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<nettime> Re: The Lost War / a plea for a non-linear future
Eric Kluitenberg on Mon, 9 Jan 2006 16:10:23 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re: The Lost War / a plea for a non-linear future

dear nettimers,

> On Jan 07, 2006, at 17:47 , Geert Lovink wrote:
> [bcc'd to Frank and Rop]
>> (Between Xmas and New Year, Rop Gongrijp (NL) and Frank Riegel (DE)
>> held two impressive but surprisingly depressive speeches at the 22nd
>> Chaos Computer Club conference in Berlin.

A quick response to the text and discussion of/about Frank Riegel's  
lecture: Although I find it a very useful overview of problematic  
issues in politics, media and information politics right now, I  
couldn't help but be overcome by a sense of false determinism in the  
way the arguments are laid out. Something you often find in dsitopian  
perspectives on the future.

I would interpret this address as a wake up call, a means to put some  
issues on the agenda (again), but I would question the necessary  
outcome of the tendencies that Frank is describing. This is not so  
much related to the specific concerns he is addressing as to the way  
in which the argument is constructed: This and that tendency we can  
observe 'must' necessarily lead to or produce this outcome. I just  
don't believe history  / society works that simple. Daily realities  
are much more messy, unpredictable, complicated and non-linear in  
their development than that.

In that sense I would like to make strong plea for a non-linear  
conception of the future. One can observe certain tendencies and they  
very often are deeply worrying. Certain battles for civil liberties,  
individual freedom, social justice and environmental sustainability  
have indeed been bitterly lost, but others have been won or they just  
turned a different corner. Take enough of a meta stance and you can  
see linear progression anywhere (global overpopulation as the square  
root of all troubles, for instance), but once general enough,  
observations become practically meaningless and thus useless for the  
kind of worries that are addressed in this discussion on the list  
right now...

Instead, a non-linear conception of future (and past) points to wards  
localised analysis and situated knowledge, experience and scrutiny.  
The development of such immensely complicated constructs as societies  
consisting of millions and millions of individuals, global politics,  
transnational economics and the breakdown of the global ecosystem, is  
necessarily pregnant with contradictions, incommensurabilities and  
serendipities. Their development is characterised by ruptures,  
singularities and aberrations, amidst persistent mega-trends and  
continuities. We don't have to go to bifurcation theory here to  
understand the necessarily non-linear path of a society's development  
- wasn't this also what Foucault tried to teach us with regards to  
the writing of history?

Now on the issues itself: I tend to share many worries with Riegel,  
however, to consider 9/11 as another breaking point in the course of  
'historical' development - I agree with Karin Spaink - is hopelessly  
naive. On the legal front for instance, what could be witnessed was  
simply that the legal framework was expanded to accommodate practices  
that were already commonly carried out without a legal basis, just  
remember the Echelon file. So rather than seeing 9/11 as a point of  
rupture, it should be seen as an element of continuity, a point of  
acceleration or intensification perhaps, but certainly not a point of  
rupture. It was predicted, anticipated, and put to good use (from the  
point of view of certain authorities), but there was hardly anything  

What we need first of all is clear local analysis, of what is going  
on exactly, who is doing it, why (i.e. what are the strategic  
objectives) and clear comparisons between different localities (on  
surveillance the EU is probably more 'liberal' in applying it to its  
citizens that the US  - the current debate on Bush spying on citizens  
without a court order for instance is unthinkable in the EU, since  
here local police just does it and nobody discusses it at all...).

On the debate on surveillance in general I must say that I'm really  
bored beyond my wits by the tedious debates on 'violated' privacies.  
Recently at the World-Information City event in Bangalore I talked to  
David Lyon, who is one of the more recognised scholars on  
surveillance studies. He said quite unambiguously that the privacy is  
a lost cause, a battle already long won in favour of the expansion of  
surveillance, and quite irreversibly so at the moment. Instead he  
proposes to focus on making the structures of surveillance somehow  
more accountable, by establishing some form of public (democratic)  
control over them. Obviously this is wrought with problems but still  
i would consider that much more productive than trying to fight for a  
cause that however noble was probably unsustainable to begin with.

Again, I find this text / action of Frank Riegel (and Rop Gongrijp)  
highly useful, signalling many worrying developments and enticing  
some debate about them, but it needs to be translated to a more  
localised context to become truly productive.


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