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Shoshana Zuboff defines:

Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.

  1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification; 3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history; 4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy; 5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth; 6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy; 7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty; 8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.

see also: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

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NEOLIBERALISM – a dialogue UK & ST, Jan – Feb 2019


1.

UK: So what is neoliberalism, if not a radical incarnation of cultural hegemony—in that it intrinsically misrepresents (via a delusively benignant reframing) all modes of civilizing engagement and every mode of civilizing effect? The strange descendant of Aynian objectivism and Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, neoliberalism is a creature that has shifted its unseemly shape beyond radical economic ultra-orthodoxy, seeping into, until permeating, the entire cultural landscape and the whole of society. In essence, this radical incarnation seeks a hegemony founded on deculturization, in that it implicitly negates all true forms of culture that are not commensurate with its paradigms of individualist supremacy and such supremacy’s necessarily incidental cultural adornments.

ST: that neoliberalism reframes “all modes of civilizing engagement and every mode of civilizing effect”;

that its “its paradigms [are] of individualist supremacy”.

Do neoliberals delude themselves that their efforts are towards civil society? Or more bluntly that they are benign?

The question concerns how neoliberals view themselves and what is the point of view of neoliberalism. We can agree that this point of view reframes civilization, as process and form of life. But it does not do so by misrepresenting civilization. Neoliberalism, first of all, is not a doctrine, and less an ideology; even less a political one, and not at all a framing or reframing of whatever is supposed to pre-exist it. It is a strategy of representation, not misrepresentation; and it is not self-deluding, or delusive. It acts strategically, speaks strategy, deals in the real world strategically, through eschewing the kind of Grand Narratives on which our modernism relied, including that one about the supremacy of the individual. In this neoliberalism has going for it a kind of slippery postmodernism, and a decidedly anti-representationalist slant. However, it is strategically deployed.

2.

UK: The self-imagery of neoliberalism is an endemic artfulness that is belied by its extreme simplisticness and its intrinsic incapacity relative to all paradox. This includes its incapacity relative to the paradox of so-called civilization or the civilizing impulse that is perpetually indicated or perceived as “progress.” To the extent that the manifestation of whatever has been dubbed civilization has been accounted “successful”, it has always been predicated upon hegemony, rationalism and doubt (or the ambiguous certainties heralded as “progress” itself).

Paradoxically—without effacing hegemony, rationalism and doubt—much of civilization-making activity has really been rooted in verifiable humanizing processes and outcomes, in respect of the creation and promotion of civic spaces and institutions, education, the arts and so forth;

ST: that civilization is based on “hegemony, rationalism and doubt” as well as “humanizing processes” we might call civic, including civic (civilizing) spaces and institutions.

This triad of hegemony, rationalism and doubt appeals to the Cartesian cogito. I find myself asking as readily what civilization is? as what is neoliberalism? Isthis the right duality? Has not civilization, in the face of human guilt and shame in the Shoah, got a bad name? (Let alone representation (after Adorno).) Let us remember that the founding event of neoliberalism is in 1947, Hayek’s convening of the Mont Pelerin Society, still very active—still very active in New Zealand, both in political and business circles. That is directly after the war, a new dawn dawned. Red-faced, not at all. Red-handed and red-fingered, perhaps.

3.

UK: As with traditional (but ambiguous) civilization-makers, neoliberals, too, harbor a quasi-religious (if passionately de-collectivizing) conviction around a notion of “progress.” But in contrast to the paradox of so-called civilization’s efforts at humanization combined with hegemony, neoliberalism, is—by the nature of its very contempt for all human nuance in which felicity is perforce inextricable from vulnerability—an active, summary negation of all verifiable humanizing processes, even those processes which have been obligated to coexist with forms of hegemony.

What is unique about neoliberalism—and where neoliberalism goes arguably further than the most wretched of collectivized totalitarian ideologies—is that (unlike fascism and bolshevism) it proactively anathematizes community, and therefore society, and therefore humanity itself. Neoliberalism militantly glorifies the market; above all, it glorifies virile economic autonomy and self-exalting individualism as the ostensible uttermost expressions of human existence. And it is inherently contemptuous of all expressions of human life and community that do not fulfill this paradigm;

ST: that neoliberalism “proactively anathematizes community, and therefore society, and therefore humanity itself. It militantly glorifies the market and, above all, it glorifies virile economic autonomy and self-exalting individualism as the ostensible uttermost expressions of human existence. And it is inherently contemptuous of all expressions of human life and community that do not fulfill this paradigm”.

