Performing Opposition

Post by Erica Fagen

Freddie Rokem, the well-known theatre scholar, describes theatre and performance as a form of “witnessing.”[i] He argues that in theatrical performances set against actual historical events like French Revolution or the Second World War, the actor often assumes the place of the now-dead witness.[ii] They also play the role of historian or “hyper-historian” in a sense, as they “serve as connecting link between the historical past and the ”fictional.””[iii] Though his work relates to theatre specifically, it is nonetheless a useful method to think about performance as an act of . In order to understand the role of photographers like PM Cheung and others, it is useful to understand their role as photographers as the “witnesses” and “hyper-historians” Rokem describes. When they document the anti-Nazi rallies they attend, they assume the role of the actor and become witnesses to the events unraveling, and thus the authority or “hyper-historian” who will be documenting the events which passed at these demonstrations. To think of the anti-Nazi demonstrations and rallies as a performance and the photographers as an actor/witness/hyper-historian, one can better conceptualize how to think of Flickr as a centre of history-making, and thus can help historians understand how social media can help bridge historical understanding.

The photographs of PM Cheung, Thomas Rassloff and Boeseraltermann contain strong elements of performance. Both anti-Nazi and neo-Nazi demonstrations have performative aspects to them, as Fabian Virchow emphasizes. Neo-Nazi demonstrations, explains Virchow, have a performative nature to them, which includes “its symbols, marching order, slogans, etc.”[iv] Anti-Nazi activists, whose message is obviously quite different from that of neo-Nazis, use slogans and symbols for their rallies and counter-demonstrations. The performative stance of anti-Nazi protestors, whether it be through slogans, or more creative means like balloons, are of utmost significance to discuss. Performance for these anti-Nazi activists takes place at first on the street, and continued through social media. These anti-Nazi protesters, documented by PM Cheung and Thomas Rassloff, are “performing” their activism, and the photographers are there to document and “witness” their actions.

In order to better understand how people perform their activism on the street, it is useful to consult Paul Routledge”s article on “sensuous solidarities.” In this piece, he discusses the CIRCA organization which was present at the G8 protests in Gleneagles, Scotland.[v] CIRCA is a group of protestors who dress up as clowns to demonstrations. The image of the clown or the jester is associated with humour and ridicule, and has been the case for centuries.[vi] The performative nature of CIRCA’s protests is crucial to consider. They present themselves as a clown army, performing their activist stance through their bizarre costumes. It is the notion of the absurd, of the creative, which merits the most attention, as activists who combat neo-Nazism also use creative means. As Routledge explains,

“clown faces exaggerated the absurdity of the notion of a clown army. While military uniforms are associative of war/security (in the form of the regular army) and aggression/militancy (in the form of certain types of grassroots activism), the (deconstructed) rebel clown multiform in combination with the usually friendly clown face was a deliberate attempt to undermine the intimidation and violence associated with alter-globalization protests. Clown faces and multiforms served to magnify activists’ commonality and enabled activists to act together, while at the same time attracting media attention.”[vii]

These clown faces encapsulate ideas of the bizarre and absurd to protest, and can thus be seen as a creative form of demonstrating. Routledge goes on further in his article to discuss rebel clown logic, which he describes as “an associative logic, based on visual signs, wordplay and emotional resonance. It drew explicitly on key elements of clowning, attempting through playful confrontation to exaggerate and invert the social order, retextualizing it in order to reveal its absurdity, and invite others (such as the public) to reconsider it. Rebel clown logic was combined with the multiforms, clown faces, and clown manoeuvres in order to attempt to subvert the hegemonic logic and the taken-for-granted world articulated by the G8.”[viii] It is important to consider that Routledge emphasizes both the playful and subversive nature of CIRCA’s protests. Like the clown costumes Routledge describes, the activists in PM Cheung, Thomas Rassloff, and Boeseraltermann”s photographs use both playful and subversive themes to get their message across. Cheung and Rassloff capture playful and subversive actions with their photographs of balloons, while Boeseraltermann does so with his photographs of Hitler caricatures and toilet humour. These three photographers fill the role of the actor/witness that Rokem illustrates; they are in the thick of the action, of the protests, documenting what they see. They also act as hyper-historians, not only for the reason that they are telling, or narrating the stories of anti-Nazi demonstrations, but also because their work is presented the global Web audience to discuss and share.

