considers how we might approach them as researchers. Conversations occur in the backchannels of social media platforms, in private messaging functions that are necessarily invisible to the researcher's gaze. These spaces are distinct from the social media activity analysed by Marwick and boyd. Their research examining teens' privacy strategies on social media highlights how social media posts that multiple audiences may view often hold encoded meanings. Social media posts are a distinct and separate category of activity from meditated conversations that occur one to one, or in smaller group chat settings.</p> <p>Second is the disjunction <em>between</em> social media platforms. Users spread their activity across any number of social media platforms, according to social and personal logics. However, these movements are difficult to capture; it is difficult to see in the dark. Platforms are not hermeneutically sealed off from each other, or the broader web. I argue that understanding how conversation moves between platforms and in the backstage spaces of platforms are two parts of the same dark social puzzle.</p> <h1><strong>Conversation Online</strong></h1> <p>Digital media have changed how we maintain our social connections across time and space. Social media environments offer new possibilities for communication and engagement as well as new avenues for control. Calls and texts can be ignored, and our phones are often used as shields. Busying ourselves with them can help us avoid unwanted face-to-face conversations. There are a number of critiques regarding the pressure of always-on contact, and a growing body of research that examines how users negotiate these demands. By examining group messaging, Mannell highlights how the boundaries of these chats are porous and flexible and mark a distinct communicative break from previous forms of mobile messaging, which were largely didactic. The advent of group chats has also led to an increasing complication of conversation boundaries. One group chat may have several strands of conversation sporadically re-engaged with over time. Manell's examination of group chats empirically illustrates the complexity of digitally-mediated conversations as they move across private, parochial, and public spaces in a way that is not necessarily temporally linear.</p> <p>Further research highlights the networked nature of digitally mediated interpersonal communication and how conversations sprawl across multiple platforms (Burchell). Couldry (16, 17) describes this complex web as the media manifold. This concept encompasses the networked platforms that comprise it and refers to its embeddedness in daily life. As we no longer “log on” to the internet to send and receive email, the manifold is both everywhere and nowhere; so too are our conversations. Gershon has described the ways we navigate the communicative affordances of these platforms as “media ideologies" which are the "beliefs, attitudes, and strategies about the media they [individuals] use" (391). Media ideologies also contain implicit assumptions about which platforms are best for delivering which kinds of messages.</p> <p>Similarly, Burchell argues that the relational ordering of available media technologies is "highly idiosyncratic" (418). Burchell contends that this idiosyncratic ordering is interdependent and relational, and that norms about what to do when are both assumed by individuals and learnt in their engagement with others (418). The influence of others allows us to adjust our practices, or as Burchell argues, "to attune and regulate one's own conduct … and facilitate engagement despite the diverse media practices of others" (418). In this model, individuals are constantly learning and renegotiating norms of conversation on a case by case, platform by platform basis. However, I argue that it is more illuminating to consider how we have collectively developed an implicit and unconscious set of norms and signals that govern our (collective) conduct, as digitally mediated conversation has become embedded in our daily lives. This is not to say that everyone has the same conversational skill level, but rather that we have developed a common toolbox for understanding the ebb and flow of digitally mediated conversations across platforms. However, these norms are implicit, and we only have a partial understanding of how they are socially achieved in digitally-mediated conversation.</p> <h1><strong>What Lies Beneath </strong></h1> <p>Most of what we do online is assumed not to be publicly visible. While companies like Facebook trace us across the web and peer into every nook and cranny of our private use patterns, researchers have remained focussed on what lies above in the light, not below, in the dark. This has meant an overwhelming focus on single platform studies that rely on the massification of data as a default measure for analysing sentiment and behaviour online. Sociologically, we know that what occurs in dark social spaces, or backstage, is just as important to social life as what happens in front of an audience (Goffman). Goffman's research uses the metaphor of the theatre to analyse how social life is accomplished as a performance. He highlights that (darkened) backstage spaces are those where we can relax, drop our front, and reveal parts of our (social) self that may be unpalatable to a broader audience.</p> <p>Simply, the public data accessible to researchers on social media are “trace data”, or “trace conversation”, from the places where conversations briefly leave (public) footprints and can be tracked and traced before vanishing again. Alternatively, we can visualise internet researchers as swabbing door handles for trace evidence, attempting to assemble a narrative out of a left-behind thread or a stray fingerprint.</p> <p>These public utterances, often scraped through API access, are only small parts of the richness of online conversation. Conversations weave across multiple platforms, yet single platforms are focussed on, bracketing off their leaky edges in favour of certainty. We know the social rules <em>of </em>platforms, but less about the rules <em>between</em> platforms, and in their darker spaces.</p> <p>Conversations briefly emerge into the light, only to disappear again. Without understanding how conversation is achieved and how it expands and contracts and weaves in and out of the present, we are only ever guessing about the social dynamics of mediated conversation as they shift between light, dark, and shadow spaces. Small things can cast large shadows; something that looms large may be deceptively small. Online they could be sociality distorted by disinformation campaigns or swarms of social bots.</p> <h1><strong>Capturing the Unseen: An Ethnomethodological Approach</strong></h1> <p>Not all data are measurable, computable, and controllable. There is uncertainty beyond what computational logics can achieve. Nooks and crannies of sociality exist beyond the purview of computable data.</p> <p>This suggests that we can apply pre-digital social research methods to capture these “below the surface” conversations and understand their logics. Sociologists have long understood that conversation is a social accomplishment. In the 1960s, sociologist Harvey Sacks developed conversation analysis as an ethnomethodological technique that seeks to understand how social life is accomplished in day-to-day conversation and micro-interactions. Conversation analysis is a detailed and systematic account of how naturally-occurring talk is socially ordered, and has been applied across a number of social contexts, including news interviews, judicial settings, suicide prevention hotlines, therapy sessions, as well as regular phone conversations (Kitzinger and Frith).</p> <p>Conversation analysis focusses on fine-grained detail, all of the little patterns of speech that make up a conversation; for example, the pauses, interruptions, self-corrections, false starts, and over-speaking. Often these too are hidden features of conversation, understood implicitly, but hovering on the edges of our social knowledge. One of the most interesting uses of conversational analysis is to understand refusal, that is, how we say 'no' as a social action. This body of research turns common-sense social knowledge – that saying no is socially difficult – into a systemic schema of social action. For instance, acceptance is easy to achieve; saying yes typically happens quickly and without hesitation. Acceptances are not qualified; a straightforward 'yes' is sufficient (Kitzinger and Frith). However, refusals are much more socially complex. Refusal is usually accomplished by apologies, compliments, and other palliative strategies that seek to cushion the blow of refusals. They are delayed and indirect conversational routes, indicating their status as a dispreferred social action, necessitating their accompaniment by excuses or explanations (Kitzinger and Frith). Research by Kitzinger and Frith, examining how women refuse sexual advances, illustrates that we all have a stock of common-sense knowledge about how refusals are typically achieved, which persists across various social contexts, including in our intimate relationships.</p> <p>Conversation analysis shows us how conversation is achieved and how we understand each other. To date, conversation analysis techniques have been applied to spoken conversation but not yet extended into text-based mediated conversation. I argue that we could apply insights from conversation analysis to understand the rules that govern digitally mediated conversation, how conversation moves in the spaces between platforms, and the rules that govern its emergence into public visibility. What rules shape the success of mediated communication? How can we understand it as a social achievement? When conversation analysis walks into the dark room it can be like turning on the light.</p> <p>How can we apply conversation analysis, usually concerned with the hidden aspects of plainly visible talk, to conversation in dark social spaces, across platforms and in private back channels? There is evidence that the norms of refusal, as highlighted by conversation analysis, are persistent across platforms, including in people's private digitally-mediated conversations. One of the ways in which we can identify these norms in action is by examining technology resistance. Relational communication via mobile device is pervasive (Hall and Baym). The concentration of digitally-mediated communication into smartphones means that conversational norms are constantly renegotiated, alongside expectations of relationship maintenance in voluntary social relationships like friendship (Hall and Baym). Mannell also explains that technology resistance can include lying by text message when explaining non-availability. These small, habitual, and often automatic lies are categorised as “butler lies” and are a polite way of achieving refusal in digitally mediated conversations that are analogous to how refusal is accomplished in face-to-face conversation. Refusals, rejections, and, by extension, unavailability appear to be accompanied by the palliative actions that help us achieve refusal in face-to-face conversation. Mannell identifies strategies such as “feeling ill” to explain non-availability without hurting others' feelings. Insights from conversation analysis suggest that on balance, it is likely that all parties involved in both the furnishing and acceptance of a butler lie understand that these are polite fabrications, much like the refusals in verbal conversation.</p> <p>Because of their invisibility, it is easy to assume that conversations in the dark social are chaotic and disorganised. However, there are tantalising hints that the reverse is true. Instead of arguing that individuals construct conversational norms on a case by case, platform by platform basis, I suggest that we now have a stock of common-sense social knowledge that we also apply to cross-platform mediated communication. In the spaces where gaps in this knowledge exist, Szabla and Blommaert argue that actors use existing norms of interactions and can navigate a range of interaction events even in online environments where we would expect to see a degree of context collapse and interactional disorganisation.</p> <h1><strong>Techniques of Detection </strong></h1> <p>How do we see in the dark? Some nascent research suggests a way forward that will help us understand the rhythms of cross-platform mediated conversation. Apps have been used to track participants' messaging and calling activities (Birnholtz, Davison, and Li). This research found a number of patterns that signal a user's attention or inattention, including response times and linguistic clues. Similarly, not-for-profit newsroom <em>The Markup</em> built a Facebook inspector called the citizen browser, a "standalone desktop application that was distributed to a panel of more than 1000 paid participants" (Mattu et al.). The application works by being connected to a participant's Facebook account and periodically capturing data from their Facebook feeds. The data is automatically deidentified but is still linked to the demographic information that participants provide about themselves, such as gender, race, location, and age. Applications like these point to how researchers might reliably collect interaction data from Facebook to glimpse into the hidden networks and interactions that drive conversation. User-focussed data collection methods also help us, as researchers, to sever our reliance on API access. API-reliant research is dependent on the largesse of social media companies for continued access and encourages research on the macro at the micro's expense. After all, social media and other digital platforms are partly constituted by the social acts of their users. Without speech acts that constitute mediated conversation, liking, sharing GIFs, and links, as well as the gaps and silences, digital platforms cease to exist. Digital platforms are not just archives of “big data”, but rather they are collections of speech and records of how our common-sense knowledge about how to communicate has stretched and expanded beyond face-to-face contexts.</p> <h1><strong>A Problem of Bots</strong></h1> <p>Ethnomethodological approaches have been critiqued as focussing too much on the small details of conversation, on nit-picking small details, and thus, as unable to comment on macro social issues of oppression and inequality (Kitzinger and Frith 311). However, understanding digitally-mediated conversation through the lens of talk-as-human-interaction may help us untangle our most pressing social problems across digital platforms.</p> <p>Extensive research examines platforms such as Twitter for “inauthentic” behaviour, primarily identifying which accounts are bots. Bots accounts are programmed Twitter accounts (for example) that automatically tweet information on political or contentious issues, while mimicking genuine engagement. Bots can reply to direct messages too; they converse with us as they are programmed to act as “humanly” as possible.</p> <p>Despite this, there are patterns of behaviour and engagement that distinguish programmed bot accounts, and a number of platforms are dedicated to their detection. However, bots are becoming increasingly sophisticated and better able to mimic “real” human engagement online. But there is as yet no systematic framework regarding what “real” digitally mediated conversation looks like. An ethnomethodological approach to understanding this would better equip platforms to understand inauthentic activity. As Yang and colleagues succinctly state, "a supervised machine learning tool is only as good as the data used for its training … even the most advanced [bot detection] algorithms will fail with outdated training datasets" (8).