The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Student Profiles

Chris Hotz

Project Title
Distributed media and collective intelligence in political action: from an emergency response to disappearing students in Mexico, to city transformation in Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain.

Description of Research Project 

My PhD research project engages with current debates around the empowering effects of social and distributed media (online and offline, old and new), as well as concerns regarding the intersection of these media with processes of data-mining, machine learning, surveillance and social media manipulation. Through both personal and large-scale accounts, I hope to gain insight into: how people deal with these complex and conflicting power dynamics in their own practice; conceptualisations of distributed mediated techniques and forms of collective intelligence, the latter of which has also been described as the hivemind, the wisdom of the crowd and swarm intelligence.

Proposed study:

A pilot fieldwork study in Mexico sadly coincided with the disappearance of 43 students in the rural Mexican town of Ayotzinapa. Based in Mexico City, I was able to connect with the protests and emergency response to their disappearance, taking part in movement media trainings which introduced me to a scholar-activist body of work “Tecnopolítica” which had emerged out of the Indignados movement in Spain. Following threads of political action and Tecnopolítica research, I started to see an international network of people and projects interconnecting Spain and Mexico (amongst other places), with a city transformation project in Barcelona offering hope and potential for political alternatives. People from the Indignados and Tecnopolítica community became part of Barcelona’s new city administration when a former housing activist was elected as Mayor of Barcelona and a digital transformation project was launched in the city. In these networks, concepts of distributed politics and collective intelligence are already mobilised and explored both theoretically and in applied projects, and this body of work has already influenced the development of the PhD project. I am currently approaching the Tecnopolítica group in order to take the study forward.

Publications

Presentations

“43 disappeared students in Mexico: movements problem-solving online and offline”
University of Cambridge, Postgraduates in Latin American Studies Conference 2015
http://pilasuk.wixsite.com/conference2015

“Dealing with the crisis of 43 disappeared students in Mexico: Movements problem-solving online and offline”
University of Newcastle, Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Postgraduate Conference 2015
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/clacs/

Teaching:

Social media session in Copera’s scholar-activist anti-racism workshops, which lead on to the following campaign: http://asivivimoselracismo.tumblr.com/

Copera’s website: https://colectivocopera.org

Qualifications and Achievements

  • MA in Latin American Interdisciplinary Studies (Distinction), Newcastle University (2013)

  • Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (experimental MOOC), Stanford Engineering, US (2011)

  • Foundation in Art & Design, Camberwell College of Arts, London, UK (1998)

  • Philosophy, Politics and Economics 2:1 BA Hons, Oxford University, UK (1995)

Links to other personal web profiles

  • Video of Liberate Tate 5th Assessment performance (2015): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNrXPL_1c7c. Performance info: http://www.liberatetate.org.uk/5th-assessment/

  • Orange Farm Water Crisis (2002-2010) The documentary which started an 8 year collaborative film-making relationship:  https://vimeo.com/80486889

  • The collaboration involved close relationships with South African legal organisations, township residents, social movement organisations and international political media networks, and I became an advisor to the Coalition Against Water Privatisation in South Africa. An in-depth follow up interview with the struggle lawyer on the reality of dealing with a long term legal battle: https://vimeo.com/80548897