Friday, January 17, 2003

Digital being

The more time I spend working online the more I become aware of the formation of a new disembodied subjectivity within cyberspace. This subjectivity is being constructed from being plugged into our computers with their wired and wireless telecommunication networks. Nicholas Negroponte, of the MIT Media Laboratory, calls these existential modes "being digital", whilst Timothy Luke prefers the notion of "cybernetic subjectivity." These terms suggest that human beings are experiencing new forms of consciousness and agency through the online channels provided by computerized calculations, communications and codes.

The telecommuter, the hacker, the web surfer, the newbie, the weblogger, the hot chatterer or the on-line child pornographer all constitute new locations in/of existence for people to represent (or mispresent) themselves and others as cybersubjects. These locations of individual agency and identity provide new social roles to invent an online presence as a cyberagent engaged in cultural activity----exemplified in the public masks of many Oz webloggers.

The bandwidth constraining most network communications now more or less dictates that digital beings represent themselves and interact with others through a textual interface; though this will change as more visuals and video become ever more prevalent as people buy increasing bandwidth.

The current understanding of digital being veers back and forth between states of existence defined either by serious work roles or fantastic play roles. On the one hand, we have symbolic analysts in government offices or corporate firms working more on-line. Is the work future being marked by the highly mobile, symbolic-analyst tech workers, with their laptops and modems linked into their physical workplaces, performing new types of free, self-guided, pleasant labor at home, the beach, by the marina or in the mountains?What is increasingly clear is that 'digital being' is being sold---by the Wired Magazine crowd---as a liberated subjectivity that is able to go anywhere anytime and still stay within productive, efficient work relations.

On the other hand, the formation of cybersexual subjectivity can be thoroughly fantastic and playful. It goes beyond casual sex through Internet dating to hook up to a body to release their sexual desires as efficiently as possible, or an easy going familiarity with porn in a techo-world. Cybersexual subjectivity is a disembodied subjectivity, because physical bodies often do not appear in the online interface, digital sexual beings can choose to be male, female, young, old, heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, etc. even if they are not. They can be whatever they want to be. Virtual identity varies widely in cybersex, allowing anyone to do anything anytime with anyone or anything.

Some cybernetic theorists take this cybersubjectivity to an extreme conclusion of a digital human life beyond the body. Hans Moravec at Carnegie-Mellon University asks: why not transfer all of a living human being's memories, intelligence, agency, knowledge, and experience as sophisticated computer code onto chips or into software. In such a case, does a living human being become another kind of PDA--a personified digital data---a postbionic agent, or a disembodied humanoid digital being. The death of the human body is sublated by a new "brain life" in cyberspace as a cyberbiota.

The new forms of cybersubjectivity often take distorted forms. A recent example is pedophilia asociated with the child pornographer linked into child porn websites, such as Candyman or Landslide.

It is the practice of weblogging that takes me further into a cybersubjectivity, as I increasingly turn my innercity home into an electronic space and become a part of the information city. The publicity of the information revolutionists ----the computer makers, telecom providers, software writers, and network servers--- says that they are producing a better world out of the new social movements of technology. This is what sits behind the hard market sell of promoting "the information society", through selling personal computers, digital telephony, packaged software or network time. A better world? I'm not sure. What the information revolution is doing is creating the infrastructure for "cities of cyber-bits" with their own "virtual geographies."

But we are changing by becoming plugged into these technologies. Their revolutionary effects are changing individuals and institutions in unanticipated ways. The first signs of this from weblogging is the waay we behave differently: we spend more and more time online, less time with family and friends; we live strange hours, with not enough sleep; web turn more and more to being affirmed by the hits on the weblog and emails from our weblog readers, than the face-to face encountersof the past. Intimacy goes, friction develops, and those who remain on the outside of the cyberworld see it as a junk life they do not want to share. Conflict arises.

Increasingly, I find myself moving more and more of my current-day material, synchronous, co-located face-to-face interactions into cyberspace; increasingly I am moving towards using high-speed, large bandwidth networks so that I can engage ever more extensively in cyber-real, disembodied and dislocated screen-to-screen interactions.

These desires cost money, and I am now paying ever more amounts of money to phone companies and internet service providers to be free, civic or social. And I am will to shift my innercity home to the info-business districts so that I can accss more data flows in the information superhighways and participate more fully in the info-city. Increasingly, I turn my back on the urban spaces where the informationally-incompetent reside, and leave the cybernetically-obsolete in the dust.

I'm not sure that I like what is happening or what I am becoming.

Through weblogging about public things we are become cybercitizens who inhabit a communalized virtual space in their "info-city." Is this claim more than another public relations ploy by the digiterati seduced by high tech? Well, we new digital beings living in cybercities need to consider thoroughly the nature of this civic project. Is their a civic project?
Weblogging on public things that matter means that the info-city is not simply a shorthand for reinforcing the powers of an info-market or info-bureaucracy. We do have cybercitizens particularly amongst the young. Many of the older generation are withdrawing from public life to the family, coastal holidays and looking after the roses.

