[iDC] Periodizing cinematic production2

Michael Bauwens michelsub2003 at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 10 06:33:55 UTC 2009

Hi Jon,

the nostalgia concept is absolutely not directed against yours or Brian's approach, on the contrary, only against those expressions which seems discouraged because the old ways of struggle no longer function ... (as for your 'vague dreams' reference, I can't find that, and I want to stress I'm in favour of utopian and visionary thinking as a productive part of social change processes). Of course, as you are right to insist, all the expressions of open and free, participatory and commons oriented social practices have a long history rooted in the many struggles of the past, and it is in fact crucial that the more knowledge-work oriented part of the population finds a connetion with the previous mutualist traditions of workers and farmer's, to find an alignment ... (I would say success depends on successfull alignment  of the open/p2p movements, with social justice movements, and with the environmental movement, as 3 co-constituent parts)

At the same time, even if we recognize the historical connections, we must also be open for the innovation they represent. Open practices are mostly prefigurative at this stage, and many practitioners do not have a political consciousness in the traditional sense understood by the left, but that doesn't mean that their social practices and institution-building is not transformative. Many of the young people I encounter have only the faintest idea of political ideas as my generation understood them, and it doesn't stop them for acting out their new structures of desire. Rather than a weakness, I consider this as a strength, because it does not just proceed from changeable political views, but from more deep-rooted existential choices.

I'm proposing that we let our optimism of the will be influenced by that world-changing potential, accompany the prefigurative impulse, while connecting it with more traditional institution-creating or opposing politics, realizing that the very resistance which open culture creates, is pushing open movements towards political maturation, of which the success of the Pirate Party gives a first expression, as 'imperfect' as we may consider their single-issue politics ...

I would want to strongly stress that previous radical political revolutions were also preceded by intensive social changes and world-building which became increasingly antithetic to the old order and its resistances. There is a lot more to politics that the politics of street protests. A generation which may be interpreted as passive and disinterested because it is not politically active in that sense, may be seen as quite active in the generation of more long lasting alternative social practices, and I guess this is what my first paragraph was hinting at. I don't think that focusing on the strengths and invisibility and myriad possiblities of derailment are good politics myself; I believe it is more fruitful to focus on the achievements and growing interconnection of post-capitalist practices and infrastructures. I believe that looking at the mindmap with an open mind, would show the blueprint of a totally different social order, and that strengthening
 those seeds is amongst the political priorities of our time. This does not detract from the value of your and Brian's historical work, nor of Brian's engagement with contempary art-activist movements, on the contrary.

You ask me for some references, here is a two-fold selection of about 20 essays, (some of them) outlining the historical roots of these practices:

- http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Essays

- http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Essays_2

More at http://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Articles and http://del.icio.us/mbauwens/P2P-Political-Theory


