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<nettime> [epk {AT} xs4all.nl vs Newmedia {AT} aol.com More Crisis in the Informat
nettime's de-terminator on Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:12:09 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> [epk {AT} xs4all.nl vs Newmedia {AT} aol.com More Crisis in the Information Society.]


----- Forwarded message from Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT} xs4all.nl> -----

From: Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT} xs4all.nl>
Subject: Re: <nettime> More Crisis in the Information Society.
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2014 23:06:03 +0200
To: nettime-l {AT} kein.org
Resent-From: nettime {AT} kein.org
Resent-Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:27:21 +0200
Resent-To: Nettime <nettime-l {AT} kein.org>
Resent-Message-Id: <20140724162721.8350210B6168 {AT} mx.kein.org>

Hi Mark,

I was not suggesting that 'society' can be designed - a rather absurd
idea indeed, but that we can 'design' democratic politics, which in my
understanding means things like decision making procedures, oversight
and control structures, protocols, both social and technological
ones, forms and modes of assembly, deliberation spaces, communication
modalities (alternative social media platforms for instance) and much
much more.

All these kinds of 'interventions' can certainly be designed, just as
current institutional structures have been designed, and if they do
not function properly they should be re-designed.

But there is a much more serious flaw in your argument - it is overly
techno-deterministic. Your claims imply that democracy would be a
by-product of television and other mass-media. Maybe McLuhan and
Kittler would like that idea, but it is way too crude. Democratic
forms of governance evolved out of much deeper lineages, over much
longer periods of time, mostly connected to the rise of new dominant
groups in society (merchants / industrialists / workers / post-urban
middle class, etc.)

It is much more productive to think about the interaction of social
processes and technological infrastructures in terms of 'assimilation'
as Lewis Mumford proposed in his seminal two volume work The Myth of
the Machine in the late 60s. The one cannot be thought without the
other, but as many STS (Science and Technology Studies) scholars would
say 'impact is dead' - i.e. the existence of the internet is not the
cause of deeper changes in society but rather evolves along with them
and they continuously interact and influence each other.

Thus, the technological is not some condition that is just inflicted
upon us, as some bad fate outside of human influence, but rather a
force to be reckoned with and a force that can bend in different ways.
No one is all powerful here, I agree with you on that, but we can all
intervene at some level (micro/macro).

So, I resolutely stand by by assertion that we need political design
and not just critique, and what's more I think that it would be an
absolute disaster to give up on our democratic ideals and aspirations
- they will change, transform, mutate, but that's no reason to write
them off because we are living in 'net-times'.

Btw - I think that the operators of the control state would be very
happy with such a fatalistic discourse.

Bests,
Eric



----- End forwarded message -----
----- Forwarded message from Newmedia {AT} aol.com -----

From: Newmedia {AT} aol.com
Subject: Re: <nettime> automated digest [x2: griffis, gurstein]
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:32:45 -0400 (EDT)
To: jhopkins {AT} neoscenes.net, nettime {AT} kein.org

John:
 
As used to happen on the Groucho Marx "You Bet Your Life" show (and  
presumably in many "Marxist" salons around the world), when you say  the SECRET  
WORD, a duck (smoking a cigar) drops from the ceiling . .  . <g>
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Bet_Your_Life
 
You are, of course, correct that the STRUCTURE (today's *secret* word) is  
the key to all of this -- not some fantastic "Deep-State" run by the  
"neo-liberal 1%" (which, along with Occupy Wall Street, was just the plot-line  of 
another Reality television show) . . . !!
 
It is that *structure* which "controls" us all -- but what is that and  how 
does it operate on us?
 
To grasp the answers to these questions, one has to discard the notion that 
 everything is "mutable" into everything else and toss aside the notion 
that we  are all somehow "evolving" into a NEW MAN.  
 
Everything isn't and we aren't.  Mere humans who "shape our tools and,  
thereafter, our tools shape us," nothing more (nothing less.)
 
One of these days, FORMAL CAUSE will become the "secret word" and we will  
*all* be entertained by the cigar-smoking duck . . . 
 
