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nettime: Anarchives: Electronic Commerce

		'the electronic word is god'TM
The Anarchives 				Volume 4 Issue 2
	The Anarchives			Published By
		The Anarchives		TAO Communications
			The Anarchives

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               --/\--			Electronic
             /  /  \  \			Commerce
             \/      \/			jesse hirsh

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Editor's note:
This is another report from the McLuhan Seminars
I'll be in Vancouver in mid-march. Anyone who's interested in media 
collective events should send an email.

love j

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Electronic Commerce - Monday November 25 1996

What is the new economy and what role does electronic commerce play? Who
will be the bankers in the Information Economy? What will be the currency?

Economic interests are the driving force behind transformations in media and
society. Globalization fuels the development and implementation of
information technology as the need for universal connection becomes
paramount. The global market is the network of networks that is the fabric
of a new and 'intelligent' global economy.

Integration and convergence are the 'raison d'Étre' of the revolution
proclaimed by the global business elite. Everything and anything must be
connected to the growing global mind. Economic intelligence is now the
essential ingredient for the formation of state, and the maintenance of
order. It is the autonomy and efficiency of global capital markets that
drives technological change. As a result of this process, the political,
economic, social, and psychological character of our society is radically

Commerce has been an integral ingredient in the formation of our various
cultures and institutions. However it was in the early 1970s, that a major
shift in the nature of commerce occurred, as electricity became the new

Before the 1970s, the world economy was worth its weight in gold, as each
nation guaranteed it's money and debt to be interchangeable with a gold
standard. After the second world war, the emerging global economy was tied
to the US dollar, which itself was equated with gold, providing the basis
for stability in an inherently volatile world. However as the proliferation
of electronic networks increased with the expansion of telecommunication
networks, the foreign currency exchange market gradually began to evade
national restrictions and identity. In response, the Nixon regime in the US,
abolished the gold standard in the early 1970s and the world economy then
became the bastion of virtual reality. On the one hand Nixon opened the
largest market in the world by establishing ties with China, and on the
other he liberated the financial markets from any and all national
constraints, as the virtual world became the fertile ground for the
expansion of the fledgling global market.

The Foreign Exchange market quickly became an autonomous entity, and the
major focus of all global financial institutions, as over 50% of bank
profits resulted from the instantaneous exchange of various national
currencies. Instead of trading gold, the prime commodity of the market was
the electron, tensioned by time and the restraints of space.

In 1997, 90% of the world's wealth travels through electronic networks in
New York City every day. At least $1 trillion US dollars are exchanged as
the market is simultaneously global, and localized amidst a collection of
fiber-optic lines in southern Manhattan. The global market is itself a fluid
entity, that has no single authority, but is its own authority.
Clearinghouses who record and maintain exchanges have ultimate global
jurisdiction under the mandate of their numerous clients and patrons. Each
day the consolidation continues as the currency of electricity seeks a
common ground of time and identity to enable instantaneous transfer and

Capital has declared a global liberation, as it now possess true mobility
and omnipresence. In a moment's notice the entire wealth of the world can
travel on the back of an electron and arrive anywhere anytime. The
implications of this power are diverse and convoluted. If anything it
resembles the vacuum found in outerspace, wherein gravity can no longer hold
objects to the ground, and stability is based on time rather than space.
Institutions and structures of the old regime are now feeling the pull of
the vacuum, the inevitable integration into the ethereal global market, as
all wealth continues to be drained into the nexus that manifests on Wall Street.

The 'WallMart Effect' is a description of a vacuum sucking up local
economies. Only a small shift in the flow of capital is required to
devastate and violently imbalance the nature of local and national
economies. A wave of bankruptcy haunts small and independent businesses as
the means to centralize are enabled by the electron. A superstore in a
neighbourhood only has to absorb a fraction of the local consumption to
drive smaller operations out of business. The death of the city is marked by
the rise of the sprawling suburbs. Nodes of big business emerge all over to
drain the independence of the local economy into the dependence of the
electronic global market. The snowball effect induces paranoia into
mid-sized businesses as the scramble for survival prompts proprietors to
consolidate their own operations attempting to counter the vacuum created by
the electronic network.

We are witnessing the ascendancy of the 'Microcosm' as the global market
molecularizes to maintain control in a decentralized yet consolidated
market. Network hubs manifest as SuperStores in every suburb, where Nike
AirJordan shoes are available at warehouse prices, courtesy of 'Just In Time
Production' and Indonesian slave-labour. Encryption is used to ensure that
the inhabitants of the global network wear local blinders and global
consciousness is made technically impossible and unattainable, except for
the cowboys who ride the horses of electronic capital, riding across the
global frontier in a matter of nanoseconds.

