Felix Stalder on Fri, 8 Feb 2002 09:06:52 +0100 (CET)

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

Re: <nettime> Vector, Site, Event

McKenzie Wark wrote:
> We no longer have roots, we have aerials.

Over the years, I have read this statement a couple of dozen times, at
least. After all, for quite some time, it was McKenzie's tag line, adorning
the emails he sent.

Every time I read it, I wondered, what is this supposed to mean? We no
longer have roots, we have aerials. It's not the "roots" and the "aerials"
that baffle me -- after all, the reference to our post-modern favourite,
"all that is solid melts into air", is well recognizable. While the play is
sly, there are some disorienting differences here.  Marx speaks of a
process,  McKenzie of a state. Imagine Marx writing: all that was solid is
air. Whereas Marx attributed this process an abstraction -- capitalism --
McKenzie personalizes the state, it's not the system in motion anymore,
it's us, plain and simple. We no longer are solid, we are air.

The real confusion, then, is in the words "we" and "have".

"Have aerials"? Does it mean "will have aerials" in sense that we are in
the midst of a historical transition whose outcome is already obvious to
the truly seeing eye?

Or, does it mean "must have aerials" in the sense that we should go with
the program and adapt as quickly as possible since the world has already
changed but some of us have not yet realized it?

Or, is it really "have aerials" in the sense that we went through a
transformation, waking up one morning, not as a giant bug, but as a new
cultural species. The revolution took place over night and the simpletons
slept right through it!

I fear it might be all the above.  The show is already over and all we can
do is accept the outcome, not without having pointing out to us that we
were asleep during the juicy parts.

But, then again, who is "we." Is it a royal "we", really meaning "I"? Then,
perhaps, it's Kafka after all. I no longer have roots, I have aerials. A
horrible discovery, one morning in the bathroom, the identity crisis hit.

Or is "we" some kind of humanity suddenly transformed, everyone at the same
time, in great collective experience. A cosmic techno-determinist
processing beyond class, beyond cultures, beyond gender, we are all one.
Teilhard De Chardin must be smiling.

Or, perhaps, "we" is us, people who spend time in front of a computer,
reading and typing messages that circulate through the noosphere.  But why,
then, is even the tiny nettime universe fragmented into at least 5
different lists? Other than this one, they are all for people who want to
write and read in their mother tongue. Or are there many non-Romanians on
nettime-ro? If nettime-ro is indeed for Romanians, in what sense, it that
opposed to being rooted.

Now I'm getting really lost. A few minutes ago, I thought I knew all about
"roots" and "aerials" and suddenly, they get confusing too. Are they
opposites? Do "we" "have" either "roots" or "aerials"? Or are "aerials" an
extension of "roots", a McLuhanite tretadic reversal?

But I think I'm going down the wrong track here. It's like researching the
etymology of Pepsi. In the end, it doesn't really matter what it means.
It's all about branding, the arbitrary connection of a commodity to an
otherwise meaningless signifier for mutual enhancement. Magic, somewhere,
up there in the air. That's what we need aerials for. I want some too. Can
I have them x-large?

Les faits sont faits.

#  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: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net