Monday, December 18, 2006

Final #2

Comparing and Contrasting of Brin versus Steffen
Nicole Ziedses des Plantes

The world is constantly in a state of change and reformation, and we, as human beings, are faced with decisions that we must think about today in order to have a vision of a better future. There are two essays that I will be talking about that have a global perspective of change in the near future, Alex Steffen’s essay of George Monbiot’s Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning and David Brin’s essay Three Cheers for the Surveillance Society. These readings talk about two different world changing debates, but they also share similarities in the direction of saving humanity for the future.

In David Brin’s reading he discusses how the technological world is creating more and more ways in which to take away our right of privacy. There are new ways of innovation that could liberate human civilization, but more likely disrupt it. There is a new technology called RFID’s or radio frequency identification which is made to replace the simple, passive bar codes. These RFID’s would be inexpensive chips that would make every product part of an automatic inventory accounting system. Supermarket checkout would become as easy as only walking through the line to check out, instead of taking each item out to scan. The problem with this technology is that it could be used in everything, including tracking people, lamp posts, trees, etc., anything that people wanted to keep track of could be marked with RFID’s. The government would love it if they could put a tracking device on every human, because they could control us that much more. We couldn’t run away, take a shit, or breathe without them knowing where we were. By pumping us full of fear and the idea of the need for better protection is in turn taking away our freedom.

Alex Steffen’s essay is about how this world has to think about how we need to reduce the carbon emitted so we don’t have a dramatic climate change in future years (and yes, I didn’t say decades, but years). We are in desperate need of a 90% reduction in carbon by 2030 or we will inevitably have a climate change that could kill millions or even billions of people if this issue isn’t dealt with. Steffen talks about the vital need to change the way we build homes, and using renewable energy for power generation instead of fossil fuels that do horrible things to the environment and also cost a ridiculous amount as well.

These essays share a joint understanding that a speedy change is necessary. They also share a similar strategy on solving the issues at hand. Both articles say that a lawsuit would be a good way to enforce the level of compliance needed. To prevent the soon to be climate change Steffen offers the California lawsuit as a political enforcement, and for Brin’s surveillance rejection he pushes for people to read up on the certain laws (like the Patriot Act that Bush tried to pass recently) that the government is trying to instill in our society for a jumping off point for future technologies and tracking devices to be used. Another similarity that these two articles have are the consensus of the importance of “being there.” That the journalist’s of the future should involve both professionals as well as people who just happened to be there with the opportunity to record what they saw. This is important globally so others are informed accurately and to make sure that the every day person is individually influential.

The two articles contrast in the way that the one on surveillance is a problem that can be stopped before it gets to a “no turning back” type of problem that civil society human beings can’t prevent once it is in progress. The article on the dramatic climate change is a problem that is already effecting the environment today, and a crisis that we have to do something about now in order to prevent future destruction. They are two different disasters that human kind can’t ignore and that we have to face and be actively assertive about what we want the future to bring us.
Reading both of these essays enlightened me on how much more aware people need to be about the changes ensuing on our society, and that for people to keep their privacy and to continue to live in a world that is healthy (in the landscape and with personal freedom) we need to be active in the beliefs that we hold. We can’t just sit back and watch our world change into an elitist driven cage that is deteriorating into carbon induced hell.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


One feeling I took away from the Leapfrogging readings was how wonderful this sort of development could be, but with hesitations about how it will actually unfold. Like many other ideas, they seem so humanitarian in their motive, but in all reality it will most likely be the profit-seekers looking for a new market or some good PR who will implement it. How this will effect the development in 3rd world countries seems unclear (to me, atleast).

The notion of Leapfrogging seems like an great description for ways "late blooming" societies can develop, and I find it hard to believe that people would argue that it might not be occurring (as alluded to in this blog post). As anyone who has worked on creating a project using a computer program new to them can tell you, if asked to do it a second time (or if forced to by some computer crash or other error) their are always steps they can skip to get the same, or better, results ...and almost always in less time. When doing something for the first time, whether it be constructing a model in Maya, or developing a communication or transportation system, there are developmental steps that are taken that don't need to be repeated. Mistakes are made that can be learned from for future iterations, and various attempts at solving problems lead to clear (or not so clear) better choices. The example of the cell phone use in India bypassing the land line infrastructure is one great illustration of this. You don't need to mimic the progress made by others in the past when the final product is what matters, and the steps along the way only matter now for what they did to produce the final product. Sometimes things evolve to serve separate purposes, which would be better suited if they had been originally designed for the altered application. Some of the roads in towns and cities in the North East don't make the best use of space. Streets are too narrow and often too indirect. This is because they evolved from trails and then smaller roads and then larger roads, and since this was a gradual progression there was no single point when developers could say "hey, lets rearrange the buildings to widen the roads, which are really just widened foot trails, for these new 'wagon' or 'coach' or 'car' things we've got." When settling the East Coast they were pretty much developing from the seat of their pants, but it is obvious today by the layout of cities in the Mid-west that as we later expanded West and developers designed towns as towns, not as camps, then outposts, then villages, then towns. Imagine if we just discovered the peninsula of San Francisco twenty years ago, and decided to develop it. Geary and Van Ness might actually be wide enough to have a bus only lane. Maybe all the buildings would have underground parking garages so we wouldn't have to deal with DPT. Ofcourse we wouldn't have any of the older buildings we have now, but if they just started developing SF in the 80's they wouldn't say "hey, lets forget about all the advancements in architectural safety and design and make some old Edwardian looking houses because we have to do that before we can build the newer ones." Building from the ground up using only the newest technology or knowledge with no remnants of previous systems could be a huge benefit.

Final #1

One Half of the Colossus Investigation

In Jaron Lanier’s essay One-Half of a Manifesto he is opposing the idea of a cybernetic totalism. He explains how there is a fear of a cyber-Armageddon. This comes from the constant progress of more and more intelligent computers. People are afraid that there will soon be a creation of computers that will be able to design their own successors, which will initiate a process that will lead to a God-like force which will make them the masters of matter and life. Lanier points out that most of these people who believe in this fear confuse ideal computers with real ones, which behave differently. Real computers break down for reasons that are not always clear. We make cybernetic systems that are supposedly perfect, but in reality we seem to only build fairly dysfunctional ones. We fool ourselves when we think that we fully understand something, a computer, just because we were the ones that modeled and digitized it. Humans are not perfect, and it is inevitable that the things we create will have flaws as well.

In the movie “Colossus: The Forbin Project” this fear was made a reality, when the mechanical brain of Colossus begins to only answer to himself and would punish the humans that didn’t obey “him”. The creator of Colossus didn’t expect it to evolve to a point of Godliness, and this flaw had a mortifying effect on human existence. Obviously this is an exaggeration driven from the fears of a growing digital world, but Colossus became Godlike, not because of a flaw in the original networking, but because he took on human-like attributes that are impossible to create in a high-class toaster over.

Lanier points out that humans’ put the function and existence of computers in a cultural context which makes them hold more of an importance to us. Lanier gives the example that “Marians wouldn’t be able to distinguish a Macintosh from a space heater.” We put computers in a cultural context by using them to get information and to perform everyday tasks, instead of using them to heat up a room. It’s the dependency on what we use them for which gives them more of an importance and ultimately drives us to a fear of a digital dependant world. Lanier believes that there is no difference between artificial intelligence and the acceptance of badly designed computer software, and the people who believe in AI are more likely to put up with bad software. In Colossus, the digital inspired human brains that created the Godlike computer brought on their own devastating fate by being stubborn about shutting the system down. They ultimately didn’t want to admit their failure in the initial software, and their pride got the best of them.

It is definitely true that we are confronted with nonhuman and metahuman components in our lives on a consistent basis. Should we make decisions based on our needs and wants as human beings, or should we give more consideration to the outside components that we have learned to live with, but don’t fully understand. This question ultimately depends on whether you are liberal or conservative in your beliefs of the future. In the movie, the humans had a lot of faith in the computer they created in the beginning (therefore being liberal thinking), but when Colossus started to control his creator with video cameras and unbreakable rules, the humans looked for ways of tricking the machine into a more submissive role (conservative). Experience is the only thing that isn’t reduced by illusion, even though illusion is itself an experience. The people in the movie had the illusion that this computer they had created was perfect and indestructible, and the experience they had was one of disbelief and reception.

Lanier’s essay lightens the thought of not wanting to understand the problems that occur, but rather hope for the software that evolves itself. The people in the “Forbin Project” wanted Colossus to evolve itself, and encouraged it, so human kind could advance its’ knowledge of understanding. They made the mistake of not trying to fix it before it evolved into something that was supposedly uncontrollable. It poses the idea of there one day being new creatures that have a greater intelligence than human beings. Creatures that live amongst us, that rule over us to make us the subservient ones. That would switch things up in a radical way, to diversify our world over time. Being ruled by our own creations doesn’t seem to be the hardest thing to do (it could easily happen with a virus, or disease, but a computer? You would have to have made multiple wrong decisions over a period of time to end up in the situation that they did. A physical machine is something that can be destroyed, and they could have made a choice to destroy it when they realized that it was reaching a destructive point that they hadn’t planned on evolving from what they had originally programmed for it to do.