>From: "jbeller at pratt.edu" <jbeller at pratt.edu>
>To: Michael Bauwens <michelsub2003 at yahoo.com>
>Cc: Sean Cubitt <scubitt at unimelb.edu.au>; "Dean, Jodi" <jdean at hws.edu>; Jonathan Beller <jbeller at pratt.edu>; idc <idc at mailman.thing.net>
>Sent: Wednesday, September 9, 2009 11:13:18 PM
>Subject: Re: [iDC] Periodizing cinematic production2
>>Michael Bauwens writes:
>> As is probably obvious, I do not
>share the ambient pessisism about social
>> change that is so
>characteristic of most academics, and I do not look
>nostalgically for a 'marxist alternative' 
>Who said
>anything about nostalgia? Any project that looks at the historicity of
>social form needs to be forward looking if it is to be worth doing -- in
>other words, it is done with the idea of bringing an alternative future
>into being. Brian's insistence on seeing that innovation in media form is
>driven by activists, workers and agents (both as producers and consumers
>in the old language, but perhaps as mediants in a new) with their own
>non-hegemonic social agenda is, I think, an effort to find, or rather an
>insisting on, the history of counter-cultures and anti-exploitative
>struggles in order to locate us in differently in cultural-space -- that
>is, to see things from the standpoint of revolution rather than that of
>domination. Such a view demands different filiations and affiliations than
>the one which sees history as a fait accompli imposed by the powers that
>be. Aiight?
>Indeed a study of the historicity of media form
>would be an attempt to locate historically precisely the kinds of innovate
>practices the mindmeister site so coolly connects, and to recognize that
>these practices weren't invented today but that they are informed by a
>long history of struggle and have legacies behind them that provide both
>direction and resources. My own critique of the dominant dispensation of
>cinema was in part driven by the aspirations of radical and revolutionary
>directors, and their efforts to intervene in the distribution of the
>sensible for causes transmitted to them through the relation to their
>Lastly, for now, I don't really see any reason to
>be contemptuous of what you refer to as "vague dreams." 
>This strikes me as a rhetorical strategy for dismissing the very
>aspirations that inform visionary work. Sean's brilliant musings on
>alternatives to the raster screen are very stimulating, in part because it
>allows to to think alternatives to history, and perhaps to revitalize
>stalled directions. Robin Kelley wrote a book on the radical imagination,
>and it's a very good one, but he wasn't the first to think of it -- in
>fact he shows how it informs slave narratives, black marxism, the
>panthers, Malcolm X and other activist endeavors with practical effects --
>effects that change the landscape from which we work now.  Most of my
>own work is about the expropriation of the power of the imagination and
>the conversion of it to a capitalist financial engine, so I find myself
>standing up for these aspirations as a kind of living labor. Indeed I am
>inspired by them, to use another of your words. Vague dreams are the
>expressions of real desires. Among these aspirations is an effort to grasp
>the totality of the world system in order to understand its algorithms. It
>would seem that the will to think macro-logically is still relevant, given
>that the world-financial system does so and makes every effort
>(politically, technolgically and militarily) to outthink the myriad drives
>for freedom that are embodied among us in forms that are vague, lucid and
>otherwise. So pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, or
>something like that.
>Michael, in closing here, let me just say
>that I hope you will take my comments kindly, in the spirit of looking for
>common ground while exploring potential differences -- that is how they
>are offered. If you can direct me towards projects that further address
>any of these issues I will be grateful.
>All best,
>> As is probably obvious, I do not share the
>ambient pessisism about social
>> change that is so characteristic
>of most academics, and I do not look
>> nostalgically for a
>'marxist alternative' but rather I feel inspired by
>> the manyfold
>prefigurative social practices that are emerging within the
>dying system.
>> How important are those? We generally
>tend to think that these are still
>> very incipient emergent
>practices, done by tiny minorities, and perhaps
>> that is true.
>And compared to that, we may feel its insignificant compared
>> to
>the negative trends such as biopolitical surveillance and control,
>> etc...
>> However, doing a recent visualization
>exercise on behalf of the Paraflows
>> festival in Vienna, i.e. the
>construction of a mindmap on open social
>> practices and
>infrastructures, I was surprised by the magnitude of the
>> changes
>already happening and by the comprehensive social blueprint that
>already emerges out of these practices.
>> Have a look
>here at
>> Every concept and link here represents not a vague dream for the
>> but actual and real projects in which real people are
>> Some explanation of this draft
>> First the red links,
>that’s the most unsuccessfull part of this
>draft: they are meant to represent the process of
>‘Circulation of the
>Common’, the means by which the Commons socially
>reproduces itself,
>> i.e. by open and free input, which is
>participatorily processed to result
>> in a universally available
>commons, which in turn represents open and free
>> input for
>further iterations.
>> The main body of the
>visualization contains 6 aspects of processes
>> representing the
>cycle of reproduction and growth of openness in our
>> I. Aspects of Openness,
>> i.e. the requirement of inclusionality or open access; the
>> for participation, i.e. permissionless contributions; the
>demand for
>> holoptism or full transparency of that process, and
>finally, for full
>> shareability and
>‘changeability’ of the common
>material. All these
>> represent new social expectations, and are
>key ingredients of
>> commons-based peer production as well.
