Hacking multitude’ and Big Data: Some insights from the Turkish ‘digital coup

Big Data and Society 2 (1) (2015)
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The paper presents my first findings and reflections on how ordinary people may opportunistically and unpredictably respond to Internet censorship and tracking. I try to capture this process with the concept of ‘hacking multitude'. Working on a case study of the Turkish government's block of the social media platform Twitter, I argue that during systemic data choke-points, a multitude of users might acquire a certain degree of reflexivity over ubiquitous software of advanced techno-capitalism. Resisting naïve parallels between urban streets and virtual global streets, the article draws on Fuller's ‘media ecologies' to make sense of complex and dynamic interactions between processes and materialities, strategies of communication and mundane practices. Such a dense space is mostly invisible to network and traffic analysis, although it comes alive under the magnifying lens of digital ethnography. As the Turkish government tried to stop protesters on both the urban and the Twitter spheres, alternative material configurations and new hybrid formations and practices emerged. I try to bring this process alive following the traces – that is, a combination of digital data and materialities – of a social space between the protest for Twitter access, the ‘digital coup' and the interactions that this situation determined. In the final section, I briefly explore two research trajectories which can further develop my initial formulation of a ‘hacking multitude'. I argue that a generalisation of hacking/multitude is problematic for the political, cultural or economic processes more directly associated with Big Data.



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