Re: [-empyre-] More controversy

Hi all,

Sorry that I haven´t been very much  at the conversation, which seems
to be sugesting many interesting paths. The first thing I probably had
to notice is that, at the same time while many seem to believe we´re
all living within the same patterns of time and space by now, due to
the technological conditions of the present, I should remark that
still important diferences should be pointed - the first of them the
way we experience time in peripherical societies X central societies.
This seems to be a quite old rethorics, but I can´t avoid noticing the
insane work schedule we experiment here when I´m faced with this kind
of debate circumstance. I hardly had time to read all you´ve written,
though it´s very interesting, and still less time to give some
contribution worth reading.

However, I'd like to point that Benjamin, in his essay, emphasizes an
opposition between information and experience, which seems to be quite
important when we are turning all our lifes to informational
technologies. Informational vortex is now so powerful that many times
contemporary citizenship emerges for me as the role of informational
lightinig condutors, trying to bring to earth - that is, to our bodies
and to our environments - the fluxus of information to which we are
networked. Narrative, as much as I understand, has been an strategy of
making meaning of time - somebody has already said this in this
It was easy to do it when we believed that someone, for himself, was
able to make meaning of things - melting his own experience with the
listeners experience, as Benjamin said. The emphasis Benjamin stresses
over the question of "giving advice" - to intervene in other´s
experience like if it was a narrative - reinforces this.

The anxiety of living without sense, without direction -as opposed to
the euphoric feeling of going straight ahead to utopia, which was a
hallmark of modernity -, combined with the striking productive means
offered by new technologies, is at the heart of this search for a
liquid solution - or, better say: the dissolution of narrative - into
new multiple interactive forms of projecting a diegetic situation into
its own future. So, we do not dare living with just one choice of
future: don´t this make a chorus with the demand for many skills in
work to make a carreer?

However, this is properly the challenge: to make narratives which are
multiple - taking profit of the productive powers of technology: 50,
100 options put together - making still some meaning of the
experienced world, which is what culture has always been about. But
then, what is this narrative form that offers many alternatives while
still maintaining a direction, a goal? This is what we call today
"games". However, the experience of a game is that of an entirely
calculated world, a world in which there's not one action which is not
mativated, which does not aim a target, which is not efficient and
productive. An ontology of calculus we are now projecting over the
world, jus the same way we've done with images and texts.

This lead us to another problem also already raised in the discussion,
the question of code X surface. And as far as I see, there´s an
essential difference between them (in which I follow Merleau-Ponty),
which is the fact that codes are not supposed to be ambiguous or
opened to interpretation, as language (what we experience in the
surfaces of digital liquid narratives) is supposed to be. Codes are an
asbtraction of languge derived from a radical   cleaning of language
from all experience, able to determine their interpretation
completely, to point to a precise meaning. What still intrigues me is
how to liberate these surfaces from
this codes which are not related to any experience, and, as language
(thinking of language as something alive and opened), are nothing. Tha
fact that we find it so hard to   perceive directions from these
liquid words has all to do with this fact that they are supported by
the automatic emptyness of informational abstraction.

I'm not sure I could make myself clear. I'm trying to contribute.

best from Brazil


On 6/14/06, Dirk Vekemans <> wrote:

Hi all & Jim, Thanks for your reaction to some of my remarks. Perhaps i should, well i feel the need to clarify some points and react to some of your statements:

-i started out by stating that my view would be somewhat limited to my
literary perspective and practice of poetry/codework/digital writing, so i
naturally related my take on "liquid narratives" to what i know best, only
to show the term didn't do it for me in that area. So the "confine"-part was
deliberate, no need to contend it. In fact my little critique of the term
should _only_ be related to that field of digital writing where i do sense
such metaphors are obfuscating and where their use tends to generate quick
and shallow fashions of new New Theories and their obfuscating powers are
big helpers in a rather careless ignoring of basic facts, But ho, keep it
cool, i'm not the one to be attacking anyone, i only have some poems and a
bit of rather nice graphics to show and i'm also extremely ignorant about
loads of stuff, so i'm just voicing an impression here (it's a strong one
though. hush now)

-i don't think about blogs as "a networked presentation of self". The
web-apps enabling people to make these blogs are that much stratified,
restrictive, blatantly intend on capitalisation of any "content",
"territorialising" if anybody needs the Deleuze term, that to me they more
seem to be huge post- or new Capitalist powers of domination and
self-absorption, i wouldn't even shun words like crushing of
individualisation, beating mass opinion into control, forcing people to wear
and show 'acceptable' masks, desintegrating any notion of here and now by a
straight inversion of time (the whole reading/narration structure is towards
the Coming Post, anything written is the speedily devaluated Past that can
only be very temporarily saved by the Blogroll before ending up Unread in
the dungeon of the Archives untsoweiter. I think a little 'classic'
(marxist-structuralist if you want) narrative analysis of your average blog
would be very revealing indeed)