</p> <p>On the flipside, organisations are using chat bots to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy and assist people in moments of psychological distress. But the bots do not feel human; they reply instantly to any message sent. Some require responses in the form of emojis. The basis of therapy is talk. Understanding more accurately how naturally-occurring talk functions in online spaces could create more sensitive and genuinely therapeutic tools.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion </strong></h1> <p>It is easy to forget that social media have largely mainstreamed over the last decade; in this decade, crucial social norms about how we converse online have developed. These norms allow us to navigate our conversations, with intimate friends and strangers alike across platforms, both in and out of public view, in ways that are often temporally non-sequential. Dark social spaces are a matter of intense marketing interest. Advertising firm <em>Disruptive Advertising</em> identified the very spaces that are the focus of this article as “dark social”: messaging apps, direct messaging, and native mobile apps facilitate user activity that is "not as easily controlled nor tracked". Dark social traffic continues to grow, yet our understanding of why, how, and for whom trails behind.</p> <p>To make sense of our social world, which is increasingly indistinguishable from online activity, we need to examine the spaces between and behind platforms, and how they co-mingle. Where are the spaces where the affordances of multiple platforms and technologies scrape against each other in uncomfortable ways? How do users achieve intelligible conversation not just because of affordances, but despite them? Focussing on micro-sociological encounters and conversations may also help us understand what could build a healthy online ecosystem. How are consensus and agreement achieved online? What are the persistent speech acts (or text acts) that signal when consensus is achieved?</p> <p>To begin where I started, to understand the scope and power of anti-vaccination sentiment, we need to understand how it is shared and discussed in dark social spaces, in messaging applications, and other backchannel spaces. Taking an ethnomethodological approach to these conversational interactions could also help us determine how misinformation is refused, accepted, and negotiated in mediated conversation. Focussing on “dark conversation” will help us more richly understand our social world and add much needed insight into some of our pressing social problems.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Burchell, Kenzie. "Everyday Communication Management and Perceptions of Use: How Media Users Limit and Shape Their Social World." <em>Convergence</em> 23.4 (2017): 409–24.</p> <p>Couldry, Nick. <em>Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice</em>. Polity, 2012.</p> <p>Goffman, Erving. <em>The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life</em>. Penguin, 1990.</p> <p>Gershon, Ilana. <em>The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media</em>. Cornell University Press, 2010.</p> <p>Hall, Jeffrey A., and Nancy K. Baym. "Calling and Texting (Too Much): Mobile Maintenance Expectations, (Over)dependence, Entrapment, and Friendship Satisfaction." <em>New Media &amp; Society</em> 14.2 (2012): 316–31.</p> <p>Hall, Margaret, et al. "Editorial of the Special Issue on Following User Pathways: Key Contributions and Future Directions in Cross-Platform Social Media Research." <em>International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction</em> 34.10 (2018): 895–912.</p> <p>Kitzinger, Celia, and Hannah Frith. "Just Say No? The Use of Conversation Analysis in Developing a Feminist Perspective on Sexual Refusal." <em>Discourse &amp; Society</em> 10.3 (1999): 293–316.</p> <p>Ling, Rich. "Soft Coercion: Reciprocal Expectations of Availability in the Use of Mobile Communication." <em>First Monday</em>, 2016.</p> <p>Mannell, Kate. "A Typology of Mobile Messaging's Disconnective Affordances." <em>Mobile Media &amp; Communication</em> 7.1 (2019): 76–93.</p> <p>———. "Plural and Porous: Reconceptualising the Boundaries of Mobile Messaging Group Chats." <em>Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication</em> 25.4 (2020): 274–90.</p> <p>Marwick, Alice E., and danah boyd. "Networked Privacy: How Teenagers Negotiate Context in Social Media." <em>New Media &amp; Society</em> 16.7 (2014): 1051–67.</p> <p>Mattu, Surya, Leon Yin, Angie Waller, and Jon Keegan. "How We Built a Facebook Inspector."<em> The Markup</em> 5 Jan. 2021. 9 Mar. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://themarkup.org/citizen-browser/2021/01/05/how-we-built-a-facebook-inspector">https://themarkup.org/citizen-browser/2021/01/05/how-we-built-a-facebook-inspector</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Sacks, Harvey. <em>Lectures on Conversation: Volumes I and II</em>. Ed. Gail Jefferson. Blackwell, 1995.</p> <p>Szabla, Malgorzata, and Jan Blommaert. "Does Context Really Collapse in Social Media Interaction?" <em>Applied Linguistics Review</em> 11.2 (2020): 251–79.</p> 2021-04-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Naomi Smith https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2750 In the Shadow of Platforms 2021-03-16T09:44:48+00:00 Ashlin Lee ashlin.lee@utas.edu.au <h1>Introduction</h1> <p>This article explores the changing relational quality of “the shadow of hierarchy”, in the context of the merging of platforms with infrastructure as the source of the shadow of hierarchy. In governance and regulatory studies, the shadow of hierarchy (or variations thereof), describes the space of influence that hierarchal organisations and infrastructures have (Héritier and Lehmkuhl; Lance et al.). A shift in who/what casts the shadow of hierarchy will necessarily result in changes to the attendant relational values, logics, and (techno)socialities that constitute the shadow, and a new arrangement of shadow that presents new challenges and opportunities. This article reflects on relevant literature to consider two different ways the shadow of hierarchy has qualitatively changed as platforms, rather than infrastructures, come to cast the shadow of hierarchy – an increase in scalability; and new socio-technical arrangements of (non)participation – and the opportunities and challenges therein. The article concludes that more concerted efforts are needed to design the shadow, given a seemingly directionless desire to enact data-driven solutions.</p> <h1>The Shadow of Hierarchy, Infrastructures, and Platforms</h1> <p>The shadow of hierarchy refers to how institutional, infrastructural, and organisational hierarchies create a relational zone of influence over a particular space. This commonly refers to executive decisions and legislation created by nation states, which are cast over private and non-governmental actors (Héritier and Lehmkuhl, 2). Lance et al. (252–53) argue that the shadow of hierarchy is a productive and desirable thing. Exploring the shadow of hierarchy in the context of how geospatial data agencies govern their data, Lance et al. find that the shadow of hierarchy enables the networked governance approaches that agencies adopt. This is because operating in the shadow of institutions provides authority, confers bureaucratic legitimacy and top-down power, and offers financial support. The darkness of the shadow is thus less a moral or ethicopolitical statement (such as that suggested by Fisher and Bolter, who use the idea of darkness to unpack the morality of tourism involving death and human suffering), and instead a relationality; an expression of differing values, logics, and (techno)socialities internal and external to those infrastructures and institutions that cast it (Gehl and McKelvey). The shadow of hierarchy might therefore be thought of as a field of relational influences and power that a social body casts over society, by virtue of a privileged position <em>vis-a-vis</em> society. It modulates society’s “light”; the resources (Bourdieu) and power relationships (Foucault) that run through social life, as parsed through a certain institutional and infrastructural worldview (the thing that blocks the light to create the shadow). In this way the shadow of hierarchy is not a field of absolute blackness that obscures, but instead a gradient of light and dark that creates certain effects.</p> <p>The shadow of hierarchy is now, however, also being cast by decentralised, privately held, and non-hierarchal platforms that are replacing or merging with public infrastructure, creating new social effects. Platforms are digital, socio-technical systems that create relationships between different entities. They are most commonly built around a relatively fixed core function (such as a social media service like Facebook), that then interacts with a peripheral set of complementors (advertising companies and app developers in the case of social media; Baldwin and Woodard), to create new relationships, forms of value, and other interactions (van Dijck, <em>The Culture of Connectivity</em>). In creating these relationships, platforms become inherently political (Gillespie), shaping relationships and content on the platform (Suzor) and in embodied life (Ajunwa; Eubanks). While platforms are often associated with optional consumer platforms (such as streaming services like Spotify), they have increasingly come to occupy the place of public infrastructure, and act as a powerful enabler to different socio-technical, economic, and political relationships (van Dijck, <em>Governing Digital Societies)</em>. For instance, Plantin et al. argue that platforms have merged with infrastructures, and that once publicly held and funded institutions and essential services now share many characteristics with for-profit, privately held platforms. For example, Australia has had a long history of outsourcing employment services (Webster and Harding), and nearly privatised its entire visa processing data infrastructure (Jenkins). Platforms therefore have a greater role in casting the shadow of hierarchy than before. In doing so, they cast a shadow that is qualitatively different, modulated through a different set of relational values and (techno)socialities.</p> <h1>Scalability</h1> <p>A key difference and selling point of platforms is their scalability; since they can rapidly and easily up- and down-scale their functionalities in a way that traditional infrastructure cannot (Plantin et al.). The ability to respond “on-demand” to infrastructural requirements has made platforms the go-to service delivery option in the neo-liberalised public infrastructure environment (van Dijck, <em>Governing Digital Societies</em>). For instance, services providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure provide on demand computing capacity for many nations’ most valuable services, including their intelligence and security capabilities (Amoore, <em>Cloud Ethics</em>; Konkel). The value of such platforms to government lies in the reduced cost and risk that comes with using rented capabilities, and the enhanced flexibility to increase or decrease their usage as required, without any of the economic sunk costs attached to owning the infrastructure. Scalability is, however, not just about on-demand technical capability, but about how platforms can change the scale of socio-technical relationships and services that are mediated through the platform. This changes the relational quality of the shadow of hierarchy, as activities and services occurring within the shadow are now connected into a larger and rapidly modulating scale.</p> <p>Scalability allows the shadow of hierarchy to extend from those in proximity to institutions to the broader population in general. For example, individual citizens can more easily “reach up” into governmental services and agencies as a part of completing their everyday business through platform such as MyGov in Australia (Services Australia). Using a smartphone application, citizens are afforded a more personalised and adaptive experience of the welfare state, as engaging with welfare services is no-longer tied to specific “brick-and-mortar” locations, but constantly available through a smartphone app and web portal. Multiple government services including healthcare and taxation are also connected to this platform, allowing users to reach across multiple government service domains to complete their personal business, seeking information and services that would have once required separate communications with different branches of government. The individual’s capacities to engage with the state have therefore upscaled with this change in the shadow, retaining a productivity and capacity enhancing quality that is reminiscent of older infrastructures and institutions, as the individual and their lived context is brought closer to the institutions themselves.</p> <p>Scale, however, comes with complications. The fundamental driver for scalability and its adaptive qualities is datafication. This means individuals and organisations are inflecting their operational and relational logics with the logic of datafication: a need to capture all data, at all times (van Dijck, <em>Datafication</em>; Fourcade and Healy). Platforms, especially privately held platforms, benefit significantly from this, as they rely on data to drive and refine their algorithmic tools, and ultimately create actionable intelligence that benefits their operations. Thus, scalability allows platforms to better “reach down” into individual lives and different social domains to fuel their operations. For example, as public transport services become increasingly datafied into mobility-as-a-service (MAAS) systems, ride sharing and on-demand transportation platforms like Uber and Lyft become incorporated into the public transport ecosystem (Lyons et al.). These platforms capture geospatial, behavioural, and reputational data from users and drivers during their interactions with the platform (Rosenblat and Stark; Attoh et al.). This generates additional value, and profits, for the platform itself with limited value returned to the user or the broader public it supports, outside of the transport service. It also places the platform in a position to gain wider access to the population and their data, by virtue of operating as a part of a public service.</p> <p>In this way the shadow of hierarchy may exacerbate inequity. The (dis)benefits of the shadow of hierarchy become unevenly spread amongst actors within its field, a function of an increased scalability that connects individuals into much broader assemblages of datafication. For Eubank, this can entrench existing economic and social inequalities by forcing those in need to engage with digitally mediated welfare systems that rely on distant and opaque computational judgements. Local services are subject to increased digital surveillance, a removal of agency from frontline advocates, and algorithmic judgement at scale. More fortunate citizens are also still at risk, with Nardi and Ekbia arguing that many digitally scaled relationships are examples of “heteromation”, whereby platforms convince actors in the platform to labour for free, such as through providing ratings which establish a platform’s reputational economy. Such labour fuels the operation of the platform through exploiting users, who become both a product/resource (as a source of data for third party advertisers) and a performer of unrewarded digital labour, such as through providing user reviews that help guide a platform’s algorithm(s). Both these examples represent a particularly disconcerting outcome for the shadow of hierarchy, which has its roots in public sector institutions who operate for a common good through shared and publicly held infrastructure. In shifting towards platforms, especially privately held platforms, value is transmitted to private corporations and not the public or the commons, as was the case with traditional infrastructure. The public also comes to own the risks attached to platforms if they become tied to public services, placing a further burden on the public if the platform fails, while reaping none of the profit and value generated through datafication. This is a poor bargain at best.