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<nettime> this is a premisse
kranenbu on Sat, 22 Dec 2007 15:08:26 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> this is a premisse


Motility is a biological term which refers to the ability to move
spontaneously and independently. It can apply to either single-celled or
multicellular organisms. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motility)

Realizing the internet of things as a network will draw everything so
close that there is no more theory-practice gap and 'doing'/'fabbing'/
will become the new format of presenting and thinking through ideas for
future services and products, is one of the insights that drives Julian
Bleeckers and Nicolas Nova's www.nearfuturelaboratory.com

The same insights fuel organizational levels of society itself. The way
the network is going, the way we as citizens are becoming smarter with
tremendous agency ( open content-software and open hardware now, see
www.bricolabs.net and nation states are withdrawing ( in europe, states
outsource law and money to brussels, and core issues) means we will see
different organizational models in the western high tech states or
authoritarian regimes.

If we have consultancy and rapid prototyping and foresight - however near
- an approach that focuses on tools for organizing the huge space of
informal networked citizen initiatives springing up, will be the new
agency, not only in design, but also in politics and power.

We can determine three major research topics for 2008: what constitutes a
network of things?, how does leadership assert itself in the
organizational model? and how do we disappear into the fabric of a
universal becoming drawing on the local performative powers of the art of
transformation?

In The Power of Powder. Multiplicity and motion in the divinatory
cosmology of Cuban Ifa ( or mana, again). Martin Holbraad, writes:

"If the motility of powder dissolves the  problem of transcendence versus
immanence for babalawos, then motility also dissolves the problem of
concept versus thing for us. And this because the latter problem is just
an instance of the former. After all, the notion of transcendence is just
a way of expressing the very idea of ontological separation. And
ontological separation is what a non-motile logic posits at the hiatus
that is supposed to divide concepts from things. Motility, on the other
hand, turns on the idea that ontological differences do not amount to
separations at all, but rather to intensive and 'self-scaling'
transformations. Thus, just like in a motile logical universe powder can
be power, deities can be marks on the divining board, and so forth, so
concepts and things can also be each other. All it takes is to stop
thinking of concepts and things as self-identical entities, and start
imagining them as self-differential motions."

Imagining concepts and things as self-differential notions, and scaling
this imagination - is the main challenge in the next five
years; reconfiguring this knowledge as action in a political domain.

So the starting-point instead is, as the Introduction states:

"to treat meaning and thing as an identity - and if the Aristotelian
notion of essence was meant to allow things to carry their definitive
properties on their sleeve, then the essentialism entertained here is
indeed radical. For in the image put forward, meanings are not 'carried'
by things but just are identical to them. Such a starting-point
neutralises the question of 'knowledge' at the outset, because meanings -
be they native ( relativism) or supra-cultural (universalism) - no longer
need to be excavated, illuminated, decoded and interpreted. What is
proposed, in effect, is an anthropology that holds issues of
interpretation at bay."

so what constitutes a network of things? from voltsorcery to neigbourhoods

"...what is advanced here is a radical constructivism not dissimilar to
that envisaged by Deleuze ( Deleuze and Guattari 1994:7, 35-6) Discourse
can have effects not because it 'over-determines reality', but because no
ontological distinction between 'discourse' and 'reality' pertains in the
first place. In other words, concepts can bring about things becuase
concepts and things just are one and the same ( one and the same 'thing',
we could say - using the term heuristically)." (In: Thinking Through
Things. Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically. Edited by Amiria Henare,
Martin Holbraad and Sari Wastell. Routledge, 2007, Introduction.)

In Carl Schmitt's political philosophy he makes a distinction between the
real enemy (Wirkliche Feind) and the absolute enemy (Absolute Feind). This
latter enemy is, according to him "der eigene Frage als Gestalt". That
which negates your own position, that which questions your very existence,
embodied.

An example: a skype phone. Alexei Blinov has one. Alexei is one
of the lead developers of Hive Networks. He is very angry with this object
and the likes of it. What we have here, he says, is an object, a piece of
hardware that in itself holds quite some computational power and
potentialities, yet has been deliberately crippled and handicapped to
perform only one trick, search for wireless, connect and skype. Are we
going back to the days where phones were directly connected together in
pairs and users had separate "telephones wired to the various places he
might wish to reach?" (wikipedia) What will remain of Mark Weisers vision
of calm technology, ambient intelligence, seamless interfaces that scale
to everyday interaction, where in fact connectivity was running in the
background if instead of generic infrastructures full of potential
connectivities we get - as we are getting at the moment - a zillion
devices and gadgets solely made in to hardware because of the business
formats of pre network capitalism? Any relationship between the internet
and the internet of things that fails to take into account that the
democracy of the net - the tcp/ip protocol - was a fluke of history
because companies were not involved in its formative aspects, the military
were, is missing the point of the seamless dreams of the top down ambient
visions. Apart from issues of durability, sustainability and climate
change that the manufacturing and dissolving of these anomalies of devices
raise, far more important is the nefarious relationship it entails and
scripts  between people and things. The skype phone very literally is 'der
eigene Frage als Gestalt', as such it is a false thing, an object that
deliberately obscures its potentialities instead of highlighting them or
show enabling qualities. It is this thinking through waste that fuels the
anger of developers as jaromil, aymeric mansoux, vladimir grafov, alexei,
and has inspired descentro.org and metareciclagem to rethink the
connectivity chain in terms of functionalities not devices. Otherwise we
will be flooded by devices that embody a functionality (voice
communication) that is a voice over ip application in a device ( personal
computer/laptop) that uses telephone cables or wireless connectivity to
communicate in the first place!