Identity becomes the true commodity in a market struggling for stability
while still dependent upon its own volatility. Marketing has lead the drive
towards self-awareness and consumer navel-gazing. Status and power are
derived from the notoriety and credit history imbedded in identity, whether
individual or collective. Credit is the power of a key stroke, an electronic
light-saber that can move light, transfer funds, shift markets to align with
larger tides.

The power of privacy protects the real stake-holders of the poker game.
Mondex cards and electronic cash systems allow each gambler to potentially
possess that fifth ace in the hole. Plastic cards containing digital chips
with bio-metric identification allow the circulation of electronic cash,
free of any restrictions, except that of the credit system itself. The free
market of electricity has only one regulation: the credibility of your
identity. Authentication becomes the ticket to power.

The tensions presented by anonymity drive the state to surveille and monitor
everything and anything. The idea of an individual containing the wealth of
the world on a single chip forces the established institutions to watch
everyone and anyone. The state of total visibility privatizes the public
sphere at the exact moment when everything becomes public. Privacy is an
illusion, imposed by the new state, claiming the right to rule, when clear
to all the emperor is naked.

Where has the game changed? Why does it all seem the same? The champions of
industry are crying revolution, and billion dollar advertising campaigns
proclaim, 'the times they are a changing.' They're selling us a revolution,
so that the masters will remain the same. Competition translates into
sameness, and the Internet is the race towards the global media monopoly.

All hail the revolution!! All hail the mighty market!!
The market as government! - The market as god!
The market as machine! - The market as mind!

Political ambition fuels the desire for pattern recognition, as high-tech
spending goes towards complex neural-networks aiming to forecast the weather
and its reflective global capital markets. Scientists and mathematicians cry
chaos, and computers are brought in to re-establish the order. The search
for reason is superseded by the search for connections and patterns amidst
an open, dynamic, and evolving system.

With the new uncertainty we fall into a trap of navel-gazing and narcissism.
While trying to find our future we resurrect all ideas and cultures of the
past. We cease creating and merely consume. We are fixated with a distorted
mirror, that teases us with images of our past and of our dreams. We search
for ourselves amongst a sea of memories, experience, and information. A
negative feed back loop nurtures a culture of nihilism and lethargy. We
implode, regress, and introspect as our collective mind searches for
self-consciousness. Globalization is an awakening of a new global, yet
tribal identity. The tribesmen wear Nike, drink Coke, eat McDonalds, or else
they just don't exist, another victim of cultural genocide. The new
imperialism is the rise of the global mind. Power races to be one.

However as power consolidates, the many rise in opposition. The state of
electricity is a paradox of simultaneous realities: on and off, 1 and 0.
While the new system is described as chaos, it is also a focus of
considerable control. Competition has become the market dogma, while
consolidation and conformity are the systemic practice. Anonymity disguises
the face of power, while surveillance prevents regulates anyone who makes a
face. The focus and attention is being directed towards the micro level,
while power itself consumes and dominates the macro. The system seems to
grow through the open mind, however its character is more of an insecure and
closed mind.

In the interests of democracy, the relationship between the individual and
the collective mind must be redressed to balance the rights of the two, and
find common ground between the public and private interest. Polarization is
leading societies to either adopt a dominating group consensus or a
dominating individual directive. In both cases the tendency towards
authoritariansim is paramount.

Total visibility has exposed the inherent and systemic class biases of our
governing system. The market is alive and gaining in consciousness as it
implodes through globalization. Political stability still remains the
market's prime indicator as Indonesia, China, and the East lead the global
boom of control and consumption.

However media's own product: the masses, are themselves rising up, as market
consciousness is co-opted to become class consciousness, and even tribal
consciousness. The tribes of planet earth are regrouping and reliving the
experiences of colonialism, genocide and tribal warfare. 

The rainbow tribes are coming together and the peace movement is alive
again. Corporations are increasingly being countered by strong and vocal
opposition from communities, whether they be political, religious, cultural,
or geographic. The ascendancy of the microcosm fuels the accessibility to
the macrocosm. The old markets of ideas are now becoming arenas of action.

The community of market, is a community of mind. It governs through
connections and capital, forging the communications of empire. We are at a
moment of our civilization in which the potential to open the mind is not
only possible and viable, but the masses required to balance it may be


Jesse Hirsh - -
P.O. Box 108, Station P, Toronto,  Canada, M5S 2S8

Version: 2.6.2


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