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Memefest Online Social Network: A Dialogue on Present State and Future Strategies


Few weeks ago I posted this on my community board here at Memefest and there was some response, and a short discussion:

"Four years ago,

when we created this online platform with our social network, it was designed as an alternative to Facebook.

No data mining, no commercial advertising, no fake likes, no fake profiles, no surveillance. It is still fascinating for me how many of the people that agree on the argument that FB is very problematic still post on FB- very regularly. When I talk to my friends, usually the argument goes like this: "You are right, FB is very problematic, BUT it is very convenient and because everyone is there I can reach all of my friends easily."

Well, you thought so..


fake likes, global click farms and enforced scarcity of visibility...
acebook's twisted like machine."

These were some of the comments:

3 months ago

I am more and more happy that I never had facebook and honestly hope that more people will realize these facts.I just got back from "DIY" festival in Moscow and every and none of those "anarchists" could believe that Idont have my account...sad

1 month, 4 weeks ago

First of all I completely agree that Facebook is highly problematic - you could argue this has been the case since its release. I think the key problem is not Facebook itself, but the users' flawed perception of what it really is. There seems to have been these kind of expectations of a social network mirroring life with altruistic noble intentions (very understandable as this is how Facebook continues to market itself to some degree). If people stopped using Facebook as a 1:1 digital rendering of analog life, and instead as a flawed fun disjointed digital tool, I think the money-making would come to a sudden end (no useful data to mine and highly difficult targeted marketing). Thus, Facebook would decline into what it essentially is: An imperfect tool that is useful for certain things.

1 month, 3 weeks ago
Oliver- we need to propose a different solution!

1 month, 3 weeks ago
Scott, what do you mean? What do you have in mind?

We are right now starting to work on redesigning the web site and we are discussing how to improve the social network infra/structure/culture that we built here on memefest.org. Wanna get involved?

1 month, 3 weeks ago

Soeren, I think FB feeds on the big pressure to represent and be represented. The reasons for that are many and we do have a pretty paradoxical situation. On one hand peoples awareness of abuse: surveillance, monitoring, data mining etc is bigger than ever, but cultural patterns in terms of technology use are going more and more in the opposite direction one would think aware people would be driving them. I use FB mainly as a source for interesting content that people in my network post. I wonder why such an exchange could not happen more on independent platforms like this one. But here the dialogue could be nurtured as the amount of communication would be less, better and more focused.

1 month, 3 weeks ago
Yep- would love to talk more about that-

1 month, 3 weeks ago
I think it's time- been working in Chicago- let's talk soon-

2 weeks, 2 days ago

Oliver, your selective use of fb is exactly what I meant, as it seems that you clearly view it as one, deeply flawed yet popular, social network rather than THE ultimate, awesome solution to how we could engage socially online. Instead of the one-way manipulation we recently learnt is happening on massive scale with the positive/negative feed experiments, I would love to see people experimenting themselves with manipulating fb. Everyone is there across age, religion, gender, culture etc. That's such a strong argument for using it. But why not define your use? (from fb’s POV: misuse it)? Data-mining is only as good as the data being mined. The pressure of representing and being represented can easily be switched to a game of playful subversion. I still remember the first time I saw a friend with a made-up name, so simple and yet liberating when viewed in the context of "faithful" amped up real life representations. This is not to say that I disagree with the value of other platforms - this is absolutely crucial. (Sidenote: I believe anyone should try designing a social network. No matter how small or simple, the process confronts you with fundamental choices that “matured” popular networks such as fb have successfully bypassed to a degree that we have difficulties imagining any successful alternatives).

I think our main challenge is to revert fb back to what it is: An online social network that doesn't necessarily has anything to do with real life. Stripped of any content we’re basically looking at an empty frame that we can tweak and bend through our content and interaction and playful subversion. Fb’s popularity makes it a center stage for this kind of negotiation. The slow shift we see with dropping popularity among youth in Western countries is countered with growth among the elderly and expansion across development countries etc. Whereas it seems tempting to flee the ship, I hope that critical users will not only go elsewhere but also stay and obfuscate the ultimate “value” of fb: its useful, digestible, rational, exploitable, marketable content.