</p> <h1>(Non)Participation</h1> <p>Scalability forms the basis for a further predicament: a changing socio-technical dynamic of (non)participation between individuals and services. According to Star (118), infrastructures are defined through their relationships to a given context. These relationships, which often exist as boundary objects between different communities, are “loosely structured in common use, and become tightly bound in particular locations” (Star, 118). While platforms are certainly boundary objects and relationally defined, the affordances of cloud computing have enabled a decoupling from physical location, and the operation of platforms across time and space through distributed digital nodes (smartphones, computers, and other localised hardware) and powerful algorithms that sort and process requests for service. This does not mean location is not important for the cloud (see Amoore, <em>Cloud Geographies</em>), but platforms are less likely to have a physically co-located presence in the same way traditional infrastructures had. Without the same institutional and infrastructural footprint, the modality for participating in and with the shadow of hierarchy that platforms cast becomes qualitatively different and predicated on digital intermediaries.</p> <p>Replacing a physical and human footprint with algorithmically supported and decentralised computing power allows scalability and some efficiency improvements, but it also removes taken-for-granted touchpoints for contestation and recourse. For example, ride-sharing platform Uber operates globally, and has expressed interest in operating in complement to (and perhaps in competition with) public transport services in some cities (Hall et al.; Conger). Given that Uber would come to operate as a part of the shadow of hierarchy that transport authorities cast over said cities, it would not be unreasonable to expect Uber to be subject to comparable advocacy, adjudication, transparency, and complaint-handling requirements. Unfortunately, it is unclear if this would be the case, with examples suggesting that Uber would use the scalability of its platform to avoid these mechanisms. This is revealed by ongoing legal action launched by concerned Uber drivers in the United Kingdom, who have sought access to the profiling data that Uber uses to manage and monitor its drivers (Sawers). The challenge has relied on transnational law (the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation), with UK-based drivers lodging claims in Amsterdam to initiate the challenge. Such costly and complex actions are beyond the means of many, but demonstrate how reasonable participation in socio-technical and governance relationships (like contestations) might become limited, depending on how the shadow of hierarchy changes with the incorporation of platforms. </p> <p>Even if legal challenges for transparency are successful, they may not produce meaningful change. For instance, O’Neil links algorithmic bias to mathematical shortcomings in the variables used to measure the world; in the creation of irritational feedback loops based on incorrect data; and in the use of unsound data analysis techniques. These three factors contribute to inequitable digital metrics like predictive policing algorithms that disproportionately target racial minorities. Large amounts of selective data on minorities create myopic algorithms that direct police to target minorities, creating more selective data that reinforces the spurious model. These biases, however, are persistently inaccessible, and even when visible are often unintelligible to experts (Ananny and Crawford). The visibility of the technical “installed base” that support institutions and public services is therefore not a panacea, especially when the installed base (un)intentionally obfuscates participation in meaningful engagement like complaints handling. </p> <p>A negative outcome is, however, also not an inevitable thing. It is entirely possible to design platforms to allow individual users to scale up and have opportunities for enhanced participation. For instance, eGovernance and mobile governance literature have explored how citizens engage with state services at scale (Thomas and Streib; Foth et al.), and the open government movement has demonstrated the effectiveness of open data in understanding government operations (Barns; Janssen et al.), although these both have their challenges (Chadwick; Dawes). It is not a fantasy to imagine alternative configurations of the shadow of hierarchy that allow more participatory relationships. Open data could facilitate the governance of platforms at scale (Box et al.), where users are enfranchised into a platform by some form of membership right and given access to financial and governance records, in the same way that corporate shareholders are enfranchised, facilitated by the same app that provides a service. This could also be extended to decision making through voting and polling functions. Such a governance form would require radically different legal, business, and institutional structures to create and enforce this arrangement. Delacoix and Lawrence, for instance, suggest that data trusts, where a trustee is assigned legal and fiduciary responsibility to achieve maximum benefit for a specific group’s data, can be used to negotiate legal and governance relationships that meaningfully benefit the users of the trust. Trustees can be instructed to only share data to services whose algorithms are regularly audited for bias and provide datasets that are accurate representations of their users, for instance, avoiding erroneous proxies that disrupt algorithmic models. While these developments are in their infancy, it is not unreasonable to reflect on such endeavours now, as the technologies to achieve these are already in use.</p> <h1>Conclusions</h1> <p>There is a persistent myth that data will yield better, faster, more complete results in whatever field it is applied (Lee and Cook; Fourcade and Healy; Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier; Kitchin). This myth has led to data-driven assemblages, including artificial intelligence, platforms, surveillance, and other data-technologies, being deployed throughout social life. The public sector is no exception to this, but the deployment of any technological solution within the traditional institutions of the shadow of hierarchy is fraught with challenges, and often results in failure or unintended consequences (Henman). The complexity of these systems combined with time, budgetary, and political pressures can create a contested environment. It is this environment that moulds societies' light and resources to cast the shadow of hierarchy. Relationality within a shadow of hierarchy that reflects the complicated and competing interests of platforms is likely to present a range of unintended social consequences that are inherently emergent because they are entering into a complex system – society – that is extremely hard to model. The relational qualities of the shadow of hierarchy are therefore now more multidimensional and emergent, and experiences relating to socio-technical features like scale, and as a follow-on (non)participation, are evidence of this.</p> <p>Yet by being emergent, they are also directionless, a product of complex systems rather than designed and strategic intent. This is not an inherently bad thing, but given the potential for data-system and platforms to have negative or unintended consequences, it is worth considering whether remaining directionless is the best outcome. There are many examples of data-driven systems in healthcare (Obermeyer et al.), welfare (Eubanks; Henman and Marston), and economics (MacKenzie), having unintended and negative social consequences. Appropriately guiding the design and deployment of theses system also represents a growing body of knowledge and practical endeavour (Jirotka et al.; Stilgoe et al.). Armed with the knowledge of these social implications, constructing an appropriate <em>social architecture </em>(Box and Lemon; Box et al.) around the platforms and data systems that form the shadow of hierarchy should be encouraged. This social architecture should account for the affordances and emergent potentials of a complex social, institutional, economic, political, and technical environment, and should assist in guiding the shadow of hierarchy away from egregious challenges and towards meaningful opportunities. </p> <p>To be directionless is an opportunity to take a new direction. The intersection of platforms with public institutions and infrastructures has moulded society’s light into an evolving and emergent shadow of hierarchy over many domains. With the scale of the shadow changing, and shaping participation, who benefits and who loses out in the shadow of hierarchy is also changing. 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Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.</p> <p>Webster, Elizabeth, and Glenys Harding. “Outsourcing Public Employment Services: The Australian Experience.” <em>Australian Economic Review</em> 34.2 (2001): 231-42.</p> 2021-04-27T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Ashlin Lee https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2758 Darkness, Datafication, and Provenance as an Illuminating Methodology 2021-03-18T21:27:05+00:00 Suneel Jethani Suneel.jethani@uts.edu.au Robbie Fordyce robbie.fordyce@monash.edu <blockquote> <p>Data are generated and employed for many ends, including governing societies, managing organisations, leveraging profit, and regulating places. In all these cases, data are key inputs into systems that paradoxically are implemented in the name of making societies more secure, safe, competitive, productive, efficient, transparent and accountable, yet do so through processes that monitor, discipline, repress, coerce, and exploit people. (Kitchin, 165)</p> </blockquote> <h1>Introduction</h1> <p>Provenance refers to the place of origin or earliest known history of a thing. It refers to the custodial history of objects. It is a term that is commonly used in the art-world but also has come into the language of other disciplines such as computer science. It has also been applied in reference to the transactional nature of objects in supply chains and circular economies. In an interview with Scotland’s Institute for Public Policy Research, Adam Greenfield suggests that provenance has a role to play in the “establishment of reliability” given that a “transaction or artifact has a specified provenance, then that assertion can be tested and verified to the satisfaction of all parities” (Lawrence).</p> <p>Recent debates on the unrecognised effects of digital media have convincingly argued that data is fully embroiled within capitalism, but it is necessary to remember that data is more than just a transactable commodity. One challenge in bringing processes of datafication into critical light is how we understand what happens to data from its point of acquisition to the point where it becomes instrumental in the production of outcomes that are of ethical concern. All data gather their meaning through relationality; whether acting as a representation of an exterior world or representing relations between other data points. Data <em>objectifies</em> relations, and despite any higher-order complexities, at its core, data is involved in <em>factualising</em> a relation into a binary. Assumptions like these about data shape reasoning, decision-making and evidence-based practice in private, personal and economic contexts.</p> <p>If processes of datafication are to be better understood, then we need to seek out conceptual frameworks that are adequate to the way that data is used and understood by its users. Deborah Lupton suggests that often we give data “other vital capacities because they are about human life itself, have implications for human life opportunities and livelihoods, [and] can have recursive effects on human lives (shaping action and concepts of embodiment ... selfhood [and subjectivity]) and generate economic value”.</p> <p>But when data are afforded such capacities, the analysis of its politics also calls for us to “consider context” and “making the labour [of datafication] visible” (D’Ignazio and Klein). For Jenny L. Davis, getting beyond simply thinking about <em>what</em> data affords involves bringing to light <em>how</em> continually and dynamically to <em>requests</em>, <em>demands</em>, <em>encourages</em>, <em>discourages</em>, and <em>refuses</em> certain operations and interpretations. It is in this re-orientation of the question from <em>what</em> to <em>how </em>where “practical analytical tool[s]” (Davis) can be found. Davis writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>requests and demands are bids placed by technological objects, on user-subjects. Encourage, discourage and refuse are the ways technologies respond to bids user-subjects place upon them. Allow pertains equally to bids from technological objects and the object’s response to user-subjects. (Davis)</p> </blockquote> <p>Building on Lupton, Davis, and D’Ignazio and Klein, we see three principles that we consider crucial for work on data, darkness and light:</p> <ol> <li>data is not simply a technological object that exists within sociotechnical systems without having undergone any priming or processing, so as a consequence the data collecting entity imposes standards and way of imagining data before it comes into contact with user-subjects;</li> <li>data is not neutral and does not possess qualities that make it equivalent to the things that it comes to represent;</li> <li>data is partial, situated, and contingent on technical processes, but the outcomes of its use afford it properties beyond those that are purely informational.</li> </ol> <p>This article builds from these principles and traces a framework for investigating the complications arising when data moves from one context to another. We draw from the “data provenance” as it is applied in the computing and informational sciences where it is used to query the location and accuracy of data in databases. In developing “data provenance”, we adapt provenance from an approach that solely focuses on technical infrastructures and material processes that move data from one place to another and turn to sociotechnical, institutional, and discursive forces that bring about data acquisition, sharing, interpretation, and re-use. As data passes through open, opaque, and darkened spaces within sociotechnical systems, we argue that provenance can shed light on gaps and overlaps in technical, legal, ethical, and ideological forms of data governance. Whether data becomes exclusive by moving from light to dark (as has happened with the removal of many pages and links from Facebook around the Australian news revenue-sharing bill), or is publicised by shifting from dark to light (such as the Australian government releasing investigative journalist Andie Fox’s welfare history to the press), or even recontextualised from one dark space to another (as with genetic data shifting from medical to legal contexts, or the theft of personal financial data), there is still a process of transmission here that we can assess and critique through provenance. These different modalities, which guide data acquisition, sharing, interpretation, and re-use, cascade and influence different elements and apparatuses within data-driven sociotechnical systems to different extents depending on context. Attempts to illuminate and make sense of these complex forces, we argue, exposes data-driven practices as inherently political in terms of whose interests they serve.