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<nettime> poli/para2
tb on Thu, 8 May 1997 14:53:01 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> poli/para2

2. Tectonic Technology

The room is dark. Fingers reach for the switch. Pupils redilate and
adjust to the luminescence.

The phone trills. Fingers arrest the receiver. The larynx oscillates
with the vocal transmissions of thought responding to the coppery, and
increasingly glass, echo.  

The above responses are so embedded that examples unconstrained by the
presence of stimulus, response, and technology are difficult to
furnish; phone and electric grids do not even seem to be connected to
the proliferation of the computer. These devices have survived, unlike
the marginal, esoteric, and forgotten communication accoutrements of
the past--that with only a minor flutter could have been as prolific
as the estimated 77 million PCs currently in use (Sassen,
96)--recently compiled into a list of dead media by the prescient
science fiction writer Bruce Sterling. Media fossils, curled and
mineralized, broken and forgotten, are sequestered within the list's
lengthy tribute to civilizations' inventions: culminating in a lattice
of plastics that refuses to decay in the tectonic movement of the
planet's cataclysmic exoskeleton. 

>From this strata of artefacts, the most radical change to the phone's
design has been its development as a both a fax and a mobile device.
But telematics has experienced radical changes in its technological
capacity to transmit data, buried in the ground, wandering the
surface, suspended in the sky. The shape of this network defies
dimensions, decorated with whirling data reservoirs, the concatenated
abstraction of the very artefacts' existence. The coupling of the
phone network's infrastructure with the processing power of computers,
whereby the phone is subsumed and appropriated by the computer, has
only enhanced the dominance of data glyphs and their representation.
Though the bounty of transmission merely codes for ASCII character
sets, the graphics of the net's innumerable pages attempt to replace
the bodily details of personal conversation. Striving to create a data
taxonomy might just succeed in classifying the gesture, emphasis,
tone, and voice lacking from data networks. However, lurking behind
the applications of HTML and Java, archaic telnet continues to provide
connections free of the limits of mail programs and graphic browsers,
though requiring UNIX protocol for smooth operation. Reliable telnet
continues to supply corporations and governments with paranoia, as the
archetypal hacker lurks within its mode of infiltrating data nodes. 

Once the technological protocol of new technologies has been mastered,
their use is accented by the ergonomics of design: they are expected
to reflect a proud space in the private domain, if not radiate with
the mellifluousness of their power. Manufacturers hope that such an
appropriately useful and resilient technology will sink into the realm
of popular consciousness to be execrated and re-animated time and time
again. Or so at least, runs the conception of the net among its
hardware promoters eager to convince potential consumers of the merits
and relevance of video, sound, text, camera, and prosthetic gadgetry
essential for the full enjoyment of the treasure trove of networked
media: equivalent to and no more complex than a CD-player or a
television, thus its popularity. And therefore, inherently good,
simple, efficient, irresistible, and consumable.  

However, this simplification signals ignorance if not an absolute
dictation of the net's properties, as if the net were a game show
prize case enhanced by CFC-cleaned image and text and smiled over by
pearly-white and dictatorial matron as conceived by puerile macho.
Paranoia has become pronoia, interceding and arresting the grime of
the world before it can ever accumulate. The notion of menstruation
has been scrubbed from the net's thighs as well as her lust-endowed
audience, woman and man alike, captured by the spell of bodily
perfection rather than the fluids of sexual intercourse. According to
this clean vision, anything should be censored if not prosecuted that
does not resemble the sentimentally restored and re-animated glory
days of 1950s America where all children, and conceivably even adults,
knew nothing of the delicate pleasures of perversity. Indeed, as
pointed out earlier, this brief decade functioned as the fulcrum of
the century, assembling media, technology, and resultant capitalist
ideology into an irrevocable, unbetrayable entity only allowing access
for those pure in mind and blood.  This sterile vision inherently
damages the qualities of the net known to its more opportunistic
users: it essentially erases the net's fertile domains of contact,
dissent, otherness, sabotage, and  solidarity to a position of
irrelevancy. Concentrated into one statement, the net is characterized
by its potential for misrepresentation, though this misrepresentation
maintains its essence as the projections of the unrestrained alterego
as account identities are shrouded in abbreviation. From this
reference point, the net crystallizes repressed entities and
personalities, though indulging Freud's theories, perhaps
predetermined by the candid films of his frolicking in his garden
reliant on the technology of his monocle and pipe, summons up a world
of guilt that is equally as inappropriate for the net as censors'
claims to cultural authority.