2 weeks, 1 day ago

the playful appropriation and subversion of FB is something i like, but so far - at least among my FB friends, I haven't seen much of it and there is many critically minded persons in my FB network data mining is only as good as the data you said- this is wonderful. But the problem is that very very few people have the awareness of the business models of FB and similar technologies and how this relates to their data and their privacy, freedom, social relations and and much more... The latest revelations of FB' manipulation are fascinating, but still, I cant see much of a change in peoples behaviour. Having said all this- I agree very much with what you wrote and I think there is possibilities to intervene in FB, but they will be difficult to put in to practice on a larger scale.

What I also really like is this: (Sidenote: I believe anyone should try designing a social network. No matter how small or simple, the process confronts you with fundamental choices that “matured” popular networks such as FB have successfully bypassed to a degree that we have difficulties imagining any successful alternatives).

I have been following Diaspora for a while but have not been checking it for a while.
Is there any other alternative networks you know off? I don’t know of them- at least not in the sense of being open for people to join and without intentional data mining and commercial advertising...

Than after some time Scott (http://www.memefest.org/en/profile/Sttwn/) wrote to Oliver in an email:

I got back from my trip and have been enjoying just working on one thing at a time, but wanted to start a conversation about ideas re Memefest and etc.

I don't know all of the issues that you have dealt with regarding the site and the activities of Memefest, but there are a couple broad ideas that I'd consider re any kind of Memefest 2.0 including the ongoing online platform:

There may be a way to really push further local contexts and exchange of information broadly.

Part of the issue would be to think through what kinds of 'information' can be shared: at this point most of the discussions are sharing information and ideas critically within the blog platform. Making comments and sharing topic areas is important, but could the online platform do more to develop and support other kinds of interactions between users?

Basically, what I am proposing is to look at many current user needs in a user's particular context where they are practicing, and generate new ideas in relationship to supporting and linking social activism. So first a kind of evaluation- then an inventory of things and how Memefest could develop additional programming to help assist activists- which might include these issues:

~is the current online and print-based information of user's 'work' (ie the recently published books + online platform) targeted on the right readers and constituency? Other than sharing and expanding the network of individuals in the Collective, would greater media coverage or some kind of connection to research help them in dealing with their own particular activism?

~how would dissemination and engagement with other institutions be created and what level of writing and presentation would assist in validating the Memefest activities?


For particular users, how can sharing/teaching/resourcing be rethought (the blog format has it's limits obviously here &~if that is the case, you may have some sources to supply grants through 'distanced learning' ), for example:

~is there a way to dig down into sharing techniques of activism/methods of design comparatively?

~what kind of open source 'tools' or techniques can be shared in the website or accessed outside of it- can the site become a kind of online teaching platform, used in real-time with archiving? Can there be a shorter term cycle of some of the programming (an activity every week for example online), that would make Memefest more of a regularized activity for the users- getting people connected and motivated is often about predictable daily routines and expectations...


Now, we had discussions about Facebook, other social networks and the Memefest social network over email and in personal meetings for quite a while. The discussions were not structured or really focused but it seems a good time to structure and focus them more now.

Together with the corespondence above, a good starting point for our discussion might be this:

The article “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks”, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows a large data set experiment that proved potential mass scale manipulation of FB users’ emotions by changing certain data the users were exposed to.

Here’s an abstract of the article:

We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues.

And here’s the full text: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full

Some of the close friends and comrades and Memefest collaborators will be invited to discuss what to do with our Memefest social network, to reflect on it, to think how and what could be done in the future with it and see if there are ways to start using it more often and in a more active way with the involvement of the broader Memefest online network (currently cca 1500 user accounts). We thought its good to do it here- so it is public, rather via closed emails, as in this way anyone can join and participate. So, anyone who wants to contribute to this dialogue- you are warmly invited. The main argument still is- We need autnonomous online social networks. Let's see what happens.


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8 years, 10 months ago

I know facebook is horrible in so many, many ways. But I enjoy being in touch with people I care about and don’t get to see everyday. I also enjoy the articles and videos and opinions my friends point me to; and yes, most of them are my ‘real’ friends, in life and online.

But right now as I am putting my attention to facebook and it’s failures something feels wrong. Instead I want to be learning more about Palestine, thinking about the community I live in and the deep, horrible and complicated politics of this place.

An alternative network would be wonderful. Memefest as an alternative network doesn’t work for me, because I don’t know many people at all here. And many of the issues I follow are not discussed here, where as they are on facebook.

If everyone I knew on facebook moved to an alternative network – we would be closer to an ideal world. But making that shift is the difficult thing. If you can achieve it – you’ll strike gold (culturally not economically).

