How dare you? Acts of Deviance and Strategies of Discreditation

A violation of the norm whether intended or by chance entails the danger of facing punishment either through law enforcement, violent response or through society’s stigmatization as 'deviant'. In contrast to deviancy that can be used externally and internally, discreditation is a performative act of ascription by others. A key intention of discreditation seems to be the intended damage of the 'good' reputation of someone or something. It appears, discreditation happens on purpose. Or doesn't it?
Dates: 
Sunday, 18 September, 2011 - 13:00 - 14:30
Chair Person: 
Alexander Schwinghammer
Chair Person: 
Daniel Wessolek
Presenters: 
Nicholas Salazar
Presenters: 
Asko Lehmuskallio
Presenters: 
Anna Lena Seiser
Presenters: 
Sebastian Sierra Barra

Chair: Alexander Schwinghammer
2nd Chair: Daniel Wessolek

A violation of the norm whether intended or by chance entails the danger of facing punishment either through law enforcement, violent response, stigmatization as 'deviant' or abhorrence by society. Generally acts of deviance mark infringements of established patterns. However linked to the notion of intended deviancy being in fact an alleged deviance as an attempt to attract audiences or consumers. Deviancy appears to possess the potential be used as a method to generate an image, such as giving a brand a dash of rebelliousness by attributing deviance to it. Deviancy can be employed by others as a description, as well as it can be used as a self-description (for economical reasons for instance). In contrast to deviancy that can be used externally and internally, discreditation is a performative act of ascription by others. A key intention of discreditation seems to be the intended damage of the 'good' reputation of someone or something. Discreditation happens on purpose.

This panel explores different social formations, events, artistic endeavours, sites, performative behaviours and fields of inquiry that employ strategies of discreditiation. Therefore a wide focus is used to map an underrepresented and diverse field.

Paper Abstracts

Oh, Bottom Thou Art Changed: Stigma Symbols and the Corporeal Codings of Shame

by Nicholas Salazar

Stigma is a Greek word meaning a body mark, designed to expose something unusual and bad about the moral or physical status of a person. In the following paper, I will present a corporeal semiotic study of acts of performative discreditation by focusing on the use of what Erving Goffman calls stigma symbols, particularly the use of so called 'badges of shame', aimed as typically distinctive symbols to be worn by a specific group or an individual for the purpose of public humiliation or persecution. Of particular interest is the coded nature of these symbols, that is, the use of colour-coding to distinguish persecuted groups, the use of geometric symbols and graphic symbols to be worn by stigmatised individuals, the use of marking and branding on people's skins, particularly the branding of alphanumerical symbols on individuals. The badge of shame is not only a visual aid in situations where normal and deviant meet, but an embodied language or a language of marked bodies, whose enactment have the performative effect of social rejection. The biopolitical dynamics here is not aimed as a Foucaultian disciplination through corporeal practices, but a performative act where individuals are rendered less than human, infra-human- where the performance of shame allows the individual to gain, in the eyes of the normalised audience, the status of an animal. The changing from man to ass, to animal, is thus a beastialising performance installed at the level of the body, and of a performative act that transforms the body from human to infrahuman, thus performing a dynamic of imbalance that intensifies the rhythms of power and domination.

Deviant Media Tactics: Creating Faces

by Asko Lehmuskallio

With the increasing digital mediation of everyday communication, novel forms of deviant acts have emerged: political posters of candidates are reworked, fake-identities are employed and existing mediated communication is organized into novel forms. Empirical examples of deviant media tactics abound. By focusing on Goffman's notion of the face as a situational image of self, constructed according socially approved moral attributes, this paper explores deviant media tactics as sets of images promoting other kinds of moral attributes, and thus other forms of maintaining face.

Y'arr, what be yer share of the booty, matey? – Deviance as Strategy

by Anna Lena Seiser

The term 'Piracy' has been used by copyright holders to declare different forms of copyright infringement and simple nonprofit peer-to-peer file sharing techniques as criminal and destructive antisocial acts. However, the use of this devaluating denomination has developed its own dynamics.

What was meant to discredit a set of cultural practices has backfired, as the so called pirates gradually co-opted the name by activating the inherent heroic and rebellious connotations.

Piracy as a label has become a ubiquitous symbol in the online- and offline world. Sailing under the flag of piracy as a form of deviance is now even understood as a radically liberal political action.

Human Self-Discreditation as an Emancipative Act

by Sebastian Sierra Barra

Discreditation is a human strategy to devaluate somebody or something. Its meaning is very close to “discrimination”. For instance, nations, ethnic groups, classes, individuals etc. were and are able to stabilize their sense of self-worth by comparing minorities or specific ethnic groups with animals. Here, the world of humans and the world of animals are brought together. Nowhere else, the boundaries between humans and animals disappear so easily as in the field of discrimination.

This presentation will pursue the scientific tracks of self-discreditation and interpret them as forms of critical behavior. By looking at different examples, like the Human Genom Project and its associated expectations, results and disappointments, this paper will show that fetching man down from the evolutionary tree should be valuated as an act of emancipative self-discreditation.

Bios of the Participants

Daniel Wessolek

Daniel Wessolek works as a research associate in Interaction Design at Bauhaus University Weimar. He holds an MFA in Media Art & Design from Bauhaus University Weimar, an MA in Art Theory from Tongji University Shanghai and a BA in Digital Media from University of the Arts Bremen. His research currently focuses on glowing matter, open design and civil engagement.

Alexander Schwinghammer

Alexander Schwinghammer works as a research associate for Theory and History of Visual Communication at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. His background is in cultural, studies, anthropology and theatre studies. Research interests include performance theory, visual culture, the visuality of war, ideas on appropriative acts and the anthropological momentum of reporting.

Asko Lehmuskallio

Asko Lehmuskallio works as researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT, a joint multidisciplinary institute of Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, Finland. His research interests include digitally networked cameras, privacy and media tactics. His work is published mainly in the fields of visual culture, communication studies, and human-computer interaction.

Nick Salazar-Sutil

Nick Salazar-Sutil is a Chilean born academic and practitioner living in London. His work focuses on symbolic languages and code languages in performance, corporeal semiotics and cultural theory of symbolic languages (mathematics/ computer languages). He is the artistic director of Configur8, and Member of the Board of Directors of Performance Studies International.

Anna Lena Seiser

Anna Lena Seiser studied Mediaculture and Social Communication at Bauhaus University Weimar and Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In 2009/2010 she was part of the programme team of transmediale.10 FUTURITY NOW! – festival for art and digital culture Berlin. Her research interests include data piracy, aesthetics and the value of disturbance, social implications of software architecture and tactics of cultural cannibalism à la Oswald de Andrade.

Sebastian Sierra Barra

Sebastian Sierra Barra is a PhD student of Politics, European Ethnology and Anthropology at the Goethe University Frankfurt. He holds a scholarship of the Frankfurt Graduate School of Social Science and Humanities. His research project is about the role of media in the 'information age' from a coevolutionary point of view.