Saturday, February 22, 2003

Beyond the market

Oh, I do love the work of Happy Tutor at Wealth Bondage; a weblog based on the insight of the co-optation of democracy by persons of wealth and by business interests. Democracy has to be discussed, not just the self-regulating market. I could not agree more.

It is rarely discussed though.

The idea of connecting networked democracies to blogging and democracy is an inspired one.

I had suggested this model once to those people working in the Murray-Darling Basin to bring about more sustainable practices. The idea was that we each had a weblog and conducted a conversation across the basin on how to claw water back for the Basin's rivers and to figure out how we were going to cope with the impact of the clawback on various communities in the basin. It would be open and accessible to others to follow and comment and so break down the elite nature of the current structures. More democracy is needed here I said; one centred aound regional catchments in the basin. It was a way to get around the secretive workings of state governments.

The suggestion fell on death ears. So I will be following the work of the Happy Tutor with great interest.
Nodes links and power

If the bloggging world is a systems of links then there are circles within that system. Circles of people with similar interests and culture. Sometimes these worlds overlap as indicated here here in Synchronicity & Collaboration and in the emergence of ideas in different placeshere

But it is more than overlapping because the system of linkages is also a network of power. You sense the operations of power as you follow the overlapping trails, especially if you are newly arrived in the blogging world after being an exile on main street. But power is not talked about much, even though its workings determine the hierarchical layering of the various linkages.

There is a very interesting article here about the power relationships involved in linking on the web.

Jill Walker says that ' Links have become the currency of the Web. With this economic value they also have power, affecting accessibility and knowledge on the Web.'

I can get that argument. Its the power networks that wound. All the nodes in the system of links are not equal. All the different circles or worlds within the system of links are hierarchically related.

The critical humanist perspective, if it still has any currency, would start from the human suffering of a damaged online life. It would help to ease the pain so that we don't end up wandering naked on the beach alone looking for a modern day Lear.
More weeping wounds

My partner's judgement on the impact of blogging on our relationship---'It's squeezed and shortchanged.'

It was said over morning coffee at Victor Harbor after doing the shopping whilst watching the sea mist roll in. There was very little wind, it was quite muggy and the rain was still around after 36 hours of constant rain. It was soft, soothing and magical for those who live in a state that normally sees no rain frm November to April. Of couse, Melbourne has more angst about it all, if we accept the insights of Boynton. But that's Melbourne. It has its image of depth to keep up doesn't it. Sydney is all glitzy surface. Melbourne throbs with passion and intellectual grunt. It is the keeper of the soul of Australia.

Squeezed and shortchanged! How about that?

I had no reply. Other than to agree with the judgement.

The poodles continued to keep a sharp on eye on the guys playing touch football on the reserve across the road. I remembered the words of an old song about feeling torn n' frayed and having seen much better days. The mist moved in.

Time to move on. Other things pressed in. The poodles wanted their lunchtime walk and games on the beach near the mouth of the Inman River. Then the garden required lots of work. Then it was a poodle hunt the rabbits walk around six.

So little time. Squeezed and shortchanged. It's how I live my life. Its why the wound continues to weap.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Wounded bloggers

Why do I feel wounded through being online? Online is good. Its full of new creativity, such as inflect. (Thanks for the link vlog.)

I'm wounded because the online existence is a disembodied one. I am just a talking head interacting with other talking heads in an online community. I don't really like being an extension of the computer --a sort of virtual cyborg, or hybrid of machine and organism, living an online existence. I feel that the internet is reworking my human existence---my mode of life and subjectivity, even though I embrace the experimentation of active participation, welcome digital media, find the new ways of story telling amenable, and enjoy the online news services and online radio. Yet I am a nodal point in the new cyber order of things.

And the new order of things is? This is a good description from vlog. Adrian MiIes mentions Google buying Blogger and says that Google is the first search engine:

"that understood the web as a system of links and that these links, what expresses connection between parts, is the major semantic, structural, thematic, and commercial economy of the web. that is it is the first large search engine that treats the web as its native habitat, rather than bringing flatland values to the problem of data, indexing, and retrieval."

That's spot on. I do not want to surrender to the flow of things in the network society. I want to dig my heels in as I slide ever deeper into postmodernity and lose my modernist self in cyberspace late at night ---what Boynton calls "leap-blogging, following a link about...links and link-blogging." I sense my own inadequacy and do not know how to recast it amidst the derivative, banal and junk of the culture industry.

