[iDC] "recursive publics"

Christopher Kelty ckelty at gmail.com
Sat Jul 11 05:13:57 UTC 2009

On Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 6:44 PM, Anna Munster <A.Munster at unsw.edu.au> wrote:

> But isn't the presumption above still toward 'consensus' and then the
> dynamic is one that wants to achieve some form of 'rough' consensus as its
> outcome? Hence we are still operating in some very embedded way around a
> notion of  the social contract, with all of a particular 'public' working
> toward an agreed goal, and in which a liberal framework of 'justice' finds
> its origins

there are some leaps here i don't follow.  why is consensus necessarily tied
to a notion of social contract?  Clark's phrase has the colloquial sense of
"good enough until there is a better idea" which is hardly Rousseauist, i
would think.  And an "agreed goal" could be anything (we agree to call it
GNU/Linux, not Linux; or we agree Linux Is Great for Humanity)-- what sort
of agreement do you mean?

> (if Foucault is right,

is there another option? ;)

> Wouldn't recursion insert an unpredictable - hence the potential for
> nonconsenual - element into the mix? Surely this is immanent to the dynamics
> of 'dynamic' (Terranova on the 'incompatible' in network dynamics, Spehr on
> the right to withdraw in 'free cooperation')?

absolutely.  One aspect of this are the debates around "forking" a project.
Linux is, quite remarkably, a *single* project with a now nearly 20 year
coherence... but there is no legal or technical reason why it must be so,
anyone can fork the code and create their own version... and people have
tried... so there is no absolute consensus here other than one that says "we
agree there can never be any absolute consensus, but will make do with the
best we can put together.  The option to fork is always in the consciousness
of those who contribute to a real free software project, and those that are
successful have to deal with it as a perpetual danger.  A corporation, by
contrast, does not operate under this threat, but under an enforced,
contractual coercion which does not allow "forking" of either its products,
or the corproation itself, in any meaningful sense.

> If we are looking for moments when a test is being made we surely need to
> focus on the inventive failures (and noninventive ones too) that are
> produced in the wake of a test's 'crash or when a dynamic takes the sphere
> in an unpredictable direction. Otherwise we end up back with a notion of a
> public made up of 'user-testing', on a product that is in some way already
> 'agreed upon' . Sounds very much to me like prosumer-based capitalism!

i think that what i mean by recursive public is precisely opposed to this,
if I understand you.  One of the things that animates most free software
users is that even if they use a free software program that was already
"agreed upon" by others who built it, thay can do so with the knowledge that
one freely chooses not to change it, if that is the case.  Certainly it's
still capitalism, most geeks believe in some version of capitalism--indeed,
many want to save capitalism from the capitalists.

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