Ned Rossiter on Sat, 3 Nov 2007 15:06:06 +0100 (CET)

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

<nettime> YourSpace is MyTime

New Cultural Networks: You Google My Second Space,
Theater van't Woord, Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam,
Sandberg Institute of Design, Amsterdam,
2 November 2007,

Ned Rossiter

'YourSpace is MyTime, or, What is the Lurking Dog Going to Do - Leave 

a Comment?'*

You might know my second space, but do you know my first? Do I even   
know? In this time of ubiquitous media, the territory of offline      
existence is increasingly harder to define. These days you've made it 
when you're able to log off. Google narcissism services our curious   
and always fragile egos, but after 50 pages the attraction has either 
worn off, run out or turned into Japanese. Like Pavlov's salivating   
dog, we return a month later to the algorhythmic mirror to work out   
what's gone on in our life. Who's listening, who's reading, who's     
watching, who's appraising, who's attacking? Who knows and who cares? 

Just feed me data.

In the society of voluntary exposure, practice has outstripped
pedagogy. Speed is the default of dissemination. And someone else
is making bucks out of your expenditure of energy. Success requires
a re- engineering of time. In the competitive attention economy of
creative networks, cultural production becomes an art of lingering and
resonance. Zero comments are equivalent to the dead link.

MySpace and Facebook continue the social networking tradition of      
compiling friends. But who are your enemies? What do friends mean for 
collaborative constitution? What happens to the creative logic of     
constitutive tension when all you have is endless affirmation? Maybe  
you go on a demo for the palpable thrill of confrontation, but where, 

really, is your enemy? Watching the replay three days later from a
hundred CCTV recordings that your income tax paid for. Therein lies
the auto-erotic drive of opposition. The imaginary reigns supreme. And
you pay for it.

What is the role of critique in this kind of environment? With
the Rise of the easyJet Class, some suggest that critique serves
to eradicate the possibility of hotbeds of creativity.[1] Like
politicians and mediocre consultants, critics contribute to the
dirty appeal of emergent 'creative cities'. Berlin is 'poor but
sexy', claims the city mayor. Now that it can boast number one
ranking according to the Floridarian spin-index of '3 T's' - Talent,
Technology and Tolerance - Berlin is supposedly guaranteed of
development via its creative economy.[2] The message? Stay Poor and
Move East to Get Rich Fast.

And what happens then? Welcome to the Desert of a non-English Real.
Your networks develop within the ghetto of Euro-American exodus. Self-
affirmation, but with a difference. Everything is fast, dust sticks,
lungs collapse but value is added in immaterial ways. Everyone awaits
the call of repatriation. It's a gamble against time, and the updated
graduates of instituted creativity are stacking up fast. This sounds
like evolutionary economics all over again.

TV real-estate shows belt out the mantra 'Location, Location,
Location!' Tune in or give up. If you don't have enough savings, then
take a mortgage out on life. It'll only cost you. But seriously, how
and where do we locate ourselves in an era of rapidly diminishing
returns? We know that every act of consumption is one of ecological
destruction. Is the Slow Movement the only answer? Even that has
succumbed to a dependency on earnest consumption by the Enlightened
Middle Classes. Bring back the commons, we are told. But that
only welcomes proprietary control through the backdoor cult of
libertarianism. Free is only so good insofar as you've got a Second
Life of income generation on the side.

Writing in his twilight years of productivity - the late 40s and early
50s - the Canadian political economist and communications theorist
Harold Innis discerned a 'bias of communication' operating across
the epochs of civilization. His novel insight was to connect the
materiality of communications media with time and space. Examining
the relation between the continuity of empires over time and their
extension across space, Innis concluded, in correct negative fashion,
that the history of mediated human life demonstrated that it was
always off-balance. 'Monopolies of knowledge', he argued, are shaped
by the spatial and temporal properties of technology.

The clay writing tablet in Ancient Babylonia endured over time,
whereas the invention of papyrus by Egyptians enabled easy
dissemination across space. The downfall of each of these empires
was a result, he argues, of their bias of communication. Time or
space. The secular technology of papyrus in Egypt marginalized a
monarchy whose control over time centred around the use of stone and
hieroglyphics. The Assyrians invaded Babylon due to their superior
technologies of speed: the stirrup, chariot and experiments in horse-
breeding made possible the rapid transport of cavalry across space,
conquering the religious administration of Babylon. Without an
adequate military reserve, the bureaucratic apparatus of an alluvial
empire and its rule of law came tumbling down.

What lessons might we gain from the history of technology and
culture? Explicit in Innis' archaeology is an acknowledgment of the
relationship between media, culture and the enemy. The enemy is
revealed through the bias of communication. But how do we identify the
enemy in social networking technologies that have one option only:
links to our friends? In social networking sites such as Facebook,
the enemy is loaded into the space-time continuum: often pictured
but never present. Your friends make it impossible to avoid enemies.
Indeed, they can only be your friends. The enemy is never a guest
blogger. Does the anonymous comment register the enemy voice, or the
friend passing as enemy? We never know. What is an enemy without a

'I don't waste time despising people', writes American legal
philosopher Martha Nussbaum in The Guardian's Weekend magazine.
'Anger is much more constructive than contempt'.[3] Emotions are
fine so long as they can be made productive. Nussbaum's protestant
instrumentalisation of affect holds similarities with Facebook. There
is no tragedy. There is no surprise. These are not options. The
limits of Facebook are revealed through the trope of irony. One of
my 'Very Conservative' friends with 'Serious' religious views, whose
Facebook face looks distinctly psychotic, discloses a failed romance
we never had. This bi-modal form of public outing as conservative
and gay within the closed circuit of friends might function as a
minor disruptive device. But this is hardly a case of conflictual
constitution. Instead, it gestures toward an uneven networked
sociality of knowledge and affective proximity.

