The Play in the System: The Art of Parasitical Resistance (Duke UP, 2020)
Anna Watkins Fisher
What does artistic resistance look like in the twenty-first century, when disruption and dissent are easily co-opted and commodified by marketing strategies? In The Play in the System, Anna Watkins Fisher locates the possibility for resistance in artists who embrace parasitism—tactics of complicity that effect subversion from within hegemonic structures. Fisher tracks the ways in which artists on the margins—from hacker collectives to feminist writers and performers—have willfully abandoned the radical scripts of opposition and refusal long identified with anti-capitalism and feminism. The provocative and challenging works of artist-activists Ubermorgen, Robin Hood Cooperative, Nuria Guell, Kenneth Pietrobono, Chris Kraus, Sophie Calle, Ann Liv Young, Anya Liftig, Lauren Barri Holstein, Kate Gilmore, and Roisin Byrne reveal the potential and limits of this compromised praxis of resistance. Space for resistance is found instead in the mutually, if unevenly, exploitative relations between dominant hosts giving only as much as required to appear generous and parasitical actors taking only as much as they can get away with. The irreverent and often troubling works that result raise necessary and difficult questions about the conditions for resistance and critique under neoliberalism today.
Available here. | Open access version here.
Technoprecarious (Goldsmiths/MIT Press, 2020)
Technoprecarious advances a new analytic for tracing how precarity unfolds across disparate geographical sites and cultural practices in the digital age. Digital technologies—whether apps like Uber, built on flexible labor, or platforms like Airbnb that shift accountability to users—have assisted in consolidating the wealth and influence of a small number of players. These platforms have also exacerbated increasingly insecure conditions of work and life for racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities; women; indigenous people; migrants; and peoples in the global south. At the same time, precarity has become increasingly generalized, expanding to include even the creative class and digital producers themselves.
This collaboratively authored multigraph analyzes the role of digital technology in multiplying precarity. The authors use the term precarity to characterize those populations disproportionately affected by the forms of inequality and insecurity that digital technologies have generated despite the new affordances and possibilities they offer. The book maps a broad range of digital precarity—from the placement of Palestinian Internet cables to the manufacture of electronics by Navajo women and from the production and deployment of drones on the U.S.–Mexico border to the technocultural productions of Chinese makers. This project contributes to, and helps bridge, ongoing debates on precarity and digital networks in the fields of critical computing, postcolonial studies, visual culture, and information sciences.
Precarity Lab brings together an intergenerational network of scholars and activists at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to explore how digital cultures produce, reproduce, and intervene in precarity. Anna Watkins Fisher, Silvia Lindtner, Ivan Chaar-Lopez, Cengiz Salman, McKenzie Wark, Kalindi Vora, Jackie Wang, Cass Adair, Lisa Nakamura, Cindy Lin, with Meryem Kamil.
Available for preorder here.
New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (2nd edition, Routledge, 2015)
Edited by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Anna Watkins Fisher (with Thomas Keenan)
This much-expanded and updated second edition of New Media, Old Media brings together original and classic essays that explore the tensions of old and new in digital culture. Touching on topics including media archaeology, archives, software studies, surveillance, big data, social media, organized networks, digital art, and the Internet of Things, this newly revised critical anthology is essential reading for anyone studying the cultural impact of new and digital media.