[-empyre-] OSW: open source writing in the network

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Jan 26 01:06:18 EST 2012

Hi Davin, Joss & all,

Intrigued by your comments below...

 >Critical thinking does require time to read, think, communicate.  It
 >does require the existence of a community capable of supporting and
 >sustaining this activity.

Yes, an active intelligence requires 'time to read, think, communicate'. 
And critical thinking by artists is as challenging as academic thinking. 
It is interesting that there exists a general acceptance in the Media 
Art field, that artists must take on and acknowledge the ideas proposed 
by academia. Yet, many Media Artists spend their time within list 
environments discussing with theorists an abundance of different 
subjects relating to their practice, involving discussion on social, 
technical, political, historical and philosophical matters. This form of 
open exchange is an encouraging situation.

"To be an artist is to contend with the present, and there are not many 
other careers that afford the freedom to radically examine life and 
society. To put it bluntly, if artists are studying and writing more 
about politics, culture, and education, it's probably a reflection of 
the unprecedented dysfunctionality of the societies in which they 
live."(Andy Deck 2005)

We already have networks of critical exchange, through various lists, 
blogs and platforms, where the Internet has allowed us to explore 
dynamically and mutually different ideas together. Because much of the 
posts are public (they are on Netbehaviour anyway) or archived - it's a 
kind of publishing.

Some have published discussions on chosen themes from lists such as 
DEEP_EUROPE, from the Syndicate list, featuring selected email 
discussions between 96-97. This is the only edition I possess in book 
form. Publishing extracts from conversations which have originally taken 
place in email lists reaches a wider audience outside of the list 
environment itself.

 >(As an aside, if wanting to create a
 >community in which people can read, think, communicate, create is
 >"elitist," then what would an anti-elitist community look like?).

Interesting proposition - I think we need to define elitism here. In the 
Oxford Dictionary it says Elite is "a group of people considered to be 
superior in a particular society or organization: the country's educated 
elite." Elitism "The belief that a society or system should be led by an 
elite - The dominance of a society or system by an elite - The superior 
attitude or behaviour associated with an elite etc...

I suppose, some may feel here that elism (like a weapon) is not 
necessary a bad thing unless it's in the wrong hands.

To answer your question "what would an anti-elitist community look 
like?" I'd say it would look messy, consisting of hierarchies, 
heterarchies, consensus behaviours - it may not exist or be able to 
exist as a 'pure' concept. And this may not matter, but what does matter 
are the values that these communities share. Traditionally, most 
utopias, theories and revolutions are caused by desire and necessity. 
Murray Bookchin's take on it is "Marxists could hope to administer 
necessity by means of a state, and the anarchists, to deal with it 
through free communities". (Post-Sarcity Anarchism). Free communities in 
a technological world do exist now and elitism within these structures 
do vary.

Michel Bauwens last year wrote in an interview with Lawrence Bird "Peer 
production is based on the abundance logic of digital reproduction, and 
what is abundant lies outside the market mechanism. It is based on free 
contributions that lie outside of the labour-capital relationship. It 
creates a commons that is outside commodification and is based on 
sharing practices that contradict the neoliberal and neoclassical view 
of human anthropology. Peer production creates use value directly, which 
can only be partially monetized in its periphery, contradicting the 
basic mechanism of capitalism, which is production for exchange value." 

What it says to me: is, that working our way through the systems which 
we have all grown up in is not an easy journey (of course). And being 
critical is a process of re-evaluating things constantly. Elitism, is a 
social norm which humans seem to 'instinctively' be hooked on. But, if 
we actively challenge our own forms of complicit reliance of accepting 
these norms, which tend to be the more aggressive methods and models of 
elitism and their defaults, that's a good start. But, if we expect it to 
vanish from our psyche's as an absolute, that's a different matter 

Wishing you well.

