[-empyre-] complicit post

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Wed Jan 6 00:03:35 EST 2010

The network, as conceived of in ANT (Latour, Law, et al), is what I am
referring to when talking about social contracts, creativity and mediation.
Same idea, different language. Foucault was on to this, earlier, with a
different terminology. The remediated self, as a node in a social network,
is not the same as a cyborg, but has many similar characteristics. The
remediated self is more a social and virtual construct that exists within a
network. It is not an individual state ­ although it may seem to manifest as
one. That is the illusion of individuality.

As Sean suggests, this might be conceived of in terms of corporate culture
and globalisation. Certainly, ANT provides powerful tools for understanding
how globalised corporate culture operates. However, I think it is putting
the cart before the horse to suggest that the transnational corporation is
the determining model here. I doubt there is a single determiner of current
events. That is a probable limitation in conventional Marxist analysis. ANT
would suggest a pluralistic approach to causality is likely to be more
productive. No one cart can be put ahead of all the horses that are around
at the moment. Seeking a more inclusive democratic model is fine in
principle but I don¹t see it making much difference. I don¹t think democracy
will be very attractive to a mountain either.

Questions about how expanded networked agency can be coordinated are
important and perhaps they do boil down to models of governance. But I
cannot imagine how the forms of social organisation we have entertained to
date will help.



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
edinburgh college of art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
CIRCLE research group

simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk

From: Sean Cubitt <scubitt at unimelb.edu.au>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Date: Tue, 05 Jan 2010 11:49:11 +1100
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] complicit post

Hey Cinzia

Re "the cyborg of the actor-network" - sorry, that was a bit dense!
Acyor-network theory as used in Latour, law and others is about the
combination of human and technical into networks, like laboratories or
cities. The Ocyborg¹ is a human-technological hybrid. The actually existing
cyborg (I argued a decade ago) is the transnational corporation, a Omachine¹
which humans are plugged into as living bio-chips. At the time I thought
this was an advance on the kind of subordination (subsumption) of humanity
into techno-capital. Now I think of it as more than an advance on factory
relations: the network (as in internet) isn¹t just a factory: it is a device
for producing innovation. And as Marx argued ages ago, a characteristic of
capitalist technology (means of production) is that it tends constantly to
outrun the capacities of capital itself (mode of production), making capital
innovate internally in terms of its organisation, all tending towards a
point where it simply can¹t keep up with its own technical innovations
without a profound mutation. This is what I think the new cyborg network is
about: a profound change in social, political-economy and cutura

If this is indeed the historical trajectory we¹re on, then the duty of
artists and writers, as the Oantennae of the species¹ is to imagine what
happens next

I¹m very taken with Rancière¹s idea that politics proceeds by being forced
to address exclusions. The current challenge is to recognise that some
people who are the objects of government  - migrants ­ demand to become
subjects. This is the logic of globalisation. The upcoming exclusion (which
we can address by getting  Latour and rancière into dialogue) is technology;
and we are well on the way to that with the emergence of a network politics
and economicsthat people like Bauwens and rather differently Tiziana
Terranova talk about. We can almost imagine what such an expanded democracy
might be like, one where processed memory has an active role in economic and
political life.

But beyond that lies the unthinkable issue of a democracy which includes the
non-human world for which Lovelock gives us the handy shorthand Gaia. What
could it possibly mean to give a mountain a vote? (not to be represented:
that¹s how we deal with migrants today: they do not require representing,
they want a voice, agency). The unthinkable: that slaves might be part of
society, or women, or the propertyless. Politics proceeds by changing
radically as it incorporates these unthinkable others. The coming network
politics only speaks to dialogue with technology ­ the unthiunkable is to
afford agency to the planet, with little or no idea what kind of politics
that might mean

Environmentalism isn¹t just a metaphor (as in Omedia ecologies¹, though
that¹s a start): it is a political demand for agency that implies a
transition from individual, group, even species loyalty, towards a far more
dispersed and fluid mode

So thinking relatinally is both utopian (or possibly outopian, belonging
nowehre) and historical: in one sense, the universe of flux is the mediation
of everything by everything else. But as we know, that flow is subject to
the second law of thermodynamics. There is ­ has to be ­ a counter force,
towards order. It is in the varying forms of order that things like the
presumption of the primacy of indioviduality emerges as a specific,
historico-cultural formation. Others have existed, do, and will exist. Flow
is not enough: order is not the enemy (this is the ontological problem in
deleuze and Guattari): the enemy is specific modes of order ­ such as the
regime of private property, privacy, depriving others of what we have
amassed which now dominates.

