[iDC] "The first rule of data centers is...

Margaret Morse memorse at comcast.net
Sun Jun 28 08:01:18 UTC 2009

Dear Brian and Jonathan,
The only post I've made so far was bounced, so I doubt it is playing  
any role at all in this discussion.  However, I'd like to correct an  
assumption made here--that there is an either/or at stake in two  
methodologies suggested here. Do they not amount to deductive and  
inductive reasoning?  Don't we need them both?   Seeking out examples  
and making distinctions via case studies and the like is not trying  
for a "free pass" or attempting to "get off the hook" (of what?).   
There is something terribly wrong going on in our internet work and  
playground that was so usefully compared to enclosure and I begin to  
see some ideas getting stronger and gelling.  Please let's not get  
distracted by polarizing assertions.

Re the "standing reserve" and human as "biomass" all I can think about  
was what I saw on Friday on a field trip to "Mittelbau Dora,"  now a  
memorial to an extreme example of the relation between high technology  
and labor as profound human degradation.  I will hazard briefly  
mentioning a few of the things I saw and heard remembered inside the  
remains of an underground factory and slave labor camp inside a gypsum  
mountain near Nordhausen, Germany.  In 1943 inmates of Buchenwald were  
taken by train to Nordhausen to dig out what could be thought of as a  
6 kilometer long assembly line (via train, not belt) for assembling V1  
and V2 rockets.  Inmates lived and worked and died in the mine; 1000  
per bay slept together in unending darkness while the second shift was  
working around them.  They were exposed to the flying debris and  
particulates from blasts they themselves set.  The idea was that  
particularly the skilled labor left in their bodies could be extracted  
without cost beyond the food wastes like potato peels they were fed;   
their labor and their extermination were the same thing.  The story  
goes on, of course and some people do survive through pure power of  
will.  The experience of being in this place is unlikely to ever leave  
my thoughts.

There is a whole lot of difference--as is being pointed out with other  
examples between this extraction of labor power and on the internet.   
This is not to minimize "playbour"  but it helps me to set a benchmark.

Margaret Morse

On Jun 27, 2009, at 7:19 PM, Brian Holmes wrote:

> Jonathan Beller wrote:
>> As Mark says, "the server farms might better be described
> as server
>> "factories" -- spaces where the productive aspect of
> monitoring is
>> separated out from the range of monitored activities. The
> fact that
>> these spaces are private, commercial ones, is neither
> natural nor
>> necessary, but is the legacy of historical forms of
> enclosure -- the
>> continuation of enclosure as a form of separation (of
> users from their
>> date, data producers from the means of data processsing),
> what Massimo
>> De Angelis has described as a process of continuous
> enclosure."
>  (...)
>> As far as I am concerned, this statement also answers one
> of the major
>> methodological questions pre-occupying this list serve --
> the one that
>> would focus solely on the specific case-studies and would
> do so in an
>> effort to imply that there are certain non-exploitative
> forms of
>> interactivity. For the moment it seems that progress is
> not foreclosed,
>> certainly, not all agency or organizational practices are
> the same -- by
>> no means-- but it seems to me that none are entitled to a
> free pass,
>> none of us are going to get off the hook so easily.
> Thanks, Mark and Jonathan, for your remarks which together
> made a very welcome read for me. Indeed, none of us are
> going to get off the hook so easily, because we are all
> involved in a society which exalts predatory relations
> ("healthy competition") and simultaneously tries to mask
> them as the realization of human potential ("creativity,"
> "excellence," etc.).
> Throughout this decade, as mega-gentrification transformed
> cities for the exclusive use of those with access to the
> wealth-effects of financial capital, it was obvious that the
> so-called creative industries were one of the masked faces
> of the predatory principle, either offering artists and
> other cultural producers the chance to be deluded into
> thinking they too could take a share of profit, or
> explaining that private-public partnerships would now
> provide the opportunity of wonderful cultural interaction to
> everyone for free. For example, according to Jean Burgess in
> a recent post here, YouTube would provide "a more effective
> vehicle for the popular memorialisation of television,"
> essentially allowing people to freely construct monuments to
> their own servitude! Now that the extent of the Ponzi
> schemes and the insider trading has been revealed, why
> should one trust the creativity consultants or any of the
> characteristic forms of governance that emerged from the
> late 1990s onward, or indeed, from the early 1980s onward,
> when neoliberalism began?
> To be sure, the continuing eagerness to believe in such
> things is largely explained by the self-interest of the
> believers. But it poses a real problem, the fundamental
> problem of our time: How to help generate a political
> consciousness -- a "class consciousness," to bring up the
> terms of a previous discussion -- that can resist the
> interlocking structures of ideology and self-interest that
> have paralyzed the capitalist democracies and kept all of us
> locked into a mode of development that is clearly a dead end?
> It seems to me that a contemporary reply to Marx's program
> of class consciousness is the highest challenge to which one
> can aspire, and the real reason for living as an engaged
> intellectual. To take Christian's approach and to define a
> class in itself, as an object of exploitation, will produce
> some necessary knowledge of the processes whereby we are all
> conducted to an increasingly predictable disaster; but from
> my view it does not even make sense to carry out that kind
> of work without any political horizon, without any address
> to potential agents of transformation. I understand how Sean
>  can be led by the panorama of contemporary social reality
> to Heidegger's sad old idea of humanity as a standing
> reserve; but it's still a sad old idea, and the chances of
> our fellow men and women effecting a metaphysical purge of
> 3,000 years of Western ideas, as Heidegger demands, are
> pretty slim. More promising to my eyes are the chances that
> large numbers of people will resist the cultural enclosure,
> immiseration, food poisoning, police repression, war and
> ecological collapse that are now the visible signposts on
> "the road ahead" of informational capitalism. For many
> years, leftist intellectuals in the Anglo-Saxon countries
> have been totally isolated by the rising credit-fuelled
> prosperity of the middle classes, which continually opened
> up spaces of professional neutralization for all but the
> most committed and the most alienated fringes of those who
> managed to get some kind of education. Now the situation is
> somewhat different, as the pillage of the economy by the
> predatory corporate state, in Britain no less than the USA
> (and I wonder about Australia?), is such that current
> generations are actually waking up to some degree, even as
> the prospect of continuing sinecures for radical thought in
> the university system goes down. Isn't now the time to begin
> developing research strategies that include a specific kind
> of address, one that can elicit some socially cooperative
> response to the failures of the Anglo-American political
> economy of the last 30 years?
> I wonder, Mark, if this is a concern for you. Your recent
> book strikes me as among the best in the domain of
> surveillance studies, because instead of engaging in the
> usual liberal "yes, there is some abuse, but you've got to
> understand the reasons, the justifications, the necessities,
> etc.," you instead home right in on the multiple and
> converging trends toward the objectification of populations
> through the data-mining and analysis of the vast quantities
> of informatic traces that we now leave everywhere on our
> journey through life (and not only through our heavily
> fetishized uses of the Web). At the end of the book iSpy (I
> always read the end first) you do not just make the usual
> rhetorical appeal to reform, but you lay out a minimal
> program for the achievement of democratic interactivity.
> Good enough, but do you think it is good enough? Could you
> imagine developing a different research strategy that would
> retain the gains of critical paranoia -- the only approach,
> imho, that allows one to begin perceiving the contours of
> reality -- but not generate the dismal feeling of no exit
> which, at this point in the game, tends increasingly to
> reinforce the post-political paralysis of the consumed
> societies?
> I have a similar question for Jonathan, whose book The
> Cinematic Mode of Production is probably the most original
> work of Marxist aesthetics to be written in America since
> Jameson's The Postmodern Condition. To convince yourselves
> of that, just read the introduction that Jonathan sent in
> his second post. The chapter on Vertov is extremely
> inspiring, showing the Soviet filmmaker's attempt to render
> the industrial production process conscious and available
> for both critique and informed participation by the entire
> population that partakes in it. Someone with a knowledge of
> both global logistical processes and radical net culture
> over the last twenty years could write a companion essay and
> then we would at last have the feeling of living with open
> eyes and beating hearts in the present! Of course, most of
> the book is devoted instead to the zombie condition imposed
> on people by a cinematic mode of consciousness that does
> everything to obscure its own (and therefore, our own)
> conditions of production. You write, with reference to
> Adorno and the Frankfurt School, "Thus far, only the
> negative dialectic allows us to think the political economy
> of the visual and hence the paradigm of a global dominant.
> Negation, however, has very serious limits that ultimately
> may include it as among the psychopathological strategies
> modulated by Hollywood." Have you gotten further toward a
> mode of articulation that can open up some resistant
> activity _inside the belly of the whale_, which may not be
> where we belong but is certainly where we are today?
> all the best, Brian
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Dr. Margaret Morse
Direktorin, Studienzentrum der Uni Kalifornien
Professorin, Film and Digital Media
University of California Santa Cruz
memorse at comcast.net, morse at ucsc.edu

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