We can agree here but not on the existence of a paradigm—and not on the issue of virility. We can agree on the contempt in which Hayek and his followers hold humanity—as they have colonised every level of human undertaking. Again, it is not the expressions of human life and community with which neoliberal strategies concern themselves. Rather it is with expressing these and producing in them images drawn from a new brain. This new brain belongs to the markets; and, like the mind imagines the brain, the delusion is at this level: that there is a brain, that there exist a market, is a work of the mind and of the men and women who deal in markets and their creation, their representation at the political level.

4.

UK: To neoliberal eyes, humanity, alas, really does exist, and does so in its unfulfilled guise: quotidian, dependent, plodding, seemingly oblivious to the expansively independent and dynamically self-assured opportunities and obligations of its agency. And of course, in the neoliberal mind, there are all too many institutions that embody and perpetuate this selfsame disgraceful, inert mediocrity.

Hence, what neoliberals conceive as being incumbent upon themselves is a sustained effort or visionary crusade to confront and undermine and resolve the embarrassment that is humanity itself. The confrontation thus pursued is the righteous animation of its virtuous contempt. The expression of that contempt is the intrinsically fanciful empowerment of citizens in every context through a unique form of infantalization that presumes to treat human beings as dependent, misguided and undisciplined children—and in the same breath compulsively wean them off every expectation of a nurturing or protective environment, or even one based on that most unruly and suspect of all human frailties: solidarity (as opposed to narcistic co-admiration or the self-satisfied collusion of the powerful with likeminded agents).

ST: that “what neoliberals conceive as being incumbent upon themselves is a sustained effort or visionary crusade to confront and undermine and resolve the embarrassment that is humanity itself.”

We do agree but the counter-image must also be given its place, of a source of and strategy for the redemption of a shamed, a very guilty, and a no doubt embarrassed humanity. It imagines a humanity embarrassed to resolve that embarrassment by means not found in humanity—or in civilization. These means can broadly be termed artificial intelligence or the automated—and automations of the—marketplace.

5.

UK: It is the intention of neoliberal philosophy to treat all who labor in organizations of any kind, public or private, and all of those members of society who are dependent in any form, as the suboptimal specimens that they appear to be, by dint of their non-incarnation of virtuously prodigious invulnerable independence. Since there is no real hope that the vast majority will improve on these virtuous terms—or ever seriously fulfill the righteous prescription of neo-liberal sensibility—the majority must, at the very least, for its own sake, be informed by an unsparing program of applied disillusionment, in which the consequences of non-improvement are in its face perpetually and, if necessary, forever. It is, after all, not the fault of those who know better, that the majority choose to remain as children, oblivious to, or resistant of, virtuously self-surpassing ambition.

ST: that neoliberalism prescribes ceaseless self-improvement, ceaseless because in vain.

Here we are dealing with human affects. But these too are not to be thought through and decided upon by human agents. Self-improvement of course summons up the idea of the subject who is an entrepreneur of the self, on social media, say. Social media are already a kind of automatic, automated marketplace in which social affects and human affects can be decided.

Self-improvement is not prescribed by neoliberals, because, we agree, the human cannot be improved upon, except by the nonhuman. Humanity enters a self-improvement loop because nonhuman values prevail; and perhaps if I am better, affirm better, do better, think better and smarter, I will get a better deal out of an automatic, automated world.

6.

UK: Exalting in the vanity of power as idealized human autonomy, neoliberals are unique in extolling their warped notion of freedom. There is, upon this earth, and in human history altogether, potentially no expression of base authoritarianism more insidious—or insipid!—in its hypocrisy than hegemonic pseudo-libertarianism; the latter being perhaps the crux of what neoliberalism is altogether.