Thomas Rassloff, PM Cheung, and Boeseraltermann’s work with unconventional imagery can be interpreted as playful and subversive. Both men document and “witness” an anti-Nazi rally in Neuruppin, located in eastern Germany. What is particularly striking about these images is that they feature orange and white balloons with the message “Kein Ort für Nazis” (No place for Nazis) written on them. They can be seen here and here. The performance of the young boy is particularly striking, as it raises questions of who is involved in protest and why photographers feature certain images.[ix] These performances through the use of balloons give scholars a lot to ponder. Like the clowns, people are using images not commonly associated with protest. This performative aspect of protest, by using balloons as a kind of prop to share their voices and opinions, can be thought as creative, like the CIRCA clown protests. Using creative means to protest is not limited to Flickr and social media; creative forms of protest, it should be noted, can be found elsewhere. For example, Nabil Echachaibi in his article explains that North African youth in France use radio as well as hip-hop and rap music to express their discontent with French politics.[x] For them, using music is a means of performance, creativity and activism. Going back to social media, creative and playful performance is exemplified in this photo taken by PM Cheung. This image depicts anti-Nazi slogans such as “Nazis – Nein Danke!” written in red and blue on white building blocks. This photograph encapsulates both the playful and subversive themes highlighted earlier, and further strengthens the argument that PM Cheung and Thomas Rassloff act as “witnesses,” as they are documenting events from demonstrations. Playful and subversive images can also be found in the photographs of Boeseraltermann. Boeseraltermann, who describes himself as an activist against neo-Nazis, takes photographs of swastikas in garbage cans, of slogans and illustrations comparing neo-Nazis to excrement, as well as other humourous images. One of of these images can be seen here. By using the absurd to protest, Boeseraltermann is documenting alternative ways to combat the far-right. As a “witness” to events happening, he is documenting the events that are unfolding.

Boeseraltermann’s actions as an actor/witness goes beyond the theatre of street protest. He and other photographers on Flickr act as “alter-activists,”[xi] to borrow a term from Jeffrey Juris and Geoffrey Henri Pleyers. The authors write that alter-activists “participate in broader global justice events, including regional and world social forums, but they do so by keeping ‘one foot in, and one foot out’, maintaining a critical attitude toward internal hierarchies and non-democratic practices. Alter-activist discourses and practices, which are characterised by creative forms of action and an emphasis on process and experimentation, are found among young people around the world, but are more prevalent in Europe and North America.”[xii] What the authors argue describe Boeseraltermann’s role quite well. He sees himself as an activist, which he makes clear in his Flickr profile.[xiii] Most importantly, however, is that Boeseraltermann, along with PM Cheung, Thomas Rassloff and other photographers documenting opposition to neo-Nazis, is that he is participating in a creative, playful, and subversive form of action. By using Flickr and interacting with other users, whether it is by favoriting their photographs or following fellow activist amateur photographers on Twitter,[xiv] Boeseraltermann is engaging in a creative form of protest. He is taking photographs poking fun at Nazis, such as a garden gnome with an uncanny resemblance to Hitler giving the “Heil Hitler” salute, to which it is crossed out in red and the words “Nazis Stoppen!” written underneath. In the same album,[xv] there is a photograph of a man with his face obscurred holding a cardboard sign with a caricature of Hitler and “Nazis sind doof” (Nazis are stupid) written underneath it. Boeseraltermann continues to be creative with his more witty, subversive photographs such as this one, which depicts a Port-o-Potty with a sign on top which reads “Braunes ins klo,” and a swastika going into the toilet. Creative activism, which encompasses playful and subversive photo subjects, is central to Boeseraltermann’s photo-taking and photo-sharing skills, and one that historians should seriously take into account.

The photographs of PM Cheung, Thomas Rassloff, Boeseraltermann and others should be seen within the context of performance and of “witnessing,” but also as involvement with more creative forms of protesting. Viewing their photographs and Flickr as a medium fulfill what Belinda Davis, Timothy Brown and Lorena Anton argue regarding protest. Davis explains that Europeans continue to write their history of protest,[xvi] with Brown and Anton who argue that protest is no longer limited to the streets, but to a number of spheres.[xvii] The photographers in discussion are Europeans who, as hyper-historians, are writing their history of protest, and are doing so on the sphere of social media. Freddie Rokem’s words resonate with this new, digital format of protest – these photographers, by their involvement in the performance and theatrics of protest, are “witnesses” to the production of history.

