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<nettime> Culture and 21st Century Risk Management
Konrad Becker on Sat, 6 Nov 2004 01:42:01 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Culture and 21st Century Risk Management

[Compiled a while ago for a Global Security Alliance project -that has not
been realized yet- for your safety and pleasure... ~>K]



The Art of Security

Culture and 21st Century Risk Management

Ever since the end of the Cold War, culture has made a dramatic return to
the international stage. The predictions are that its presence will be even
more widely felt in the new millennium [.] displacing military coercion as a
political tool. 
"Culture, Identity and Security" 
Project On World Security, Rockefeller Fund, Amir Pasic, 1998

A new security culture is emerging in key sectors of society. Security has
become a central economic, societal and political issue and has reaches deep
into the sphere of art and culture. While culture increasingly receives the
spotlight in International Relations studies and military strategy documents
the OECD calls for a "Culture of Security" and encourages the development of
a mindset to respond to the threats and vulnerabilities of Information
Systems (1), Raoul Vaneigem in "The Revolution of Everyday Life" (2) pointed
to the importance of an assurance of security for the project of cultural
self-realization by providing energy formerly expended in the struggle for
survival. Although this need for safety can get in conflict with the need
for freedom of art and expression, this freedom is itself based on security
for the arts. As the traditional discourse on the freedom of art has slowly
faded to the background it has given place to thinking about the role of art
in a security culture. It therefore seems appropriate to look at the
relation of art and security and the role and service that art can offer to
security issues. 

In a changing world of insecurity and threats which is based on politics of
mediated reality control, artists are forced to adapt their role in society.
The politics of creative industries have been criticized for endangering
democratic struggle against the "reduction of inequalities and of various
forms of subordination" (3), as a result of privatizing the public sphere.
By shifting "democratization in the realm of aesthetics and taste" (4), the
ideology of a commercially driven culture of creative industries is opposed
to an understanding of culture as central to social justice and
self-governance, but a security driven global cultural environment raises
new questions regarding dissent, resistance and autonomy. Security seems to
know no ideological boundaries; from the manuals of the Brazilian Urban
Guerrilla to those of the School of Americas, never the slightest sign of
laxity in the maintenance of security measures and regulations was
permitted. In Security Culture the concept of creative industries, to bring
the fine arts in from the cold into the productive forces of industry and
thus bring security to the artists and culture to the machines of capital is
advanced into the understanding of the arts becoming a security force by

The word "secure" started to find its modern use in the 14th century, when
the securing of roads, in particular for merchants and pilgrims, became a
major concern. The Emperor, and more importantly, the respective princes
declared the protection of the highways and signed treaties to this effect.
1375 the Dukes of Austria and Bavaria agreed "that they will protect and
secure the roads everywhere".  While classic ideological assumptions hold
that liberal freedoms in culture are by necessity bought with blood and that
liberal values can only be uphold through lethal force, Paul Virilio claims
that what drives our technocratic societies is not capital but militarism
and the security complex itself. The culture that develops out of this
dromological movement and permanent state of crisis is fixated on security
and speed, on who can protect themselves best and fastest. Thanks to this,
technological production attains a new dimension, and capital can be
invested in weapons, tools and even more security. 
The age of computing brought about the control revolution but as every
cryptographer knows, security is an illusion. 