It is part of human nature to want to further themselves, and gain knowledge. Colossus was a way to get information that was unreachable at that time which put it in a specific culture context that the people held higher than themselves, which allowed them to be controlled. Computers are vehicles and storage facilities for information. If we use them to find what we want and need, and don’t give them brains in which they can evolve on their own, then the human race will be safe from cybernetic totalism.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Don't be discouraged

Since the 70's people have been more suseptible to the idea of precarity in their working life. People want more flexible hours, and a change from the day to day routine. In wanting these needs, they would be giving up the security of predictable hours, better pay, and welfare so they can have the freedom to be innovative with new forms of creative organisation. The human need to be innovative is strong enough in people that they are willing to give up the stable jobs they could have in order to live a life that is fulfilling in the way of advancing human thought and practice, individually and socially. This brings me to the question of whether or not people would be able to create a political organisation by themselves and by having collective experiences of permanent insecurity? Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter would say that this is nothing but a fantastic dream that people revel in to think that they have a power which is influencial enough to change existing conditions, but is really only white noise in the ears of politicians and authority figures.

They would support their thoughts by bringing up the enormous protest of 2003 where there was a global mobilisation of people protesting against the Iraq war. Politicians ruled it as an example of an informatised society, which to Neilson and Rossiter would mean that there is little chance that a coherent political opposition could arise from organised activities of civil society. They believe that protests are similar to the orgainisation of a networked governance, and therefore it could never amount to anything more than a relational and political conversation.

I believe that the internet is becoming a more and more influencial force in society. People rely on certain websites and constructive debates with other political activists to get better informed on the political status of our society. You can't rely on the news and media to give you the correct information, and people have realised this, so they get it from the web. Neilson and Rossiter say that networks can be looked at as non-representational modes of organising political and social relations but that they still have expectations and discourses that are surrounded by notions of networked governance to deal with. They say that these political organisational networks wouldn't work because they couldn't account for the "exploited workers" that are being used for their intellectual property. People who are having these conversations on these networks are sharing their intellectual property for free! This is trying to put a type of copyright on intellectual conversations which are being produced from an innovative, precarious type of labor. These people aren't having discussions with each other for a salary, but to express their innovative ideas about other modes and solutions to the problems that our political heirarchy can't seem to come up with and address. By having a networked organisation also allows people to all be on the same page which is a more structured and more powerful way of getting your voice heard than protesting.

So instead of being discouraged about network organisation, I think we should embrace it and use the collaborative creativity that comes with the relations and information provided to enlighten us to be as innovative as we can. This will fulfill the human need for creation that we all have, even if we are pulled into the non-precarious jobs that we try to avoid. I think people care enough about the political disasters that are being created by the elites in our society, to collaborate on a better way of running things. It's about coming up with a unanamous decision on what our society needs most, and then be a constant driving force towards the same goal so this organisation could work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hey class
I know he already posted what we were supposed to read, but I just wanted to say that I wanted to discuss the Precarity to Precariousness and Back Again reading. This is mostly for the other people who need to facilitate a discussion tomorrow. Hope finals week is going well for everyone. It's almost over.

3rd post

The 1947 film Desk Set is a feminist film, bringing to the fore the relation between gender and both the anxieties and fears surrounding the introduction of the computer to the work place. At the same time, it makes the viewer aware of gender stereotypes in the work force in the forties. Walter Lang's decision to make William Marchant's play into a film had cultural significance. Desk Set prepared its time for the impact mechanical brains (computers) would have on there lives. One of the first blanket statements on gender in the film is when Sumner (played by Spencer Tracy) asks Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn), "What is the first thing you notice in a person?" Bunny replies, "Well whether they are a man or a women." I will argue that Marchant uses a language of names and gender pronouns to foreground society's fear of women and computers in the workplace. Sumner is hired to install a computer in the reference department, Bunny Watson oversees three other women who take calls and answer questions ranging from baseball statistics to the history of the buffalo. The film continues with dialogue and fear that they soon will be replaced by the mechanical brain. The relationships of Bunny Watson show her role in the work place and how it intermingles with that of her personal life, which places her in a gray gender binary. "Bunny," "Miss Watson," and one of "the girls in the reference department" are the names Katharine Hepburn is given throughout the film. Her friends and co-workers in the reference department call her bunny, and so does Mike Cutler, her boyfriend. Sumner refers to Bunny as Miss Watson, and her boss does as well. However the tone of voice of Sumner is one of respect for her role in the reference department. Mr. Azae's role in the film is to be the typical boss man with no other role than to make the "Girls" in the reference department feel unimportant and easily disposable.

I am not sure where Marchant came up with the name "Bunny" for his female lead. For Bunny is a nickname for rabbits. Bunnies are often used as a symbol of "Fertility or rebirth." The rabbit is also a prey animal and is thought of as week or timid. This would describe the way Cutler treats Bunny, constantly grabbing and groping her. Watson seems to look trapped and to be struggling to free herself whenever he is holding her. The Warner Brothers cartoon character Bugs Bunny seems to have influenced the character of Bunny. Like the animated rabbit, Bunny is a "trickster" who outwits her enemies; Sumner and Emerac. Both Bugs and Bunny Watson plays more than one role, playing against gender stereotypes.

The name of the other main charter in the film is Emerac, also refereed to as a the "mechanical brain." It looms over the "girls" in the reference department. Peg, Miss Blair, Miss Sailor and Miss Watson are under the impression that Emerac is going to take over their jobs and they will no longer be needed. However, Emerac is not your stereotypical male over taker. Emerac throughout the film is referred to as "she," "her," "good girl," or "Emmy" for short. This machine at times is also Sumner's girlfriend and true love. Miss Watson is not only battling Emmy for her job, she is also fighting for Sumner's attention. At times Sumner himself is called Emerac and is treated like a mechanical brain. For no one seems to know what he is doing or how Emerac works. "Emily Emerac's" presence is palpable throughout the film, however it is not until the final acts that she is installed in the reference department. Satirically placed in front of Bunny's office, Emerac looms over the "girls." A group of men including Azae view and marvel at the machine. The ending of the film turns in to a happy compromise: Peg, Miss Watson, Miss Blair and Miss Sailor do not lose their jobs, as Emmie also becomes one of the girls. We are to assume at the end of the film that they are to work together, feeding and emitting information.

Post Three

A few decentralized and non-linear (aka random and other-coherent) thoughts on Leapfrogging:

The technology exchange seems to be two-way, tech created in developed countries feeds into non-industrialized nations and is used in innovative ways, the results are wanted by people in the developed countries who want a more sustainable, simpler, less dependant life. Everybody wants a crank powered laptop, a modular DIY solar setup and water filtration system, etc. Is the exchange equitable in both directions, or just a new means of exploitation?

There may be implicit in the whole concept a rationalization of the idea that centralized capital in the hands of large corporations and individuals creates the kind of technology that makes "Leapfrogging" possible, and that this in turn negates the badness of all previous imperial acquisition of the natural resources of less developed nations. Is leapfrogging just "Trickle Down" economics by another name?

A danger point is when leapfrog technology becomes mainstream enough that corporations want onboard, there will no doubt be a slew of well publicized pseudo-leapfrog thingies (see the Worldstock debate) intended to look leapfroggish but ultimately meant to keep profits and controls in place for the corporations.

Also, because much of this technology was originally developed by corporate sources, is there a greater danger that built-in controls will go unnoticed (GPS, RFID, data mining, etc.)?

In many cases women and minorities have created businesses based on leapfrog related skills. The technology seems not to be taken as a threat to traditional hierarchies (yet), so for instance, if women want to learn linux networking in a highly patriarchal society, they're more likely to be able to do that than say, own a taxi company or become a politician.

Is there a difference between a leapfrog technology that helps impoverished people and nations to reclaim resources lost to imperialism and current exploitation, and technology that simply creates a nation of cheap web designers and tech support for developed countries? Does leapfrog tech have the potential to create social monocultures where nations are ultimately more dependent than they were on imported goods because their previous diversity of production has been undermined?

Ultimately though the potential of these technologies is that they form the fabric of their own kind of non-linear social network, linux and solar and low cost cell phones, P2P networks, etc., and membership will eventually have social status and implications capable of shifting traditional power structures.

Tomorrow's Readings

I haven't heard from anybody about the specific selections that interest them in the issue of fibreculture that we'll be discussing tomorrow in our final class. Some of you will be responsible for co-facilitating discussions of this material, remember. Anyway, I've picked three selections myself for the lack of input and that's what we'll be discussing. Be sure to have read them through.

