[iDC] The "electricity" of near future participation

John Hopkins jhopkins at commspeed.net
Wed Oct 11 13:46:13 EDT 2006

Hi Trebor -- thanks for responding to that delayed thread/rant...

>I mainly think that magic stinks not because of how it mystifies the 
>workings of
>the technology around us but mostly because it messes with our minds when
>thinking about the future. IBM, Samsung, Microsoft and other folks who are in
>the foresight business-- they project a glorious, omnipotent future 

Personally, I don't look to a corporate/technological vision to 
inform me about the immanence and actuality of my own death.

>This, in turn, keeps our brains set on what is to come; it makes us 
>more willing
>to attach an aura of possibility to the flimsy pieces of silicon and metal in
>front of us.

It's all an illusion... (said as typing to an unseen and dis-embodied 
collection of very tidy and well-behaved Others)...

>  >There is the illusion of control at the consumer end, but I think 
>that illusion
>>is akin to the illusion of
>>the junkie being in control of the heroin fix he uses...
>Howard Rheingold was part of a Pew Institute survey recently. There, computer
>professionals were asked if addiction to computers would be a big deal in the
>future. "I like reading books. Does that make me a reading addict?" his
>response was quoted. I would not sign on to that rhetorical question because I

Howard misses the point... but that's understandable as he's 
primarily a writer!

>do think that it is different to be immersed in a world of interaction than in
>a book. Networked screens lead to an addiction to interaction: we sit and wait

...it's actually an addiction to the wholesale mediation of the world 
rather that trusting, using, and exercising our first-person sensory 
system to determine our position & view in the world -- instead, the 
social system teaches that the 'expert' behind the book, the screen, 
where-ever know more than we do...  Along with the social system 
teaching a deep fear of the unknown (Other) -- so that the sanctified 
mediations and re-creations that that same social system spawns are 
the only 'safe' source...

And actually it's not even about the representation of expertise, but 
simply the fact that watching the screen/book/other re-presentation 
as THE primary source for input into our embodied selves.

Some years ago, I came to the personal revelation that everything 
that I allowed my eyes to look at changed me.  Open eyes allow EM 
radiation to enter my body system and change it's state.  What is the 
result of looking only at human-formed things?  What is the result of 
looking at non-human formed things?

>for a trigger, an excuse to respond. The inbox causes a near Pavlovian reflex.
>Having read Putnam and observing the television habits of a majority of U.S.
>Americans, I'd also be rather pessimistic but still hold that there are and
>will be people who have a strong will to self-govern their lives-- to think of
>their lives in terms of possibilities.

I believe this is also a constant possibility, though it seems that 
the chances of people towards self-determination shrinks as we move 
from a social system of re-presentations of the world to one that is 
already well into re-presentations of itself being played endlessly 
to the people.  teevee shows about teevee shows about teevee shows... 
uff, how can I find transcendence in that source?

>In the emerging world of the geo-spatial web these tendencies will most likely
>be even more amplified. We will find ourselves in the midst of a sea of
>*trivial* every day choices as Schwartz would put it. This excess of choice
>contributes to the massively increased level of depression and 
>anxiety in North
>America over the past decades already.

absolutely -- and also gives a good explanation for over-the-top 
partying when a bunch of folks as are represented here get together 
in meat-space ;-))

>  >When there is an end of war, then we may find that all our 
>competitive memory
>>enhancing labor saving devices
>>are redundant -- we can sit
>>with other humans who in our immediate vicinity and live lives of connection
>  >and generosity rather than alienation & greed..
>This is too romantic for my taste, John. I think here we just 
>differ. Technology
>can help us to live lives of connection and it does not even matter if we
>believe that-- unless you want to blow up the Internet. The question for me is

of course, I'm being idealistic, just to posit another extreme 
outcome as is often framed by techno-utopians.  However, the second 
half of that suggestion is immediately applicable, revolutionary, and 
transformative at both the personal and social system level, and 
might possibly have a real effect on mitigating the first half of the 

>rather how to help shape the developmental process. There, the participatory
>Danish model may well be useful. Similar approaches were also tested in Texas
>of human dignity and well-being. It rather strives for, tada... profit. Goals
>are not healthcare-for-all or a global distribution of knowledge but
>optimization, speed, and market share.

absolutely, so why are folks considering that anything else is 
possible from that kind of system.  I've seen too much technological 
implementation, too much inside the engineering beast, and too many 
utopian yadda-yaddas completely discredited to have much faith in the 
system as it exists now.  And I'm not sure that incremental 
interventions represent anything more than that very same system 
keeping a 'safe' vat of knowledge-ferment going in order to insure 
propagation of itself.

>  >Emancipation?  we have not yet managed to do this with human-to-human
>>connections, why should the projection
>>of that concept onto material objects be somehow less fraught with the
>problematic nature of the creators of
>>such systems?
>Surely many designers happily live their techno-tunnel vision and that is
>reflected in social inaptness of designs, wastefulness, redundancy, and
>nonsense indeed. Friends, don't let friends buy stupid networked objects. It's
>obvious that the world in the brain of a  programmer shapes database tables
>features of the machine but how can this be changed?

I rather doubt that it can, as an out-growth of a fully 
self-contained dominant social system.  'Things' are NOT the solution 
to the problems that we face!  I don't know, maybe I am wasting time 
writing to the wrong list, maybe wasting time writing remote-presence 
predicated emails, maybe I am drowning in the exact 
technology-induced alienation that drives people to form online 
communities to help assuage that alienation.  Lizard eating its own 
tail.  Maybe time to retreat from these same social forums which form 
part of the dominant social fabric, at least I can rest easy in that 
I am not supporting that system.

>Micro-political interventions are a short-term response, however 
>little they can
>achieve: they do re-arrange (urban) sociality. If we look at the long-term,
>well, not so bright a future, unless you are willing to push over the societal
>cart altogether. Feenberg has fabulous ideas about all this but they kinda

I personally don't work in opposition to the social system.  Except 
at the granular human-to-human level.  I believe those short-term 
adjustments as as I suggested above -- merely yeast in the bread of 
the dominant social system.  Necessary, but not to be allowed to 
evolve beyond a certain minimal level.

>depend on a different type of society. If we get impatient waiting for that,
>concrete proposals will be more likely to get alliances than vague future
>predictions. This brief response is empty of such specificities. Hardin
>suggests that it is easier to shake people out of their inertia by giving them
>something specific to work against rather than something warm, fuzzy and vague
>to aspire to. If we leave enough room for play, and play in research and all

I would ABSOLUTELY disagree with this belief that opposition is the 
pathway to social transformation.  Opposition promotes a rigid status 
quo as each system works in the antithesis of the other.  I don't 
find that the probability of personal transformation through 
productive engagement of the Other to be a warm&fuzzy abstraction. 
If that is an abstraction, then our be-ing in this world would indeed 
be without hope.

>that "magic," however you define it, then researchers may not feel that their
>work gets suffocated by over-determined theory (like it was done painfully in
>the past). If we don't take the wind out of their creative sails, 
>well, then we
>can maybe more successively reclaim some criticality in thinking about the
>future and all its geo-spatial networked craziness.

It's important to go beyond criticality in thinking and move into a 
vital praxis that centers on the immediate present interactions with 
the people around you... or so.  That's why I'm off to the desert, 
alone :-|  so much for sociability...


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