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[i] Freddie Rokem, Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre, Studies in Theatre History & Culture, edited by Thomas Postlewait, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000).
[ii] Rokem, Performing History, xii.

[iii] Rokem, Performing History,13.

[iv] Fabian Virchow, “Performance, Emotion, and Ideology: On the Creation of “Collectives of Emotion” and Worldview in the Contemporary German Far Right,” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 36, no. 2 (2007): 158.

[v] Paul Routledge, “Sensuous Solidarities: Emotion, Politics and Performance in the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army,” Antipode, 44, no. 2 (2012): 428-452.

[vi] Routledge, “Sensuous Solidarities,” 432.

[vii] Routledge, “Sensuous Solidarities,” 436.

[viii] Routledge, “Sensuous Solidarities,” 438.

[ix] For more contextualization on the metonymy of an image, or how it is used to represent an event or movement, see David Perlmutter and Gretchen Wagner, “The anatomy of a photojournalistic icon: marginalization of dissent in the selection and framing of ‘a death in Genoa’” Visual Communication. 3, no.1 (2004): 91-108.
[x] Nabil Echchaibi, “We Are French Too, but Different: Radio, Music and the Articulation of Difference Among Young North Africans in France,” Gazette 63, no. 4 (August 2001): 295-310.

[xi] Jeffrey D. Juris and Geoffrey Henri Pleyers, “Alter-activism: emerging cultures of participation among young global justice activists,” Journal of Youth Studies 12, no. 1 (February 2009): 57-75.

[xii] Juris and Pleyers, “Alter-activism,” 63.

[xiii] He writes, in German, of his activism and frustration with neo-Nazis and major news outlets. “Christian Jäger (Boeseraltermann)”s photostream,” Flickr. n.d., accessed May 17, 2012. http://www.flickr.com/people/boeseraltermannberlin/

[xiv] Thanks to David Cranswick”s work on Evernote, I was able to find the Twitter accounts of Boeseraltermann, PM Cheung, and Thomas Rassloff. When I looked through their followers and followees, I found that these three men follow eachother.

[xv] “Naziaufmarsch Nummer— Neuruppin 14.04.2012-0107,” Flickr, n.d., accessed May 17, 2012, http://www.flickr.com/photos/boeseraltermannberlin/7076974877/in/photostream.

[xvi] Belinda Davis, “What’s Left? Popular and Democratic Political Participation in Postwar Europe,” The American Historical Review. 113, no. 2 (April 2008): 390.

[xvii] Timothy Brown and Lorena Anton, eds, Between the Avant-Garde and the Everyday: Subversive Politics in Europe from 1957 to the Present, Vol. 6, Protest, Culture & Society (New York: Berghann Books, 2011): 1.

Search, Mine, and Collect: Our Digital Humanities Methodology

Post by Erica Fagen

“Search, Scrape, Clip, Cite.”[i] These are the steps Hate 2.0 collaborator Shawn Graham suggested in his Prezi earlier this year entitled “Digital Tools & Perspectives for New Graduate Students in History.” Both David Cranswick and I used this shorthand in our early research on the Hate 2.0 project. First came “searching” (going through Flickr and various websites), then “scraping” (Outwit Hub Firefox plugin), followed by “clipping” (Evernote) and finally “citing” (Zotero). The subsequent paragraphs will present this process in greater detail as well as the digital humanities methods used to identify the amateur photographers at the centre of our analysis.

When I first started my research on Hate 2.0, Jen suggested that I search through the following websites: the webportal of the Bundesverfassungsschutz or BfV (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), no-nazi.net (an anti-Nazi civil society initiative promoting web literacy for today’s youth), and the web presence of the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung (a foundation named in memory of a victim of right-wing violence). All of these websites were very helpful in familiarizing me with tactics for dealing with neo-Nazism in today”s Germany. Jen also suggested I look at Die Zeit”s newspaper series “Neue deutsche Nazis” (New German Nazis) , where for some time journalists have been compiling special reports on this emerging trend.[ii] It was at this point that I decided I would apply some digital humanities tools. In order to see the common themes in eleven articles in the series which appeared between March 8th to May 16th 2012, I decided to use Voyant Tools to identify which words were most commonly used, as well to see if I could learn anything new from the resulting tag cloud. (I recently re-entered the article information into Voyant, as the link from May was not working).

