October 19-21, 2018
Berlin, Germany

Noel David Nicolaus

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Noel David Nicolaus is an independent scholar and editor living and working in Berlin. As Anthropology PhD Student at Humboldt University Berlin, he researched trans-european mobility in the context of the Euro-crisis, with particular focus on the reshaping of citizenship. He has written for magazines and journals such as Stadtaspekte and sub\urban, and has been involved in local urban initiatives in Berlin, such as Megaspree and Stadt Neudenken. He is currently working as an editor in Berlin. He is also part of the Digital Art Collective Clusterduck, an interdisciplinary group working at the crossroads of research, design and filmmaking, aiming to investigate processes and actors behind digital creativity.

Presenting with Silvia Dal Dosso

Meme Resistance: Investigating the role of Critical Networks at the intersection of Memetics and Social Media Data Analysis

The talk will showcase recent efforts by hacktivists, independent researchers and academic scholars to investigate the proliferation of Meme-related subcultures in the social web, demonstrating how current legal and technical restrictions imposed by Social Media Companies are hindering data collection and analysis for non-commercial purposes, and suggesting ways how these limitations could be overcome. Prominent recent examples of meme-related research will be presented, including the study "From Vaporwave to Penisbearcats: Facebook’s vernacular meme neighbourhoods" by Sal Hagen and Marc Tuters of OILab, realized in collaboration with Carlo de Geatano using the data-extraction tool Netvizz; the widely discussed research by UCL-scholars "On the Origins of Memes by Means of Fringe Web Communities", which involved the use of Neural Network processing algorithms and the creation of datasets of images collected from Twitter, Reddit, 4chan and Gab; as well as the upcoming work by the independent meme research group “The Philosopher's Meme”, scheduled for publication in August, which will feature an in-depth mapping of groups, chats, Meme research forums and Internet subcultures, performed by means of extensive horizontal online networks.

It must be stressed that all these activities are currently conducted at the limits of legality, due to the restrictions implemented by Facebook and other platforms on tools such as Netvizz, following privacy regulations implemented by these companies. While we think that user privacy is crucial and should be protected, we believe that the data held by Facebook and other companies should be rendered accessible in anonymized form for research purposes. The talk will argue that these data represent an enormous cultural as well as economic value, which should be collectivized and not extracted for commercial purposes.

The talk will be presented by Clusterduck, a research and art collective studying the formation and development of online subcultural clusters. Digital subcultures are being generated on the social web with extreme speed and in increasing numbers. Over the course of a year, Clusterduck has come to build a large network of digital creators, engaging on research chats, groups and initiatives launched by the collective. Among the latest projects is the online exhibition #MEMEPROPAGANDA, hosted by greencube.gallery. The group has also participated in last edition of The Wrong Digital Biennale, curating the Internet Fame pavilion, and will be a board member of the next edition. It’s upcoming projects include a cooperation with the meme research group “The Philosopher’s Meme”, which will be featured in the talk.