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<nettime> Re: The Virtual Intellectual (by Peter Lunenfeld)
peterl {AT} artcenter.edu (Peter Lunenfeld) (by way of Pit Schultz ) on Sat, 26 Jul 1997 00:14:12 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> Re: The Virtual Intellectual (by Peter Lunenfeld)


>Peter Lunenfeld wrote :
>> Part of the problem with Paris
>>(if we are to spatialize the theoretical landscape created by Virillio,
>>Baudrillard, Levy etc.) is that it tends to generate a
>>science-fictionalized discourse about the new media - the
>>professorial/professional  result of relying on graduate student
>>demonstrations of the new technologies to feed textual phantasms.

>Christine wriote:
>I quite agree with that, and have the same critic, but this is relevent for
>Levy (who is often accused to work that way with his Paris VIII univ.
>students). It is not for Virilio (who has been faithful to his own
>personnal history and critics for years) neither for Baudrillard who keeps
>beeing an free-electron (whether you agree with his theories or not).
>I would just add that the problems with these guys is that they are not
>computer users, they don't use the Net, the don't know what it is, but
>theoretically.

Christine -

I don't think that there is any disagreement here. I may have been too
eliptical in my phrasing, but my point was exactly what as you state. By
the middle to late 1990s, a group of extremely distinguished and powerful
intellectual superstars (on both sides of the Atlantic, by the way)
realized that their theoritical turf was being swamped by digital
technologies. They then had the choice of immersing themselves in these
technologies or commenting on them from the outside. Generally (and I think
I would exclude Virilio here), they chose to theorize from an almost
entirely externalized position. This is, of course, a venerable strategy,
but because of their perceived positions of "hip authority," their comments
were given great weight by their colleagues and the intellectual press (if
such a thing even exists anymore).

Yet much of their theorizing comes from a passive relationship to the
digital media upon which they are commenting. Because of their positions,
others (generally students and acolytes) are more than happy to demonstrate
virtual environments, surf the Web for them, create their graphics,
configure their networks, etc. Yet this passive reception of new media gets
to the heart of the differences between the previous generation of
intellectual superstars and the Virtual Intellectual (VI) as Lovink
describes.

The Spectacle as the superstars came to theorize it demands a superb
critique of reception (which they offered for over a generation). Yet the
VI operates in a different era, a time in which the computer hooked to a
network serves as the first instance in the 20th century that the same
mechanism serves as the site of production, distribution and consumption.
Thus to understand the telematic era, the VI must be conversant with not
simply the discourses of reception, but also with the constraints of
production and the mechanisms of distribution.

Peter Lunenfeld




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