Pervasive and Personal: Observations on Free Speech Online

Seminar 3 of Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness Mon 11 Feb 2019 6.30PM-8.30PM The New School | Theresa Lang Community Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor
New York City
Click Here for Seminar Overview

Admission is free but registration is required. On registration, participants will receive preparatory reading material.

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[Please note: suggested readings and, eventually, program, summary, and video documentation can be found at bottom of this page.]

Technology has linked much of the world together, but in its complexity and ubiquity, technology also has deeply personal qualities. It has helped us build relationships and has become a part of our daily lives, something we carry in our pockets wherever we go. This duality of tech and particularly the Internet—its ability to be vast yet intimate—has enabled people to express themselves in unique ways, but also brought with it some serious challenges. Where open channels into each other's lives exist, the spread of harassment, abuse and vitriol can be equally pervasive and personal.

In this next installment of the Vera List Center's "Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness" series, seminar participants will turn from considerations of freedom of speech in a U.S. context (a particular focus of Seminar 1) to how freedom of expression is exercised—and curtailed—in our complex online sphere. By observing the ability of women to safely and securely speak out online, we will bring to the fore the contradictions of the Internet, a seemingly borderless space that is used by people living within borders, a tool that has equalizing potential but is constructed through the hegemony that is Silicon Valley.

The focus will be on women, since increasingly research and testimony are showing what many women have long known, that the Internet is not an equal space. The online landscape bears more risks for women than for men, and gets riskier depending on other aspects of her identity, such as race or religion, or whether she works as a journalist or in another public facing job. As a result of the scale of this type of abuse, some women have resorted to self-censorship or have disengaged from online platforms altogether. More often than not, self-censorship is a direct consequence of such attacks. However, at times, can it also be a proactive form of resilience? Women, civil society and activists have responded to the challenges in ingenious and alternative ways of community building and solidarity—shared by many minorities.

In an era where technology is quickly becoming everything, the consequences for women being unable to access the Internet safely and securely, without facing misogynist abuse, cannot be overstated. Technology, and the Internet specifically, is not neutral, and how tech is built and managed has a direct impact on women's right to freedom of expression as well as equality in society as a whole.

Those registered and
Deborah Brown, Global Policy Advocacy lead, Association for Progressive Communications
Molly Crabapple, artist and writer
Julia Farrington, Associate Arts Producer, Index on Censorship; member, International Arts Rights Advisors
Shawné Michaelain Holloway, new media artist
Nancy Schwartzman, documentary filmmaker, "Roll Red Roll"

Judy Taing, Head of Gender & Sexuality, ARTICLE 19

The seminar series Freedom of Speech. A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness is organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics as part of the center's 2018–2020 curatorial focus If Art Is Politics. It is directed by Carin Kuoni, Director/Chief Curator, Vera List Center, and Laura Raicovich with assistance by Gabriela López Dena. Partner organizations for the seminars are ARTICLE 19; the National Coalition Against Censorship; New York Peace Institute; and Weeksville Heritage Center.
    • Freedom Of Speech Pervasive And Personal
      • K VLC. Pervasive and Personal. SUGGESTED READINGS Download - pdf (201 kB)
      • K VLC. Pervasive and Personal. TAING INTRODUCTION Download - pdf (221 kB)
      • K VLC. Pervasive and Personal. SUMMARY Download - pdf (215 kB)
      • K VLC. Pervasive and Personal. PROGRAM Download - pdf (306 kB)
Pervasive and Personal: Observations on Free Speech Online is the third in the seminar series Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness. Other seminars include:

Seminar 1: Mapping the Territory
Monday, November 12, 2018
Partner organization: The National Coalition Against Censorship

Seminar 2: Feminist Manifestos
Monday, December 3, 2018

Seminar 3: Pervasive and Personal: Observations on Free Speech Online
Monday, February 11, 2019
Partner organization: ARTICLE 19

Seminar 4: Say It Like You Mean It: On Translation, Communication, Languages
Monday, March 11, 2019

Seminar 5: A Time for Seditious Speech
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Partner organization: Weeksville Heritage Center
@ Weeksville Heritage Center

Seminar 6: Going Towards the Heat: Speaking Across Difference
Monday, June 10, 2019
Partner organization: New York Peace Institute

Closing Convening
Friday & Saturday, September 20 & 21, 2019