</p> <h1>Provenance in Darkness and in Light</h1> <p>When processes of data capture, sharing, interpretation, and re-use are obscured, it impacts on the extent to which we might retrospectively examine cases where malpractice in responsible data custodianship and stewardship has occurred, because it makes it difficult to see how things have been rendered real and knowable, changed over time, had causality ascribed to them, and to what degree of confidence a decision has been made based on a given dataset. To borrow from this issue’s concerns, the paradigm of dark spaces covers a range of different kinds of valences on the idea of private, secret, or exclusive contexts. We can parallel it with the idea of ‘light’ spaces, which equally holds a range of different concepts about what is open, public, or accessible. For instance, in the use of social data garnered from online platforms, the practices of academic researchers and analysts working in the private sector often fall within a grey zone when it comes to consent and transparency. Here the binary notion of public and private is complicated by the passage of data from light to dark (and back to light). Writing in a different context, Michael Warner complicates the notion of publicness. He observes that the idea of something being public is in and of itself always sectioned off, divorced from being fully generalisable, and it is “just whatever people in a given context think it is” (11). Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that publicness is already shadowed by an idea of state ownership, leaving us in a situation where public and private already both sit on the same side of the propertied/commons divide as if the “only alternative to the private is the public, that is, what is managed and regulated by states and other governmental authorities” (vii). The same can be said about the way data is conceived as a public good or common asset.</p> <p>These ideas of light and dark are useful categorisations for deliberately moving past the tensions that arise when trying to qualify different subspecies of privacy and openness. The problem with specific linguistic dyads of private vs. public, or open vs. closed, and so on, is that they are embedded within legal, moral, technical, economic, or rhetorical distinctions that already involve normative judgements on whether such categories are appropriate or valid. Data may be located in a dark space for legal reasons that fall under the legal domain of ‘private’ or it may be dark because it has been stolen. It may simply be inaccessible, encrypted away behind a lost password on a forgotten external drive. Equally, there are distinctions around lightness that can be glossed – the openness of Open Data (see: <a href="http://theodi.org">theodi.org</a>) is of an entirely separate category to the AACS encryption key, which was illegally but enthusiastically shared across the internet in 2007 to the point where it is now accessible on Wikipedia. The language of light and dark spaces allows us to cut across these distinctions and discuss in deliberately loose terms the degree to which something is accessed, with any normative judgments reserved for the cases themselves.</p> <p>Data provenance, in this sense, can be used as a methodology to critique the way that data is recontextualised from light to dark, dark to light, and even within these distinctions. Data provenance critiques the way that data is presented as if it were “there for the taking”. This also suggests that when data is used for some or another secondary purpose – generally for value creation – some form of closure or darkening is to be expected. Data in the public domain is more than simply a specific informational thing: there is always context, and this contextual specificity, we argue, extends far beyond anything that can be captured in a metadata schema or a licensing model. Even the transfer of data from one open, public, or light context to another will evoke new degrees of openness and luminosity that should not be assumed to be straightforward. And with this a new set of relations between data-user-subjects and stewards emerges.</p> <p>The movement of data between public and private contexts by virtue of the growing amount of personal information that is generated through the traces left behind as people make use of increasingly digitised services going about their everyday lives means that data-motile processes are constantly occurring behind the scenes – in darkness – where it comes into the view, or possession, of third parties without obvious mechanisms of consent, disclosure, or justification. Given that there are “many hands” (D’Iganzio and Klein) involved in making data portable between light and dark spaces, equally there can be diversity in the approaches taken to generate critical literacies of these relations. There are two complexities that we argue are important for considering the ethics of data motility from light to dark, and this differs from the concerns that we might have when we think about other illuminating tactics such as open data publishing, freedom-of-information requests, or when data is anonymously leaked in the public interest. The first is that the terms of ethics must be communicable to individuals and groups whose data literacy may be low, effectively non-existent, or not oriented around the objective of upholding or generating data-luminosity as an element of a wider, more general form of responsible data stewardship.</p> <p>Historically, a productive approach to data literacy has been finding appropriate metaphors from adjacent fields that can help add depth – by way of analogy – to understanding data motility. Here we return to our earlier assertion that data is more than simply a transactable commodity. Consider the notion of “giving” and “taking” in the context of darkness and light. The analogy of giving and taking is deeply embedded into the notion of data acquisition and sharing by virtue of the etymology of the word data itself: in Latin, “things having been given”, whereby in French <em>données</em>, a natural gift, perhaps one that is given to those that attempt capture for the purposes of empiricism – representation in quantitative form is a <em>quality</em> that is given to phenomena being brought <em>into</em> the light. However, in the contemporary parlance of “analytics” data is “taken” in the form of recording, measuring, and tracking. Data is considered to be something valuable enough to give or take because of its capacity to stand in for real things. The empiricist’s preferred method is to take rather than to accept what is given (Kitchin, 2); the data-capitalist’s is to incentivise the act of giving or to take what is already given (or yet to be taken). Because data-motile processes are not simply passive forms of reading what is contained within a dataset, the materiality and subjectivity of data extraction and interpretation is something that should not be ignored. These processes represent the recontextualisation of data from one space to another and are expressed in the landmark case of Cambridge Analytica, where a private research company extracted data from Facebook and used it to engage in psychometric analysis of unknowing users.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><strong>Data Capture Mechanism</strong></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><strong>Characteristics and Approach to Data Stewardship<br /></strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Historical <br /><br /></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Information created, recorded, or gathered about people of things directly from the source or a delegate but accessed for secondary purposes. </p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Observational </p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Represents patterns and realities of everyday life, collected by subjects by their own choice and with some degree of discretion over the methods. Third parties access this data through reciprocal arrangement with the subject (e.g., in exchange for providing a digital service such as online shopping, banking, healthcare, or social networking). </p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Purposeful </p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Data gathered with a specific purpose in mind and collected with the objective to manipulate its analysis to achieve certain ends.</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Integrative </p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Places less emphasis on specific data types but rather looks towards social and cultural factors that afford access to and facilitate the integration and linkage of disparate datasets</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Table 1: Mechanisms of Data Capture</em></p> <p>There are ethical challenges associated with data that has been sourced from pre-existing sets or that has been extracted from websites and online platforms through scraping data and then enriching it through cleaning, annotation, de-identification, aggregation, or linking to other data sources (tab. 1). As a way to address this challenge, our suggestion of “data provenance” can be defined as <em>where</em> a data point comes from, <em>how </em>it came into being, and how it became valuable for some or another purpose. In developing this idea, we borrow from both the computational and biological sciences (Buneman et al.) where provenance, as a form of qualitative inquiry into data-motile processes, centres around understanding the origin of a data point as part of a broader almost forensic analysis of quality and error-potential in datasets. Provenance is an evaluation of <em>a priori</em> computational inputs and outputs from the results of database queries and audits.</p> <p>Provenance can also be applied to other contexts where data passes through sociotechnical systems, such as behavioural analytics, targeted advertising, machine learning, and algorithmic decision-making. Conventionally, data provenance is based on understanding <em>where</em> data has come from and <em>why</em> it was collected. Both these questions are concerned with the evaluation of the <em>nature</em> of a data point within the wider context of a database that is itself situated within a larger sociotechnical system where the data is made available for use. In its conventional sense, provenance is a means of ensuring that a data point is maintained as a single source of truth (Buneman, 89), and by way of a reproducible mechanism which allows for its path through a set of technical processes, it affords the assessment of a how reliable a system’s output might be by sheer virtue of the ability for one to retrace the steps from point A to B. “Where” and “why” questions are illuminating because they offer an ends-and-means view of the relation between the origins and ultimate uses of a given data point or set. Provenance is interesting when studying data luminosity because means and ends have much to tell us about the origins and uses of data in ways that gesture towards a more accurate and structured research agenda for data ethics that takes the emphasis away from individual moral patients and reorients it towards practices that occur within information management environments. Provenance offers researchers seeking to study data-driven practices a similar heuristic to a journalist’s line of questioning <em>who, what, when, where,</em> why, and<em> how?</em></p> <p>This last question of <em>how</em> is something that can be incorporated into conventional models of provenance that make it useful in data ethics. The question of <em>how</em> data comes into being extends questions of power, legality, literacy, permission-seeking, and harm in an entangled way and notes how these factors shape the nature of personal data as it moves between contexts. Forms of provenance accumulate from transaction to transaction, cascading along, as a dataset ‘picks up’ the types of provenance that have led to its creation. This may involve multiple forms of overlapping provenance – methodological and epistemological, legal and illegal – which modulate different elements and apparatuses. Provenance, we argue is an important methodological consideration for workers in the humanities and social sciences.</p> <p>Provenance provides a set of shared questions on which models of transparency, accountability, and trust may be established. It points us towards tactics that might help data-subjects understand privacy in a contextual manner (Nissenbaum) and even establish practices of obfuscation and “informational self-defence” against regimes of datafication (Brunton and Nissenbaum). Here provenance is not just a declaration of <em>what </em>means and ends of data capture, sharing, linkage, and analysis are. We sketch the outlines of a provenance model in table 2 below. </p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><strong>Type</strong></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><strong>Metaphorical frame</strong></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><strong>Dark</strong></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><strong>Light </strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><em>What?</em></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>The epistemological structure of a database determines the accuracy of subsequent decisions. Data must be consistent.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>What data is asked of a person beyond what is strictly needed for service delivery.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Data that is collected for a specific stated purpose with informed consent from the data-subject.</p> <p>How does the decision about what to collect disrupt existing polities and communities? What demands for conformity does the database make of its subjects?</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><em>Where?</em></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>The contents of a database is important for making informed decisions. Data must be represented.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>The parameters of inclusion/exclusion that create unjust risks or costs to people because of their inclusion or exclusion in a dataset.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>The parameters of inclusion or exclusion that afford individuals representation or acknowledgement by being included or excluded from a dataset.</p> <p>How are populations recruited into a dataset?</p> <p>What divides exist that systematically exclude individuals?</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><em>Who?</em></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Who has access to data, and how privacy is framed is important for the security of data-subjects. Data access is political.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Access to the data by parties not disclosed to the data-subject.</p> <p> </p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Who has collected the data and who has or will access it?