My initial results were not what I was expecting. Voyant deduced that words like “und” (and), “dem” and “der” (variations of the) were the most common in articles about neo-Nazis. Knowing this was incorrect, I changed the language settings to German and applied so-called stopwords, words like “and,” “a,” and “the.” Instantly, my results were more in line with what I was looking for: words like “Neonazis,” “Rechtextremismus” (right-wing extremism) and “Deutschland” were the most common words in the eleven texts. Other words such as “NPD” and “Dortmund” were less popular, but appeared 66 and 38 times, respectively. The tag cloud can be seen here. Though this exercise was not as useful as I thought it would be, it did confirm that “Rechtsextreme” and “Rechtsextremismus” were popular keywords, and would be useful search terms when mining through Flickr photographs.[iii]

Following this brief experiment with Voyant, I consulted David Cranswick’s work with digital humanities tools. He used Outwit Hub, Evernote, and Zotero. In order to “scrape” material and collect data from the Web, David used the Outwit Hub Firefox plugin. To better understand this process, I ran an exercise in Outwit Hub. Recreating the process of “catching” links, images, and other kinds of data and then exporting it to csv and HTML files, I now understood how David found his information. To read David’s reflection on his digital humanities process, click here and here.

David’s research notes on Evernote proved to be invaluable when searching through the work of these amateur activist photographers. Each photographer had two to five notes which included (if available) their Profile Information, Flickr profile, Twitter profile, Contact Network, and blog/personal website. The entries of Björn Kietzmann, Boeseraltermann, mikael.zellman, neukoellnbild, PM Cheung, Thomas Rassloff, and WildeBilder were among those examined. After reading that PM Cheung and Boeseraltermann were at the core of the network, with Boeseraltermann, an activist dedicated to photographing anti-Nazi themes, and PM Cheung, a highly connected documentarian dedicated to capturing a variety of demonstrations and causes, I turned to their Flickr pages and analyzed their online collection. They did not disappoint — both activists do an excellent job in documenting neo-Nazi rallies and creative forms of anti-Nazi opposition. (One of Boeseraltermann’s photographs can be seen here, one of PM Cheung’s here). Though this work is interesting for a variety of reasons, I decided to look further into the work of photographers who were labeled as “intermediate” within the larger network. When I researched the work of Thomas Rassloff on Flickr, I went through tags dealing with neo-Nazi and anti-Nazi themes such as “Nazidemo,” “Gegenprotest,” “Demo,” and “Rassismus.” Following this, I discovered that Rassloff”s photographs were engaging and imaginative, so I decided that Rassloff’s work would a nice complement to the others for this article.[iv] One photograph of Thomas Rassloff that is particularly intriguing may be seen here.

The styles of the three photographers are different, yet they all have a strong activist tone to their work. The process of selecting them, as well as learning more about mainstream media reports on the rise of neo-Nazism, was greatly aided by the use of digital humanities technologies, without which the selection process would have been much more difficult. Thanks to the process of “Search, Scrape, Clip, Cite,” collecting the vast amounts of information on anti-Nazi activists was an organized, interesting, as well as fun process.

Although we can say with some certainty that they formed part of a network community of anti-Nazi activists, confirmed by the degree of in- and out-group relationality and the mere fact that they comment on each other”s images, our article will explore ways we might gauge their three-way conversation, and its impact in the diverse publics that emerge online as their images are tweeted, tagged, and shared.

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[i] Shawn Graham, “Digital Tools & Perspectives for New Graduate Students in History,” Prezi, November 28, 2011, accessed July 5, 2012, http://prezi.com/jeohvtgf32aa/digital-tools-perspectives-for-new-graduate-students-in-history/.
[ii] “Serie: ‘Neue deutsche Nazis,’” Die Zeit, March 3-May 16, 2012, accessed May 17, 2012, http://www.zeit.de/serie/neue-deutsche-nazis.
[iii] Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Cirrus,” Voyant, July 5, 2012, http://voyant-tools.org/tool/Cirrus/>

[iv] It should be noted here that Jen and I took over this Zotero account, which we now use a citing and bibliographic tool for articles relating to protest, social media, and visual culture. We continue to use the “Cite” step highlighted in the Prezi.

