McKenzie Wark on Wed, 6 Oct 1999 18:36:14 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Celebrities, Culture and the Planet of Noise

Trust me, I am God, I am Universal Education, I am the Media 

review by Komninos Zervos 

Print Publication - Paperback Book 
Celebrities, Culture and Cyberspace: 
the light on the hill in a postmodern world 
McKenzie Wark 
Pluto Press and Comerford and Miller 1999 
ISBN 1 8640 3045 (Aus) 
ISBN 1 871204 15 1 (UK) 

Planet of Noise 
Miller and Wark 1997 
Publisher: Miller and Wark 1997 
Conceptualisation: Brad Miller and McKenzie Wark 
Realisations: Brad Miller 
Aphorisms and Additional Sound: McKenzie Wark 
Original Sound Design: Jason Gee and Derek Krekler 
Additional Sound Design: Brenden Palmer 
Original Voice: Khym Lam 
Additional 3D Models: Horst Kiechle 
Additional System Support: Lloyd Sharp 
Additional Hardware and Vision: Jeffrey Cook and Sam De Silva 
Project Officers: Michael Hill and Andrew Trauki 
Print Design: Glenn Stace 
ISBN 1 098346874 

I am reviewing a CD ROM and book that have in common McKenzie Wark. 

One is interactive multimedia, the other is an analysis of the last forty
years of Australian cultural, political and media history. One is viewed
on a screen and the other is read from a book. One uses vivid background
images, illuminated texts, cinematic video sequences, three- dimensional
objects, hyperlinked text, noises, quotations, speech, spoken texts,
artificially intelligent objects, and, of course, Wark's aphorisms and
fabulous one-liners. 

" will tell you that fucking is a science, take it from me being 
fucked is an art"
(woman's voice) (zone 4) 

The book contains references from academics in literature, media studies,
cultural studies, sociology, etc, as well as analysis of, and philosophies
from, popular culture, television shows and newspapers, rock music and the
movies, talk-back radio and just-plain-gossip.

"Lumby is interested in what I would call a 'virtual' practice of media
feminism. "We're all media producers", she says." (p 73) 

The CD ROM utilizes the metaphor of space exploration for the space it
chooses to tell its story, present its theories and thoughts. The graphics
conjure exotic alien terrains, brightly coloured and bump-mapped surfaces,
each window that opens a new visual experience, even before the text
begins to appear. The CD ROM invites you into its world, its cyberspace,
with interesting visuals and a rather cheeky little orbiting sphere that
changes texture in every window. How can a sphere be cheeky you ask? Well,
it hides some of the text, and as you move your mouse towards it the
sphere runs away. You begin to read the text and the sphere re-enters from
the opposite side from which it exited. You start to chase it with your
mouse and a voice reads some of the text on screen. As your mouse scrolls
over the text the text glows, and that pesky sphere comes again. Gradually
you notice that if you keep your mouse over the text the sphere does not
move but as soon as the mouse leaves the text the sphere returns, and by
this time you've read that text fairly thoroughly, and have even heard it
being spoken in a woman's voice, you figure out that clicking on the spere
is the navigation to the next window.

 As you progress through the various zones of Planet of Noise the
interactivity alters slightly, the rotating sphere actually becomes your
guide, the games you played with it earlier having trained you to navigate
this piece. Certain words in some blocks of text begin to highlight in
red; and mouse clicking these takes you off the linear progression through
zones to another zone. Text begins to appear differently, instead of
appearing all at once it comes line by line or word by word or from the
bottom line first to the first line last. This variety kept the
interactivity interesting and unpredictable, more like a thing with human
intelligence than a robot, which added an extra edge to the experience. In
some windows no text appears at all but a vortex in the landscape opens a
view into rotating 3D objects which quickly fade. As you get deeper into
zones you hear other voices apart from the main woman's voice, in some
parts the spoken text is repeated in the next window.

"...who would sell their soul - in such a buyers market?" (zone 4)

 Celebrities, culture and cyberspace - the light on the hill in a
postmodern world is itself a multi media wok (now that should have read
work but...). The book draws from the media that informs us, entertains us
and sells to us, so that we begin to see the extent of our own
relationship with media. It speaks in a language of popular culture, an
accessible language with recognisable Australian icons and voices,
political figures, pop stars, poets. And it speaks about concepts equally
easy to understand, philosophy in suburbia, cultural theory in Canberra,
politics in the pub, history at home in front of the tellie, literary
criticism at the bus stop, Kylie as art. But the book does not cry gloom
and doom, no way. The book is a hopeful experience, trying to open up new
spaces for thought on how we do go forward, since forward is the only
direction we can go.

"The dream of a place outside communication where a pure self resides is a
fantasy. Feminist talking heads have no more access to the truth of
'woman' than Marxists had to the truth of the 'working class' - or for
that matter, priests do to the 'Soul of Man'." (p74) 

 For me the book presented itself as hypermedia and I began to conceive
spaces; the skepsispace, that space inside your head where you consider
ideas; the fantaspace, that part of your internal headspace that imagines; 
the iconospace, the tv screen which conjures talking heads and stereotypes
that come packaged with slogans and attitudes which seemed to add weight
to the arguments being presented in the text. The navigation through these
spaces was sometimes linear, certain triggers teleported me to different
spaces, even though I took a linear path through the text.

 Structurally the two media reviewed were basically similar, in Planet of
Noise there are ten zones, and within each zone there are about ten to
fifteen windows, consisting of an aphorism per window. The book had eleven
chapters, with about ten to fifteen subcategories in each. One was created
by a team of individuals, specialists in their own fields, to produce a
product that looks, feels and sounds good, works properly and navigates
easily, the other was created by a usually transparent team of individuals
and the author of the text.

 Yet the two seemingly different media are essentially saying the same
thing. And that, I believe, is that a third way can always be extracted
from situations that are seemingly in direct contrast, and in fact this is
the way we, as individuals and as a people, progress through life into the
future. We select from the many conflicting realities society/the media
offers and own those that we choose to build our beliefs on, rejecting
those that we do not want to see or experience.

 In the Planet of Noise the noise is the elements we have to choose from
to construct our realities - the text, the spoken words, the possible
meanings of those words, the animated space-objects. We are bombarded by
these things whilst we are attaching a human personality to the rotating
globe, because our main push is to move forward, to navigate life, to
confront conflicts and opposed positions, good/bad, rich/poor, kind/mean,
capitalism/communism, afl/rugby league, and find a third path as we go.
When we leave we leave with flashes of what we have read and heard, some
being absorbed more than others, reinforced by repetition or

 In the book the media tells us what the media is, and we see that
celebrity, culture and cyberspace do not have to be the dualities we
mainly conceive them as being. At present there is a perception that
literature and publishing are at crossroads, do we choose the information
superhighway or go down more familiar print based roads? It seems Wark has
found his third way in exploiting all media as a forum for his writing.
McKenzie Wark is an important Australian and International thinker and
artist. His texts are always challenging and entertaining, whether he
writes for the newspaper, online email discussion groups, multimedia, book
publication or live conference appearances.

"What is of enduring significance about Horne is that he tried to develop
concepts out ofAustralian experience, rather than importing concepts and
sticking them on top of that experience." (p36)

 Wark is attemping, and I believe has succeeded, in each medium to do what
he praises Donald Horne of having done in his day as a prominent
Australian intellectual.

 Komninos Zervos lectures in CyberStudies at Griffith University, Gold

this reivew appeared in Text

"We no longer have roots, we have aerials."
 -- McKenzie Wark 

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