[-empyre-] Fwd: Minor Simulations, Major Disturbances

Green Jo-Anne jo at turbulence.org
Thu Apr 15 07:51:08 EST 2010

Dear All,

On March 28, 2010, Frank Rich wrote an op-ed for the New York Times  
entitled "The Rage is Not About Health Care." In it he said "...The  
real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of  
national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964... The  
conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House --  
topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay  
Congressional committee chairman -- would sow fears of  
disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the  
country no matter what policies were in play..."

The attack on Ricardo Dominguez and the TBT is motivated by this same  
insecurity. Brett, I would hazard a guess and say that you’re  
probably not being targeted because your last name is not Dominguez  
and you’re not an out trans person. If you read the “Flames” page of  
the TBT http://bang.calit2.net/xborderblog/?page_id=193, it becomes  
clear that the rabid, homophobic response to TBT and to specific  
people involved transgresses the boundaries of the project, and  
reflects the general tenor of the Tea Party movement as it is stoked  
by the flaming rhetoric of Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh,  
etc. It is the same disproportionate rage we saw in action during the  
Heath Care Reform process, in which racial and homophobic slurs were  
hurled at specific members of congress, and which continues to simmer  
and stew.

I don’t mean to detract from the debate about the role that  
universities play in supporting research that subverts the status  
quo. I just think that this “event” should be considered within this  
larger context, additionally, one in which millions of people have  
lost their jobs and their homes and are looking for someone to  
punish. California is bankrupt. The UC system has seen its budget  
slashed; students have seen tuition increases and been forced to drop  
out; faculty and staff have been laid off. Today, Arizona passed THE  
most anti-immigrant legislation in the nation. TBT's funding source  
is being investigated within a climate of economic scarcity and an  
angry segment of the population resisting a "government takeover " of  
health care. [TBT, after all, has been around since 2007, so why is  
it suddenly the focus of so much attention?]

A couple of people mentioned the Steve Kurtz/CAE case as a point of  
reference. I think that the Culture Wars of the early 1990s are a  
better comparison; they came to a head with the NEA Four, and  
resulted in the NEA's budget being slashed (it was almost scrapped  
altogether), and direct funding to individual artists being  
eliminated altogether. Jesse Helms lead the attack motivated, I  
think, by the same fears Frank Rich is talking about. The whole  
debate was framed around spending taxpayer dollars on gay, anti- 
religious art.

As for the complex nest of university research and the corporations  
and government departments that fund it, there is no simple solution  
if you are operating within the system. As Steve Kurtz said at the  
2009 conference "Critical Strategies in Art and Media," "we're all in  
an indefensible position no matter what, whether it's I doing nothing  
or I do something, and that something is corrupted. We're always in a  
negotiation with everything we do."

You can't accept grants, teach at a university, and desire tenure  
without these negotiations and compromises. The best one can do is  
enter these negotiations armed with knowledge, awareness, and a well  
thought out strategy for the best possible outcomes for your project.

Warm Regards,

On Apr 13, 2010, at 2:15 PM, Brett Stalbaum wrote:

