Paratactic Media and Social Networks: Emerging Forms of Resistance in Artistic Practice

Yetiskin, E. (2014) "Paratactic Media and Social Networks: Emerging Forms of Resistance 
to Algorithmic Power in Artistic Practice", in Inflections of Technoculture. 
Biodigital Media, Postcolonial Theory and Feminism, (eds.) Chambers, I., and Terranova, T., 
Vol. 18, No.2



This article deploys the concept of ‘paratactic media’ to define emerging practices which exploit the logic of algorithmic governance in subversive artistic interventions as a means to expose and contest authoritarian regimes of power. By means of an engagement with the works of Istanbul-based artists during the 2013 Gezi Park Resistance in Turkey, the essay explores the ways in which paratactic media are able to uncover and remediate the invisible layers of algorithmic regulation through aesthetics of friction, cacophony, foolishness, depletion and waste.

Keywords: tactic media, activism, governance, resistance, data, art, algorithm, Turkey


Today there is an emerging logic of power, which loosely corresponds to Gilles Deleuze’s notion of the society of control and which has been recently described as algorithmic governance. Algorithmic governance is seen as the expression of a kind of joint governance of social networks with governments and corporations acting together while also competing with each other. Algorithms are not only used for data mining, computer modeling, simulation and forecasting. Tarleton Gillespie has argued that the algorithm has become “a key logic governing the flows of information.” Within the free spaces and temporalities of algorithmic platforms, micro bits of quotidian practices are subsumed into capitalist value and transacted to third parties, such as advertising agencies, banks, and pharmaceutical, biotech and insurance companies.

Algorithms are also said to have a covert function in obscuring the questionable practices enacted by governments, corporations and various organizations, such as fraud, illegal trade, wiretapping and surveillance. Algorithmic governance is built on the logic of the ‘firewall’, thus preventing access to information about cost analysis, data privacy, sales contracts, the profile of networked actors and decision-making processes. They become profit-making means of production aiming at rationalizing dominant patterns in global capitalist cultures. Whereas algorithms such as those deployed by Google analyses and exploits attention, knowledge and behavior, Facebook focuses on the curating of identities and the conversion of desires and beliefs into monetized and accumulated data-products. PageRank’s algorithm extracts surplus value from network activities and reveals the potential of mathematical models capable of approximating human behavior to the point of shaping it. Since algorithms are defined as a design for “the infallible execution of automated order and control” it is critical to explore how algorithmic operations are reappropriated in subversive and resistant ways for alternate purposes.

By introducing the concept of “paratactic media” as means to creatively intervene in the processes of algorithmic governance, I will explore how the covert operations of algorithmic schemes in global capitalist culture are reappropriated in order to stimulate alternative actions, knowledge and perception.  In this regard, this article will not focus on software as such, but on a variety of artistic practices produced especially during the 2013 Gezi Park movement in Turkey and characterized by their use of existing algorithmic operations. 

In the first section, the Gezi Park Protests of 2013 will be reviewed from a critical point of view in order to discuss the dissemination of algorithmic governance on a global scale.  In the second section, the concept of paratactic media will be introduced. In the last section, the invisible layers of algorithmic regulation, such as friction, cacophony, foolishness, depletion and waste will be discussed using the illustrations and analyses of some subversive artistic practices linked to the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey. The artistic compositions, which I selected, do not necessarily have sophisticated technical components, but rather include low-tech and mixed media based approaches, which reveal and intervene in the hidden processes of algorithmic governance.

1.  Opening New Spaces for Algorithmic Governance:  The Gezi Park Protests in Turkey

In recent years, especially in rapidly changing and persistently uncertain political-economic environments, those who have been resisting and offering diverse motives as well as solutions migrate to online platforms as a result of public demonstrations. In this way, large-scale data populations become instruments to monetize and accumulate data-capital within algorithmic platforms. Expanding the limits of algorithmic governance on a global scale, social media platforms link disconnected members, who have had the violence of government-corporation networks imposed on them in various local contexts.

The 2013 Gezi Park Protests in Turkey can be viewed as a recent case of the extension of algorithmic governance on a global scale. On May 28, 2013, the police attacked a civilian group, which had organized a sit-in to resist the unlawful privatization and demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul. This was yet another act of expropriation of common space by the government-corporation network in Turkey. In the next few hours, information about this event was disseminated via social media, attracting more people to participate the protest with the hashtag, #direngeziparkı (#resistgezipark.) In the following one-month period, a wide range of individuals and groups who had diverse interests and motivations identified with the resisting actors and participated in the protest. At least 235 protests were added to the Gezi Park Protests in other cities and villages within Turkey. Most of these acts of civil disobedience in rural areas were against the growing power of government-corporation network, which were responsible for the ecological destruction caused by the construction sites for hydroelectric power stations, and within the mining and the real estate industries. Some demonstrations were also seen in other countries with significant Turkish communities. Having been associated with Occupy movements by the hashtag, #occupygezi, the resistance expanded globally and echoed simultaneously with the protests in Egypt and Brazil. According to a report by the Social Media and Political Participation Lab of New York University on the role of social media in Gezi, “While the protests started as a local, grass-roots mobilization opposing plans to remove Gezi Park, they soon escalated into anti-government demonstrations, and were quickly internationalized, with the Occupy movement being particularly active after the third day of the protest: by the fourth day, more than 30% of unique users employing protest hashtags were English speakers; Twitter accounts like “YourAnonNews,” “AnonOpsLegion,” “AnonOpsMob”; part of Anonymous, a network of hacktivists, also started to appear among the most retweeted.”

The Gezi Park Protests indicates a significant wave of migration of large populations to online platforms as well. This means the making of data-capital and data-labor also expanded for the sake of algorithmic governance. According to Tunç, in recent years:

“Turkey is witnessing an explosion in social media, ranking the fourth largest in global use of Facebook and eighth largest for Twitter with 31.1% penetration, and 11.337.500 active Twitter users. From 2012–13, the number of Twitter users in Turkey increased from 7.2 million to 9.6 million. The number of tweets sent daily also increased dramatically, by 370%. Turkish Internet users now send approximately 8 million tweets per day, or roughly 92 tweets per second”.

