[-empyre-] transdisciplinarity and transnetworks

Cicero Inacio da Silva ciceroinaciodasilva at gmail.com
Thu Apr 15 00:08:47 EST 2010

The complete Derrida's article about the "politics of friendship and
hospitality" is here. I think that we should start reading Derrida again no
this issue...

On Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 10:59 AM, Cicero Inacio da Silva <
ciceroinaciodasilva at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi,
> I would like to address some points that I see as complex, not to say
> dangerous, in the argument that Christopher just wrote about the TBTool.
> a) Ricardo's project is pushing the boundaries and calling attention for a
> "real" problem that is happening in the border between Mexico and US;
> b) Sometimes the way that we perpetrate ideas is not the usual way to do
> it, that's why it is calling attention, i.e. it is by subverting something
> and creating unexpected results that one can pay attention to what is going
> on...the same thing that happen in South Africa during apartheid, when one
> guy decided to spend 20 years of his life in jail because we has disobeying
> rules (what kind of rules?!).
> c) The answer that the first world use to give to the third is always the
> same: let's provide them with more conditions for them to be developed. So,
> may I ask you something: if we, the third world, decide to start to be
> independent and rich, what could happen in countries like yours (or maybe it
> is happen in some europeans countries where the nazis are almost taking
> power)? More unemployed people and more instability etc etc., because we are
> going to take your place etc etc. And then, if I can put the question this
> way: are you thinking in terms of this issues when you suggest that we
> should be more advanced in economic terms? I don't know if you are aware of
> the politics that happen related to software, just to give you an example,
> that is our more sensitive point in my country. I will give you a simple
> example: big companies, and I refuse to nominate them, they come and they
> buy us. Yes, let's say that, they buy us because we are still cheap. Most
> part of our elite are cheap, they sell themselves for two or three bucks,
> and they do not care. So, big companies come to a government guy, offer him
> something like 20 times his salary a year just for him to buy softwares from
> you (it is legal, can you realize that?! But is it ethical?!). What happens
> then with thousands of students in third world? They are educated to learn
> softwares that they cannot read the code, know about the way that they work
> and so on and so forth. This is not said, of course, because these companies
> they usually donate one thousand licences for schools (dominating more and
> more and destroying more and more local business)...in the name of the
> sacred good.
> d) The way that the things are organized in terms of economic dependency
> are changing, I know, but we are aware that we still need to change the way
> that we see each other and the way that the first world believe that we
> function. It is not using our social weakness to explore us that we will
> continue to be used as something that costs nothing and put billions in your
> hands without almost no work.
> I just want to finish saying that the work of Ricardo and the TBTool
> project is necessary to show how ridiculous the things are in terms of
> border control, economic dependency and exploration of the third world. Or
> someone really believes that we really like the way that we live in?!
> There is a Derrida's quote that I like...just to create more noise:
> "I have to - and that's an unconditional injunction - I have to welcome
> the Other whoever he or she is unconditionally, without asking for a
> document, a name, a context, or a passport. That is the very first opening
> of my relation to the Other: to open my space, my home - my house, my
> language, my culture, my nation, my state, and myself. I don't have to open
> it, because it is open, it is open before I make a decision about it: then I
> have to keep it open or try to keep it open unconditionally. But of course
> this unconditionality is a frightening thing, it's scary. If we decide
> everyone will be able to enter my space, my house, my home, my city, my
> state, my language, and if we think what I think, namely that this is
> entering my space unconditionally may well be able to displace everything in
> my space, to upset, to undermine, to even destroy, then the worst may happen
> and I am open to this, the best and the worst." (Derrida @ University of
> Sussex: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/frenchthought/derrida.htm, 1997)
> Best
> Cicero
> On Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 2:19 AM, christopher sullivan <csulli at saic.edu>wrote:
>> I think that it is important to acknowledge that
>> the notion that the Transborder Immigrant Tool might be illegal in notions
>> of
>> aiding and abetting, is not absurd, arguable, but not absurd. often
>> Artists
>> cross cultural borders of legal limitations, and this is important, but I
>> don't
>> think that shock should be part of our response.
>>     Ricardo, Brett, Micha, are entering a battlefield of immigration,
>> which is not an easy place to negotiate. It would be a good use of
>> political
>> energy to help Mexico create economic stability, so that heading
>> dangerously
>> towards tho border to work and ship money home, is not a normal mode of
>> operation for the poor and disenfranchised citizens of Mexico. I don't
>> want to
>> see people die at the hands of smugglers or by dehydration. But
>> unmitigated
>> border crossing is not a socially viable long term solution.
>>      Tactical Media, does raise question for me in terms of how deeply
>> ones
>> students should be involved in faculty work, political or otherwise. Don't
>> know
>> where I stand, but it is often problematic to me. My best wishes for
>> everyone
>> who is in legal danger from this situation. Chris.
