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How 'Glitch' Offers Us a New Kind of Radical Pedagogy

Updated: Oct 9, 2023


Ever got really, really wound up as your phone, tablet or computer glitches, freezes or goes all weird for second? Waiting as those round circles cycle once, twice, three times or for an hour can be an absolute nightmare. It's like everything gets stopped in its tracks. the system breaks down. It 'glitches' and when it returns it's either lost your data, file, place in the game, place in the film etc, or it's simply interrupted the everyday flow of life. This is what a 'glitch' is. And it's more powerful than you think.


Curator and writer Legacy Russell says, "Herein lies a paradox: glitch moves, but glitch also blocks. It incites movement while simultaneously creating an obstacle. Glitch prompts and glitch prevents. With this, glitch becomes a catalyst, opening up new pathways, allowing us to seize on new directions. On the internet we explore new publics, engage with new audiences, and, above all, glitschen between new conceptions of bodies and selves. Thus, glitch is something that extends beyond the most literal technological mechanics: it helps us to celebrate failure as a generative force, a new way to take on the world."


What I love about this idea is that is forces us to rethink a couple of things:


1- that the internet is this all powerful monolith. To be sure, it's extremely powerful and extremely dangerous too. But like all great systems of coding and cataloguing people (from the famous Doomsday Book onwards), it's subject to failure and error, to glitch, and that glitch provides us with a strategy to undermine the parts of the internet that replicate things that are oppressive or that we keep us up at night worrying about where things are really going. As famous philosophers Deleuze and Guattari say, every territory - every monolith - has packed inside it it's own deterritorialsation. In other words - the architecture of every system has its own undoing written inside it as a matter of course. You don't need to look to the outside of any system to find its failure, you can find how to unravel it from the very mechanics it's built on - if you look hard enough. This kind of unraveling doesn't have to be all gloom and doom. In fact, Deleuze and Guattari call these 'lines of flight' and they are as exciting and full of the possibilities of change as the title imagines them.


2- that glitching is all about the digital platform and nothing to do with the body. Scholar Nathan Jurgenson suggets that instead of the acronym IRL (which means 'in real life') we use AFK (away from keyboard). This allows to to understand that 'the self' is a continuous progression of relationships that don't end but impact us wherever we go, whether those worlds are digital or analogue. Why is this important? Because it allows us to take a more integrated approach to daily life and examine ourselves - especially the differences of how we navigate our worlds online and how we navigate our worlds face2face. How do these differences manifest? And most importantly, instead of just cataloguing the differences (like a good coding machine ourselves!) what do the ways these differences differ tell us about ourselves and our relationships with the world. In the context of this post on glitch as rebel strategy, it also allows us to take rebel glitching strategies with us across digital and analogue terrains. Who said it has to flow one way? The digital isn't just a rendition of the 'real world' online, it also impacts us, our bodies, the way we think, live, love - everything. In other words it is performative - the digital changes the analogue as much as it tries to represent it.


Check out this amazing dance video from Urban Theory who take the glitching body to a whole different level!:


This one is quite interesting too, not least because of how the power relationship continually changes from 'puppetmaster' to co-creator, to puppet. Very interesting when viewed in light of the idea of the shifting performativities inherent in subject/object relations...





In 2022, I started on three pieces that investigate digital/analogue divides and their political impact on our everyday lives. The first one looks at culture and digital decoloniality in education, and has recently come out in a fantastic collection on media cultures and digital practice edited by Flynn & Marotta. You can access it here:


The other two are forthcoming, one is called Ghosts in the Machine and is on how to teach critical digital practice by investigating the difference between 'space' on zoom (waiting rooms, boxed windows etc) and 'space' in universities. The 'glitch' between these two offers us moments of change, if we look closely enough. How can we teach this? This article is out in Carrigan and Robertson's The Postpandemic University. Incidently, Carrigan hosts a blog with the same name which is superb and well worth the read. You can check it out here: The last article in my 'mini' series is called The End of the Seance and is all about the politics of teaching and learning in a world with/out the senses (or a least: how can we better understand how the sense operate in a digital platform), and is out in an Special Issue with Critical Studies <=> Critical Methodologies


The purpose of all of this is simple: how can we explore the territory of everyday digital systems as new sites of resistance, protest, change, love or imagination? The radical politics embedded in 'glitching' is a start. What about finding a few more lines of flight while we're at it?






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