Tunç also indicated the dramatic increase in the production, exchange and circulation of data among users in Turkey especially during 2013 Gezi Park Protests. The number of active users on Twitter increased enormously from 2 million to 10 million in only 1 month during the Gezi Park Protests: “It was during the Gezi Park Protests of May–June 2013 that Twitter became a widely accepted source of news for the Turkish public. On May 31st, the total number of tweets sent on a daily basis in Turkey skyrocketed from the normal 9–11 million to 15.2 million, the day when the events erupted into a national movement”.

Thus, the 2013 Gezi Park Protests reveal that waves of public demonstrations and resistance movements that have local and online extensions can open new spaces to expand the power of algorithmic governance in contemporary capitalist cultures. Generating multiple settings for conflict and regulating contagious interaction of resisting groups can thus become an instrument for creating developing data populations and data markets via digital platforms. In Turkey the severe disregard of freedom, violations of rights, police brutality, repressive measures and covered acts of the government, acting with specific corporations, institutions and foundations facilitated the making of such a large number of data as well. In 2014, a research group in Turkey, Konda revealed that “49.1% (i.e. one out of every two protesters) decided to participate in the protests after seeing police brutality”. Media censorship became another push in the migration to online platforms and the rise of data flows. During the protests, the 3 main television networks completely ignored the demonstrations, by either mentioning them only in passing on the evening news, or carrying on with their regular programming. As a result of mass media disregard and censorship, 69% of protesters in the park indicated that they first heard about the events from social media. Only 7% received the news from television, 10 times less than at the national level, which amounts to 71,3%. The collusion between government and media owners, who have sizeable investments in finance, energy, real estate and construction sectors, along with the aggressive use of repressive measures, has thus undermined the effectiveness of regulatory agencies such as legal system, trade unions, journalists and non-governmental organizations.

This makes the outlets vulnerable to government pressure, and incentivizes holding companies to use their media arms as lobbying firms for major government contracts. For instance, Türk Telekom continues to hold a monopoly in Internet infrastructure and broadband services, despite the privatization of Türk Telekom in 2005, and the nominal opening of the market to competition. With Türk Telekom still 30% state-owned, the independence of the country’s dominant Internet provider is a matter of serious concern.

Coşkunoğlu draws attention to the growing role of the State in Internet governance, classifying Turkey as a battleground country due to restrictions it has imposed on the Internet thus contributing to the consolidation of authoritative and regressive trends surrounding online platforms. This is clearly not only a local problem. We need to go deeper to fully grasp the emerging totalitarian regimes of power on a global scale.   

In recent years, the agents of resistance have been superimposed and subjected to the increasing pressure of the networked power actors in a two-fold way. On one level, the pressure comes from the local governments and their related networks of corporations, foundations and institutions to control the monetization and the accumulation of all sorts of capital. On the other, global corporations are expanding their integrated networks and increase their power to control (data) capital and (data) labor. The conflict among the networks of governments and corporations, which act and compete with each other in global capitalist cultures, indicates an emerging form of clash on two frontiers, while also being capable of coordination. As Benjamin Bratton argues in The Black Stack, “This is a clash between two logics of governance, two geometries of territory: one a subdivision of the horizontal, the other a stacking of vertical layers; one a state, the other a para-state.”

Today the clash between the state and the para-state paradoxically enable the existence and authority of each other. In other words, ultimately, the clash between these two logics of governance serves the sustainability of the national state, and the growth of the para-state. As I will discuss further in detail, the rise of authoritative and repressive regimes is related to and is becoming a by-product of the growing global software market. Algorithmic infrastructures and cloud platforms overwhelm and displace the traditional functions as well as the authority of the state networks. When this occurs, as a reaction, state networks intensify their sanction and coercion in order to sustain their power.

The Gezi Protests can be considered as a consequence of this clash because the state had begun accumulating and monetizing data capital as well as data labor through its centralized infrastructure to compete with the para-state. After the emergence of migration to online platforms, the state increased the level of using coercive measures such as censorship, denials of access, binding regulations and surveillance mechanisms. For instance, before the Gezi Protests, in 2012, The Department of Education in Turkey created a mobile portal for students and their parents to receive information such as exam results. However, this also allowed the personal data of 17 million students to be sold to mobile network operators, which used the database for targeted advertising. In a similar fashion, in 2013, The Ministry of Health established a centralized health record database without seeking patients’ consent and reportedly sold the information contained in the database to private companies. By this way, the Turkish state monitored and accumulated data-capital by coercive and authoritative measures, and developed its competitive capacity against global corporations by deploying custom-made software known as, Medula, as “an obligatory passage point.” Then it took steps to monetize this capital via a government-related local firm, Data Med, thus excluding the commercial trade of a global firm, Intercontinental Marketing Services, which used to monopolize the accumulation and sales of data to global pharmaceutical corporations in Turkey. A similar case also occurred in the mobile communications sector where binding laws enforced the restriction of competition and the regulation of telecommunication companies, which also have global connections. SIM card registration has become mandatory and tied to the user’s national identity number, thus centralizing the data accumulation, accelerating the establishment of extensive databases of user information, eradicating the potential for anonymity within communications, enabling location-tracking, and simplifying communication surveillance and interception. The latest amendments to Law 5651 regarding the Internet, voted after the Gezi Protests, on 5 February 2014, turned Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into instruments of data-accumulation, censorship and surveillance, forcing them to join a state organization that centralizes requests for content blocking or removal. If ISPs do not join and install the surveillance tools demanded by the authorities, they are faced with losing their commercial licenses. Law 5651 also requires ISPs and other technical intermediaries to keep user connection data for one to two years, and be ready to surrender them to the state authorities when demanded. The law does not specify what kinds of data must be surrendered, in what form or what use will be made of them.