- oops,i guess everybody must be thinking i'm That Reactionary Nag Again by
now. However: no, i did not mean realism by my use of "primal reality", at
least not as the literary tradition that may conveniently emphasize the
sordid and ugly. I think i'd probably still be stunned by the beauty of life
if i was put in the worst places on earth imaginable. Neither would i be one
to reject the impractical or the visionary. I build Cathedrals, i'm anything
but practical and my main inspiration is a Fiction calling Herself the
Venerable Cathedral-Mother, or  Vision Itself for short. Apart from that or
also, i'm just a plain sordid poet adhering to what i think can safely be
called the atheist philosophical school in favour of a radical and
scientifically infused ontological immanence of multiplicities. Pfew, i
wonder how i got that out, usually i just say i'm all for vision but don't
give me crap.It doesn't matter, although:

 -More importantly and to the point and increasingly controversial i
suppose: i used the words "primal" and  "reality" in their ontological
meaning. Now i do that a lot, using ontological terms, i mean. That's
because i'm convinced that in any discussion concerning all of our  digital
thingies you can no longer avoid ontology (in the philosophical meaning of
the word, as distinct from epistemology), that you can only make really
useful contributions to the theory of digital writing or codework viz art
and science , i mean things that go beyond the basics of mere factual
classification and such if you kinda include your ontological position as a
namespace in your writing. What i mean is that i would find it very hard to
discuss for instance a work using "virtual reality" like Traveler (i didn't
get around to installing it yet)without going straight to the ontological
level first. What on earth is one going to relate a term like "Digital
Space" to if you want to avoid speaking ontologically? Sure there's lots to
say on how to built it and even more on what effects it has, but will you
not be going in circles till kingdom come if you can't validate anything on
a corroborrative terminology? Aren't you automatically going to wind up in
ideology for ideology's sake repeating art for art's sake repeating itself
to the N'th level, if you keep jumping from one "loosely defined" metaphor
to another?

-I think we have reached the bottom line by now. Here you take up the
Dialogics of Critique, and Bakhtin's Theory of Ideology. I think we live in
an era where ideologies are getting increasingly self-sustained, virtual but
very 'real' machinery that are basicly drawing on our own tendency/energies
to self-destruct and are ultmately bent on (our) annihilation.So I prefer to
capitalise my Cathedral and Everything in It, and i try to plea for an
ontological becoming of all humans, for global waves of positive energy
increasing our self-awareness as responsible humans, for poetically
forcefull and scientifically sound strategies to increase our human
potential to withstand our all too easy wish to adhere and conform to
self-inflicted systems eager to destroy us. Untsoweiter.

Furthermore, i do not believe in the "ideological becoming" of all human
beings. I fear any "becoming" going on in that way is either very limited to
very few priviledged people on this planet, or plain ugly in the hatred and
fanatism those same priviledged parts of the world keep inspiring in the
less priviledged and the excluded. And i don't think we should be beating
around the bush about it either, nor bash the Bush who's elected just
because he's so darn good at hiding it.It's not about ideology, although i
suppose this post is inescapably ideological too. It's about the non-human
and how we are going to deal with it. That's my real "object of study", and
i deliberately used "object" in spite of my general emphasis on procedural
g. I could indeed have come from Diderot. It could have come from any human.
This "object" is a key in the limits of human thinking, and if anything is
going to come of our ontological becoming we need to somehow steer away that
process from it as much as possible in favor of a poetical apprehension of
the Real. And this, i believe, is essential to any theory of narration, or
it's XPP (eXtended Poetically and Programmatically) version, non-linear

Oops, now i suppose everybody's thinking here's mr Radical Neo Nag Again.
Well, our dog's called neo, but you gotta pronounce it the Dutch way, like
"nao". And i'm only radical in that i don't see the use of discussion on
anything if it doesn't contribute to urgent matters in general in some way.
I do nag a lot,i suppose, my dear wife's nagging about it constantly.