>> II. Enablers of Openness
>> These
>aspects or fundamental characteristics of openness are then
>embedded in enablers or
>‘guarantors’. First of all are the
>> Definitions, the social charters that determine the
>boundary conditions
>> of the open communities and which define the
>minimal conditions for
>> openness to be recognized; these are
>further embedded in open code,
>> open licenses, and open
>standards; as well as the basic conditions
>> which are open access
>and open data.
>> III. Infrastructures of Openness
>> To make it all real, we need infrastructures in which
>these enabling
>> elements are embedded, i.e. we need open
>platforms, both virtual and
>> physical, which alllow us to produce
>in a open way: open collaborative
>> technical platforms, open
>places where we can gather, open media and
>> communication
>infrastructures we can use, open and free software,
>> knowledge
>and scientific data; and the ability to live in open and free
>villages and urban spaces, which connect local production with global
>> open design communities.
>> IV. Open Practices
>> All the preceeding enablers, will allow us then to
>engage in open
>> practices, especially open design and open
>manufacturing, but also free
>> currencies and new forms of sharing
>> V. Open Domains of Practice
>> These practices are obviously embedded in topical domains, such
>> education and science, where these practices are
>contextualized and
>> made real, to finally result in all kinds of
>> VI. Open Products!!: the actual
>social artefacts being produced by I to IV
>> All of the
>above gives us a circular process, leading to new iterations of
>open characteristics.
>> -----
>Original Message ----
>From: Sean Cubitt
><scubitt at unimelb.edu.au>
>>> To: "Dean, Jodi"
><JDEAN at hws.edu>; Jonathan Beller <jbeller at pratt.edu>
>>> Cc: idc <idc at mailman.thing.net>
>>> Sent:
>Tuesday, September 8, 2009 8:50:32 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [iDC]
>Periodizing cinematic production2
>>> On 7/09/09
>8:45 PM, "Dean, Jodi" wrote:
>>> > Where was/is the
>Marxist alternative?
>>> There are a couple of
>answers to this. One is that we may be looking in
>>> the
>>> wrong place. Marx himself does suggest some key ways in - not
>least the
>>> concept of the general intellect in the
>Grundrisse, a passage which, as
>>> Virno (or was it Lazzarato?)
>suggested needs to be rethought by every
>>> generation - in our
>period that is about once every five years. If, as
>>> marx
>>> argues, machines are 'dead labour' ossified and turned to
>>> it
>>> is time to liberate them.
>Technology is the form of our ancestors:
>>> Autonomy
>>> for the dead.
>>> Second, pace Jonathan
>beller's superb analysis, there is reason to argue
>>> that the
>raster screen has overtaken the cinema projector as the model
>>> for
>>> the database economy of the early 21st
>century. The grid's trajectory
>>> begins
>>> in the
>early 19th century with Fox Talbot's first essays in halftone
>>> printing, is industrialised in rotary gravure, standardised in
>>> photography and facsimile by the 1930s, inherited by
>the Cathode ray
>>> tube,
>>> and standardised in
>raster displays by the 1960s. Now it is integral to
>>> the
>>> design of CMOS and CCD chips.
>>> The
>grid - think the 'modernist grid' of Rosalind Krauss' art history,
>>> but
>>> more importantly the grids of map
>projections, bookkeeping
>>> (spreadsheets)
>>> and
>filing cabinets (databases) and you have in formation the critical
>>> tool
>>> for biopolitical management of populations.
>Add in the standardisation
>>> of
>>> unit measures
>and the abstraction of average values for each square of a
>grid and you have the basics of the interchangeability of everything.
>>> The raster screen, which is the default view of
>cinema (even more so as
>>> we
>>> move towards
>digital cinemas) is the default vision of the world. Are
>careful look at the codecs governing its use in transmission (even
>>> transmission from raw data to visual display) ­
>keyframes, blocks,
>>> groups of
>>> blocks (GOBs),
>groups of pictures (GOPs) ­ and you have a cultural
>>> formation
>>> as closely allied to the informational
>commodity form and the
>>> statistical
>>> management
>of probability as the gothic cathedral to mediaeval
>>> The alternative which is not
>especially marxist is the road not taken:
>>> the
>vector screen which Ivan Sutherland used to demo his Sketchpad, the
>>> first
>>> visualisation tool, in 1963. Now relegated
>to radar and oscilloscopes,
>>> vector screens do not have the
>same arithmetical structure, and
>>> potentially
>open p a whole other construction of vision. Plasma screens were, until
>>> recently, a similar backwater. No reason vector screens
>couldn't be
>>> resuscitated. To me they suggest a profound
>autonomy from the predictive
>>> geometries of contemporary
>screen, chip and codec design.  Can the
>>> structure
>>> "political economy => visual technology" be
>reversed? Only one way to
>>> find
>>> out.
>>> Not wishing to sound techno-determinist, but
>accepting Jodi's reference
>>> to
>>> Schmitt, A) yes,
>liberalism is antipathetic to democracy but B) because
>"sovereign is he who decides on the exception". Do we wait for
>>> sovereignty, or seize it? Do we accept the sovereign
>decision that the
>>> banking crisis is 'only' an exception, and
>that the norm can be restored
>>> painlessly? Do we wait for the
>revolution before we demand a technology
>>> adequate to our
>desires? Or do we start building our future now, in the
>>> of the timeless, futureless rule of the norm?
>>> Prof Sean Cubitt
>scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
>>> Director
>>> Media and
>Communications Program
>>> Faculty of Arts
>>> Room
>127 John Medley East
>>> The University of Melbourne
>>> Parkville VIC 3010
>>> Australia
>>> Tel: + 61 3 8344 3667
>>> Fax:+ 61 3 8344 5494
>>> M: 0448 304 004
>>> Skype: seancubitt
>>> http://www.digital-light.net.au/
>>> Editor-in-Chief
>Leonardo Book Series
>>> http://leonardo.info
>>> _______________________________________________
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