Brian Holmes on 11 Oct 2000 09:50:04 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] re: The Net Is Not the Club

Ulrich Gutmaier writes a pretty sharp article on MP3. Seems to me the heart
of it is this:

"We might see the rise of a cybernetic capitalism, where the techniques of
tracking users' desires and the distribution of customised products will
merge to an almost organic process of endless feedback. Digital pop culture
will then be defined within the relationship between you and your net
terminal only, as an infinite loop of interlinked suggestions, desires and

That's exactly the dream, not only in music. Military tracking technologies
have been used to create databases for profiling consumer behavior and
adapting the commercial offer. Marketing consultants are now making
millions selling these techniques. Sounds oppressive, doesn't it?

But I guess Ulrich agrees there are two big glitches:

First is that *desire* is mainly produced in wild space, outside the
distributor/consumer loop. So cybernetic capitalism always has to run after
those who produce desire. And the means of production/distribution (= media
technology) are increasingly widespread. So they have to run faster, in all

Second big glitch: Since we're all self- or university educated we can
describe exactly how they run. Like Ulrich Gutmaier does. That descriptive
tactic is creating a new *political desire* on a large scale: hacktivism
and direct action against cyber-capitalism-on-the-run.

Think back on history a little. It took about 10 years' underground work
(1955-1965) to identify every oppressive aspect of postwar industrial
discipline and link it all back to the geopolitics of the authoritarian
state. But around 1965 the word started to get out quick! I'd say we've
been working on cybernetic capitalism and corporate globalization for about
5 years now, don't you think? I'd say that work is producing effects
already, don't you think?

Brian Holmes

(For sources on tracking technologies, see Jordan Crandall's recent essays,
some of them on C-theory, and the upcoming book by Rem Koolhaas & Co., "The
Harvard Guide to Shopping"; for refusal of industrial discipline in the
60s, see Michael Hardt, Toni Negri, "Empire," especially chaps. 3.2, 3.3)

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