Conference: Annual IKT Symposium

Is Facebook Porn o(r) Graphic? 

IKT Symposium 2018: The Common Grounds. Learning from Contexts and Communities

Gdansk Poland


Social Media have become one of the strongest ways to communicate with and about others and ourselves, to the point that people identify themselves through the images and information they make public. The era of Facebook and photoshop transforms every human countenance into a face, which blossoms entirely in its exhibition value. The communication that is used is image based, and less text-based. It is a communication that aims to create excitement, rather than to convey real content, like pornography.

“Our way of communicating is porn.”

This is what Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han states in one of his latest books “The Transparency Society”. Our contemporary way of communicating characterizes our era with a capitalistic approach to ourselves. The need for exposure, transparency and non-ambiguity kills the eros, what makes our society being a porno-society. ‘Pleasure and lust are fed by phantasy, which is made of an individually balanced proportion of truth and falsity’. The exact opposite of today’s demand of transparency, truth and abolition of public privacy, which aims to maximize the exhibition value. In other words: capitalism has transformed everything and everyone into a commodity and forces the human being to be hyper-visible in order to exist.

Erotism is not Porn. While the first implies some tension between truth and falsity, between seen and unseen, between reality and fantasy, the second is transparent, does not hide anything, and is not disturbed by anything. Porn is that bold and smooth image that is not broken nor out of focus; porn is characterized by a penetrating positivity that doesn’t permit any doubts or failure, an image that proposes an exciting situation, but like in our social media accounts, it does not reflect the reality, it serves solely to the temporary stimulation of our senses. And social media, with their graphic editor apps, do emphasize that aspect: infinite digital apps enable the user to smooth and transform their images into fictional selves.

The title of this presentation is both a statement and a question. After introducing Byung-Chul Han’s thoughts and writings about the porn- and exhibition society, I will introduce a selection of artists like Celia Hampton, Mattia Casalegno and Leah Schrager who elaborate these themes through their works of art and question the terms ‘exhibition’ and ‘exhibitionism’ in relation to the art practice. The presentation will enlighten the participants on both sides of the topic: Whether Social Media create a way of communication that is illustrative or pornographic (in Han’s sense) .