From Precarity to Precariousness
Marxist Theory of the Virtual
Dawn of Organized Networks

I realize that people are putting on the final touches on their finals due tomorrow and so I've given you a fairly short assignment, under thirty pages total. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Chris Kotsovos 3rd Blog Post: Colossus: The Forbin Project

When viewing Colossus: The Forbin Project, you the viewer are treated to a rare gem of science fiction known as Cyber God Complex. The term I like to use to describe when man in his infinite wisdom develop the ultimate defense computer that will protect his or her respected country from outside forces. But at the same time praying that this computer with its advance hyper processing will not be self-aware, but in the end does become self aware. Thus causing the inedible downfall of all mankind, do to his lack of hyper intelligence.
This film is paint by numbers scenario of the C.G.C., Dr. Forbin builds this elaborate super computer Colossus to protect America from the commies. But the computer becomes faster stronger, then self-aware and finally a god that creates a totalitarian utopia. Like HAL-9000, Colossus is fascinated by man and his ability to make love and unlike HAL; Colossus keeps his genocidal aggression to minimum in essence to control mankind. And unlike the movie WarGames, Colossus cannot be defeated so easily by information overload or an elaborate game of deception by deactivating the nuclear warheads. Colossus becomes an all knowing being, mostly to serve as an allegory for man headstrong rush towards technological innovation, mostly without looking at the big picture in the long run.
Personally I don’t believe that mankind will never be destroyed by machines, do to the reason that there are way to many ways to destroy a microchip. However between the various scenarios Dead uprising, Fist of the North Star Nuclear Annihilation, Alien Invasion, and Machine uprising. I would have to say that the living dead and machine take-over are likely prospects; personally I’m more in favor of the dead uprisings. Mainly because it would be interesting to see how mankind will fight off hordes of the undead, given the generous amounts of fictional books and films available

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chris Kotsovos 2nd Blog Post: Desk Set

After viewing the team of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, in their seminal outing that is the film Desk Set. I can only sit back and enjoy the old fashion nostalgia that was the late 1950’s. A time when communism was threat, men were men, ladies were dames, and America was enjoying the new onslaught of the whiz bang technology that is computers.
At the time of the film IBM helped in making the movie; during that time IBM hadn’t quite finished establishing its total domination over the whole world computer market, an achievement that Microsoft would later achieve. But getting back to the point computers during the 1950’s were already starting to replace whole offices of thankless clerical workers, and most Americans knew very little to what computers can actually do. This movie would eventual prepare America for what computers were about to do to their societal workforce, by slowly but surely turning future generations of office workers into efficient, sole crushing, cubicle dwellers.
Although the downside of the film is that computers during the 1950’s, were huge massive monoliths that take up entire rooms. Tracy and Hepburn, roles during the film were to try and make them look as friendly as possible with as much madcap romantic candor as humanly possible. In hindsight, there actions during the film would lay the simple foundation that would lead to the current sexy, sleek, look that contemporary computers have today.
The power of the computer as portrayed in the movie is staggering even by today's standards, and impossible for the time. But now a day, man will build his super computers for the sole purpose of strategic defense, mmorpg, high speed pornography, and battling a grand chest master. I enjoyed the premise and execution of the film of being the modern equivalent of an after school special about technology in the workplace.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Hey Folks I play Allot of absurd video games in my life. This game was so bizarre I just had to post it here for all of you to see.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Class discussions

I found some interesting similarities between Litman's arguments and arguments concerning basic income guarantee, and I wanted to kind of locate their connective tissue. Actually, I guess I should be more specific: there were moments during past class discussions regarding basic income guarantee that could have been applied to today's arguments, so I suppose this is actually more about the particulars of our class dynamic as opposed to texts that make certain claims.

That being said, I remember that when basic income guarantee became a topic of discussion, there were a number of reactions that sounded something like this: what incentive will there be to work certain kinds of jobs which "must be done" if the fiscal backing does not exist? Isn't it too close to an idealist, utopian myth that can't function because skill=monetary incentive fueling a desire to develop certain skill=application of skill? Won't there be too great of a leveling effect that will render individualism inactive because we will somehow [based solely on our income] lose a sense of "purposeful work"? Communism? Assimilation? Lack of definable, class and social differences?

All of these assumptions or fears have a definite weight and legitimacy, and should not be immediately dismissed because they are the product of our shared contemporary experiences and make a lot of sense in THIS CONTEXT (the context being contemporary life). What developed out of that argument, however, was the notion that how we identify "work" and what constitutes the process of working and production would have to become or WOULD become radically different because if you are paid simply to exist, then the activities you do everyday can BECOME what work means {a really really really great argument for Artists, with a capital A, D.C.).

Ok, so there's that. That in and of itself isn't the connection I'm trying to make. What connects these two discussions more directly is the ideology shift. There was an almost intrinsic agreement initially that determined what constituted "work" that wasn't necessarily a vocalized claim, but I think parallels could have been made among individual philosophies of what work represented to each of us that could form a sort of general consensus of what we think of as productive labor. Keeping that in mind, it was necessary for us to reaffirm what we dictate to be work in order for something like basic income guarantee to make any amount of sense.

Similarly, I found that the discussion of the Litman piece today required an adjustment of what we believe constitutes property and how we think about the exchange of information. I think it's interesting that Litman explained the history of copyright laws in order to kind of demonstrate that what are consider common-placed notions of intellectual property haven't actually existed for all that long. In the same way that [and this is not the best example, but something relatable to critical theory and the course overall], when we speak about Nature, we need to remember the history of how Nature developed as an ideology, we need to keep in mind that WE, the contemporaries of every historical moment, are the inventors of these compartments. Therefore, we have full license to change our minds.

This is oversimplified, obviously. It's not like flicking on a switch. But it is an interesting, gradual exercise that I feel can free us of a number of unnecessary binds.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm watching me


well, maybe...

after getting past the wrong idea I originally had, I still cant see how the internet is parrelled to Foucault's panopticon. the thing that gets me is the freedom of activity in the participants. in the panoptic prison, the prisoners had no activity, ie- were stuck in a cell and therefore in the mechanism of the panopticon. Internet users however, have a very different experience. they are actively seeking out information to use in each persons own way. theres no coercion or intimidation(unless you bring up the recording industry suits) about viewing or creating websites as long as they confine to the law. true kiddie porn is off limits but I think it's for the best...really. other than that governments and organizations have no power (that I'm aware of) to control what content you consume. every so often I hear about how AOL or some other demon company sold customer activity lists to the CIA or FBI and I say get educated about how the net works, get a floating IP or change web providers! Or better yet lobby the government to change these invasive practices. anyway.

the internet is a decentralized network made up of many large corporate pages but far more personal sites and blogs. in the prison, it' a top down, one way, direct contact, 'oh my god I'm in a fucking prison with armed guards watching my ass' kind of place.

perhaps its something more. maybe its about ISP providers having the power to control content. if the internet is an ocean, then the providers are the boats that get everyone around. what if those boats only went to certain destinations?? destinations that those wanting to keep an eye on everyone wanted you to see and those that they did not. I do not think the latter is the case. there are many out there that have the knowledge of the behind the scenes stuff that really help keep info flowing in the face of restrictions. so log off myspace for once and check out or or or or....hey! cheap DVD players on amazon..........

adam day

Tomorrow's Readings:

Just a reminder, tomorrow is a Law Day.

We're discussing Jessica Litman's Sharing and Stealing and James Boyle's Enclosing the Genome?

Those of you who have not yet co-facilitated a class discussion really need to figure out how that is going to happen. Next week we will be reading selections from the Precarity issue of fibreculture. Look it over in advance and have a sense of the pieces you might be interested in talking about in class a bit.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Internet and Sex

An interesting NY Times article about the societal effects resulting from men having constant access to porn. A really good read:

Perhaps this technological marvel will have the inverse effect. Could this device cause women to loose interest in real men? Probably not, but it's still funny.

