Pervasive and Personal: Observations on Free Speech Online

Seminar No. 3 of Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness Series Mon 11 Feb 2019 6.30PM-8.30PM The New School | Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor
New York City
Free admission; registration will open on January 22. On registration, participants will receive preparatory reading material.
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[Please note: event summary, suggested reading, program 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.

Presenters will be announced shortly.

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. This seminar is co-presented in partnership with the National Coalition Against Censorship
      • K VLC. Pervasive and Personal. SUGGESTED READINGS Download - pdf (201 kB)
Pervasive and Personal: Observations on Free Speech Online is the third in a series of seminars, dedicated to Freedom of Speech. Other seminars in this series include:

Seminar 1: Mapping the Territory
Monday, November 12, 2018

Seminar 2: Feminist Manifestos
Monday, February 11, 2019
Partner organization: ARTICLE 19

Seminar 4: Translation, Communication, Languages
Monday, March 11, 2019
Partner organization: ARTICLE 19

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


Seminar 6: Feet on the Ground
Monday, June 3, 2019
Partner organization: New York Peace Institute

Closing Convening: September 2019

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