> -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
> Van: James Barrett []
> Verzonden: woensdag 14 juni 2006 13:24
> Aan:; soft_skinned_space
> Onderwerp: Re: [-empyre-] More controversy
> Hello all, I apologise for my lack of response but juggling
> is a research student's second most valuable skill. I wanted
> to take up some of the points made in the last entry for the
> list by Dirk, as I agree that some of them more are "more
> controversial".
> I would contend the implication that liquid narratives (as I
> understand
> them) are confined to be associated with digital (or any
> other form) of technology. What we are participating in is a
> shift, or perhaps an appropriation against certain dominating
> ideologies found in many mass narrative forms. From the
> example Dirk gave, the Wikipedia, trail out many lines of
> resemblance and precedence in regard to this shift. For
> instance the Encyclopédie edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le
> Rond d'Alembert
> (1751-1777) was collaborative, and extensive:
> "The Encyclopédie was a collaborative project, the work of a
> "society of men of letters," as its title page declared. By
> the time the last volume was published, more than 140 people
> had contributed articles to its pages."
> (
> Of course what is the difference between the Encyclopédie and
> Wikipedia is not so much the form or content (in relative
> terms, in Diderot's words, to "change the common way of
> thinking"), what is different is the access. The wiki form,
> packet switching and the World Wide Web has given the
> possibility for anyone (not just men or those "of letters"
> (read: Men) to get a foot in. There are barriers at work in
> the Wikipedia structure as well. Looking outside the
> structures to contexts, resemblances and precedence, reveals
> barriers and assumptions behind structure. I understand
> blogging as a networked presentation of self. But how can we
> draw ideological assumptions from "the thing itself"? It is
> only when a textual form is taken up and set into some sort
> of motion that ideology (and power for that matter) comes
> into play. Linking is a structure. Is it really that radical?
> But following a link may change something. The link itself
> however is an unopened door (it may not even work).
> The term "primal reality" disturbs me in relation to the flow
> of data. By this do you mean realism? As defined by our
> friend the Wikipedia:
> "Realism is commonly defined as a concern for fact or reality
> and a rejection of the impractical and visionary."
> Or (in the contexts of the arts humanities)
> "Realism in art and literature is the depiction of subjects
> as they appear in everyday life, with minimal embellishment
> or interpretation. The term is also used to describe works of
> art which, in revealing a truth, may emphasize the sordid or ugly."
> I do not think the majority of recounting or representation
> found in much digital media forms (games, art, virtual
> worlds, even blogging) today is primarily concerned with
> "fact or reality" (outside those used in
> education) and relies much on the "impractical and
> visionary". The "depiction of subjects as they appear in
> everyday life" could describe surveillance cameras, but most
> people know that cameras are present when they are and so
> alter their behavior accordingly (see the NYC Surveillance
> Camera Project, camera locations maps
> I think the emphasis in much new media narrative is on immersivity
> (engagement) and flow. These are not necessarily connected to
> realism. One example I have come across with deeply immersive
> flow in non-realistic virtual environments is the Digital
> Space Traveler program (
> server seems to be down at time of writing). This fairly old
> (Creative Commons registered) program relies on facial
> gestures from avatars that are visually represented as a
> floating head in a designed 3D space that uses real time
> voice communication from participants.
> Screen shot:
> Documentary:
> Talking to a facial construction capable of emotional
> signifiers and needing such conversational strategies as turn
> taking are part of the Traveler experience. These realisms
> are not actually present themselves in the structural
> materials of the recounted situation, but rather are bought
> to the exchange by the participants and inserted into the
> machine. This is perhaps an example of the cyborg revolution
> written of by Donna Haraway in the Manifesto 15 years ago
> (
> To now take up the metaphor of Flow. Flow has less to do with
> the medium of immersion ("as our data networks get more
> powerful and data exchange speeds get higher") and more to do
> with the subjective states asserted by it. A powerful network
> is only powerful in relation to other networks. As speeds
> increase in computing, programs are developed that demand
> faster processors, so it is all relative. "Power" does not
> equal flow in human or narrative terms, only for the packet
> signals sent. Narrative needs uptake by humans and if it is
> moving at the speed of light we cannot yet manage it.
> Dirk's "The object of study" sounds like it could have come
> from Diderot and d'Alembert. A network is not an "object of
> study" but rather  "The ideological becoming of a human
> being…is the process of selectively assimilating the words of
> others…One can return to one's own ideological horizon and
> situate oneself socially, temporally, and spatially in
> relation to other subjects in the social world. The other,
> therefore exists in a dialectical relation to one's own
> consciousness as both subject and object, and is therefore an