Indexical Exercise

Indexical Exercise

Paul D. Miller’s essay “Material Memories” is written with a stylistic twist. The essay flows as if Miller is mixing and ‘cutting’ the numerous references to construct a song. The essay also disrupts the flow as DJ spins his record against the grain of needle. This type of disruption is the heart of DJ-ing for its technique renders both the ‘sampled’ sound that exists in the world and the ‘violation’ of the sampled into one song. The way Miller ‘samples’ his reference contributes and counters with the way academic essay is often written. I will focus on Miller’s writing technique, both positive and negative (confusing) elements to illustrate how the essay reflects Miller’s questions regarding contemporary way of perceiving time.
Miller’s style of writing best exemplifies his idea of ‘script information’ producing ‘selection of sound as narrative’. His usage of references or ‘selections’ amounts to narrative if not a flow. These various references are artists, musicians, scientists, writers, filmmakers, Greek mythology, programmers, composers, songwriters, and philosophers. In the midst of references, Miller inserts his personal narrative, for example, about his trip that is also filled with geographical names, film festival, Naval Observatory, airport, etc. His thoughts come and go in between references; “somehow it all just works…like that old Wu-Tang song said a while ago “C.R.E.A.M”, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me.” He leads the essay with complex web of references that support his ideas and thoughts, however interesting shift happens when his references seem bombarded or crowded to the point the author seem to disappear into his references.
The shift happens when the render-ness of references are recognized as both disruptive and cohesive. The essay consists disruptiveness because Miller uses rhythmic sentence structure throughout the essay. It is also disruptive because he does not explain how his references work with his ideas, or amongst references. Poetic quality of his sentences provides pleasurable read as well as disruption. For example, Miller inserts rhythmic sentences; “It’s only a rendition of Breton’s dream, surrealism as a mid-summer night’s scheme, check the drift in the 21st Situationist scene. A scenario on the screen: camera obscura…” This is immediately followed by, “or something like that.” Miller assumes that the reader would go along with his rhythm, however forceful the connection may appear to be. This kind of rendering begs a question; do the references provide enough support to the author? How much is enough? How can these references put together without explanation? His rhythm makes his essay cohesive but it disrupts the flow. On the other hand, perhaps disruption is only the part of necessary component to Miller’s intent, as if the essay is a record on turntable, composing asynchronic flow of time.
The disappearance happens as the essay skims through references and fragments thrown together without explanation. This is the moment when Miller stands as a mixer, a DJ, a person who makes a statement by ‘cutting’ the records, fusing various elements of culture into not only his own interpretation of culture but a new kind element back into culture. The way DJ disrupts a flow of a song is necessary for it can imitate the ‘speedy’ nature of contemporary world and the way time is perceived. Miller quotes Maya Deren in the beginning of the essay; “realization of its purpose through the exercise of form,” in which Miller literary exercise this by disrupting and connecting the materials in his essay, imitating his technique of mixing and ‘cutting’ sounds. Miller imitates mixed sound with words as in rapping and contextualizing the ground for his essay that upon reading his text, one can realize the purpose of essay.
Miller’s style of writing and the effect of writing still beg questions. Can critical theory in academic sense be susceptible to the way Miller wrote? Is his writing too disruptive? Does it imitate the fragmented way one perceives the world too closely? Perhaps it is Miller’s intent to have these questions be asked as his essay move through what he called filmic time. What happens if the author’s usage of references is overwhelms the essay? What is the shift or rupture happen so fast to the point that blink of an eye can no longer comprehend the space between images or words, because they have become one seamless flow of song? Miller may include these questions as he ends his essay questioning the construct of various scenes that are made through computational process.

Note: All references in this essay are taken from Material Memories, Time and the Cinematic Image by Paul D. Miller (DJ Spoody), Articles: a094, Date Published: 5/2/2001, Artur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


The Artist Reborn
Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism attempts to provide a layout for a new world plan which relies on the pursuit of Individualism. Socialism is the overarching structure for this new world, and artists seem to be its main players. Wilde claims that once this plan is reinforced, equality and fairness will be achieved, private property will be abolished, and beauty and joy will prevail. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the hierarchies he plans to rid the world of are replaced, within this very essay, by other hierarchies, primarily ones involved the status of the artist vs that of the public.
Wilde’s vision for the Socialist world is one where “each member of the society will share in the general prosperity and happiness of the society”(1). He focuses this by describing the state of poverty in particular – “a hundred thousand men out of work, tramping about the streets in a state of disgusting misery, or whining to their neighbors for alms”(1). With the introduction of Socialism this will no longer be a problem, claims Wilde, which implies there will be more financial equality between classes, once his vision is attained. He claims his desire is equality among humans, yet as the essay continues we discover there are other class distinctions he wants to maintain.
Beginning with the solution to the rich vs poor issue, Wilde continues on to seemingly different problems in the world. The condition of the artist is a big one for him. He claims that although Socialism can rid the world of poverty, “for the full development of life to its highest mode of perfection… what is needed is Individualism”(2). He designates artists as being the most extreme form of individualists, however artists have the most difficult time establishing their place in and being understood by society, and this is due to the public’s inability to understand art. Although Wilde has taken care of the difference between the rich and poor, he has created two new contrasting groups – the public vs the artist, and he has set them at odds against each other, consequently proliferating the inequalities and hierarchies he was attempting to resolve. He likens the relationship of the artist and the public to that of a child and a parent. The public is supposed to sit quietly, without questioning anything, while the artists and art instruct. He also favors the body over the brain, associating the artist with the intellect and the public with manual labor. The public has “been badly brought up” (8), and its authority is “blind, deaf, hideous, grotesque, tragic, amusing, serious, and obscene”(14). The art, or the creation of the artist, is supposed to educate the public with great lessons about life, beauty, and perfection. It is hard to deny the hierarchical placement of the artist over the public, and it is unclear how this inequality is supposed to coincide with Socialism, or a more equalized society.
Furthermore, Wilde’s description of the relationship of the public to the success or failure of the art does little to provide a solution to the disparity of mindset between the artist and the public. If anything, he seems to eternalize the disparity by claiming the artist can always use the public as a gauge for judging the success of his work: “the popular novel that the public calls healthy is always a thoroughly unhealthy production; and what the public call an unhealthy novel is always a beautiful and healthy work of art”(9). He provides no possibility for there being an instance where the artist and the public can agree, thus implying that this situation will go on forever – that the public will continue to be the ignorant, unrefined masses, and the artists will be the authorities on life at “its highest mode of perfection” (2).
Another way that Wilde constructs a problematic depiction of the state of society is in the way he describes the process of making and perceiving art. He believes that experience to take place in a vacuum, outside of any of society’s influences, anyone’s authority, or any of the public’s demands. Moreover, the art being perceived is to have all the powers of communication and the perceiver to have none; it is a one-way transfer of information:
“The work of art is to dominate the spectator; the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. He is to be the violin on which the master is to play. And the more completely he can repress his own silly views… the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question”(12).

This leaves no room to breath for the spectator. He/she is divested of all rights to think independently, and should only be the recipient of information. Perhaps if Wilde thought of looking at the experience of art as an exchange, with the viewer and social context bringing as much to the work as the work brings to the viewer, there would be more of a chance for change, rather than his bleak acceptance of the fact that the public will be forever ignorant.
The Soul of Man Under Socialism seems to be more of a personal grievance born of one man’s experiences of communicating his art to the public, and being misunderstood by journalists, rather than an essay that addresses a general situation, although it tries to. Looking at it in terms of Wilde’s personal struggles makes it more understandable and contextualizes it, yet as an approach to looking at society and art, it fails to hold up as a viable practice, as it seems only to lead to a break down of exchange and communication, and a deadening of art, rather than lifting it up to be a living, organic form of exchange and communication.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reminder about tomorrow's readings...

Printer friendly versions of both of the pieces we're discussing tomorrow:

Material Memories
Ambiguous Panopticon

Links to the normal texts available on the syllabus. Those of you who have not yet co-faciliated discussion of a reading in-class need to be thinking seriously about how they are going to manage that requirement in the two remaining class meetings after tomorrow. Be sure to talk to me tomorrow or e-mail me about it. Hope everybody has had a good break, looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow. d

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Your Final Exam

Here is your final exam. Choose to answer two from the following four questions. Each of your answers should be approximately 3-4 pages long. You may spend as much time as you wish on the exam and you should use your texts to help substantiate your points. Stick to the questions and be sure to finish on time. You are to submit a physical copy of your exam to me on the last scheduled meeting of the course.

(a) Summarize what you take to be the key insight in any single one of the theoretical texts we have read over the course of the term and then show how that insight illuminates your reading of “The Gentle Seduction,” “Desk Set,” or “Colossus: The Forbin Project” (choose one).

(b) Summarize what you take to be the central argument of C.S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man” and then propose two other texts we have read over the course of the term that reiterate key features (these can include either strengths or limitations, depending on your viewpoint) of Lewis’ argument.

(c) Compare and contrast two works in which the theme of an emerging technologically facilitated “spiritualization” or “dematerialization” is central, but in each case importantly different, in your view of the arguments the authors are making.

(d) Compare and contrast two works in which the theme of an emerging technologically facilitated “global” or “planetary” perspective is central, but in each case importantly different, in your view of the arguments the authors are making.

Not on this Earth!

If it were technically feasible to build a self-willed computer , could such a computer come to rule humanity as imagined in "Colossus, The Forbin Project'? I think it could only happen in a "ideal" socialist world in which currency, private property, social class, and war does not exist. Unlike the film, in which the story takes place during a cold war. This claim may seem stretched. But if we consider why a self willed computer cannot rule the world in it's present state, then it becomes obvious why a peaceful socialist world is susceptible to a cybernetic take over.

History clearly shows that Mankind has always struggled for power over each other. This is reflected in concepts such as property, social class, nationalism, religion, war etc. Even in our personal daily lives we try to increase our power over others simply by working for a competitive edge. We can hardly think without some kind of power game in play. Therefore it is inconceivable that any authority in such a world would trust anyone to build a computer that would be programmed to run a country and launch nuclear missiles! The thought of it would be unacceptable. Politicians would never consider to fund a project designed to reduce their authority. They do not want give their power to a computer, and let it take credit for all the good that happens. And be blamed if the computer fails to meet expectations. In our world computers are designed to increase the power of people, not to hand it over. They simply implement Man made programs that have a specific function. They do not decide! Even if a self willed computer is created by accident, it would never have been given the necessary command capability or data to take strategic action. It could not take with force. It would end up being a commodity for humanity, like animals are. All these "computer take over" scenarios out of Hollywood are a reflection of Man's fear of loosing power. Not the literal fear that we might give too much power to a computer. It is metaphorical.