8 years, 10 months ago

Memefest online social network was not designed to network between friends, but comrades. I dont have to be a friend with someone to be a comrade with someone. Most of my friends in life are not really involved in radical/socially responsive communication, art, education. Some are.

I am interested to network with people that are engaged in areas of communication and art for social change. I dont necessarily need to be friends with them. To me- it's more than enough if I can network with people and exchange knowledge.

Its a bit similar than thinking of why did I start writing a blog in 2003 and I published hundreds of posts in all the years. I see this more as an act of making things public, of creating publics, of being part of autonomous publics.

Facebook is besides being a network becoming more and more a news/media reader. Its true, there is a lot of interesting stuff being posted there and it is so convenient to be on FB. But thats the design strategy, or part of it. Being on FB because it is convenient and it works- i have heard this many times- I can understand this of course, but its a different world. This here - to me- is radicaly intimate, while FB is practical.

8 years, 10 months ago

I think some of it- (and Oliver and I have talked a bit about this) is rethinking the whole idea of what a blog is. Things have changed a lot in terms of how people use blogs. Certain conventions have been established. That in part is why it feels more like a news/media reader: those conventions because of 'blogging' in general have promoted that. I suspect that what might redirect things a bit would be to rethink what this online platform could be. As someone who has been involved in M-fest for a few years, some of the people who are actively doing things in their locations (in the blog and in the competition) appear to have various needs for getting in the M-fest network. One of course is getting the word out on their activities- which are always pretty amazing and resourceful in their own local milieus. But I suspect that tools, methods, other practices could be shared around in a manner that could help them and everyone, and support everyone's local efforts in a larger realm of like minded people.

One of the things I have noted in the blog discussion is a kind of critical reaction to what happens- be it Occupy, or etc. It would be useful to think through how a 'platform' can actually assist others in provoking and strategizing and sharing methods as a first course to create change rather than analyze it.

(Btw the whole notion of 'platform' is actively discussed as the so-called next big thing in online activities. There is a huge battle going on right now between FB/Google (and others) to be the basis of the majority of online user activities. We should think about that- the idea of a platform is not neutral at all anymore- it is not a kind of 'public utility' which is what many of us assumed in the early 2000's)

8 years, 10 months ago

Hey Scott, an old friend of mine, Tom, who worked with me at the very beginnig of Memefest sent me this link https://beta.movements.org/

We have been 'helping' in the sense that we have used the web site as a platform where people could use the tools that were created for the festival. This is from 2003:


Not even linked to the curen web site anymore.

We have organised workshops for Occupy Brisbane etc.. But never really used the platform strategically where movements could get tailor made'expertise' for a particular project, but we have used this more as a knowledge resource and educational platform through the Festival process...I think this is a great point- in the sense, how could we make the knowledge that is created and made public through our web site more usefull- accessible, more practical in a sense...

8 years, 10 months ago

So just to quickly summarise and move beyond Fb, I think it's true that it excels in two ways, both points relating strongly to the its main characteristic: convenience.

1. Everyone is there. As Alana mentioned this is the greatest argument for not immediately fleeing. Even if other more critical/open/better designed/etc. networks exist they practically don't exist without any (a lot of) members. Fb was the first major online social network (I'll get back to 'network' vs. 'platform' vs. etc later) that got us all signed up. This ‘critical mass’ phenomenon is hard to circumvent.

2. Fb is a brilliant feed/filter of content from elsewhere, blogs, news articles, pictures, videos, portfolio updates etc.

These two points are both highly practical and somehow (at least to me) explains why Fb as a social network can deteriorate to the degree we are witnessing without experiencing a drastic decline in the number of users. Users are still there. Quality content is still there.

Luckily, this also points to the limitations of Fb. My personal hope is that Fb over time will become this hollow shell or hub of connecting more meaningful dots from elsewhere. It will be a practical affair full of adds with an extremely low degree of trustworthiness and minimal personal info locally stored. However, people won’t care as they express and represent themselves from elsewhere. All content and serious data has migrated to a diverse sets of other platforms actually catering for its users. Until everyone agrees on a new standard (just like it happened with Myspace before Fb), Fb will find less and less valuable data to mine and advertisers will find less and less reasons for investing. Ok, enough Fb. Memefest:

I don’t think Fb and Memefest compares at all. There is an interesting tension between the two that serves as a useful offset for discussion, but that’s it. They can easily co-exist as two different species within the same habitat. Following Scott’s comments I would like to see Memefest as a catalyst for action above anything. In this sense Oliver’s distinction between comrades and friends is highly useful. What we need is some stronger incentives and occasions to link up across our different backgrounds and continents. I would therefore suggest more “curated” projects/threads/discussions/sessions like this one, where a group of people are coming together with a confined goal and a synced, limited timeframe.

