John Armitage on 5 Oct 2000 08:14:56 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] The Uncertainty Principle: Paul Virilio's 'The Information Bomb'

Hi all

For some unknown reason, I have been cut adrift from _nettime by my
university for a while now. 

Consequently, I have only just seen the article by Steve Beard on Paul
Virilio's _The Information Bomb and the correspondence.

For an alternative take on this book see my review article in the 'speed'
issue of M/C --excerpted below -- or the alternative version which appeared
_New Left Review back in May/June of this year.



The Uncertainty Principle: Paul Virilio's 'The Information Bomb'

John Armitage

  Paul Virilio. The Information Bomb.
  London: Verso, 2000.
  145 pp., ISBN: 1-85984-745-5 (hardback).

Born in Paris in 1932, the French political and 'technocultural' theorist
Paul Virilio is the leading exponent of the idea that 'dromology' (the
logic of speed) stands at the centre of the political formation and
technocultural transformation of the contemporary world. Virilio is an
architect of the 'Brutalist' school and political 'critic of the art of
technology' as well as a Husserlian phenomenologist and post-Einsteinian
analyst of technoculture. In recent years Virilio has developed his own
political approach to the technocultural and experiential effects of speed
and technoscience on the organisation of cyberspace and cyberculture. It
is an approach that is increasingly being adopted and adapted by a variety
of pre-eminent thinkers on the Left such as Jean Baudrillard, Slavoj Zizek
and Andre Gorz. 

As the son of a Breton mother and an Italian communist father in Nazi-
occupied France, Virilio spent the majority of World War II as an anxious
evacuee in Nantes. In 1950 he converted to Christianity in the fraternity
of 'worker-priests'. Virilio was educated at the L'École des Métiers d'Art
in Paris and first became a craftsman in stained glass before becoming a
sort of intellectual provocateur and co-editor of Architecture Principe,
an architectural group and occasional review devoted to radical political
and architectural experimentation. Between 1963 and 1966 Virilio dedicated
his time to studying the architecture of war and to the construction of
the 'bunker church' of Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay at Nevers. Virilio
became politically active during the 1968 May revolt and this led to an
irrevocable split with his partner in Architecture Principe, the architect
Claude Parent. In 1969 Virilio was instated as a professor of architecture
at the École Speciale d'Architecture at the behest of the students there,
a position he occupied until his retirement in 1997. Virilio's major work
is Speed & Politics: An Essay on Dromology (1986), written, he maintains,
to raise the political question of speed as the hidden side of economic
development. Virilio's recent texts such as Open Sky (1997) and now The
Information Bomb can therefore be regarded as important advances in his
current work on the politics of techno, or, cyberculture. 

"The military is the message."
John Armitage
Principal Lecturer in Politics & Media Studies
Division of Government & Politics
University of Northumbria at Newcastle
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tel: 0191 227 4971
Fax: 0191 227 4654
E-mail (w):;
Read: Paul Virilio: From Modernism To Hypermodernism and Beyond

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