twsherma on Tue, 17 Dec 2002 02:57:15 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Always Nice to be Recognized

Always Nice to be Recognized

by Tom Sherman

[hardcopy in FUSE Magazine (Toronto), Volume 25, No. 4, November 2002]

     The key to the future is privacy. Privacy is not just a territory to
protect, it is the essence of our personal existence--a space that must be
developed, expanded, and maintained. Information control systems, such as
families, religions, schools, States, political parties, corporations,
community-based organizations, will seek to define our private,
psychological space, attempting to limit and conform our inner worlds. We
must resist.

     In the future our identities will continue to be shaped by
communications technologies. The wireless, digital revolution of the late
20th century was only the beginning of a massive assault on private,
individual autonomy. Creative, critical thinking is built on a foundation
of imagination and unorthodoxy. Minds must continue to wander and ponder
the inconceivable, and investigate the improper. When we muck around
freely in the privacy of our own minds, we frequent territory off-limits
to others. In the long run this internal exploration will help us to know
who we are, and what we want, instinctively and intellectually.
Connectivity with others is valuable as a means for sharing the bounty of
our private worlds, but connectivity itself must be moderated, or the
blood-life of privacy will be drained off.

     The central issue lurking throughout these thoughts is the
disadvantage of not having a private space to regroup or restructure
within. Private space must be nurtured and protected, as privacy is an
insurance policy against psychological and emotional incarceration. 

     Privacy is important because it allows us to pretend we are
something, anything, we are not. It gives us the space we need to practice
things we would like to be good at someday. Privacy makes us secure by
letting us know we are very different than people think we are. We need
privacy because it is the extra space we need to grow new 'parts,' as we
are being used up and mangled everyday in the brutal, real world. We need
a space where we can be true to ourselves, no matter what the consequences
outside. There is so much compromise required outside.

     The dangers with eroding privacy are the restrictions imposed on
personal growth. They limit critical perspectives, diminish the depth of
our analyses, and evaporate hard-core (psychologically-rooted,
anti-social, self-sustaining) creativity.

     Because I know that people are listening to my inner voice, I cannot
afford to feel the way I once did. 

     In the future we must never undervalue mental health. We must value
continuous, perpetual, personal growth. Societies are dynamic intermixes
of individuals and social groups. A society is a mix of psychological
states and social organizations. 

     In a healthy society individuals sometimes become organizations and
organizations become individuals, and there are other such
transformations. Information-seeking organizations categorize individuals
for various levels of exploitation, and individuals actively seek damning
information from and about the corporate environment.

     Artists extend themselves by revealing explicitly defined social and
psychological positions. As the information economy becomes more obviously
based on private or personal information, as the spiritual engine of the
economy is decentralized to a cellular level, all individuals will have to
become experts at managing the input and output of personal information. 

     The work of artists will be increasingly important, as they are
encouraged to develop and expose their private worlds in broad daylight,
for all to see.

      Building aggregate communities from diverse minorities is important.
Alliances with others must be fused with frequent communication bridging
the gaps, splitting the differences. Redundant compromise can add up to a
tedious culture that must be continuously challenged by the radical
interventions of relative extremists. Social hybridity must not result in
a dilution of its original, constituent components, but should spawn a new
vitality based in recontextualized traditions and anomalous, a-historical
trends. Without recognizable historical roots, hybridity will drift away
from the reality of the street, turning in on itself in oscillating,
wave-like patterns, inevitably heading for abstraction.

     It is possible that more and more individuals will function like
artists in terms of psychological extroversion. We will see the widespread
return of impressionism. The distortion of normal visual and aural
perception through a reduction of sensory information will become the
norm. We will call this "disnormalism." And there will be additive,
expressionist tendencies where emotional tone spills out into the world
colouring everything with melancholy, depression, and rage. Distortion,
and hence abstraction, will rise against the explicitness of life under
surveillance. There will be a need to reduce complexity, to discard
needless detail, to uncover the essential forms and rhythms of the street
and the mind. Many will learn how to read and write the most abstract

     Will artists become scarce in societies governed by surveillance and
psychosocial engineering? It may make less and less sense to externalize
that which is better kept inside. Creativity may be driven far
underground, into a wholly psychological domain. Or will the proliferation
of digital tools result in a tremendous increase in the volume of art, to
the extent that everyone will be part artist? 

     Information technology will enable and encourage more and more people
to externalize their private lives. Networked, web-based, on-line
publishing, digital cameras and camcorders with non-linear editing systems
and sound packages galore, will continue to offer ubiquitous opportunities
for the production and distribution of previously invisible material. 

     Wireless, networked technologies will encourage the exchange of inane
information, previously kept private. It will be hard to build momentum
for change when every single gesture is exposed, and compromised by

     So many people today, when told they are under surveillance in the
war against terrorism, seem pleased to be scanned by facial recognition
software. It is always nice to be recognized. They feel secure being part
of the databank. They have nothing to hide. 

     This is in itself an existential dilemma, as many of us exist only in
records of consumption, a trail of information transactions. I burn
energy, and accumulate material possessions, and am totally wired,
therefore I am.

     When we say we have nothing to hide, we are submitting ourselves to a
future of global totalitarianism. 

     I refuse to provide my image, or a brief profile of myself.


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