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Re: <nettime> More Crisis in the Information Society
Eric Kluitenberg on Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:57:27 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> More Crisis in the Information Society

It seems to me that Felix is right in pointing out that the issues discussed here are primarily political. I consider in particular the emergence of a 'Deep State' largely outside of democratic (electoral) accountability and existing rights frameworks that Felix sketches here a deeply problematic and fundamentally important tendency. However, we should right from the start not limit ourselves to modes of critique: The problem is political, which necessarily implies that the solution is also political - it is not just a matter of critique (of incapable political structures, of the distortions of global and local capital, of unaccountable surveillance systems, etc.), but much more a question of political design.

An interesting question here would be, what does 'political design' mean exactly? How can it be 'enacted'? What would be required in terms of material and popular investments, in terms of institutional (re-)design? What types of political and design expertise would be required here?

In order for what? 

To progress towards a progressive composition of the good common world?

The successive waves of popular protest that we have all been witnessing since 2011, that some refer to as the 'movement(s) of the squares' (a term I use only in brackets because of its inherent ambiguities), have not effected the kind of political changes as yet that seemed to be demanded there, neither in terms of 'giving democracy back to the people' (one of the recurrent slogans / demands), nor in terms of fundamentally redressing gross inequalities in income, material means of survival and possibilities for self-realisation.

The activists involved have largely understood and accepted this lack of efficacy of the protests in and of themselves and are now actively engaging in acts of 'political design'. Important to question here, though, is exactly what 'design' in this context means. In my view it operates on different levels at the same time - on a macro level as in redesigning political institutions (evidenced a.o. in new political 'designs' such as Partido X and Podemos in Spain, the redrafting of the Iceland constitution earlier, the After arty in post-occupy US, and many other initiatives aimed at reconfiguring main-stream politics). 

However, 'political design' should and does operate simultaneously on a micro-level, small acts, localised and trans-local, by ordinary citizens aimed at changing particular aspects of local environments, establishing new shared resources, new modes of exchange (alternative currency systems that typically function trans-locally), small-scale environmental monitoring and restoration projects, open education, and many many more. 'Design' here is no longer concerned simply with giving shape to something that has already been conceived, but is more properly understood as a concrete and tangible intervention to reshape a configuration of things.

I'm now developing a new short course for the Art Science Interfaculty in The Hague which is called 'Ecological Design'. The basic premise here is that the title perfectly expresses what the course is about, if only that it requires us to fundamentally redefine two terms: 'ecology' and 'design'. 
'Ecology', first of all is reconfigured (as a concept) along the lines of the classic Guattari text on the three ecologies; the material environment / the social relations / human subjectivity; and this ie extended with the presence and role of the non-humans. The point here is to think and act transversally between and across these different ecological registers.
'Design' is reconfigured to mean essentially any type of tangible 'intervention', which transgresses the disciplinary boundaries of professional design, to include interventions coming from the domain of the arts, civic initiatives, social movements, and even politics itself.

An important consideration here is that it is too easy to forget that the different crises we are talking about (financial, economic, political, democratic, military and environmental) do not only affect humans badly, but also the non-humans. The question is, how to bring the non-humans into democracy, as evidently they cannot 'speak' for themselves there, at the heart of democratic deliberation. This obviously introduces another layer of complexity and complicates things further, yet in thinking and doing political design I nonetheless find the presence of the non-humans indispensable.

The task for the students following this course will be to come up with a 'design' for an intervention of their own (and possibly execute it).

To give these endeavours direction I hold to the Latourian formula of the 'progressive composition of the good common world', which aims to sustain and strengthen the plurality of external relations  - it becomes thus an exercise in (re-)designing political ecology.

At this point I'm very curious to see what is going to come out of this new course. but obviously it is a question that will remain with us for many years. Political design must act on the micro and macro level simultaneously (and between) and link these interventions in a meaningful way. It is enough to contend ourselves with critique. The problem as Felix points out is political, and given the ineffectiveness of current political structures, the answer has to be political design.


On 20 Jul 2014, at 10:51, Felix Stalder <felix {AT} openflows.com> wrote:

> I share Florian's sense of crisis, but I would unpack the issues --
> surveillance, security, information economy -- a bit differently.

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