Florian Cramer on Thu, 5 Mar 2009 16:11:20 -0500 (EST)

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Re: <nettime> Cybernetics and the Internet

On Thursday, March 05 2009, 13:55 (+0100), Brian Holmes wrote:

> This command-and-control paradigm, in its turn, was 
> destabilized by Maturana, Varela and Von Foerster's 
> self-reflexive introduction of the observer's consciousness 
> into the system, leading to "second-order cybernetics" and 
> ultimately to the chaos and complexity theories that came to 
> dominate our understanding of both networks and the economy 
> during the 1980s and 90s. 

One could even go farther back in history and say that the link between
chaos and complexity theories, communication networks and counterculture
created in Thomas Pynchon's 1966 novel "The Crying of Lot 49" already
mapped out the whole field and discourse.

The problem, however, is that second-order cybernetic notions of
"chaos", "complexity" and "self-organization" have been, and continue to
be, thoroughly misunderstood in countercultures just because they appear
to be identical to their homonymous political and cultural notions. In
reality, they are quite if not radically different: The scientific
notion of chaos is stochastic-deterministic, the political-cultural
notion of chaos is ontological and anti-deterministic.  The
scientific/cybernetic notion of "self-organization" and emergence is
about [nonsubjective, swarm-like] organic phenomena whereas the
political notion is completely about social construction and personal
intention.  In a systems theoretical context, a software cellar
automaton or a fractal is "complex", in a social, political and
aesthetic sense, they're blatantly under-complex.

Unfortunately, these misunderstandings thoroughly pervade the field
- and, most importantly: utopias - of "new media" studies, art and
activism. I wonder what will be left of it as soon as people wake up
and realize that the hopes they put into "open systems that organize
themselves" have been just another god delusion.


blog:     http://en.pleintekst.nl
homepage: http://cramer.pleintekst.nl:70

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