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Re: <nettime> The barter origins of money
Felix Stalder on Wed, 22 May 2002 02:29:04 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> The barter origins of money



>It is true that exchange involves subject-object relations as well as those
>linking individuals to society.

I don't think it's a question of subject-object vs subject-subject
relations. Relationships rarely come in pairs (not even conventional sexual
relationships, as AIDS taught us), but in long chains, made up of links of
all kinds of materialities (humans, viruses and latex, in the case of
AIDS). I think we will never understand what people do, if we do not
include the objects that help them doing it.  In this sense,
subject-subject relations are always mediated by objects (even if the
object is immaterial, like speech).

Some call this mediation process "translation" for it never simply
transports but always transforms, in the same sense than a text is being
transformed when it is translated. Some times translations stay close to
the original, some times they don't.  This, I think, is what an inclusive
media theory is about, trying to understand this mediation process, which
always involves technology. McLuhan used to differentiate between
transportation theories of communication (Shannon Weaver) and
transformation theories (his own).

> a continuous process of social life in which men reciprocally define
> objects in terms of themselves and themselves in terms of objects.

Latour once wrote a brilliant article called "technology is society made
durable". In this (or perhaps somewhere else) he compares human societies
with primate societies (baboons). The difference he sees is not that one is
more complex than the other, but that some (the baboons) have nothing other
than their bodies to construct their society, they have real
subject-subject relationships. Very little mediation. Hence their societies
hardly extend over time and space and have, essentially, to be recreated
every day. This, to some degree, accounts for their cultural stasis,
there's only so much you can do on a single day.

Humans, on the other hand, use objects to constitute society (and
themselves). This allows them to bridge time and space and accumulate
social learning in something more stable than human bodies. The pyramids
still hold a powerful grip on Egypt, long after the last pharaoh has died.


Felix


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