We have economic fear combined with everybody joined together on these instant twitchy social networks which are designed to create mass action.
– Jaron Lanier quoted here
A pogrom is carried out by a “crowd,” the true horrific embodiment of the purported “wisdom of the crowd.” You could say it made Lanier even more determined not to remain mute. To speak out against the digital barbarism he regrets he helped create.
Jaron Lanier’s critique takes a bit of Paul Virilio and a touch of Elias Canetti. “Twitchy social networks” suggests however the very opposite of mass homogenisation implicit in the image of www. as productive of mobs. “Twitchy” and “instant” connote a nervous system with realtime responsiveness not the system of nerves of any recognisable representational medium, say, for instance the so-called “social network.” The latter in so far as it is “designed to create mass action” and produce mobs produces its own latent capacity for action by reproducing it. The famous “flash mob” phenomenon, for example, combines a sense of responsiveness with a sense of mass directedness, inciting to action. But a “flash mob” names a time and an action for a participatory spectacle. Participants in this spectacle are already interested and are then fore-warned. The “twitch” is a foreclosure of responiveness; the mass action is a rehearsal and an event staged for spectators.
Isn’t it more a matter that the www. is a network showing and producing more of the same? There is more of the same. Or the same insists on being more. More of the same.
The network is a type of representation par excellence.
Are there conditions under which this type of representation could be used to incite to mass and horific cruelty? to “man’s inhumanity to man”?
Will we see a “flash mob” pogrom?
This would be a very artful use of the medium. (Art as war conducted by other means, here.) And is really beside the point of there being an inherency in the digital per se such that it possesses limitations. I tend to think that the network – and www. as a candidate network – illustrate the transfinitude of representation, internalising and anaesthetising against limits. A mathematisation of representation is then implicit, which asks for comparison to the thought of Alain Badiou and Quentin Meillassoux. And I really must get around to getting around to writing on this subject and stop producing more of the same.