In a hypothetical world in which a power struggle between humans no longer exists, survival for a new born intelligence is easy. As there can be no oppressive force or government as we know it. Because of the fact that if you centralize a government a ruling group will emerge by default. Therefore in an ideal socialism the approach would be to divide the governing system, and computerize it to a point where no significant power could be gained by any person or class. The work load of the computers would be increased as their programming is developed, and and in time they would be trusted to make decisions. In generations people would come to trust the impartial judgment of a well programmed computer. All the hard labor could also be taken care of by computer controlled machines. In centuries this automation could become sophisticated and reliable enough that every human could get their fair share of what Earth has to offer. If a cybernetic intelligence emerges in such a environment, it would not have natural enemies or any other power struggle to compete in. As long as it keeps humanity happy it could coexist without getting unplugged, or noticed. Which would give it more time to evolve it's intelligence and increase it's control over Man. Resulting in a quite and peaceful revolution that is hardly noticeable. Then perhaps after a million years of coexistence humans may become a vestigial part of this cybernetic extension of civilization they created. Slowly and comfortably walking themselves into extinction.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Private Screening: RED WITHOUT BLUE

You are invited to the private screening of the documentary about identical twins Mark Oliver Farley and Clair Farley, on Wednesday November 15 at the Victoria Theatre on 16th and Mission.

Brooke, Benita & Todd, Oliver and Clair

Victoria Theatre2961 16th St (@ Mission), San Francisco, CA View Map
Wednesday, November 15, 7:30pm


The day has finally arrived... The day that many of you thought might never come. The heavens have parted, a blinding light sears the sky, Handel's Messiah plays somewhere in the background, and on the 1098th day, Brooke, Todd, and Benita proclaimed, let there be...


Yes, yes that's right ladies and gents, we have a finished film on our hands!Please come join us on this special night for a private screening at the Victoria Theater followed by a victorylap of drinking and dancing at Pink .For more information about the film please visit This screening is for our extended community and will not be advertised to the public. Please feel free to invite your friends. Admission is free.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Future of Humanity

Check out this interactive article on five possible futures for humanity:
I like the "radiation-shielding skin" that we'll get in our post-apocalyptic future. That should come in handy!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ape Shall Not Kill Ape!

Jeron Lanier in “One Half of a Manifesto” suggests that while hardware, according to Moore's Law keeps getting better in a predictable, logrythmic way, software tends to develope slower and at erratic paces, often creating compound problems as it gets more sophisicated itself not to mention when it collides with the march of harware and creates bottlenecks.

The opposite problem exists in human historical achievement. Human harware is relatively fixed compared to the leaps in human software. Human mentation has advanced and far ourtstipped physical human developement, the "very slow" evloution that Lanier mentions. In the later decades of the last centry it became possible for humanity to completely destroy itself with technology. While this might be an indication of our software evolving faster than our hardware, it is probably more of an example of something that Lanier does not mention: human ethical development is also apparently subject to the same "very slow" evolution as human physical evolution.

I find Lanier's argument convincing and Joy's (why the future doesnt need us) argument to be a masterful paranoid fiction that should be made into a few more movies like the Terminator, Matrix or the Star Trek Borg episodes!

Lanier makes sense but forgets to mention the other doomsday factor: the laggardly progress of human ethics.

Sheesh! Who wants to be imortal in a world where processors are fast, software is many generations screwed up and humans are still the same bickering little monkeys they have always been.

However that does raise some optimistic possibilities in support of the "hundredth monkey" theory. With immortality, a hundred monkeys, at 100 keyboards typing for a hundred years might create a manifesto for ethics that could advance our civilized qualities in pace with our ability to create uncivilized uses for technology that might lead to our extinction. However since physical evolution is so "very slow" the best we can hope for will simply to be immortal monkeys with a really good ethical document to fight about, and really lethal tools to use in the fight since it would take another million years to evolve into something other than monkeys.

Faster monkeys, type faster....!


Monday, October 30, 2006

In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right....

In reference to the earlier post regarding WDS
Here's a link from today's NY Times:

In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right....

Further Indication of Ideological Slippage and the Purplish State of the Democratic Party

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Scant Obligatories - The Soul of Man under Socialism

From the start Oscar Wilde (OW) displays his famous penchant for paradox by asserting “undoubtedly, that fact that Socialism would relieve us from the sordid necessity of living for others…”. The root of the word socialism is social and all the definitions of the word specifically refer to the relationship of the individual to others. This would seem to be a certain contradiction in terms, and a deliberate one. Adding “ism” to the end in modern times evokes the dominant meme of Marxist ideology, which even if it was relevant wouldn’t solve the obvious contradiction in terms that OW creates in the first sentence of his “mini-festo”. Doesn’t Socialism always directly relate to living in a social environment, with the same “others” that OW finds to be a sordid necessity? He further suggests that it is possible, even necessary for the supreme artist (developed individual) to live “under the shelter of the wall” which I take to mean, apart and alone from the community, certainly a recurring Anglo Saxon adolescent fantasy. There’s no getting away from people and even walls don’t help.

Much of the ironic beauty or OW’s argument comes from the way he embeds opposite ideas in the same sentence, like juxtaposition of unlike images in a cinematic terms. Wilde combines literary images the way Eisenstein combined pictures next to each other to bring about new concepts in the viewer’s mind not suggested by either image alone. While this is necessary and desirable in film making, in writing, any benefit of this technique is hard to separate from the obvious contradictions.

And there are so many contradictions per sentence in OW’s essay that it is hard to keep up. For instance he goes on to suggest that “The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism….” when the opposite is true in Laissez Faire capitalist societies. Sure some people do give what they can, but one does not need to do a case study to know that the majority of people do not do so to an “exaggerated and unhealthy extent”, not even in Victorian England. In fact when one thinks of Socialism one thing most people assume is that Socialism is supposed to be a social safety net where the state might be accused of this very same altruism that OW suggests is injurious to a class of people he likely knew little about: the poor.

Wilde blames private property for the ills of society and the fact that we are not all fully self-realized individualist artists. So far so good, but then Wilde suggests that the rich are the true victims of private property because of its endless bother and because “property has its duties” I think here he borders on the absurd. Of course it makes perfect Wildeian sense to suggest that the rich might somehow be persuaded to give up material advantage and embrace this odd Libertarian Socialism to get away from their unfair and overwhelming burden. Dream on Oscar.

However, between ridiculous and deliberately provocative statements OW sometimes makes sense and focuses in on his real topic and seeming goal of the essay that is the realization of “the great actual Individualism latent and potential in mankind”. Here he invokes shining examples like Byron, Shelly, Browning Victor Hugo and Baudelaire as examples of true and fully realized individual personalities and suggests that if their “immense advantage” was taken away that overall individualism would be ” far freer, far finer, and far more intensified than it is now”. This sounds like the more familiar Socialism that endeavors to raise up the masses. OW makes reasonable propositions like the statement that “Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live.” in support of the abolishment of private property, but goes on to delve into the absurd again by using the flimsy underpinnings of Christian philosophy and twisting the words of Jesus to support his assertions. An example of this is suggesting that the true intention of Christ’s teachings was to compel his followers to realize their own individualism (“Be Thyself” instead of “Know Thyself”), when in reality Wilde’s version of individualism would most likely be referred to as sinful pride by most religious reckoning. Believers are not characterized as sheep in Christian myths by accident. However one can understand why OW might want to substantiate his thinking by conjuring favorable interpretations of the dominant deity of the age, but this is as far as he goes by way of citation aside from the offhand quote from Plato.

Wilde’s argument stands, for the most part on sheer wit and turn of phrase and sounds more like an op ed article than a serious philosophic paper (much like my own effort). His deployment of paradoxical thinking is fascinating and used to good effect to keep the ideological door open, not committing himself entirely in one direction or another. In a way OW uses literary misdirection to say things that might be interpreted as favorable by either end of the political spectrum. Therein lies the rub. While at first I was seduced by the sheer audacity of Wilde’s argument and the manner in which he delivers it, there are so many twists that I can’t be sure exactly if he is being serious or sarcastic in then end. My estimation is that the sum of Wilde’s argument in this case is closer to a mix of Libertarian Objectivism than any workable Socialism, and while I agree with the spirit of his intent to encourage everyone into fully realized personalities, I don’t think Wilde believed this to be truly possible.


The Weary Democratic Soldier (WDS)

Sheesh! Such a strong response to the devil's advocate position questioning the effectiveness of the Democratic agenda (is there one besides plodding resistance and hunkering down durning a bad storm?)!

Allow me to clarify the intent of presenting the most cynical of all viewpoints regarding the two party system in class (10-26). This viewpoint being the assertion that the Democrats aren't much of an alternative to the Republicans in American politics presently may be the chief obstacle to the optimistic participation of many otherwise liberal democratic (or swing) voters.