Security has complex dimensions in informational societies and is strongly
based in subjective experiences. Personal feelings of fear and safety are
grounded in multiple unconscious causes and composite experiences. The 'fear
of death' combines the abstract, empirical fact of biological death,
subjective emotional fear of ceasing-to-be and ontological anxiety itself.
This sense of 'ontological insecurity' is intensified by an increasing
awareness of 'risk' in society at large. Ulrich Beck divides modern
civilization into three epochs of pre-industrial , industrial, and "global
risk society" (5) suggesting that individuals have all become increasingly
aware of the dangers that face them in both the social and the natural
environments and feel powerless to minimize them. But in a culture of fear,
public perceptions about risk cannot only be understood as reactions to a
particular incident or technology and anxieties are not necessarily
correlated with the scale and intensity of a specific real danger. The
social changes of this 'politics of uncertainty' (6) have reached every
sphere of our lives and every context of social interaction and have led to
what Lasch (7) called the 'survivalist mentality'. Although society at large
is affected by the pervasive effects of ontological insecurity, survivalism,
millennium angst or whatever it is called, the crisis remains to a large
extent only indirectly visible at the societal level. In a cultural
narrative of a world of fear and impending catastrophe, survival is the best
possible outcome for the individual and experiments or aspirations for
change appear dangerous. While the advocacy of safety and the rejection of
risk-taking are now seen as positive values across the entire political
spectrum, avoiding injury and encouraging passivity becomes an objective in
itself and dissent a security concern. But risk avoidance has not only
become an important theme in political debate and the issue of safety
thoroughly politicized, risk has become big business from "risk analysis" to
"risk management" and "risk communications".

In the "The Culture of Control"(8) David Garland describes the shifting
policies of crime, punishment and security in a rapidly changing world. He
predicts that this new control culture guarantees to provide an "iron cage"
for all, a dark age of fear that serves the informational datalords
controlling the security zones. In the USA, besides the "virtual prison" or
prisons without walls made possible by the Global Positioning System (GPS),
there are already more than 2 million people in prison and two executions
every week, Europe's prison population is growing faster than ever, as are
the numbers of surveillance cameras on city streets. Public police is
increasingly replaced by private security corporations, public prisons by
private corrections management facilities and state armies by mercenary
forces. This privatization has a direct effect on concepts and practices of
security and creates new forms of war and peace both within and between

Surveillance to control persons and their behavior is a prime method to gain
security. In western liberal societies that have undergone processes of
steady privatization surveillance is primarily viewed in terms of privacy or
an intrusion on intimacy and anonymity which fails to identify the key
aspects of contemporary surveillance 'social sorting' and exclusion. "The
increasingly automated discriminatory mechanisms for risk profiling and
social categorizing represent a key means of reproducing and reinforcing
social, economic, and cultural divisions." writes David Lyon in Terrorism
and Surveillance (9). Foucault described surveillance as a social technology
of power in Discipline and Punish (10) and his thesis that western societies
can be characterized as 'disciplinarian', as a strategy for normalizing the
individual or managing social collectivities, has become a widely accepted
formula of domination in these societies. Although the Orwellian or
Foucaultian perspectives provide a largely centralized understanding of
surveillance, given the technological capacities for decentralization Gilles
Deleuze and Felix Guattari in "A Thousand Plateaus" suggest that the growth
of surveillance systems is a loose and flowing rhizomatic set of processes
rather than a centrally controlled and coordinated system (11). But the more
networked modes of social organization with their flexibility and
departmental openness, the surveillance assemblage, can still be co-opted
for conventional purposes although as Guy Debord  mentions in his Treatise
on Secrets "The controlling centre has become occult: never to be occupied
by a known leader, or clear ideology" (12)
Secure hegemony and information dominance needs to embrace culture, art and
ideology to subdue criticism and resistance, extending mastery to the
symbolic level, what Max Weber calls "charismatic domination". Even when
coercion or force remains necessary, culture can intensely support security
operations. Like game rules, culture also defines value and constitutes
interests by delineating what is worth pursuing and what must be avoided.
The rules of a game do not simply tell a player what kinds of moves can and
cannot be made, they indicate what the game is about; they reveal its
purpose and objectives, and how a player is expected to behave. Culture not
only keeps actors in line, and through this eases the work of the
sanctioning agent, but it can legitimize security enforcement, thereby
reducing resistance to it. As "the infosphere imposes itself on the
geosphere" (13) and propelled by the dynamics of international security
threats we have entered a new era which mirrors the hegemonic
instrumentalization of culture in the bipolar "Cultural Cold War" (14) on
the level of global Empire. "We are attempting to influence a global mix of
emotions and cultures to join in the creation of a new world order."  (15) 

In analogy to the military Information Peacekeeping and psychological
stability operations in so called Other Operations than War, artists can
increasingly play a role in Cultural Peacekeeping reinforcing values and
counter general disorientation of the population. The tactical and strategic
use of cultural symbol manipulation by trained artists can be most
successfully applied to cultural security management. The artistic
intervention at the interface of fear and longing, the personal desires
among which physical and psychological security rank highest, can be
extremely effective. Along with the culturalization of security we are
facing what Franco Berardi Bifo calls the "militarization of the general
intellect" a militarization of the intellectual capacity created by the
development of collective intelligence, and supported by the technicalities

An increasing convergence of security and culture and the rise of the so
called Military Entertainment Complex or MIME-Net
(Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment- Network) have been described by
James Der Derian and Bruce Sterling amongst others. Virtual War has gone to
Hollywood where the boundaries between computer simulations for military
purposes and computer games and entertainment graphics have long dissolved
into mutual cooperation. What John Naisbitt dubbed the Military-Nintendo
Complex refers to an increasingly intense collaboration of high tech, media,
military and the intelligence sectors involving personnel and technologies
from both the security and the entertainment industry in cooperative
ventures. This development creates a fusion of the digital simulation and
the factual, of the virtual and the real and with it the disappearance of
the borders between fantasy and reality. 

In the widely discussed Chinese strategy paper on the 21st century Global
Security Environment by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui (16) the boundaries
lying between the two worlds of military and non-military will be totally
destroyed. This matches US concepts of Total War without a defined stage or
theater of battle. The war of the future is described as non-war actions on
a battlefield that will be everywhere. Using the term "Omnidirectionality"
as the starting point of an "Unrestricted Warfare" culture based on
information technology and unconventional warfare in low-intensity
conflicts.  "The direction of warfare is an art similar to a physician
seeing a patient" (Fu Le) and an artistic tradition of security may well be
proven by Sun Tzu's famous treatise on War as an Art (500 BC). Guy Debord,
in Methods of Detournement, strictly denies the justification of any
traditional practice of art and positions the artist in societal conflict
that he defines as civil war: "where all known means of expression are going
to converge in a general movement of propaganda which must encompass all the
perpetually interacting aspects of social reality." (17) 

This principle of omnidirectionality extends to the conquest of outer space.
By 1968 space has been declared "Today's Front Line of Defense" and the
extension of military systems beyond the lower atmosphere as "natural and
evolutionary". Three decades later "Space is a real priority for national
security" (18) and the ground for exotic weaponry like directed-energy
weapons, such as space lasers, is prepared. At the same time as, for the
first time in history, the arena of human conflicts is extended from the
planets surface into outer space the colonization of inner space, the
internalized pacification and the policing of the cognitive act is
accelerated. The programs for colonization and militarization of outer space
in the sixties have gained momentum at the same time as the search for
counterintelligence truth serums led to exotic psychological experiments
with the side effect of a massive diffusion of psychoactive substances in
the US. Advanced technologies of the Star Wars program and space-based
weapon systems are also applied to the most internal security issues of the
imagination and desire. "Communication and control belong to the essence of
man's inner life, even as they belong to his life in society." said Norbert
Wiener and what used to be called the "colonization of the mind" is now more
aptly described as the encoding of the mind. Thus creating the class of code
warriors in the psychological war zone of "bunkering in and dumbing down"