>> Quoting nicholas knouf <nak44 at cornell.edu>:
>> > Dear -empyre-,
>> >
>> > Apologies to coming late to this discussion.  Thanks to Tim and Renate
>> > for inviting me to participate, although I wish it were under better
>> > circumstances.  Thanks as well to the other participants who have
>> > already posted thoughtful commentary on the situation.
>> >
>> > I want to explore first off the relevance of EDT and bang lab's work for
>> > my own development in this space, and then go through two of my recent
>> > projects that engage with similar problematics.
>> >
>> > As a graduate student I am coming to the work of tactical media years
>> > after statements of its demise.  Nevertheless, I think the recent
>> > incidents show its continued relevance and development into novel forms.
>> >  The recriminations against Ricardo, Brett, Micha, and others show
>> > atavistic tendencies and a return to the attacks that we witnessed
>> > against CAE during the mid 2000s and the subpoenas sent to the
>> > developers of txtmob in 2008.  This, along with other developments in
>> > the context of the US, ought to disspell any simplistic notions that we
>> > are living in a different time after the election of Obama.
>> >
>> > The work of EDT and bang lab has been formative for my own development,
>> > as their projects show how networked activism can go beyond agit-prop by
>> > incorporating poetic statements that build off the materiality of
>> > networks.  The work of everyone behind EDT and the bang lab shows a
>> > continued willingness to disrupt the mechanisms of power, especially as
>> > the Internet has steadily stratified into staid configurations based on
>> > mass-media semiotics.
>> >
>> > I want to pick up on a term that Micha used in her post, and that is the
>> > word "trans".  One of the most important methodological components of
>> > bang lab's work, in my view, is its resonance with what Guattari called
>> > "transdisciplinarity", the need to think across disciplinary boundaries
>> > and develop new assemblages of practice that work across (rather that
>> > within and between) traditional fields.  This works to counter the
>> > take-up of "interdisciplinarity" and "multidisciplinarity" by the
>> > University and funding bodies---at least until transdisciplinarity
>> > itself becomes yet another buzzword.  I'd be interested to hear if Micha
>> > sees connections between her use of the word trans and Guattari's
>> > development of the prefix.  (As a side note, Gary Genosko has a very
>> > interesting paper in Angelaki entitled "Félix Guattari: towards a
>> > transdisciplinary metamethodology" from a few years ago detailing the
>> > key points of Guattari's use of the word; if you don't have access to
>> > Angelaki from your site, I'd be happy to send you a copy.)
>> >
>> > To turn to my own work.  Like Micha I too have been interested in the
>> > ways in which we can use the university as a site of political
>> > engagement.  Partially as a result of the changes underway in the
>> > university across the world, hastened by the developments of the
>> > so-called financial "crisis", and partially as a result of reading about
>> > other struggles in universities that have been described ably by the
>> > members of the edu-factory collective (http://www.edu-factory.org/), I
>> > have been developing over the past year a project called MAICgregator
>> > (http://maicgregator.org/).  This is a Firefox extension that
>> aggregates
>> > information about the military-academic-industrial complex (MAIC) and
>> > overlays it on university websites.  It was occasioned by my desire to
>> > interject alternative representations into the heavily-controlled space
>> > of the university website, a space that tends to efface any friction and
>> > of course highlights only the "positive", meaning that which can improve
>> > the University's image and consequently bottom-line.  I collect
>> > information about Department of Defense (DoD) funding, DoD grants to
>> > small businesses and Universities, press releases about the University,
>> > news items mentioning the University, and clinical trials in which the
>> > University is involved.  As well, I wanted to put a "face", so to speak,
>> > on the trustees of the university.  These people have the ability to
>> > make decisions on all manner of issues, including choices about tenure,
>> > capital projects, and most importantly, financial investments of the
>> > University's endowment.  The transporting of funding strategies from
>> > Wall Street to the University over the past decade is one major
>> > contributor to the precipitous fall of many Universities' endowments.
>> > This component of the project works to try and "discover" who these
>> > people are and "find" their photos using an image search, while at the
>> > same time showing how the techniques of data mining (which are the
>> > technical underpinnings of the project) often produce spurious results.
>> >  Finally, I have just added a component that highlights words on
>> > University webpages that seem to be especially important to the
>> > University today, words such as "business", "innovation", and
>> > "technology transfer".  (You can see a video of MAICgregator at work at
>> > http://maicgregator.org/post/27 as well as download it from the
>> > MAICgregator homepage.)