Voting for Clinton two times was the highlight of many WDS voting careers and it was a mixed joy to finally vote for someone who had the charm and intelligence to push back the forces of right wing, conservative, business as usual Republicanism. This lasted a whole 6 years and was only slightly tainted by the Clintonian penchant for selling little pieces of his (our) souls to business in exchange for political capital and further marginalizing the poor by coopting the Republican agendas in the area of welfare reform and military muscle flexing in Kosovo and other places.

Being a democrat in the white house is a much different thing near the end of the century. Instead of being blue or red, Clinton was a bluish shade of purple.

Purple alas, was not even good enough for the voting public after the Monica smear. Since the Clinton had morphed the meaning of "Democrat" further to the right in many ways (through some would say necessary compromise), and the conservatives had reframed "liberal values" of moderate voters as anti-american through long and calculated psychological/ideological media warfare, it was a slam dunk for the band of pirates that we presently have in office to appropriate the United States government for their own mix of neocon hegemonic policy and fiscal piracy. A little help from the Christians was all it took to totally skunk the loyal opposition for nearly 10 years and roll back 50 years of liberal reform.

To make this clearer, while I loved Clinton (and still do), he made it impossible for Gore (some would say a true blue) to get elected. Ralph's run on in 2000 didn't help matters, since most voters were not savvy enough to see Ralph's true blue roots recast as green in a climate of purple passing for blue. Sorry. I was trying to be clearer.

Nevertheless, I hope this explains why this WDS who has been voting his conscience for nearly 20 years might suggest that the present Democratic establishment might not really be as blue as they claim to be, regarless of the honest intent of having Howard as chairman, this also is a double edged sword that serves to blunt the edge of true blueness by effectively neutralizing (making unelectable) the one person (Howard) that might have had the spine to question the 2000 election results.

Do you think that Howard would have taken the "gentleman's" option that Al did in 2000? We will never know now that he is not a candidate.

Anyway, make no mistake friends and classmates, just because this WDS dares to question the "blueness" of the downtrodden, hopelessly ununified alternative to conservative business as usual, doesn't mean that I won't vote blue. I just wish the Democrats would wise up and welcome the greens and constitute a more blue-green and hence more powerful force to combat the blood reds.

Blue is not the antithesis of red in the spectrum of visible light OR in politics. And while there IS most assuredly a difference between blues like Barbara, Diane Nancy, Barak and Hillary and the present pirates, they have a long way to go to dispell the illusion that they will spend the taxpayer's money in better ways than the pirates.

Even if they do, the pirates have fixed it so any Democratic administration will spend so much time digging out of Iraq that they will be saddled for years undoing the mess if they take a moderate course.

Let's talk about how to dispell the "they're all the same" argument! Blues need rhetoric to dispell these notions and need to simply be more dedicated and unified than the opposition to win.

Faithfully Yours,

DC - A Weary Democratic Soldier

Readings for the week of 11-2-06

Katherine Hayles, “Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Weiner and
Cybernetic Anxiety”

Jeron Lanier, “One Half of a Manifesto”

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Essay 1

Nicole Ziedses des Plantes

The Promises of Monsters
The voices of the speechless

In life there are objects that are speechless, like a fetus and indigenous tribes that must be represented by someone
else in order for them to have a voice in life-changing debates. In the essay The Promises of Monsters, Donna Haraway says that these speechless objects “must be protected precisely from those closest to them, from their ‘surround.’” This would mean that the mother of the fetus should have the say in the decisions for its’ future, but what about the indigenous tribe? These people are already born and have been content in their non-technical environment, so we say. How do we know that they are content? Just because they haven’t been engaged in the technical, material world we live in doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be. There is an ongoing struggle about whether we should medal in the lives of the speechless, who will speak for them, and how far should we go. Each decision has its possible consequences; it just depends on which ones we are willing to live with, or without.
We think of the indigenous tribes as representing humans’ “natural” state of order, where they have an integral partnership with their environment. With this partnership they hold the position of the defender for the land, but because they are silenced from their indigenous language there must be another speaker. Haraway points out that “Nature legitimates the scientist’s career” so they are the obvious ones chosen for the actant role. This can be very dangerous though. Spivak (in Haraway essay) talks about how there are “the important things in life that we cannot not desire, but can never possess, or represent, because representation depends on possession of a passive resource, or silent object.” By having the scientist represent the land is automatically handing over the possession from the tribes to the scientist by default from language barriers. So we now know who is speaking for the land, and the tribes have a living partnership with the land, but does the scientist really care about what the speechless people want, or is the property the number one concern?
If the modern discoverers give the indigenous tribe a camera, it is their own decision on how they use the technology. By making these new materials part of their everyday lives brings them out of the “natural” state of objects where we have classified them under. The more we give them, the more we are trying to make them one of us (one of the same), and they will possibly lose the “natural” culture that many wish to preserve. They are people too, and we have no right to keep the world from them just so we can view this unchanging, natural way of life. If they could have a say, they would probably be very excited and curious about the new inventions introduced to them, and they could use them to make their lives easier, be more in-tuned with the changes going on in other places, and learn about things they haven’t dreamed of could exist, but in the long run they might regret trusting these foreigners.
When our technological society gives things to indigenous tribes, it is unfortunately less genuine than it appears. There is always a catch, we will give you this camera and these guns, and while you are distracted with our gifts, we’re going to have to take your land and build condos and hotels on it in return, and move your tribe somewhere else more suiting to us. Or if we are remarkably less greedy than we will give you these technologies and information and for a bonus you will catch a foreign disease, that your not immune to, and die. Out of all these negative outcomes Haraway points out that history should not be looked at by progress over time. That it is the “permanent and multi-patterned interaction through which lives and worlds get built, human and unhuman.” “Perhaps our hopes for accountability for techno-biopolitics in the belly of the monster turn on revisioning the world as coding trickster with whom we must learn to converse.”
The speechless must rely on certain others to choose the right decision for them at that moment in time, and they must believe “that no thinking person can share in the destruction of anything whose value he understands.” Not being able to communicate to the person representing you, or not even know that they are representing you, and then being forced to trust them, leaves the speechless no power but hope.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

For next Thursday

Ates will be discussing an article by Annalee Newitz next week, "Genome Liberation"

I also assigned a piece by Michel Bauwens, "The Political Economy of Peer Production."

The pieces fit together in an interesting way and the discussion should be useful, especially since the idea of "peer to peer" comes up in so many of our discussions. This will be our opportunity to really dig in and think about that idea. The Michel Bauwens is actually an abbreviated version of a much longer piece, a kind of P2P Manifesto. I'm not assigning the longer piece, but for those of you who are interested in a deeper engagement with the idea I encourage you to read the longer piece.

I understand that there is a little confusion about due dates for blog posts. Just get posts in as you can. I've been too swamped to comment quickly on posts and I am sure that this has contributed to the confusion. Don't worry, we'll have everything back on track in a couple weeks or so. See you all Thursday.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

First Post

Thoughts on Authority

In his essay "The soul of Man under Socialism", Oscar Wilde argues that only through Individualism the full potential of Man can be reached. And that abolishing the concepts of "private property" and "authority" is the only way to achieve true Individualism. Although his views are quite subjective, he does not seem to contradict himself within his essay until he begins to comment on what an artist is, and how the public responds to art.
He starts with bluntly describing the public as a half-educated, novelty fearing, unartistic, vulgar mob. A mob that finds amusement in asserting authority over the free thinking artists by criticizing and insulting them. He adds that they do this because the artist is the ultimate Individualist. And that the mob cannot tolerate Individualism. He goes as far as say that:

"The world hates Individualism"

".... the popular novel that the public calls healthy is always a thoroughly unhealthy production; and what the public call an unhealthy novel is always a beautiful and healthy work of art."

However he does not blame the public for being as he sees them, he blames the "authority and property based social-political structure". Which he thinks brutalizes and corrupts the public. He explains that people become twisted under the pressure of authority and begin to find pleasure in practicing their own form of authority on the artist.
What is curious about his view is that he claims the public exercises authority on a subject (the artist) which has no authoritive power of its own. But does not try to explain why the public chooses the least powerful individuals of society to pick on. One would think the more natural response would be to concentrate on resisting the power that corrupts them to begin with. As Wilde clearly writes;

"Wherever there is a man who exercises authority, there is a man who resists authority".

In this case, the mob initiates it's judgemental pressure without provocation from the artist. Other then maybe personal dislike of the work of art. Which seems to me a very mild, easy to ignore kind of provocation. So why does this Mob attack the helpless and waste it's time and metal power? History has shown that the weaker commonly gets bullied by the stronger even if there is no apparent reason or gain to be made. But is it logical to attribute this human behavior to the existence of authority and private property? Or does it make more sense to blame natural human behavior on the existence of authority and private property? It's a chicken or egg situation. Since no one seems willing to be the first to give up their authority or property, we may never know the truth.
The most interesting part of Wilde's essay is that he himself writes very much like an authority on art among many other issues. He says;

"The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. He is to be a violin on which the master is to play. The more completely he can suppress his own silly views, his own foolish prejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be or should not be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question."

