Geert Lovink on Mon, 1 Sep 2014 09:15:01 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime-ann> Revolution of the Present temp. available online


Revolution of the Present is no doubt an ambitious film. But not because it wants to be for any grand reasons but because of a sense of urgency to do what’s proven so difficult: to make sense of the moment we live in. As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, 'we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global — which is healthy.' Our film raises more questions than it answers. Such is our goal as we believe asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to reckon this moment and move forward intelligently.

As we’re all aware, social media has shifted the very ways we communicate and relate. But in this film we begin long before the digital to ask: just as bees and termites create societies, how have we organized ourselves across time? We gathered in cities, become specialized, formed hundreds of thousands of cultures and languages. The film doesn’t offer one narrative. Through conversations with leading thinkers juxtaposed with stunning visual material culled from across the globe, we offer an array of perspectives. As Michel Foucault argues, when we look for historical origins, we find “the dissension of other things.”

>From this perspective, we can see how the development of trade, and communication as a function of transportation and warfare technology, collapses distances. In this process, empires appear and disappear. Knowledge gets compressed and transmitted from glyphs to hieroglyphs to alphabets to digital code to life code. We become a global unit.

Meanwhile, in the Enlightenment, the very basis of rule is contested as sovereignty becomes secular. Historians Manuel De Landa and Anthony Pagden describe the turmoil and upheaval around the advance of science and the pressing questions of what it is that mankind shares.

Over the next 300 years, this notion becomes intensely contested as we move into an increasingly plural society. The modern gives us a universal man while the postmodern stresses the uniqueness of each of us, of each culture. We become a culture premised on what is different rather than what is universal. Alex Galloway describes the concept of a new humanism, the multitude, where what we have in common is the fact that we have absolutely nothing in common.

As Michael Hardt argues, this gives way to a new social order. The imperial state pushing itself on the world is gone, giving way to what Hardt calls empires — distributed, although uneven, centers of control. These new forms of control are more complex, more insidious, more dispersed. There is no clear point of control. And, as Wendy Chung, Nishant Shah, and Natalie Jeremijenko maintain, we begin to see how dispersed, inter-connected and complex things really are. What, and who, is the “we” of our culture? Does it exist? How do these different I’s and We’s interact and organize, to create selves, individual and collective?

What are the rules of this network culture in which we find ourselves? How do networks behave? Are we sure we even live in a network? Or is the network itself a figure seducing us with its mapability and ready explanation of complexity? What are the terms, what are the possibilities, of how we participate today in our world and how we can create public voices with imaginable futures? Are we moving towards the promise of a cosmopolitan humanity or are we seeing the emergence of a technocratic surveillance state run by elite management and control?

Our film does not offer answers. It is not didactic. It is fundamentally a conversation that relishes the question. Indeed, the film closes by posing another question. How we can program the world? As Michael Hardt says, 'is that simply folly, are things just complex?' Doug Rushkoff imploringly asks 'do we even want to participate?' Natalie Jeremijenko, says 'the best thing we have is drawing on the resources of each of us and we must design structures of participation that can make that happen.' All are valid answers.

Revolution of the Present is structured as an engaging conversation. There is no narrator telling you what to think. It is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation. It is an invitation to sit at the table and join a conversation  — a conversation that may itself be the very structure of the pluralistic world we live in, as well as the way to move forward, intelligently.  

Marc Lafia: Director & Co-Writer
Jose Fernandez-Richards: Executive Producer & Co-Writer
Johanna Schiller, Producer
Produced by: Multiplicities LLC

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