Phil Graham on 11 Oct 2000 10:49:38 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] PAUL VIRILIO NEWSLETTER #3 -- John Armitage

 From the Cybersociety list

  October, 2000
  ***Please feel free to forward this Newsletter to other interested


  Welcome to PAUL VIRILIO NEWSLETTER #3. This Newsletter will be of interest
  to all those concerned with the work of the French cultural theorist of
  technology, Paul Virilio. As usual, I have arranged the news about Virilio
  in order of publication or anticipated publication. French publications
  dates in square brackets. Any readers who have Virilio related information
  are encouraged to mail it on to me. I will include it in the next
  --irregular -- Newsletter.

Best wishes

  John Armitage


1. _Another Modernity, A Different Rationality_ (1999), By Scott Lash.
Oxford: Blackwell.

There is a substantial chapter on Virilio in Lash's most recent book. It is
entitled 'Virilio: Bad Objects'.


2. _McLuhan and Baudrillard: The Masters of Implosion_ (1999), By Gary
Genosko. London: Routledge.

Genosko briefly discusses the strained relationship between the work of
Virilio and McLuhan.


3. _The Information Bomb_ (2000 [1998]). London: Verso.

  As most of you will know, Virilio's book has now been published in the UK.
  As far as I am aware, there are three reviews of it so far:

  a) 'Dromographic Stress Disorder: How E-Commerce Makes Survivors of Us
  All', by Steve Beard.

  This review appeared in _Mute_ magazine and on the _nettime_ list. I have
  appended it to the end of this Newsletter.

  b) 'The Theorist of Speed', by John Armitage.

  This review appeared in _New Left Review_ No. 2 March/April 2000.

  c) 'The Uncertainty Principle: Paul Virilio's 'The Information Bomb', by
  John Armitage.

  This review article appeared in the 'Speed' issue of M/C: A Journal of
  Media & Culture in June 2000. The URL for this article is:


4. _Paul Virilio: From Modernism to Hypermodernism and Beyond_ (2000).
Edited by John Armitage. Sage Publications in association with _Theory
Culture & Society.

  As most of you will know, this book was published in the UK in May/June.
  As far as I am aware, there are no reviews of it so far. The URL for this
  book at Sage is:


5. _La Procédure Silence_. 76 pp., 98 F, aux éditions Galilée dans la
collection l'Espace critique dirigée par Paul Virilio.

  This is Virilio's latest book, recently released in France. According to
  my good friend Patrice Riemens, CSL's official European Correspondent
  (Paris-Prague-Vladivostock), the book is causing some controversies
  already in Parisian circles. However, as anyone has met Virilio will tell
  you, he is the sort of person who thrives on intellectual fisticuffs; in
  fact, Virilio can start a punch up in room containing only himself. For a
  sampler of such controversies in French please see the article below in


6. _The Kosovo W@r Took Place in Orbital Space & Beyond Postmodernism? Paul
Virilio's Hypermodern Cultural Theory_, by John Armitage.

  All being well, the above excerpt from my new and long interview with
  Virilio on the war in Kosovo plus a paper of mine presented at the _3rd
  International Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference_ in Birmingham, UK
  21-25 June, 2000, will appear in the next couple of weeks in _CTHEORY_. I
  will post them on to the Cyber-Society-Live (CSL) List when they are


7. _Strategy of Deception_ (2000 [1999]). By Paul Virilio. Verso, London.

  This is Virilio's take on the war in Kosovo, published in France last
  September. I spoke to the people at Verso this week and I have been told
  that the English translation of this book will be in the shops in the UK
  in around 6 weeks time.


8. _Dromoeconomics: towards a political economy of speed_.

  This is an article written by fellow CSL member Phil Graham and myself. It
  will appear in a theme issue -- on the 'economies of excess' -- of the
  cultural studies journal, _parallax_, No 18, in January 2001.


9. _Virilio Live: Selected Interviews_. Edited by John Armitage.

  This is an edited book of Virilio interviews, inclusive of several never
  before published in English and one or two never before published at all.
  All being well, it will be published by Sage in association with _Theory,
  Culture & Society_ towards the end of next year.


