Geert Lovink on Sat, 18 Jan 97 12:34 MET

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nettime: M.Fuller/Eating Disorder, part 2

Eating Disorder
the story of a shape

By Matthew Fuller

----- part 2 -----

- suspect device 

"The concept of windows as a means of looking at part of a large sheet
of paper was developed by Doug Englebart at his NLS laboratory at
Stanford Research Institute in the late 1960s. His system used two
tiled windows on the screen. Alan Kay's group at Xerox PARC extended
this concept to overlapping windows in the 1970s."(42)

Paul Heckel, the author of one of the few key texts on interface
design, goes on to suggest that once a software device has gone beyond
the rear-view mirror of a superficially familiar metaphor and into the
actuality of a device, it becomes more useful. For Heckel, scroll bars
are the most dynamic and radical aspect of the window - hence their
uptake across many disparate applications.

Indeed, the redevelopment of the Macintosh OS for instance has pretty
much been that of packing the apple menu with more and more ways to
slice across the arboreal directory structure as the hierarchy of
windows has continually had incursions made against it in the shape of
finder, desktop manager, recent files, recent applications, icon
aliasing etcetera.

Nevertheless, the layered windows device is not so quite cumbersome
that it has had to be done away with.
The powerful impetus behind its introduction was to create a way around
the constraints obviously imposed by the size of the display screen,
and thus to get as much on screen and hence manipulatable as possible.
For the computer as hardwired epistemology, everything depends on the
machine's position within wider dynamics; what it is able to come into
composition with, and how; the ensemble of conditions which it
precipitates, and the devices moving through it. As I have suggested
earlier in terms of money, all devices have axiomatics that force what
they can and cannot do and that these restrictions last only when they
are productive of certain effects that come into composition with wider
formations. This doesn't mean that they aren't frustrating. Users of
imaging programmes will be familiar with trying to produce graphics
that 'don't fit' the rectangularism of windows; those involved in
hypertext will be familiar with the clunkiness of windows based
hypertext systems such as Storyspace; and multimedia designers and
users will know that whilst programs with ten times more buttons don't
always deliver the promised ten times more interactivity, all these
buttons will be rectangular, or in a rectangular field. A problem found
in the production of general tools - where the general is often
mistaken for the generic - carries over into the lazy reiteration of
devices that are at best not necessarily applicable in the development
of other programs.
Whilst in this manner the dominance of a device accrues as a convention
- the reverse fax effect - we can also make some observations starting
from the question. 'What realities, what domains of objects and rituals
of truth does windows produce?'
The little animations, frames zooming out from an icon - visual rewards
exploding across a 3d but ultra-shallow space; the promise of 'an
infinite amount of folders'(43) that Apple used early on to coax in the
custom of stationary fans who found its potentially hypertext-like
neurotic vastness appealing; the perpetual unfolding, all perhaps
provide something of an answer. Windows provides a system through which
systems of categorisation operate. In this it is inducive to
classification rather than circulation.
This fixity though is complicated when, peering into the flicker of its
flexible, repetitive grid, the user is encouraged to view windows as,
'your view into information' - a synthetic space where you can actually
'see' your documents. In this alloy of dynamics, the user is the
disorder to which and by which this device to negotiate alterity with
choice trees, directories - a determinedly neutral and homely version
of Foucault's 'capillaries of power'(44) - is applied. The windows
device is a disorder riding machine, turning mess into a straight line.