As an inherently loveless creed, neoliberalism is also an inherently empty one. Situated, seated, unconsciously in that blithe emptiness is pervasive existential dread. In neoliberal sensibility, the flight from dread is perused through the morbid festivity of presumptive aspiration in which the individual is pretentiously immortalized, while the collective is ceremoniously penalized and punished;

ST: that the crux of neoliberalism may be a “pseudo-liberatarianism”, in which the individual is offered freedom at the expense of the collective.

Yes, this was Hayek’s theme. The crux, however, is still to outsource those mechanisms by which such freedom is secured for the individual—to the marketplace and the economic instruments of a neoliberal political economy.

7.

UK: Sartre said that the people must be brought into the temple of enlightenment through the lavatory. The neoliberal take on this is that the people must be brought into the temple of enlightenment through the over-exerted order-fulfillment mass warehouse of bewilderment.

In neoliberal praxis the inducement of bewilderment in all guises, situations, and sites of controlled interaction is a creative strategy for in seeking the correction or redemption of the embarrassment that is humanity itself. What neoliberals require is a milieu compulsorily festive bewilderment as a vindication of their own superior effacement of the void.

This pseudo-heroism seeks the acquirement of all others through the allegiance induced by purposive bewilderment. Thus neoliberalism appears among humanity in the guise of an elemental expression of pervasive lechery. Those who are lecherous and powerful believe that anything desired may be acquired as a matter of course and inherent right. What neoliberalism desires is all humanity and yet neoliberalism is contemptuous of humanity itself. The latter is not paradox but the inherent self-contradiction of power that is most base.

ST: that neoliberalism “in seeking the correction or redemption of the embarrassment that is humanity itself” bewilders, desiring humanity, contemptuous of humanity.

That it bewilders even the best minds is bewildering. It may have to do with a strategic deployment of agendas and no unified theory or code, with doing what is necessary when it is necessary, for the good of that which will secure for the individual the greatest freedom. Hence—the paradoxes, around populism and militarism, Bolsonaro, May and Trump, Trudeau and Ardern.

8.

UK: The praxis that effaces neoliberalism is one that is inherent to a domain of wisdom that has always contested hegemonic egoism, ever resisted its claims, and ever insisted upon the prior authority of a truth-process that is visibly grounded in authentic, verifiable human priorities. Though urgently requiring of pervasively assertive (but inherently non-aggressive) transmission in the localized and globalized spheres of society, that wisdom is not itself a political program, but a protean domain of esoteric elements that appear in every context or province of culture. Ever in a state of defiant and paradoxical co-existence with every form of cultural egoity, those elements make up a great tradition or complex (but unitary) foundation of integral praxis, or non-exploitable, non-exploiting, integrality-focused, intrinsically full-humanizing practice and process.

ST: that neoliberalism is effaced in a “a protean domain of esoteric elements that appear in every context or province of culture.”

Culture was the first place neoliberals gathered with anything like decisive force in NZ. Murray Edmund talks of the “man from Treasury” and his forecast for a fully monetized cultural politic and economy. That is, culture was the first place after Treasury to come under neoliberal influence, as a trial-ground, a field of experiment for its strategies.

9.

UK: As with all forms of totalitarianism, the praxis of neoliberalism entails insistent, invasive, propagandized modes of delusive benignity: simulating cheer and hope, appropriating everything that is potentially useful under the guise of a pretentiously engaged pseudo-magnanimity, and, of course, acting out the smiling assassin routine in neutralizing any threat.

Hence neoliberalism is a highly methodical system but the ethos of that system is one of inexorable vacuity. Unlike collectivized forms of totalitarianism, neoliberalism is strikingly impoverished in its myth-making capacity or its ability to tell clear and plausible stories. Deprived of inspirational myth, neoliberalism relies on the obfuscation of narratives through the infantalization of them. Hence, any agent or any group that tells clear or plausible stories is a threat. Any authentic narrative provides an affirmation of self-existing human truths that, by their very nature, cannot be appropriated by any system or program of ideologized dehumanization.

ST: that neoliberalism is a praxis of “appropriating everything that is potentially useful” and of “neutralizing any threat”, and, as such “methodical”.

Also: “neoliberalism is strikingly impoverished in its myth-making capacity or its ability to tell clear and plausible stories.”

