POSTPONED Taina Bucher - Saying nothing, saying plenty: On the role of silences in digital networks

When: Where: CUDAN Open Lab (online)

The event is public via zoom:

AbstractSaying nothing, saying plenty: On the role of silences in digital networks

At the centre of (deliberate) democratic theory lies a fundamental belief in the power of speech as the modus operandi of democratic life. Rather than measuring a well-functioning democracy through active participation and vocal citizenship, this talk shifts the attention to the significance of silence as an alternative for thinking about the boundaries and limits of participation and engagement. As Susan Sonntag (1967/2002) famously put it, far from empty, or incommunicative, silence speaks, sounds, shows and supports. In Samuel Beckett’s theatre of absurd, which is often taken as an example of the communicative silence that nothingness provokes, the things that are not said, known or heard, often say more than that which is present. Building on the aesthetics of silence (Ranciere, 2004; Sontag, 2002), ‘negative’ (political) sociology (Esposito, 2020; Illouz, 2019) and critical digital media studies (Chun, 2021, Singh, 2020) this lecture asks what the place and function of negative communication is in a networked media environment built on values of vocal citizenship and participation. Through algorithmic logics of elevation, software delays and lurking behaviors, this talk makes a case for seeing silence not as a sign of numbness, but as carrying the potentials for resisting the urge to add even more speech under libertarian and capitalist systems that demand otherwise. In a world that not just valorizes speech, but also hinges on it, and ultimately demands speech, what the gesture of silence makes visible, particularly in the digital context of data accumulation, is not necessarily meaning, but communicability.

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