8 December 2012

Post-Digital Ghost Heretics and other internet tales

Artist Benjamin Carey sent me this text in August 2011 and I've been meaning to post it ever since. I remember feeling really excited and inspired by it at the time. And, although there are passages that read perhaps slightly too optimistically, nothing that has happened in the last sixteen months has convinced me that Carey was wrong in the judgments and sentiments he expresses in Post-Digital Ghost Heretics, which resounds as a kind of manifest. As he writes:

'With the deployment of the new “space”, the digital crèches dubiously titled (online) social networks, or sometimes even shamelessly referred to as social media – the Disgracebook – with this invention the Board Room has finally succeeded in wringing from the consumer the information it needs but cannot command about private real life. A new quantity, depth and complexity of information, which was not long ago only a dream of the Marketing Profession, and one which was financially compensated, is now surrendered to it free-­of-­charge every day, every minute and second in every update, through technological devices specifically designed and promoted in their capacity for connectivity – the very means and fabric of this informational exchange surveillence.'

Carey claims the 'post-Digital ghost' is the 'ascendant citizen', s/he who disregards the lore of Economics as it has been ordained by the self-anointed Market-priests, these ghosts commit heresy towards the dogma of capital accumulation, and compromise not their joy in the name of inane productivity and financial reward.

There are many texts dealing with these sentiments going around, some embracing the internet in its capacity to subvert the monopolisation of knowledge and the financialisation/marketisation of sociality - i.e. through alternative, self-produced websites, etc. Some more suspicious, like Carey's, of the enclosure that occurs with private information being extracted and instrumentalised for the purposes of corporate profit and governance.

Steve Rushton identifies these tendencies in his essay 'Feedback and Self-Performance' in Masters of Reality (Sternberg 2012), where he discusses the equivalence of producer and consumer, notably in reality television, but also in so-called social media websites such as Facebook. He flags the way that the dream of the 'countercultural' cyber-revolutionaries and anti-corporate artist/activists of the 1960s and 1970s has become the nightmare of anyone feeling ill-at-ease in the 21st century surveillance society:

'It is ironic that the abolition of the space between production and consumption ... was the dream of the architects of the critical, self-initiated media that grew out of the counterculture of the 1960s. They wanted to see an end to the grip that the networks and advertisers held over the industry. Central to this critique was the notion that to break the circuit of the monopoly of production it was necessary to dive into the feedback loop of self-production, to create non-hierarchical networks.'

Needless to say, this very 'dive' is the same one those monopolies are taking daily - with seemingly minimal risk - profiting from the imperative of self-production upon which our society insists, while concurrently brandishing the supposed consumer-empowerment of screen media's feedback loop/self-help circus (i.e. these techno-corporations believe they are doing you a favour!). One must ask: who are you producing content for really, what information are you offering, why, how will it be used against you, and how much does your notion of selfhood rely on a fabricated digital platform owned by someone else?

Arcadia Missa's text for Chimera Q.T.E., an online-offline project curated by Attilia Fattori Franchini for Cell Project Space, is a good example of an experimental text working with these contradictions. You can read it by downloading the PDF here and scrolling to page 25. They write:

'Let’s live in unison far apart yet always together.
Or maybe strip away our worked and reworked ephemera. Risk being left alone with out our knitted selves, bodies, frames. Just us. Not even ‘us’; me sitting opposite you, you sitting opposite me. In a room. New frame.'

Let's stay on our toes! (With some Gina X Performance's 'Exhibitionism' from 1978, a prescient message ...)


Anonymous Anonymous said...


09 December, 2012 11:55  

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