Pit Schultz on Fri, 4 Apr 1997 23:09:27 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> the final content

the final content

[ following are some annotations to the problems within and around the
term 'content' what it could mean within the context of 
questioning the existance of art on the net, the question of
'who are we' and 'what is nettime?', what it has to do with several
loose ends and ongoing threads which have a tendency to come back. ]

1. can a new medium determine a new art movement and
2. what's wrong with such a question?

'everything is wrong' stood in big letters on a painting of a danish artist 
whose name i forgot at Manifesta Rotterdam, 96. what would this painting 
mean, digitized and put onto the net as a free copy commodity? within the 
new media art system, how does the segment of progress and the segment of 
tradition are communicating with each other? 

there was this question for the 'stuff', the 'Material und Gegenstand',
the quality of the medium the artist-as-artisan had to master and 'deeply
understand' - traditionally. It is the need for substance and object,
which gives digital media art a sculptural touch. in this lack it is plastic
arts. if "the content of any medium is another medium" (mcluhan), preferebly an
old medium, you better find out how to quit. the seeking for the radical new 
media reproduces a paradoxical desire for an essential substance hiding 
behind the next surface. call it identity, call it presence, call it important.
the formal rules which lead to the 'golden content' have yet to be defined. 

selling the future: rather from within or outside of the media we can 
detect certain faultlines. The storage mania of the content castles in 
expectation of the final cash-in leads to a profane aesthetic of panic 
production and conceptual dead-ends. In a real existing gift economy like the
web there is not much money to make without giving something back for free.
It is much more likely that rings of exchange will trade with each other then
the total inclusion of any existing info-exchange within the cuircuits ending
in Wall Street. Meawhile an auto-eroticism of digital spiritualism
tries to 'come together' as a part of a rebuilding process of a messianic
christian subjectivity with all known side effects of priesthood and bigotry
to form an universal 'body without organs'. the 'digital artisan' (R. Barbrook)
travels and explores these mystified zones to fill the virtual cathedrals 
and temples of net commerce with alchemic 'content'.
in the cultural sector of the 'virtual working class' one works hard to 
develope new presets of cyber-subjectivity which can get adapted by the 
expected following cyber-masses. Many ecstatic net-intellectuals are 
enlightened with the believe to become the leading-class of an upcoming 
Netzvolk. They update the modernist model of the 'Uebermensch' and his krisis
of human forces which is headed to become a crash-dummy at the time-wall of
the millenium. Without any rights or social security the net-freelancer has
at least the pride to be a pioneer between commercialisation and
institutionalisation. in fact the Web is still the eldorado of hobbyists, D.I.Y
arriere-garde artists, adventourous entrepreneurs and evangelistic ideologists.
But the heroic info-arenas for the masses, a metaphysical architecture of
content as power is just looking around the corner. the victims of this process
are already all-too-visible as soon as we leave our terminals. 
the emperor's new media. not king content was wrong but a specific form of 
perception. the essence of content is social context (// contact, 
communication, conflict). a social framework doesn't need a dedicated medium 
nor does it determine a specific fluidum which fills its networks. it is 
zones of activity and lines of attention, it is power relations and magic 
buzzwords which equals content. but most of all it is the social 
architecture of beliefs and norms, layers of memory which are more a 
potential, a surrounding force-field, an unstable flow which produces 
repetitions, selects and sets limits and norms through time. "come to the 
content and stick around for the conversation" (e-minds) who are the 
producers? who is making profit? Who's responsible? the aggregates of a
collective subjectivity or free emerging market forces? a grand social
sculptural or an anonymous, machinic substance-essence informing the cyberflow
from somewhere 'outside'? if you believe so, then you may find someone
speaking in its name.

stop making content. the common whining that 'capitalism is wrong' clashes 
in a classical paradox as long as it is said from within capitalism. even if 
i don't sell this text, even if i give it away for free, it works within a 
specific economy. the inversive economies of the avant-gardes add some 
sacral value onto the imaginary accounts of a WeltKulturBank: reputation, 
credibility, cultural capital. today it becomes almost unthinkable if there 
is an outside of the markets, if there is something not commodified and 
overcoded by the final medium of digital money. to resist capitalism can 
become if not a schizoid rite-de-passage, a regressive game. the power to 
escape power which produces power under a sign of 'no power'. we went 
through these dreams of independence and they where driven by a real 
existing world dichotomy of the cold-war economies. but also today, after 
the decline of the two-system theory, we love to hate the totalitarianism of 
'globalisation' until we became active parts in it. (the discussion of 
MetaforumIII, Budapest, continued by Richard Barbrook, Ken Wark, Mark 
Stahlman and others) but the imaginary cannot be fully transcoded, there may 
be a small tactical path which opens to a zone of 'content' which money 
cannot buy and the whole net is full of such 'crap'. 

