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The Sensing Ruderal Assemblage: An Artistic Vision of the Toxic in the Web 2.0 [ENGLISH_Thesis]

Only the CO2 emissions of the Internet account for the 3.7% of all greenhouse emissions (Ferreboeuf et al, 2019); the Web 2.0 promotes the proliferation of digital data and its amplification, which appears ethereal. Furthermore, visual content skews and programs social relations in a context of geomaterial ruination - the Anthropocene. This thesis contribution rests on an interdisciplinary and more-than-human view of the toxic emergence of the Web 2.0 – forms of psycho-social and biological contamination. Through an ecomaterial reading and a ruderal artistic practice, the research brings forth material mutualisms and the materiality of the digital, turning the toxic into a regenerative vision of earthly social relations.

Ruderal weeds are invasive and regenerative, plants that emerge in poor soils after disturbance and the accumulation of mineral rubble. Ruderal life evidences deep, non-linear, and more-than-human relations – contamination as collaboration (Tsing, 2015). Using this metaphor and the plural frameworks of the ruderal, this research characterises and reacts to the assembling of users, digital debris (Steyerl, 2011) - proliferating polluting content, and the social space online; an aesthetical-material feedback that engenders as much human automatisms as mineral mining contamination.

Furthermore, influenced by the material witness (Schuppli, 2020), an operative concept which generates readings from the intersection of material remnants and the narratives of the channels which represent them, the ruderal assemblage is devised. This aesthetical and hermeneutical approach repurposes online data streams, it renders and reacts: the textual flooding of automated-like Twitter – now X - accounts, the far-right “script” of mass shootings and their online amplification, and the QAnon mass delusion as “gamified research”; historical techno-human assemblages of the Web 2.0 where agency is understood as distributed (Bennet, 2010). In reaction, disturbed landscapes and organisms stimulate a vibrant artistic practice which stresses material mediation and earthly mutualisms. Artworks imitate the bioindincating power of lichens –  data streams give way to multi-species organisms (Twitter-reactive application) - and the photosynthetic processes of weeds – data archives are oxidized (cyanotype). The post-digital practice provides an ecomaterial view of relations while signposting the luxurious materiality of digital information.

Recursively, documenting and re-assembling online and offline more-than-human mutualisms, the ruderal assemblage senses the emergence of the toxic. It generates rubble – non-human excess - towards regenerative sprouting. The juxtaposition between context – conspiracy theories and far-right “scripts” online – and medium – the visuality of anthropogenic landscapes offers a rooted and transgressive view the toxic while reflecting on our posthuman condition.

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