The state also adopted restrictive, authoritarian and coercive measures by regulating judicial mechanisms and hence allowing for imprisonments, mass surveillance and censorship. In its “Freedom on the Net 2013” report, Freedom House stated that government censorship of the Internet in Turkey became relatively common and has increased steadily over recent years. State authorities added several thousand websites to its blocked list, increasing the total to almost 30.000. In 2012, The European Court of Human Rights found Turkey in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights for blocking access to the hosting platform, Google. During the Gezi Park Protests, several users received fines, prison time, or suspended sentences for comments made on social media sites. After the wide range of social media use during the Gezi Park Protests, access to Twitter was blocked when a court ordered that protective measures be applied to the service. Following allegations posted by anonymous users about the government’s corruption and abusive use of power, the prime minister of Turkey, who described social media as “the worst menace to society” and vowed to “wipe out Twitter,” stated his concerns about national security, flaunting his disregard for criticisms of global actors: “I don’t care what the international community says at all. Everyone will see the power of the Turkish Republic”.

The technologies of repression are a multibillion-dollar industry. We should also consider that Turkey has become a consumer and a competitor in the growing global industry of data. Recent reports revealed that during the Gezi Protests, software programs for mass surveillance were imported to Turkey. The New America Foundation draws attention to the relationship between the emergence and growth of the commercial surveillance software market and its buyers, such as governments that have become repressive in a totalitarian manner in order to sustain state power; other agencies, which oppose the authority of government-corporation networks; and commercial organizations, which are involved in research and product development. According to a 2014 report of the New America Foundation,

In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported the annual value of the retail market for surveillance tools has increased from ‘nearly zero’ in 2001 to around $5 billion a year. The Arab Uprising and documents from the fallen regimes that became public in the aftermath have shed light on this growing industry. Some authorities employed this technology for political control and to facilitate internal repression, the suppression of the media as well as civil society, and other violations of fundamental human rights.

National governments are increasingly purchasing surveillance technology manufactured by a small number of corporate suppliers and using them to control dissidents, spy on journalists, and violate human rights. Reporters Without Borders’ “Enemies of the Internet” report highlighted the increasingly important role a small number of private-sector digital mercenaries play in providing authoritarian regimes with censorship and surveillance technology. In this way, surveillance and censorship operations of the nation states were outsourced to digital mercenaries in the global software market. The rise of authoritarian power regimes becomes an obligatory passage point for the growth of the global software industry.

In fact, Turkey has been among the few countries to import surveillance technologies since 2003. However, the lack of evidence about the users and hackers of the surveillance and censorship software leaves room for speculation. Here, the main problem is the uncovered and invisible operations of various entities, including states, corporate social media networks, big corporations and other anonymous users, which struggle to accumulate and monetize (data) capital. Lev Manovich points out “even researchers working inside the largest social media companies can’t simply access all the data collected by different services in a company”. Data is fragmented and dynamic. Thus, those who work with data have also fragmented and dynamic networks of collaboration and competition. Since users cannot access information to learn how these governance mechanisms operate via the stack of data, the question of how to resist non-transparent and coercive dominance of power networks becomes a complex problem. If algorithmic schemes are becoming a contemporary form of governance, alongside states and markets, of regulating, centralizing and coordinating through fixed protocols, we need to discuss how this new form of governance can be remediated through subversion within contemporary capitalist cultures.

  1. Paratactic Media

Paratactic media works use various modes of composition and artistic methods, especially when tactical media activism, such as flash mobs, memes and hoaxes, evolve into popular entertainment, marketing and propaganda tools of governments, institutions and corporations. In paratactic media, tactic means to “[insinuate] itself into the other’s place, fragmentarily, without taking it over in its entirety, without being able to keep it at a distance”. As –para, taken as a prefix, means alongside, beside or beyond, “paratactic” refers to imaginative collaborative actions and interventions alongside, beside or beyond tactic and tactical media activisms. Whereas tactics and tactical media may appear as the norm, supported by the presence of avant-gardist techniques as presets of the meta-medium of software, today they too often are able to reproduce the spatio-temporal dynamic of the state and financial capital. Excesses of memes, remixes, mash-ups and the churn of Net flotsam are indicative of these accelerated conditions of communicative capitalism.

Faced with the shortcomings of tactical media within algorithmic governance, there is an interest among politically minded media artists in renewing and modifying such algorithmic operations.  By exploring and reusing the operational processes of algorithmic schemes, paratactic media works realize subversive actions and creative interventions, which do not only represent and imitate the task-specific nature of algorithmic schemes, but also produce performative and intervening actions and compositions against ignorance, extinction, degeneration, corruption and destruction. Rather than being merely infected and pacified by the conditions and predications of its medium, paratactic media produce background information about the medium as such, its operational process, its users and their patterns of action. Since algorithmic regulation is not transparent, a paratactic media activism can explore, reuse and reveal the operational patterns of a political surveillance mechanism, or a network of corruption among corporations, foundations and governments, which are meticulously obscured from the public. In this way, they become a performative intervention at uncovering the invisible functional principles of contemporary power structures. For instance the 2013 work of Paolo Cirio, Loophole for All, unveiled the privileges of offshore businesses by promoting the sale of real identities of 200.000 anonymous the Caymans Islands companies. As Cirio notes,

“Most of the banking sector uses offshoring not only to hide assets but also to conduct unregulated speculations through special financial instruments, often ‘toxic’ and damaging to real economies. The system of so-called ‘shadow banking,’ blamed for aggravating the global financial crisis, grew to $67 trillion globally in 2011”. 