> At this point, being very much "thrown" in the midst of events here at
> UCSD, I feel I have very little theoretical insight to offer at this
> time. I am a little too close to the fire. But what I can do is to
> attempt to activate past theory developed in the crucible of the
> Electronic Disturbance Theater years back. In particular, radical
> transparency. I am curious about how the technocratc/liberal- 
> atavistic/
> conservative academic regime that Arthur theorizes responds to radical
> transparency. The email below represents the third time that I have
> outed myself to the same Administrators who are going after Ricardo.
> (Not everyone in the "to" list below is necessarily involved in the
> investigation, but they are all in administrative positions of
> interest.) So far, those persecuting the complaints seem uninterested
> in charging me with any crimes or going after my tenure. I'm not sure
> whether this is the result of a strategy to shoot for the head (a bad
> tactic against the rhizome), or whether it is general bureaucratic
> stasis or a specific panic that is preventing them from deciding what
> to do about my case, not to mention the hundreds of others around here
> who are willing to (or who already have) formally admitted that they
> too were involved in the electronic speech acts of March 4th. I will
> keep you updated as to any outcomes of my experiment. I also thought
> it would be useful to invite the administrators in question to
> participate in this discussion. I hope they are willing to return
> transparency with transparency, because that would represent a real
> breakthrough, and perhaps even offer a counter to Arthur's argument,
> in the case that they disagree with his evaluation.
> Cheers,
> Brett Stalbaum
> If there is anything important that you would like them to know,
> Begin forwarded message:
>> From: Brett Stalbaum <stalbaum at ucsd.edu>
>> Date: April 13, 2010 10:46:10 AM PDT
>> To: Chancellor <chancellor at ucsd.edu>, "shburke at ucsd.edu"  
>> <shburke at ucsd.edu
>>> , "pdrake at ucsd.edu" <pdrake at ucsd.edu>, "SVCAA at ucsd.edu"  
>>> <SVCAA at ucsd.edu
>>> , "Lerer, Seth" <slerer at ucsd.edu>, "Lawrence.Pitts at ucop.edu"  
>>> <Lawrence.Pitts at ucop.edu
>>> , "Ellis, Arthur" <abellis at ucsd.edu>
>> Dear Provost Pitts, Chancellor Fox, Dean Lerer, AVCs Burke and Drake,
>> et. al,
>> I am requesting your formal response to my email of last week in  
>> which
>> you were all informed that I opened my web browser on March 4th and
>> participated in the Virtual Sit-in on the UCOP website. Because by
>> definition a Virtual Sit-in requires individuals to make a conscious,
>> transparent, and contentious decision to contribute to the protest,
>> and because I am a UCSD academic senate member, I am wondering  
>> what my
>> status is. Since last week, I have not been informed that I am the
>> target of a criminal investigation. Nor have have I been informed of
>> any actions against me before the Committee on Tenure and  
>> Privilege. I
>> would like to know my status regarding these issues, and also to
>> request an update on the status of the TBTool project investigation.
>> (I am the primary software developer for the project.)
>> Also, with recent events in mind, I thought you might like to follow
>> bits and pieces of the international discussion now taking place
>> regarding the TBTool project investigation and UC issues with Ricardo
>> Dominguez's tenure. It is the formal topic of discussion for the
>> remainder of the month on the empyre list. I have pasted bios of this
>> month's discussants Nick Knouf, Arthur Kroker, Geert Lovink, Horit
>> Herman Peled, and Rita Raley below Arthur Kroker's opening remarks.
>> Given that we all now have a stake in this discussion, I thought you
>> might want to join in, or at least follow it. You can find info on
>> joining the list here:
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre/
>> In all transparency,
>> Brett Stalbaum
>> LSOE, Department of Visual Arts
>> Coordinator of the ICAM major
>> Begin forwarded message:
>>> From: akroker <akroker at uvic.ca>
>>> Date: April 13, 2010 12:08:35 AM PDT
>>> To: "empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au"  
>>> <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>>> Subject: [-empyre-] Minor Simulations, Major Disturbances
>>> Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>>> Greetings.
>>> Following from the terrific interventions today, I thought I might
>>> offer
>>> this beginning theorization of the ineluctable destiny of tactical
>>> media
>>> in creating strange convergences in contemporary power, namely
>>> between
>>> technocratic liberalism and atavistic conservatism in that nervous
>>> breakthrough to the future that is California:
>>> -Arthur Kroker