What are the stories but the most plausible ones? The mythmaking ones? Yes, and the icon-making ones? They are the famous “stories in our own words”.

Except that they are not stories in our own words, ever, are they.

Methodical? Methodological perhaps. Again, it is a question of capturing the representation in the act of its preparation and production. Methodology is presumed by method; and, once more, it is a nonunifiable and only strategically existent discourse and discourses of method which is attributable to neoliberals, many of whom do not even identify themselves being such. This is some more meat for the idea that neoliberalism is presumed by representation—in culture and in the processes of humanising and civilization.

10.

UK: It is the case that any true cultural process that is manifestly artful in its submission to human need, whether artistically defined, whether politically emphasized, whether grounded in what is called the sacred, whether founded upon any integrity at all of any means and character and insight, is, by virtue of its very underlying nature, impervious to the neoliberal ethos altogether.

It is not that such means entail resistance; much less do they stoop to benevolent mitigation. Rather, it is the case that such processes, such means, entail the radical exclusion of neoliberalism and its paradigms via the propagation of full-humanness, or the transmission of hope in the verifiable language of full-humanness itself: a language that neoliberalism can never appropriate.

ST: that there may be imperviousness to the neoliberal ethos by way of its “radical exclusion” in a language.

We agree here in the specific cases of institutional cultures and their ability to represent their own claims as states of exception. These claims are ontological as much as political. They invoke logics of noncapture, insofar as they are produced independently of the claims of a neoliberal political economy—and do not secede to it, or believe it is possible strategy-wise to outsmart it.

The example always springing to mind is the financialisation of ecological claims by the Greens in Germany, 1980s. This finds its continuation in the carbon markets endorsed by the Greens in NZ, 2000s.

11.

UK: All authentic cultural processes contain the impulse of full-humanization; as such, all such processes repudiate, and do not reward, the submission to what is base, or the embracement of whatever is mediocrely conformist. Unlike neoliberalism however, the confrontation with mediocrity entailed by such processes is dynamically sensitive to human development and relentlessly supportive of the conditions of real human flourishing. As such, all verifiably truth-bearing processes specifically repudiate the fallacy of productive docility and the vacuous exaltation of elites upon which neoliberal sensibility depends.

It is the case that the latter radicalizes everything through a delusive benignity that turns out to be perpetual emptiness and dread. By contrast, all true cultural praxis is tending to radicalize everything in the “opposite direction”: with open eyes, infusing every context with homely truths, and extending the possibilities of human agency in meaningfully co-supportive, truth-bearing terms. As such, all true cultural praxis proactively sublimes the vicious vulgarity that the neoliberal creed can never escape.

As such, all true cultural praxis has nothing whatsoever to do with benevolent mitigation of the dominant pseudo-narrative that is neoliberalism itself. It is, rather, the assertion of a perpetual originality, and the radically heart-sympathetic and explicitly life-sustaining effacement of mediocrity in any context. Its narratives cannot be acquired, for those narratives are intelligible only to those who are like-hearted.

ST: that neoliberalism is against something true: “with open eyes, infusing every context with homely truths, and extending the possibilities of human agency in meaningfully co-supportive, truth-bearing terms.”

Neoliberalism’s strategic attitude to truth, to what is true, need only be cited here—where the representative notion is of all opinion being untrue and fake news until submitted to the collectivisation of the media and means of representation in the marketplace—which has come to stand for the media. (One might say that such collectivisation of mass opinion amounts to a claim against any notional supremacy of (the) individual, as being anywhere near the basis and ground of neoliberal hegemony. This collective voice amounts, one might say, to populism as such. So is unbewildering.)

12.

UK: The inexorable vacuity and intrinsic lovelessness of the neoliberal creed is its one true liability. The recognition of that liability, and the militant effacement of it, is integral to a needful conscious program, to be embraced by every individual and collective of good will, in respect of a localized and globalized process that manifests real civilization.

The only recourse now is one whereby protean full-humanizing cultural processes are in conscious, networked collusion in a relentless civilization-making and perpetually civilization-affirming global movement: one that overcomes the characteristic ambiguities of organized human society that incorporate or necessarily ground themselves in hegemony, rationalism and doubt (or the ambiguous certainties heralded as “progress.”)