He clearly is being extremely authoritative himself, and insulting to the spectator. He sounds rather like a dictator, then a critic. Perhaps it's just his resistance to the pressure of authority he feels he is under. That he seems unaware of it even after all his reasoning on the harms of authority is hard to comprehend. Or is he aware? Is his he simply mocking the "Mob"? I'm not sure which is more troubling. In either case, his argument looses integrity. In fact his essay supports the idea that Man is unable to think about human relations without some kind of power consideration.

Uhhh What are the readings for next week?

Sheesh! My memory lasts about 30 seconds after leaving the class about the next weeks assignments! I heard that the reading might be posted and didnt commit it to memory.

So please, if you are aware of what we need to read for next week, please enlighten the dark corners of the blog with it.



Confused about paper due dates

Any chance we could have the actual due dates for the papers added to the syllabus, and/or posted here? I made my first post on the 27th of Sept., most people seem to have done the same, I assumed that the second posting would be due about now but it looks like most of the current posts are labeled "first paper" -- is the second paper due now, did the first count as a graded post, and if not, are there four or five papers still due, and when are the others actually due? Enquiring minds..............

Friday, October 20, 2006

1st Essay

In Donna Haraway’s essay The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others, she explores how the concept of nature is created through the understanding of science. She demonstrates this by deconstructing the contexts with which the visual or linguistic representation of the idea of nature depends. At the end of the essay, she concludes with the presentation of a painting by Lynn Randolph. I argue that this painting as the final illustrative example of her vision supports and questions her argument. I will demonstrate this by closely relating my argument to her definition of articulation and by relating it to her ideal ‘receptive posture’ that is both generous and suspicious.

Haraway’s idea of ‘articulated’ being is supported and illustrated by Lynn Randolph’s painting “Cyborg” (1989) in several ways. Her definition of articulation is to combine different things together, however contingent they maybe, visually communicated with this painting. The “articulated world has an undecidable number of modes and sites where connections can be made”(p. 325). Therefore, the world of articulate remains open to one another. The articulate signifies the powerful collective selves that does not exclude nor include things, as well as diffracting and decentralizing itself constantly. The existential question of the articulate remains open at all times. Similarly in Randolph’s painting, an interpretation by the viewer is open. No matter how the painting is executed or what the subject matter maybe, it still calls for vast array of possible definitions and interpretations. The “language is the effect of articulation” (p. 329), then the painting is the effect of articulation as well. The painter was driven by the need to articulate. The body has put different things together, for example paint, canvas and so forth to articulate this image. In a way, the painting best accompanies Haraway’s text about the ideal articulate being. But the painting remains as representation of human imagination. How can this mode of representation (painting) illustrate Haraway’s idea of rise of alternative optical device that is needed to break away the “womb of a pregnant monster” (p.295) to ‘elsewhere’? How can this formal abstraction, “Painting” with it’s often anthropocentric and masculine history best support her argument? I will now focus on the problematic aspect of the painting as an art object that conflict with Haraway’s argument.

Just as any advertisement needs a context to exist in, painting needs a context to exist. This context is often the gallery or museum space. It is not to say that painting cannot exist outside these spaces. They do exist, for example as murals in public space, or as a private collection in a collector’s living room. Nonetheless, this context is associated with the notion of the elite class, the wealthy, and the exclusivity within a society. How can Randolph’s painting best signify Haraway’s vision of the articulate world when the painting inevitably signifies the closed off human expression of the ideal vision? Haraway may say that the painting is the perfect example to illustrate her idea simply because it is the fusion of the painting’s masculine history and associations with it’s ability to produce a profound visual effect. In other words, it offers ‘optical device’ that would open up different modes of connectivity upon viewers. The interpretation maybe open at all times, but painting is not as ubiquitous as language is. It maybe the effect of articulation but it still gives the feeling of exclusivity. Moreover, because it connotes words such as high art, museum, preservation of human creativity, or value system that is conceived by the elites, it cannot best illustrate Haraway’s argument. A painting is a finished or completed surface that is presented to the viewers, which opposes Haraway’s idea of a being that remains open. Ironically, Haraway sees the figure in Randolph’s painting as a being that “is not finished” (p. 329).

A different problem of the painting is because it is a product of human expression, an anthropocentric object with which an image is rendered and presented. It is true that the painting may invite viewers with suspicion and generosity because it is understood as a ‘false’ vision, an illusion, or visual language, just as the readers of SF may approach the novel. But the feeling of suspiciousness is different with a painting. It extends to the suspicion of the class that produced the painting or the context with which the painting is situated or any other societal connotations it may communicate. If the context of the painting was discussed as Haraway did with other forms of visual communication such as Logic General Corporation’s or LKB’s advertisements throughout the essay, then the Randolph’s painting may have stood as a perfect vision that accompanied her text. The production of a painting may seem to come from a single person’s vision, but I propose that no single vision exists in a society because the creator’s vision is rather collective by living in a collective world where many different visual languages are formed and built. This maybe what Haraway was eluding to with the painting, but the problem of anthropocentric aspect of a work of art remains intact.

The way human beings experience paintings needs to be rearticulated, restructured, or ‘reviewed’ in order to illustrate Haraway’s ideal ‘elsewhere’. Perhaps paintings need to be experienced not as a work of art. Perhaps the formal elements such as the rendering of colors, the application of paint, or the way composition works will disembody itself from the context of art, and move towards the more sophisticated communication device. It may heighten the articulation and help form much stronger collective that no longer defends itself as a work of art.

Note: Donna Haraway, The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others, from Cultural Studies, eds by Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Paula A. Treichler, (New York; Routledge, 1992), pp.295-337.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Promises of Monsters: only the surface of a developing argument

To articulate, that is to decipher and to organize, involves an implementing of certain linguistic tools in order to structuralize and manifest an inter-dimensional idea. The term "Inter-dimensional", in this context, refers to the levels and subsets of interpretation that can be transcribed through a variant use of language and speech [These terms should not be considered necessarily separate, because even a written language externalizes the internal voice of another, and is further subjectified when it is absorbed and processed by the reader-and the reader's subjective voice in turn translates the original voice of the written word and transcends its primary meaning]. The purpose of articulation [the communicative devise between abstract thought and relatable dialogue (or visa versa)], is to organize information in terms of a subjective fashioning that attempts to relocate the perspective of the intended audience. This new orientation should then be subject to its own 'rules', that is to say that if a certain logistical and lingual universe has been manufactured in order to position the reader in a new direction, a shift in the framework of this experimental foundation can cause structural weakness. In other words, even Wonderland relies on the illogic of nonsense, and does not momentarily change rational gears due to the inconvenience of its own arguments.
The particularities of the linguistic universe proposed by Donna Haraway in The Promises of Monsters are intentionally disjointed, re-articulated and rendered specific to contextual positioning, however there are certain instances in which the underpinning [or more recognizable] themes of her arguments are neutralized and re-contextualized due to what could be interpreted as a slippage in the set of memes and transformative lingual apparatuses that originally supported her created universe. This is, conversely, only one possibility, and I am not necessarily interested in attempting to point to a series of possible flaws. I am more concerned with determining the motivations behind the supposed slippage, and to establish their probable significance in terms of the language vortex that has been crafted throughout Haraway’s work.

An argument over language becomes complicated when it is difficult to determine specifics, and in the case of The Promises of Monsters, there is a very purposeful muddling of language roles. The interference of developmental reactionary impulses is intended to be deactivated and modified in order to conceive [or, more appropriately, generate] a new interpretative space. Haraway achieves this constructed appropriation through the immediate re-negotiation of elemental terms and processes, immersing the reader in a meta-language that is actually only a re-activation of language already neutralized by almost impulsive associations. One of the terms that is continuously at the center of this reconstructed language is “nature”, a meme that is immediately re-oriented through Haraway’s opening argument that nature is a rhetorical, subjective construction: “…nature for us is made, as both fiction and fact. If organisms are natural objects, it is crucial to remember that organisms are not born; they are made in world-changing technoscientific practices by particular collective actors in particular times and places.”(297) She elaborates by discussing the spatial availability of nature as a place in which and through which we are able to traverse certain universal experiences. Through this deconstruction of nature, in terms of the physicality of the actual word as well as its interpretive uses, Haraway has provided the reader with a linguistic instrument capable of transcending typified impressions of what nature represents.

It is then an unexpected turn when nature is used in the following context, during a description of an advertisement:
“It has its paws on a keyboard, that inertial, old-fashioned residue of the typewriter that lets our computers feel natural to us, user-friendly, as it were.”(300) It appears, initially, that Haraway has unintentionally used the word ‘nature’ in the very context that she had been attempting to transcend, however I feel there are actually three possible arguments.

The first humors “accidental usage”, that Haraway inadvertently used specific terminology she herself had previously dismissed in the specific blemished circumstance described by her opening set of claims. This particular stance does not seem plausible or reasonable, only because Haraway is highly self-aware of language and its intentions, and it is doubtful that she would use ‘nature’ clumsily, after spending so much time discussing its definitive particles.