> inseparable component of our being in the world." Gardiner
> Michael, The Dialogics of Critique: M M Bakhtin and the
> Theory of Ideology p39. In the same sense "extracting the
> narrative from the text" (as Dirk suggested) is not really
> how it is done, otherwise everyone would have the same idea,
> understanding or conceptualisation of a text if it is only
> approached under the "right"
> conditions. This is far from the case in the 21st century. We
> should not waste energy creating boarders and controls when
> the opportunities afforded by what is here loosely termed
> 'liquid narratives' has the potential for developing further
> the "ideological becoming" of all human beings.
> Cheers
> /jim
> > Here are some things i can think of that might be "more
> controversial"
> > in a discussion of "Liquid narratives" from my admittedly somewhat
> > limited (textual and poetical) perspective:
> >
> > - the introduction of a metaphor to dicuss the use of text in works
> > intended to be rendered on screens should perhaps be valued on its
> > explanatory potential. If it doesn't make more clear what we are
> > dealing with the new term only obfuscates, which can be
> nice (fertile)
> > for artistic purposes but doesn't aid the theoretical discussion if
> > such a discussion is aimed at reaching a consensus that
> could serve as
> > a starting point for further investigations.
> >
> > (For instance the "page" metaphor as it is widely used for
> the content
> > rendered after 1 rendering command obfuscates our theoretical
> > discussions because it tends to favor a characterisation of screen
> > text as inherently hybrid because people believe it looks
> like a page
> > (in a book or magazine) so it makes it easier to
> mistakingly ascribe
> > some characteristics of the book(magazine etc) to the
> screen work.So
> > while screen texts may in fact be inherently hybrid because
> it treats
> > image (sound, video,...) code on the same level as text code, this
> > process of hybridisation has nothing to do with the page metaphor
> > which is nothing more than a usability mistake just like
> the desktop
> > metaphor was a usability mistake adapted by most operating
> > systems.)
> >
> > - the use of this particular metaphor reminds me of a similar use
> > regarding "data that are present in large quantities in networked
> > environments":
> > people tend to talk of 'liquid data' to further the
> argument that as
> > our networks get more powerfull and the data exchange speeds get
> > higher  we are supposedly moving in a new era when the discrete,
> > digital flow of data becomes liquid and equals the analog
> of (primal)
> > reality. Sure we are moving in a new era, we always are, but this I
> > think  is basicly an example of what Whitehead called the
> fallacy of
> > misplaced concreteness: one fictionalizes one aspect of
> reality into
> > an object (liquid) having such and such characteristics, next one
> > finds the same charecteristics in another aspect of reality
> and then
> > one concludes both can be named or at least referred to in an
> > equivocal manner.
> >
> > In fact the word "flow" when talking about data exchange
> could do with
> > a little critical scrutiny too because what actually
> happens is in no
> > way comparable to the flow of water in a river, unless ofcourse one
> > has the knowledge of a certain theory of everything that could
> > describe a river flow as the extremely rapid and multidirectional
> > request-response exchange of one atom or quantum to another
> informing
> > each other in discrete converations that might go like "hey you up
> > there?-er yes?-how's things where you are?- fine, do come
> up here, i'm
> > moving now - ok, thanks, i was moving there anyway".
> >
> > Sure this sounds stupid and silly but that's exactly what
> bothers me
> > regarding the use of metaphors, because one of the things that i
> > learned as a philology student was that it is extremely
> important that
> > one makes a correct and falsifiable formal description of
> the object
> > of study, because otherwise the discussion of a play by Shakespeare
> > for instance  might be clouded by a lack of knowledge of what is in
> > fact Shakespearian about it and what is part of the
> romantic legend or
> > the reception (tradition of
> > reception) of the text.
> >
> > - so instead of trying to formulate an approach of
> "narrative practice
> > in the digital age" on the rather contingent influence of some
> > metaphors on an ill-defined object of study i would prefer
> to approach
> > it by formal characterisation, try and find out how these practices
> > would necessitate rewriting some of the elder concepts in
> narratology
> > (Greimas and the like, i don't remember much of it although
> i do seem
> > to remember they were quite useful in a systematic description of
> > narrations), so you could come up with a sustainable theory of for
> > instance wikipedia being a prime example of narration with
> extensive
> > use of hyperlinking, how explicitly fictional or artistic narration
> > tries to differentiate itself from normal www-files (files that do
> > adhere to the information retrieval system that the
> internet is), if,
> > how and when such strategies fail, the enormous influence
> our screens
> > have in making a workable text presentation near impossible
> ( i always
> > find it rather incredible to notice that very very many
> people making
> > works for screen with text in them still refuse to acknowledge that:
> > - we always read a screen-text in spite of it being highly
> > uncomfortable
> > - most of the text written for screen never gets read ( i
> imagine some