Such a movement is one to be founded on sacred reason instead of presumptive rationality. Yet it is not necessarily reflective of a singular sensibility or pragmatic impulse. Such a movement is implacably egalitarian, and yet is paradoxically elitist in its reliance upon the integrity and virtuosity of unique agents. As such, a global movement can flourish, trans-ideologically, in the guise of constructively or creatively polarized sensibilities, as reflected in the esoteric egalitarianism of Rudolf Steiner that was contemporaneous with the esoteric elitism of Stefan George. In this illustrative example, the twain does not meet and is not even required to do so. Inevitably, Steiner and George deliberated in their own way, feeling from their respective points of view toward a paradigm of civilization that was grounded in visionary but essentially pragmatic full-humanness.

ST: that neoliberalism is against real civilization.

Civilization had run its course, as Heiner Müller recognised, at least in Europe, by 1945. Adorno too: hereafter barbarism. But Hayek, and Popper too, and I would guess Rudolf Steiner, with his esotoricism of flowers and the genitals we are, belong to the same tradition—of real civilization. The fact that it is a tradition, even when not civilization, or real or false in any meaningful understanding of the terms, points forward and back too, back to Nietzsche, forward to the French who rediscovered in him the genealogist par excellence of the European condition. (I reach here for a Japanese beer in a beautiful blue glass.) Destroy: the timeline back to its founding event, which is the founding event of its point of view, of its subjectivity—and of the opinion which henceforth will not be submitted to the vagaries and vicissitudes of the marketplace but be submitting every other opinion, point of view and subjective position to them, to it. Destroy: knowing what has been made can be unmade, what is done is able to be undone. We have to find out how it was done. This goes for the delusiveness of the Left’s benignancy as for the new Hayekian liberal agenda’s delusiveness about its own. Then affirm, praise, celebrate and exalt what you create—as your own creation and as the production of what you would have desired.

The age of the supremacy of the individual has passed; we have entered into the age of its freely given and voluntary denial: we avow collective will, above the self, as it is represented in the automatic brain of the marketplace and its political economy. It does not matter if politics of power has been displaced by that of personal survival and the bottom line.

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brand “curatorial journalism”: this year more than ever before we are fighting the power (of speech)

Seth Abramson writes in the Guardian:

“In 2018, there are actually more reliable news reports than ever before, as there are now more responsible media outlets online and in print than there ever have been – a fact that often gets lost in debates over “fake news”. The digital age has also internationalized hard news reportage, meaning that readers have access to high-quality reports from around the world with an ease that was impossible before the advent of the internet.

“But this sudden expansion in focused, reliable news coverage has coincided with some of the largest and most prestigious media outlets cutting resources for investigative reporting. The upshot of all this is that reporters have less time or ability than ever before to review the growing archive of prior reporting before they publish what they’ve uncovered.”

He goes on to advocate (advertise) curatorial journalism. It’s like journalism but smarter. It’s all about context–that other dream of the net: hyperlinks as hypereferences and the interweb interweaving texts and documents and statements, online discourse in short, in multidimensional networks so that any one thread, quote, citation, reference might be followed back to its earliest online expression; or connected horizontally, and so on. But this is not the system we have.

We are therefore once again living in that exceptional present which would have been the future if it hadn’t already arrived, that exception that is always made for this year having more reliable news reports than ever before as well as more unreliable news sources than ever before as well as more words expended on, well, just about anything–taking into consideration the rise of text over speech in daily communication–than ever before.

The answer might have been, had Seth Abramson been so inclined, journalism with a scalpel. And we might well have been saying about our exceptional present moment, as well we might, that the time for journalistic balance has passed. The idea of a report being neutral, and of it presenting both sides of an issue, or curating the multiple facets of a complex ‘story’, belongs to the past. We might so have been saying. But what is of our devising, as the present is supposed to be, in the Anthropocene, is smarter than us–is supposed to be: so we are in the predicament of making sense, sense for an audience in the case of journalism, of a situation, a situatedness, of a realtime-base for issues, we have carelessly, hopelessly and unconscionably complexificated.

