Sonia Bernaciak (RCA) - 2019-20 Students

Narrative logics of hate speech: algorithms of fascist storytelling in the digital age

The art of storytelling, opposed to the ‘new’ form of communication — information — was supposed to offer counsel and side with ‘the epic side of truth, wisdom’ (Benjamin: 1955). As a response to the rise of storytelling as a data analysis technique, this practice-led research PhD would examine how stories get hijacked, distorted and misused. It will observe how conspiracy theories, fake news, memes and clickbait operate within the apparently antagonistic dynamics of storytelling vs information. In the age of the digital – a time of accelerated circulation and accumulation of content, narrative, as a particular way of sense-making becomes a critical agent in shaping and changing public opinions. It seems to be urgent to examine not only how big data storytelling is instrumentalised as a political strategy but also how the self-propelled narrative logics play an important role in ideological discourse. In the rise of new fascist narratives, my research will focus on how digital storytelling is utilised to inflict exclusion and hatred, and if it can be used in the context of resistance against fascism. It would be achieved through algorithmic mapping of narrative logics in systems of othering found in digitally transmitted hate speech. To successfully trace the variety of online narrative forms in the context of their ethics and epistemology, I will also create participatory gameplay simulations based on memes, clickbait psychology tests, and Facebook Inc’s ‘story’ tool. Starting with the study of ideological discourse, language structures and fascist new speech, I would focus on discourse analysis of Web content. Using social network analysis and Natural Language Processing techniques such as sentiment, lexical, topic, and implicit bias analysis, I would examine the storytelling mechanisms found in the government-controlled media, online comments, forums, headlines, and popular websites in Poland. Despite the proliferation of new fascist narratives in many European countries in the last ten years, it seems significant to examine those from a country that has remained almost entirely nationally, ethnically and religiously homogenous for the last 70 years. My main goal is to examine the processes of opinion-forming: how (some)bodies get attuned to fascist narratives in the context of the libidinal materiality of image(ination) and digitally transmitted ideas. In the further stages of research, this materiality of storytelling will be researched through the creation of a VR gameplay based on the collected data.

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