Nettime mailing list archives

Re: <nettime> choose-your-own adventure: a brief history of nettime
Brian Holmes on Wed, 4 Nov 2015 06:11:47 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> choose-your-own adventure: a brief history of nettime

This is an intricate text with a lot of angles on the subject - not a bad thing, since the subject in question is now 4,500 people! I want to look behind just one sentence:

"From the beginning, <nettime> served as an environment for experimentation with the new medium and, beyond that, as a collaborative platform to prepare publications outside of it."

In terms of publication, Ted and Felix are firstly talking about the "Zentralkomittee" readers that were published in the early days of nettime. But there is a more informal and sometimes unacknowledged type of collaborative writing that emerges from this kind of list, which is also worth some attention. For example, "my" texts on cybernetics in the mid-2000s were to a certain degree products of list-wide debates, as I usually indicated somewhere in the footnotes to the published versions. I also had the great experience of launching a collaborative project on the subject of Technopolitics through mailing-list exchanges with Armin Medosch and others (that project didn't actually start here, but nettime has been the most important venue for written debate about those issues). I would be curious to know if some others have had interesting experiences with this type of informal collaboration?

As noted last April Fools', there will be good reasons for fresh conceptual collaborations in the future. The neoliberal order with its bewildering anarcho-libertarian ideology is on the way out. We are headed toward a new state-form based on third-order cybernetics, or general ecology, in which finely grained data on global populations will be used to repress those populations, but also to facilitate and channel behaviors more adaptive to the overall earth system. As resource use continues to grow, survival issues will increasingly make earth-system dynamics into an ultimate reference point, directly present and determinant for all experience, yet not susceptible of direct control. This leads to fundamental epistemological shifts, with many cascading effects on human-machine combinations (we cyborgs, I mean). Of course, the second-order paradigm of multiple autonomous agents modeling each others' behavior will never entirely disappear, just as the first-order logic of command, communication and control has never ceased to govern individual machine systems. First-order cybernetics was exemplified by a missile seeking its target; and the second order, by a bunch of hedge-funds making wild bets according to their speculative models of their rivals' wild bets. I think both of those cases will look very different from whatever kind of system emerges to coordinate, say, the movement of millions of driverless cars through a busy urban region.

While neither finance or war are likely to disappear, many new forms of continental- and global-level coordination are likely to take hold, affecting not just states and governments, but also individual agents relating to each other through densely patterned networks. Continental-scale smart grids for distributed electricity production are one possible example of a new kind of large-scale system, and potentially a crucial one. But I would look further to novel forms of water recylcing, emissions control and even weather modulation, not to mention a total embrace of identity control by the included classses, panic-dampening efforts during political-economic crises, etc. Silicon Valley remains the most obvious candidate to invent, commercialize and roll out the early versions of these systems; but Silicon Valley itself will become an ever-more global complex, increasingly shaped by a globally inegrated state-form. I don't say all this is for the better, nor necessarily for the worst. I say it's likely to happen. Wouldn't it be interesting to analyze this gradual metamorphosis?

The Technopolitics project was designed as a kind of observatory or distributed digital Wunderblock to keep tabs on the ways that the world is reacting to the financial crisis and the subsequent period of economic stagnation and military chaos, which is not yet over. Now, however, it looks to me as though inter-state cooperation (or what used to be called "inter-imperialist cooperation") will succeed in overcoming the contradictions of capitalism once more, setting the stage for massive new rounds of infrastructure building accompanied by the emergence of previously unimaginable organizational forms and new cultural-ideological horizons as well. The crucial intervention so far has been the unprecedented injection of some 12 trillion USD into the global monetary system by central banks, which know very well what each other are doing. The next crucial intervention will be to actually *do* something coherent with that money. In other words, look forward to attempts at orchestrating global economic productivity, somewhat at the US and the Allies did during WWII and in the decade thereafter. The collapse of the American security system in the Middle East, the desperate gambits of Russia and the military growing pains of China have yet to be surmounted; but i think they will be. Global corporations will obviously survive and thrive through this process, and they will administrate most of the coming investment wave. However, I think that key aspects of the coming round of global development will be orchestrated by the new inter-state/inter-imperialist order, in order to coordinate production/consumption and provide earth-system level services for all included populations. Who will do this? A consortium of countries including China. Whether the US or the EU will be part of it, I don't know. In short, the 21st century is not likely to be your grandpa's political economy!

I don't expect any recognizable pattern to become visible for a decade or more; but it is likely that that the decisive breakthroughs of the future are actually being invented right now, without us knowing it. First-order cybernetics was analyzed, critiqued and subverted in the Sixties and Seventies, and second-order forms were at the heart of our concerns in the Nineties and the Noughties. Don't you think a Third Age of net-critique is dawning? Who wants to have a go at that one?

curiously, Brian


Cybernetics essays ("Dark Crystals" section):

Two forks of Technopolitics:

#  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