- dysfunctional bureaucracy

A mutant development: the chore culture of management layers present
more as a chain of windows winking out in rapid succession on the
screen than as a positively deterministic hierarchy. Dysfunctional
bureaucracy is a recursive, enveloping routine that combines the
classical realpolitik of Machiavelli with the negative imprint of
managerial delirium. Playing a game of deferral, of unplaceability it
is fractal control done femme.
Realising itself almost by accident through the form follows
frustration pragmatics of massive cuts in staff and efficiency it
reduces those areas of government concerned with welfare, health,
education, benefits into a morass of complaints departments.
Emerging from the ruins of the Fordist post-war historical blip by
affirming nothing, and indeed by the fact that it affirms nothing, it
implies a system of values that it is impossible to define after the
event. That it must not be tied to any clear cut values or specifically
stipulated modes of operation whilst always being strictly adhered to,
dysfunctional bureaucracy is a sacred practice of government.
Dysfunctional bureaucracy surges up to caress your nostrils with the
faint, coaxing possibility of getting your problem dealt with. The next
moment, gravity tilts and it slides away in an avalanche of misfiled
papers, corrupted disks and caffeine twitch office romance. This is the
scene scoped by a video camera, patched into an indeterminate
television, watching bleary pixelated faces down below in the waiting
room, found within the ruins of the welfare state:

"the swelling to bursting point, the malice that breaks out with
clenched teeth and weeps; the sinking feeling that doesn't know where
it comes from or what it's about; the fear that sings its head off in
the dark; the white eyed pallor, the sweet sadness, the rage and the
vomiting are so many evasions."(45)

Ghostly, in inducing these side-effects in you it has already moved on,
in a wretched processing of itself as the slime trail of the necrotic
state. Modernist bureaucracy,(in part replacing parademocratic or
premodern shortcuts up the hierarchy such as graft, corruption and
personal favour) (46), is an infinitely reiterated structure taken as
an end itself. Buried in this planning machine is the desire to avoid
pain by fixation on function.
"The father does not accept - for himself or his word - that everything
has already been started by resemblance, for he wills himself eternally
self-identical. He prefers to be(his) absolute mirror, reflect
(himself) in(de)finitely. As-if-the-standard for everything that is"
(47) If this has a kinship to the mode operated by money, idealised as
a blind force equilaterally taking possession of the phase space of
fiscal opportunity with a vegetal will to power, dysfunctional
bureaucracy is caught up in a modality of refusing fixed identity, of
entropic subversion and - taking the radical political tactic of
refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of power into a paranoid hall of
mirrors - embraces pain and leaves behind any predictable structure.

"Everyone at the welfare office gave off the feeling that they were
gazing at things that were faraway, almost invisible"(48) This is a war
of attrition fought with overheated offices packed with cheap broken
furniture and surveillance cameras furred up with ancient dust lurching
out of the walls . Behind spit-flecked bullet-proof glass, badly
trained over-worked staff attend to nomadic filing systems whilst the
clients are summoned by inaudible PAs to confront their data-bodies:
information that floats in a recessively polymorphous space on
eye-destroying monitors. Information that will always be wrong, and
that will always besomehow inaccessible at the moment.

A medium for the transmission of domination and a method of navigating
disorder that linearises mess, are joined by a recursively recessive
model of the subversive state. 
- fractalisation of control 
'A fractal is a geometric object that has infinite nesting of
self-similar structure.'
'Geometry lies at the cross-roads of a physics problem and an affair
of the State.'
"I'm doing situated knowledge: ensconsed in my very own cosy little
spatio-disciplinary theatre. Global Positioning System locked onto
where I am; Routemaster telling me how to get somewhere else;
Trafficmaster for that crucial second opinion; the electronic tag
locking me into the social prison - it's by Gucci; car running a
tracking device to stop it getting nicked; the cellular plugged into
the laptop switching servers as we cross over from one satellite
footprint to another; give me layers; give me order of magnitude and
let me reassure you that whilst master planning is obsolete there's
still plenty room for masters."