>> >
>> > Part of this project is to also contest the stranglehold of corporate
>> > interests and "clean design" on the construction of the web.  I want to
>> > work within the tension between simply presenting "more information"
>> > that I have collected from an alternative set of sources and other
>> > poetic ways of displaying it.  The idea is to consider the "mashup" in a
>> > way that does not simply reinforce traditional ways of engaging with
>> > data.  To that end I am also working to release an interface to the data
>> > I have collected to allow others to rework it if they so choose; I hope
>> > to release this interface over the summer.
>> >
>> > Obviously something like MAICgregator does not directly change the major
>> > structural issues facing Universities today such as the transplanting of
>> > the Bologna process to the US.  As well, much of what it collects will
>> > not be unknown to empyre subscribes.  Nevertheless, I see Firefox
>> > extensions like MAICgregator (as well as others; see
>> > http://artzilla.org/ ) as one way to challenge the control over the
>> > computing infrastructure on University campuses.  Given the ability to
>> > install these extensions on library and lab machines, even if only for a
>> > short period of time, we can potentially open up portions of the web
>> > once more.  Additionally, by their very nature Firefox extensions
>> > include their (client) source code, enabling others to understand how to
>> > mutate the materiality of the web.
>> >
>> > The second project I want to mention is called Fluid Nexus
>> > (http://fluidnexus.net/ ).  Like the Transborder Immigrant Tool, this
>> > too is a mobile phone application.  The idea is to provide a way to send
>> > messages (text, images, video, audio) independent of the mobile phone
>> > network.  The way this works is by using Bluetooth to send the
>> > information to nearby phones; people then carry this information to
>> > other places, the information hops to other phones, and thus the data is
>> > transferred by movement throughout the world, without relying on a
>> > corporate- or state-controlled network infrastructure.  This project
>> > came out of reading blogs and news reports during the war in Lebanon in
>> > 2006 and the protests in Burma in 2007, when the fragility of these
>> > centralized mechanisms was all-too-apparent.  Fluid Nexus exists as free
>> > software for Nokia phones; this is not insignificant, as the continued
>> > advance of Apple's closed phone platform portends dangerous restrictions
>> > on our ability to modify the materiality of the mobile phone.
>> >
>> > Fluid Nexus has not been deployed anywhere as of yet; it works as a
>> > barely functioning prototype.  Nevertheless, even in this state, it has
>> > raised all sorts of fear amongst those in the academy.  With my
>> > collaborators I have written a few grant proposals to my home
>> > institution to further the development of the software.  Each time we
>> > have been rejected.  However, what is important in our context is the
>> > language used in these rejections.  Keep in mind that these are comments
>> > from faculty members: "I can imagine it being of as much interest to
>> > criminals or terrorists as to oppressed youth or revolutionary
>> > democrats."  And: "A final question is how does such a technology stay
>> > out of the hands of organized crime, and other powerful folks wanting to
>> > work offline?"
>> >
>> > Such comments fail to understand the dangerousness of using these words
>> > to describe the work of a graduate student.  They fail to understand the
>> > multistability of technology.  They fail to consider how these projects
>> > can work to address uneven---to put it lightly---power relationships.
>> > In presentations of this project to engineers who receive DoD funding
>> > and work in similar areas, I asked if they had ever received similar
>> > criticisms; of course their answer was no.  The denial of funding for
>> > this type of work functions to keep the space of application limited, to
>> > restrict its potential widespread distribution and further development.
>> >
>> > Sadly, all of this is not surprising, given the University's traditional
>> > role in reproducing the means of reproduction.  As Stevphen Shukaitis
>> > and David Graeber have ably demonstrated, any belief in the University
>> > as a space of radical thought has to be understood as relating to a
>> > particular historical moment based in the late 1960s.  Nevertheless, as
>> > others have brought up, I still believe in the power of utopias to
>> > (eventually) effect change, and still hope to see the University as a
>> > place where that change can develop and occur.  Our challenge, then, is
>> > how to understand the contradictions involved in our own placement
>> > within the university; how to bring those contradictions to light within
>> > pedagogical moments; and how to effectively counter regressive
>> > tendencies that threaten to shut down the very possibility of these
>> > moments.  This is a question, in my mind at least, of developing new
>> > forms of "organized networks", as described by Geert Lovink and Ned
>> > Rossiter; I see this list as functioning within that space.  I look
>> > forward to our further discussions around these problematics that I hope
>> > resonate with others.
>> >
>> > Best,
>> >
>> > nick knouf
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > empyre forum
>> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> >
>> Christopher Sullivan
>> Dept. of Film/Video/New Media
>> School of the Art Institute of Chicago
>> 112 so michigan
>> Chicago Ill 60603
>> csulli at saic.edu
>> 312-345-3802
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> --
> www.cicero.st
> www.cicerosilva.com
> www.softwarestudies.com.br
> www.culturadigital.br
> www.youtube.com/mackucsd
> www.youtube.com/softwarestudies
> http://crca.ucsd.edu
> c at cicero.st

c at cicero.st
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