But what is not forming is a new social architecture to plan and develop a cyber-real estate for cybercitizens, or to facilitate the development of a new info-civics that organizes and criticizes the quality of info-civilized life in cybercitie. Despite the existence of cybercitizens the digital civics project is barely off the ground.

Though we may have a cybersubjectivity and extensive information network systems. we do not have a digital democracy.
Now this is interesting
Check this 'photography' out. It moves beyond classic street photography. I am impressed and envious.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Political junk-neocon

According to David Brock in Blinded by the Right the radicalized conservative attack machine was directed at destablising the Clinton Administration during the 1990s through a strategy of scandal, hamstringing a President with civil law suits, such as the Paula Jones one, disinformation and employing journalists as paid "assassins". The machine was driven by partisan revenge to ruin the Clintons and regain power.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Junk Fashion---Neocon

What was the dress style of the radical neoconservatives warriors during the Reagan years? Ever wondered? You know that deeply anti-Communist Washington crowd who wrote politically biased journalism yet marketed themselves as objective journalists; who polemicised on behalf of the Reagan doctrine of turning back Soviet gains in the Third World by financing proxy wars of insurgency; who agitated on behalf of "freedom fighters"; who saw the cold war as a global chess game.

These are the zealots who hung out with Pinochet in Chile, lauded free market economics and wrote pieces about authoritarian regimes evolving into democracies. They ignored the evidence of Pinochet torturing and murdering political opponents in the name of unquestioning devotion to the conservative cause in the free world.

Their sexual politics? Very familiar. Women were cunts; men who did not toe the line had no balls or were sissies, faggots or cocksuckers.

Their economics was about supply-side tax cuts for the rich and arguing that increases in social spending for the poor made their plight worse. They read books such as Charles Murray's, Losing Ground; Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education, Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, saw movies such as Tom Cruise in Top Gun and were in love with Star Wars ----Reagan's space shield against Soviet nukes. They were Reagan's court intellectuals who ran the important magazines and controlled the important right-wing foundations. Oliver North, who ran the supplies to the Nicaraguan contras from the White House basement in defiance of a congressional ban on US military aid to the contras, was their hero.

The dress code of these under thirty, rejuvenated cold war warriors fresh out of the universities was old fogey: wearing a bow tie and horn rimmed glasses, puffing on a pipe and carrying a walking stick. This was their code for bravely flouting convention, subverting the dominant liberal culture and trash the left. We can ask: Do the clothes of neoconservatism actually fit?

With a dress code like that in the 1980s it would be hard to take the young neocon warrior seriously. But it signifies something darker: a right wing cultural reactionary that is antigay bigotry, racist politics and sexism.

These then are the ex-liberals mugged by reality---the ones Australian conservatives, such as Christopher Pearson and Michael Duffy, make reference to in their denunciation of 1960s liberalism.

Junk fashion for junk intellectuals-----bumper sticker conservatism fueled by having an enemy and fighting a war. The new enemy is left liberalism and the war is the culture war. The old hate towards Communism is turned inwards, an enemy within the nation state is identified and the cold war is replayed for the soul of the nation.

This is a culture war. The conservatives have to take back their culture and country. The conservatives fight the liberals 'street by street' to prevent them from imposing their politically correct values on their homes, churces and families and to prevent the liberals from tearing down their sacred institutions.

Hence their war rhetoric of junk conservatism.
Blinded by the light

I'm going to enjoy this book David Brock's, Blinded by the Right, a tell-all dirt book by a conservative rebel, from Berkeley, California who has seen the light on the road to Washington.

It starts so well:

"This is a terrible book. it is about lies told and reputations ruined. It is about what the conservative movement did, and what I did, as we plotted in the shadows, disregarded the law, and abused power to win even greater power. (p.xi).

And it finishes good too:

"...the conservatives never for a moment considered whether they might have been out of touch with the mainstream American values they had always claimed to represent. Rather, they saw themselves as beleaguered victims of a malevolent political force---tricky lawyers, liberal pundits, and an all-powerful Clinton spin machine."

Ooooh. Am I going to enjoy this. Shining the light on conservative dirt will be a welcome relief from painting and working through the past.

I will post the juicy bits.Heres one.

Brock is talking about how, given the recent security threats to the nation, the decade's scandal mongering by the right appears outrageously disgraceful.

"As the tragedy ushered in a new appreciation of the role of government, the government-hating project of the radical right seemed to suffer a tremendous setback. Yet there was no denying that even in a grave national crisis, some on the hard right did not for a moment suspend their dedication to a zealously intolerant, hate-filled, religious-based ideology. It was sickening to see conservative commentator Ann Coulter call on America to 'invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.'"