As in Islamic pattern design where topology is a direct expression of
cosmology, Fractal Control is a generative rule cut loose from its
moorings, a ceaseless rising up from the depths of itself 'power is
nothing without control'(51)
David Wojnarowicz illustrates this recursive scaling of control when he
recounts that "beginning with a childhood where instead of Heads of
State or Politicians, there were Heads of Family: Mom and dad. Once
outside the home, Mom and dad were replaced with Teacher or Policeman
or Store Owner or Land Owner or Neighbour or Priest or God or Arresting
Officer or Detective or Psychiatrist or Politician or President"(52)
These endlessly receding, endlessly advancing agents of claustrophobia
also come in, amongst others, handy gender-friendly flavours: Kinder,
Kueche und Kirche for the girls, and Faith, Nation, Family for the
little boys. As Wojnarowicz again points out, this schema works so
effectively because, 'bottom line in the pyramids of power and
containment one demon gets replaced by another in a moments notice and
no one gesture can erase it all that easily'(53)
This is a pyramid though in which there is no bottom line. When desire
is the one who is repressed as well as the one who represses, every
angle seems to offer us nothing but a seemingly endless reverse shot
along this particle accelerator of power.
Take this image from William Burroughs, and loop it back in on itself,
at every level in the hierarchy: 
"We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of
aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of
absolute power by random pressures, and subject to political and
economic factors that leave little room for decision. They are
representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through
surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of the past,
there will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most
insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident, inept, frightened pilots
at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in
the experts to tell them which buttons to push."(54)

- The Inhuman Potential Movement: "Beatniks! White Negroes! I wouldn't
know if they were fruit salad or some whisky cocktail."(55) 

Fractal control, along with other elements in the contemporary bestiary
of power, is for domination a way of maintaining balance in a period
where rationality - a routine essential for its synthesis - has become
either increasingly unstable, or increasingly unwieldy. Rationality was
essential for the bourgeois to bootstrap itself into a position where
it could exploit matter - a class of materiel that not incidentally
defined those excluded by this class synthesis as beneath rationality.
With local realisations of the dematerialisation of the economy Arthur
and Marilouise Kroker posit a drive to hyper-subjectivity as the
condition of power within the virtual class56. Rationality having
served its purpose, game plans and strategies can become almost
arbitrary and may indeed be more effective so.
Whilst Tarot readings to determine high level deals on the stock market
are already commonplace, if little discussed, managerial
hypersubjectivity also takes the shape of a kind of
too-late-postmodernist thanatos: 

"Me, I'm going down reading Mark Leyner and Jean Baudrillard
simultaneously, a copy of Wired in my lap, hypertext by Carolyn Guyer
on the computer screen, television tuned to MTV, windows wide open, a
jumbo jet falling out of the sky, my fire-retardant corrosion-resistant
nickel-base alloy robo-enhanced methyl isocyanate flamethrower
exploding, while I listen to Sonic Youth's Dirty turned up real, REAL
loud." How rock 'n' roll can you get? (57)

Annihilating rhythm the festival faux-Dyonisis as a perpetual motion
machine: it is the project of fractal control to yoke the dynamics of
immanence up as a control routine that can get infinitely close without
the danger of contamination. The effects of which would be merciless.
As Sadie Plant illustrates, control as domination, as deistic nervous
system, has its double: 

"Domination is a version of control, but also its confinement, its
obstacle: even self-control is seen by man as the achievement of
domination. Only with the cybernetic system does self-control no longer
entail being placed beneath or under something: there is no 'self' to
control man, machine or any other system: instead, both man and machine
become elements of a cybernetic system which is itself a system of
control and communication."(58)

>From the minuscule to the massive, Control is finding a pattern, a
sustainable dynamic, that, whilst it must get used to the perpetual
loss, reassertion and loss of its rocklike identity allows it to
maintain domination. A way of maintaining the benefits of homogeneity
whilst channelling the rush of energies created by an infinite
multitudinal churning - desperately reconciling the nomadic with the
sedentary. The "insanity of an infinite outward rush", reinforced by
"the reasoned circularity of social reproduction attended by the petty
satisfactions of privilege."(59)

'Where one believed there was the law, there is in fact desire and
desire alone'(60) - A desire that produces and suborns the forcing
device of subjective control:

"It could be asked of the First Emperor if he had an empire, or if the
empire had him. And of the emperor's Oedipal son, in his many
reincarnations throughout the course of history: did you inherit your
Father's desire or did your Father's desire inherit you?" (61)

Operating as Fractal control this great reiteration opportunity is
available to all citizens, their sub-personalities and other social
formations at every level of society. For those specifically franchised
as operators of fractal control, managers as twenty four hour poetic
terrorists, what is on offer is the chance to become the medium for the
transmission of a strictly non-attributable sadism whilst
simultaneously revelling in the role of tragic hard-man never further
than ten seconds from a chilled martini or a chance to express himself.