The artistic practice of Cirio can be used to introduce paratactic media because in this processual artwork, he investigated offshore centers to reveal their social costs and to envision solutions to global economic inequality. By imitating and reappropriating the global algorithmic operation of companies and governments for an alternative purpose, Cirio hacked a regulatory agency, accumulated and monetized data for common use, made this data accessible to the public, exposed an invisible and inaccessible process, curated a fake identity and integrated public participation for this creative intervention. After researching the offshore banking system, Cirio hacked the governmental website of the Cayman Islands Company Register to accumulate a list of all companies registered within this major offshore center. Then he made the data accessible to the public for alternative uses and exposed it by digitally counterfeiting Certificates of Incorporation documents for each company, all issued with his real name and signature as a fake authority persona. The counterfeit certificates were also published on the website, where the public was called on to hijack the firms’ identities by buying Certificate of Incorporations, starting at 99 cents, enabling them to avoid taxes. Within this multi-layered processual work, Cirio uncovered the secrecy surrounding the real owners of these companies as well as the massive corporate identity theft that benefited from the anonymous, but legitimate companies within global capitalist power networks. He basically reused, resampled and remediated various entities that act upon each other, such as hard-copy materials, data-sources, websites, certificates, white papers, buyers, legislative measures and financial assemblages. In addition, the work set up an algorithmic regulation scheme to publish the stolen information through a company in London (Paolo Cirio Ltd.) and a data center in California, while the identities of the Cayman companies were sold through Luxembourg, via a global company,, to route the profit of the sale to Cirio’s operational head quarter in Manhattan. Under the scope of this paratactical approach, the work produced and communicated information about the invisible benefits of specific jurisdictions for legal liability, financial transactions, and publishing rights. Passing beyond the constructed distinction between the digital and the physical worlds, the artist also used mailboxes in the Caymans, London and New York City, and set up most of this scheme through his passport, ultimately shielding his personal legal liability by means of his Italian citizenship. 

In paratactic media, the distinction between human and non-human agencies is not important. Various components of paratactic media generate subversive interventions on superimposing infrastructures, networks and platforms. As illustrated in Cirio’s artwork, inescapable conditions and connections among various entities that act on each other, which includes bots, individuals, objects, institutions, organizations and sources, were paratactically remediated without the use of a single coordinating and subordinating conjunction. Experimenting with new modes of politics and aesthetics, Hito Steyrl also draws attention to political and military tasks of “proxy armies,” entities in large numbers, which can potentially be used to bias public opinion, for example, by writing fake messages in high frequency and dishonestly improve or damage the public perception about a topic.

A Twitter chat bot is an algorithm wearing a person’s face, a formula incorporated as animated spam. It is a scripted operation impersonating a human operation. Bot armies distort discussions on Twitter hashtags by spamming them with advertisement, tourist pictures, or whatever. They basically add noise. Bot armies have been active in Mexico, Syria, Russia, and Turkey, where most political parties have been said to operate such bot armies. The ruling AKP alone was suspected of controlling 18,000 fake Twitter accounts using photos of Robbie Williams, Megan Fox, and other celebs.

In paratactic media, heterogeneous fragments are dynamically connected with no particular order and hierarchy; they act in heterarchic flows. The components compose algorithmic sequences of diverse units that features collaborative juxtapositions. In Media Ecologies, Mathew Fuller argues that “the heterogeneity, the massive capacity for disconnectedness of the parts, coupled with the plain evidence of their being linked by some syntax, of writing or performative action, allows for the intervention of newly transversal, imaginal, technico-aesthetic or communicative dynamics to flower.”

Fig. 1: Erdal
İnci, Untitled GIF Animation, 2013.

GIF animations of Erdal İnci, during the Gezi Park Protests, brilliantly performed the dynamic action and behavioral patterns of human and non-human bodies, which were provisionally linked by a collaborative action. Inci’s artistic practice uncovered how a single unit is cloned, and alongside with others, formed an anonymous body, creating a kind of dynamic movement assemblage. His work created a way to perceive the mutational interaction of various entities, whether it be bodies, or light sources, that act upon each other in a paratactic manner. The dictionary definition of parataxis says that it is the arrangement of “propositions one after the other, without other expression of their syntactic relation,” therefore, without conjunctions, and even “without logical connection” paratactic resonates with “the fabric of rhizomes, the conjunction, ‘…and…and…and…” In these GIF animations, simple snapshots of movement of only one or two seconds, as single units are positioned next to each other, and turn into entrancing and magnetizing video loops by creating volatile hypnotic orders and magnetic attention-grabbers. Each unit in paratactic media, morphogenetically engenders a “matrix of immanent universes and they are hypotactically assembled in relation to the immanence of what it is next to [-para], what it abuts to and differs from. Such hypotaxis is virtual, that is, for its actualization, it demands power to the imagination.” As Andrew Goffey puts it, “Algorithms act, but they do so as part of an ill-defined network of actions upon actions”. Paratactic media introduces subversive interventions of both human and non-human agencies of diverse orders that act up on each other.

  1. Paratactic Media Layers

Paratactic media works do not just reveal and remediate the operational logic of contemporary capitalist system, but they also deal with the recurrent delays of resistance and struggle. In this regard, paratactic media practices unfold the multi-layered operational processes of algorithmic governance. In potentially conflict situations, fabricated tensions and constant crises obscure unlawful setups. As they scatter attention, knowledge and perception in multiple ways, they can also be useful in the making and control of large-scale data-labor and data-capital.

Conflicts and constant tensions are increasingly instrumentalized to control resistance. Gabriel Tarde and Georg Simmel clearly saw that conflicts don’t constitute a paroxysm of separation between individuals and groups, but tend to be a very intense form of social bonding. From a strategic management point of view, Oliver Williamson reads governance as the creation of order to achieve mutual gains. In order to prove the need for absolute power (the state) and its logic of governance, problematic events are used to bring back the ways in which mutual gains are achieved. Random deviations in conflict situations are linked to the discourse networks of global elites, and their keywords such as national security, economic development, financial stability, justice and the war on terror. Recent resistance movements at a global level revealed that the increasing mutual interactions with other resistance movements at local contexts have revived some shared concerns about the spread of coercion, destruction and corruption. However, when agents of resistance are depleted enough, their desire and belief in mutual gains and popular values, such as democracy, equality, justice and freedom, could be limitlessly postponed in continuous variation. Then the need for existing structures and static antagonisms (i.e. state and citizen) is reproduced and conserved as a practical (re)solution of this shared exhaustion.

Provocative statements, risks, uncertainties and traumatic events are superimposed almost in an orchestrated fashion within a certain period of time in order to exhaust resistance. Conflict between disputing parties is preserved and fueled by a bombardment of polemics, speculations, spam, conspiracy theories and deceits to discredit any new claim to power. Tarleton Gillespie argues, “To efficiently design algorithms that achieve a target goal (rather than reaching a known answer), algorithms are ‘trained’ on a corpus of known data… The algorithm is then run on this data.” Popular stereotypes, clichés, spam, generalizations and dominant categorizations are considered to be such a corpus of known data and act as a metanoise which is ultimately functional to algorithmic governance. They deploy a combination of conservatism and fabulation in their attack on mnemonic schemes.


