05-11-2017

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Off the Network - Disrupting the Digital World - Ulises Ali Mejias

Whereas "primitive" humans were socially determined by rites, rules, and taboos, the technological phenomenon represents the most dangerous form of determinism. Our tools shape the ways of acting, being, and knowing in the world, but some of their influence can unfold without our consent or awareness. Tech replaces the place rites and rules had prior to modernity, both because they direct our actions and because they frequently go unquestioned. We have become slaves not to technology, but to the assumptions of what they are for, their interactions with us, etc.

What is the deterministic threat the digital network poses?

the network template is a colonization of our collective power to imagine community, the network determines the forms of community according to specific interests, and curtails the digital networks ability to become a new form of imagined community.

the appeal of the digital network as a cultural metaphor for imagining community makes restrictive as a social determinant. it is the aesthetisation of the social. a means for the masses to contemplate a simulation of themselves and express themselves through the simulation. this comes with diminished opportunities for social and political action. by giving the masses the ability to express themselves, it avoids giving more significant power that would disrupt the foundations of capital. the networked masses are encouraged to express themselves in a simulated social sphere that contributes to the production of inequality. as politics become aesthetic, this satiates the need for sociality, while respecting the power structure of capitalism.

the idea that digital networks empower the public undermines the potential to be free of the hypnotic hold of this aestheticised form of sociality.

humans and tech codetermine each other.

the network epistemology allows us to understand the networked world, to totalise experience through the logic of the network. it becomes a tech template for organising the social, and becomes an episteme to understand and access reality.

nodocentrism - the consequential effects of superimposing the network template onto social structures is the illegibility of everything that is not a node. It constructs a social reality in which nodes can only see other nodes, an epistemology based on the exclusive reality of the node. it privileges nodes while discriminating against what is not a node -- the invisible, the Other.

unthinking and operating outside network structures is about alterity, othering, and engaging difference. the ethic of othering. classical communication is about 2 nodes attempting to communicate in the presence of noise, now the internet has eliminated noise through packet switching. unmapping the network asks if we have invisibilised noise too readily. Noise is non-nodal, not a meaningless sound but a sound that does not conform to the harmonies of the network. disrupting/unmapping the network is modulates the classic communication model to seeing noise as a communicating presence, the presence of the other. noise communicates difference. only in the outside spaces of the network, beyond the nodes, to we have enough clarity to hear alternative subjectivities.

networked participation can be narrated as an expression of the spirit of capitalism -- "the materialisation of ideas of inclusion and participation in information, entertainment, and communication technologies in ways that capture resistance and intensify the global system". everyone has tools to participate and express their opinion, primarily through the commercial choices that represent identity. resistance is diluted as yet another choice option, another alternative in the marketplace of ideas. communicative capitalism does not stop people from expressing themselves but forces them to express themselves continuously.

Participation in these networks is dependant on the class hierarchy of the nodes. It is a rationalised game standardised such it that contributes in specific ways to capital-oriented social order. Exclusion/Inclusion in the network. Participation is both a form of violence and a form of pleasure, it becomes a template for being social, for belonging. It is percieved as being socially rewarding, with the affect of being more social. necropolitical architecture formerly molded society into conforming through institutions external to the body, where the networked self is biopolitical, the society of control, where the urge to conform is controlled from within the body. through setting the criteria for inclusion, the network episteme has become the architecture of control. External institutions are rendered obsolete because the network desire comes through personal use of technology, establishing the network as the framework for understanding reality.

the public sphere devolves into a private gallery, where every contribution to the commons cannot escape commodification, where user generated content is valued only in its ability to be mined for information that contributes to the maximisation of profit.

resistance to the authority of participatory culture comes not from threatening expulsion, but by making it difficult to resist participating in the first place. the more you participate, the more totalising the authority becomes. friendly violence comes in the form of impulsion to participate in digital networks, while looking and feeling prosocial and positive. The amicable language used (friending, etc...) conceals the friendly violence, undermining public interest and obliterating alternatives.

participation is productive, nonparticipation is destructive. within the network, everything. outside the network, nothing. all is allowed, as long as it submits to the organisation of the network. resistance is subsumed into participation. nonparticipation is difference and disidentification, as equality and diversity within the network rejects difference, as ways of non-conforming to nodocentrism become an impossibility.

"While information tech is supposed to be revolutionary, in reality it is quite frequently the opposite, as computing is often used to conserve and rigidify existing institutional patterns".