[iDC] Writing about the sociable web
cpr at mindspring.com
Thu Jun 21 19:40:00 EDT 2007
There have been several instances in this discussion where I have
wanted to make a timely contribution … if only the obligations of
first life would ease up! So ... please consider this response to
not only Trebor but to other posts in this exchange as well.
Once again, it may well be beneficial to invoke an historical
perspective on the culture of the Internet – the web 0.0, 1.0, 2.0,
3.0 and so forth. In response to Trebor’s earlier statement:
The ideology of most dominant Web 2.0 commentators is build on the
logic of capital as a necessity. The fact that their writing causes
mostly in entrepreneurs and business consultants shows that their pro
free-market economics interests are well catered to by this group that
also often aims to teach business how to run a "smooth show,"
understand the cultural habits of youth, and still profit nicely.
Ahhhh, yes … and no … as this has been the case on the dominant realm
of the internet since approx. 1996-97 with, as we know, the advent
and implemention of B-2-B. To quickly re-cap: this overwhelming
force of entrepreneurship and commercialization eclipsed the
ideologies (as neo-liberterian as most were) and idealism of web
cultures. Couple this with the concurrent rise of neo-liberalism
( in the USA and globally ) as well as the regressive policies
implemented and ideologies advanced by the Bush administration in the
USA. As such, there has been little-to-no advance and even less
cross-visibility to models that do not speak of an economic
imperative. Conversely, there has been a retrenchment of spirit,
ideals and viable infrastructures for the forms of the non-profit
sector that advanced during the 60’s and 70’s and which gave rise to
organizations such as KPFK/KPFA, etc.
These principles initially and visibly began to erode in the early
80’s in non-profits with the introduction of corporate business
principles and financial gurus such as Peter Drucker – to get things
in order. This new order quickly formed a Parthenon to non-profit
administrators then dependent upon federal, state and local public
funding, as corporate and foundation funding. The public funders
increasing sought matching funding from their corporate and
foundation “partners.” For organizations such as KPFK/KPFA - who
were already marginalized as leftist’s threats to the viability of
capitalist socio-economic structure – their ability to raise
necessary funding in such a climate was clearly jeopardized. Their
abilities and support to do an end-run around the system is evidenced
by their continued and principled existence. The individual
sacrifices necessary to such a commitment are self-evident. The
underliying questions are where else do we find that today … and how
do we as a society/culture offer reciprocal due respect and value?
Getting back to the 80's reframing of the public realm - I do know
this to be the case as I was a witness . As a very young and naïve
curator I attended a number of those management seminars as part and
parcel of my “professionalization” via the Museum Management
Institute. Clearly, the stance of corporate America was to get those
young, chaotic, upstarts in line or else all hell might break loose.
This was especially true as Ronald Reagan initially took office in
1980 in the USA. The relevant analogy here revolves around the same
quest for control of the "chaos" inherent in the early days of the
internet. In the 21st c, it appears that the quest for control does
not come neatly packaged under the rubric of stereotypic
governmental totalitarianism. Rather, it insidiously appeals to an
individuals' own self-interest and economic ambitions as a mode of
self-control in the service of the dominant socio-economic realm.
Rather old stuff on a grand scale to be sure!
In the USA and specifically for media (experimental) and individual
artists, this flourish ( arguably ) of public support finally
concluded for the most part in the mid 90’s. The “old-fashioned”
notion of Public Funding, Public Service was successfully undermined
and often derided as anachronistic. This then permutated into a
collective form of a narcissism invisibly cloaked (maybe not so
much!) by an economically driven careerism and the opportunities
afforded by gold-rush days of .com … which extended into the
increasingly privatized public sector (including the academy.)
Such was the nascent growth of neo-liberalism. One did not have to
loose their principles – so to speak. You just had to (re)frame them
within an economic format that would make things operable within the
dominant economic system. It was practical, one could get things
done relatively quickly and could “succeed,” leading to an increasing
flow of capital into the non-profit sector. Certainly, the stinging
echo of the 60’s phrase “selling out” took on a whole new meaning.
But the permutation into a more "refined" realm social and cultural
entrepreneurship developed during the 90’s and is flourishing today –
especially in California and the Bay Area. Within a particularly
American frame – it simply made sense. Within a frame of 60’s
ideology it simply was a mode of a well-fed survival – a compromise
to be sure, but what other choice did one have?
However, now we find ourselves in an ever-present world of surface
play – which unquestionably lends itself to the B-2-B underpinnings
and profit margins of social networking. The complexities, which
contribute to this construct, range from the ever-growing power and
agency of a rather perverse melding of the database, surveillance and
consumerism. Could it be that our “products” – aka - “our selves”
could be considered as cultural artifacts of digital media and
technological practices that exist as yet another form of corporate
branding? I brand … therefore … I am. And, if one were to accept
this position, isn’t that in essence the most accurate reflection of
digital media, cultural, social visual practices today?
