Mike Weinstein on Thu, 17 Sep 1998 16:22:43 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Data Trash Update


Dear netizens,

Let's begin with the event-scene, the vest-pocket theorization of a media
factoid that tells a cautionary tale, which Arthur Kroker and I devised as
a genre for undermining virtuality from within. DATA TRASH is an
accumulation of event-scenes; its theoretical postulations are
extrapolations and exaggerations of our associations with the factoids
that arrested us as we wrote the book as a series of exchanges across the
net. Each of us would write a section of a chapter, send it to our
partner, and then the partner would take off from the other's text, freely
varying the themes that had emerged. The interpretation grew through our
self-reflections and our collaboration. I don't believe that such a
project would be possible without the instantaneous quality of the net as
a vehicle of text transmission. The immediacy of our interchange created
in us a mutual frenzy that sent us careening into cyber-punk realism. The
game of matching event-scenes is the friendly context that engendered DATA
TRASH. The book is not only about the net but is of it, exemplifying in
its constitution an actualization of one of the net's distinctive
possibilities and deconstructing by its constitution any interpretation of
DATA TRASH as a negation of the net. 


Osama Bin Laden, arch-terrorist, current scapegoat of Amerikkka -
replacing Noriega, Saddam, Khaddafi, Ayatollah Khomeini, etc., ad
infinitum (flies in the neo-liberal ointment) - supposedly holes up in a
cave in Afghanistan bereft of indoor plumbing and a well-stocked pantry,
but graced with a stupendous library of Islamic theology books and a
communications complex that gives him instant access to cyber-space. 

Hybrid monster and the perfected bi-modern personality, Bin Laden is the
absolute synthesis of technology and primitivism, finding no contradiction
whatsoever between virtuality and stringency. He is also a monopoly
capitalist and an Islamic (retro-fascist) restorationist. 

Bin Laden demonstrates that the only inevitability of the net is to suck
us into it one way or the other. Whatever his boring aims of an Islamic
renascence might be, he is complicitous in virtualization. He leaves the
cave to defecate; he goes back in to communicate. Visit his web-site and
tell him you care. 

Bin Laden replaces Bill Gates as Numero Uno Net Man. This absurd figure -
also, perhaps, the most "interesting" (in Nietzsche's sense) man of our
time and quite attractive, brilliant and engaging - is the kind of mutant
that we are likely to see more of as virtualization continues to infest
the earth and heavens, and the flesh rejected by it rebels against its
techno-corporate avatars, all the while feeding like a parasite on their
apparatus and confirming thereby its hegemony. 

Bin Laden as the world's great comic ironist: his media den is a cave
without a john. Home revolution is even more absorbing than home shopping.
Saddam watches CNN. 


The major thesis of DATA TRASH still holds true today: the drift of
"history" is toward virtualization. The only difference five years later
is that the managed depression that we diagnosed back then and that nobody
else noticed, has now become unmanagable: the "debt liquidation cycle" has
now become too obvious to ignore. As a result, resistances to
pan-capitalism are appearing everywhere and they are mainly taking a
retro-fascist form. Fascism at its origins is bi-modern, uniting the myth
of an heroic pre-modern past with a promiscuous deployment of technology.
In its recrudescence it becomes a denizen of cyber-space, along with
everything else. 

The virtual class is at home everywhere. Its members are apparatchiks who
spread virtualization; it is indifferent to their class interest whether
they work for capitalists, communists or fascists. They will satisfy the
appetite for virtuality of a species that loathes itself enough to wish to
be replaced under whatever regime exists. Now we are learning that no
ideology is immanent to the net. Its political essence is neither
anarcho-democracy (the utopia of a technological avant-garde), capitalist
empowerment (exploitation), nor communitarian resistance, but the
virtualization of all of these. The virtual class has no political
ideology of its own; it will serve the master of the moment, who will
always help it spin the net of virtualization in which all ideologies will
be caught and eventually volatilized. 

The recline into virtualization would be hastened by an ascendant
capitalism, but it will be no more than delayed by the struggles between
pan-capitalism and retro-fascism. Now is the time when severe conflicts
will be fought on the net (as well as everywhere else), and the net will
win every time (whichever local party gains a temporary victory), and
triumph in the end, as long as we don't kill each other first or cause a
calamity that rolls back technology. If there is a deep economic
depression, the technological infra-structure will be severely stressed.
Five years later DATA TRASH broods over apocalypse. 

Let's end with an event-scene.


Along with a host of other media, USA TODAY, would-be hegemonic medium par
excellance (along with CNN), reported recently (Elizabeth Weise, "Delving
bit by bit into the secrets of the Net mind," 9/2/98, p. 5D) on the
studies that have begun appearing about the psychological effects of
plugging into cyber-space. It seems that people suffer mild depression
after using the net and that the "overall rate of shyness among Americans"
is now 50%, "up from a steady 40% since the 1960s." The
liberal-humanist-behaviorist academics who conduct these studies conclude
that "our brains...seem to be hard-wired to need social interaction." You
don't get that from "virtual personae." 

In a most diabolical piece of research, Dr. Clifford Nass of Stanford
sat people down in front of computers and told them that the machines
were "virtual personae" of various nationalities, races and genders.
The subjects (the "human" ones) proceeded to treat the computers
through their social stereotypes and to accord them social niceties.

However, these "people surrogates" seem to lack the pizzazz of
flesh-and-blood creatures - the parts of the brain that "light up" during
face-to-face interaction don't spark with the computer. Instead, people
tend to come out of a session in a chat room or other net activity feeling
that their precious time has slipped by in an addictive, compulsive blur.
One knows the feeling; plowing through news groups, conducting endless web
searches and following links, plowing through e-mail (not to mention
shopping) - all producing an irritating sense of futility and tedium
pierced by the gnawing recognition of what one might have done with the
lost time. This would be bad enough, but to make matters worse regret is
followed swiftly by a self-contempt for having allowed oneself to have
been gulled into cyber-space. But one will surely go there again, seduced
by more riskless adventures. Depression, indeed. The net is our best
preparation for death. 

And what are we to make of the shyness epidemic? Here the
liberal-humanist-behaviorists get on their hind legs and start barking
about the loss of society - the disappearance of a "learning ground for
people to relate to each other." The brain isn't light(en)ing up in the
right places any more. It all comes down to this: will the androids, who
will be fit to function in cyber-space, come on line before there is a
social crash that prevents their advent and liquidates technology's
"artificial nature" (Sorel); that is, will human beings drop the ball of
cultural progress before the replacement team takes the field? 

While Bin Laden plots revolution on the net, the western masses are
crippled in it, wallowing in their bland humiliation - rubes who can be
induced to project their feelings on computers, addictive depressives who
resemble nothing more than compulsive gamblers grimling looking for an
elusive score, and timid folk who cannot bear contact with their own kind.
They are the offerings of pan-capitalism to virtuality. They are also its
pathetic line of defense against retro-fascism. 

					Enjoy the apocalypse,

					Mike Weinstein

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