Purple Noise Up!

Esslingen, City of Women festival
28 September 2018 (launch event of #purplenoise)
Intervention (offline/online), street protest, social media
Cornelia Sollfrank with Christina Grammatikopoulou, Janine Sack, Isabel de Sena, Johanna Thompson

Digitization and social media mark a major turning point in the development of protest movements and their repertoires of action. The interaction of different media makes completely new forms of protest possible. Transnational protests ignore national borders and can thus promote solidarity at the international level. In addition to larger organizations, individual users have become the determining variable for political success in protest communication. Through “liking” and “sharing”, sub-publics are created that are able to determine the media and political agendas of digital and traditional media.

But this is only one part of the story, because big platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also used by dark powers, which influence customer and voter opinions on a large scale with targeted manipulations, and as the example of the 45th presidential election in the US or the Brexit referendum shows, achieve an unprecedented real-life, political effect. Media scholars call the use of algorithms, automation and human curation to deliberately spread misleading information via social networks, “computational propaganda.” Based on recent studies, which have shown that in Germany, for example, around twenty percent of all political news and information on Twitter consists of fake news, i.e. misinformation and junk news, the artistic intervention Purple Noise Up is undertaking a practical experiment to explore the relationship between online and offline protest.

Based on the notion of “expanded space,” as elaborated by Christina Grammtikopoulou, we stage an offline protest and communicate it online via various social media channels in order to explore its feedback loops. Essential parts of our reverse engineering of social media campaigns is the use of hashtags, the modification of gender symbols and the introduction of the feelers meme. We gain followers, real people and bots and flood the market place of Esslingen and the internet with our manifesto [link to 1st manifesto] and messages.

This intervention was part of the festival City of Women (Esslingen, 28 – 30 September 2018, part of the Drehmoment festival) which also organized a demonstration in the streets and thus was a perfect stage for our experiment. We started the protest in front of the train station and marched all the way to the main square, supported by hundreds of protesters carrying our placards in shades of purple showing our modified gender symbols and the hashtags #purplenoise #imakenoise #iusemyfeelers #algorithmisdespotism. We wear purple and use our custom-made feelers shouting our slogans through the megaphone: “Purple Noise,” “We make noise”. Later in the day, we take the main stage of the event and perform our manifesto. At night, we hand out our DIY – make your own gender symbol posters and ask people to complement them. All actions are streamed on social media.

Purple Noise Up!, demonstration in Esslingen, 2018

DIY poster: new gender symbols are drawn, 2018