TONGOLELE on Sun, 31 Mar 2002 22:45:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Plant's Cant

First, I thank all the nettimers who have weighed in with very sound
assessments of the fallacies and inconsistencies in Sadie Plant's
assertions about the so called Thumb tribe and her rather disingenous
response to my first post.  I will take a moment to briefly reiterate the
key points of both mine and my colleagues' arguments:

1. Giving a paid endorsement for cell phones the dignified title of
"research" is like calling mock documentary styled commercials for
anti-depressants paid for by pharmaceutical companies "information." If
American politicians were paid off by Enron to keep their mouths shut
about corruption it seems reasonable to assume that more than a few
corporations are quite good at finding and financing their spin doctors
and making sure they "look" respectable. Ph D or not, you sold your soul,
Sadie Plant, and you cannot claim objectivity when others who operate
similarly are called to task, and even taken to court.

2. Plant jumps to conclusions based on her observations that are both sci
entifically unsound and illogical. What was described as increased manual
dexterity of the thumb is not a genetic mutation but simply the result of
long term practice and exercising of a body part - many musicians evidence
similarly surprising dexterity. It could also be argued that the increased
dexterity was not even the result of the machine but of the exercise -
hence we could all make our thumbs do 500 push ups a day and end up with
the same capacities as the cell phone users. Plant appears to have fallen
prey to the kind of hype that "fab-ab" advertisers use, promising viewers
that this or that new fangled machine will finally enable them to lose
weight, look beautiful, or get a life.

3. Plant is nothing short of disingenuous in suggesting that there is some
equivalent between corporate sponsored technophilic narratives about how
the products we are encouraged to consume at ever increasing rates will
make us superior human beings (suggested in her views on how using cell
phones make us have better thumbs) and the reports of independent
organizations on the toxic effects of electronics on laborers. Such an
assertion borders on the immoral.  Her "studies" support the interests of
those who suppress the other information in order to maximize their
profit. In that sense her arguments are pro-globalization in its most
heinous form -- "progress" is to be measured by the questionable
appearance of an emancipatory effect of technology on a few, not the
outrageously unequal economic structure that makes a few trinkets
available to an elite while starving millions, or the abusive labor
conditions that destroy the lives of so many. Her work provides the
narrative of seduction for Motorola enshrouded in trendy rhetoric about
genetics and human-machine interfaces that is not only bad scholarship but
it obfuscates deep and disturbing truths. Her pseudo-scientific views
constitute the "master narrative" in a contemporary master/slave

And now, because I believe it is more important to spend my time working
on changing the "slave" side of that dialectic than to argue with the
handmaidens of the masters, I will bring this to a close.

Coco Fusco

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