[iDC] Periodizing cinematic production2

jbeller at pratt.edu jbeller at pratt.edu
Wed Sep 9 16:13:18 UTC 2009

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
>> _______________________________________________
iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity
>> (distributedcreativity.org)
iDC at mailman.thing.net
List Archive:
>> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/
>> iDC Photo Stream:
RSS feed:
>> http://rss.gmane.org/gmane.culture.media.idc
>> iDC Chat on Facebook:
>> Share relevant URLs on Del.icio.us by adding the tag iDCref
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/attachments/20090909/480761b1/attachment.htm 

More information about the iDC mailing list