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<nettime> poli/para3

3. Habits and Hosts

The parasite contests the state of the world through autonomous
subjectivity marked by disobedience and dysfunctionalism. Survival
justifies the opportunism of the parasite, a creature that may weaken
and kill or conversely benefit and invigorate the host. Within this
framework, the parasite seeks to maintain the former domains as well
as search for new vectors, domains, channels, and reservoirs in which
to live if not thrive. These pathways are marked by technological
apparati that demand a strict protocol that infects behavior and
discourse from simple purchase to critique. Thus the strategy of the
parasite reverses the tables of domination, functioning seemingly
irrationally in its desire to perpetuate. Innately indulgent, the
parasite literally sucks the detritus of the media species in order to
perpetuate its existence as autonomous creature of aesthetic and

In direct relation to the net, the parasite filters the vile spaces of
commercialdom, scanning information's surface, and adhering to sticky
numbers, phrases, notions, and concepts. Encouraged by the collision
of state, corporate, non-governmental, and individual actors on the
net, the parasite recognizes the potential for implementing its
mechanisms. Clearly, the net is the intermediate host or vector that
allows the parasite to locate such actors for pursuit as the
definitive host. The parasite operates on the hierarchy, optimally
seeking the highest attainable position in order to trigger the
dysfunctionalism inherent in its existence. The parasite is a
catalysis of its desire to wreak havoc and introduce illogic into
systems. However, on a host supporting robust and vital traits, the
parasite's procreation is jeopardized by assimilation due to
corroboration and mock affability. The parasite seeks the endorsement
of its disguise before secure in implementing its anti-tactical
mechanisms: counterfeit data, fraudulent information, forged security,
babelistic code, disobedient clones, rogue personalities, bunk
protocols. As an anti-institutional, nomadic, inamicable creature, the
parasite strikes within the complexes of the corporation, the NGO, and
the ministry by entering through the anus of disposal, collecting the
paper from indigestion- wracked toilets, the folds and leaves of data
heaped into streetside dumpsters, and the scrapped second tier
technologies left outside the foyer, hard disks salvaged for their
unerasable data traces. Michel Serres remarks, "The parasite is 'next
to', it is 'with', it is detached from, it is not sitting on the thing
itself, but on the relation. It has relations, as one says, and turns
it into a system. It is always mediate and never immediate. It has a
relation to the relation, it is related to the related, it sits on the
channel (80)." Having accumulated production's unwanted and
intermediary goods, the parasite is ready for procreation, developing
offspring from the very infrastructure that seeks to destroy it by
appropriating, embezzling, smuggling, cloaking, and relicensing in
order to duplicate and simulate. Authenticity is relevant only to
authority while the parasite offers a false, yet paradoxically true,
good. Recognized as corrupt, the parasite acts as a reagent
poltergeist at the threshold of the division between nutrient and
waste, entering the host with scavenged codes and passwords through
the vector of the net and its precedents.  

The projection that fuels this strategy conversely interprets its
victims as parasites endowed with the same opportunism much as any
sociopath regards her/himself as an object as well as her/his victims.
But a parasite is not to be found on a corpse, and only dissection and
autopsy will reveal the true extent of the damage to the definitive
host. It abandons the shelter of the dead body in order to identify a
new host, facing the prospect of absolute dormancy--estivation or
hibernation--in its relocation to anywhere connected by the network.
Evicted by the death of a definitive host, the parasite falls into the
channels of the net, dormant but poised. Given the shortage of unwary
targets, the parasite modifies itself to the definitive host though it
prefers traits specific to its advantages in releasing dysfunction
into host systems. Despite its specificness, the parasite evaluates a
potential host on which it will live for signs of fatigue, testing and
straining the limits of its host while adjusting and adapting to the
conditions the host requires in order to remain alive. However, the
alertness of the host to attack has only increased with the power of
the same net that the parasite lies dormant on.  The definitive host
refuses the illogical: to take the poison pill, to eliminate its waste
(and its waste manufactured as product), to erase every trace of its
own corroborating past. The host will not apply its strategy for
success in manipulating and establishing hierarchies to itself:
destroying seamlessness with seamlessness. But the parasite is fully
aware of its futile struggle, reconciled and meditative but empowered
by its commitment to otherness despite persecution for being a
despicable entity.  

