[iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Mon Jun 22 02:59:10 UTC 2009


But in situations of seriousness, such as Iran, which has been extensively
> discussed here, who would suggest that opponents of the regime should leave
> the monopoly to the state media, and to not counter such claims by
> alternative evidence distributed by any means at their disposal as well as a
> tool for interconnection and mobilization? Of course there is hype, the
> 'twitter revolution' but the opposite point of view seems equally fruitless.

I was reading a very good discussion of the situation in Iran and the role
of technology by Guarav Mishra on Global Voices Online <
It hits on the hype that you refer to.  Particularly, that the events there
are characterized as being facilitated by technology, when they are rather
"old school" in their technics of organization.

New media forms have largely been instrumental in connecting the labors of
Iranian activists to a global population.  The Twitter-hype factor is an
angle which makes the situation seem sexier and youthful, and thus aids in
advancing its profile at the level of content, but not necessarily form...
although a certain segment of the Twitter reading/writing population has
siezed upon this because it is proof that the form is significant.  So, I
suppose, in some sense, the distinction between form and content break down.

I don't want to knock the fact that a number of people have been sending
tweets out from Iran...  and I don't want to knock the fact that people are
circulating these morsels of data.  This is all a very good thing, from the
perspective of transparency.  I am of the opinion, following Heidegger and
Stiegler, that to be human is to be supplemented by technics.  But, there is
something peculiar about the digital age tendency in which social activities
are irrelevant unless they are mediated, and, eventually, the medium becomes
the story.  (Of course, this is nothing new...  McLuhan, Warhol, Ellul,
Debord, Baudrillard, et al....  there are so many people who have been
sensitive to this.)

To jump threads and talk and pick up on some of the debates over
"socialism"... I think this is one of the areas where any rational system of
social organization, if it is going to get anywhere, is going to be able to
convince people:  It must be able to place the various technics of
power--psychic, social, mechanical, etc--into the hands of people.  Which,
from what I gather, is precisely the point that you make here:

My point is, the powers that be have had networks for 40 years, and used
> them to the full extent, and now that broader society has access to it,
> should we just leave it and not use it, these are tools, important and
> crucial tools in any struggle, nothing more, nothing less.

> At the same time, the fact of using them creates all kinds of new societal
> logics, new patterns of activity and organizing, which I'm suggesting can be
> connected, and form the basis of a new overall way of interconnecting such
> patterns, i.e. the seed of a fundamentally different way of organizing
> social life.

On the other hand, I am willing to accept the point that social life itself
might be changed by technology, but only grudgingly.  I am skeptical of any
narrative which cedes agency to technologies which ought only to be
considered as OURS to choose or reject.  And, those technologies whose
impact would radically alter our lives without our decision to adopt them
ought either to be forbidden OR strictly regulated by a state which can
represent its people.  I know I am splitting hairs, here, but I think this
speaks to the question of who is in control in a democracy. Living in the
United States, I find my daily decisions often governed by technical
decisions which were absolutely not made with me in mind, or, if they were
made with me in mind, they were made with the intention of dispossession.

> There is another point I find very important. It is important to be
> critical and aware, to 'deconstruct', but this only takes us so far. When
> the Greeks have finished rioting, what is left if no alternatives are
> constructed that are sustainable and can be interconnected? I think this is
> something that some in the new generations have well understood, they are
> far less under the spell of the system that most of their leftist teachers
> imagine them to be, and interested in constructing new lives and new
> relationships. Why not accompany them in these efforts and when they
> encounter the limits of the system, help them realize more quickly that
> there is indeed a 'beyond' ... and that in the end, only this 'beyond' can
> really guarantee the success of their aims born in the new structure of
> desire ...

And here, you are right.  There is always the question of the aim of
criticism.  There is criticism which clear cuts the trees.  And then there
is criticism which prunes them back, sometimes aggressively, but always with
the intention of cultivating the best fruits.  I frequently err on the side
of clear-cutting, when I should be doing the other.

Take Care!

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