The compression of time and space due to the efficiency, immediacy,
instantaneity and universality of the net suggests a change in the
perception of its inhabitants whereby any object not assuming these
characteristics is discarded. However, the patterns of physical
behavior as this virtual space is territorialized, constructed,
consolidated, and commodified are analogous to changes in the physical
world due to our species' exponential capacity (and thus war is far
more inevitable than peace) to breed not only individuals but also
technological objects endowed with the anatomy of the neuter. But by
projecting sexuality on its artifacts, the exquisite corpse can be
re-animated (Ballard, 90). Indeed, concentrated kernels of chaos of a
variety of natures transgress and distil on the net. This chaos seed
even collectivizes under correct conditions, seemingly a suspension, a
lattice, a lifeline to pass through the gaps, gorges, fissures of
electronic space to the refuges of temporary autonomous zones (Bey,
84). These zones of autonomy, shrouded in digital space under domes of
data and protocol, can neither be derived nor integrated, their convex
and concave surfaces congealing, distorting, vanishing, folding. They
are neither matter nor energy, but rather a plasma of massless
presence, even existing as a mere vector, the abstraction of movement.
 In passing through this precarious realm from one zone to another,
pockets and pits well up to offer a spontaneous distortion if not
concentration of the net's potential as a reservoir of potentially
enlightening data, organic rhizomatic networks, nurtured by careful
custodianship, or equally reckless code, and  suddenly revealed from
the smoke and mirrors of the network.  (Deleuze and Guattari, 87). 

If the net is compounded into the essential and rudimentary features
of the anthropogenic domain, i.e., the automatic technologies of the
past, then higher consciousness becomes no more than an indecypherable
delusion. Or more reverentially in terms of the analytical verse of
Marshall McLuhan: the extensions of humankind, the prostheses of the
mind, the adjustment of the sensual registers to an aesthetic
fabricated to satisfy and provide fluidless orgasms. And continuing
with the panegyric, the simple anatomic function provided to the
cerebellum by the brain's moisturizing exodermis is adjusted _ad
infinitum_ by the brain's attempt to fashion a completely dehumanizing
comfort for its host: the automatic body beyond the coverings of the
flesh. If the body has been so completely separated from the mind
within this realm, then the cyborg may indeed be among us, a creature
of mythical distinction, capable of cheating death with transfer into
another vessel--chemical, mechanical, spiritual, or digital--and thus
being, behaving, existing, changing: an eternal essence that has
manifested itself through culture from its origins crouched over a
percussive antler and cores of gypsum. In retrospect, this lineage
that wears the mask of normality in actuality maintains the stilted
mannerisms of the automaton and must be examined and blasphemed.
(Morse, 94).  

Analogously, crouching over the keyboard in search of the spark's of
data that allow for essential mental heat and oriented to the
filtering of figures, languages, texts, and images collected into
archives of personal Bourdieu-ian network capital, the fingers have
been made to resemble catheters, an eye poised on each fingertip and
registering the press of correct and incorrect keys. The mind enters
the screen, glazed onto the surface. Humankind's distilled essence is
supposed to function here, the utopia and elevation of enlightenment
beyond the gravitational restrictions of the planet, re-censused as a
non- existent space with no physical, matter-endowed population. As a
consequence manual labor has been reduced to a tiny domain of
movement, the few square centimeters of the input device whether
sewing rolls of textile or leaves of data. And the provisions of the
neo-mediaeval service industry, celebrated by states and corporations
alike as the remedy to unemployment, demands the same dexterity to
ring up the next purchase at the cash register. Without consequence,
the tidiness of the economic discipline, in refining its definitions,
bundles and considers this shift the division of labor, whereby that
labor is located in the unindustrialized, undeveloped, and exploited
conditions of the third world, tantamount to the fourth world (Carnoy,
93) Not surprisingly, the manifestations of this fourth world have
leaked into the industrialized markets and their capitols only to be
exacerbated by dogma.   