Ironically in inflicting neuralgic wounds, the parasite has adapted
the mechanisms of stimulus and response derived from and fuelling
corporate and media domination. The parasites bulimic strategy
functions in the unconscious nervous system, the hypothalamus
directing all parasitic irrationale. But a distinction must be made
about the tools of attack, as the parasite decorates itself with dead
media to accomplish its dysfunction on the net: scratched, scavenged
plastic relics and artifacts and the techniques to construct meaning
unmediated by the systems of thought that are parallel to their
manipulation. From the abstraction of this amalgam of strategy and
redundant technology, the parasite assumes an infinitely  fragile and
delicate form, an aesthetic purity that revels in traitorous chaos.
Again, Michel Serres provides the frame: "The parasite of the networks
does not go into battle; no message has any meaning any more, it gets
lost in the noise. The white noise is distributed where meaning is
scarce, chaotic long waves from which the message emerges, short and
sharp. Nothing can be produced more easily than these little waves,
nothing can be maintained more stable (80)." 

Parasitism is significant due to its relationship to the mitochondrial
chemical respiration of cytoplasm and as an autonomous code from the
primordial soup that held ancestral carbon for both our bodies and our
machines. We consume machines in cannibalistic ritual though we are
related in our mutual evolving past. By extending the properties of
life to the inanimate, the domain of operation of the parasite expands
beyond the division of organic and inorganic, while attempting to
suggest that the parasitism is a cynical means to an unconstructive
end fails to take into consideration the dynamics of the system
whereby logic is not strictly the domain of human consciousness but
endowed with respective rules.  

In order to actually live on the net, the parasite must be flexible in
terms of payment, as bidding has returned to barter, whereby the
resultant combination of fame, reputation, oeuvre, or influence
generates an often inedible, malnourishing income. But here the
parasite does not feel stigmatized, punished by the regime of
pharmacy, but rather as an accepted collaborator in the functioning of
the system transgressing economic ideologies and taxonomies of matter.
Equally, especially once lured into its chambers of chat, salons, and
other instrumental spaces of fantasy and self creation, the parasite
has difficulty in extracting itself from social norms and habits.
Indeed, self definition begins to dissolve, and consequently the
parasite looses its invisible nature determined by its very focus on
parasitism. These sites of convergence are carefully guarded, even
more so in the physical gatherings of net culture, where behavior is
strangely compressed and distorted, e.g., the allusions to grudges and
misalliances that damage the posterity of a treasured URL of perfectly
alternophilic and thus invincible character. Despite this element of
guarded eliteness, gonadism perpetuates itself in social alliances
among breeders and nonbreeders alike, reliably reorienting and rooting
its participants in the rhythms of a circadian raucausness, Arcadia
suspended and compressed in net time while the parasite carefully
monitors and adds to that chaos.  

Parallel to the parasite, the epidemiology deserves investigation.
Quite simply, is there a disease? Having infected the host, the
parasite may or may not generate observable symptoms in the host. The
reaction of the host to a degree determines the effects of the
parasite from rampant, leaking infection to mild fever and a runny
nose. These lesions possess a sexual energy, normalcy skewed and
reconciling itself with the rationalization of the mind whereby the
ugly, the distasteful, the despicable become passionate associations.
The infection conjures up a venereal imagery, that due to public
suggestion and atmosphere is stigmatized with taboo; sex, once again,
is repressed on a new media despite the evidence of lingering sexual
hunger. But it is the parasite that brings the flaws of the body to
light and indulges these flaws, the zones of the body rebelling and
engorging, triggered by the appearance of real disease. The parasite
inflicts neuralgic pain, discomforting yet unlocatable, as if the
parasite has alerted the surveillance of consumerism to an endemic
problem though the sensors and cameras of multiple spectra are unable
to register the vector of disturbance. However, biopsies reveal no
certain malignancy. Parasitic disease is imperative to our collective
survival, culling bad or equally superficial code from the apparatus
of media and body. The parasite has no objection to attempts to
provide a modicum of decency to its and others' lives consistent with
its opportunistic behavior. Indeed, the benefit of the parasite is
that it can function as an external yet internal pedagogue, suggesting
and highlighting the symptoms of the desperate struggle of existence
rather than the deleterious, bowdlerized representations of reality in
broadcast and print. Seemingly amoral, the parasite assumes an
ecological function, digesting the dross inherent to the consumer
system, that media deemed inappropriate for the tastes of the publicly
researched populace. Despite quarantine, the parasite evades
containment, as a diaspora of like organisms threads its way through
the channels of the net, dispersing and discharging through its lines
of transmission, for the clash between the  stateless, venal parasite
and the stateless, venal host is one of titanic proportions (Canetti,