Journalism with a scalpel would offer a different diagnosis: maybe cut first ask questions later–maybe, but with the surgeon-reporter being held accountable. And perhaps more than events and issues becoming more complex, more deeply intricated and extensively imbricated, than ever before, issues and events have become more integrated, more deeply intimated and extensively implicated–in the social, for sure, but, as surely, in the personal.

Having an opinion is a public liability. Have a stupid opinion! Say “to be honest” a lot, honestly. Or imho, modestly. Have a stupid, make a stupid tweet, and the world is cheeping with you.

Imagine the informed writing to the level of the educated. Imagine no more–because in fact more informed journalists are writing to a better educated public than ever before this year. Of course this year stupidity has been normalised as populism too.

I find myself–more honestly, I lose myself–walking in a library modestly wondering what it is for, since it doesn’t itself seem to know. And the ones who work here give the others who don’t, who used to be members and who now are customers, or patrons, the resentful eye, while adverting to the latest electronic offering, whether it is wifi, or the latest pulp fiction or pulp nonfiction (pulp fact? fat nonfict?) available via the app. Like Seth Abramson, in the Guardian, I have been an advocate (advertiser? advertisement?) for curation: librarianship, isn’t it a matter of leading the social animal to the cultural water? Making better animals to make a better social? (Dot says, But you can’t make it think.)

These GOSPIS (Grand Old Signs one Participates In Society), like the Grand Old Deity itself, in whom, and in which, more people put their faith and believe, with honesty and modesty, than ever before–even to being pridefully jealous of the competition (this year more nationalistic than ever before)–have lost their tongues. Journalism must–you can’t fight it!–progress by borrowing ways of talking about itself and its essential tasks from, where? the operating theatre? or the art gallery?

Then the idea of information has lost its teeth. Open mouth, ah. Closed mouth, mm. We know there is more information than ever before, this year, and that’s why it’s called Big D. Journalists are among the data miners. But there isn’t the time and there isn’t the return, and this is the latter. Who wants to live forever? No, that’s not the question: Who wants to pay for information?

And libraries, going forward–resistance is futile!–, borrow ways of talking about themselves and their essential tasks from? They don’t borrow. They’re told how to speak for themselves by those who, usually those which, since they tend to be annexed to institutions, of which they once were the jewels in the crown, fund them. They are told how to speak for themselves so as not to try the patience of the daleks. Who or which will cease to fund them if they were suddenly to speak for themselves, since they would be asking for it, for extermination.

Yes, good journalism once it too was something to show off, now it’s tackling the big issues, scoring the big anchors, more than ever before this year. Just like a university was the institutional encrustation of a library. It was the paste and setting for the cultural riches collected over time, protected over the bad times, saved to adorn the good, through careful, assiduous, committed and (need it be said?) professional librarianship. But middle management detests decoration, for which there will be more martyrs than ever before, this year, mouthing silently the words written on the wallpaper, God Save Us & Oscar Wilde… and for the journalists we will add, George Orwell…

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neosurvivalist / naivalist / postoccupy / inhabit?

The End
of The World

It’s over.
Bow your head
and
phone scroll
through
the apocalypse.

from here

and or

Learn to hunt, to code, to heal. .

from there

despite the brilliant and funny analysis given inhabit.global’s website by Ted Byfield [assuming he’s this one] on nettime listserv, I wonder about both Ted’s intention to be funny and inhabit’s intention to be serious, one to be taken one way, the other to be taken one way as well.

a left-leaning bunch of techfriendlies reacts to a naive bunch of reactionary post-politicos–the common ground, to hunt, to code, to heal, would appear to repose in the middle term.