Fig. 2: Ozan Turkkan, Bipolar Fractal, 2013.

Added noise serves to attract and distract attention temporarily so that algorithmic operations can be run on such data-flows generated by the labor of reactionary agents. If reactions reach a certain point in which they lead to surplus, such as an unwanted change or misuse of data, then they are linked to an existing category. In this way, they are also super-stimulated, liquidated and devalued. The affective outcomes can then be extracted as resources and put into work to produce data in an oriented fashion via algorithmic schemes, such as the data flow of tweets toward a provocative statement of a popular figure. If the frequency of this process increases and multiplies, then resisting agents are depleted, consumed and wasted. By way of this consumption, dominant patterns are updated and reproduced. Paratactic media works explore and subvert these invisible layers of algorithmic governance.

3.1. Friction

For paratactic media, friction is not a metaphor but a fundamental layer in which to work. In algorithmic governance, friction is used for forecasting, risk assessment and management. For paratactic media, fabricated disasters, constant tension, crises and wars are considered socio-political and economic dimensions of friction. In basic physics, friction is simply defined as a force resisting the relative motion of two surfaces in contact, or fluid layers, and material elements sliding against each other. The conflict between democrats and republicans or the government and protestors in rural areas, who oppose ecological destruction, can be seen as an example of friction.

One of the most important aspects of friction is that there is no need for relative motion to generate force. In other words, friction can occur even when the contrasting sides maintain their position for a long period of time. In this case, friction becomes invisible and it is used in order to preserve the existing power structure in a relatively regulated manner despite tensions.

Kinetic friction generates a different kind of force than static friction. Whereas relative motion exists in kinetic friction, there is no relative motion in static friction. This leads us to analyze social and political-economic change from the perspective of basic physics. For instance, although some agents remain fixed to an opinion in a controversy, their tension can become an instrument for change in the longer run because static positions become a resource to generate known data, such as popular information, polemics, spams, clichés and stereotypes. Algorithmic operations run on this corpus of known data, the metanoise.

Besides, kinetic friction occurs at a maximum threshold of static friction. In this case, the meticulous analysis of data production and data flow, which cause static friction becomes critical to controlling rhizomatic and unexpected actions and motions. For this reason, data concerning the maximum threshold of static friction should constantly be analyzed and kept under control to assess risks, forecast random deviations and to sort relative motions. For the profit of global power networks, algorithmic analysis of capital flows, whether it is financial, affective, political or social, becomes critical in forecasting risk because divergent and resistant motions should be regulated to sustain power, sometimes at all costs. If an actor triggers contagious dissent, the anarchic scope of circulation reveals itself as a para-state apparatus accumulating relational metadata. 

Before the 2013 Gezi Park Protests, friction was experienced as increasing manipulation and provocation of different groups. Especially the last two weeks before the protests revealed that the amount of friction and noise experienced on a daily basis reached a level of high frequency. The government and its networked followers issued a number of provocative statements and actions against journalists, the Alevi community, the LGBT community, and on issues such as abortion, alcohol use and environmental destruction. In this way, the static friction between numerous groups and the government-corporation network reached a maximum threshold on May 28, 2013. It was an unexpected event for many to witness an act of resistance, in which a parliamentarian was physically defending the rights of a tree in Turkey, where the ecological movement is indeed a negligible political-economic priority. Once the police attacked the group engaged in civil disobedience, information disseminated via social media attracted more people to participate in a rhizomatic fashion. Kinetic friction was generated. Extraordinary collaboration and action among various groups who had previously been in opposition to each other was experienced in numerous ways. Large amounts of population migrated to online platforms. Then the resistance turned into an anti-government protest and transformed into a sort of static friction between the resisting agencies and the government. Although the government could have used its power to disperse resistance, it somehow allowed the making of noise, an active, large-scale peer community, which was migrating to algorithmic platforms. As discussed in detail in the first section, after allowing the making of data-capital and its labor during the Gezi Park Protests, the government adopted strict measures to control this large-scale data-capital and its labor captured by social media corporations via censorship, denials of access, binding regulations and surveillance mechanisms.

3.2. Cacophony

Friction generates error and noise. Large amounts of noise in data flows are used also for constant risk assessment and quality assurance. Recently, Hito Steyrl emphasizes the role of algorithms that run on noise. For instance, visual data captured by sensors, which use optical technology, is noise because the sensors cannot always read the image. A drone cannot read the distinction between signal and noise, and it attacks a civilian target. The algorithm cleans the picture from the noise, or rather defines the picture from within noise. This operational scheme works on existing knowledge, i.e. past pictures, to help creating the image and offers an interpretation of data based on affinities to other data.

On the other hand, data obfuscation becomes a tactic to hide sensitive data in a large dataset with random noise. A cacophonic intervention, a random act or an inflammatory statement by a state official can draw attention to a temporary friction zone of attention and hide the operations of a government-corporation network, which occurs in a temporary zone of attention or an emptied field of production. Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum define data obfuscation as a tactic of “informational self-defense, a method that acts as informational resistance, disobedience, protest or even covert sabotage.” However today governments and corporation networks reappropriated this tactic to covert their illegitimate actions by producing misleading, ambiguous and confusing information as an act of power, concealment and evasion.  Excesses of memes, conflicting statements and images are used to accelerate the conditions of communicative capitalism. Due to noise and errors generated and transmitted through various users, such as the reactions against the provocative statements of the governor of Istanbul during the Gezi Park Protests, the surplus created by the resisters can be used to absorb and cover sensitive facts, such as The Internal Security and National Intelligence Law, which was proposed during the Gezi Park Protests, and passed later in 2014.