Art - another great observation of Adorno¹s ;) -  is a lie if it pretends to
be objective: art has to be drawn to the fine focus of an individual
historical person, even though (objectively) that Operson¹ is a fabrication.
But (not Adorno now) one of the great features of this focal individuality
is that it is deeply dissatisfied. Characterised by yearning for soemthing
else, which the aestheticians wil call beauty. To make things and actions
which are not only critical but make sensual expressions of what the cure
for our unhappiness might look like. After that, as Frank Zappa observed,
it¹s just a matter of opinion



On 4/01/10 11:29 PM, "Cinzia Cremona" <cinziacremona at googlemail.com> wrote:

> Sean,
> reading your comments is always so interesting.
> You write: "Reversing their polarities, what if connectivity comes first
> and the elements it connects are secondary? Isn't that what the aesthetic
> experience infers?"
> You have always been very sensitive to the ethics and politics of relating. I
> find it impossible to separate personal from social relations - the individual
> from the social - exactly because I see myself as (in)formed by the sticky set
> of connected relations I am and have been part of. I am interested in the way
> the networks of connected technologies spill out into familial, professional
> and intimate relationships and vice versa. I am also interested in my own
> 'objecthood' as a performer in my own video work - what do I become a mediator
> for? Where do I slot myself in? What ripples of relations and associations do
> I send forward?
> For me, the present dominance of technological networks does not offer an
> alternative (how long will access be this wide for?), but brings to the fore
> associating, relating, connecting where 'identity' was the dominant trope.
> "... the complex partnerships that predate the people or things
> that fill those roles ..." is a fabulous paradox, as the partnerships exist
> only as long as there are Seans, Cinzias and Johannas to enact them and
> perform them - therefore evolving them, betraying them, and so on.
> One more thing: why "the cyborg of the actor-network"?
> Best,
> Cinzia
> openvisions.org <http://openvisions.org>
> 2010/1/4 Sean Cubitt <scubitt at unimelb.edu.au>
>> Thanks for the kind words Johanna
>> Aesthetic - in the old Greek sense of aesthesis, of sensory, sensual - isn't
>> that about a mode of appreciating? Some days even the things you prize most,
>> poem, song, food, seem tired and jejune. Seizing on something beautiful
>> remedies that soul-sickness, and isn't essentially about a class of things
>> (art) but a way of overcoming the objectness of objects, the isolation of
>> the psyche. A branch of bougainvillea, a Stephen Gerrard goal, the scent of
>> roasting garlic wafting over a wall, watching your grad students argue about
>> Agamben and games engines: these things are aesthetic, without the
>> preciosity of art. The elegance of an algorithm - as Gelernter argued - has
>> this quality, if a more mental one, also profoundly sociable, and on scales
>> (vide Linux, P2P) far beyond the amiable but in this case unambitious
>> Nicholas Bourriaud.
>> A friend sends his review of Baudrillard's last book, with this passage on
>> existential subjectivity, whose
>> ³great disappearance² is, in his
>> belief, not just that of the virtual
>> metamorphosis of objective
>> reality, but that of the ceaseless
>> annihilation of subjectivity
>> For JB this is a matter for distress: but isn't it the cost we have to pay
>> for the renewal of a polity which has advanced by exclusion? If the subject
>> par excellence of globalisation is the migrant, and the subject of the
>> coming network society the cyborg of the actor-network, cultural identity
>> and human identity are in question, and with them the idea of subjectivity
>> that has dominated modernity (even in schizophrenic forms). So perhaps we
>> have a few more twists and turns before we can shed even the 19th century
>> dialectic of individual vs social.
>> I guess this is a way of saying: we will almost certainly go 'beyond art'
>> before we go beyond the dialectic.
>> Co-dependence and autopoesis are too invested in the primacy of individuals
>> to resolve the question of the social (as witness for example the truly
>> unreadable paroxysms of Luhmann as he tries to make the autopoetic model fit
>> human lives). Luckily for the empyre community, tho, both also include a far
>> more important and as yet un-worked-out idea of mediation, flow, flux,
>> connectivity. Reversing their polarities, what if connectivity comes first
>> and the elements it connects are secondary? Isn't that what the aesthetic
>> experience infers?
>> So yes indeed, negotiations and complexities that do not offer themselves
>> for resolution, but the dialectic is about the difficulty of contradiction,
>> together with its necessity
>> Now this is getting too 'academic' - sorry! But one last effort at
>> relevance: complicity derives from the Latin 'complex' which, to add
>> confusion, means 'accomplice' or 'partner'. (There's a false etymology which
>> suggests it's from the French 'pli', fold, for all the Deleuzeans out