> Joss,
> You raise some very good points, points which highlight the truly
> profound nature of digital communication technologies.
>> Such a policing is indeed necessary to justify the very
>> existence of pubic life as a distinct arena that ‘represents’ us, and in
>> that sense is the essence of the democratic life of the bourgeois state.
>> However, as the cost of publishing has been reduced to something close to
>> zero for a good number of individuals and organizations, capital, and its
>> concomitant bourgeois state, have significantly diminished in their ability
>> to filter and legitimate the work of a professional class of public
>> intellectuals and cultural critics.
> In my own study of electronic literature, I find that many of our
> attitudes towards the literary are shaped by accidents of history.
> Fortunately, we have found a good medium for storing and transmitting
> human expression in the book, itself, prefigured by an oral language
> which was similarly crystallized in the creation of alphabetic
> writing....  but over time, we have become habituated to seeing human
> thought represented and archived in this format, so many believe that
> this quality is intrinsic to the literary.  Ignoring the possibility
> that these are specific incarnations of an impulse that precedes it
> and ignoring the possibility that this impulse will continue to be
> carried forward in continuity with the present.  Now, without getting
> into semantic quibbling over whether or not we want to provide a
> strict prescription for "literature," I think it is interesting that
> we depend upon the limiting effects of the material object to
> accomplish what it is that we desire from literature: Meaning over
> meaninglessness, virtuosity over thoughtless crap, quality that stands
> out against quantity.  In other words, we still prefer to spend our
> time using it in ways that reflect our interests, thus some would
> rather read Literature instead of crap....  or, in the case you
> describe, reliable publications over unreliable ones.
> At the same time, we are keenly aware of marketing, pr, and
> consumerism in the 21st century....  so we know that many operators
> will exploit the logic of scarcity to present unreliable or crappy
> texts as though they are worth the paper they are printed on.  It
> costs a lot to print a book.  People have to buy a lot of copies to
> make the bestseller list.  Glenn Beck's latest book must be AWESOME!
> In other words, we know by now that the material limitations of print
> publishing are no longer a reliable indicator of a book's aesthetic
> merit, moral quality, truth value, scientific significance, etc.
> Now, often times when I say that I think we need to have some sort of
> reliable means to sort useful information from crap, people suggest
> that there is some elitism there.  And certainly, when print was the
> only game in town, such statements were directly tied to an implied
> economic threshold, which kept some out and some in.  But when, as you
> note, many people can publish many things online with no filtering....
>   it is a mistake to assume that the process of conscious human
> discernment means we privilege the haves against the have-nots.  It
> could be.  In the case of commercial content and professionally
> marketed materials, it is.  But this, too, is an accident of history,
> rather than something essential to the act of critical thinking.
> Critical thinking does require time to read, think, communicate.  It
> does require the existence of a community capable of supporting and
> sustaining this activity.  (As an aside, if wanting to create a
> community in which people can read, think, communicate, create is
> "elitist," then what would an anti-elitist community look like?).
> To get back around to my comment....  I think that you hit the nail on
> the head when you point out the need for critical structures and
> practices that are capable of looking at the broad field of cultural
> information we swim in, and to filter those results in accordance with
> values negotiated by a community.  Once you take heavy hand of
> material scarcity off the scales of publication, we have an
> opportunity to think about what ought to be published without worrying
> about the dynamics that made many of the hard decisions on our behalf.
>   We now have to decide how to prioritize information, because the
> price of paper isn't doing it for us.  And we need to think about how
> search engines, social media, and government institutions are actively
> trying to perform this role on our behalf.
> If you look out there, and empyre as a community, has been very good
> at trying to explore the potential of the new environment (and has
> given a lot of similar projects, artists, critics, and activists, the
> space to share other models for sharing work), there are groups of
> people working on exploring the new models.  And, as these little
> perturbations in art and academic culture go, so there are wild
> vortexes of widespread social change that are being negotiated.  We
> have to figure out how to articulate community in a positive way, that
> moves the beyond the individual/collective, public/private dualities
> that were formed under the zero sum game logic of society under
> capitalism.
> Davin
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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