Collaboration 101 or Writing as Social Process

Post by Jennifer Evans

This post will surely evolve over the course of the next hours. I can say that with absolute confidence because I have given Erica full license to jump in and edit my words, language, and sentence structure, as needed. I also know that I”ll be revising it on the fly (as the kids say), given multiple obligations and the different hats I wear at any given time (grad chair, researcher, supervisor, wading pool aficionado, oh, and moderately engaged parent). Why mention this at the outset of a post related to our article on social media and online hate? Because it goes to the heart of the issue of writing quickly, for immediate consumption, laying bare the process, and leveling (somewhat?) the playing field.

In the short space I have here, I want to make the case for the merits of writing quickly and collaboratively, online. As Erica outlined in yesterday’s missive, over the next few weeks, we”ll be workshopping portions of our article manuscript as a series of blog posts. Each section, or mini-section, will be tweeted (and FB’d) so as to attract interest and, we hope, solicit feedback as the ideas take form and shape. Blogging the article is more than a simple gimmick. Since one of our arguments about Flickr is that it serves as a unique (and important) form of 21st century protest, creating new and diverse publics through on- and offline participatory culture, it seems only logical that we explore this notion through our own digital writing.

In this context of rapidly evolving public spheres, it is important to consider the contradictory claims made by media experts on web 2.0’s potential to shape existing power relations and status structures, enabling marginalized voices to coalesce, mobilize, and be heard. Beyond the issue of group behaviour, even on role of social media in individual identity formation the jury is apparently out. While anthropologist Tom Boehlstorff and art historian Jennifer Gonzalez have stressed the playful and indeed liberatory work of online communities (MUDs and MOOs) as places where people re-imagine their identities as virtually human “digital assemblages,” Lisa Nakamura has argued that more often than not social media simply perpetuates time-honoured representations of racial and ethnic identities through the construction and use of cybertypes, basically new variations of old ideas.

By now, we”ve all groaned our way through citizen commentaries in newspaper reports, reminded of the limits of the medium for critical discourse and debate. And who hasn’t been forced over water cooler conversation to either defend or invoke Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker on the pros and cons of social media activism? Even the skeptics cannot resist the force and erudition of Pulitzer Prize winning author Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain which has sounded the alarm against the more sinister workings of the internet in changing the way we process, interpret, and store information. According to the naysayers, deep thinking, critical thinking, and anti-foundational political thought and action is just not possible in our virtual communities.  While I agree it would be too much to suggest that tweeting is to understanding what writing is to knowledge, ie. it takes more than words on the page to make for a true meeting of minds, what about the internet”s potential for bringing an audience into conversation with the way academic ideas percolate and evolve? What benefit is there in making transparent how we hash out our arguments and make ideas jell? Might there also be something inherently productive, maybe even political, about unveiling the process, warts and all?

As explored recently in an online forum on cultures of collaboration in the contemporary university, in academic writing, we draft in isolation, only to share our thoughts with trusted friends at the end of the process of editing, revising, and rethinking. Despite efforts to promote interdisciplinarity as the stuff of intellectual debate and exchange, we tend to stay within the comfort of established disciplinary networks, especially in the early phase of writing. Journals themselves are by and large discipline specific, despite a few notable exceptions. After another few rounds of edits, where we unmake and remake our drafts in light of peer-reviewers” comments, a finished manuscript might finally be ready for publication, only a quick check of the watch shows that this will take place some 6-12 months after the initial outline was penned. It then can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months for that same piece to emerge in print, or for download, more often than not behind a pay wall, meaning average folks (and recent grads!) won”t be able to access the information without a friend of a friend with a current university library card. In other words, in today”s university, there remain considerable personal, disciplinary, and institutional impediments to getting the message out, doing things differently, and experimenting with new writing styles, ideas, and forms.

In our case, blogging the article provides several unique opportunities to negotiate our creative as well as intellectual voices while playing to our different strengths. There is an ethical dimension to this as well, as we unpack the politics of editing each other”s words, intervening in each other”s process as it were. And then there is the thorny issue of experience. I may be the tenured professor, with a few articles and a book under my belt, but it is Erica who is fluent in digital humanities tools, arguments, and practitioners. She is the student — albeit a talented one about to embark on a PhD at one of the US’s best Public History programmes — but I am surely the one with the steepest learning curve.