10. _Virilio Over Denmark_.

  My friend, Danish Virilio expert and CSL member, Niels Brugger, has
  recently told me that his work on Virilio will be published in book form
  in Danish in the coming year. Look out for it in Copenhagen shortly.


11. _Dromographic Stress Disorder: How E-Commerce Makes Survivors of Us
All_, by Steve Beard.

  This appeared in issue 18 of the UK "Critical/Information/Services"
  magazine Mute:

  Dromographic Stress Disorder: How E-Commerce Makes Survivors of Us All

  by Steve Beard20

  Does Paul Virilio still have something to say about cyberspace now it
  has morphed from an electronic frontier into a 24/7 automated trading
  post? The wily French theorist has always been a bit of a doom-monger
  when it comes to new media but he has also been highly adept at making
  connections between the seductions of platform portability and the
  dangers of reflex cognitive-behavioural conditioning (have you checked
  your email/mobile/stock price yet? how long before you reply to an
  electronic message? the interval defines a breathing space). In fact his
  particular brand of apocalyptic Catholic moralising means he positively
  relishes the darkside of the virtual force.

  Virilio is the electronic desert prophet constantly warning of the
  "generalised accident" which waits at the end of the technological
  curve. In the dark days of nuclear deterrence this used to be the threat
  of extermination posed by the atomic bomb. But in the new times of
  engineered virtual enlightenment it is the "information bomb" which
  apparently threatens to exterminate us in something like a global stock
  market annihilation. Virilio is the great annunciator of the
  technological endtime, but as demand-management economist Joseph Maynard
  Keynes remarked long ago in the long term we are all dead anyway (life
  is determined by human reproduction and not by technological evolution).

  Virilio's new book The Information Bomb (Verso) is full of dire auguries
  and sees him beginning to clear new ground with distant early warnings
  about the dangers of genetic engineering. But it his pronouncements on
  the domain of e-commerce or what he calls the "global perception market"
  which are most interesting. Virilio's theoretical roots in Edmund
  Husserl and the French school of phenomenology means he is particularly
  well placed to understand that, as a post-nuclear medium of parallel
  processing and networked communication, the internet not only bypasses
  any root node of strategic command-and-control but also over-exposes the
  distributed perceptual cues of the survivors we have all become. In this
  scenario the spooky Echelon surveillance system is merely a
  retro-nuclear nostalgia cult while it is the live web-cams which dot the
  net which are actually doing the real business of turning us all into
  each other's keepers by heralding privileged "points of view" as future
  "points of sale" (get your JenniCam T-shirts here).

  Virilio himself may be nostalgic for what he regards as the unmediated
  sustainability of an inhabitable ecological niche, but he also
  understands that the information landscape is delivered through the
  "instantaneous superimposition of actual and virtual images." In other
  words, he understands that the web is a pure advertising medium whose
  condition of entry is that objects should become commodity-signs in an
  ecstatic cult of self-reflexive mourning. "Actual" things doubled up as
  their own "virtual" effigies are like second-hand items displayed
  in heat-sealed plastic bags: they recover a margin of untouchability
  whose fetishistic allure begins to incite the fashionable to play the
  familiar game of provoking death. From here on in it's all really just a
  matter of joining new media whores to old media punters through the data
  revenue stream generated by a transaction. What this means in banal
  terms is a movement towards the discipline of electronic customer
  relationship management and Virilio begins to hook up from the other
  side of his cautionary analysis (and probably much to his horror) with a
  gung-ho digital marketing guru like Seth Godin.

  Godin is the Vice President of Direct Marketing at the American portal
  Yahoo! and the author of the cult manual Permission Marketing: Turning
  Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers (Simon & Schuster). He
  has argued persuasively that older media like magazines, radio and
  television depended upon a model of "interruption marketing" in which
  advertising messages appeared in the intervals between the flow of
  content. The web however explodes the interval into a new spacetime of
  instantaneous ubiquity in which the important thing for traffic analysts
  is not to increase click-through rates but to "make each click worth
  more." The click defines a hyper attention deficit which is capable of
  being leveraged by a new science of cognitive-behavioural therapy into
  an engineered perception of brand value.