Mark Stahlman
Jersey City Heights
----- End forwarded message -----
----- Forwarded message from Newmedia {AT} aol.com -----

From: Newmedia {AT} aol.com
Subject: Re: <nettime> More Crisis in the Information Society.
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:36:31 -0400 (EDT)
To: epk {AT} xs4all.nl, nettime-l {AT} kein.org

Eric:
 
Thanks for considering my argument!
 
Yes, you are correct.  What I am saying is *exactly* what most modern  
social scientists, trained as they are in "constructivism" would call  
"techno-deterministic."  I'm glad that you recognized the "pattern" in my  argument!
 
However, as you might also know, as far as I can tell, none of these social 
 scientists has ever seriously examined what they mean by "determinism" 
(or,  for that matter, where the notions on which their presumptions rest came 
from in  the first place.) 
 
And, this is where the problem starts (which actually started quite a long  
time ago and is deeply related to our understanding of *causality* and, if 
you  will, its magical twin, "fate.")
 
> Btw - I think that the operators of the control state 
> would be very happy with such a fatalistic  discourse.

#FAIL Cheap shot! <g>  In fact, "they"  (if, indeed, any of "them" even 
exist) would NOT be very happy at all --  for the simple reason that what I'm 
saying applies to them also (i.e. you can  run, but you cannot hide) . . . !!
 
You probably recall the phrase, "We shape our tools and, thereafter, our  
tools shape us."  It is often attributed to Marshall McLuhan but, in fact,  
it was suggested by John Culkin, SJ, who is the one who invited McLuhan to  
Fordham University in 1967.
 
The selection of the term "shape" in this quote is quite deliberate.   
SHAPE =/= DETERMINE (does *not* equal.)
 
Instead, it is an "ecological" term, which tries to describe how  
*environments* operate on those who live inside them.  Environments do not  
*determine* and cannot be thought of in those terms.  Instead, they SHAPE  (or "mold" 
or "sculpt" or "form") -- as in INFORM and CONFORM and REFORM.
 
What is commonly done, likely as no surprise to you (or the many  others 
who have been trained in the methods of "Social Construction of  Technology" 
-- SCOT), is that social scientists over the past 40+ years  have largely 
paid no attention to the "and, thereafter, our tools shape  us."  Yes, STS will 
claim to deal with both aspects but then they don't  follow through.
 
That is a BIG mistake.  In fact, it is a brutally IGNORANT  mistake.  
Without "our tools shape us," technologies have no *consequences*  and thinking 
that way makes us STUPID in the face of our own inventions.   That's not a 
good place to be! <g>
 
So, I am now forming the Center for the Study of Digital Life (planning to  
launch this Fall) to try to help people to avoid that mistake . . . 
 
Mark Stahlman
Jersey City Heights
 
 

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----- End forwarded message -----
----- Forwarded message from Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT} xs4all.nl> -----

From: Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT} xs4all.nl>
Subject: Re: <nettime> More Crisis in the Information Society.
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 23:39:31 +0200
To: Newmedia {AT} aol.com
Cc: nettime-l {AT} kein.org

Hi Mark,

On 24 Jul 2014, at 19:36, Newmedia {AT} aol.com wrote:
>  Thanks for considering my argument!

Always...

> > Btw - I think that the operators of the control state
> > would be very happy with such a fatalistic discourse.
> 
> #FAIL Cheap shot! <g> 

Yeah, sorry - couldn't resist!

> You probably recall the phrase, "We shape our tools and, thereafter,
> our tools shape us." It is often attributed to Marshall McLuhan but,
> in fact, it was suggested by John Culkin, SJ, who is the one who
> invited McLuhan to Fordham University in 1967.
>
> The selection of the term "shape" in this quote is quite deliberate.
> SHAPE =/= DETERMINE (does *not* equal.)
>
> Instead, it is an "ecological" term, which tries to describe how
> *environments* operate on those who live inside them. Environments
> do not *determine* and cannot be thought of in those terms. Instead,
> they SHAPE (or "mold" or "sculpt" or "form") -- as in INFORM and
> CONFORM and REFORM.
>
> What is commonly done, likely as no surprise to you (or the many
> others who have been trained in the methods of "Social Construction
> of Technology" -- SCOT), is that social scientists over the past 40+
> years have largely paid no attention to the "and, thereafter, our
> tools shape us." Yes, STS will claim to deal with both aspects but
> then they don't follow through.
>
> That is a BIG mistake. In fact, it is a brutally IGNORANT mistake.
> Without "our tools shape us," technologies have no *consequences*
> and thinking that way makes us STUPID in the face of our own
> inventions. That's not a good place to be! <g>