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a found item

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how many does it take to turn things around?

a billion people

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you want to be liked I like you & your dissertation linked below

 

Figure 8.6 Sondra Perry, It’s in the Game (2017), screenshot of video demo

 

from Megan Philipa Driscoll’s Art on the Internet and the Digital Public Sphere, 1994 – 2003

© Copyright by
Megan Philipa Driscoll
2018

(shared on Nettime by Cornelia Sollfrank 25.06.2018)

 

abstract

This dissertation narrates the development of internet art, a diverse set of practices united
by their interrogation of the technological, social, and/or political bases of computer networks.
Covering the period from 1994, when “internet art” began to coalesce around the rise of the
World Wide Web, to 2003, when both internet art and internet culture writ large began to
respond to the rise of social media and “web 2.0” technologies, the dissertation homes in on a
select number of net art projects that variously engaged or challenged this period’s most
persistent claim: that the internet is a new, digital public sphere. By studying how these artworks
critiqued this claim, the dissertation uncovers three major models through which net art has
asserted the publicness of computer networks—as an interpersonal network that connects or
unites strangers into groups; as a virtual space akin to physical spaces of public gathering,
discourse, and visibility; and as a unique platform for public speech, a new mass media
potentially accessible to all.

Claims for the public status of computer networks rest on their ability to circulate
information and facilitate discussion and debate. This definition of publicness is rooted in the
concept of the classical public sphere as theorized by Jürgen Habermas. The dissertation will
thus review Habermas’s model of the classical public sphere as well as its most significant
critiques in order to interrogate the terms of a digital public sphere. The dissertation will also
engage Michael Warner’s work on the formation of publics, counterpublics, and the mass-
cultural public sphere; Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge’s analysis of shared experience as the
foundation of the formation of public spheres and the role of mass media in this process; Henri
Lefebvre’s articulation of the social production of space; and Gilles Deleuze and Alexander
Galloway’s respective analyses of the role of network logics in contemporary systems of control.

The dissertation begins with a chapter overview of the emergence of computer
networking during the second half of the twentieth century and the different ways in which
artists experimented with it to explore new modes of communication, collaboration, and
exchange. With the appearance of the web in the mid-1990s, and with growing art institutional
interest in its novelty, these experiments crystallized into what we now know as internet art,
bringing with it challenging questions regarding the viability of the internet as an unprecedented
digital public sphere.

The second chapter turns to this emergent field of net art and how some artists tried to
define the terms of a new public sphere as an interpersonal network that allows people who are
not in physical or temporal proximity with each other to form publics. The chapter explores
Douglas Davis’s The World’s First Collaborative Sentence (1994) and Heath Bunting’s Project
X (1996), two works that use the strategy of accumulation to make visible the collective presence
of internet users, either as a reading public formed through the circulation of discourse or as a
public united by the articulation of its members’ shared experience. The third chapter introduces
practices that challenge the presumed universality of the digital public sphere by foregrounding
gender and race issues, which are often obscured in dominant discourses regarding computer
networks. The chapter focuses on Cornelia Sollfrank’s Female Extension (1997) and Mendi +
Keith Obadike’s Black.Net.Art Actions (2001 – 2003), demonstrating how these works help to
define the counterpublics of the digital public sphere by circulating marginalized discourses on
the web in opposition to the mainstream.

The fourth chapter examines the spatialization of computer networks and how the
internet’s communication platforms have become conceptually analogous to ancient forums or
seventeenth-century coffee shops. Through analyses of Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen’s Listening
Post (2001) and Natalie Bookchin and Jacqueline Stevens’s agoraXchange (2003), the chapter
attends to both utopian and skeptical views regarding the viability of the internet as a (virtual)
space of public gathering and discourse. Chapter five further interrogates the idea that the
internet is a theater of visibility, where actions are public because they cannot be private. The
first artwork in this chapter, RSG’s Carnivore (2001), critically addresses computer networks as
a surveillance technology and part of a system of social control. The second work, Eva and
Franco Mattes’s Life Sharing (2000 – 2003), explores what happens when internet users embrace
this condition of (hyper)visibility, freely sharing not only their personal information but also
their intellectual property, thereby eliding spatial and juridical notions of public domain.

The sixth chapter addresses the notion of computer networks as a new mass medium of
public speech, a platform for publicity that is also a site of struggle to exert influence on the
public sphere. Homing in on the work of net art collective ®TMark, the chapter follows how the
collective uses parody to challenge institutions that seem complicit in the commercialization of
ivthe network and the suppression of individuals’ access to the network’s platforms for public
speech. In the seventh chapter, the dissertation turns to artists’ responses to a legal challenge that
threatened their speech rights on the network, a set of actions known today as Toywar (1999 –
2000). The chapter also contends with how etoy, a collective of artists involved in the litigation,
took up corporate branding as artistic practice to reframe internet communication platforms as
tools of mass publicity in a mass-cultural public sphere.