  Godin acknowledges that the basis of permission marketing is "trust" and
  insists that "you can't market at people anymore: you have to market
  with them." What makes this functional are the new techniques of data
  collection and analysis which allow the sustainability of engineered
  perceptual cues to be measured over the "lifetime value of the average
  customer." Virilio takes a less sanguine view of this kind of tactical
  databody capture when he links it to the commercial applications of the
  human genome map as a form of "cybernetic eugenicism". But what is
  fascinating is how far ahead the American is of Virilio's own thinking.
  Godin insists that interruption marketing is not web-friendly because it
  depends upon the one-to-many massifications of "demographic reach"
  whereas the secret of permission marketing is the one-to-one
  personalisation afforded by "frequency" (As he says: "Ten TV ads cost
  ten times as much as one TV ad. That's why permission marketers tend to
  focus on reach not frequency. But on the net frequency is free. The
  people who subscribe to your newsletter get it from you every week and
  it costs you nothing to send it out. Digital media have zero marginal
  cost and infinite potential frequency"). It is here that Godin sketches
  out a science of "dromographics" which succeeds Virilio's own art of

  "Dromographics" might be considered the science of modelling relative
  analogue speed vectors within a digital spacetime whose absolute limit
  is defined by the speed of ones and zeros travelling along a fibre-optic
  cable. (Information now travels at the speed of light unlike the human
  capacity to process it.) In this sense Godin boundary-rides the flight
  of perceptions within Virilio's "light-time" of networked electronic
  commerce. Emergent platforms, file formats and protocols like WAP and
  MP3 in this scenario become technological vehicles which abstract the
  flux of disintermediated intersubjective communication in order to
  deliver new possibility spaces for arresting the structural play of
  value. This moment of totemic arrest can be identified as a "hit" or a
  "meme" or a "trend" and at the moment its sequencing still ghosts the
  older rites of negative taboo whose contours persist like core memory
  dumps in the information landscape (Virilio lists some of them as
  Heaven's Gate, Sensation!, Rape in the Highlands, the Museum of
  Eroticism and transgressive body art).

  But it seems that more familiar rites of positive taboo like the gift
  are just as effective for supporting the extraction of surplus value.
  Godin suggests that the web user will be gratified to offer up
  information about themselves in return for something like a free sample,
  a big discount or even a commodity up for grabs within a specified
  interval like a download time or an hour of the day. This however is no
  cybernetic registration of a communist utopia (English cyber-cult
  scholar Richard Barbrook's late notion of "cyber-communism" as an
  "evolving synthesis of gift and commodity within the net" is naturally a
  transparent apology for the Blairite mixed economy). Instead it
  reinscribes the circuit of profitable exchange within a post-nuclear
  medium by liquidating its depreciating military-industrial stockpiles of
  sink capital and reserve labour and flipping them into a chaotic regime
  of digital recombination where capital becomes human and labour becomes
  symbolic. What Virilio seems reluctant to admit is that when the nuclear
  apocalypse failed to occur it precisely detonated the information bomb
  within whose global impact zone of mutually assured production we all
  now compete. All of which is perhaps only another way of saying that the
  sticky path through the jungle of e-commerce leads directly from the
  start-up dream of an Initial Public Offering into the Xanadu of an
  interactive fall-out shelter. It looks as if advancing a credible exit
  strategy really is the only way of receding the symptoms of dromographic
  stress disorder.

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  "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." -
  William S. Burroughs
  John Armitage
  Principal Lecturer in Politics and Media Studies
  Division of Government & Politics
  University of Northumbria
  Newcastle upon Tyne
  NE1 8ST
  Tel: 0191 227 4971
  Fax: 0191 227 4654
  Email (w):
  Email (h):
  Read: Machinic Modulations: new cultural theory & technopolitics

Opinions expressed in this email are my own unless otherwise stated.
Phil Graham, Lecturer (Communication), Graduate School of Management
University of Queensland, Ph:  617 3381 1083; Fax:  617 3381 1083;
Mobile 0401 737 315; homepage:

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