[iDC] interesting article on new media scene in LA

John Hopkins jhopkins at neoscenes.net
Mon Oct 31 01:23:20 EST 2005

Hallo folks --

just finished a long response to Philip Dean of UIAH's Media Lab in 
Helsinki -- I'll include some of my comments here.  But, in writing 
to him, I googled the author of the original article, Holly Willis, 
and I must say if I had done that I would never have wasted the time 
addressing the content of the article.  I would classify her as a 
hack writer, with numerous 'puff pieces' on entertainment in 
Variety.com among other places.  I figure her words are hardly taking 
the pulse of SoCal -- I can't even think of a proper metaphor to do 
them justice.  doh!

>I always thought Barbrook's "California ideology" was unfair to 
>California (and the US in general) but that it was accurate for 
>Wired magazine and those who wrote for it. My response was  "chill, 
>dude" because

lol!  but really, I hope no  one took offense -- I was speaking about 
broad systems, not individual artists, as I, too, know many folks now 
settling in Cal for the very reasons we are discussing.

>The University of California system is a marvel of American 
>education that all of us should be proud of. Instead, Reagan tried 
>to destroy it when he was gov. while waving the flag. That's 
>schizophrenic America in a nutshell.

It's not called The Republic of California for nothing.  And, indeed, 
it is marvelous that UCSD, UCSC, UCSB, SJSU, UCLA, CalArts and a few 
others have picked up the ball and saved a big handfull of 
interesting new media people from the cultural desert of what is NOT 
costal in the US.  (There are still too many cases where 'new media = 
photoshop'! )  By bringing its attention and tempting salaries to 
bear recently, the UCal system has moved fast, cherry-picking the 
'best' folks who are circulating around (and were circulating around 
Europe more often than not, making their names via the 
Euro-infrastructure of festivals, labs and other events and 
situations (George LeGrady and Lev come to mind immediately).  But, 
again, many programs are established with a saddening amnesia about 
the previous decade's quality discourse and depth of dialogue and 
practices that spun from Old Europe (and the Scandic 'axis') -- 
instead a typical US-centric obsession with, at most, dregs of the 
dot-com boom & bust.

>There really is no other place in the US where so many industries 
>interested in new media converge (and throw in agribusiness while 
>we're at it). I don't think of them as evil per se. There is a sort 
>of fascist element to it, though with a Disney facade.

I still have to reiterate the dominant economic (and thus social) 
role of the Military-Industrial complex in Cal -- as a former 
engineer for one of the larger (at the time) companies in what I call 
the Imperialist Vanguard, UnoCal.  Just adding up the value of the 
real estate owned by the military in California would give a figure 
around the GNP of Spain, France, and Greece combined.  My boss spent 
three weeks at the Pentagon each year, and was a not-really-covert 
operative for DIA interests, especially when he wore a uniform to 
work and especially when we were working with notorious Latin 
American interests.  And consider the military port in San Diego, you 
do not find such a place anywhere globally.  It is against a deep and 
wide fabric of corporate tax incentives, a standing military presence 
of more than most countries, and a heavy network of DOD research 
centers, from Lawrence Livermore Labs, Ames, SRI, Lawrence Berkley, 
Edwards AFB, the Rand Corp, Lockheed-Martin, thousands of square 
miles of bombing and artillery ranges, and on and on.  This of course 
affects the larger social system of the state.  and the direction of 
academic research, and even, yes, New Media.

But oh well, this IS Amurika.  And of course, any place can nurture 
incredible synergies.  Time and place define eruptions of radical 
culture.  If it can happen in The Republic of California, it will.

I guess I'm skeptical, though, when there is no 'strings-detached' 
cultural funding -- the likes that allowed many of the Euro media 
labs NOT affiliated with academia to exist for a few years.  I know 
it's stupid to even have wishful thoughts about that economic model 
in Amurika.  But over the last 10-15 years, academia in the US has 
lost much of its connection with the surrounding culture, effectively 
rendering it a voice to speak to itself.  One wonders if it really 
remains a locus for anything resembling free speech, between heavy 
DOD / pharmaco research funding and the statistics that say 89% of 
faculty in the US are 'liberal'.  It does seem that the whole country 
is moving more and more to absurd polarities.

and with perks like http://www.cryobank.com/military_discount.cfm who 
can beat being a Cal military deployment?


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