After seeing Mike Moore's Bowling for Columbine, I can understand that this is no exaggeration.

Monday, January 13, 2003

No name post

These past few days I have painting my humble abode---the 1890s, innercity electronic cottage----to tart it up and place a fresh facade over the junk. It's all that those with no money can do to shape their lives to make them beautiful. I learnt this necessity from when I realised that I could not afford to have my own designer, and that youth had passed me by.

I got no help on this shaping my life in terms of the beautiful from the old book on aesthetics that I had. Nor was there anything there tabout understanding the beauty of the urban culturescape. This old scholarly text highlighted the limits of a liberal education. What I recall from that education was that it taught me to appreciate the ruins of historical buildings in Europe as a counterpoint to the ravishing of the earth by the pseudo-progress of the utilitarian market.

Whilst painting the cottage I have had time to think before the heat and the fumes got me. Afterwards, upon reflection, I realized that I had been thinking about historical ignorance and forgetfulness, puzzling about working through the past and trying to understand what all that means. Genocide the lefty historians say. Settler Australia pretty much wiped out indigenous Aboriginal culture.

Bloody hell I think while I scrape the old paint off the walls. That's equivalent to Auschwitz and the Enlightenment going off the rails. I sort of went blank. What do you do with that kind of stuff? How do you work through the meaning of that?

How can you shudder before one's national history when you are caught up the market dreams of the present? When everything is prehistory to the present moment of a now fashion.

Why the shudder? Is this not a time ruled by the hard gaze of an enlightened economics that gave us the truth but feared that truth would be sacrificed by progress. WelI, I could sense the terror in our history as a nation and shuddered. The shudder had me in its grip, I felt overcome by helplessness.

What was the shudder? What did it mean? How do we work through the past to make contact with the shudder of history ?

I don't know. How could I? I live within historical ignorance and forgetfulness, for I am dreaming about living a stylish life and having a house that would be featured in Vogue Living My thinking amounts to naught, since all I do is go round in circles.

But see here and here on historical ignorance. It helps.

Nothing there about the shudder of history though.

Back to scrapping and painting.
The blogroll
I don't buy books any more. Once, when I was an academic, I used to spend heaps on books and I had a small library. Now I buy one or two a year. Though I still read books I don't really have a bookshelf anymore. My books are all packed up in cartoons and stored away. I have just a few in a small bookcase acquired from trash and treasure stores called bookshops.

What replaces the books of the old-style academic is the blogroll or the links on this cultural criticism weblog. This is the online equivalent of the bookshelf that I once had in my home and work study. The blogroll, for me, is the interesting writings that I read and use for my own reference. I bounce off the work of others.

The blogroll includes those in the online community and it shows these others the kind of material that I dip into and read. It is part of who I am as a writer, and it enables others to understand the kind of person I am, and what interests me as a cultural critic/photographer.

This is a new world forming? Those who did not read books a decade ago would have be seen as uneducated, ignorant and barbarians. Nut not know? No? Well some think in the old categgories of high culture and mass culture and see a new world of cyber-barbarians forming. Thus David Brateman, an associate catalog librarian at Stanford Law School, writes:

"The new breed of digital illiterati exhibit a complete misunderstanding or indifference to the distinction between subscription and free online information as well as a chilling aversion to reading books. These "scholars" waste untold hours fruitlessly but insistently looking through thousands of Alta Vista search results, vainly hoping against hope that somehow all the right answers will tumble forth."

.... While we may deplore such practices, or smirk at them, the dangerous reality is that a new class of information consumer has arisen ... The inforamus is someone doing bad searches with an inadequate search engine in a morass of disorganized, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate information, and who is perfectly happy with the results. If, as the library literature suggests, trained reference librarians answer questions correctly only half the time, how do you think the inforamus is doing?"

This is affirmed, with God, yes yes by Turbulent Velvet. (This guy footnotes his blog!).

I knew it. I'm trash. All my lefty academic friends think that what I do is junk---its just not scholarship is it?
A change of rhythm

I heard this yesterday when the dogs and I went for coffee at some trendy, upmarket coffee place frequented by the fashion setters, designers and photographers who shape their style of life out of Vogue. We could only afford a coffee.

"Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?"

Bob Dylan 'Like A Rolling Stone' recorded way back in 1965 on Highway 61 Revisited.The verison I heard was by the Rolling Stones and it lacked the grit of the original.

Oh the memories of the present that haunt me. How do you recover a history when you live in a dream in the present?

Still, it better to live amidst style than junk. My whole life has been lived amidst junk. Lets face it, my 1890s working class cottage is junk architecture. I now want to surround myself with beauty and hang out with the crowd and live in the now.

I couldn't help thinking how much the traditional culture of the conservatives once emancipated from the market sphere of utility has now become a sign of conspicuous consumption and personal advantage. No apologies were needed here. No justifications were required.