Michael Mandiberg practices hactivism by trespassing onto commercial sites in order to draw attention to the consumerist activity being promoted there. He does not apply his programming skills to clog servers, unleash viruses, or otherwise damage and disrupt sites.
“‘Hacktivism’ (hacking plus activism) is the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends. These tools include web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web site parodies, virtual sit-ins, virtual sabotage, and software development.”36 Basically, hacktivism entails the writing of code in order to promote ethical political ideologies, such as free speech. It is distinct from the destructive acts known as ‘cyberterrorism’. Michael Mandiberg practices hactivism by trespassing onto commercial sites in order to draw attention to the consumerist activity being promoted there. He does not apply his programming skills to clog servers, unleash viruses, or otherwise damage and disrupt sites.
a. Hacktivism diverts the experience of art away from passively observing an artwork that is presented in a setting designed specifically for the display of art. Instead, it promotes direct action on any computer device, within any location, in the midst of ordinary non-art activities. The result is that the experience may not be recognized as ‘art’ by the public. This seamless merger into life practices distinguishes projects undertaken by Bonnie Ora Sherk, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Brandon Ballengée, Fernando Garcia-Dory, Nicole Fournier, HeHe, Natalie Jeremijenko, Jae Rhim Lee, Viet Ngo, Pedro Reyes, Tavares Strachan, SUPERFLEX, Reverend Billy Talen, and Lily Yeh. Select a specific work that is not apparently ‘art’ by any two artists listed above. Compare them to Mandiberg’s hacktivist artworks. Why are they not recognizable as works of art by the public? Does their non-art appearance diminish their ability to affect environmental reforms? What does this invisibility reflect about the artists’ professional goals?
b. Despite the work’s invisibility in terms of ‘art’, many of the cultivated skills and intuitive imaginings needed for creators of tangible art objects also apply to Mandiberg’s online projects. Mandiberg’s task is particularly challenging since his on-line art projects convey complex data-driven concepts. He strives to be easily comprehensible, to stimulate both emotion and reflection, and to actually change an opinion and activate a behavior. The term ‘persuasive visualization’37 summarizes these goals. Compare Mandiberg’s persuasive visualization strategies to those used by SUPERFLEX, HeHe, Jae Rhim Lee, or Tavares Strachan. In each instance a visual experience is designed to stimulate the viewer’s imagination and induce a particular form of engagement.