Now consider the Hive approach:

"Hive devices convert everyday networking devices, such as a network
router, into multi-functional ones with expanded possibilities. The
conversion is done by replacing the pre-installed software of these
networking devices with the open source Hivewares, which then allows new
hardware to be plugged in. Examples include hard disks, web cameras,
speakers, FM transmitters, weather stations and many other hardware tools.
Limited only by imagination, Hive devices gets more useful as more
external accessories are added.... At its simplest with no external
devices attached a Hive device is a small, low power, computer running a
simplified version of Linux. Usually the base unit has been built from a
network appliance, so network routing and other related
technologies/services will already be available. Other default software
includes a web server, PHP, OLSR and Zeroconf, which will be explained in
detail elsewhere on this web site. Hive devices become more useful when
external accessories are added. These accessories are often connected by
USB and include web cameras, speakers, FM transmitters, I/O boards, and
Bluetooth dongles. These can be used to play or broadcast audio, take
images, control electronic equipment, and send files to Bluetooth devices
(mobile phones, hand held computers and laptops). We call the software
that controls these functions on the Hive device Personalities, which are
discussed in detail in other sections of this site. They are configured
using a simple web interface, a process that the majority of users will be
familiar with. This interface also allows the user to control individual
Hive devices or groups of devices."
(http://www.hivenetworks.net/tiki-index.php?page_ref_id=37)

In Separating and containing people and things in Mongolia. Rebecca Empson
writes: "... the doing involved in making things visible or invisible
makes relations. In this sense 'vision' becomes the tool by which
relations are created."  (In: Thinking Through Things, 113-135) Things are
made into Hive devices by the act of making them into Hive devices. The
doing makes the transformation real, the performative act is critical. In
this sense 'coding' becomes the tool by which relations are created. By
removing the manufacturers software on the Asus WL-HDD and replacing it
with the Hive firmware - "experimental OpenSource software" - it becomes a
different thing in more than a constructivist sense, a new object is
created:

"It is for this reason, for example, that the claim that when Cuban
diviners say that powder is power they are speaking of a different powder
( and a different power also) is not a 'constructivist' claim ( cf. Latour
1999:21-3) To put it in Foucauldian ters, the point is not that the
discursive claims ( e.g. 'powder is power') order reality in different
ways - according to different 'regimes of truth' - but rather that they
create new objects ( e.g. powerful powder) in the very act of enunciating
new concepts (e.g. powerful powder)."

In Art and Agency, an Anthropological Theory, (Clarendon Press, Oxford
1998), Alfred Gell puts emphasis "upon art as a form of instrumental
action: the making of things as a means of influencing the thoughts and
actions of others." He defines volt sorcery as the "practice of inflicting
harm on the prototype of an index by inflicting harm on the index, for
example, sticking pins into a wax image of the prototype."(P.41)  In
Gell's theory the index is located in the region where the sphere of
agency (the primary agent) overlaps with the vulnerability of the causal
milieu of the recipient. (p. 38) In our case the index is located in the
region where the sphere of agency of the firmware on the harddisks
(control) overlaps with its openness to different practices and
interpretations by the hive sofware. The question is, can we immobilize
the subject (the set of business practices and real people articulating
their agency through these business practices of patents and intellectual
property laws) in this way?

Finally I can make sense of a story that I found years ago in Walter
Benjamin. It stayed with me and I used it in numerous texts and on lots of
occasions, sending it out as it were hoping someone could show me its
potentiality. Its beauty I felt straightaway:

Wenige Jahre nach Baudelaires Ende kronte Blanqui seine Laufbahn als
Konspirateur durch ein denkwrdiges Meisterstck. Es war nach der Ermordung
von Victor Noir. Blanqui wollte sich einen berblick ber seinen
Truppenbestand verschaffen. Von Angesicht zu Angesicht kannte er im
wesentlichen nur seine Unterfhrer. Wie weit alle in seiner Mannschaft ihn
gekannt haben, steht dahin. Er verstndigte sich mit Granger, seinem
adjudanten, der die Anordnungen fr eine Revue der Blanquisten traf. Sie
sagte seinen Schwestern Adieu und bezog seinen Posten in den
Champs-Elyses. Dort sollte nach der Vereinbarung mit Granger das Defilee
der Truppen stattfinden, deren geheimnisvoller General Blanqui war. Er
kannte die Chefs, er sollte nun hinter ihrer jedem im Gleichschritt, in
regelmssigen Formationen deren Leute an sich vorbeiziehen sehen. Es
geschah wie beschlossen war. Blanqui hielt seine Revue ab, ohne dass
irgendwer etwas von dem merkwrdigen Schauspiel ahnte. In der Menge und
unter den Leuten, die zuschauten wie er selber schaute, stand der Alte an
einem Baum gelehnt and sah aufmerksam in Kolonnen seine Freunde
herankommen, wie sie stumm unter einem Gemurmel sich nherten, das durch
Zurufe immerfort unterbrochen wurde. (Benjamin, W., Charles Baudelaire.
Ein Lyriker im Zeitalter des Hochkapitalismus in (eds) Tiedemann, R.,
SchweppenhSuser, H., Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften I -2, Frankfurt
am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1974, p. 604.)

I turned it into Blanqui's Parade:
It was, as some Parisians later claimed, a perfect afternoon for a stroll
in the Tuileries. Finally managing to escape the oppressive indoor
drudgery to which they had been confined for so long, if not the whole of
Paris, than certainly a specific political cross-section of the Parisians,
welcomed this sunny January afternoon with a ferocity normally reserved
for their traditional afternoon apritif. The Jardin des Tuileries had
always been, as it was to remain, a popular resort and few people could
resist the temptation to walk past the Jeu de Paume towards the Place de
la Concorde to go for a caf at the Champs Elyses for although it was
sunny, it was till bitterly cold. They could still gaze upon the Tuileries
Palace, built by Catharina de Medici in the 16th century, it was not to
survive the year 1871 when it was thoroughly plundered and destroyed by
the Communards. But now it stood firm testimony to the power of Kings and
Queens over their subjects. A monarchical power that was, in the shape of
Napoleon III, making a desperate attempt to survive by transforming an
authoritarian Empire into a liberal one, a tactical move, which, as we
know, did not succeed and led to the proclamation of the Republic on
September 4 1870. But to the people who strolled on the Champs-Elyses that
fateful January afternoon this was still the Second Empire and they made
no conscious connection between the amazing spectacle they were about to
witness and the political earthquake that lay only a few months ahead. A
few weeks earlier, on January 10 1870, Victor Noire, a journalist from the
extreme republican newspaper La Lanterne, was killed by Pierre Bonaparte,
the Emperors cousin. This event profoundly disturbed the eternal
conspirator Blanqui whose revolutionary republican activism had earned him
a wide range of dedicated followers. He suddenly realised that he only
knew his lieutenants personally, and had never actually seen the men they
commanded in his name. In effect, he did not even know their exact number.
Desperately wanting to assess the strength of his troops personally, he
contacted his aide-de-camp. The problem was obvious. They could not
organise a parade of revolutionaries as if it were a regular military
army. The solution, however, was equally obvious. You can hide a parade of
revolutionaries in a parade of afternoon strollers. He said farewell to
his sister, put a gun in his pocket and took up his post on the
Champs-Elyses. There the parade of the troops of which he was the
mysterious general would take place. He knew the officers, now he would
see the men they led for the first time, marching past in proud display.
Blanqui mustered his troops for inspection without anyonesuspecting
anything of what was actually happening. In the crowd that watched this
curious display le vieux stood leaning against a tree watching his friends
silently approaching in columns. The promenade was momentarily transformed
into a parade ground. In the very act of moving, walking men became
marching soldiers. Marching soldiers only had to drop out of line back
into the crowd to be transformed into walking men again and ultimately
into afternoon strollers on a sunny January afternoon. The Blanqui parade
dispersed as swiftly as it had emerged. The unsuspecting onlookers were
left with their bewilderment, in doubt as to what they had actually seen.
They had witnessed a powerful manifestation of the existence of an another
society that had no institutional place in the political organisation of
their time. The covert world represented by the Blanqui parade erupted for
a brief moment in the overt world at a time and place when it was least
expected. In that brief moment, its presence deliberately unmasked, the
covert parade coexisted alongside the overt promenade, and it is hard to
tell which was the more real as the physical acts of strolling and
marching seemed to blend into an harmonious simultaneity, thus revealing
the frightening prospectthat they might be interchangeable. In the
blurring of the boundaries between marching and walking we are made aware
of how we are positioned within a field of vision and that we might able
to construct meaning through experiencing the transgression itself. At the
same time, however, experiencing the transgression strengthens our notions
of the very acts themselves, we translate the momentary - the simultaneous
blending - into our everyday notions of walking and marching. In the very
moment that we gain the opportunity to make sense, we lose the opportunity
to integrate it fully into our own ways of seeing. To let it stand, on its
own, for a while. Seizing and scheming towards this opportunity to make
sense, to have fully analyzed and grasped a situation - such as the recent
individual agency in open source content-networks-sofware and hardware -
will not lead to major organizational, political, and design
breakthroughs, if we are not able to accomodate or be accomodated by an
autonomous trajectory that is plotting its course since the history of
time.