>> there). I like the idea that the complexity of accomplices is implicit in
>> 'complicit' - the complex partnerships that predate the people or things
>> that fill those roles (the system chair-table-computer-modem . . .) which I
>> slot myself into to write this . . .
>> Best
>> sean
>> On 4/01/10 1:21 AM, "Johanna Drucker" <drucker at gseis.ucla.edu> wrote:
>>> > Nice post, Sean. I agree, it's the pessimism that we have to get over
>>> > -- we can't afford it, personally or culturally. What I want to
>>> > salvage from Adorno is his insight into the workings of aesthetic
>>> > objects--the qualities that make them distinct from other objects--
>>> > which of course is not merely formal/conceptual, but situational/
>>> > historical. Do you think we can also move beyond the dialectic? I
>>> > think notions of co-dependence and autopoieis are less mechanistic,
>>> > more systemic, less about resolution, more about sustained
>>> > negotiations and complexity that can't resolve. Anyway, just wanted to
>>> > note my appreciation of what's below.
>>> >
>>> > Johanna
>>> >
>>> > On Jan 2, 2010, at 5:01 PM, Sean Cubitt wrote:
>>> >
>>>> >> My favourite among the bizarre marriages is the defusing and
>>>> >> capitalisation
>>>> >> of the situationists over recent years.
>>>> >>
>>>> >> There is a letter from Adorno to Benjamin which sets up the problem
>>>> >> neatly:
>>>> >> he refers to high and low culture as 'the two torn halves of an
>>>> >> integral
>>>> >> freedom to which, however, they do not add up'(this is such an
>>>> >> important
>>>> >> quote for me,  I looked up the date of it -- 18 March 1936 - it's in
>>>> >> the
>>>> >> correspondence, and in the old NLB collection Aesthetics and Politics)
>>>> >>
>>>> >> I'm reading up on Lavater; in a collection of essays the editor, who
>>>> >> takes
>>>> >> the physiognomist to task for populism *and* a claim to high aesthetic
>>>> >> values, asks whether it is not an absolute contradiction to be in
>>>> >> favour of
>>>> >> popularising the nobility of aesthetics. I think I have to answer,
>>>> >> yes, in
>>>> >> the dialectical sense. The contradiction - between cheap commercial
>>>> >> culture
>>>> >> and (pick your favourite exemplars: mine would almost all be media
>>>> >> artists)
>>>> >> the best in art - is what drives forward the idea of democratising
>>>> >> the best,
>>>> >> not just the good-enough.
>>>> >>
>>>> >> I have been trying to climb out form under the long shadow of Adorno
>>>> >> for a
>>>> >> decade now. Johanna is right: the formula is a problem, Even more so
>>>> >> is the
>>>> >> historical oddity, that TWA wrote from his experience of gazing into
>>>> >> the maw
>>>> >> of the end of european enlightenment in the horror of fascism. His
>>>> >> pessimism
>>>> >> is what has become academic, and sentimental, in the sense that
>>>> >> 'we're all
>>>> >> doomed' is a position occupied without taking responsibility for the
>>>> >> consequences - an excuse for quiescence
>>>> >>
>>>> >> If I follow right, the argument is that we are all complicit, and
>>>> >> have to
>>>> >> get used to the idea that we have to work within the beast. There
>>>> >> are other
>>>> >> ways than negativity (in Adorno's sense of refusal): open source,
>>>> >> peer-to-peer, gift economies and the line stretching back to at
>>>> >> least the
>>>> >> counterculture of the 60s of building alternatives, for example.
>>>> >> Today the
>>>> >> market seems like the almighty engine of history, as perhaps a
>>>> >> hundred years
>>>> >> ago (almost to the day) nations seemed the only source of pride and
>>>> >> power.
>>>> >> Going into the teens, networks are just beginning to look like they
>>>> >> might be
>>>> >> the alternative (and just as Marx emerged in the period of nation-
>>>> >> state
>>>> >> hegemony to critique the market, so the first critics of the
>>>> >> networks are
>>>> >> beginning to appear).
>>>> >>
>>>> >> Avant-gardes were always based on the principle that whatever they
>>>> >> invented
>>>> >> would be commercialised in time - often very swiftly nowadays. No
>>>> >> technique
>>>> >> is intrinsically safe from the process. Perpetual innovation is
>>>> >> art's job,
>>>> >> an innovation which constantly fuels capital, which is now so
>>>> >> regimented it
>>>> >> is incapale of generating its own novelty. But that is another
>>>> >> contradiction, and if there is one thing worth keeping from Teddy
>>>> >> Wiesengrund it is the dialectic!
>>>> >>
>>>> >> So happy new decade to one and all - a year isn't long enough!
>>>> >>
>>>> >> sean
>>>> >>
>> _______________________________________________
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>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
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Prof Sean Cubitt
scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
Media and Communications Program
Faculty of Arts
Room 127 John Medley East
The University of Melbourne
Parkville VIC 3010

Tel: + 61 3 8344 3667
Fax:+ 61 3 8344 5494
M: 0448 304 004
Skype: seancubitt

Editor-in-Chief Leonardo Book Series

empyre forum
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