I fully realize that this is nothing new, artists have been raising
these issues for 20 years +. Barbara Krueger’s “ I shop therefore I
am” was created when – in 1985? However, the more salient question
is – who has been watching and who has been listening to them amidst
an ever shrinking support and audience for “ that type of work? “
When will we have a public sector which supports (through funding)
sustained forms of critique as one of many forms necessary to
advancing understandings of the world. Quite simply, we are left
with surface play – with decoration – which is always fun and whose
nano-second shelf-life is well-suited for our ADD attention spans.
When we become so totally dependent upon the industries, the tired
clichés and intimidations associated with of biting the hand that
feeds you, become so relentlessly obvious as to render them mute.
But even in their muteness, can the neo-conceptual strategies so
evident in digital art practices save the day or do they simply
extend the surface curvature? These conceptual practices have been
evident in digital media /art practices – but have they been evident
in the spheres of digital communication practices, analyses and
Fernanad Braudel has written “ Multinational corporations (some
significantly larger than many countries) and the blind market forces
of late capitalism have fabricated a borderless accelerated space
based solely around the transformation, manipulation and flow of
capital. Silently the world has slipped out from under us as we
dreamt our televised dreams, our souls shanghaied by a culture of
greed that is adrift on a reality that has become severely
overexposed. We now confront a reality that has become psychically
overstuffed; a mad accumulation of reality that is bifurcating
between the real as we know it, and the teleschizoid assemblages that
we have yet to fully formulate.”
No longer do we have the utopian notions of the buddy system which
seemed to proliferate during the days of the early Internet where
anything went – at least for a couple of years. However, we do have
a memory of a time past which gnaws at a future… a future that has
been burdened by our own creations …creations that may have been
absconded with and nullified by our own ambitions, greed and
carelessness. At the same time our conscience pulls at us back. We
have been faced with a system in which culturally embedded protocols,
signs, referents, are endlessly being recycled with the hope that
some overlooked freak mutation might catch fire…. again … and again …
and again. But to what end is the ever-ready question. Is the social
play only as viable as long as the money holds out to support its
technological infrastructure? Or do we rediscover that “old-
fashioned” notion of public service – despite the seduction of
possibly making millions ( yes, the ante is certainly up – at least
seemingly for guys in the 18-33 demographic ) When ( and how ) do we
collectively give value to the currencies embedded in public service
and alterity that will be necessary to not only establish but to
maintain it's centrality.?
All to say, in response to Trebor’s question What would it take to
build a public, independent, non-profit MySpace? One reply might be
Idealism, an idealism that takes on the material form of a nourishing
infrastructure and public initiative to secure long-term committed
public funding – without purse strings attached to congressional or
corporate oversight – and to clear and unfettered channels of
Now … I’m hoping that this might engender any number of varied
responses. Your move.
On Jun 21, 2007, at 10:43 AM, Trebor Scholz wrote:
> Hi Alex,
> I really appreciate that you bring up the issue of social class and
> I'd add gender--difference in general, alterity.
> The ideology of most dominant Web 2.0 commentators is build on the
> of capital as a necessity. The fact that their writing causes interest
> mostly in entrepreneurs and business consultants shows that their pro
> free-market economics interests are well catered to by this group that
> also often aims to teach business how to run a "smooth show,"
> the cultural habits of youth, and still profit nicely.
> Much of the most visible writing about the sociable web reduces
> networked publics to their function as consumers, ignoring them in
> role as lovers, parents, citizens, or working poor. In the few cases
> that people are addresses in these roles, the commentary comes from a
> market perspective.
> The sociable web can do more to represent people's lives and rights
> their well-being; it is not merely an engine for wealth production. We
> should not give up on fundamental human desires. On the contrary, we
> should formulate and collectively demand ethical ground rules of the
> social web!!
> I’m not talking about ethics in the sense of religion and also not
> ethics as an overarching set of moral norms that can be arbitrarily
> plugged in to manipulate people toward ideological ends. An ethics
> rather, that grows out of specific situations and leads to a call
> to the
> right not to be mistreated. What constitutes betrayal or even evil in
> relationship to the corporate social operating systems that we partake
> in? For me, the impotence of Facebook users with respect to their
> communal captivity is deeply puzzling.
> Online social life can also be supported by public, independent
> initiatives or hybrid forms. How can we apply the principles of public
> broadcast media (i.e. KPFA or even NPR) to social networking? What
> it take to build a public, independent, non-profit MySpace?
> I'm sorry that this note lacks examples. I'll also not be able to
> respond right away as I'm off for some time in the woods but I look
> forward to your response.
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- JETZTZEIT -
... the space between zero and one ...
LOS ANGELES I SAN FRANCISCO
The present age prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to
the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence for in
these days illusion only is sacred, truth profane.
Ludwig Feuerbach, 1804-1872,
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