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<nettime> AFTERMATH
Tom Sherman on Tue, 25 May 1999 19:59:10 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> AFTERMATH


The big rage these days is incoherence.  Or maybe it is better described
as a communications breakdown based on the huge gap between public and
private channels?  I am not talking about public and private sectors in
socio-economic terms.  I am referring to public and private communication
spheres in terms of relative exposure--the distribution of messages (one
to many, one to one, many to many, many to one).  There is a huge gap
between public and private spheres and this gap is causing an implosion of
coherence and comprehension.  I have this feeling that the information
bomb we are all worried about has already been dropped, in the early
1990's, and that we are witnessing the aftermath. 

People are alienated from the mainstream, finding they are not represented
by the proliferation of industrial television, radio and print media,
while they are simultaneously given license to expand the territory of
their private lives through wireless telephony, desktop publishing, home
video, digital multimedia and internet and web-based telecommunications. 
Having spread themselves far too thin in these personal communications
media--having revealed way too much private information for their own
good--people realize they are overexposed, exhausted, out of material and
facing the abyss between private and public media spheres.  Finding their
personal information reserves on empty, yet realizing they are still
largely unrecognized or undervalued by others, the only clear way to
bridge the gap is through acts of violence, figurative or concrete. 
Symbolic or physical destructive action cuts to the bone in a stifling,
discontinuous, inanely superficial universe of symbols, signals and noise. 

There is such confusion at the microphone, keyboard or in front of the
camera.  Opportunities for meaningful public communication are squandered
by people talking endlessly about themselves.  Private communication,
paradox that it has always been, is now used as a soap box for amateur
politicians--or just as commonly for the diatribe--the spew of personal
venom:  look and listen to me, my tongue distributes acidic barbs...no
person, no thing can deny that I exist, especially if I aggravate, offend
or hurt them.  After multiple transmissions of poison, the diatribist is
eventually buried by noise or moderated or shut off by a gatekeeper or a
switching mechanism. 

But ah, there are the positive gestures.  There are many promoting beauty
and intelligence in the void.  The wild flowers of the telematic weedbed
exist to spread elegance and generousity and love.  They act out their
instinct to decorate the barren fiber optic tunnels with bright colours
and blinking signs and otherwise dazzling design innovations and to
provide and manipulate content worthy of experience.  Already there are
lists of classic network artworks.  Most realize the futility of trying to
produce evergreen information in a junk culture, and thus the popularity
of tweaking (appropriating) or filtering.  They transform or filter the
economy of abundance (the crap) and provide moments of clarity and order. 
And they too are billed for their time on-line, just like everybody else,
for the privilege of inhabiting an artificial, inhospitable telematic
space on a planet running out of clean air, water, biodiversity, food,
silence, civility...  The information bomb was dropped in the early
1990's.  It created the space and time we needed to develop our profound
incoherence.  Just as deregulation has facilitated reformed monopolies, we
now have a comprehensive incoherence in the name of cultural diversity. 



Tom Sherman

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