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Re: <nettime> Managerial capitalism?
Newmedia on Thu, 21 Sep 2017 14:37:45 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Managerial capitalism?

Brian &al:
> Try the vision thing. Nobody has it, everybody needs it, it's the rarest thing
> on earth. I don't think that the post-2008 crisis will ever be resolved
> until some socio-political agency comes up with a vision of the future
> that is inspiring, workable and translatable into mathematical-statistical
> terms. And what if we never get one?
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king -- Erasmus (from the Latin *in regione caecorum rex est luscus*)

In 1946, Eric Blair (aka George Orwell), still a stanch Socialist, wrote an essay called "Second Thoughts on James Burnham," published in the journal Polemic (and reprinted in the "Orwell Reader" &c).  Then he sat down and wrote "Nineteen Eighty-Four," which few have recognized as his continued polemic against the now evident *end* of "class warfare" (much as Aldous Huxley had written "A Brave New World" against H.G. Wells' "The Open Conspiracy").  Orwell refused to understand what had already happened.

Burnham, in turn, like many other Socialists (but certainly not all) of those times -- including Daniel "Post-Industrial" Bell &c -- recognized that MASS MEDIA had ended the usefulness of "class" analysis, since the population had shifted under *radio* conditions (as understood by Marx &al) away from that sort of consciousness.  "Mass" had replaced "class" in how people thought.  As a result -- which Blair/Orwell fiercely resisted -- a completely *new* sort of "capitalism" had developed and, therefore, a *new* sort of opposition was required.

This recognition (which some then-and-now refused to recognize) was a result of the Rockefeller Foundation's 1935-1940 "Radio Research Project" (RRP) -- which was the first time that anyone had organized a sweeping effort to try to understand the *effects* of new technology on the population.  Without that understanding, "vision" is simply not possible.


For those who are paying attention, T. Adorno was hired by the RRP to explain the effects of music in a radio environment.  He never completed that assignment and his "exit memo" to Paul Lazarsfeld has never been published.  The only public copy resides on microfilm at Columbia University Rare Books and I have a PDF of the photos I took off the reader, if anyone is interested.

In 1953, the Ford Foundation (where its Program Area Five: Individual Behavior and Human Relations had replaced the earlier Rockefeller funding) granted $43,500 to Marshall McLuhan (an English professor) and Edmund "Ted" Carpenter (an anthropologist, likely working with the CIA in "Area Studies") for a project titled "Changing Patterns of Behavior and Language in the New Media of Communications."  This grant (roughly $500.000 in today's money) produced a seminar and a journal.  That journal, EXPLORATIONS: Studies in Culture and Communications, has recently been republished and is *required* reading for anyone today who is looking for "vision."


McLuhan attempted to get the Ford Foundation, as well as Robert Hutchins (first at Univ of Chicago and later at his Ford-backed Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara), to fund his organizing of a research center to address these issues.  When they declined, he eventually got the Univ of Toronto, IBM and others to back his Centre for Culture and Technology -- which, alas, never produced any useful research, since McLuhan largely abandoned the effort after clashing with psychologists about his "sensory balance" tests and, instead, opted to become a "media guru." 

Along the way, McLuhan and Bell were invited to the 1969 Bilderberg Conference, to explain May '68 in Paris.  Apparently neither of them understood that a new "technology" was involved -- LSD.  Later, Marshall became the "Patron Saint" of WIRED magazine -- which, in turn, was founded by Stewart Brand, the "patron saint" of LSD.  Yes, Thomas Wolfe, who "discovered" McLuhan (ending his career as a researcher), was also responsible for documenting the *drug-based* origins of the "Californian Ideology."

While the original Rockefeller project studied *radio*, McLuhan devoted his life to studying the *effects* of TELEVISION -- thus "changing patterns of behavior and language" in the *new* media of communications in the 1950s.  But that is no longer the world in which we live.  We are now DIGITAL.  This means we don't *perceive* the world in same way anymore.

As a result, the earlier details no longer matter -- at the same time that the "method" involved is more valuable than ever.  The "steering function" collapse that you describe is simply the result of what happens when one techno-psychological environment collapses and is replaced by another one.  Indeed, as some have recognized -- while others refuse to grasp the principles involved, clinging to their tattered "social constructionism" -- society isn't "steered" by this-or-that company or bureaucracy or institution or "class" but rather by the technologies we habitually use to communicate with each other.
We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us -- John Culkin (introducing Marshall to Fordham in an article titled "A Schoolman's Guide to McLuhan," 1967)

In 2015, some of us established the Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL), since the previous "steering functions" generated by *radio* and *television* no longer function and the *new* one has to be understood.  This new strategic research group now has 20+ Fellows and early-stage projects underway in Beijing, Moscow, Rome, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. 
The initial program for the CSDL was laid out at MetaForum III in Budapest in 1996 -- twenty years before the Center -- for the benefit of nettime, in my keynote speech "Who Are We: What Are We Becoming?"  Were some of you were there at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts?


Perhaps "vision" *is* the rarest thing on earth.  Maybe that's because some have been blinded and, as a result, it's so hard for them to see . . . <g>

Mark Stahlman
Jersey City Heights
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