Unlike Us: Understanding Social Media Monopolies and their Alternatives

18 07 2011

Have you ever stopped to think about what is beyond the current suite of proprietary driven social media tools? Would you pay to use Facebook or would you move your social networks somewhere else online? What else is out there? Unlike us is a project conceived by Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures/HvA, Amsterdam) and Korinna Patelis (Cyprus University of Technology, Lemasol), which is designed to “analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media platforms and to propagate the further development and proliferation of alternative, decentralized social media software.”

The agenda of Unlike us states that:

Going beyond the culture of complaint about our ignorance and loss of privacy, the proposed network of artists, scholars, activists and media folks will ask fundamental and overarching questions about how to tackle these fast-emerging monopoly powers.

As a Gov2.0 and open source supporter, I keep a keen eye on discussions in this space. The development of Web 2.0 tools that are open source and proprietary free are necessary elements in making the Internet the egalitarian space Berners-Lee envisaged. There are many risks in relying on software tools bartered for in the marketplace as they compete and potentially fail, losing millions of $$$, for example Myspace. I am also very interested in the critical engagement of artists and activists in this space, particularly in terms of tools development and cultural change. In my opinion, open source software also gets better and better (just think about Blender) – because many people who like to use the tool also customise the software.

That said, open source software is only one thread of discussion planned for Unlike us. Other topics of Investigation include:

  • Political Economy: Social Media Monopolies
  • The Private in the Public
  • Visiting the Belly of the Beast
  • Artistic Responses to Social Media
  • Designing culture: representation and software
  • Software Matters: Sociotechnical and Algorithmic Cultures
  • Genealogies of Social Networking Sites
  • Is Research Doomed?
  • Researching Unstable Ontologies
  • Making Sense of Data: Visualization and Critique
  • Pitfalls of Building Social Media Alternatives
  • Showcasing Alternatives in Social Media
  • Social Media Activism and the Critique of Liberation Technology
  • Social Media in the Middle East and Beyond
  • Data storage: social media and legal cultures

Unlike us aims to establish a research network of artists, designers, scholars, activists and programmers who work on ‘alternatives in social media’.

If you want to join the Unlike Us network, start your own initiatives in this field or hook up what you have already been doing for ages, subscribe to the email list::http://listcultures.org/mailman/listinfo/unlike-us_listcultures.org

Unlike Us is a common initiative of the Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam University of Applied Science HvA) and the Cyprus University of Technology in Lemasol. This post was retrieved via Nettime mailing list 16 July 2011 and is also available in full on Furtherfield and a number of other online publications.

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