[-empyre-] Surfing: new discussions about new media and theory

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Tue May 6 09:52:26 EST 2014

I'd just like to make a short observation at the start of this discussion - noting that I've not yet read any of the texts mentioned by Renate.

Vladimir Putin recently stated that the internet is a CIA plot. The comment attracted headlines around the world as people speculated whether this was the case and what Putin was trying to suggest (eg: that different countries might initiate their own internets).

Whilst Putin's comment, and much of the analysis that followed, was premised on an erroneous understanding of what the internet is Putin was correct about the CIA plot part. The internet was, as is popularly known, initiated at Pentagon request by one of the USA's key military research quangos, ARPA (later renamed DARPA). ARPA and DARPA were part of the core infrastructure of US defence and intelligence, along with the NSA and CIA. The history on this is not surprisingly a little foggy, given the murky character of the defence and intelligence sector, but ARPANET was probably commissioned during the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson and realised during that of Richard Nixon. This was high-Cold War time and the function of the network was to be a defence communications network that would work in a nuclear war during severe infrastructure attrition. It's ironic that the president who 'gave the internet away' to the public was Ronald Reagan, the most bellicose of cold-warriors.

The point here is that the internet was not founded as a utopian vehicle. It was conceived as an instrument of war. It's true that during the late 1980's and into the 1990's political progressives exploited the infrastructure and protocols the internet offered to develop new ideas about social responsibility and liberty (so did pornographers, gun-runners and drug dealers). Swords into ploughshares (or other implements), I suppose. The same sort of things happened when the printing press became widely available and it is probably appropriate to consider the internet as something like the printing press (with its ancillary techno-social systems).

The Hermes metaphor aside, the internet has never been an egalitarian or utopian system. It's a military communications system that has morphed into a key part of the public domain (in all its complexity). Perhaps for some it seemed to be something else for a little while - but it wasn't.



On 6 May 2014, at 05:45, Renate Ferro <rtf9 at cornell.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> In flux: New Media and Mediation in 2014
> Recently while surfing the net I ran across Geert Lovink’s  intriguing
> article, "Hermes on the Hudson: Notes on Media Theory after Snowden"
> on the e-flux journal site. (For links to these publications see
> below. )
> Lovink asserts that Edward Snowden’s exposures represent the finality
> of new media as we know it.  “The NSA scandal has taken away the last
> remains of cyber-naivety and lifted the ‘internet issue’ to the level
> of world politics.” The egalitarian and utopian hopes and
> possibilities of the networked internet is lost.” Citing a recently
> collaboratively published book, Excommunication:  Three inquiries in
> Media and Mediation by Alexander Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and
> McKenzie Wark, Lovink appropriates Galloway’s first mode or model of
> mediation “Hermes” for his title.  Hermes is the communication god of
> messaging, “circulation”, and “exchange” as Galloway begins his
> proposal for media and its mediations, one that looks back to history
> first.  Geographically pinning Galloway, Thacker, and Wark as the New
> York’s triumvirate of media theory conspirators, Lovink spins a
> relatively geographically distinctively different global view on new
> media’s demise or otherwise.
> Galloway, Thacker and Wark’s collective claim in their Introduction
> expresses, “One of the things the trio of us share is a desire to
> cease adding ‘new media’ to existing things...” Lovink responds, “The
> ‘three inquiries in media and mediation’ open with the widely shared
> discontent that ‘new media’ has become an empty signifier. This leaves
> us with the question of the mandate and scope of today’s media
> theory—if there is anything left.”
> Lovink continues with a question, “Are you ready to hand over the “new
> media” remains to the sociologists, museum curators, art historians,
> and other humanities officials? Can we perhaps stage a more
> imaginative “act of disappearance”? Are we ready to disguise ourselves
> amidst the new normality?”
> What do you think?
> Renate
> Links to Galloway, Thacker and Wark’s as well as Lovink’s writing:
> Excommunication by Alexander Galloway, Eugene Thacker and McKenzie Wark
> For information about the full text see the University of Chicago:
> http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/E/bo14413838.html
> Geert Lovink’s
> "Hermes on the Hudson: Notes on Media Theory after Snowden" in e-flux
> http://worker01.e-flux.com/pdf/article_8979320.pdf
> McKenzie Warke’s response to Lovink in Public Seminar Commons
> "Where next for media theory?"
> http://www.publicseminar.org/2014/04/where-next-for-media-theory/#.U2U_z-vWp30
> -- 
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art,
> (contracted since 2004)
> Cornell University
> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office:  306
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Email:   <rferro at cornell.edu>
> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>      http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk  |  @_simonbiggs_ 
http://www.littlepig.org.uk  |  http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs

simon.biggs at unisa.edu.au  |  Professor of Art, University of South Australia

s.biggs at ed.ac.uk  |  Honorary Professor, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh

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