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Fora do Eixo’s adaptation to and appropriation of, network forms (2)

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
26th August 2013


“The network’s establishment of national headquarters in S˜ao Paulo, and its need to reach out to musicians who gained visibility prior to their participation in Fora do Eixo, reveals the limitations of this method, both in terms of the generation of taste, as well as in terms of the reach of the network. Fora do Eixo’s case is thus instructive for understanding the limitations of the “free,” networkstructured circulation so often championed by Internet idealists, for the very architecture that makes circulation possible also helps restrict its movement. Fora do Eixo’s desire to remain distributed, horizontal, and open, is thus ultimately undermined by the organizational tactics that perpetuate the network, moving it toward a bureaucratic structure.”

Excerpted from Shannon Garland, who summarizes the critiques that the FDO model misappropriates network dynamics:

1.

‘Fora do Eixo now consists of about one hundred collectives and is present in almost every state. While the network often enters into “partnerships” with other institutions and social entities, the collectives that formally adopt Fora do Eixo’s bylaws and Statement of Principles comprise its nucleus. While these collectives, called FdE “nodes” or “points” (pontos), develop their own local initiatives, they are also held to Fora do Eixo programs, such as creating their own card system and working to build new partnerships or nodes within the region (“Regimento”). Individual nodes also produce network-wide cultural events, such as the Fora do Eixo Nights local music events, and participate in network-wide media diffusion tactics.

The latter involves the use of specific Twitter hashtags and liking, sharing, and commenting on FdE-related actions on Facebook, and is sometimes coordinated and carried out during specific time frames to keep the stories prominent in social media news feeds. Members also coordinate through email lists divided by geography or project, and work collectively on projects through online tools such as Google Docs. All of these actions serve to cohere the network as an entity, and the social media tactics in particular help generate what FdE members might call “meme” force, in terms of mediated recognition, a reference to the concept of “memes,” images or words that quickly become popular through their reproduction on the Internet (Tsotsis).

The particular logics and structures of Internet platforms and digital production are paramount to the process of Fora do Eixo’s network formation, maintenance, strategies, and overall structure, and even manifest in Fora do Eixo’s unique linguistic code. A shift in strategy for a particular action is described as “hitting F5” (refresh); “challenging the cultural imaginary” is achieved “memetically”; and ideas and goals are referenced via hashtags, originally developed on Twitter, but used even outside of the platform. Those who disagree with FdE’s ideology of technology-mediated collaboration are often dismissed as “analog,” in other words, unable to shift their mode of cultural production and political action into accord with the new participatory realities of the twenty-first century.

Fora do Eixo also seeks to embrace the characteristics of Internetbased production and circulation—that is, reproducibility—in practical terms: by extending sharing and multiplication into the ambits of physical band circulation and remuneration. Working in network formation, members say, generates a “multiplier effect” where “one plus one equals three,” because the redistribution of resources forms a structure through which more resources can be found and enjoyed by more people.”

2.

“Fora do Eixo has deeply understood the significance of visibility in the new media environment. I think that it would be fair to say that all actions Fora do Eixo initiates or in which it partakes are considered as strategies for increasing network visibility; in fact, Fora do Eixo attempts to track the circulation of “Fora do Eixo” on the Internet as well as the types of discourse surrounding it to better strategize its actions. But Fora do Eixo also understands the importance of co-present interaction both for the reproduction of visibility as well as for the strengthening of the network.

The network’s presence in S˜ao Paulo, partnerships with musicians who gained visibility outside of the network, and appearance at protest events are deployed as a means through which Fora do Eixo, in circulating images, hashtags, and information, can associate itself with other visible phenomena circulating on the Internet. Likewise, Fora do Eixo–produced events are heavily and strategically promoted in social networks. This is possible because Fora do Eixo members use their personal social media accounts to disseminate network events and information, tagging the institutional pages of Fora do Eixo16—which include the network as a whole, individual Fora do Eixo collectives, and FdE projects—in the hopes that the swirl of aggregated information will capture attention. In fact, it is extremely rare to see Fora do Eixo members use Facebook and Twitter to post information unrelated to the network; rather, their “social activity” online is inseparable from their role and work in performing the network. That is to say, acts of posting, tagging, and hash tagging events with Fora do Eixo signifiers are a type what Lee and LiPuma call a performative, “a creative type of indexical icon: a self-reflexive use of reference that, in creating a representation of an ongoing act, also enacts it” (195). Co-present FdE events such as tours or band performances marked and disseminated online with Fora do Eixo signifiers imaginatively enact Fora do Eixo as a network.

Fora do Eixo thus collapses the difference between the social and the institutional, owing to the systematic way in which FdE members appropriate social media, the ostensible purpose of which is to affirm and construct sociability—the ludic, post-work, and post-bureaucratic manner in which individuals connect with each other, which music has been particularly good at providing (Ochoa).

Individual FdE members breach this division between the social and the institutional by militantly promoting the network as their own personal interest, which is at the same time their institutional interest, in that they are the network, and the existence of the network itself provides their material subsistence. As such, their promotion of a music event is always already imbricated with the promotion of the network, and the aspect of the personal, private, and interior is removed. As a result, there appears to be no aesthetic decision at play behind promotion, and the artistic curation cannot be trusted by non-network observers—hence, the common charge by FdE critics that the bands it helps circulate are not worth listening to.”

3.

“Individuals usually execute this sharing with self-interest that is not monetary or institutional, but rather based on the fostering of social intimacy.18 This contrasts deeply with the way in which Fora do Eixo appropriates and “hacks” these same technologies. In February 2012, for example, Fora do Eixo managed to elevate the hashtag #GritoRock, the name of its multicity music and arts festival, to the top trending position on Twitter, by coordinating hundreds of tweets with the tag all day. This type of effort to capture more visibility for the network not only emphasizes the overall event and Fora do Eixo’s role in it rather than the individual musical acts, but also turns the intimate domain of music sharing into a structured form of labor. In other words, Fora do Eixo uses what would appear to be a democratic and a-systematic media tool (and its a-systematicity confers its social emphasis) to systematize aesthetic production and circulation, generating value that “should be” based on public approval without needing a public other than the network itself.

This is also true for the way in which Fora do Eixo structures the circulation of bands. Because FdE itself seeks to benefit from the visibility engendered by this circulation, its institutional interest lies in keeping circulation within the network, or bringing outside events into the network rubric. This limitation on circulation is actually institutionalized in the use of the card currency. While alternative currencies strengthen social ties and encourage solidarity among members, “making resources that might be privately owned or controlled available to all” (North 225), they also “tend to reproduce themselves, not diversify” (North 227). Getting paid by a currency you can only use in the network implies reinvesting in the network for any return, which also consolidates and performatively (re-)legitimates the network. It is through this kind of logic that critics see Fora do Eixo gaining much more than the bands it promotes. By many accounts, card has been incredibly effective in helping build experience in music production despite scarce resources (Capil´e), and has also helped shape aesthetic values within Fora do Eixo (Benthroldo). But like FdE’s social media tactics, the very strength of card in systematizing what was once based on a loose structure of friendships and favors is also its biggest weakness, as Fora do Eixo itself described: “the model is a replacement for the traditional scheme of ‘camaraderie’ that happened when the exchanges were informal and unsystematic” (Poljokan et al. 12). This organizational mechanism for circulation is precisely what counters the indie ethos.”

Source: Article: “The Space, the Gear, and Two Big Cans of Beer”. Shannon Garland. Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 24, Issue 4, Pages 509–531

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