I feel like a stranger in the new mediascape and the old and familar embodied existence takes on an extravagent and exaggerated quality in my everyday life. I feel homesick for the world retreating into history as the network society because the normal, then estranged from the normal even as I embrace it.

Hence the sense of being wounded.

Maybe I just have the romantic sickness of being the outcast from the new? Somehow I don't think so. This is where Boynton ended up freegorifero. The talk here is:

"Nodes always compete for connections because links represent survival in an interconnected world."

Thats me. A node in a systems of links. Competing for survival with other nodes for links. Oh, God. Its full-on neo-Darwinism. My wound weeps from the fang bites in my flesh.

Let me return to the comfortable world of surrealism. Or maybe I should forget all about my sexual embodiment and have my therapy at the Identity Machine of Machine Corporation.
Have a look
A new Oz blogger is on the scene. well, he is a Kiwi living in Australia doing a PhD. Hey Ken, thats what I did. Good on you. But I haven't been back since.

Check out the work of Ken Miles-on science and politics. Good links on global warming. Good to have a different voice in the Greenhouse debate. It was getting a bit stale in the OZ blogworld.

Its a nice read too. But he's not really Ken.

I hope we get some weblogs on what is happening in New Zealand 'Ken'.
Webloggers as pure beings

Once upon a time in the good old days before there was a free market artists hardly acknowledged the laws of the marketplace. They lived off the good luck of their autonomy and cared naught for the commodity character of their art. They were born free, and life was alive because of their purityand capacity to express the unspeakable horrors.

Then they were mugged by the reality of earning a living in the market. Thery wil filled with rage, were wounded by the mugging and despised their own degradation. Eventually they became resigned to the reality of the marketplace, dumped their illusions and went after the dollars.

And who has replaced the pure romantic artists of yesterday? Why its the webloggers of today.

They have snuck through the backdoor when no one was looking and taken up residence in an online way.

When are we going to be wounded from being muggged by reality?

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

dark time

Feeling a bit jaded. I checked into lw at In a Dark Time and was pleasantly suprised to find some good old environmentalism here and here and here.

Its good to see green in a dark time.

And this photote by Emese Gaal eases the pain of a damaged life and a fearful heart.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

For Ken and Rob

There is a bit of a debate going on here and here over the Iraq war, utilitarianism and morality in the OZ blog world. Here is my irreverent contribution.

This morning, whilst driving through the city, after dropping the dogs off at the poodle parlour, I noticed an old placard, lying up again the fence of a private girls school. It said 'Enlightenment Rules, Eject Saddam'. Or at least that is what I thought it said. It only caught my eye and the traffic was heavy. Everyone was eagerly rushing to work to take on the challenges and tackle the opportunities that would present themselves.

Morning certainly brings a sloughing off of our dreams.

I recalled what I had learned in the liberal university about the Enlightenment--well, picked up the code because it was never really taught. It was the big duality: enlightenment versus irrationalism. Enlightenment was identified with progress; irrationalism with Romanticism; progress with Anglo-America; reaction with Germany. The former was good and the latter was bad.

Recognize the cultural code in the present; the way it maps the war with Iraq? America (+ Britain & Australia) as the bearers of enlightenment, progress and goodness versus Germany as the bearers of irrationalism, reaction and evil.

And the French? Well that were once the good guys cos they believed in rationality and science. But they were 'sus ' cos they were rationalists not empiricists, according to the official history of philosophy as it was written by the English analytic philosophers. Being 'sus' became wobbly, then the fall with existentialism and the embrace of absurdity. So they had effectively decamped. Sided with the Germans.

What was never recognized by the defenders of civilization in the liberal university was that their much vaunted reason had, with the automation of the Enlightenment, been transformed into a purely instrumental reason that was based on subjective morality. They were proud utilitarians and so were blind to the deep connection of an unleashed subjective instrumental rationality of desire and the tendency to totalitarianism.

Aaah, but the romantics did, even though were supposed to have retreated to the Middle Ages. They recognized the fairy tales and myths about an enlightening reason; they saw the cult of the given; they put the finger on the gathering barbarism of a liberal culture; they saw the destructive violence of reason and its indifference to the road kill from progress.

I know that my two bobs worth won't help the debate between Rob and Ken, but I thought that they needed a little nudge about the nihilism inherent in their beloved utilitarianism.

