"EVERYONE IS A COMPLETE DISAPPOINTMENT!"John Giorno
"Your idea is crazy, but it isn't crazy enough to be true."Neils Bohr
Technoculture, or cyberculture as it is called in the vulgate, has been through four ideational stages. The purpose and intention of this document is to announce the fifth. These ideational stages are:
Technoculture was truly a small subculture in these early days. Nerds had some shared beliefs and ethics, like the much maligned "Information wants to be free." Ironically, they didn't particularly care about sharing them. They were not interested in getting terribly involved with politics (or girls). They were too busy hacking to pontificate. They weren't into hype.
Then I came along.
In this glorious epoch, my friends and I induced confused, stoned youths in the thousands (well, maybe hundreds) to wander soul-naked and bloody starkers raving mad into the badlands of cyberspace. It was a time of great exuberance and imagination as we apprehended and celebrated the media anarchy implicit in the vastness and chaos of the digital terrain. And it was a time of great gibberish when fractal geometry and chaos theory could be wielded to induce people to write for five cents per word. Nobody questioned the wisdom of the technoanarchist avant-garde.
After all, we were all on smart pills.
And then, suddenly, any Republican post-industrialist corporate boomer in possession of more imagination than the average accountant was presented before the just-now-forming digital masses as a wild anti-government visionary. What cable TV subscriber could resist the curious pull of such counterintuitive statements as "VIACOM DOESN'T SUCK"? Who could fail to be fascinated by a libertarian magazine campaigning against state control and excesses in copyright, while employing an expensive, pitbull legal team to enact a campaign in defense of its trademark that threatened to colonize the entire English language? And who could resist cyberNewt Gingrich and the Republican revolution as they mustered whatever political power they could; from corporate America's over-taxed tills, from her heroic anti-drug warriors, from her poor huddled underfunded defense establishment, in order to fight the good fight against the black teenage mothers who so ruthlessly dominated this great (if soon to be obsolete) nation state?
It had become apparent that, after two consecutive epochs wired on hyperbolic technobabble, the intelligencia, needed to crash. So a small group of intellectuals bent on truth and a book contract had a brilliant... er... um... at least sobering idea: What if we were to continue the trend, and make each digital epoch more dreary than the last? What if we were to lay claim to digital reality itself, defining it in language so stilted, with ideas so mind-numbingly simplistic and obvious, so soporific that a dazed cyberpopulis, already rendered doofus from data shock, might just sign on? And in the course of cyberevents, both great and small, we may sufficiently impress Random House or perhaps St. Martin's Press?
Consensus reality is dead! Watch your overcoat.
Forget Technorealism. Realism without imagination is mere reductionism. Realism is not a realistic response to accelerating change. As we approach the apotheosis of the interpenetration of human lives and media, and anarchic democratic access to the means of communication, we sense the eruption of levels of mediated cognitive chaos that is beyond our abilities to comprehend, predict, or define. And while tenured academics might dream of slowing this digital demon down that it might be parsed in a spirit of Amish-like rectitude, there is no solid ground upon which to examine the corpus of current techno-sociopolitical reality. The whole notion of a shared consensus, some kind of social center, is decaying at a fever clip and youths raised on the net and the web won't even recognize the cultural and political assumptions that are still parroted today, albeit with less and less conviction
Attempts to reverse undesirable trends of real importance, like the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor, or the fact that a nation of pod people will tolerate corporate testing of bodily fluids without screaming bloody revolution, are not serviced by a tepid set of rationalist principles aimed at unseating a small, perceived techno-utopian elite whose influence is limited and waning anyway. Pay attention to the rabble, on the streets or on the web. Then you'll understand that the primary political polarity of our age isn't technolibertarians vs. neo-Luddites, it's between those who believe in everything (gray aliens, The Gnomes of Zurich and every conspiracy theory that slithers across the net, ad infinitum) and those who believe in nothing (unless you can tie it in to a snide quip about The Brady Bunch or Mork and Mindy). And both sides are, implicitly, supporters of TECHNOSURREALISM. Whether they know it or not.
Digital communication is a dissipative, boundary-disrupting tool. I won't bore you repeating the old arguments about how the netand mediated communications culture itselfputs intellectual property, the nation state, the money system, even the well-defined self, into crisis. You can read the back issues of Mondo 2000 and Wired yourselves. It should be enough to simply remind people that just because a situational description has grown tiresome through repetition, or has been adapted by people whose political leanings you don't particularly like, that doesn't make it untrue. And I apologize to all of the writers who, like myself, are struggling within the economics of digital capitalism, but you are going to have to struggle for an end to society being organized around economics, not for greater copyright protection! (When photographers for 24 Hours in Cyberspace took pictures of the Zapatistas, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos thought the pictures should belong to the photographer's subject.). You can't count beans in a flood, and you shouldn't want to, all right?
Throughout the 20th century, starting with the Dada/Surrealists, individuals who were too alive and imaginative to stomach horseshit have argued for an end to wage slavery, This was premature in the 1930's. In the digital age, it's absolutely necessary. The solid, secure, agricultural/industrial era, production-oriented forms of labor have been displaced by automation and dissipated by the global work force. There has never before been a time in history where a majority of people have been forced to hustle so pointlessly, toiling the fields of hype, poisoning the real and conceptual environment with utterly bogus product, desperately servicing invented needs, building massive unnecessary arsenals, clearcutting the forests, and always demanding that their self-interests, however obsolete, be protected, instead of demanding the transformation of a social system that will make them do anything for money, even ask Big Brother to reach into the privacy of individual homes to make sure nobody is copying anything for free, which is the only way to carry traditions of intellectual property into the high tech world. I'll say it once more, straight out: The whole situation around information as property isn't resolvable. We need a social system that doesn't require artists and software writers (or anybody) to make money.
Of course you are.
"You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."Nietzsche
This is the decade of the tight asshole. Intellectuals who you presumed to be at least 50% sane will suddenly start justifying the de facto censorship of a film based on a book by Nabokov. Seems that every time you turn around, someone else is buying or selling a huge bale of horseshit in the name of social responsibility. A stifling, smug centrism trickles down like day-old piss, from that horndog in the White House to the blockhead in each of us. The next person who bores me gets a Ketamine dart between the eyes. I've done all I can with language. The age of technosurrealism has already exceeded the Age of Reason and now it is over, too. Go home to your husbands, wives and children. Reality is a stranger to us all.