brian carroll on 14 Feb 2001 12:00:00 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Redux: 'Spatial Discursions' by Robert Nirre

 with all due respect to Pit, i find this article lacking
 for the same reasons previously brought up on discussing
 'there is no space in cyberspace'. if a paper's central
 position is called into question, i think most everything
 else can be assumed to be questioned, too. and in this
 case, it is cyberspace as a functional spatial-temporal
 'actuality'. besides all the fancy language, and the
 intellectualist bravado of the writing, trying to map
 point-line-plane(area) onto electromagnetic networks
 and debunk any connection between physical space while
 glorifying the tangibility of the point is highly suspect.
 for example, this statement:

> ____________________________________________________________________
> Article 92  13-02-01  Editors: Arthur and Marilouise Kroker
> ____________________________________________________________________
> Spatial Discursions: Flames of the Digital and Ashes of the Real
> Confessions of a San Francisco Programmer
> ================================================================
> ~Robert Nirre~

> The Illusion of Community
> -------------------------
> Cyberspace: a floating term with different images..,,
> But what is this, exactly? Clearly it
> isn't amenable to our spatial understanding. There is neither a
> physical nor even a conceptual space. There are places but nothing
> between them, no interspatiality; one navigates a sprawling
> agglomeration of webbed-together billboards, of insides without
> exteriors, of islands of hyperdense information adrift on
> etherealized seas.

 this is a typical clean-room view of the Internet/WWW. fish-in-
 fishbowl effect. what is an electron, say? or copper wires?
 or electric and telecom distribution poles? are there not the
 physical and spatial representations of the space and time
 transversed by electronic communications.

 while 'cyberspace' might be mythical, as a word, it is no
 less precise than the fuzzy logic used to try to debunk the
 issues people use it to address, such that there is a spatiality
 to computer networks. open any network computer magazine and
 look at the centerfold networks. wireless and wired. nodes
 and servers and printers and workstations, local and globally
 connected via what- nothingness, as says the author, or a
 spatial-and-temporal network of wires and fibers, satellites,
 dishes, and microwave repeaters and towers.

 next time if he follows the connection between his computer
 and the rest of the world beyond his power plug and switch,
 he might see there's a whole physical network of electrical
 artifacts which directly contradict his central thesis.
 if there is no `space' in cyberspace -
 how can there be any `time' in nettime?

 if we follow the author's logic, then these statements would apply:

 Temporal Discursions: Flames of the Digital and Ashes of the Real

 The Genealogy of Dead Time
 The Illusion of Community

 Predatory Software Controls

 The End of Nettime

 The Triumph of Networking

 the end of Nettime and Cyberspace are then described in
 this last section:

 The Triumph of Networking
 We began by watching space deform under the impact of transportation
 systems. What was important about this was not our typology of
 transformations but the fact that, regardless of these
 transformations, the end result was always a conceptual plane -- a
 space on which the subject and objects could be located, and across
 which they could move. We can consider this the organizing principle
 of spatiality.

 We can oppose this to the organizing principle of networking. Here
 there is neither location nor movement, but only connection. Our
 hypothesis is that this principle is superceding the
 former; that the large-scale systems we compose are progressively
 migrating to it, and that we are adapting as well. If we have a
 thesis, it is that this movement of transition and adaptation is the
 central dynamic of our time.

 We chose the term cyberspace to interrogate this movement -- as
 proposed originally to examine a moment of atavistic longing
 for spatiality, and as currently incarnated to establish
 the ramifications of its absence. We claimed that spatiality
 serves functions which are absorbed into systems as
 it deteriorates. And we concluded with the thought that it is more
 natural as well; and thus, to a certain extent, this transition
 represents a loss.

 But this is a rather wishful coherence to attribute to our
 wanderings, and these are heavy claims to erect on
 the flimsy framework we've thrown together. We shall have to regard
 them as tentative. We examined distance and space from various
 angles; nothing more.

 networked space, while paradigmatically different, still exists
 in traditional space. traditional notions of space are unlikely
 to disappear, just because another version of interpretation
 appears. and it is not completely set-apart from traditional
 space, but in some sense, extended from these notions. any look
 at the history of cartography or any discipline will show the
 connections between paradigms, however different. this text,
 instead of challenging the mythical dimensions of 'cyberspace'
 instead promotes the mythic dimension by making it non-spatial,
 which it might appear to be from some myopic vantages. seeing
 cyberspace, computer networks (tv,radio,phone+) as spatial opens
 up their connection to the electrical infrastructure, to wars
 for energy, to global warming, pollution, energy inefficiency,
 their role in the economy, in national security, et cetera.

 being from San Francisco, i'd imagine the writer would have
 realized the connection between his computer and the rolling
 blackouts threatening the state from the 'non-spatial' network
 he writes from within. 33 million people share that cyberspace,
 but he apparently does not exist within it. "See - theory!"

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: