human being on Fri, 30 Oct 1998 10:00:26 +0100

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Re: <nettime> McLuhan and Latour

 regarding figure|ground and actor-networks:

 i am reminded of the concept of net-criticism
 and, from my perspective, an unresolved and
 unaddressed variant in the Internet Puzzle.

 that is: within popular and critical criticism,
 the emphasis upon the 'immateriality' and the
 'ethereality' of the global computer network.

 to me this thinking is literally without ground,
 or grounding, and needs to find some quickly or
 the _critical_ aspect of criticism may render
 itself completely dull and off the facts, and
 instead only function as a propaganda which
 extends the figure/actor, ignoring the ground
 and the network upon which it is founded.

 an example: the electronic computer network
 is not mutually exclusive from the electrical
 infrastructure which sustains it.

 the figure in this case is the computer, and
 the ground is that infrastructure which supports
 its existence as a 'cyberspace'.

 thus, to talk about the computer, or to offer a
 critique of the computer as artifact, and the role
 of new online environments it creates - cannot be
 divorced from the physical connection with the
 electrical plug, socket, watt-hour meter, circuit
 breaker, transformer, distribution pole, copper
 wire, switches, substations, transmission lines,
 powerplants, generators, turbines, and nature's
 latent energy being transformed into power.

 a beautifully poetic essay of this 'invisible'
 ground or electrical infrastructure can be found at:


 the point of this being that, the economic, social,
 and political aspects of the electrical power system
 are at the foundational base of the computer network
 system. the figure and ground are not easily separable.

 the eco|soc|pol-order of the e-infrastructure, say of
 electrical power and electronic media (of phone, tv,
 radio, computer) inform eachother, and are reliant
 upon eachother.

 to think that a private, monopolistic global electrical
 power establishment is going to sustain a different order
 online, through computer networks, is naive thinking.

 my wish is that nettimer's would begin to focus net-
 criticism on the ground/network of the electrical
 infrastructure which enables this online environment.

 without that critique, nothing is being critiqued,
 just imaginary aspects of shadows moving on walls
 of a new, electronic cave.

 nettimer's must be the bats.

 for a European example, isn't there some major action
 going on with inter-nation electrical grids being linked
 into a larger EC system. wasn't there something happening
 with Eastern and Western Euro countries linking e-grids
 across ideological borders. is this irrelevant to the
 future of the Internet as an electronic medium for art?

 thought: who's going to critique this electronic ground?

 does not the e-infrastructure provide the economic, social,
 and political order upon which this electronic culture is
 based? is not the e-infrastructure the built equivalent of
 the spatial and temporal construction of cyberspace- such
 that; to see the 'intangible' cyberspace, all one really
 needs to do is look at the poles and towers of the electrical
 infrastructure of power and antenna and transmitters of media?

 the electronic debate needs to be electricaly grounded.

 without it, this 'network of power' goes uncritiqued.


 (see the book; 'networks of power', electrification in western
  society, by thomas p. hughes, which examines the development
  of early power systems in Germany, Britain, and the USA).

 graphic: seeing cyberspace, then, need only consist in seeing
 the electrical infrastructure which sustains it. seeing the
 wooden electrical poles of the distribution grid, for example,
 allows one to see how data travels through this cartesian grid
 at nearly the speed-of-light through copper-wire; a graphic of
 seeing cyberspace can be found at the following map;

 iv. the electrical map 1
 iv. the electrical map 2
 iv. the electrical map 3

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