>>> Minor Simulations, Major Disturbances
>>> In an American empire culture marked by wild swings between
>>> technocratic
>>> liberalism and atavistic convervatism,  any attempt to introduce a
>>> third
>>> political term (minor simulations, Transborder Immigrant Tool,
>>> Electronic
>>> Disturbances) into popular debate will definitely be met with
>>> powerful
>>> reaction-formations. In the case of atavistic conservatism, southern
>>> California is its homeland, from the bunkered suburbs of Orange
>>> County to
>>> the increasingly ‘hardened’ borderlands of San Diego. For
>>> technocratic
>>> liberalism confronted by a domestic  crisis of economic over-
>>> indebtedness
>>> and a global crisis of cultural delegitimation,  the ‘markers’ of
>>> political sovereignty must be reaffirmed. Since tactical media are
>>> necessarily all about transgressing borders, destabilizing the big
>>> ‘markers’ of power, economy, gender, sexuality and race,  and
>>> disturbing
>>> the hegemonic status of national borders,  it is to be expected that
>>> the
>>> deployment of tactical media will do the political impossible,  
>>> namely
>>> unite the supposedly clashing politics of technocratic liberalism  
>>> and
>>> atavistic conservatism  in a common political project of saving the
>>> honor
>>> of the name of (the American homeland).
>>> The always strong, always recidivist, reaction-formations directed
>>> against
>>> Bang.Lab’s Transborder  Immigrant Tool by Tea Party activists,
>>> roaming
>>> border posses of white vigilantes, security state officials, and now
>>> University of California authorities, this new combination of
>>> technocratic
>>> liberalism and atavistic conservatism under the sunny skies of
>>> Southern
>>> California, is not really understandable without taking into account
>>> that
>>> there are actually two Transborder Immigrant Tools projects taking
>>> place.
>>> First, there is the Transborder project with its provision of
>>> innovative,
>>> repurposed cell phones to vulnerable,  exposed, desperate
>>> immigrants  from
>>> Mexico and many countries south. Here the question is: should the
>>> political sovereignty of borders trump basic human rights to water,
>>> safety, and shelter? That the question of human rights is dangerous
>>> from
>>> the point of view of the state is clearly illustrated by the fact
>>> that
>>> American policing authorities have immediately  resorted to a
>>> rhetoric of
>>> hysteria in critiquing the Transborder Immigrant Tool, suddenly
>>> speaking
>>> of the potential (mis)uses of this device by terrorists and drug-
>>> runners.
>>> However,  there’s another Transborder project running, namely the
>>> tactical
>>> deployment by Bang.Lab of ‘minor simulations’ against the
>>> authoritative
>>> borderlands of UCSD. While the University of California educational
>>> system might be shamed into supporting repurposed cell phone
>>> networks on
>>> behalf of immigrants, it is equally quick to support its own
>>> logistics of
>>> academic sovereignty.  As UC student and faculty critiques now
>>> circulating
>>> as part of “Communiques from Occupied California” illustrate, the
>>> borders
>>> of power in the UC system are very much under general assault by a
>>> diverse
>>> activist coalition.  By running minor simulations intended to re-
>>> imagine
>>> other alternative futures for education,  tactical media literally
>>> disappears the (rhetorical) differences between technocratic
>>> liberalism
>>> (UCSD) and atavistic conservatism (posses of Tea Party activists).
>>> Here,
>>> the two sides of American empire, previously rhetorically separated
>>> but
>>> both necessary parts of the twisted strands of power,  combine in a
>>> fateful rejection of that which they both commonly fear—minor
>>> simulations
>>> with very real potential for creating major political disturbances.
>>> Disrupt the binary logic of the borderlands, undermine the strict
>>> logic of
>>> inclusions/exclusions necessary to maintain state sovereignty,  re-
>>> imagine
>>> other alternatives,  insist that all borders be rethought in  
>>> terms of
>>> contingency, paradox, and complexity,  and what results is literally
>>> a big
>>> bang in logic of empire.
>>> So then, the question: Now that the strategies of tactical media  
>>> have
>>> successfully generated a big bang in the theory of American (empire)
>>> governance,  now that atavistic conservatism and technocratic
>>> liberalism
>>> have found common cause in suppressing both the politics of minor
>>> simulations and the resistance art of the Transborder project, what
>>> are
>>> appropriate tactics to resist this newest iteration of empire power.
>>> After
>>> all, when atavistic conservatism and technocratic liberalism combine