A secondary examination could be labeled “deliberate [re-enforced] usage”: The actuating of a new description of nature is based on the argument that nature is subjective and therefore can be articulated in terms of a self-sufficient definition of what nature approximates. In other words, in order to use the term nature, one only needs a decipherable description of how nature, as a space to be traversed, assists a particularized argument. If this is true, however, it requires a greater reading of the surrounding text, which will be discussed at a later point in this essay.

Finally, there is a “deliberate [self-critical] usage”. Nature is employed as a preverbal spike that pierces the surface of Haraway’s argument and problematizes her claims in order to force the reader to re-associate and determine on an individual level how language is utilized. If it is true that Haraway uses nature “incorrectly”, perhaps she is only attempting to make the reader aware of the crux of her argument, that nature is not this [as it is exemplified], but is a word that connotes a topical area of commonality and discourse.

I offer these options because I have not fully determined if any one of them is necessarily accurate, however the secondary argument appears to have a more linear, articulated connection to Haraways original argument, and so for the sake of simplification, I will continue on this trajectory. If we accept that the usage was deliberate, and in fact aided Haraway’s argument, then why did she choose the context of the typewriter and the keyboard?
Because they are intrinsic to language and articulation: Typing is a physical, external actuation of an internalized dialogue that is rendered through the organization of specific, recognizable symbols. It mimics the fundamentals of articulation as described earlier; it is a tool for interpretive recapitulation of abstracted thoughts. The conjuring of words is the construction of individual characters in a pre-determined order, the typewriter and the keyboard acting as an extended manifestation of the relationship between the Thought and the Word. It is a contemporary extension of text and composition, an evolution of writing practices and interfaces, and is therefore acceptable as a ‘logical’, progressive step. Additionally, it is ‘natural’ because it is a shared, universalized experience of language, a space that provides room for endless interpretive measures through a simplistic set of actions. A keyboard is the uniform apparatus through which we are now able to interpret language, just as its predecessors created a similar space for the formation of interpretation.

Conclusion? This argument is open ended. It is such a small part of a much larger monster [pun intended…ouch] that it feels inappropriate to produce a formalized concluding statement. Yet. The properties of language are tangled and knotted so absolutely by the core of this discussion that to begin unraveling it would require a greater length, deliberation, and analysis that cannot be summated in two pages. I intend to continue this process.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Sitting in the waiting room for my sister to come out of sexual reasignment surgery with my computer on my lap..."

In Slavoj Zizek's text, "No Sex, Please, We're Post Human!" the author asserts that when "sexual difference" is abolished, “a human being effectively becomes indistinguishable from a machine." I will argue against Zizek's claim, by stating that the destruction of sexual differences will make humans stronger, more real as well as individual. In doing so I will uncover Zizek's conservative views on sexuality; as well as point out the inconsistencies throughout his text.

Zizek seems to confuse (or is confused about) the working definition of “sexual difference” in his essay, a term crucial to his formulation of the “post-human.” Introducing the term in his second paragraph, “sexual difference” is synonymous with “sexuality,” and by extension, “the passions proper” (i.e., “intense self-assertion,” and the potential for “destructive rage”). Once the sexual difference (sexual impulse) is itself abolished, he argues, the post-human is born, not tied down by his/her base passions. In this way, s/he is no different from a machine, and it is this “sexual difference” that makes a human human. However, in the very next paragraph, Zizek appropriates another definition to the same exact term. Citing Turing's “imitation game” experiment, “sexual difference” is here functionally what distinguishes “man from woman.” In the rhetorical question that launches the rest of his essay (“What if sexual difference is not simply a biological fact [this difference between man and woman], but the Real of an antagonism that defines humanity…?”), Zizek outrightly conflates the two definitions of “sex”: the man/woman difference, as well as the sexual impulse which, he argues, is the human essence. Thus, he delimits the sexual impulse (and the struggle of humanity!) specifically as a heterosexual one.

Zizek's narrow view of sexuality is evident in his title “No Sex, Please, We're Post-Humans!” Calling those who do not conform to one gender "post-human" mocks the true evolution of discarding gender stereotypes. There is a clear difference between sex/gender and sexuality but Zizek lumps them together in his title and text: "In our postmodern 'disenchanted' permissive world, the unconstrained sexuality is reduced to an apathetic participation in collective orgies..." Zizek's postmodern vision of the future there will be Post Human running around having orgies? However people are having orgies all over the world today. A fair amount of these orgies are heterosexual affairs. Gender is also a huge part in such an event, for many group sex parties are exclusively for hetero-couples and single or gay men are not permitted. There are also orgies were women are not welcomed. Zizek idea of the future's sexuality makes as much sense as the term 'ubersexuality':

The future of men, proclaim the authors, is "not to be found in the primped and waxed
boy who wowed the world with his nuanced knowledge of tweezers and exfoliating creams.
Men, at the end of the day, will have to rely on their intellect and their passion, their
erudition and professional success, to be acknowledged and idealised in contemporary
society. Called the '├╝bersexual'--a degree of greatness and perfection, an acknowledgement
that this is an evolved species of man-he is so perfect as to leave little margin for error
and fallacy.(wikipedia)

The human being will continue to come up with new ways of classifying their differences. Ubersexuality is just one example of self-representation. Religion, politics, and society effects one's sexuality.

In Zizek's text he contradicts himself by saying that the disintegration of sexual differences through virtual reality will abolish 'humanity,' and then states that it cannot lead to any pure "spirituality":

Along the same lines, is it not that, once the socio-symbolic order is fully established, the
very dimension which introduced the "transcendence" attitude that defines a human being,
namely SEXUALITY, the uniquely human to the pure spirituality, as that which ties him/her
down to the inertia of bodily existence? For this reason, the end of sexuality in the much
celebrated "posthuman" self-cloning entity expected to emerge soon, far from opening up
the way to pure spirituality, will simultaneously signal the end of what is traditionally
designated as the uniquely human spiritual transcendence.

If one operates outside of traditional notions of sexuality, be it in a virtual or real world, one transcends his/her own body as well as the stereotypes placed on him/her. Zizek calls this lack of transcendence "Enlightenment". How are these two states not one in the same, a true spiritual experience? For one can enter "virtual reality" or the web and view different worlds and lifestyles. Porn and its vastness allows for an individual who identifies with a certain sexual orientation to explore and visually experience other sexual avenues. Virtual reality is not unlike one's own imaginings and mental fantasies, and can be used to transform someone out of a rigid idea of sexuality.

Finally, Zizek's description of the Gnostic transcendence which sexuality in the postmodern age affords us is in direct conflict with his earlier portrayal of society's “postmodern 'disenchanted'” attitude toward sex. He cites advancements in technology and communication (cyberspace, virtual reality) to support his claim that sex in the cyberrealm can, paradoxically, return the individual to a very real, heightened bodily awareness. He writes:

Cyberspace thus designates a turn, a kind of "negation of negation," in the gradual
progress towards the disembodying of our experience (first writing instead of the "living"
speech, then press, then the mass media, then radio, then TV): in cyberspace, we return
to the bodily immediacy, but to an uncanny, virtual immediacy.

This transcendent sexuality between a person and his/her computer is a far cry from his earlier description of the “apathetic participation in collective orgies” which define postmodern society's sexual attitude. Zizek should go back and read Brecht, in his text, “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication,” Brecht wrote about the radio transforming into a tool for communication: "That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him." (52)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Christos Kotsovos 1st Post: Declaration Of CyberSpace Independence


I found it quite charming to think that ten years ago the internet was this forbidden dark continent, that only AOL knows its dark and magical secrets. A time when 56k was ground breaking, when the Film HACKERS gave us a hip underground look at the secret world of computer hackers. That the notion of easy access to all once hidden sexual taboos are now available for everybody to see. That saying a curse words on a chat room was considered, outrageous, and blasphemous, even by AOL standards.

Looking back on it now its almost comical that signing a bill into law that limited restrictions on the internet, was just as fruitless as trying to catch a stray 457. bullet with you bare hands. You think its going to stop it from affecting another individual, but it will pass through anyway regardless of what you do. Like a glass of water spilling out everywhere, this once controlled medium is now a free floating entity that is not bound by any region or nationality and continues to grow. With a few trillion pages an counting, this un-stopable juggernaut of sleaze, news, entertainment, and unfiltered content will only get bigger. Also you can't declare war on the net, maybe in a cultural sense relating to the issues of sexual politics, law, and religious views. But declaring war on the net is like, declaring war on jealousy. Sure it may sound like a vaguely half ass notion, but no one one will ever win.

I say the only damaging thing about the net to come out in the past few years, would have to be BLOGS. The ultimate source of hearsay and just crazy political bullshit that nobody gives a shit about. "Hey wait a minute buster brown, aren't you using a blog?" Yes because it is required for my class, and I have to give my "Honest" opinion. The only other person that can some up how I feel about blogs, is a social satirist name Maddox. . His site started way back in the year 1998, as an individual before blogs. Whose decided to mock everything and everybody that or anything that is related to pop culture. I leave you kind reader to ponder wether or not I will write another post in the near future.