How is this any different from garden variety collaboration? The social media component of fast writing, blogging, and tweeting our posts makes it well nigh impossible to hide the blemishes when an idea is obviously still gestating. And maybe that too is not entirely horrible. There has been tremendous interest of late in the “Busy Trap” with journalists, bloggers,faculty unions, and scholars lobbying for a rethink of how we measure output and “excellence.” Not only is the blogging of ideas a very natural way of communicating research results for a wide audience, but posts evolve and change with each tweak, edit, and rewrite, showing anyone who has hazarded to stop by the challenges, stumbling blocks, weaknesses, and potential payoffs of a project’s parameters. While the digital medium is also well-suited to the ebbs and flows of contemporary life and the challenges of never having enough time, perhaps more importantly, it allows us to chip away at the “data” and make all manner of mistakes in the service of “getting it right.” Making the process more transparent and accessible while fessing up to the fact that ideas evolve  in well-structured chaos reminds us too that writing is also, fundamentally, a social process, perhaps even a human one, deeply flawed but dynamic and in a constant state of amelioration, evolution, and change. While perhaps not inherently democratic, interminably accessible — heck, not even always erudite and good — fast writing in digital space is most certainly creative, and in an age of rampant austerity, that alone is reason enough to consider its productive potential as a commitment to the advancement of ideas.

These Racists in the East

Post by Christiane Wilke

The Berlin Wall has dissolved. I know, it shouldn’t be news that the Berlin Wall is no more, even to historians. And I am not a historian. But we did have some major issues with creating access to our beautiful blog, which is why there was silence from a number of us. Isn’t this ironic that a blog on social media falters for lack of access? Now we’re here, ready to post, discuss, and comment.

My work for Hate 2.0 will focus on representations of Neonazis and otherness in Germany. The revelations about the NSU terror cell that killed ten people over a number of years has shown that migrants are seen as others, strangers, and suspect by the German police. The police long suspected that the migrants among the victims had been killed by someone from “organized crime” circles from their respective ethnic communities. At the official memorial ceremony to the victims, relatives spoke very powerfully of their alienation that was caused by not only losing a family member, but also becoming suspect in the eyes of the police. This is one side of the story.

The other side of the story is that the NSU, a core of three people from East Germany, is often described as an East German phenomenon. Well , is it? Or are there factors that make it easier for Neonazis to work, to find followers, and to find acceptance that are present in East Germany but also elsewhere? To me, the danger in the rush to declare the NSU an East German product is to miss the broader social connections that enable these terror networks to operate. This is not only dangerous for those whose security is endangered by Neonazis. It also does something else: those who affirm that Neonazis are an East German problem and blame it on specifically East German causes (the GDR education system, legacies of authoritarian ideologies) affirm the immunity of their own West German communities from the “virus” of Neonazi ideologies and violence. So there is a lot at stake: identity, inclusion, and the search for the realistic causes of hate and violence.

The problem of finding the racism elsewhere, in Europe typically east of wherever one is located, is fairly widespread. The recent soccer/football Eurocup is a good case in point. Ahead of the tournament, the British press was abhorred by racism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine, contrasting it nicely with the UK’s much improved record of diversity. The cup did in fact bring out the racism in the fans of several European countries. The Russian and Spanish teams were formally fined for the racist chants and monkey noises of their fans. Italian star striker Mario Balotelli drew the ire of Croatian, German as well as Spanish fans. German fans carried racist banners, glorified or belittled the Holocaust in Poland, wore jerseys that combined the German team’s colours with Nazi insignia, and insulted Polish and Ukrainian service workers. The journalists covering the fans did nothing (in German). After Mario Balotelli scored the two Italian goals against Germany in the semifinal, German fans took their frustration to twitter and other social networks, complaining that they did not lose to the Italian side but to an African player (well, they used slightly different terms). In Spain, some fans celebrated the Eurocup victory using fascist symbols. Between Spain, Croatia, Germany, Russia, and Poland, the racism accusations span pretty much the entire continent. True, there might be degrees and nuances, and the ideologies and expressions differ. Yet the picture is not as East/West as the pre-tournament media frenzy would have predicted.