Questions automatically arise about the repercussions of such a
confinement of movement, especially when considered in light of the
mind's adaption to the appalling, whereby all channels of Epicurean
perversity are available at personal discretion. Does this have an
effect on our ability to caress our raunchy objects of tranvesticism,
hermaphrodism, or homosexuality? Yes, the private moments of gushing
detail over sexual organs and flesh now has been replaced by the
archetype of work, creating a post sexual body. But is the body
exhausted or excited by the contact?  If left to its unrestrained
capacity, then there is no guarantee of orgasm from technology and its
fleshy screened adornment. 

Under the direction of the command economies of the transnational
corporations maintains its advantage by turning to the cerebral,
having practiced the circumcision, emasculation, vasectomy and
hysterectomy of our minds, the loci of sexual sensation reigned in by
castrated minds. Such desiccating formulae openly stress the
suppression of euphoria: of partaking in the liquidity of the body,
its infections and leakages, or suturing together a new sex with the
digital stitches of the network. The body and its respective gender,
almost diffuse, carefully taken into suspension by the facelessness
and anonymity of the net. 

The utopia in no way resembles the promise of silicon mind interfaces
and the inflated satisfaction of amble bosom and porno-scale cock, but
rather it is still being adapted, rationalized, and adopted in a
brutish aesthetic. Matching its abundance is its alienness, the
medium's static, plastic platform irregularly hewn while the images
and text derived from its mechanisms reflect this discomfort and
alienness. Nonetheless, network technology seems to be the infallible
miracle of the moment, offering salvation appropriated from religious
didacticism to approve its own acts with biblical certitude. More
appropriately in context of two of the century's most vociferous and
ideological dictators, Stalin and Hitler, the tyrant's resemblance to
the clown is unnerving, a reminder that the fascism of the past still
exists, mutated into the distraction of our struggle, but invisible
and outweighed by considerations of survival  (F. Morton, 89).
However, blasphemous data fools still have the power to transgress
power relationships. 

Enlightened to this reality, troops of digital dandies and strumpets
wait for the manifestation of the panoptic messiah, fishing among the
data reservoir in the hopes of pulling an artefact of her/his
existence from the cherished and holy water. They react to the finest
pulse and twitch and thus collect the travesties of humanity. However,
when a carcigenous fish or messiah is really reeled in from the
reservoir of data, the game continues with the actors still astutely
aware of their mischievousness. With the tumor biopsied and among the
scales in the kitchen sink, the gaping head--resembling their own
straining of data stored for the famine in fatty syqests--floats in a
steaming bowl to the applause of the audience and to the winks of the

In contrast to the actual input device, the net excites its
correspondents into a state of august ferociousness, the hostility and
territorialism of instinctual essences.  Emergent from the great drama
and fantasy of virtual presence, divorced of the body and encouraged
by its absence, vacarious realms populated by clans of
proponents--raw, sore, festering capitalists, infant seducers, anxious
brides, foul ideologists, shady miscegationists, ethnic cleansers,
rampant child predators,  fascistic emotionalists, disco shamans,
starchy clerks, nuclear families, virile polygamists--struggle for
habitats that match their profiles.  In short, the whole gamut of
special interests, and certainly commidifiable interests, dedicates
itself to the pursuit of diversion.  Nonetheless, the escapism is
rapidly being tainted and  must reconciliate itself with the fact the
net is not Mecca in any shape or form.  

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