For the Lulz: Anonymous, Aesthetics and Affect

  • Rodrigo Ferrada Stoehrel Department of Culture and Media Studies Umeå University
  • Simon Lindgren Department of Sociology Umeå University
Keywords: Anonymous, Aesthetics, Affect, Hacktivism, Hacker Culture, Resistance, Dissent, Passion, Lulz, YouTube, Twitter, Social Media, Popular Culture, Power, Globalisation, Surveillance, Censorship, Freedom, Terrorism, Counter-Hegemony, Counter-Discourse


The focus of this paper is on different but connected areas of power – relating to things such as economic globalisation, surveillance, censorship/freedom, ‘terrorism’ and/or specific military activity – visually represented through online media, and intentionally produced to inform a wide spectrum of individuals and interest groups about global and local social injustices. Or, more importantly, produced and distributed with the purpose of providing users with possibilities to engage, bodily and emotionally, in diverse ways: may it be through physical antiwar/anti-wall street protests or hacktivist tactics (e.g. DDoS attacks).

We examine a sample of videos, photographs and propaganda posters produced, and digitally distributed (2008-2013), by the fragmented body of activists united globally under the generic name of Anonymous. Analytically, we will draw upon Mouffe’s thoughts on ‘antagonism’ and ‘passion,’ Foucault’s ideas on international citizenship and the (ethical) ‘right to intervene’ (beyond governmentality), together with Sontag’s notion of institutional political inertia and the Deleuzian/Spinozian perspective on affect as a capacity for action. The goal is to analyse the ways in which Anonymous systematically inspire (not only) the radical and social imaginary but also other direct forms of action that have potential societal effects.

Author Biographies

Rodrigo Ferrada Stoehrel, Department of Culture and Media Studies Umeå University
Rodrigo Ferrada Stoehrel is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Culture and Media Studies, Umeå University, Sweden. He is also a  journalist and film maker (director, editor and photographer). His research has a focus on visual culture, power/affect, and the relationship between cognitive and bodily processes of knowledge. Ferrada Stoehrel is specifically interested in judicial audio-visual practices and truth-claiming images, visual rhetorics, visual propaganda, documentary dramaturgy, digital aesthetics, hacker culture and counter-narratives/culture as a field of struggle.
Simon Lindgren, Department of Sociology Umeå University

Simon Lindgren is Professor of Sociology at Umeå University, Sweden. He researches digital culture with a focus on how new media audiences navigate the border landscape between the new potentials for participation and activism on the one hand, and the risks for exclusion and exploitation on the other. Simon is actively taking part in developing theoretical as well as methodological tools for analyzing discursive and social network aspects of the emerging new media landscape. He has published internationally on themes like hacktivism, digital piracy, citizen journalism, subcultural creativity, popular culture and visual politics. More information can be found at

Special Issue: Critical Visual Theory