Felix Stalder on Thu, 28 Nov 2002 23:19:40 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> Space of Flows: Characteristics and Strategies

At 27.11.02 08:03, brian caroll wrote:

>   hi Felix. fascinating essay. i am left wondering who/what
>   exactly in the mid-1970s ushered in the space of flows, i
>   can guess but wonder if it goes into complexity theorists.

My reasoning for setting this date is simpler. In the early 1970s many of
the leading stock exchanges switched from telephone/telex to
computer-networks as their main infrastructure of communication. Around
the same time Reuters introduced trading terminal for individual traders
(a kind of giant mainframe, if I understand this correctly), a service
that was adopted very rapidly. Also in the early 1970s, Nixon floated the
U$, ie cancelled the link of the most important currency to anything
material (gold). Both movements rapidly expanded the scope of the
financial markets.  In the 1980s, in the US and Britain, corresponding
political ideologies came to power which, through a series of
deregulations, particularly of the financial services, further expanded
the scope of these markets (ie what could be traded how and by whom). Like
all dates for complex processes, this one is a bit arbitrary, but in
hind-sight, it seems that around that time, the growth of the digital
space of flows passed a "point-of-no-return." The Internet, arguably,
didn't reach this point until the late 1980s/early 1990s.

>   the other aspect is that i find it difficult for such a value
>   given to the digital, as it is not always superior, and in
>   many ways inferior to actual experience. audiophiles and the
>   warm sound of vacuum tubes is one example, communicating face-
>   to-face and the signal-noise ratio might be another, if it is
>   to include time and movement and how gestures and the way an
>   idea is shared contributes to understanding, besides a trillion
>   other examples, including sex. as far as i know, the human body
>   processes its information both through analogue and digital
>   types of electromagnetic nerve impulses, or some physiological
>   subsystem which keeps us breathing, moving, and acting.

I didn't mean to give particular value to the digital beyond recognizing
that increasingly communication is at one point or another digital and
that this medium has different characteristics than other media. This does
not affect so much face-to-face communication as all other forms, ie print
and other analog communication technologies. As you said, there is nothing
that can match the richness of communication that takes place in one place
at one time, but all other communicative crutches (our extensions, as
McLuhan called them) we have to stretch communication across time and
space, are being redefined. Whether nor not that's a good or bad process
is hard to say, and given the extreme complexity and heterogeneity of this
process, also probably not that interesting to address in general.

>   the technological forms of life, i am guessing, might be in some
>   way related to what happens when all those individual arrows on
>   a chart of the ocean of what is start doing their things, and
>   a descriptor is needed to say 'what is' is. in its present form,
>   i wonder if technological forms of life is a variant on the idea
>   of memes. that is, if there are nodes, if each are nodes relating
>   to eachother, and how the space of flows, or the node of techno-
>   life, might relate to other ideas/concepts.

Technological form of life is a bit tricky a concept and my use of it is
still experimental. But intuitively, it seems to make sense in that a) the
smallest 'funcational' (or perhaps 'cognitive' or 'creative') entity is
not the individual (ie the reaonsing subject of the Enlightenment) but an
association. This idea comes from Goffman and his interactionist studies
of families way back in 60s (I might be mistaken with the dates, I do not
have the references at hand). What is different now, and that is why there
is a modifier technological to it, is that many of these associations
(such as nettime as an 'intellectual culture', if you will) are no longer
face to face, but mediated technologically. And the technology, perhaps
only because it's relatively new and still unstable, is visible as a major
influence on how these association are formed and structured. The whole
idea of a "movement of movements" is strickling similar to the idea of a
"network of networks" (ie the Internet).

>From: "Elnor Buhard" <buhard@mail.com>
>Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2002 16:28:40 -0500
>Subject: Re: <nettime> Space of Flows:  Characteristics and  Strategies
>i have some issues with the concepts of flow described below, in particular
>to the claim that they are newly unstable.  maritime flow, and trade routes
>in general, are historically quite volatile....  (e.g. trade, language, +
>power on the niger river, around the 13th century in present-day mali).
>glancing at the record, it seems like flows were just as subject to change,
>things were structurally quite similar although admittedly with a much
>slower clock speed.

I must admit that I do know nothing about 13th century Africa.

More generally, though, I think the fact that these processes take place
at a much faster pace is significant, because they become structurally
different. Change/volatility becomes defining feature one that is directly
relevant to the people who are acting under these conditions, who are
building a culture of everyday life based on the experience of frequent
changes. Prior to this, these changes were primarily visible to historians
examining large time spans invisible from the point of view of daily life.  
Manuel DeLanda wrote a very nice book called "1000 years of non-linear
history" in which he makes the arguments that all history is based in
flows and sediments of the things that flow, starting with geography,
language and urbanization. This is alright when viewed in units of 1000
years, but that's quite an abstraction from the human time scale of a few
years. Know, these reconfiguration of flows are a part of everyday life,
rather than of high-level abstraction.



#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net