This seems to me the biggest concrete challenge for bricolabs
www.bricolabs.net
; to
fully grasp the trajectory from thing as gathering places for spaces and
discussion, from 'matters of concern':

"A heuristic use of the term 'thing' has also been adopted by Bruno
Latour, who, after Heidegger, has worked to transform the semantic
emphasis of 'things' from 'matters of concern' (2004a). Drawing on older
etymologies in which 'thing' denoted a gathering place, a space for
discussion and negotiation, Latour has rehabilitated this sense of the
term as a way out of the twin culs-de-sac of constructivism and
objectivity."

The story is no longer metaphor, no longer as if or 'as' something else,
no, he story is the thing now, it is the protocol.

so how does leadership assert itself in the organizational model?

"The way of anthropology's epistemological bind turns on a denial of the
key axiom of dualist ontology, namely that difference has to be similarity
what representation is to the world. For if one refuses to attribute
difference to culture and similarity to nature, the circular coercion of
dualism is rendered limp. In the scheme advanced here, therefore, the
presumption of natural unity and cultural difference - epitomised in the
anthropos - is no longer tenable ( cf Argyrou 2002). If we are to take
others seriously, instead of reducing their articulations to mere '
cultural perspectives' or 'beliefs' (i.e. worldviews), we can conceive
them as enunciations of different 'worlds' or 'natures' without having to
concede that this is just shorthand for 'worldviews'." (TTT, p.10)

The komuso, a wandering priest, plays a central part in the history of
Japanese Shakuhachi music. From behind their wicker visors these
basket-hatted men have "viewed the flow of Japanese life from the
seventeenth century to the present", as Charles P. Malm writes. (Malm, W.
P. Japanese Music and Musical instruments Charles E. Tuttle Company,
Rutland Vamont, Tokyo Japan, 1959, pp. 153-154.) The ranks of the komuso
were filled with ronin: masterless samurai. In Kyoto a group of komuso
called themselves the Fukeshu. The Buddhist shogun government, which had
smashed all Christian inspired opposition after the battle of Shimabara,
was very suspicious of any form of organisation that contained these
samurai whose allegiance was doubtful. The Fukeshu secretly purchased a
building that belonged to one of the larger Buddhist temples. By faking a
number of papers claiming their historical origins as coming from China
via a priest named Chosan, the Fukeshu tried to secure their position.
They also produced a copy of a license from the first Edo Shogun, Ieyasu,
giving them the exclusive right to solicit alms by means of shakuhachi
playing. When a samurai became ronin he could no longer wear his double
sword. So these wandering priests redesigned the shakuhachi. The flute
became a formidable club as well as a musical instrument. The Fukeshu
asked for official recognition of their temple. The government demanded
the official document. The Fukeshu claimed it was lost. The shogun granted
their request on the condition that they act as spies for the government.
The Fukeshu accepted. The Fukeshu played soft melodies and overheard
intimate conversations. If we read these steps backwards there always
seems to be one more mask, eine maske mehr. The final layer is
nonexistent, the essence never material, the object ever empty.

I have been fascinated by this story ever since I found it more then ten
years ago. It seemed to me that this surely came closest to the genesis of
things, of ways of performing, of articulating oneself as oneself through
the means available, and not create in itself any other paradigm but to
draw boundaries through things and protocol - things as protocol. Shedding
skin. Closest to the Fukeshu in recent history is Temujin, Genghis Khan
who created the largest empire in the world with a handful of dedicated
men. As a study in radical democracy Temujin's notions and praxis of local
local autonomies, a radical break with hierarchy, freedom of expression
and religion, no looting but organized distribution, knowledge transfer
across various expertise and regions, inter and transdisciplinary
innovation, freedom of tax for teachers and inventors, and radical kinship
relations, managed to create a clear division between protocols of dealing
with the wirkliche feind (war and local autonomy after defeat) und
absolute feind: a loss of oneness with the world, far more important than
any real enemy that might cause hurt or harm. The combination of a
radically subjective absolute enemy transcending any temporary allegiances
that Temujin constantly forged, formed and abandoned, with the creation of
radically new bonding through adopting people from different and enemy
tribes into his own family, is vital to the kind of leadership in the
coming world self organizations where projects can only be
judged by temporary circumstances and thus leadership becomes synonomous with attitude.


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