What does this all add up to? First, it is popular to locate racism elsewhere and thereby appear to be better, more enlightened, more civilized. Second, the Eurocup showed that soccer/football fans from many of the participating teams use racist language and signs towards players of other teams. Successful and confident black players like Balotelli are especially popular targets. Third, the process of locating racism elsewhere also works to hide or minimize the racism ”at home.” In Europe, racism is officially unacceptable, and thus it is popular to disown it by placing it elsewhere. Look there, in the East, these racists! It’s not that there aren’t any, but not only there, but also here, wherever that may be.

There is work ahead, and now that the Berlin Wall around the blog is gone, let’s go ahead and do it!

Flickr, Protest, and “Vernacular Creativity:” A Report on Hate 2.0 Research

Post by Erica Fagen

This past month was a busy one in terms of familiarizing myself with literature related to Hate 2.0. I dedicated the month of June to reading up on theoretical and methodological approaches to Flickr and social media more broadly, while engaging with the literature on online protest, creative forms of opposition, and the role, place, and function of emotion, camp, and performance in demonstrations.  This research was critical background reading for how we plan to conceptualize the work of Boeseraltermann (@Boeseraltermann), PM Cheung (@pm_cheung), and Thomas Rassloff (@ThomasRassloff), amateur activist photographers who document neo-Nazi demonstrations and the counter-protests of their opponents. Drawing on this literature, and combing through the hundreds of photographs taken by these three men, I feel well-equipped to begin co-writing our collaborative article on what historians can do with social media. In the subsequent paragraphs, I will discuss what scholarly work I found particularly interesting, as well as highlight plans for the Hate 2.0 article I will be piecing together — here — with Jen Evans.

In terms of scholarly approaches to Flickr — the photosharing, photo album-like utility that came on the scene in 2006 — the work of Jean Burgess and “vernacular creativity” is as fascinating as it is illuminating. Burgess, a media scholar at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, argues that vernacular creativity — the term she gives to the capturing, uploading, and sharing of images, the use of hashtags to connote themes, and posting of comments  —  “drives the development and produces much of the value of the online creative networks that form part of the ”Web 2.0” model of online participatory culture” (Burgess, 118).  Flickr’s photosharing capabilities, then, are as much about the archiving of events as a commitment to the sharing of ideas in diverse and public fora. Vernacular creativity is a useful way of understanding the work of people who share photographs on Flickr.  Although most people on Flickr are not professional photographers, Burgess argues that they are “creative practitioners” who use Flickr because it allows them to be creative with their photographic work. That this creative work is also politically charged and relevant as a form of strategic opposition is an important part of the Hate 2.0 project, and will serve as the backbone of our blog entries and article in development here.

Beyond the literature on Flickr, I also looked at a variety of more traditional historical themes including the history of protest culture, the nature of online protest, avant-guard imagery and popular opposition, and the emotion and performance of protest in situ as well as online.  I read about online participatory culture and the links to real time opposition in Thomas Poell and Erik Borra”s article on the #g20report hashtag, which activists used during the G20 protests in Toronto (Poell and Borra, 1-19).  Written by a historian and data scientist, respectively, this article examines the use of this hashtag on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.  Their findings will serve a good base for our introductory remarks about what connects online events will everyday forms of opposition.  Another interesting article I read was Paul Routledge’s “Sensuous Solidarities: Emotion, Politics and Performance in the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army,” which looks at CIRCA, an organization which used clown costumes to protest the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. He argues “that sensuous solidarities constituted a series of complex, contradictory and emotive co-performances and resonances with police, other protestors and the public…” (Routledge 428). Analyzing protest through the lens of “sensuous solidarities” and emotion will no doubt be useful and will provide us with an alternative framework to look social media”s role in structuring emotional as well as online communities.  CIRCA”s subversive and creative form of protest will encourage us to think deeper as to why activists who combat hate and neo-Nazism use humourous imagery to prove their point.

In the coming weeks, Jen and I will post excerpts from our article-in-development, with the intention of garnering interest and comments from the wide Web 2.0 community.  Be sure to check this website for blog posts on digital humanities research methodology, vernacular creativity, and emotion and performance in anti-Nazi demonstrations.  If you would like to provide commentary and feedback about our work, we encourage you to do so and might just incorporate your thoughts into our manuscript. Our next post will be on how we located our data set and found photographers like PM Cheung and Thomas Rassloff, together with a discussion of the benefits of using digital humanities tools for this research project.