- Do You Think Dead People Live Longer, Healthier Lives?

If prison is where you are punished for what you have done in the past,
work is where you are punished in order to be able to do things in the
future. When future managementologists like Peter Drucker preach the
end of work, they do so in the same manner as the Situationist
International preached the end of art. Work must be suppressed in order
to be realised.
Control must disappear in order to install itself everywhere. The
assembly line is blown-off in favour of decentralisation,
destabilisation and deregulation, each operation putting into effect
its own unlimited schizophrenic proliferation. A rigid soup of
liquidisers applied to produce the perfect social and material thick
shake for the ongoing realisation and transcendence of the
organisational task.
Amidst the turbulent choice-making opportunities, of damage limitation
oriented career changes or nutritional flavour options, creative
corporate relocations, dissident leisure time pariah revenge and the
epiphanic maintenance of the self facilitated by pay-per-second
emotional workers, Fractal Control absolutely refuses to dissipate, but
to lock the circulation of energy either into a conservative stasis or
into expanding the range of its potential operations, and those areas
which it draws into its influence via contiguity. Flicking two-fingers
at the status quo, free-wheelin' micro-fascisms are machined as fast as
their shrink-to-fit info-smog as personality procedural machines. Fresh
from the production line of subjective assemblages, fluctuating in and
out of an infinity of sizes including all-action executive nomads;
pimp states; the gadget-heavy freelance unemployed; anorexic data
breathing incorporations is the figure of the conceptual maverick,
fuelled with an isolated out there experimentalism bringing to heel
ever newer, ever tighter niches.
Fractal Control is a schematic operating in what Guattari calls the
"wars of subjectivity" (62) For many mathematicians when fractals where
first mooted, these shapes were 'monsters', 'pathological cases'.
Despite their soupy Gaian wholesomeness, the attraction remains. To
represent control merely as an algorithm belies the fun house delirium
of domination. At the moment of the failure of rational actor model
systems theory, irrationality is hooked up to its disciplinary grid
providing a multi-hued slew of opportunities for "Personal growth
through abject servility."(63)

Reed from ideology change becomes inevitable, or a matter of personal
choice. Politics merely the obeying of natural laws and the application
of the best technocratic solution. In a "futuristic thinkpiece" (64),
'Cyberwar is Coming!' John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt of the
International Policy Department of the RAND Corporation speculate on
the endless quest for certainty of military control in the light of new
political and technical contexts.
"The information revolution, in both its technological and
non-technological aspects, sets in motion forces that challenge the
design of many institutions. It disrupts and erodes the hierarchies
around which institutions are normally designed. It diffuses and
distributes power, often to the benefit of what may be considered
weaker, smaller, actors."(65)
For the military, "Success will depend on learning to interlace
hierarchical and network principles"66 After warmly praising the
nomadic war machine of the Mongols they quote Mao "Command must be
centralised for strategical purposes and decentralised for tactical
purposes"67. Impacting topsight and decentralisation through the
mirrors and repetition of fractal control is a way of avoiding
disruption caused by alterity in scale.
"To this may be added a further set of observations drawn from current
events. Most adversaries that the United States and its allies face in
the realm of low-intensity conflict, such as international terrorists,
guerrilla insurgents, drug smuggling cartels, ethnic factions, as well
as racial and tribal gangs, are all organised like networks (although
their leadership may be quite hierarchical). Perhaps a reason that
military (and police) institutions have difficulty engaging in
low-intensity conflicts is because they are not meant to be fought by
The lesson: institutions can be defeated by networks, and it may take
networks to counter networks."(68) 
Indeed, in their proposals, Arquilla and Ronfeldt quite plainly state
that the techniques of cyberwar and netwar they propose "are uniquely
suited to fighting non-state actors".69 Echoing COINTELPRO of the
seventies, The War on Drugs of the eighties, and their compounding into
an active global strategy for the nineties, somewhat faux-naif they
suggest that "exercises consider some potentially unusual opponents and