Friction and foolishness engenders cacophony and they are instrumentalized to increase participation and activate labor for the sake of algorithmic governance. As reflected by the Deleuzian saying, today the fool becomes a contemporary figure of the barbarian despotic machine. In Evil Media, Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey explain how foolishness plays an important role in ‘psychological operations’ by intelligence agencies:

“…[psyop units] insult the intelligence of their recipients, the enemy, aim to trigger in them a significant margin of overconfidence (.…) black propaganda hopes to extend the production of doubt, the encouragement of turncoats, or estrangement from familiar sources of information, it also functions to lure recipients into the idea that their enemies (…) are more stupid than had previously been thought.”

These tactical maneuvers of “necropolitical war,” as Rosi Braidotti might call them, are realized in a two-fold way to reproduce authority and power-related dichotomies. First, overconfidence is achieved in the heart of the loosely defined enemy. This phase can also be considered the revolutionary spark in which capital-data is accumulated by intensified data flows. Then, the implied lack of sophistication in the fool suggests that enemies understand their opponents as being less capable of thought and action. This encourages the enemy to act without sufficient care and diligence, to rush, mostly oriented and magnetized toward goals set by others. Once again, we see the processual making of a temporary zone of action and infiltrating it towards an intended goal for profit in algorithmic governance.

In what one might call ‘depletion design’, the high frequency and exchange of noise, traumatic events and “crisis exhaust the means of a politics of representation, too slow for the state of exception, too ignorant of the distribution of political agency, too focused on the governability of financial architectures.” Instead of considering such crisis situations a problem of communication, paratactic media works consider cacophony, friction, foolishness and depletion as subversive layers. If random users of cacophony were magnetized in an alternative trajectory to become parasitic transmitters, contagious propagators and infecting agents of resistance, then they would also become intervening forces for unexpected political-economic action.

    1. Waste

Paratactic media practices can emerge by collecting and producing what is considered and ignored as devaluated, useless, insignificant and incapable of presenting resources for immediate capitalist production. Waste becomes one of the fundamental layers of paratactic media for the composition of subversive actions to access truth, which are concealed. Using “power to value the useless,” paratactic media “create(s) a kind of disjunction and non-specificity that undermine[s] logical clarity and causality, leaving room for a certain vagueness and for interpretation.”

Using some of the fundamental aspects of glitch and pixel art, Baran Güleşen realized a repercussive project, Live to Pixel, about media censorship, foolishness and waste during the 2013 Gezi Park Protests.

 baran-gu%cc%88les%cc%a7en-live-to-pixel-1 baran-gu%cc%88les%cc%a7en-live-to-pixel-2 

Figs. 3-4: Baran Güleşen, Live to Pixel, 2013.

In Live to Pixel, the artist worked with the consumable aesthetics and rationale of authoritative measures, such as censorship, as well as the inability to access reliable information in a crisis situation. Focusing on problems of trust, stability and truth, he questioned the contemporary logic of power: why and how media channels failed to communicate information and cover breaking news. By considering media as a type of waste to recycle, the artist suggested, instead of concentrating on incapability and incompetence, users needed to work with failures, inabilities and incapacity to generate evolving modes of thinking and action. In a similar fashion, Matthew Fuller gave an account of the use of stupidity in programming as follows:

… in order to program, you have to understand something so well that you can explain it to something as stonily stupid as a computer. While there is some painful truth in this, programming is also the result of a live process of engagement between thinking with and working on materials and the problem space that emerges. Intelligence arises out of interaction and the interaction of computational and networked digital media with other forms of life conjugate new forms of intelligence and new requirements for intelligence to unfold.

Error reveals not only a system’s failure, but also its operational logic. For Live to Pixel, Güleşen wrote a source code, specified some tasks by commands via algorithms, and shared it online for others to continuing using in imaginative ways with the low-tech aesthetics offered by errors and glitches, and the compressions of pixels. In its failure to communicate, error and noise signal a fissure, a poiesis, a track of outflow from the predictable confines of algorithmic regulation. In Live to Pixel, whose aim was recapturing and exploring the behavioral patterns of algorithmic schemes, Güleşen recycled cacophony, foolishness, friction, depletion and waste in use within algorithmic governance. The artist designed a process of communication within an environment of open-source development. The work remixed and subverted regulatory power by reducing video-streaming resolution in real time. It thus gave anyone the power of manipulating the audio-visual information, not by coercion, but by consent.

Paratactic media works reuse waste to reveal the background information of the government-corporation networks and the dispossession they actuate as well. As David Harvey noticed in Resisting Cities, “the problem is not the common per se, but the relations between those who produce or capture it at a variety of scales and those who appropriate it for private gain.” The on-going “Mapping Dispossession Networks” project aims at decelerating the pace of destructive political-economic operations by revealing the complex relationships that are extremely challenging to sort in a linear context.


Fig. 5: Networks of Dispossession, 2013-ongoing.

By using a collaborative network mapping platform developed by Burak Arıkan, The Collective of Networks of Dispossession challenge to create a change in what is sensed, believed, desired and valued by making various cartographies of government-corporation networks. During the Gezi Park protests, the collective was paratactically composed of members who have experience, knowledge and access to diverse fields, such as law, journalism, art, social sciences, banking, advertising and finance. They collaborate in collecting data and researching data sources making them available for public access. Networks of Dispossession arouses the power of imagination and collaborative action by collecting and producing what is considered waste. Each form of data, such as the list of executive board members of a company, has no value when it is located, for instance, on a specific company’s website. But this trash was turned into treasure in a site-specific composition, when it is reused, remixed and remediated paratactically in relation to other data. These single units of data might have been considered useless, insignificant and incapable of presenting sources used for immediate capitalist production. The fixed data-capital is not converted for monetization, but it is accumulated for producing, communicating and distributing information for alternative actions. Information gathered and produced by Networks of Dispossession is shared and circulated preemptively via their website, the 13th Istanbul Biennale, Facebook and Twitter. Networks of Dispossession worked cooperatively with other minor resistance actions as well. The collective took low-tech actions, such as creative uses of hashtags and micro-blogs (i.e. #KabulEdilmedi – #Rejected), which revealed the list of disallowances for resolutions in the Turkish Parliament. What was also experienced with this work is the emergence of a precarious resistance and a kind of open-source processual knowledge production. Rather than merely re-thinking the nature of the “state-finance nexus,” as David Harvey put it, paratactic media practices ultimately propose new communal forms of non-property and transparent autonomous modes of bottom-up collective action by creative interventions of artistic practice.


