Newmedia on Mon, 6 Mar 2000 16:59:26 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Re: Zizek & symbolic order


Thank you very much.  I just discovered that there is a "Lacanian" bookstore 
just one block away from me on 20th Street (it's the "front" for the "Other 
Press" and the "Apres-Coup collective") so I'll see what they have 
specifically on the various forms of the "others."  (Imagine my surprise to 
find out that none other than John Perry Barlow had participated in one of 
the larger of this "collective's" symposia -- back in 1996 -- right about the 
time that he was making an appearance in Budapest.  Small damned world, ain't 

As you've described it, Lacon/Zizek's "symbolic other" sounds like none other 
than participation in "media" itself, with language as the "UR-medium" -- 
particularly as it is formalized in the alphabet.  This medium, in turn, is 
"responsible" (to conflate some McLuhan with some Julian Jaynes) for the 
mentality which we refer to as "consciousness" which carries imbedded within 
it GOD and the ever-present "gnostic" dualisms and so on and so on . . .

So, in terms of our discussion about the increasing loss of the capacity to 
ACT, the tendency to SELL-OUT your "soul" to regain some "power" by adopting 
a personal "ideology" and the overall rise of "Men Without Art,"  the latest 
and most virulent form of the "symbolic other" -- the "electric media 
environment" -- might be reasonable correlate and a helpful way of 
re-locating Lacanian jargon (and his abstraction) into terms which resonate 
with our daily perceptions.

One wonders if Zizek has read McLuhan (or Wyndham Lewis)?

If "entering into the symbolic other" is simply the learned mentality of 
human "consciousness" -- which is certainly not the only possible human 
mentality and, given its close association with the alphabet and with written 
history, is only about 3000 years old (arising in that inflection which 
Jaspers called the "Axial Age"), then what other mentalities are possible?  
Or, desirable?

And, if language (particularly written and alphabetic language) is the medium 
of the "symbolic order" (and, thus, of "consciousness") then what might be 
the mediums which are associated with other mentalities?  Can these media be 
designed?  Do infants have to "participate" in them for the "effects" to be 
reflected in different mentalities?  Or, could non-infants also be "effected"?

Lastly, what role might "Understanding Media" have to do with understanding 
the "symbolic order", "consciousness" and the potential for other human 
mentalities along with their assorted "causes" and effects"?

One wonders,

Mark Stahlman

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