> > hard numbers/statistics on what actually gets read in blogs for
> > instance would surprise many)
> > - the small part of text written for screen that does get read gets
> > read totally different from text presented in books
> > - it is still, in spite of a rather spectaular improvement
> of screen
> > quality over the last few years, nearly impossible to built up and
> > maintain a narrative drift through text alone that can take
> the reader
> > along for longer than the usual three seconds -all of the
> above goes
> > for the 'reader'as it is mostly envisagd as target audience for the
> > works, so the fact that i write this in plain text in an
> email doesn't
> > contradict it in any way, every one of you is a very specialised
> > reader who has learned to ignore the pain of reading from
> lightsources
> > - ignoring these facts has a tremendous impact on any theoretical
> > discussion of digitally presented narritives because even
> if one could
> > approach the ideal of "liquid narrative" as i perceive it in this
> > discussion (i think any approximation would likely be rather
> > illusionary and based on the immersive effects of sound and visual
> > stimuli outside of the narration, i mean we all know (how)
> video-clips
> > "work"), almost none of that would be located within any
> liquidation
> > (sorry for the pun) of text itself
> >
> > - another aspect of text, this time from the pov of the
> author, that
> > is easily overlooked is the lack of physical inscription of
> text and
> > hence the lack of material reference of the text and hence of
> > narration. You might put this of in a common sense way by
> pointing at
> > the text and saying hey you can see it can't you, but from
> a cognitive
> > science point of view having a material presence of a
> unique print of
> > a text in your hands literally makes a world of difference,
> since the
> > reader has a verifiable way of telling she is actualy
> extracting the
> > narration from the text as she reads it/ puts the book down.
> >
> > - all of these remarks goes for academic research as well,
> er i don't
> > want to get too controversial here but i do notice some strange
> > effects of what i would call a fictional literacy based on
> > meta-referencing, something quite similar to blog-culture where the
> > increase of "traffic" is confused with the
> value/ideological influence
> > of the thing itself
> >
> > - the alternative to the metaphorical aaproach i find most
> promising
> > is a continuing focus on the limits of available technology
> regarding
> > narration, because such a focus would almost automatically clarify
> > what has already been achieved in "digital narration", which is
> > ofcourse quite enormous.
> > For
> > instance if you state as a hypothesis that the limits of a
> screen work
> > is that it is limited to being a representation of humanly readable
> > code through the use of machine readable code, this might be a more
> > rewarding hypothesis than saying these screen works are hybrids of
> > text sound, video and programmatical interaction, because you could
> > then go on to characterising those works as a _flattening_
> way to be
> > dealing with diverse media, create a body of reference for speaking
> > about the textualisation of audio or the spatialising of
> text, build a
> > historical overview of how these things were marginally present
> > throughout the history of writing like Florian Cramer
> attempted with
> > rewarding results in his  Words Made Flesh untsoweiter
> > - another positive alternative would be emphasising the
> text/context
> > relation, how text used to be written against a statically
> conceived
> > context with a high exteriority to the text while any text
> delivered
> > on the network is written with a highly dynamic context with a
> > variable degree of interiority to the text itself, or how digital
> > narration depends for it's success largely on the success
> of creating
> > a (fictional) interior within the network, how meaning could be
> > perceived as auratic presencing, waves of meaning going through
> > running code, i mean as crazy as that may sound to some i think it
> > actually makes more sense than talking about water in our extremely
> > dry and shielded culture of electrical currents and circuitry.
> > -which takes us to what Marcus already pointed out, namely that our
> > current digital culture can and is being used as a means of
> creating
> > an audience for/from "seldom heard voices". If you'd take a look at
> > one of my Cathedral files
> > you can see how
> > immensly important the use of narration in combination with
> a minimum
> > of technological equipment can be, which makes me, whenever the
> > occasion presents itself, plea full-heartedly for a rational,
> > co-ordinated and massive global effort to establish local
> open-source
> > driven and uncensored digital centers in those area's of the world
> > that actually struggle to deal with the real thing. I mean these
> > people have no need whatsoever for the where do you want to
> go today
> > kinda buggy rhetorical conscience-soothing g*dforsaken sales talk
> > while we continue jamming on going through the gates of tomorrow
> > before they are here.
> >
> >
> >
> > Greetings,
> > dv
> >
> > Dirk Vekemans, poet - freelance webprogrammer, Central Authoring
> > Process of the Neue Kathedrale des erotischen Elends
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> >
> >
> >
> --
> Doctoral Student, Umeå University
> Department of Modern Languages/HUMlab
> +46 (0)90 786 6584
> HUMlab.Umeå University.SE-901 87.Umeå.Sweden
> Blog:
> HUMlab:

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