If your observation about STS not following through on the 'reverb'
of the tools is correct, then I would agree that this is a failure on
their part. I'm not an 'STS person' myself. but was reminded of this
dictum 'impact is dead' - I think we agree at least that it is the
reciprocity of the relationships between human ends and the agency of
the tools that needs to be considered to get the full picture, but it
seems we draw some markedly different conclusions from this.

bests,
Eric




----- End forwarded message -----
----- Forwarded message from Newmedia {AT} aol.com -----

From: Newmedia {AT} aol.com
Subject: Re: <nettime> More Crisis in the Information Society.
Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2014 08:21:14 -0400 (EDT)
To: epk {AT} xs4all.nl
CC: nettime-l {AT} kein.org

Eric:
 
Thanks again -- what I'm reporting about STS (as it is practiced today)  
comes from many conversations that I've had with those who are "STS-people" 
and  in related fields, many of whom tell me that this *failure* is both 
debilitating  and ready to be "overthrown."
 
Let's face it, the "canonical" text on all this -- the 1985  
Bijler/Hughes/Pinch/Douglas "The Social Construction of Technological Systems:  New 
Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology" -- was written on the  
basis of developments in sociology in the 1970s and represents partisan  
conflicts that few remember or care about anymore.  It's "use by date"  expired a 
long time ago. <g>
 
http://www.amazon.com/The-Social-Construction-Technological-Systems/dp/02625
17604/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406288477&sr=8-1&keywords=bijker+social+constr
uction&dpPl=1
 
These "polemics" were fueled by the post-Vietnam struggles in social  
science more broadly (and, in particular, the "politicization" of science  
funding that forced ARPA to become DARPA in 1973) as well as "generational"  
conflicts leading to the rejection of much of the work done in the  1950s/60s, 
the shift towards (mostly) French "critical theory" (which was more  of an 
Anglophone fad than it was Continental) and, let's be honest, the whole  
sweeping influence of the "counter-culture" on academia (yes, including  LSD.)
 
The 1989 workshop at MIT that led to the 1994 "Does Technology Drive  
History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism," might be the last time that  
these matters received a semi-public airing and, despite the clear biases  
involved, reflected a "debate" (including chasing the difference between 
"hard"  and "soft" determinism) that never went anywhere.  By then, it seems, 
the  *dogma* was already in place.
 
http://www.amazon.com/Technology-History-Dilemma-Technological-Determinism/d
p/0262691671/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406289148&sr=8-1&keywords=does+technolo
gy+drive+history
 
When Manuel Castells went on his world-wide tour of sociology departments  
to try to drum up interest in his notions of "Network Society" in the 
late-90s,  as was previously discussed on nettime, the reception was largely 
hostile and,  as best I can tell, he attracted few supporters.  Apparently, no 
one else  has even tried.
 
> I think we agree at least that it is the reciprocity of the 
> relationships between human ends and the agency of the 
> tools that needs to be considered to get the full picture, 
> but it seems we draw some markedly different conclusions 
> from this.
 
Excellent!  Personally, I don't much care what "conclusions" are drawn  -- 
as much as I care that there is a robust attempt to understand how  
technological environments *inform* those living in them.  
 
Or, to put it directly, the INFORMATION AGE has been one in which  
media-as-environment has been far more important than the "content" of those  media 
productions -- a conclusion that will likely disturb many who think that  
their own "output" deserves all the attention that tenure committees can give  
them. <g>
 
Your ideas about "designing" new social/political institutions are just  
fine with me!  However, I maintain that our presumptions about society have  
often been the "product" of these environments, so that as we examine the  
*inventory* of these effects, we will be compelled to ask some *radical*  
questions -- which is probably what the "ban" on considering "impact" was  
*designed* to avoid in the first place (i.e. SCOT was born of a time in which  
partisans were convinced that they had the answers to the most basic social  
questions, closing off a discussion which now has to be re-opened.)
 
Mark Stahlman
Jersey City Heights
 
 

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org