[-empyre-] VI feud and passion

Jonathan Marshall Jonathan.Marshall at uts.edu.au
Wed Oct 10 17:02:01 EST 2012


Amongst my first attempted papers were long accounts of feuds and passions. The first version of the thesis was almost nothing but an account of conflict and pain, of misunderstandings, miscategorisations of others, of impositions, of temper, of exile and resentment. I attempted to relate these to the ‘structures of communication’, as mailing lists are structured differently to newsgroups, IRC and MOOs – the age shows although the same is true of facebook etc – and hence the easier possibilities of ways of life and actions, are different on each format. Communication structure might be thought of as analogous to Marx and Engel’s infrastructure.

This supposition implied there was no uniform life online, even if cultural differences offline, brought to the online were of no importance in making that online life, which seemed improbable. Sometimes I would relate these conflicts to the way categorisation of others was used in the offline world (such as gender, political allegiances). The politics of offline life always permeated online space, again whether it was wanted or not, because it allowed meaning to be resolved with some ease and made response possible. And that involved repression, and attempts to avoid repression, to move others, to persuade others, the making of power, and patterns of power and convention, and what could be spoken and what could not. This again was ‘concrete’ and affective in nature, it was grounded in bodies and bodily or bodily/linguistic responses.

[Currently I’m using the term ‘information group’ to try and work out how wider group allegiances filter information, so that groups have differing views of the world. These differing allegiances then maintain difference and distortion, while rendering others inhuman or inferior or hostile. Communication, in information society, breaks down as a matter of course.]

However, to portray Cybermind as simply a long series of hurts, delusions and conflict was missing the mark by a long way. There were the other sides. The ease with which people gave support, even to those they had been feuding with a day or so earlier, the massive intertwining of relationships, and all the correspondence which never appeared onlist, the love affairs, the group meetings, the collaborative work, the way it was used to enable people to live offline. It was dense and not just dense with pain.  If had been only pain, how would any of us have stayed so long? Living online, at least on CM, involved a large spectrum of affects and connections.

But this is much harder to write about (why does it seem harder to write of joy than pain – for me to write comedy than to write tragedy? Why do we seem to value melancholy as a source of truth?). Hurt seems to channel attentions. Just as small amounts of flame seemed to overwhelm the rest of the mails which went on with either good humour or without connection to the hurt. That was an early ‘discovery’: that times that people remembered as completely times of pain, were in terms of volume, not. The singleness of mood of some mails overwhelmed the disparate moods of the rest. So what made that the case?


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