</p> <p>How is the data made available to those beyond the data subjects?</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><em>How?</em></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Data is created with a purpose and is never neutral. Data is instrumental.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>How the data is used, to what ends, discursively, practically, instrumentally.</p> <p>Is it a private record, a source of value creation, the subject of extortion or blackmail?</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>How the data was intended to be used at the time that it was collected.</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p><em>Why?</em></p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>Data is created by people who are shaped by ideological factors. Data has potential.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>The political rationality that shapes data governance with regard to technological innovation.</p> </td> <td style="text-align: left; vertical-align: top;"> <p>The trade-offs that are made known to individuals when they contribute data into sociotechnical systems over which they have limited control.</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Table 2: Forms of Data Provenance </em></p> <h1>Conclusion</h1> <p>As an illuminating methodology, provenance offers a specific line of questioning practices that take information through darkness and light. The emphasis that it places on a narrative for data assets themselves (asking what when, who, how, and why) offers a mechanism for traceability and has potential for application across contexts and cases that allows us to see data malpractice as something that can be productively generalised and understood as a series of ideologically driven technical events with social and political consequences without being marred by perceptions of exceptionality of individual, localised cases of data harm or data violence.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Brunton, Finn, and Helen Nissenbaum. "Political and Ethical Perspectives on Data Obfuscation." <em>Privacy, Due Process and the Computational Turn: The Philosophy of Law Meets the Philosophy of Technology</em>. Eds. Mireille Hildebrandt and Katja de Vries. New York: Routledge, 2013. 171-195. </p> <p>Buneman, Peter, Sanjeev Khanna, and Wang-Chiew Tan. "Data Provenance: Some Basic Issues." <em>International Conference on Foundations of Software Technology and Theoretical Computer Science</em>. Berlin: Springer, 2000.</p> <p>Davis, Jenny L. <em>How Artifacts Afford: The Power and Politics of Everyday Things</em>. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020.</p> <p>D'Ignazio, Catherine, and Lauren F. Klein. <em>Data Feminism</em>. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020.</p> <p>Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. <em>Commonwealth</em>. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2009.</p> <p>Kitchin, Rob. "Big Data, New Epistemologies and Paradigm Shifts." <em>Big Data &amp; Society</em> 1.1 (2014).</p> <p>Lawrence, Matthew. “Emerging Technology: An Interview with Adam Greenfield. ‘God Forbid That Anyone Stopped to Ask What Harm This Might Do to Us’. Institute for Public Policy Research, 13 Oct. 2017. &lt;<a href="https://www.ippr.org/juncture-item/emerging-technology-an-interview-with-adam-greenfield-god-forbid-that-anyone-stopped-to-ask-what-harm-this-might-do-us">https://www.ippr.org/juncture-item/emerging-technology-an-interview-with-adam-greenfield-god-forbid-that-anyone-stopped-to-ask-what-harm-this-might-do-us</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Lupton, Deborah. "Vital Materialism and the Thing-Power of Lively Digital Data." <em>Social Theory, Health and Education. </em>Eds. Deana Leahy, Katie Fitzpatrick, and Jan Wright<em>. </em>London: Routledge, 2018.</p> <p>Nissenbaum, Helen F. <em>Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life</em>. Stanford: Stanford Law Books, 2020.</p> <p>Warner, Michael. "Publics and Counterpublics." <em>Public Culture </em>14.1 (2002): 49-90.</p> 2021-04-27T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Suneel Jethani, Robbie Fordyce https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2774 Going Dark 2021-04-13T23:02:14+00:00 Tama Leaver T.Leaver@curtin.edu.au <p>The first two months of 2021 saw Google and Facebook ‘go dark’ in terms of news content on the Australia versions of their platforms. In January, Google ran a so-called “experiment” which removed or demoted current news in the search results available to a segment of Australian users. While Google was only darkened for some, in February news on Facebook went completely dark, with the company banning all news content and news sharing for users within Australian. Both of these instances of going dark occurred because of the imminent threat these platforms faced from the <em>News Media Bargaining Code</em> legislation that was due to be finalised by the Australian parliament.</p> <p>This article examines how both Google and Facebook responded to the draft <em>Code</em>, focussing on their threats to go dark, and the extent to which those threats were carried out. After exploring the context which produced the threats of going dark, this article looks at their impact, and how the <em>Code </em>was reshaped in light of those threats before it was finally legislated in early March 2021. Most importantly, this article outlines why Google and Facebook were prepared to go dark in Australia, and whether they succeeded in trying to prevent Australia setting the precedent of national governments dictating the terms by which digital platforms should pay for news content.</p> <h1>From the Digital Platforms Inquiry to the Draft Code</h1> <p>In July 2019, the Australian Treasurer released the <em>Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report</em> which had been prepared by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It outlined a range of areas where Australian law, policies and practices were not keeping pace with the realities of a digital world of search giants, social networks, and streaming media. Analysis of the submissions made as part of the <em>Digital Platforms Inquiry</em> found that the final report was “primarily framed around the concerns of media companies, particularly News Corp Australia, about the impact of platform companies’ market dominance of content distribution and advertising share, leading to unequal economic bargaining relationships and the gradual disappearance of journalism jobs and news media publishers” (Flew et al. 13). As such, one of the most provocative recommendations made was the establishment of a new code that would “address the imbalance in the bargaining relationship between leading digital platforms and news media businesses” (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, <em>Digital Platforms Inquiry</em> 16). The ACCC suggested such a code would assist Australian news organisations of any size in negotiating with Facebook, Google and others for some form of payment for news content.</p> <p>The report was released at a time when there was a greatly increased global appetite for regulating digital platforms. Thus the battle over the <em>Code</em> was watched across the world as legislation that had the potential to open the door for similar laws in other countries (Flew and Wilding). Initially the report suggested that the digital giants should be asked to develop their own codes of conduct for negotiating with news organisations. These codes would have then been enforced within Australia if suitably robust. However, after months of the big digital platforms failing to produce meaningful codes of their own, the Australian government decided to commission their own rules in this arena. The ACCC thus prepared the draft legislation that was tabled in July 2020 as the <em>Australian News Media Bargaining Code</em>.</p> <p>According to the ACCC the <em>Code</em>, in essence, tried to create a level playing field where Australian news companies could force Google and Facebook to negotiate a ‘fair’ payment for linking to, or showing previews of, their news content. Of course, many commentators, and the platforms themselves, retorted that they already bring significant value to news companies by referring readers to news websites. While there were earlier examples of Google and Facebook paying for news, these were largely framed as philanthropy: benevolent digital giants supporting journalism for the good of democracy. News companies and the ACCC argued this approach completely ignored the fact that Google and Facebook commanded more than 80% of the online advertising market in Australia at that time (Meade, “Google, Facebook and YouTube”). Nor did the digital giants acknowledge their disruptive power given the bulk of that advertising revenue used to flow to news companies.</p> <p>Some of the key features of this draft of the <em>Code</em> included (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, “News Media Bargaining Code”):</p> <ul> <li>Facebook and Google would be the (only) companies initially ‘designated’ by the Code (i.e. specific companies that must abide by the Code), with Instagram included as part of Facebook.</li> <li>The Code applied to all Australian news organisations, and specifically mentioned how small, regional, and rural news media would now be able to meaningfully bargain with digital platforms.</li> <li>Platforms would have 11 weeks after first being contacted by a news organisation to reach a mutually negotiated agreement.</li> <li>Failure to reach agreements would result in arbitration (using a style of arbitration called final party arbitration which has both parties present a final offer or position, with an Australian arbiter simply choosing between the two offers in most cases).</li> <li>Platforms were required to give 28 days notice of any change to their algorithms that would impact on the ways Australian news was ranked and appeared on their platform.</li> <li>Penalties for not following the Code could be ten million dollars, or 10% of the platform’s annual turnover in Australia (whichever was greater).</li> </ul> <p>Unsurprisingly, Facebook, Google and a number of other platforms and companies reacted very negatively to the draft <em>Code</em>, with their formal submissions arguing: that the algorithm change notifications would give certain news companies an unfair advantage while disrupting the platforms’ core business; that charging for linking would break the underlying free nature of the internet; that the <em>Code</em> overstated the importance and reach of news on each platform; and many other objections were presented, including strong rejections of the proposed model of arbitration which, they argued, completely favoured news companies without providing any real or reasonable limit on how much news organisations could ask to be paid (Google; Facebook).</p> <p>Google extended their argument by making a second submission in the form of a report with the title ‘The Financial Woes of News Publishers in Australia’ (Shapiro et al.) that argued Australian journalism and news was financially unsustainable long before digital platforms came along. However, in stark contrast the <em>Digital News Report: Australia 2020</em> found that Google and Facebook were where many Australians found their news; in 2020, 52% of Australians accessed news on social media (up from 46% the year before), with 39% of Australians getting news from Facebook, and that number jumping to 49% when specifically focusing on news seeking during the first COVID-19 pandemic peak in April 2021 (Park et al.). The same report highlighted that 43% of people distrust news found on social media (with a further 29% neutral, and only 28% of people explicitly trusting news found via social media). Moreover, 64% of Australians were concerned about misinformation online, and of all the platforms mentioned in the survey, respondents were most concerned about Facebook as a source of misinformation, with 36% explicitly indicating this was the place they were most concerned about encountering ‘fake news’. In this context Facebook and Google battled the Code by launching a public relations campaigns, appealing directly to Australian consumers.</p> <h1>Google Drives a Bus Across Australia</h1> <p>Google’s initial response to the draft <em>Code</em> was a substantial public relations campaign which saw the technology company advocating against the <em>Code </em>but not necessarily the ideas behind it. Google instead posited their own alternative way of paying for journalism in Australia. On the main Google search landing page, the usually very white surrounds of the search bar included the text “Supporting Australian journalism: a constructive path forward” which linked to a Google page outlining their version of a ‘Fair Code’. Popup windows appeared across many of Google’s services and apps, noting Google “are willing to pay to support journalism”, with a button labelled ‘Hear our proposal’.</p> <p><strong><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/lukejh/mceclip0.jpg" /></strong><em>Figure 1: Popup notification on Google Australia directing users to Google’s ‘A Fair Code’ proposal rebutting the draft </em>Code<em>. (Screen capture by author, 29 January 2021)</em></p> <p>Google’s popups and landing page links were visible for more than six months as the <em>Code</em> was debated. In September 2020, a Google blog post about the <em>Code </em>was accompanied by a YouTube video campaign featuring Australia comedian Greta Lee Jackson (Google Australia, <em>Google Explains Arbitration</em>). Jackson used the analogy of Google as a bus driver, who is forced to pay restaurants for delivering customers to them, and then pay part of the running costs of restaurants, too.</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6Io01W3migk" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>The video reinforced Google’s argument that the draft <em>Code</em> was asking digital platforms to pay potentially enormous costs for news content without acknowledging the value of Google bringing readers to the news sites. However, the video opened with the line that “proposed laws can be confusing, so I'll use an analogy to break it down”, setting a tone that would seem patronising to many people. Moreover, the video, and Google’s main argument, completely ignored the personal data Google receives every time a user searches for, or clicks on, a news story via Google Search or any other Google service.</p> <p>If Google’s analogy was accurate, then the bus driver would be going through every passenger’s bag while they were on the bus, taking copies of all their documents from drivers licenses to loyalty cards, keeping a record of every time they use the bus, and then using this information to get advertisers to pay for a tailored advertisement on the back of the seat in front of every passenger, every time they rode the bus. Notably, by the end of March 2021, the video had only received 10,399 views, which suggests relatively few people actually clicked on it to watch.</p> <p>In early January 2021, at the height of the debate about the <em>Code</em>, Google ran what they called “an experiment” which saw around 1% of Australian users suddenly only receive “older or less relevant content” when searching for news (Barnet, “Google’s ‘Experiment’”). While ostensibly about testing options for when the <em>Code</em> became law, the unannounced experiment also served as a warning shot. Google very effectively reminded users and politicians about their important role in determining which news Australian users find, and what might happen if Google darkened what they returned as news results.