The final chapter concludes with a reflection on the changes in the forms of net art and its
place in the field of contemporary art that followed the first phase of net art, the central focus of
the dissertation. While acknowledging the transformation of the online environment brought on
by social media and other “web 2.0” technologies, the chapter argues that the question of
whether computer networks can function as a digital public sphere remains an open and
contested one. The dissertation as a whole thus provides an historical account and critical
analysis of internet art that encompasses not only its technological evolution but also its
confrontation with the claims of publicness upon which our understanding of computer
networks, and the art made on and about them, are founded.

 

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Puerto Rico’s Sol or Puertopia (if it didn’t translate as eternal boy): a new society founded by believers in virtual currency

proposed site for crypto-utopian city-within-a-city:

and:

Read “Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico” by Nellie Bowles 2/2/2018

 

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neoliberalism = monism. liberalism = dualism.

…doing a keyword search for ‘neoliberal’ books, I am once more struck by the repetition of the two primary angles of approach to the neoliberal episteme. The first claims to have Foucault as inspiration, particularly in light of his genealogical work from the 1970s–so long ago, but not long either. It analyzes neoliberalism as thought collective (Mirowski & co.) or goes from symptoms to diagnosis; but both serve to critique from the angle of abjection: there is no affirmation but counter-affirmation. The work done does not get as far as affirmation. It finds sufficient a Nietzschean critique–genealogy–that identifies the enemy, analyzes its strategies, its behaviours, its break-out moments. But neither does it destroy, nor, from the ensuing destruction, does it create something new. The second angle of approach sets out forthrightly to serve resistance to neoliberalism, to give it weapons. Once again, that a putative we, we of the left, need to combat neoliberalism, must struggle and seek to overcome it, is taken for granted. The object of affirmative action is effective reaction. And so I ask myself what is the motor, can we get at the generative condition, engage the creative moment of neoliberalism, rather than go from abjection and reaction?

Foucault I think does this. He is objective, not normative or prescriptive. But in being so, he can also be seen as not taking sides, at least, as not taking the right left side. His analysis of power without a concept of power (see here) produces and does not simply reproduce or react, is productive inasmuch as power, like desire for Deleuze and Guattari, connects–or like the media, for McCluhan, in which we swim, invisible to us as water to fish. Foucault, I think, affirms power in this new modality, of its proliferation, its generative and creative capability, one without capacity, one purely expressive–or, more properly, virtual. Foucault does not repeat or repudiate a power that is connective, participatory and performative. He attends to a networked power, the powers of networked subjects, of which the network is greater than any one, the power one to the nth power, assembly or multitude, or, naturally, society–and because greater than any one, without subject, without concept.

I would hazard that the generative condition for neoliberalism is already given in liberalism to be the free will. Except that of the two forms, of the two epistemic arrangements, liberalism articulates a dualism, while neoliberalism articulates a monism centring on the market. The dualism articulated in liberalism owes its existence to the coexistence in it of freedom of the will with the equality and reciprocity of those who will, whose will will be free.

There is a religious conviction behind this formulation. Siedentop makes it his theme in Inventing the Individual (2017), where he calls neoliberalism a liberal heresy. This conviction entails the creation of a private sphere, not the household, or family or marketable lifestyle, but the conscience, the moral status of the individual. The monism of neoliberalism does away with the individual as a separate sphere, a sphere separate to society in even its moral claims and tenets, usages and principles. The individual becomes, as Foucault shows, a node in the network, or a communicating vector of sociability: the garrulous performance of everyday corpocratic existence.

What is suggested is not simply to see Foucault as the first theorist of the neoliberal struggle, because he is so both for and against, but a return to an individualism individuating society, standing against every enforced morality as contradiction in terms. Individual conscience is flattened through its universal appropriation to economic freedom–is not thereby made religious because the free practice of religion is itself moralised away. This explains what Siedentop refers to happening in Europe as a ‘civil war’, since the religious antecedence of a moral intuition both of the individual’s freedom as well as of the reciprocity, free association and equality of individuals, is disavowed.

 

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