>>> something definitely new emerges, namely augmented empire. Augmented
>>> empire? That’s technocratic liberalism with such rationalist excess
>>> in
>>> defending its academic boundaries from networked simulations that it
>>> flips
>>> into its opposite state—a dangerous form of liberal realpolitic
>>> animated
>>> by atavistic emotions running the psychological gambit from
>>> bureaucratic
>>> defensiveness to panic anger. Fully alert to the threat posed to
>>> previously impervious borders by minor simulations such as the
>>> Transborder
>>> Immigrant Tool, atavistic conservatism  suddenly goes repressively
>>> liberal, justifying its attempt to shutdown the Transborder project
>>> in
>>> terms of “responsible academic research.” Of course, when that does
>>> not
>>> work, atavistic conservatism  always  keeps in reserve other  
>>> activist
>>> strategies ranging from congressional denunciations to very real
>>> death
>>> threats.
>>> As always, utopia is the bright angel of history.
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>>> This month's 3-week April discussion on -empyre-,  "Tactical Media,
>>> Research, and the University," is moderated by Renate Ferro (US)
>>> (www.renateferro.net) Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Cornell
>>> University, and Tim Murray (US) Curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive
>>> of New Media Art and Director of the Society for the Humanities,
>>> Cornell University.
>> We are pleased to welcome a number of international friends this week
>> who will kick off our discussion of Tactical Media in the wake of the
>> investigation of Ricardo Dominguez at the University of California,
>> San Diego.  Joining us this week will be Nick Knouf, Arthur Kroker,
>> Geert Lovink, Horit Herman Peled, and Rita Raley.
>> Nick Knouf (US) is a PhD student in Information Science at Cornell
>> University in Ithaca,  New York.  His research explores the
>> interstitial spaces between information science, critical theory,
>> digital art, and science and technology studies.  Ongoing work
>> includes MAICgregator; Fluid Nexus; robotic puppetry projects that
>> engage with psycho-socio-political imaginaries; and sound works that
>> encourage the expression of the unspeakable.
>> Arthur Kroker (Canada)  is Director of the Pacific Centre for
>> Technology and Culture  (PACTAC), Canada Research Chair in
>> Technology, Culture and Theory at the University of Victoria, and,
>> with Marilouise Kroker,  Editor of CTHEORY.   Kroker's many books
>> include The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism, Spasm:
>> Virtual Reality, Android Music and Electric Flesh, The Possessed
>> Individual: Technology and the French Postmodern, and, with
>> Marilouise Kroker, Life in the Wires: the CTHEORY Reader, Digital
>> Delirium, and Hacking the Future.
>> Geert Lovink (Netherlands) is Director of the Institute of Network
>> Cultures, Research Professor at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and
>> Professor at University of Amsterdam.  He is the founder of Internet
>> projects such as nettime and fibreculture and the author of numerous
>> books, including Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet
>> Culture,
>>  The Principle of Notworking, My First Recession: Critical Internet
>> Culture in Transition; Uncanny Networks: Dialogues with the Virtual
>> Intelligentsia, Dark Fiber: Tracking Critical Internet Culture, and
>> with Trebor Scholz, The Art of Free Cooperation.
>> Horit Herman Peled (Israel)  is an activist/new media artist in
>> Israel.  She lives in Tel Aviv and teaches art theory and digital art
>> at the Art Institute of Oranim College.  Her online projects and
>> critical interventions (http://web.macam.ac.il/~horit_a/horit.htm)
>> have been featured the Venice Biennale, CTHEORY Multimedia, Contact
>> Zones: The Art of CD-Rom (Paris, Ithaca, Mexico City), as well as
>> throughout Israel.
>> Rita Raley is Director of the Literature.Culture.Media Center,
>> Co-director of the Literature and Culture of Information
>> specialization and Associate Professor of English at the University
>> of California, Santa Barbara.   Her book, Tactical Media, appears in
>> the Electronic Mediations series at the University of Minnesota
>> Press, and she is working on Global English and the Academy and a
>> project on "Reading Code."
> --
> Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
> Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)
> Department of Visual Arts
> 9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
> La Jolla CA 92093-0084
> http://www.walkingtools.net
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Jo-Anne Green
New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc.
917.548.7780 or 617.522.3856
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