</p> <p>On 21 January 2021, Mel Silva, the Managing Director and public face of Google in Australia and New Zealand gave public testimony about the company’s position before a Senate inquiry. Silva confirmed that Google were indeed considering removing Google Search in Australia altogether if the draft <em>Code</em> was not amended to address their key concerns (Silva, “Supporting Australian Journalism: A Constructive Path Forward An Update on the News Media Bargaining Code”). Google’s seemingly sudden escalation in their threat to go dark led to articles such as a <em>New York Times</em> piece entitled ‘An Australia with No Google? The Bitter Fight behind a Drastic Threat’ (Cave). Google also greatly amplified their appeal to the Australian public, with a video featuring Mel Silva appearing frequently on all Google sites in Australia to argue their position (Google Australia, <em>An Update</em>). By the end of March 2021, Silva’s video had been watched more than 2.2 million times on YouTube.</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dHypeuHePEI" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>Silva’s testimony, video and related posts from Google all characterised the <em>Code</em> as: breaking “how Google search works in Australia”; creating a world where links online are paid for and thus both breaking Google and “undermin[ing] how the web works”; and saw Google offer their News Showcase as a viable alternative that, in Google’s view, was “a fair one” (Silva, “Supporting Australian Journalism”). Google emphasised submissions about the <em>Code</em> which backed their position, including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee who agreed that the idea of charging for links could have a more wide-reaching impact, challenging the idea of a free web (Leaver). Google also continued to release their News Showcase product in other parts of the world. They emphasised that there were existing arrangements for Showcase in Australia, but the current regulatory uncertainty meant it was paused in Australia until the debates about the <em>Code</em> were resolved.</p> <p>In the interim, news media across Australia, and the globe, were filled with stories speculating what an Australia would look like if Google went completely dark (e.g. Cave; Smyth). Even Microsoft weighed in to supporting the <em>Code </em>and offer their search engine Bing as a viable alternative to fill the void if Google really did go dark (Meade, “Microsoft’s Bing”).</p> <p>In mid-February, the draft <em>Code</em> was tabled in Australian parliament. Many politicians jumped at the chance to sing the <em>Code</em>’s praises and lament the power that Google and Facebook have across various spheres of Australian life. Yet as these speeches were happening, the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was holding weekend meetings with executives from Google and Facebook, trying to smooth the path toward the <em>Code </em>(Massola). In these meetings, a number of amendments were agreed to, including the <em>Code</em> more clearly taking in to account any existing deals already on the table before it became law. In these meetings the Treasurer made in clear to Google that if the deals done prior to the <em>Code</em> were big enough, he would consider not designating Google under the <em>Code</em>, which in effect would mean Google is not immediately subject to it (Samios and Visentin). With that concession in hand Google swiftly signed deals with over 50 Australian news publishers, including Seven West Media, Nine, News Corp, The Guardian, the ABC, and some smaller publishers such as Junkee Media (Taylor; Meade, “ABC Journalism”).</p> <p>While the specific details of these deals were not made public, the deals with Seven West Media and Nine were both reported to be worth around $30 million Australian dollars (Dudley-Nicholson). In reacting to Google's deals Frydenberg described them as “generous deals, these are fair deals, these are good deals for the Australian media businesses, deals that they are making off their own bat with the digital giants” (Snape, “‘These Are Good Deals’”). During the debates about the <em>Code</em>, Google had ultimately ensured that every Australian user was well aware that Google was, in their words, asking for a “fair” <em>Code</em>, and before the <em>Code</em> became law even the Treasurer was conceding that Google’s was offering a “fair deal” to Australian news companies.</p> <h1>Facebook Goes Dark on News</h1> <p>While Google never followed through on their threat to go completely dark, Facebook took a very different path, with a lot less warning. Facebook’s threat to remove all news from the platform for users in Australia was not made explicit in their formal submissions the draft of the <em>Code</em>. However, to be fair, Facebook’s Managing Director in Australia and New Zealand Will Easton did make a blog post at the end of August 2020 in which he clearly stated: “assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram” (Easton). During the negotiations in late 2020 Instagram was removed as an initial target of the <em>Code </em>(just as YouTube was not included as part of Google) along with a number of other concessions, but Facebook were not sated. Yet Easton’s post about removing news received very little attention after it was made, and certainly Facebook made no obvious attempt to inform their millions of Australian users that news might be completely blocked. Hence most Australians were shocked when that was exactly what Facebook did.</p> <p>Facebook’s power has, in many ways, always been exercised by what the platform’s algorithms display to users, what content is most visible and equally what content is made invisible (Bucher). The morning of Wednesday, 17 February 2021, Australian Facebook users awoke to find that all traditional news and journalism had been removed from the platform. Almost all pages associated with news organisations were similarly either disabled or wiped clean, and that any attempt to share links to news stories was met with a notification: “this post can’t be shared”. The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacted angrily, publicly lamenting Facebook’s choice to “unfriend Australia”, adding their actions were “as arrogant as they were disappointing”, vowing that Australia would “not be intimidated by big tech” (Snape, “Facebook Unrepentant”).</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/lukejh/mceclip1.jpg" /></p> <p><em>Figure 2: Facebook notification appearing when Australians attempted to share news articles on the platform. (Screen capture by author, 20 February 2021)</em></p> <p>Facebook’s news ban in Australia was not limited to official news pages and news content. Instead, their ban initially included a range of pages and services such as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, emergency services pages, health care pages, hospital pages, services providing vital information about the COVID-19 pandemic, and so forth. The breadth of the ban may have been purposeful, as one of Facebook’s biggest complaints was that the <em>Code</em> defined news too broadly (Facebook). Yet in the Australian context, where the country was wrestling with periodic lockdowns and the Coronavirus pandemic on one hand, and bushfires and floods on the other, the removal of these vital sources of information showed a complete lack of care or interest in Australian Facebook users.</p> <p>Beyond the immediate inconvenience of not being able to read or share news on Facebook, there were a range of other, immediate, consequences. As Barnet, amongst others, warned, a Facebook with all credible journalism banned would almost certainly open the floodgates to a tide of misinformation, with nothing left to fill the void; it made Facebook’s “public commitment to fighting misinformation look farcical” (Barnet, “Blocking Australian News”). Moreover, Bossio noted, “reputational damage from blocking important sites that serve Australia’s public interest overnight – and yet taking years to get on top of user privacy breaches and misinformation – undermines the legitimacy of the platform and its claimed civic intentions” (Bossio). If going dark and turning off news in Australia was supposed to win the sympathy of Australian Facebook users, then the plan largely backfired.</p> <p>Yet as with Google, the Australian Treasurer was meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook executives behind closed doors, which did eventually lead to changes before the <em>Code</em> was finally legislated (Massola). Facebook gained a number of concessions, including: a longer warning period before a Facebook could be designated by the Code; a longer period before news organisations would be able to expect negotiations to be concluded; an acknowledgement that existing deals would be taken in to account during negotiations; and, most importantly, a clarification that if Facebook was to once again block news this would both prevent them being subject to the <em>Code</em> and was not be something the platform could be punished for. Like Google, though, Facebook’s biggest gain was again the Treasurer making it clear that by making deals in advance on the <em>Code</em> becoming law, it was likely that Facebook would not be designated, and thus not subject to the <em>Code</em> at all (Samios and Visentin).</p> <p>After these concessions the news standoff ended and on 23 February the Australian Treasurer declared that after tense negotiations Facebook had “refriended Australia”; the company had “committed to entering into good-faith negotiations with Australian news media businesses and seeking to reach agreements to pay for content” (Visentin). Over the next month there were some concerns voiced about slow progress, but then major deals were announced between Facebook and News Corp Australia, and with Nine, with other deals following closely (Meade, “Rupert Murdoch”). Just over a week after the ban began, Facebook returned news to their platform in Australia. Facebook obviously felt they had won the battle, but Australia Facebook users were clearly cannon fodder, with their interests and wellbeing ignored.</p> <h1>Who Won? The Immediate Aftermath of the <em>Code</em></h1> <p>After the showdowns with Google and Facebook, the final amendments to the <em>Code</em> were made and it was legislated as the <em>News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code</em> (Australian Treasury), going into effect on 2 March 2021. However, when it became legally binding, not one single company was ‘designated’, meaning that the <em>Code </em>did not immediately apply to anyone. Yet deals had been struck, money would flow to Australian news companies, and Facebook had returned news to its platform in Australia. At the outset, Google, Facebook, news companies in Australia and the Australian government all claimed to have won the battle over the <em>Code</em>.</p> <p>Having talked up their tough stance on big tech platforms when the <em>Digital Platforms Inquiry</em> landed in 2019, the Australian Government was under public pressure to deliver on that rhetoric. The debates and media coverage surrounding the <em>Code</em> involved a great deal of political posturing and gained much public attention. The Treasurer was delighted to see deals being struck that meant Facebook and Google would pay Australian news companies. He actively portrayed this as the government protecting Australia’s interest and democracy. The fact that the <em>Code</em> was leveraged as a threat does mean that the nuances of the <em>Code </em>are unlikely to be tested in a courtroom in the near future. Yet as a threat it was an effective one, and it does remain in the Treasurer’s toolkit, with the potential to be deployed in the future.</p> <p>While mostly outside the scope of this article, it should definitely be noted that the biggest winner in the <em>Code</em> debate was Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp. They were the strongest advocates of regulation forcing the digital giants to pay for news in the first place, and had the most to gain and least to lose in the process. Most large news organisations in Australia have fared well, too, with new revenue flowing in from Google and Facebook. However, one of the most important facets of the <em>Code</em> was the inclusion of mechanisms to ensure that regional and small news publishers in Australia would be able to negotiate with Facebook and Google. While some might be able to band together and strike terms (and some already have) it is likely that many smaller news companies in Australia will miss out, since the deals being struck with the bigger news companies appear to be big enough to ensure they are not designated, and thus not subject to the <em>Code </em>(Purtill).</p> <p>A few weeks after the Code became law ACCC Chair Rod Sims stated that the “problem we’re addressing with the news media code is simply that we wanted to arrest the decline in money going to journalism” (Kohler). On that front the <em>Code</em> succeeded. However, there is no guarantee the deals will mean money will support actual journalists, rather than disappearing as extra corporate profits. Nor is there any onus on Facebook or Google to inform news organisations about changes to their algorithms that might impact on news rankings. Also, as many Australia news companies are now receiving payments from Google and Facebook, there is a danger the news media will become dependent on that revenue, which may make it harder for journalists to report on the big tech giants without some perceptions of a conflict of interest.</p> <p>In a diplomatic post about the <em>Code</em>, Google thanked everyone who had voiced concerns with the initial drafts of the legislation, thanked Australian users, and celebrated that their newly launched Google News Showcase had “two million views of content” with more than 70 news partners signed up within Australia (Silva, “An Update”). Given that News Showcase had already begun rolling out elsewhere in the world, it is likely Google were already aware they were going to have to contribute to the production of journalism across the globe. The cost of paying for news in Australia may well have fallen within the parameters Google had already decided were acceptable and inevitable before the debate about the <em>Code</em> even began (Purtill). In the aftermath of the <em>Code</em> becoming legislation, Google also posted a cutting critique of Microsoft, arguing they were “making self-serving claims and are even willing to break the way the open web works in an effort to undercut a rival” (Walker). In doing so, Google implicitly claimed that the concessions and changes to the <em>Code</em> they had managed to negotiate effectively positioned them as having championed the free and open web.