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 'übersexual'--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.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Adam Day post

So, I had some questions concerning the deceleration of Internet Independance...

To lay the ground work we must define what the Internet is. We all know that it is not what the good senator thinks, a series of tubes that carry information to and fro. It is a series of computers set to transmit and receive data through general protocols. The infrastructure was set up by companies either laying fiberopicital cable or utilizing existing phone or cable systems. All of which took major time and money. But in reality the Internet is a service that we as consumers pay for. It is a product. However, unlike all other products on the market the Internet is the only one in which it's the consumers who have the power to define and change it. So what are we(the internet L33T*) hoping to gain from this kind of legislation? It's easy to say that we want freedom in all it's glory across the net. But who are we to define the product this way?? True our money from paying phone and cable bills, along with our desire for more technology, has motivated these companies to create such a beast but it is still a child of these companies. Now I know what your thinking-'Wi-Fi has changed that.' or 'I pay for Internet service and have created my own personal site, isn't that what we hope to achieve?' Sure, Wi-Fi has given more access and those who create personal sites expressing personal views is great but lets not forget the reality that the net is being used as a major marketing tool. Ask yourself this, how many pop-ups/banners/ads do you see during your daily/weekly/monthly excursions on the net? ActivMedia reported that revenue from ecommerce would reach 1.8 trillion by 2004! 2004! That was 2 years ago and more money was being made than most countries GNP! If that t in front of that rillion has anything to say it is that ecommerce will continue until bust.

So where does that leave not only the L33T but the average Internet surfer??? Well, the surfer, generally defined as those with limited knowledge of the Internet and are mainly email checkers and online buyers. L33T(look down at the bottom of the page is you don't know what this means...And no I am not trying to sound more important than you) are the ones looking for free access to info. AKA hackers and the like. These are the ones who want their country and eat it too. I understand that they don't want government legislation passed prohibiting exchange or access to info. Meatspace laws don't apply to cyberspace...or do they??? What about Internet stalkers? Child porn? ID theft? Privacy hacking? VIRUS!!!!!!!?????? Sounds pretty apocalyptic huh? Well we as a social net society have defined it up to this point and will likely continue to do so. Yeah, soooooo I don't know......AURBRB2U....noob.


*Leet (1337) is a sociolect variety used primarily on the Internet, particularly in online games. The term itself is derived from the word Elite, meaning “better than the rest,” and generally has the same meaning when referring to the hacking skills of another person.
Leet can be defined as the perturbation or modification of written text. For example, the term leet itself is often written l33t, or 1337 and many other variations. Such perturbations are frequently referred to as “Leetspeak.” In addition to modification of standard language, new colloquialisms have been added to the parlance. It is also important to note that Leet itself is not solely based upon one language or character set. Greek, Russian, Chinese, and other languages have been subjected to the Leet variety. As such, while it may be referred to as a “cipher,” a “dialect,” or a “language,” Leet does not fit squarely into any of these categories. This article primarily concerns the English Language variant of Leet.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

First paper


Walking a Tight Rope
Brianne DeJohn

Jack, the psychic of our technological future! The abolition of all our normal everyday problems? Well, normal problems, maybe, but what about the weird problems that will arise in Jack's newly predicted anti-physical reality, the end of true human to human interaction, living life with robots or as robots?? What about the transition period from human to robot where everybody would be living so long that nobody would die and the world would become grossly overpopulated, causing innumerable environmental problems, but considering we will be robots we may be able to deal with the end of the world with much less dread. I am personally conflicted, I feel that while aging, cancer and other terminal conditions (aging is after all eventually terminal) are devastating to everyone involved, but if there were cures for all of the diseases which plague people, our world would overpopulate and we would, like they did in Marc Stiegler's essay “The Gentle Seduction”, have to find other habitation solutions (their solution, Singularity, which is absolutely undesirable). To add to the “physical” problems that would occur as people gain immortality there are the moral/ethical decisions that would occur concerning new medical cures. It seems that the Government would have to find other ways to get the money they are currently receiving for regular consumption of pharmaceuticals.
As the diseases that are currently plaguing us are cured, such as, alzthimers, heart disease, and cancer (to name just a few), the most immediate affect would be the lack of money the government will get for pharmaceuticals. This would mean that the “cures” would have to be priced high. People will have to put a monetary value on their lives, they could live but are faced with outrageous payments which prevent any hope of retirement (and for some people retirement is already a dream), and what about when you get a cure for one problem and then another one pops up, in debt forever which in the case of your death (which we may end up avoiding altogether) will then pass over to your children, everyone will be in debt forevermore. People will have to make the choice between fighting a disease with the possibility of dying, or getting a cure which would drastically change ones life style and with no guarantee that you wouldn’t need a cure for another ailment that may come your way. The high cost for cures will leave certain economical groups to die while the rich thrive, or maybe they don’t thrive. Maybe they are alive having bought the cure, but poor with no home but a street corner and a cardboard sign, and the next time a life threatening ailment comes along there is no way they are even considered for the cure, having spent all their money on the previous cure. Even the rich only get one chance. You have to choose between the prosperity of you and your children or your life.
On top of the monetary and ethical/moral problems associated with the cures, people will still die, but at a slower rate which would then increase the population, decrease land for plants and animals and increase the rate of global warming. My prediction is that unless technology finds a way to maintain nature amongst all of the unnatural elements with which we are destroying it (seemingly impossible considering there will be no place to grow or provide habitat for animals), the overpopulation will cause something to happen to the earth itself. When buried under so much concrete every inch of nature taken away, except maybe the most artificial kind in zoos and parks which could not possibly make up enough oxygen to satisfy all of the bodies, the world will find a way to cleanse itself ridding itself of the contamination, us.
There are so many problems, some predictable and others unknown, concerning the advancement of technology. I feel that this issue is like walking a tight rope where any unconsidered extreme decision could cause us to fall and break something that we cannot fix. “The Gentle Seduction”, however outrageous it may seem, poses in an extreme and rapid manner the ways that technology could change our lives. As we know changes that have occurred during the last century have changed life style drastically, but we are not yet living like the Jetsons and the future is an ever-changing mystery that will affect every living organism. Critical dialogue about technology needs to continue to be brought up about the advancements and prospective problems with alterable solutions. While “The Gentle Seduction” offers a disturbing and nauseating outcome, the many stages of transition from technophobe into a techno-junky exemplifies situations which we are currently facing. We want cures for horrible disease and I’m not saying that we should stop the pursuit because of overpopulation fears, but we need to consider the repercussions. Personally, I hope that we can maintain a physical world with physical interaction. However, She didn’t think she’d want Singularity either.

Monday, October 02, 2006

this is the reading for this week??:

there seems to be a scheduling conflict again, this is the reading we're doing for this week right?:

Slavoj Zizek, “Bring Me My Philips Mental Jacket
Slavoj Zizek, "No Sex, Please, We're Posthuman"