[iDC] Re: Against Web 2.0

Ryan Griffis ryan.griffis at gmail.com
Wed May 31 16:30:56 EDT 2006

On May 31, 2006, at 11:01 AM, Franz wrote:

> Still I do not buy into your thesis, because you forget to add the  
> fact
> that for the first time in history complex self-organisation of large
> social bodies on a voluntary base is not only possible, but also a
> reality. So far, crowds and social classes were organized by  
> submission
> and force. This time, for the first time in history, a reassembling of
> fragmented social atoms on the base of voluntary choice seems to be  
> at the
> bottomline of social organisation. Technology provides a channell for
> complex self-organisation beyond any comparison in history.

i don't know that i totally buy David's argument, but i think his  
cautionary principle stance is well founded...
When Franz points to "self organization of large social bodies on a  
voluntary base," i see some really problematic presuppositions. first  
of all, "self organization" and "voluntary," while not necessarily  
competing concepts, certainly have a difficult relationship. Usually,  
self organization is used to discuss a "bottom up," non self- 
conscious form of organization... usually not "communities" of  
multiple self identification. That's why ants, bees and neural  
networks are such beloved analogies. the natural is a really good  
justification when the social is slippery.
to call something voluntary self organization is to overlook sub  
rational desire as a primary factor, imho. why would we assume that  
self-organization is necessarily liberatory when there are plenty of  
good reasons (with historical examples) to assume that some of the  
most oppressive/violent tendencies/desires are equally as likely to  
manifest themselves in the current situation? democracy is inherently  
unstable, and to assume stability in the form of depoliticized  
organization seems a bit dangerous. white led race riots in Chicago  
and elsewhere mid century were "self organized" events with no  
central leadership. So were the 92 "riots" in LA.
Some people may point to the "self-organization" of the resistance to  
"free trade" as exemplified in Seattle, Quebec, Genoa, etc, but that  
overlooks the highly coordinated efforts of small groups of people  
who work really hard to coordinate physical spaces for gatherings,  
teach-ins, legal aid reps, first aid response, etc. it may not be as  
vertical as the state's response to such gatherings, but it's not as  
if they materialize as a colony of ants following pheromone trails.  
(well, probably a few of us were doing that actually...)
what choices are we assuming people are making with their vote for  
social networking?
Facebook and other examples that Matt brought up are examples of  
horizontal networks of sorts, but ultimately, what values are they re- 
inscribing through action? Yes, we can learn from each other (and  
make FOAF hook ups, which could be argued as liberatory)... but if we  
all want to learn how to be better managers, more successful  
oppressors, more competitive for capital... the technology is hardly  
going to change that. it just makes us better self managers. that's  
why a movie like "V for Vendetta" is really frustrating... it  
portrays the problem as some highly aestheticized, in-your-face  
fascism, ala Hitler interpreted through Roger Waters. But we're  
becoming members, customizing our fascism, ordering it online, having  
it shipped next day. it comes sealed in bubble wrap, packaged to  
avoid damage from bumpy rides. It doesn't look like some crazy  
ideologue spitting manifestos into a microphone wearing some  
stormtrooper costume. it doesn't have big bronze statues. it's a flag  
on a shopping bag/banner ad saying "open for business."
As someone else mentioned, more people vote via SMS on american idol  
than use SMS to organize in the streets.
all of this discussion reminds me of the bio art discussions that  
surrounded the Paradise Now show a few years ago...
i realize a lot of what i just wrote could sound like Huffington or  
Bernay's liberal justifications for "limiting democracy" via the  
robust political PR system we have now, which is not what i intend.  
but the naturalism of "self-organization" seems a really dangerous  
set of assumptions to take i think, as it contains the idea of a  
conflict free, "smooth space" of natural relations. i tried to take  
something similar up in my own deeply flawed critique of new media  
gift economics here (Barbrook quickly called me on a few points)
and the "social construction of blogspace"
sorry for the muddled/longish contribution into the thread...

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