</p> <p>At the end of February 2021, in a much more self-congratulatory post-mortem of the <em>Code </em>entitled “The Real Story of What Happened with News on Facebook in Australia”, Facebook reiterated their assertion that they bring significant value to news publishers and that the platform receives no real value in return, stating that in 2020 Facebook provided “approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million to the news industry” (Clegg). Deploying one last confused metaphor, Facebook argued the original draft of the <em>Code</em> was “like forcing car makers to fund radio stations because people might listen to them in the car — and letting the stations set the price.” Of course, there was no mention that following that metaphor, Facebook would have bugged the car and used that information to plaster the internal surfaces with personalised advertising. Facebook also touted the success of their Facebook News product in the UK, albeit without setting a date for the rollout of the product in Australia. While Facebook did concede that “the decision to stop the sharing of news in Australia appeared to come out of nowhere”, what the company failed to do was apologise to Australian Facebook users for the confusion and inconvenience they experienced. Nevertheless, on Facebook’s own terms, they certainly positioned themselves as having come out winners. Future research will need to determine whether Facebook’s actions damaged their reputation or encouraged significant numbers of Australians to leave the platform permanently, but in the wake of a number of high-profile scandals, including Cambridge Analytica (Vaidhyanathan), it is hard to see how Facebook’s actions would not have further undermined consumer trust in the company and their main platform (Park et al.).</p> <p>In fighting the <em>Code</em>, Google and Facebook were not just battling the Australian government, but also the implication that if they paid for news in Australia, they likely would also have to do so in other countries. The <em>Code</em> was thus seen as a dangerous precedent far more than just a mechanism to compel payment in Australia. Since both companies ensured they made deals prior to the <em>Code</em> becoming law, neither was initially ‘designated’, and thus neither were actually subject to the <em>Code</em> at the time of writing. The value of the <em>Code</em> has been as a threat and a means to force action from the digital giants. How effective it is as a piece of legislation remains to be seen in the future if, indeed, any company is ever designated. For other countries, the exact wording of the <em>Code</em> might not be as useful as a template, but its utility to force action has surely been noted.</p> <p>Like the inquiry which initiated it, the <em>Code</em> set “the largest digital platforms, Google and Facebook, up against the giants of traditional media, most notably Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation” (Flew and Wilding 50). Yet in a relatively unusual turn of events, both sides of that battle claim to have won. At the same time, EU legislators watched the battle closely as they considered an “Australian-style code” of their own (Dillon). Moreover, in the month immediately following the <em>Code</em> being legislated, both the US and Canada were actively pursuing similar regulation (Baier) with Facebook already threatening to remove news and go dark for Canadian Facebook users (van Boom). For Facebook, and Google, the battle continues, but fighting the <em>Code </em>has meant the genie of paying for news content is well and truly out of the bottle.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. <em>Digital Platforms Inquiry: Final Report</em>. 25 July 2019. &lt;<a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries/digital-platforms-inquiry/final-report-executive-summary">https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries/digital-platforms-inquiry/final-report-executive-summary</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “News Media Bargaining Code: Draft Legislation.” <em>Australian Competition and Consumer Commission</em>, 22 July 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/draft-legislation">https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/draft-legislation</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Australian Treasury. <em>Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Act 2021</em>. Attorney-General’s Department, 2 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021A00021/Html/Text">https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021A00021/Html/Text</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Baier, Jansen. “US Could Allow News Distribution Fees for Google, Facebook.” <em>MediaFile</em>, 31 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.mediafiledc.com/us-could-allow-news-distribution-fees-for-google-facebook/">http://www.mediafiledc.com/us-could-allow-news-distribution-fees-for-google-facebook/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Barnet, Belinda. “Blocking Australian News Shows Facebook’s Pledge to Fight Misinformation Is Farcical.” <em>The Guardian</em>, 18 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/18/blocking-australian-news-shows-facebooks-pledge-to-fight-misinformation-is-farcical">http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/18/blocking-australian-news-shows-facebooks-pledge-to-fight-misinformation-is-farcical</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “Google’s ‘Experiment’ Hiding Australian News Just Shows Its Inordinate Power.” <em>The Guardian</em>, 14 Jan. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/14/googles-experiment-hiding-australian-news-just-shows-its-inordinate-power">http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/14/googles-experiment-hiding-australian-news-just-shows-its-inordinate-power</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Bossio, Diana. “Facebook Has Pulled the Trigger on News Content — and Possibly Shot Itself in the Foot.” <em>The Conversation</em>, 18 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://theconversation.com/facebook-has-pulled-the-trigger-on-news-content-and-possibly-shot-itself-in-the-foot-155547">http://theconversation.com/facebook-has-pulled-the-trigger-on-news-content-and-possibly-shot-itself-in-the-foot-155547</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Bucher, Taina. “Want to Be on the Top? Algorithmic Power and the Threat of Invisibility on Facebook.” <em>New Media &amp; Society</em> 14.7 (2012): 1164–80. DOI:10.1177/1461444812440159.</p> <p>Cave, Damien. “An Australia with No Google? The Bitter Fight behind a Drastic Threat.” <em>The New York Times</em>, 22 Jan. 2021. <em>&lt;</em><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/22/business/australia-google-facebook-news-media.html">https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/22/business/australia-google-facebook-news-media.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Clegg, Nick. “The Real Story of What Happened with News on Facebook in Australia.” <em>About Facebook</em>, 24 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2021/02/the-real-story-of-what-happened-with-news-on-facebook-in-australia/">https://about.fb.com/news/2021/02/the-real-story-of-what-happened-with-news-on-facebook-in-australia/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Dillon, Grace. “EU Contemplates Australia-Style Media Bargaining Code; China Imposes New Antitrust Rules.” <em>ExchangeWire.com</em>, 9 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2021/02/09/eu-contemplates-australia-style-media-bargaining-code-china-imposes-new-antitrust-rules/">https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2021/02/09/eu-contemplates-australia-style-media-bargaining-code-china-imposes-new-antitrust-rules/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Dudley-Nicholson, Jennifer. “Google May Escape Laws after Spending Spree.” <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>, 17 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/google-may-escape-tough-australian-news-laws-after-a-lastminute-spending-spree/news-story/d3b37406bf279ff6982287d281d1fbdd">https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/google-may-escape-tough-australian-news-laws-after-a-lastminute-spending-spree/news-story/d3b37406bf279ff6982287d281d1fbdd</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Easton, Will. “An Update about Changes to Facebook’s Services in Australia.” <em>About Facebook</em>, 1 Sep. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2020/08/changes-to-facebooks-services-in-australia/">https://about.fb.com/news/2020/08/changes-to-facebooks-services-in-australia/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Facebook. <em>Facebook Response to the Australian Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020</em>. 28 Aug. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Facebook_0.pdf">https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Facebook_0.pdf</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Flew, Terry, et al. “Return of the Regulatory State: A Stakeholder Analysis of Australia’s Digital Platforms Inquiry and Online News Policy.” <em>The Information Society</em> 37.2 (2021): 128–45. DOI:10.1080/01972243.2020.1870597.</p> <p>Flew, Terry, and Derek Wilding. “The Turn to Regulation in Digital Communication: The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry and Australian Media Policy.” <em>Media, Culture &amp; Society</em> 43.1 (2021): 48–65. DOI:10.1177/0163443720926044.</p> <p>Google. <em>Draft News Media and Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code: Submissions in Response</em>. 28 Aug. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Google_0.pdf">https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Google_0.pdf</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Google Australia. <em>An Update from Google on the News Media Bargaining Code</em>. 2021. <em>YouTube</em>. &lt;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHypeuHePEI">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHypeuHePEI</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. <em>Google Explains Arbitration under the News Media Bargaining Code</em>. 2020. <em>YouTube</em>. &lt;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Io01W3migk">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Io01W3migk</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Kohler, Alan. “The News Bargaining Code Is Officially Dead.” <em>The New Daily</em>, 16 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2021/03/17/alan-kohler-news-bargaining-code-dead/">https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/2021/03/17/alan-kohler-news-bargaining-code-dead/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Leaver, Tama. “Web’s Inventor Says News Media Bargaining Code Could Break the Internet. He’s Right — but There’s a Fix.” <em>The Conversation</em>, 21 Jan. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://theconversation.com/webs-inventor-says-news-media-bargaining-code-could-break-the-internet-hes-right-but-theres-a-fix-153630">http://theconversation.com/webs-inventor-says-news-media-bargaining-code-could-break-the-internet-hes-right-but-theres-a-fix-153630</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Massola, James. “Frydenberg, Facebook Negotiating through the Weekend.” <em>The Sydney Morning Herald</em>, 20 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/frydenberg-facebook-negotiating-through-the-weekend-on-new-media-laws-20210219-p573zp.html">https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/frydenberg-facebook-negotiating-through-the-weekend-on-new-media-laws-20210219-p573zp.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Meade, Amanda. “ABC Journalism to Appear on Google’s News Showcase in Lucrative Deal.” <em>The Guardian</em>, 22 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/feb/23/abc-journalism-to-appear-on-googles-showcase-in-lucrative-deal">http://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/feb/23/abc-journalism-to-appear-on-googles-showcase-in-lucrative-deal</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “Google, Facebook and YouTube Found to Make Up More than 80% of Australian Digital Advertising.” <em>The Guardian</em>, 23 Oct. 2020. &lt;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/oct/23/google-facebook-and-youtube-found-to-make-up-more-than-80-of-australian-digital-advertising">http://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/oct/23/google-facebook-and-youtube-found-to-make-up-more-than-80-of-australian-digital-advertising</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “Microsoft’s Bing Ready to Step in If Google Pulls Search from Australia, Minister Says.” <em>The Guardian</em>, 1 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/01/microsofts-bing-ready-to-step-in-if-google-pulls-search-from-australia-minister-says">http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/01/microsofts-bing-ready-to-step-in-if-google-pulls-search-from-australia-minister-says</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Strikes Deal as Facebook Agrees to Pay for Australian Content.” <em>The Guardian</em>, 15 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/mar/16/rupert-murdochs-news-corp-strikes-deal-as-facebook-agrees-to-pay-for-australian-content">http://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/mar/16/rupert-murdochs-news-corp-strikes-deal-as-facebook-agrees-to-pay-for-australian-content</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Park, Sora, et al. <em>Digital News Report: Australia 2020</em>. Canberra: News and Media Research Centre, 16 June 2020. DOI:10.25916/5ec32f8502ef0.</p> <p>Purtill, James. “Facebook Thinks It Won the Battle of the Media Bargaining Code — but So Does the Government.” <em>ABC News</em>, 25 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-02-26/facebook-google-who-won-battle-news-media-bargaining-code/13193106">https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-02-26/facebook-google-who-won-battle-news-media-bargaining-code/13193106</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Samios, Zoe, and Lisa Visentin. “‘Historic Moment’: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg Hails Google’s News Content Deals.” <em>The Sydney Morning Herald</em>, 17 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/historic-moment-treasurer-josh-frydenberg-hails-google-s-news-content-deals-20210217-p573eu.html">https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/historic-moment-treasurer-josh-frydenberg-hails-google-s-news-content-deals-20210217-p573eu.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Shapiro, Carl, et al. <em>The Financial Woes of News Publishers in Australia</em>. 27 Aug. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Google%20Annex.PDF">https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Google%20Annex.PDF</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Silva, Mel. “An Update on the News Media Bargaining Code.” <em>Google Australia</em>, 1 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.google.com.au/google-in-australia/an-open-letter/">http://www.google.com.au/google-in-australia/an-open-letter/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “Supporting Australian Journalism: A Constructive Path Forward – An Update on the News Media Bargaining Code.” <em>Google Australia</em>, 22 Jan. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://about.google/intl/ALL_au/google-in-australia/jan-6-letter/">https://about.google/intl/ALL_au/google-in-australia/jan-6-letter/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Smyth, Jamie. “Australian Companies Forced to Imagine Life without Google.” <em>Financial Times</em>, 9 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/fa66e8dc-afb1-4a50-8dfa-338a599ad82d">https://www.ft.com/content/fa66e8dc-afb1-4a50-8dfa-338a599ad82d</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Snape, Jack. “Facebook Unrepentant as Prime Minister Dubs Emergency Services Block ‘Arrogant.’” <em>ABC News</em>, 18 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-18/facebook-unrepentant-scott-morrison-dubs-move-arrogant/13169340">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-18/facebook-unrepentant-scott-morrison-dubs-move-arrogant/13169340</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “‘These Are Good Deals’: Treasurer Praises Google News Deals amid Pressure from Government Legislation.” <em>ABC News</em>, 17 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-17/treasurer-praises-good-deals-between-google-news-seven/13163676">https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-17/treasurer-praises-good-deals-between-google-news-seven/13163676</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Taylor, Josh. “Guardian Australia Strikes Deal with Google to Join News Showcase.” <em>The Guardian</em>, 20 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/20/guardian-australia-strikes-deal-with-google-to-join-news-showcase">http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/20/guardian-australia-strikes-deal-with-google-to-join-news-showcase</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Vaidhyanathan, Siva. <em>Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy</em>. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018.</p> <p>Van Boom, Daniel. “Facebook Could Block News in Canada like It Did in Australia.” <em>CNET</em>, 29 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-could-block-news-in-canada-like-it-did-in-australia/">https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-could-block-news-in-canada-like-it-did-in-australia/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Visentin, Lisa. “Facebook Refriends Australia after Last-Minute Changes to Media Code.” <em>The Sydney Morning Herald</em>, 23 Feb. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/government-agrees-to-last-minute-amendments-to-media-code-20210222-p574kc.html">https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/government-agrees-to-last-minute-amendments-to-media-code-20210222-p574kc.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Walker, Kent. “Our Ongoing Commitment to Supporting Journalism.” <em>Google</em>, 12 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://blog.google/products/news/google-commitment-supporting-journalism/">https://blog.google/products/news/google-commitment-supporting-journalism/</a>&gt;.</p> 2021-04-28T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Tama Leaver https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2791 Dark 2021-04-22T22:14:22+00:00 Luke J Heemsbergen l.heemsbergen@gmail.com Alexia Maddox alexiamaddox@gmail.com Toija Cinque toija.cinque@deakin.edu.au Amelia Johns Amelia.Johns@uts.edu.au Robert Gehl rgehl@latech.edu <p>This issue of <em>M/C Journal</em> rejects the association of darkness with immorality. In digital communication, the possibilities of darkness are greater than simple fears of what is hidden in online networks. Instead, new work in an emerging field of “dark social” studies’ consider “dark” as holding the potential for autonomy away from the digital visibilities that pervade economic, political, and surveillance logics of the present age. We shall not be afraid of the dark.</p> <p>We start from a technical rather than moral definition of darkness (Gehl), a definition that conceives of dark spaces as having legitimacies and anonymities against structural surveillance. At the same time, breaking away from techno-centric critiques of the dark allows a humanisation of how dark is embodied and performed at individual and structural levels. Other readings of digitally mediated dark (Fisher and Bolter) suggest tensions between exploitative potentials and deep societal reflection, and the ability for a new dark age (Bridle) to allow us to explore unknown potentials. Together these perspectives allow our authors a way to use <em>dark</em> to question and upend the unresting pressure and acceptance of—and hierarchy given to—the light in aesthetics of power and social transformation. </p> <p>While we reject, however, the reduction of “dark” to “immoral” as we are not blind to “bad actors” lurking in hidden spaces (see Potter, forthcoming). Dark algorithms and their encoded biases shape our online lives. Not everyone has the ability to go off grid or create their own dark networks. Colonial settlerism often hides its brutal logics behind discourses of welfare. And some of us are forced to go dark against our will, as in the case of economies or nations being shut out of communication networks. But above all, the tensions produced in darkness, going dark, and acting dark show the normative powers beyond only focusing on the light. </p> <p>Taken as a whole, the articles in this issue explore the tensions between dark and connected, opting in and opting out, and exposure and retreat. They challenge binaries that reduce our vision to the monochromaticism of dark and light. They explain how the concept of “dark” expands opportunities for existence and persistence beyond datafication. They point to moral, ethical, and pragmatic responses of selves and communities seeking to be/belong in/of the dark. </p> <p>The issue starts with a high-stakes contest: what happens when an entire country is forced to go dark? While the articles in this issue were in review, Australian Facebook users were abruptly introduced to a unique form of darkness when, overnight, all news posts were removed from Facebook. Leaver’s feature article responds to tell the story of how Facebook and Google fought the Australian media law, and nobody won. Simply put, the platforms-cum-infrastructures did not want the government to mandate terms of their payments and business to traditional news organisations, so pulled the plug on Australia. As Leaver points out, Facebook’s cull not only made news media go dark, but in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing bushfires, prevented government agencies from posting and sharing government public health information, weather and wind patterns, and some State Emergency Services information. </p> <p>His article positions darkness on the spectrum from visibility to invisibility and focuses on the complex interplays of who is in control of, or has the power over, visibility. Facebook’s power to darken vital voices in society was unprecedented in Australia, a form of “de-platforming at scale” (Crawford). It seemed that Facebook (and as Leaver explains, Google, to a lesser extent) were using Australia to test platform power and legislative response. The results of this experiment, Leaver argues, was not a dawn of a new dark age—without the misinforming-glare of Facebook (see Cinque in this issue)—but confirmatory evidence of the political economy of national media: News Corp and other large traditional media companies received millions from Facebook and Google in exchange for the latter being exempt from the very law in question. Everyone won, except the Australians looking to experiment and explore alternatives in a new darkness. Scared of the dark, politicians accepted a mutually agreed transfer of ad-revenue from Google and Facebook to large and incumbent media organisations; and with that, hope of exploring a world mediated without the glare of digital incumbents was snuffed out. These agreements, of course, found user privacy, algorithmic biases, and other concerns of computational light out of scope.</p> <p>Playing off the themes of status quo of institutionalised social media companies, Cinque examines how <em>social online spaces</em> (SOS) which are governed by logics of surveillance and datafication embodied in the concept of the “gazing elite” (data aggregators including social media), can prompt anxieties for users regarding data privacy. Her work in the issue particularly observes that anxiety for many users is shaped by this manifestation of the “dark” as it relates to the hidden processes of data capture and processing by the mainstream platforms, surveillant digital objects that are incorporated into the Internet of Things, and “dark” or black boxed automated decisions which censor expression and self-representation. Against this way of conceptualising digital darkness, Cinque argues that dark SOS which use VPNs or the Tor browser to evade monitoring are valuable to users precisely because of their ability to evade the politics of visibility and resist the power of the gazing elite.</p> <p>Continuing away from the ubiquitous and all consuming blue glow of Facebook to more esoteric online communities, Maddox and Heemsbergen use their article to expand a critique on the normative computational logics which define the current information age (based on datafication, tracking, prediction, and surveillance of human socialities). They consider how “digging in the shadows” and “tinkering” with cryptocurrencies in the “dark” is shaping alternative futures based on social, equitable, and reciprocal relations. Their work traces cryptocurrencies—a “community generated technology” made by makers, miners and traders on darknets—from its emergence during a time of global economic upheaval, uncertainty and mistrust in centralised financial systems, through to new generations of cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin that, based on lessons from early cryptocurrencies, are mutating and becoming absorbed into larger economic structures. These themes are explored using an innovative analytical framework considering the “construction, disruption, contention, redirection, and finally absorption of emerging techno-potentials into larger structures”. The authors conclude by arguing that experiments in the dark don’t stay in the dark, but are radical potentials that impact and shape larger social forms.</p> <p>Bradfield and Fredericks take a step back from a focus on potentially arcane online cultures to position dark in an explicit provocation to settler politics’ fears and anxieties. They show how being dark in Australia is embodied and everyday. In doing so, they draw back the veil on the uncontested normality of fear of the dark-as-object. Their article’s examples offer a stark demonstration of how for Indigenous peoples, associations of “dark” fear and danger are built into the structural mechanisms that shape and maintain colonial understandings of Indigenous peoples and their bodies as part of larger power structures. They note activist practices that provoke settlers to confront individuals, communities, and politics that proclaim “I’m not afraid of the Dark” (see Cotes in Bradfield and Fredericks).</p> <p>Drawing on a related embodied refusal of poorly situated connotations of the dark, Hardley considers the embodied ways mobile media have been deployed in the urban night and observes that in darkness, and the night, while vision is obscured and other senses are heightened we also encounter enmeshed cultural relationships of darkness and danger. Drawing on the postphenomenological concept of multistability, Hardley frames engagement with mobile media as a particular kind of body-technology relation in which the same technology can be used by different people in multiple ways, as people assign different meanings to the technology. Presenting empirical research on participants’ night-time mobile media practices, Hardley analyses how users co-opt mobile media functionalities to manage their embodied experiences of the dark. The article highlights how mobile media practices of privacy and isolation in urban spaces can be impacted by geographical location and urban darkness, and are also distinctly gendered. </p> <p>Smith explores how conversations flow across social media platforms and messaging technologies and in and out of sight across the public domain. Darkness is the backstage where backchannel conversations take place outside of public view, in private and parochial spaces, and in the shadow spaces where communication crosses between platforms. This narrative threading view of conversation, which Smith frames as a multiplatform accomplishment, responds to the question held by so many researchers and people trying to interpret what people say in public on social media. Is what we see the tip of an iceberg or just a small blip in the ocean? From Smith’s work we can see that so much happens in the dark, beyond the gaze of the onlooker, where conversational practices move by their own logic. Smith argues that drawing on pre-digital conversational analysis techniques associated with ethnomethodology will illuminate the social logics that structure online interaction and increase our understanding of online sociality forces.</p> <p>Set in the context of merging platforms and the “rise of data”, Lee presents issues that undergird contemporary, globally connected media systems. In translating descriptions of complex systems, the article critically discusses the changing relational quality of “the shadow of hierarchy” and “Platform Power”. The governmental use of private platforms, and the influence it has on power and opportunity for government and civil society is prefigured. The “dark” in this work is lucidly presented as a relationality; an expression of differing values, logics, and (techno)socialities. The author finds and highlights the line between traditional notions of "infrastructure" and the workings of contemporary digital platforms which is becoming increasingly indistinct. Lee concludes by showing how the intersection of platforms with public institutions and infrastructures has moulded society’s light into an evolving and emergent shadow of hierarchy over many domains where there are, as always, those that will have the advantage—and those that do not.</p> <p>Finally, Jethani and Fordyce present an understanding of “data provenance” as a metaphor and method both for analysing data as a social and political artefact. The authors point to the term via an inter-disciplinary history as a way to explain a custodial history of objects. They adroitly argue that in our contemporary communication environment that data is more than just a transact-able commodity. Data is vital—being acquired, shared, interpreted and re-used with significant influence and socio-technical affects. As we see in this article, the key methods that rely on the materiality and subjectivity of data extraction and interpretation are not to be ignored. Not least because they come with ethical challenges as the authors make clear. As an illuminating methodology, “data provenance” offers a narrative for data assets themselves (asking <em>what</em>, <em>when</em>, <em>who</em>, <em>how</em>, and <em>why</em>). In the process, the kinds of valences unearthed as being private, secret, or exclusive reveal aspects of the ‘dark’ (and ‘light’) that is the focus of this issue.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Bridle, James. <em>New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future</em>. London, UK: Verso Books, 2018.</p> <p>Crawford, Kate (katecrawford). “It happened: Facebook just went off the deep end in Australia. They are blocking *all* news content to Australians, and *no* Australian media can post news. This is what showdowns between states and platforms look like. It's deplatforming at scale.” 18 Feb. 2021. 22 Apr. 2021 &lt;<a href="https://twitter.com/katecrawford/status/1362149306170368004?lang=en">https://twitter.com/katecrawford/status/1362149306170368004</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Fisher, Joshua A., and Jay David Bolter. "Ethical Considerations for AR Experiences at Dark Tourism Sites." <em>2018 IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality Adjunct (ISMAR-Adjunct) </em>(2018): 365-69.</p> <p>Gehl, Robert. <em>Weaving the Dark Web: Legitimacy on Freenet, Tor, and I2p</em>. The Information Society Series. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018.</p> <p>Potter, Martin. “Bad Actors Never Sleep: Content Manipulation on Reddit.” Eds. Toija Cinque, Robert W. Gehl, Luke Heemsbergen, and Alexia Maddox. <em>Continuum</em> Dark Social Special Issue (forthcoming).</p> 2021-04-27T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Luke J Heemsbergen, Alexia Maddox, Toija Cinque, Amelia Johns, Robert Gehl