With the end of the bipolar world of the he Cold War nuclear deterrence,
where the fear of total annihilation kept the "peace", it is seems now that
terrorism, a rhizomatic omnidirectional network of fear, is the pivot point
of global security. This ubiquitous low intensity conflicts with
decentralized structures of flat hierarchies corresponds to the postmodern
theories of geopolitical conflict management and security policies. But
statistics of terrorism are fundamentally meaningless because to say that no
definition has gained universal acceptance is an understatement. The
expression "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" indicates
that the term is usually applied on the basis of whether one agrees with the
goal of the violence, and terrorism is the violence committed by the
disapproved other.  The first use of the term "terrorism" in 1795, related
to the Reign of Terror instituted by the French government while any use in
anti-government activity is not recorded until 1866 (Ireland) and 1883
(Russia). But since then it has been not only an instrument of the armies
and the secret police of governments but of political, nationalistic or
ethnic groups with most diverse objectives. In contrast to the attack on
military targets, state- or guerrilla terrorism actions are directed at
civilian targets. Terrorism's intent is to change behavior by inducing fear
in someone other than its victims. The US DOD definition of terrorism is
"the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear;
intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit
of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological". These
indirect attacks create a public atmosphere of anxiety and the need for
publicity in the economy of attention usually drives target selection.
Terrorist violence is neither spontaneous nor random but intended to produce
fear, a psychological act conducted for its impact on an audience. Thus
despite its violent character terrorism can be understood as a psychological
discipline and the concept of terror can be extended to manipulation based
on fear without physical damage or violence against persons. 

Although the term "Propaganda by Deed" coined by Serge Nechayev originally
refers to the acts of violence used against the representatives of political
and economic repression in the late 19th century, since then many have begun
to redefine Propaganda by Deed to incorporate more than simple acts of
violence. Like terrorists, artists are asymmetric and unconventional in
their actions, choosing unorthodox methods of operation. These ideas in the
cultural field became visible in movements like Berlin Dada or the
Situationists whose members have been described as intellectual terrorists
or authors like William Burroughs who described tactics of psychological
attacks (The Electronic Revolution) and cultural sabotage in the 60's. In
the influential work on the Temporary Autonomous Zone (20), the concept of
art as poetic terrorism has been introduced to a large audience and
continued to be an important source for urban cultural vigilantes. With the
aim to change someone's life, poetic terrorism does not necessarily target
feelings of angst but tries to achieve the emotional intensity of terror
through other powerful psychological agents like disgust, sexual arousal,
superstitious awe or identity deconstruction. Advanced artistic and cultural
practice has increasingly shown an affinity with the operational mode and
analytical thinking that is related to the counter-terrorist and special
operations units. In Mind Invaders (21), a reader on contemporary psychic
warfare, cultural sabotage and semiotic terrorism, of a multitude of
cultural terrorist groups that are dedicated to attacking some of the very
foundations of "Western Civilization" are portrayed. This vortex of free
association and continuously dissolving and regrouping anonymous cells
spontaneously organizes collective psychic attacks and tactical operations
against repressive notions of identity while moving in several directions at

A new security culture emerges in this economy of fear and it is critical
for artists to analyze the issues of perception and representation in a
technologically accelerated risk society. A convergence of security industry
and culture based on the overlapping of psychological and emotional motives
becomes evident and not surprisingly artists and cultural workers have been
the first to realize this and put it into practice.

There is a high investment into the new security culture which makes it well
worth to look into the underlying premises and constituting influences of
this culture. The transfer of desire to the informational security
apparatus, the machinery of control, creates a new market for art and
culture where secure imagination and secure imaginary environments are best
selling propositions. But the extended subjective experience of instability
and personal insecurity is increasingly shaping society in its relation to
authoritarian implications of psychological states of regression and
dependence. Artists and cultural workers could bring diversity to some of
the a priori monolithic concepts of an inherited ontotheology of security
and reverse the survivalist security impulse into a refined art.


1.  OECD August 7, 2002
2.  Vaneigem 1967
3.  Mouffe 1997
4.  Osuri 2001
5.  Beck 1994
6.  Marris 1996
7.  Lash 1984
8.  Garland 2002
9.  Lyon 2001
10. Foucault 1979
11. Deleuze, Guattari 1987
12. Debord 1990
13. Virilio, Der Derian 1996
14. Stonor-Saunders 1999
15. "Art Fighting Terror", website now defunct
16. Liang, Xiangsui 1999
17. Debord 1956
18. Ride 2002
19. Kroker 1996
20. Bey 1987
21. ed. Home 1997

G.S.A. Int. www.global-security-alliance.com

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