[iDC] The difference between community and voices

Brian Holmes brian.holmes at aliceadsl.fr
Sun Oct 4 15:57:19 UTC 2009

Hello everyone -

Email listserves are great, because where else in the world would you 
find out that you a BIG voice and a nominalist, all on the same day?

I quite like the notion of being a nominalist, an open set of 
singularities which anyone who likes can join (or have previously been 
part of). And it is also good to have some thoughtful discussion about 
how these things are supposed to work, and about that elusive and 
important issue of community, and to ask about better resonance for 
women's voices. Concerning the idea that writing, and engaging with 
other peoples' concepts, and reading their texts and responding, is not 
praxis, and maybe that it would waste and destroy the spirit of life as 
the letter is said to do in the Bible, that strikes me as odd on a 
listserve based necessarily on written language, and particularly on 
this one which is involved in preparing an academic conference...

as ever, _______

John Hopkins wrote:
> Dearest List
> I am coming to wonder about the presence of powerful authorial voices on mailing
> lists, and the radical departure from the traditional set of BIG voices
> pre-internet that The Network promised, a utopia of pluralism.  Has it come to
> pass?  I don't think so.
> As I troll my personal archive of lists (nettime, spectre, 7-11, microsound,
> x-change, etc), I find that all of the lists that I have "participated" in have
> numerous subscribers (most list admins will not divulge the actual numbers,
> though I hereby invite Trebor to), along with a very short tail of posters,
> dominated by a very small clump of BIG voices.  Without hard numbers, but doing
> a sort on poster names in my 15-year Eudora archive on a number of lists the
> percentages run around 1-2% or less are BIG posters (80%+ of all content), with
> another 3-10% taking up the balance and a minor number of single posters.  These
> numbers are calculated on the total number of all posts, and would therefore be
> MUCH more rarified if compared to all readers and subsequently, all subscribers.
> What about all those other potential voices out there?
> As I was reading yet another soaring post from Brian, I suddenly got the feeling
> I was reading a NYT best-selling novel, a page-turner, compelling, seamless,
> complete in both its content and its style (sometimes self-deprecating,
> sometimes bold, provocative, inviting the reader to question (rhetorically or in
> fact) the conclusions), a FORCE to silence competing views if only through the
> eminent readability, completeness, and intellectual coherence and
> seam-less-ness.  You can read nothing else except through the long text,
> consuming in the process, a largish piece of irretrievable life-time.  Time
> subtracted from embodied praxis.  The network labor of paying attention to BIG 
> voices. When the reading is done, the time for action is also spent. 
> Theory-as-text or text-as-theory soaking up valuable life-time for praxis, 
> action.  And because the reading of this cannot simply stop in mid-word, 
> mid-phrase, mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, mid-tome, mid-thread, mid-list 
> subscription, more and more life gets absorbed in reading.  One long 
> socially-constructed text which keeps action limited to eye-and-finger twitch 
> for the duration.
> And, by default, then, a dominant, BIG voice talking about action but 
> obstructing the actuality.  Is a mailing list a community?
> If community is a situation dominated by a small number of BIG voices and minor 
> actions, I guess it is.  Is this a subtle form of social control?  what's the 
> difference between that and subtle coercion?  (if I don't read, if I don't give 
> attention to the BIG voices, is there a bite-back from the social system? I 
> think so.)
> What does the health of "community" mean if community is literally not more than
> a handful of BIG voices within the collective? (community in quotes largely 
> because of this historically repeated suspicion at the illusions of 
> techno-democracy (or just distributed creativity) that was embedded at the 
> outset of such online "communities")...
> Wednesday morning non-threaded meditation commentary.
> jh
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