Do Some Evil

It’s the opposite to “do no evil”, a call to think through the dirty materiality of media. Trick, deceive, bypass, exploit, short-circuit, and stay inattentive.

Hence, it is not only about “evil objects” as I perhaps myself have focused on (in Digital Contagions, and in other places), even if such objects can be vectors for and emblematic of stratagems of evil media. Evil media studies focuses on strategies that are mobilized as practices of theories. These strategies reach across institutions, and hence it is no wonder that Geert Lovink recently flags this as one approach through which to energize media studies.

Or more formally – Evil Media Studies “is a manner of working with a set of informal practices and bodies of knowledge, characterized as stratagems, which pervade contemporary networked media and which straddle the distinction between the work of theory and of practice”, write Andrew Goffey and Matthew Fuller in the chapter by the same name in The Spam Book.

For me, the attraction in Goffey and Fuller’s call is that it is material – material that is dynamic, non-representational, machinating and filled with energies that flow across software, social and aesthetic.

  1. Bypass Representation
  2. Exploit Anachronisms
  3. Stimulate Malignancy
  4. Machine the Commonplace
  5. Make the Accidental the Essential
  6. Recurse Stratagems
  7. The Rapture of Capture
  8. Sophisticating Machinery
  9. What is Good for Natural Language is Good for Formal Language
  10. Know your Data
  11. Liberate Determinism
  12. Inattention Economy
  13. Brains Beyond Language
  14. Keep Your Stratagem Secret As Long as Possible
  15. Take Care of the Symbols, The Sense Will Follow
  16. The Creativity of Matter

(the list from “Evil Media Studies” by Goffey and Fuller, in The Spam Book: On Porn, Viruses and Other Anomalous Objects From the Dark Side of Digital Culture, eds. Parikka & Sampson, Hampton Press 2009).

  1. June 15, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I find this to be one of the most suggestive and useful things that I’ve seen from new media studies. Coming from a cultural studies background that tries to remember the pirate roots of the CCCS, this form of strategy seems so apropos: neither project-building nor pessimistic, starting from the givenness of the processes of our current materiality.

    It reminds me partially of the Italian Marxist imperative to identify terrains of social antagonism in order to insert via strategic intervention. A handy alternative to the platform.

    Are there interesting examples of this being actualized, or is it merely suggestive?

  2. June 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Hi, I agree on its energetic/energizing nature! Hmmm, I guess its a matter of thinking what counts as actual examples; they talk about psy-ops, etc. as examples of such – I think its a amatter of seeing a wide range of dirty, affective, effective, material, corporeal, twisting, manipulating, etc. processes under this umbrella – and modern media history is filled with such (not least in military contexts). Politically perhaps more “progressive” ones, I am sure Matthew would have great examples.

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