Visible Evidence 2021

Neoliberal Media Platforms

Laurie Ouellette
Mirosław Przylipiak
Joshua Simon
Chair: Jason Fox
Fri, Dec 17
90 Min
Mousonturm (Studio 2)
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GoFundMe: Crowdfunding as First-Person Media

GoFundMe is a for-profit crowdfunding platform launched in 2010 to raise funds for people in need. The largest platform of its kind in the U.S., it is known for hosting personal fundraising campaigns to offset the costs of health care, housing, education, funerals and other needs and emergencies. This argues that GoFundMe is simultaneously a cultural platform for an emergent form of first-person documentary media. I situate GoFundMe within the media culture of neoliberalism, reflecting the decline of the welfare state on one hand and proliferating opportunities for the self-representation of ordinary people in the age of reality TV and social media on the other.

Based on an analysis of dozens of personal GoFundMe fundraising campaigns as well as the platform’s prefabricated scripts, production tips and marketing templates for successful campaigns, I elaborate how GoFundMe intersects with and breaks from the historical representation of disempowered others in the social reform documentary tradition as critiqued by Brian Winston and other scholars. In an era of rising precarity and economic inequality, GoFundMe enlists have nots as self-empowered cultural producers who use amateur photography and video, personal and biographical narratives, and networked social media do document and overcome individualized hardships. Unlike the “victims” of social reform documentary, everyday fundraisers are conceived as entrepreneurial subjects and encouraged to use techniques of self-representation designed for currency in the form of likes, shares, and financial donations. The paper situates this phenomenon within scholarship on social reform documentary and first-person media and suggests that GoFundMe is a quintessential cultural technology of post-welfare citizenship of our times.

Laurie Ouellette

Laurie Ouellette is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Minnesota and the editor of Television & New Media. She writes about nonfiction television and technologies of citizenship, among other topics. Her books include Better Living Through Reality TV: Television and Post-Welfare Citizenship, Keywords for Media Studies, Lifestyle TV, and Viewers Like You: How Public Television Failed the People.

Factual programming in social media in the face of the current democracy crisis in Poland

The goal of this paper is to present the role of factual programming transmitted via social media in the oppositional practices in contemporary Poland. A topic of live streaming of acts of protest has been extensively depicted in the context of the so-called Arab spring, but much less has been said about Eastern Europe. This paper aims to fill this gap. Apart from the global context, I would like to highlight the local circumstances. An important point of reference is the tradition of the Polish documentary cinema from the 70’s and 80’s, when Polish documentary filmmakers used their films to contest the communist regime. Another significant aspect is the tradition of civic self-organization, deeply rooted in the Polish society.

The Polish public life of the last several years has been dominated by a deep societal split and a political conflict. The ruling party has taken over the public broadcaster and turned it into a tool of political propaganda. The part of civic society opposing what it perceives as demolition of democracy turned to social media, with a particular stress on factual programming. Independent initiatives started to pop up, several networks of internet television have been created and many of them have grown into institutions of a significant size. An important part of programming are live transmissions of numerous protests. Another significant element are the educational initiatives, like the Open Society Academy, involving experts from various fields, giving talks on such topics as media impartiality, rule of law or hate speech. Moreover, more traditional independent documentaries are being produced, which are meant to expose the dysfunctions of the power structure and try to depict and understand this very deep rift in the Polish society.

Mirosław Przylipiak

Mirosław Przylipiak, professor of film and media studies in University of Gdańsk. His main publications include the four books on documentary cinema and about 160 academic papers on various aspects of film and media. He also made several documentary films and series of television educational programmes. Mirosław Przylipiak was a founder and first managing director of Academic Educational Television of Gdańsk University. His main areas of interest are: theory and aesthetics of cinema, documentary film, American direct cinema, and Polish cinema.

The Selfie Coup as Compact-Mass, or Buffering and Late Fascism

‘The Selfie Coup,’ the insurrection on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, provides an example of digital polity. When the invaders arrive at the US senate floor, they yell ’Where the f**k are they?’ but are eventually left to take selfies of themselves. Walter Benjamin writes on radio mediation in the essay on mechanical reproduction: ‘Parliaments, as much as theatres, are empty’. The failure of capital circulation and the defeat of labor brought the friction to the point of realisation – tenant unions, anti-gentrification groups, consumer boycotts. In said essay by Benjamin (second version), he uses the term ‘compact-mass,’ to describe a grouping of people that has the potential to either organize for communism or be managed by fascism (in a letter from 18.03.1936, Adorno compliments him for the use of this term).

The events of January 6 unfolded live on TV without much documentation from the inside of the building in real time, and then surfaced as short videos from inside. Both rushed and slow, brief, and repetitive – streamed rather than broadcasted, the duration of the events was uneven and stretched; the pulses of violence and irritation are those of buffering and parceling – on the algorithmic platforms of Parler and Zello and on the Senate floor. With the ceremonial torching of TV equipment (Antenna) at the Capitol, the wave was being replaced by the data package – literally, a compact-mass; the pulses of information, running along optic fibers and satellite triangulations – parcels of data that are shot at intervals (their lags or condensation appear as what we call buffering). The financial reality that this media structure emulates is that of flow and capture at the point of realisation, which is one of the characteristics of our late fascisms.

Joshua Simon

Joshua Simon, curator and author based in Philadelphia and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Director of curatorial affairs at Artlink. Former director and chief curator of MoBY-Museums of Bat Yam, Tel Aviv (2012- 2017). Simon is visiting critic at the Fine Arts program at the University of Pennsylvania, and teaches at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and at Leuphana University, Germany. Recently curated The Dividual (The Kunstraum at Leuphana University, Lüneburg, 2021), and In the Liquid (PrintScreen Media Festival, 2018). Author of Neomaterialism (Sternberg, 2013) among others, and editor of Communists Anonymous (Sternberg, 2017), and Being Together Precedes Being: A Textbook for The Kids Want Communism (Archive, 2019), and Noa Yafe: Beyond the Distance – A Distance (Mousse, 2020), among others.

Chair: Jason Fox

Jason Fox is the Founding Editor of World Records. He has taught Media Studies at Princeton University, Vassar College, and CUNY Hunter College.