In contemporary capitalist cultures, algorithms emerge as one of the fundamental logics of governance. After the recent waves of public demonstrations large segments of the populations have migrated onto online platforms. In this way they have contributed to the global extension of the production, circulation and exchange of data-capital as well as data-labor. As a reactionary response, nation states have increased restrictive and authoritarian measures. In this article, first, I try to draw attention to the interconnections of the state and the para-state. I argued that the rise of authoritarian regimes seems strongly related with the rising power of the para-state. As a result, today algorithmic governance operates by obscuring the unlawful acts of corporations and governments, such as fraud, illegal trade, wiretapping and surveillance. Alongside this, algorithmic schemes rationalize dominant patterns and prevent access to information regarding cost analysis, sales contracts, profiles of networked agents and decision-making processes. Paratactic media works emerge as a response to this new mode of governance by media artists. By way of their creative interventions and artistic practices, paratactic media explores and reuses the concealed operations of government-corporation networks to stimulate alternative actions, knowledge and perception in various ways. Whereas some works may include complex technical components, others benefit from low-tech and mixed media-based artistic methods. In displaying their work and making it accessible to public, paratactic media artists integrate public participation and collective action in their processual works. Hacking the operational mechanisms of regulatory agencies, accumulating and monetizing data for the common use, exposing behavioral patterns of data-flows, curating fake or anonymous identities, exploring and reappropriating the logic of restrictive and authoritative measures in performative audio-visual forms are some of the basic features of paratactic media. Paratactic media artists work with alongside, beside or beyond the agencies of control that use friction, foolishness, cacophony, depletion and waste as attention-grabbing and neuron-eroding schemes of algorithmic governance. Allowing multiple interpretations and finding ways to communicate information for alternate purposes, paratactic media collaborate and perform with responsive minor hacktivist-like organisms and actions by simply asking ‘‘what can we learn from a virus?” By repeating and imitating the fractal logic of control, paratactic media reproduces subversive actions and participatory creative interventions to generate short-term resistance of performative crowds against ignorance, degeneration and destruction.


I would like to thank Ekmel Ertan, Fatih Aydoğdu, Zeynep Gündüz and all contributors for preliminary discussions that we have developed within Amber Festival in 2012, entitled “Paratactic Commons.” I also have to thank Alternative Informatics Association for sharing some of the resources on digital activism in Turkey, and Tatiana Bazzichelli, who have invited me to the Transmediale Festival’14 to present an earlier version of this piece. Jussi Parikka, Tiziana Terranova and Lisa Blackman also reviewed and shared their valuable comments that restructured the arguments in the article. 


  1. An earlier version of this article was presented as a talk at the Transmediale Festival in 2014. See also Ebru Yetiskin, Ekmel Ertan, “Paratactic Commons: Reappropriating Commons By the Folding of Digital Technologies,” Mediacities: Conference Proceedings,, (New York: University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, 2013), 31-38.
  2. Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on The Societies of Control,” October, Vol. 59, (Winter, 1992), 3-7; See also pioneering discussions on algorithmic governance: David Beer, “Power through the algorithm? Participatory Web cultures and the technological unconscious,” New Media and Society, Vol. 11(6), (2009), 985-1002; Francesco Musiani, “Governance by Algorithms,” Internet Policy Review, Vol. 2(3), (2013),, 29 August 2015; Matteo Pasquinelli, “Anomaly Detection: The Mathematization of the Abnormal in the Metadata Society,”, 29 August 2015.   

  3. Tarleton Gillespie, “The Relevance of Algorithms,” Media Technologies: Paths Forward in Social Research, (Eds.) Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski, and Kirsten Foot, (Cambridge, Massachusettes: MIT Press, 2012), 216.

  4. Giorgio Griziotti, “Biorank: algorithms and transformation in the bios of cognitive capitalism”, Quaderni di San Precario, 6 February 2014,, 17 March 2014.

  5. Luciana Parisi, Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics, Space (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sydney: The MIT Press, 2013), 9.

  6. Social Media and Political Participation Lab, “SMaPP Data Report: A Breakout Role for Twitter? The Role of Social Media in the Turkish Protests,”, 8 April 2015.

  7. Aslı Tunç, “Can Pomegranates Replace Penguins? Social Media and the Rise of Citizen Journalism in Turkey”, Freedom House, 2013,, 14 March 2014.

  8. Ibid

  9. Konda Research and Consultancy, Gezi Report, 5 January 2014,, 20 March 2014.

  10. CNN Türk broadcasted a documentary about penguins, which later became one of the most popular meme of the protest. The survival of the penguins was perceived as the survival of all struggling agents of plurality and diversity. Along with this, in the first 2 weeks of the protests, the police used 150.000 tear gas canisters and 3000 tons of water was used by water cannons. More than 1900 people were detained, 7959 were injured, 63 cats and 8 dogs died and more than a thousand of birds were blinded, left their eggs or died.

  11. Nate Schenkkan, “May 2013 – July 2014: Turkey’s Long Year of Content Restrictions Online”, Freedom House,, 25 March 2014.

  12. Benjamin Bratton, “The Black Stack”, E-flux,, 3 June 2014.

  13. In 2012, the global software market was reported to be worth 265.8 billion euros, almost 25 per cent of the global IT market… Between 2007 and 2011, software accounted for nine per cent of all cross-border foreign direct investment (FDI) projects and this sector will continue to be a significant source of international investment, driven by renewed market growth, continuous innovation and the need for companies to extend their global reach… The world IT market grew by an estimated 5.1 per cent between 2011 and 2012 when revenues reached just over a trillion euros (1.08 trillion). Oxford Intelligence, “The Software Report 2013,” June 2013,, 1 July 2015.

  14. Rıfat Başaran, “17 Milyon Öğrencinin Bilgileri Satıldı”, Radikal, 21 October 2012,, 22 June 2015.

  15. SGK Rehberi, “ Sayıştay SGK’daki Veri Satışı Yolsuzluğuna Dur Dedi,” SGK Rehberi, 7 December 2014,, 22 June 2015.

  16. Michel Callon, “Elements of a sociology of translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay”, John Law (Ed.) Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge? (London: Routledge, 1986), 196-233.

  17. Reporters Without Borders, “Enemies of The Internet 2014,” 12 March 2014,, 9 May 2015. 

  18. Freedom House, “Freedom On the Net 2013: Turkey Country Report”,, 13 June 2015.

  19. John Ribeiro, “We will eradicate Twitter: Turkey blocks Twitter access”, PC World,, 21 March 2014.

  20. The Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the University of Toronto, has found evidence that a program called ‘PackageShaper’, produced by Blue Coat Systems, a United States-based company, is in Turkey. This program is used for Internet filtering, and Citizen Lab has described it as a dual-use technology, because its data-gathering capacities could be used for surveillance as well. Spyware programs that give a customer the ability to observe and control a targeted person’s computer – produced by Italian company, Hacking Team, and by the United Kingdom-German company, Gamma International, has also been tracked in Turkey. These spyware- algorithmic schemes permit a customer to intercept passwords, and they access email as a user of the device, types the passwords in and they can even remotely turn on a device’s microphone to record conversations going on nearby. Privacy International, “The Right to Privacy in Turkey,” 23 June 2014,, 11 May 2015.

  21. New America Foundation, “Uncontrolled Global Surveillance, Updating Digital Controls To The Digital Age,” March 2014,, 3 July 2015.

  22. Reporters Without Borders, “Enemies of The Internet 2013 Report: Era of the digital mercenaries,”, 13 March 2014.

  23. A Citizen Lab report on the commercialization of digital spyware reveals that a spyware program called FinFisher1 Command & Control of Gamma International, which has a commercial export license in the UK, but not in Germany, has been identified in a server in Turkey since 2012. Defined as ‘Governmental IT Intrusion and Remote Monitoring Solutions’ by the company, this spyware collects a wide range of data from infected devices?, such as a mobile phone or a computer. The data is stored locally in a hidden directory, and it is disguised with encryption prior to exfiltration. Although the presence a spyware on a server in any given country does not necessarily imply that country’s law enforcement, security or intelligence services are running the server, the owners of the company, CT Telekom, and its use of generic host providers is likely an attempt to camouflage the true operator of the spyware. Citizen Lab, “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spyware,” 1 May 2013,, 3 July 2015.

  24. Ben Wagner and Claudio Guarnieri, “German Companies Are Selling Unlicensed Surveillance Technologies to Human Rights Violaters – and Making Millions,” Global Voices, 5 September 2014,, 30 June 2015.

  25. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1984), 229.

  26. Jussi Parikka, Tony Sampson, (Eds.) The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (Cresskill: Hampton Press, 2009).

  27. For a detailed account of Cirio’s research, Paul Cirio Ltd, “Documenting and investigating offshore centers,”,, 30 June 2015.

  28. Hito Steyrl, “Proxy-Politics,” E-flux,, 7 September 2015.

  29. Ibid, 15.

  30. Erdal İnci,, 2 June 2014.

  31. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 25.

  32. Matthew Fuller, Media Ecologies, Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture, (Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2005), 14.

  33. Andrew Goffey, “Algorithm,” Software Studies: A Lexicon, (Ed.) Matthew Fuller, (Cambridge: Mass: The MIT Press, 2008), 15-20.

  34. Sergei Tonkonoff, “A new social physic: The sociology of Gabriel Tarde and its legacy”, Current Sociology, Vol. 61,  (May 2013), 272.  

  35. Oliver E. Williamson, “Strategy research: governance and competence perspectives”, Strategic Management Journal, 20(12), (December 1999), 1087–1108.

  36. Tarleton Gillespie, “Algorithm (draft) (#digitalkeywords),” Culture Digitally, 25 June 2014,, 3 July 2015.

  37. See a list of provocative statements and actions against journalists, the issue of abortion, the Alevi community, the LGBT community, regarding alcohol use, concerning environmental destruction, that was adopted by state institutions and officials one week before the Gezi Park Protests here:

  38. Hito Steyrl, “Proxy Politics: Signal and Noise”, E-Flux, 2014,

  39. Finn Brunton, Helen Nissenbaum, “Political and ethical perspectives on data obfuscation”, Privacy, Due Process and the Computational Turn, (Eds.) Mireille Hildebrandt and Katje de Vries, (New York: Routledge, 2012), 164 -188.

  40. Nate Schenkkan, “The Future of Turkish Democracy”, Freedom House, 15 July 2014,; Ali Ünal, “Turkish Parliament Approves National Intelligence Bill,” 17 April 2014, Daily Sabah,

  41. Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey, Evil Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 43.

  42. Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013).

  43. Carolin Wiedeman and Soenke Zehle, eds., Depletion Design: A Glossary of Network Ecologies, (Amsterdam: XMLab and the Institute for Network Cultures, 2012), 5.

  44. Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 83.

  45. Gillespie, qtd. in Richard Leppert, ed. “Introduction,” Theodor Adorno. Essays on Music (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002), 63.

  46. Baran Güleşen, “Live To Pixel,” 2013,, 22 January 2014.

  47. Matthew Fuller, Software Studies, A Lexicon (London: MIT Press, 2008), 10.

  48. Michael Nunes, ed., Error: Glitch, Noise, and Jam in New Media Cultures (New York: Continuum Books, 2011), 3.

  49. David Harvey, Rebel Cities, From The Right To The City To The Urban Revolution (London: Verso, 2012), 78.

  50. The Collective of Networks of Dispossession, “Mapping Dispossession Networks,” 2013,, 22 January 2014

  51. This is the theme of a seminar series and a performance-lecture, Contagious Bodies: Network Politics, which I initiated at the 2012 Tanz im August Festival in Berlin with a group of contemporary dancers, performance artists and independent researchers in regard to my ongoing research on the contagious movements of virus-like organisms, technico-aesthetic interventions and socio-political change.