so what constitutes the information owner? for the empirist there is no 
information without access. imagine a cd-rom encased in a brick of glass - 
imagine an encrypted pgp-msg and you lost the key - or a website which is 
turned off - what information does it contain? is it really a human receiver 
that makes information out of a signal, and a bunch of them baking content 
out of it? Frank Hartman may once explain to us what he understands as 'data 
critique'. As long as Ockhams/Soros knife cuts, we will be able to falsify 
whatever comes as noise or ideology. work harder. it's about the cult of
efficiency and the disrespect of effectivity (Morgan Garwood). efficiance
works within the system, effectivity goes outside of it. efficiency may have
it's inner finalist goals of auto-logic complexity, but what are the
side-effects?  efficiancy may be not a valid criteria for aesthetics of
networks. ('notworks', David Garcia) 

going back, an interface is not an image. it can be a plug, the ringing of a 
telephone, some push buttons, or the parameters of a program. it is not a 
one-to-one simulakra, but a one-to-one-to-another-one transmission of 
paralell streams, a process of translation between different levels of code. 
the interface limits a system as an 'membrane' for transitional elements. it 
has nothing to do with a TV screen. it is constitutive for the definition of 
systems and works not for 'humans' only but also between and within machinic 
aggregates. it does not have to end in visuality or a neo-baroque garden of 
an expensive art installation. Visuality can become an ideology of 
enlightment. Trying to expose the mysterious under light is where we speak 
about the hidden in terms of optical media. I see therefore i understand. 
the net has no given visuality but it produces a lot of narratives and works 
as an universal plane of projection. like the Ocean in Stanislav Lems 
Solaris it functions as a 'karthartic interface' (Perry Hoberman), more a 
giganic group therapy then an athenic agora but fundamentally based on the 
interconnected subjectivity of its users which lead to the questions of 
social network architecture, cultural groupware and a redefinition of
urban life.

The inter-passivity of the multimedia user-frontend, trashed with the pink 
noise of unsolicited data is not the door to a world which is closed to the 
rest of us. if you dive into a system of full data objects, you begin to 
orient yourself within that environment without being able to draw a 
colourful picture. (but you may ask someone else if she was there before) 
the most effective content-channels are operating on the rich code of human 
language. (telephone, e-mail, mailinglists, rumours) And this is what the 
commercial world doesn't want. Shut up and work. the machines are doing the 
rest for you, making you feel excited. 

We may use our brains for something better then just watching. The interface 
works as an end-segment which cuts you from a recursive chain of a rootless 
tree, a network of possible decisions between nodes of reference which are 
in constant motion. you *know* about them so you don't have to see them nor 
do they have to constantly inform you about their existence. The behaviorism 
of Pushing makes you want to get pushed around more and more. It works via 
establishing a social normative field of redundant interest and smooth 

pseudo-geek: the visability of the internet doesn't need an 'image'. it is 
more about the absence of bodies and the things which disappear through 
operations of represenation. a net is defined by 'nodes' connected to each 
other. both, nodes and connections can become physically invisible through a 
layer which conceptualises the complexity of a certain class of events into 
one zone of consistency. interfaces are here much more based on protocols 
between nodes and layers. predescribed algorithms of possible communications 
and the format of the transfereable data. it is possible to draw maps from 
the internet to a certain degree, and it is also possible to make a theater
out of it. but it may be much more useful to describe before how it was
connecting to other networks onto other layers (and times), up to the level 
of everyday noise. the internet empire doesn't end with the internet, it 
just changes its protocols. "its offline elements uphold and fuel its forms, 
even as those forms rebound back to affect its 'outside'." (Jordan Crandall) 

" you ===?==---!--> me
                > them "	                           (heath bunting)

I am still in an image-less net-time and why not? Maybe it is enough to draw 
some spirals or a cloud when someone asks you to make an image of 'the net'. 
(Janos Sugar in Spessart 95) After the electronic solitude in front of your 
desk.top interface we need dynamic maps for different kinds of topologies of 
connected client-server-cities, which are including the question of power, 
work, representation and social interfaces. the relations, the activities,
the  exchange of flow has to get reinvested, not just click-counted. the 
different channels have to get connected, get hybrid, or at least resonate, 
to begin to 'swing' and it is very unlikely that money can remain the only
goal. the worst is if the net ends like format-radio today - media for the
brain-dead. the construction of truth and the subject through 
a technology of visuality (the camera obscura) ends with the plans of new 
architectures of knowledge, where the option of an external panoptical 
observer is turned off. 

The metaphors of intersubjectivity do not need the romanticism of the 
structured life at the tribal village, nor do they need exotic tales about 
the world in-real-life. it was already a virtual neighborhood, when you 
spoke in the evening you referred to the day. the pompous picture which many 
people are asking for, the glamorous ordered interface, just functions like 
the garden architectures of the absolute roie du soleil representing the 
(mechanistic) cosmos of things. 