Monday, February 17, 2003

A dream

I had a dream last night. I cannot remember very much about it. I do recall myself as a young boy from Clare who had just turned 19. I was off to war in Iraq to fight the evil enemy. I cannot recall why I vaguely remember some military instruction about defending civilization against its enemies. Anyhow we had a date with the Butcher of Baghdad and we were running behind time.

I was on the road to Baghdad as part of the automated Enlightenment machine. I could not rememberer where we set out from--- Turkey, Jordan etc. What stayed in my mind was the burnt out wrecks of tanks littered the desert landscape and the villages with corpses lying around, which had been destroyed by the planes and missiles.

It was all seen as just so much road kill taking out anything that moved including women and children. Collateral damage. We were just following orders.

Thats what upset me the most. Roadkill. I woke up.

It was morning.

Now here is someone with real courage who will literally travel the road to Bagdhad. Christopher is an independent journalist going back to Iraq to take photos and file stories of the war. He has a really good post on the a seminar with the Iraqi opposition Iraqi opposition goes for the heart and what they envision in Iraq after the war.

There is an interesting post at the above weblog on Water and Enlightenment dreaming. It is long---a bit of an essay really. It is an attempt to confront the rupture in the tradition of the critic and the public culture, and to engage in a renewed public criticism from an ecological perspective by addressing water politics in Australia.

I always liked this guy's music. I reckon he was always ripped off by the white rock and roll groups and recording companies. So does Bo Diddley.

It is a good long interview. Have a read when you have a moment.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Back in Adelaide

I drove back to Adelaide yesterday afternoon from Victor Harbor in the old Kombi. It was a still, muggy day and it had been raining in the morning.

I heard this song on the radio of a MG sports car driven by a punk whilst waiting at the traffic lights. I thought of the friends I once had in the university.

'Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can't help but wonder what's happenin' to my companions,
Are they lost or are they found, have they counted the cost it'll take to bring
All their earthly principles they're gonna have to abandon?
There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.'

The lights changed and we made our way to the southern expressway in the the city. A white Mercedes sports car glided past.

I thought about the American war machine as an automated Enlightenment and the carnival of protest marches across the country.
Life in the ruins

If you think I' ve been too negative about the condition of the humanities in Australia (living amidst the ruins) then read this quote. It is not about Australia, but the description fits.

" could argue that the Humanities, to personify it, has become a pathetic, hobbled, snivelling, shrunken, obsolete creature barely able to scavenge its daily nutrition from the back alley scraps that the university system tosses to it, condescending to keep it alive. It is permitted to live in that alley on the outskirts of the university: the other schools, and society in general, know the Humanities is too enfeebled and too intimidated to venture forth into the broad thoroughfare of the practical--that is, the 'real'--world of commerce, science, and material production. During the day, this emaciated outcast hovers at the street end of its alley, where upwardly mobile people carrying cell phones, laptops, stock portfolios, and the keys to fancy cars can see it, a spectre reciting Latin rhetoric or Jacobean poetry to itself. It holds a bone in one hand and a worm-eaten book in the other, a volume for elitists only, like Ruskin's The Stones of Venice or Petrarch's Sonnets. Perplexed by the pace of life, the Humanities watches the passers-by and tries to engage some of them in conversation--its sole form of beggary--as if seeking not only to impart a lesson to them, but also to glean insights into the current state of mass-mentality society, where conformity, despite all kinds of lip-service about individual expression and equal opportunity, holds sway. Some of these citizens stop and humor this moth-eaten vagabond, giving him the charity of a few minutes out of their busy, money-making day. But they are quickly on their way, hurrying to their 'place of business.' And business, even when bad, is always good."

The quote is from an article by Steve Hamelman, called 'The Terminator-Scholar'. It is published in Nasty (Issue 13) and can be found here.

That expresses my sentiments nicely. It states how I felt when I was working in the humanities as a philosopher. There was no future. It was as simple as that.

What I found most distressing was the rupture in the tradition of the critic and the public culture in which the academic spoke as 'the conscience of liberal society'. Once the liberal university offered a space which belonging to the public culture. Through embracing the free market and the managerial imperatives of the corporate cultures the university now actively discourages public critical activity. The old liberal humanist tradition had disintegrated.

A renewed public criticism is most likely to come from outside academia:--maybe following the' return to the street' pathway that was mapped and travelled by Walter Benjamin in the 1930s, after he was rejected by the academy. The medium for this critical public activity is the essay.

For an academic exploration of this possibility can be found here. It leds to what Australians call public intellectuals