In conclusion, under the rubric of parasitism and the subsequent
relationship between the host and the parasite, the net can be
understood as a  habitat that functions as an intermediate host or
vector for the dormant parasite. However, the parasite is a host
specific entity that seeks a definitive host, which may be any of the
institutions and individuals present on the net. The parasite refines
its selection to data:  scavenging, collecting, reprocessing,
duplicating, and simulating in order to introduce dysfunction within,
and if truly successful, outside the net. This data is extracted from
both public and private nets that are marked as domains of power.
Implicitly this metaphor invokes an epidemiology, which will be
considered in the course of this essay. In tackling the weaknesses and
lauding the strengths of the strategy, the parasite and its behavior
may emerge as, indeed, a quintessential tactical entity capable of
surviving in the media domain and thus surviving parallel with and
essential to the vitality of the net. The oligopolic media hierarchy
that sanctions and lends value to and eventually represents its
subjects has been usurped by the reassessment of the media specific
parasite that instinctually rejects the consumerism and complaint in
favor of a post civil, post industrial society that celebrates its
innate and continuing legacy of conflict and chaos.  

Sources Cited

J.G. Ballard, _The Atrocity Exhibition_, San Francisco: Re/Search
Publications, 1990.[70] 

Hakim Bey, _T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy,
Poetic Terrorism_, Autonomedia: New York, 1985.

Elias Canetti, _Crowds and Power_, London: Penguin, 92. [62]

Martin Carnoy (ed.), _The New Global Economy and the Information Age_,
University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 1993.

Manuel DeLanda, "Markets, Antimarkets, and Network Economies," 1996. 

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, _A Thousand Plateaus_, Minneapolis,
MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Paul Evans, _Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation_,
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Michiel Hegener, "Telecommunications in Africa," _ZKP 3_, Volume 1,
Number 3, October, 1996.  pp. 90-101.  http://www.toolnet.org/hege, or

Marshall McLuhan, _Understanding Media:  The Extensions of Man_,
Boston: MIT Press, 1996 [64].  

Margaret Morse, "What Do Cyborgs Eat? Oral Logic in an Information
Age," in Gretchen Bender and Timothy Druckrey (eds.), _Culture on the
Brink: Ideologies of Technology_, Seattle: Bay Press, 1994.

Frederic Morton, "Chaplin, Hitler: Outsiders as Actors, _New York
Times_, April 24, 1989 in Norman Manea, _On Clowns:  The Dictator and
the Artist_, New York: Grove Press, 92.

Lynn Kreiger Mytalka, _Strategic Parnterships: States, Firms, and
International Competition_ London: Pinter, 1991.

Saskia Sassen, "The Topoi of E-Sapace: Global Cities and Global Value
Chains," _ZKP3_, Volume 1, Number 3, pp. 36-42.

Michel Serres, _Le Parasite_, Paris: [?], 1980. in Andreas
Broeckmann and Erik Hobijn, "Techno Parasites: Bringing the Machinic
Unconsciousness to Life," lecture at 5Cyberconf, Madrid, Spain, June
1996. http://www.telefonica.es/fat

Christopher Simpson, _Science of Coercion:  Communication Research and
Psychological Warfare 1945-1960_, Oxford University Press:  Oxford,
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