Forward to the machines, walking up the staircase of the layers, model after 
model, from substance to essence; the signal, electric-, electromagnetic 
potential, waves/particles; the chip, the bit, the byte, the packet, the 
document. As long as it circulates between machines, its data. Machines 
communicating with machines, the worldwide whispering in techno-code is, in 
fact, establishing an electromagnetic climate which is quite new in the 
history of terra. analysing information on the physical level takes you to 
the limits of hardware (Kittler) and at the same time to the human body 
which has its systems of physiological communication capable of defining 
immersive interfaces beyond the theory of the image. some remember Vladimir 
Muzhesky pleasure/fear wave generator. It may be wireless weapondry which 
uses such bionic information systems first, or it will remain a product of
art and paranoia or just chinese medicine.

anything, anywhere, anytime connecting to itself. the process of folding and 
enfolding. packing and unpacking, reading-writing, embedding into protocols, 
pushing, pulling, grouping-linking, can make a lot of sense on another 
level. The read protection bit turned off. A certain char on your bank 
account or police file or passport can change your life. on this level the 
hacker can be seen as a kind of artist. he manipulates a system in a way to 
produce public content, socialize data, shifting contexts. 2600, an heroic 
computer art magazine shows how the hacker seeks for a power over the 
network of the technical sublime, gaining access and connecting a closed 
system to the outside. But the hacker is also a very conservative artist, 
driven by the will to autonomy and the l'art pour l'art beyond the 
principles of (political) effectivity. 

Back to The Thing, Heidegger said: 'das ding dingt' How to hack a tautologic 
language loop, how to tickle the 'truth' out of it? (it's metaphysical 
function..) on another page Heidegger compares the river described by a poet 
with the same river a power plant is using to produce energy. The difference 
between art and technique. What now when the artist is using such a 
technique? He produces something paradoxical. A power plant which produces 

But didn't it need a deeper know-how of the medium itself? Going with the 
bits and bytes, seeing the net, watching the wires, like Van Gogh saw the 
lines of force of a sunflower? There is still no Rembrandt of TCP/IP, no 
Pollock of the desktop interface, no Cezanne on Softimage, no Dada of Html 
(ugh maybe), no Turner of the Web. But anyone who once disk-edited their own 
harddrive, scrolling through random orders of private text-chunks of old 
e-mails, can have truly surrealistic deja-vues. The memory-dump dream 
analysis? Jodi.org is using the undefined side effects of html, sreenshots 
of system crashs, layers of encapsulated coding where text is handled as 
graphics and vice versa. 

Tannenbaum once wrote a book called "the art of programming" which was 
pretty serious. A program has to run efficiently and shall not contain 
errors. It has to consume as little time (processing states) as possible. 
These were the good times where programmers were proud when their code was 
'elegant'. Today it remains unclear what a program 'is' until you know 
exactly what it 'does'. Some say that the whole internet is art which just 
works for itself (abroeck's machinic aesthetics of packet-switching?), near 
to something of absolute beauty, an almost-oceanic experience with a hidden 
smile. (net=art, heath bunting) 

In fact it was the anti-matter of software and information which 
dematerialized art and was called 'concept art' later. anything could become 
the carrier for an artpiece, society, a train, the postal network, or a 
river. Spiritual information (Erik Davis) - the idea of the artist survives 
it all. In fact, concept art works together with the Ready-made-trick as one 
of the main redundant genres of contemporary art. While the vocabulary 
extends to all kinds of mixed media, the art of programming aims at the 
functionality of the whole work within the social field and the art system - 
how did the piece reached a certain place - surronded by context. But it is a 
question of tactical decisions to implement a running code within the dirty 
frames of real life. It cannot be closed to all sides. The art system is the 
first enemy of creative concepts because it needs closed spaces, a 
programming environment. Paths around it we may find in Alexei Shulgin's work. 

Then there are new/old big narrations. Pathetic pictures. Sacral art. 
Assuming the net as a smooth and uncolonized desert, all kind of tribes can 
build their cult-temples right on it. But in fact it's also a civilized grid,
a big  virtual church of "western" subjectivity. The long walk through the web.
The new land of milk and honey. Global dialogue, Gaia, darwinistic algorithms. 
The web becomes a dramatic interface for alienated slackers to experience 
themselves as members of virtual tribes, digital parcivals, net-hippies, 
founding fathers of the substandards, juppies on the path to digital money. 
more memory, more performance and more efficiancy of reproducing ourselves 
as machinic identities. 

Couldn't it be helpful that the romantic-ironic project of net.art is a 
contribution to the tradition of heretic resistance? or does it rebuild a 
Bauhaus made of Junk-data. Who cares? The mighty media makes best use of the 
history of imperial infrastructures integrating its enemies and let them 
work in the net - if needed subversivly. A basic ambiguity which leads to an 
osccilating irony as a basic mode of beeing. Don't believe in the net but 
don't quit it. It is about showing the system borders, playing with 
artifacts and netscape-errors, nihilist cults (search +BLAH) opening it to 
the other, the body, a big dinner, the write access of some friends, a 
shitload of data. The production of a collective subjectivity not overcoded 
yet by some money is just a temporary ground. Nothing radical new, so one 
will find an elegant way to say good bye. Just like (love) songs or 
paintings and poems, cultural data works as transference of info-packets 
triggering emotion and care.

for SMART Helsinki
Pit Schultz
Budapest, March 97

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