Nothing of consequence is at stake. Potential conflict is subsumed
within the Facebook code of tolerance. The technics give you no other
choice. The logic of tolerance reaffirms a cool, liberal world-view.
Zizek is the exemplary embodiment of Facebook. His intolerance of
tolerance is another variation of the ironic trope. Fightclub 2.0. And
this is why nasty hate sites are so refreshing: their non-ironic mode
broadcasts intolerance right from the start.

'Tolerance is Suicide', declares W.A.R. - White Aryan Resistance.[4]
Yet hate sites in many ways are no different from their liberal
counter-parts of networked affirmation. In both cases the addressee is
always absent. They are never there, only you and your friends. With
their form of indirect address, the disruptive potential of noise is
rendered inoperable. There is no constitutive outside when you are
blasting out hate or confirming your friends. We are not talking about
cybernetics here. Nor, really, are we talking about networks. It's all
about associative desires. And if you're migrating to Facebook from
the proletarian parametres of MySpace, then you're displaying symptoms
of the aspirational impulse.

If you're in any doubt about these claims, then go visit a site
extolling the virtues of pet hate. Holy Shmoly!'s blog posts an entry
on '8 reasons to hate cats'. With 355 comments, this rates as an A-
ALL DIE!!! SO SHOULD BIRDS'. some guy: 'cats have a use by date, just
like food'. Tim: 'I hate fucking cats. the only fun part about a cat
is blasting the hell out of it with a .22 rifle. the sons of a bitches
should all die. indpendant lil bastards, fuck them all!' Jacky (smart
scots girl): 'P.S. We eat cats in Scotland'. matt: 'How do you make a
cat go woof? Dowse it in gas and light a match'.[5]

Online, nobody knows the person you hate is actually a dog.[6]

This is where activist cartographies of media control come in handy.  
The database technographies of Josh On's 'They Rule' and Bureau       
d'études' maps of the military-industrial complex combine political 
economy with the aesthetics of design. At best, they conjure a        
project of collaborative research that cuts through a particular      
slice of time. As web 1.0 productions, these are not cultural         
technologies of real-time. Both inform us of the relation between     
institutional and individual interests. Combined assets are revealed. 

But it is hard not to be seduced by the aesthetics of presentation in 
both of these works. Part of their success derives from a recognition 
factor. They Rule affirms our sense of how networks appear, but       
not how they might change. And for all its amazing research, the      
cartographies of Bureau d'études resemble the Paris, London or      

metro systems, albeit in a Stalinesque aesthetic form.

As with many media of vision, what we find in both of these examples
is a bias toward space. Relations are mapped, but changes over time
are nowhere to be found. The advent of open and interactive databases
corrects this imbalance, to a certain extent. is
a good example.[7] Brought to my attention by the Ljubljanian free
software activist Luka Frelih, openstreetmap integrates handheld
GPS mapping technologies with a non-proprietary value system. It
invites a collaborative platform for users to create an open version
of everyday orientation. Using handheld GPS data loggers as a system
of real-time updating of abstracted space, openstreetmap would seem
to deliver Innis' dream of social-technological balance: a technic
of communication predisposed to neither time nor space, but both,
simultaneously. In time, across space.

While it's low on eye-candy, opensteetmap is a great example of
techno-sociality that is secondary to outcomes - the generation of
maps - but primary as a condition of possibility. First and foremost,
openstreetmap invokes the potentiality of communication as a mode of
collaborative constitution. For all the joy and narco-gratification
that attends social networking technologies such as MySpace, in the
first instance these are technologies of solitude. Don't get me
wrong: I'm not a great fan of mingling with the masses. Despite the
pernicious dimensions of individualised sociality, there are few who
don't find considerable relief when exiting the office.

What I'm suggesting, then, is that collaborative constitution is
necessarily an uncertain, unpredictable endeavour. It resists easy
formulation. Concepts are contextual. Experimentation is key, and
experience is crucial. Those who insist on predefined outcomes and
lists of deliverables will only be disappointed. But such agents
of administrative anxiety are essential for the collaborative
constitution of creativity. See these procedural types as conflict
generators that wish to police the borders of reason and the act
of action. Don't be concerned about the registration of denial.
The negative affect will undoubtedly take hold and propel your
investigation in one direction or many.

But what to make of all of this? Don't reply to that Urgent! Email.
Tell the boss to take a hike, and bend over instead for your buddy.
Maybe then you make your enemy. Excess is easy. 'Concrete research' in
order to create 'a strategy of the future' (Tronti) is not. Techno-

cultures are delicate, that much is certain. Life, even more so.
There's something to be said for religion. It rates as the most
successful institution in history. But let's face it, true believers
are, quite literally, out of it. Our time requires substantial
readjustment. That much is clear. But where to turn? That, I submit,
is a question to you.


* Thanks to Julian Kücklich for kicking in with some one-liners.

1. See Steffen Böhm, 'Re: [My-ci] Correction - Berlin Tops Germany
for "Creative Class"', posting to mycreativity mailing list, 18
October, 2007, See also
Matteo Pasquinelli, 'Re: [My-ci] Berlin Tops Germany for "Creative
Class"', posting to mycreativity mailing list, 15 October, 2007,

2. 'Economic Prospects Report: Berlin Tops Germany for "Creative
Class"', Spiegel International, 10 October, 2007, http://,1518,510609,00.html

3. Martha Nussbaum, 'Q&A: Interview by Rosanna Greenstreet', The
Guardian, 27 October, 2007,



6. For those of you who really hate Facebook, then try out Arsebook -
'an anti-social utility that connects you with the people YOU HATE', Thanks to Els Silvrants for the link.


#  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:
#  archive: contact: