[iDC] Re: Toward a Post-Post-Critical Future

mark bartlett mark at globalpostmark.net
Sat Sep 30 22:20:09 EDT 2006

Trebor et. al,

An important clarification is needed here, concerning the Martin  
article and the architecture term, post-critical. Just as terms like  
"deconstruction" and "postmodernism" have very different, sometimes  
opposing, senses in arch, art, and lit discourses, so, post-critical  
architecture is very different from the term, "post-critique,"  
suggested (2004) by philosopher, David Hoy. I suggested Hoy's book,  
Critical Resistance: From Postructuralism to Post-Critique, for the  
bibliography call. Saul wrote to me off list to ask for clarification  
of that term, post-critique. My comments never made it to this list  
because of a technical problem i caused (cc-ing hoy...). But i think  
those comments may be useful here, in reference to this terminology  
problem. Hoy's book casts a valuable supplementary light on Martin's  
article as well.

  Hoy uses the term "post-critique" for the first time. on one level  
his book is a defense and account of that term, and comes to be  
equated, for him, with"genealogical deconstruction" in the way  
Derrida uses it in Aporias, a combination of Nietzsche/Foucault's  
concepts of genealogy, and Derrida's point that "even critique is  
exceeded by the complexity of possibilities." both terms, post- 
critique and genealogical deconstruction are much wider than the  
ethical, however. that's Hoy's main interest in his book, which  
challenges the tiresome and erroneous view that "poststructuralism"  
is pure relativism all the way down because it assumes that the  
social is infinitely complex. This assumption doesn't preclude the  
possibility of limited, contextualized knowledges, that "situated  
openness" doesn't lead to absolute skepticism.

post-critique i should add is Hoy's way of historicizing  
"poststructuralism," which is merely a negative term left over from  
the moment when the "critique" of structuralism  began. Positively it  
refers to the moment when the term "ideology" was abandoned (by  
Foucault, Derrida, et. al.) because of its erroneous equation with  
the concept of "false consciousness." Hoy notes, however, the radical  
recuperation of that term in  Zizek first major work, _The Sublime  
Object of Ideology_, which redefined the term independently of that  
erroneous equation, by "dissolving" the false binary between "true  
representation," and "false consciousness." in this view, there is  
only the voided subjection position of the cogito on the one hand,  
and, the "real" construed as "fantasy," on the other. the concept of  
capital T "Truth" simply and completely drops out.

here is one of hoy's ways of contextualizing the term:

"Though post-critique may appear to be a short form for "post- 
critical theory," post-critique need not think of itself a the legacy  
of Frankfurt School thoery exclusively. For instance, the social  
theorists Judith Butler, Slavoj Ziaek, and Ernesto Laclau have show  
that they can engage one another in productive discussion even if  
they diverge in their intellectual provenance and their theoretical  
commitments. Therefore, a flexible label is required to show that  
they share enough of a paradigm to interact with each other. 'Post- 
critique' is sufficiently flexible to include them, and also to  
include, for example, other current social theorists who are  
investigating race and gender." Hoy, pp. 17-18.

On another note: Martin comments in his article that:

_Similarly, the need to engage directly with messy realities called  
for by some post-critics is indeed urgent. The question is which  
realities you choose to engage with, and to what end. In other words:  
what's your project? This also means avoiding the elementary mistake  
of assuming that reality is entirely real—that is, pre-existent,  
€xed, and therefore exempt from critical re-imagination. For this,  
alliances are necessary._

Martin fails to say anything at all about what these alliances are.  
But the question goes beyond Brian's suggestion Trebor cites  and i  
quote again:

> Brian writes: ³One of the things that could be done right away is  
> to use
> mobile communications media to constitute groups which could build  
> up a
> sensory, narrative and relational consistency between each other, on a
> deliberately singularizing basis, at collective variance with  
> respect to
> the norms of contemporary hyperindividualism.²

This type of alliance-making isn't necessarily distinguishable from  
pensée 68 experiments to invent new forms of subjectivity, and could  
very possibly lead to the same dead ends, socially and politically.  
It might be able to resist "hyperindividualism" but is still a form  
of individualism, which according to some readings, is a very  
detrimental mythological object/impasse. And Brian's comment could be  
interpreted as a form of techno-determinism, which attributes to  
technology a magical power of causality, capable of changing  
relations. what is needed is not, (if i'm at all understanding the  
term), "singularizing," but collectivizing (not the best word  
either), with strategies and tactics that effectively challenge not  
rampant libertarianism, but, the extraordinarily effective "masses"  
organized by neocon strategies/tactics. I have absolutely no faith  
that technologies of any kind can effect this because of some  
inherent socializing power. Support it, and/or hinder it, yes. The  
motivation that Trebor refers to is no doubt part of the issue, and  
that has to do, at least partially, I think, with networking local,  
small scale collectives. The key is "designing" effective  
communication channels between  the networks and the local  
collectives. that is an important situation as i see it, and  needs  
to be framed carefully, in order for technologies to be effectively  
designed and deployed. And they must be evolved in collaboration with  
those who will use them. Still, it seems to me that there is no pro- 
social chance for this currently in the US on an significant scale.

One model for getting there, though, and for at least taking the  
"imaginary step" toward socializing technoculture, is "cellular  
democracy." see the article "Recalculating Consent," by Fred Foldvary  
at: http://www.gmu.edu/jbc/fest/files/foldvary.htmx.com

Direct action networks follow this model to some degree, and have  
sometimes proven very effective. And I mentioned the Social Mission  
models in Venuzuela in a previous post. But there is also the model  
of "societies," and the most effective, socially and politically,  
that i know of, in terms of organizing around its owe set of issues,  
is the Royal Society (with which we might always agree). see the  
section of its social policy, http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp? 
id=1167.  It has avery effective  "social policy team" that  
undertakes positions and courses of actions for social change, such  
as its recent challenges to Exxon over its funding with millions of  
dollars of 39 science organizations that publicly deny global warming.

It think it is utopian in a negative sense to think that any change,  
without organizing technoculture as a social movement, is possible.  
Martin doesn't make clear what he means by "alliances." but anything  
less than operating at that scale is a waste of time. what is needed,  
to begin to move in that direction, is what Bourdieu has called "the  
collective intellectual." This is what lists such as this one are in  
some ways, maybe a prototype CI, because the question, to what  
sociopolitical end/program, is not addressed. Bourdieu's trans- 
indiviidualist entity must “fulfill negative functions: it must work  
to produce and disseminate instruments of defense against symbolic  
domination…” (“For a Scholarship with Commitment,” Firing Back. New  
York: The New Press, 1998, p. 20)  He rightly claims that the left is  
"several symbolic revolutions behind the right." The level of the  
symbolic doesn't always figure enough in political analysis or  
strategy. This connects to Martin's comment that reality isn't  
entirely real. But the collective individual must be more than  
negatively reactive. It must learn to be constructively constitutive.  

Their does exist in the US, Architects,Designers, Planners for Social  
Responsibility: http://www.adpsr.org/. They seem to have very little  
organizational structure, nothing like the Royal Society. But could  
it? It exists, and could in theory become effective instrument. It  
could be the locus around which to build alliances. Or could iDC  
itself be such a locus? Or one point among an array of points in a  
distributed alliance? Could it itself be taken as a Paskian  
opportunity to self organize along these lines? Could we give it a  
specific, well-defined problem to solve? Say, a semester studio  
curriculum that focused on social prototyping of technologies for  
specific social case studies, which 20 people on this list would then  
teach, and then collectively share and compare results. The  
collective results would have the potential of significant impacts.  
As Spivak has commented, we are, many of us, outside in the teaching  
machine. Why not coordinate our efforts on making it a better, more  
effective, social machine? It desperately needs it.

I'm in the beginning stages of work on a comparative analysis of  
organizing models. And i've just written an essay for Afterimage  
entitled: Relevance, Efficacy, Complicity: Screen Studies, ISEA, and  
the Civic Body, that is the first stab at this work, in case anyone  
is interested in it.

mark bartlett

On Sep 30, 2006, at 2:12 PM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

> Brian Holmes wrote: ³At the very best, the post-critical future is a
> name for a contemporary utopia.²
> My odd phrasing of ³post-post-critical² (avoiding the even stranger
> ³neo-critical²) referred to the concept of post-critical architecture,
> which is described as ³practices, variously named Œpost-critical¹ or
> Œprojective,¹ [which are] sharing a commitment to an affect-driven,
> nonoppositional, nonresistant, nondissenting, and therefore nonutopian
> form of architectural production.² [1]
> By asking how we can overcome global social problems if we see them as
> secondary in relation to technology, I suggested to move beyond future
> projections of urban practices that are blind to social issues. (There
> is plenty of that.)
> Brian informs us about RFID. Read ³Spychips² by Katherine Albrecht and
> Liz Mcintyre or look at the research at UCL in the UK where RFID  
> tags in
> plane tickets are designed to allow airlines (and other interested
> parties) to track passengers in the airport before departure. [2]
> Another important move is that toward services that are called up by
> touching an object with your cellphone. [3] In India, RFID tags in
> armbands control mass pilgrimages. The application of RFID is broad.
> Last week a student pointed me to what we ended up calling "The  
> Internet
> of Farming Things." This feature on National Public Radio (NPR)  
> reports
> about the way today¹s farmers in the US use networked objects. They
> don't buy things that don't pay for themselves, for example. If you
> listen to this feature (see link at the end) you¹ll learn that also
> agriculture is deeply entrenched with networked objects. [4]
> Brian writes: ³One of the things that could be done right away is  
> to use
> mobile communications media to constitute groups which could build  
> up a
> sensory, narrative and relational consistency between each other, on a
> deliberately singularizing basis, at collective variance with  
> respect to
> the norms of contemporary hyperindividualism.²
> Early examples of this exist already. The question is how to motivate
> the specific spatial networked sociality that you call for. How do you
> in fact cultivate such spatio-temporal network of practice? This links
> back to the questions that I raised in July when we talked about
> participation in the networked public sphere. To really understand the
> dynamics of participation is key.
> Then Brian says: ³the most dismaying thing to me is the slavishness of
> people who call themselves artists or intellectuals, with respect to
> their careers. The fetish-object that holds you on a leash is  
> mainly the
> way you think you are appearing in the eye of your potential employer
> (or admirer, in an attention economy).²
> Yes, but I see this ³slavishness² less as obedience to a particular
> employer (like a boss or chair) than an issue with academia at large.
> Just take ³blind² peer review, or the tedious academic referencing  
> rules
> that serve as accreditation. Or, look at dead wood publishing  
> practices
> with hardly any distribution but high prestige value. Academic rules
> kill much of the personality and passion and radical politics of most
> authors. That¹s the leash.
> Wild academics with unorthodox ideas stand in the rain: somewhat in a
> peripheral position, without clear support and public. Being able to
> look at yourself into the mirror in the morning is the payoff.
> -ts
> [1] <http://tinyurl.com/zlqc2>
> A wiki project deciated to post-critical architecture can be found at:
> <http://aaarg.e-rat.org/index.php/Post-critical_architecture>
> [2] ³Requesting Services by Touching Objects in the Environment²  
> can be
> downloaded as pdf at<http://tinyurl.com/e8cxd>
> [3] <http://www.computing.co.uk/articles/print/2163719>
> [4] <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6144238>
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