Sad By Design: Melancholy in Social Media
Lovink, scholar, activist, and internet critic, started by introducing the latest projects that he has been working on at the Institute of Network Cultures (INC) in Amsterdam. The Institute was founded by Lovink in 2004 and its main goal has been to establish sustainable research networks through the organization of events, publications and online dialogue. The Institute pursues its mission in collaboration with scholars, designers, and activists.
Some of the projects the INC has developed are MoneyLab, which deals with bitcoins, blockchain, demonetization, crowdfunding and all the new forms of digital currency, and Unlike Us #3, a project that started in 2011 to investigate alternatives to social media, and to envision an alternate social media architecture. According to Lovink, we are currently locked into the now dominant social media platforms, designed purposefully to create melancholy and nostalgia in users. “Instagram Stories, for example, bring back the nostalgia of an unfolding chain of events – and then disappear at the end of the day, like a revenge act, a satire of ancient sentiments gone by. Storage will make the pain permanent. Better forget about it and move on.”
In the second part of his lecture, Lovink introduced his latest book Sad by Design: on Platform Nihilism (2019), dedicated to studies in critical internet culture. Lovink believes that after all the debates on the topic of social media, especially after the recent scandals involving Facebook and Google, Brexit, Trump, Bitcoins, and Cambridge Analytica, a whole new climate and a new context for discussion have been developing. In his book, Lovink discusses topics such as selfies, which he defines as masks that we wear and which could lead to narcissism, and the concept of “empathic criticism,” which refers to the distraction and addiction that social media generate. “Likes and followers define your social status. But what happens when nothing can motivate you anymore, when all the self-optimization techniques fail?”
The conclusion of the book includes some strategic guidelines and tips to the readers who are shaping the field of social media actively, rather than just consuming his content.