Some good old datamining within the Memefest network would be a good start: Considering what info people are asked to submit about themselves (location, field, interests etc.) and how dynamic pairings could occur on the fly, e.g. this and this comrade are organising an intervention in Berlin, just XX km away from you. Let’s not forget that datamining can be highly useful, when its done for the users and not for the advertisers or the NSA. This dynamic coordination in time, space and interests could be a great way of acquainting people over some momentum, much like the annual Memefest festivals manage to do.

By focusing on being an open catalyst for emerging thought and action Memefest could differentiate itself from other more consolidated and dense networks, platforms and organisations. Of course social networks like Fb or Twitter are good at syncing up and taking action as well, however, Memefest could present an unparalleled level of focus (“radical/socially responsive communication, art, education”) and the continuous hosting of a deep, open discussion on such matters. This is radically different than being a feed.

Extending the discussion on Fb/Google/Amazon etc. as biased ‘platforms’, there is also the current discussion on the increasingly minuscule yet significant differences between Google and the nation state, ‘the stack’ etc. (check out http://stacktivism.com/ for a good collection of ‘stack’ reflections). I don’t really see Memefest as part of this game. Rather it should be an agile, critical connecting point. If there is anything to take from the pervasive and absolutely massive presence and power platforms like Google and Fb exert, it could be something very practical like making memefest.org responsive and thus optimising it for smartphones etc.

8 years, 10 months ago

re the above comments I totally agree. FB is not the issue.

But here specifically: what might be the tie re a 'critical connecting point'. This brings up what M-fest cites as part of a critical position. Critical of what exactly and how so- ? Are there common values that can be shared here & made more explicit? If M-fest 'expands' we need to do this to invite others to work with us & to get those people to talk about their underlying issues in their context. The biggest reward for me has been working with people in the competition that are doing their work in contexts I have no direct involvement in. I would like to figure out a platform where they could step to the forefront & take lead in their own contexts.

Pretty interesting design problem.

It's a huge task and issue- or to figure out how to design a way to let other contextual viewpoints be expressed.

8 years, 10 months ago

These are really interesting points and I agree that seeing Memefest as a catalyst is a crucial starting point. And the distinction between friends and comrades is also important. It is the starting point for how each person coming into contact with Memefest is invited to address themselves. On that point, we might also think about the difference between comrades, allies and accomplices. BASE shared a document with Oliver which he kindly passed on to me that argues that an ally stands by whereas an accomplice stands with and, with it roots in the word 'accomplishes', accomplice suggests action. My 'friends' on FB are more like allies - like minded people and friends who might share things with me but who don't necessarily act *with* me. How then does Memefest turn comrades into accomplices?

8 years, 9 months ago

Through my experience on Memefest I think Memefest is an online social network where people do not use everyday like they do for FB. People use Memefest more for information sharing/discussion and project updates, instead of daily socialising. I got the impression after talking to a few people who do not use Memefest very much that they would be more likely to use and interact with Memefest if there was something to bring them back more regularly. Maybe on a fortnightly or monthly basis would be good. Because I think FB is their preferred communication method for everything. I also did not use Memefest for a long time because I was only interested in the yearly competition.

So if something interesting were encouraged to happen for an autonomous fortnightly and monthly basis, this would be a unique aspect that helps make Memefest more attractive to people to stay updated and interact more. It might be possible to make fortnightly and monthly actions on Memefest as normal as daily actions on FB.

Perhaps create a project space for people to update something they are interested in on a fortnightly and monthly basis. A space for their own online zine for themselves and to share with others, and collaborating. Print media is rapidly turning into online media.


Open blog is a collective blog agregator.  Posts that can be read and viewed here have been originally posted by members of the Memefest community.

While members of the community  are able to check blog posts from the circle of their comrades within the on-line profile, this is the place where you are able to check on everything that has been bloged by anyone on this platform. The toppics and styles are diverse as this community consists of people from very different cultural, social backgrounds and also very different fields of expertice. Together- and through time- we hope – this gives us a good picture of radical communication culture.