nettime's digest on Thu, 13 Mar 2003 01:32:55 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors [2x]

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   Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors                                            
     "McKenzie Wark" <>                                      

   RE: <nettime> There are only Vectors                                            
     "Eugene Thacker" <>                                


Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 15:01:13 -0500
From: "McKenzie Wark" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors

David writes that "surely power has always had a vector." yes, but its
historical-technical form changes. The most significant change, in my
view, beginning with the telegraph, which bifurcates time, splitting the
time of the movement of information from that of objects and subjects.

I don't really find this in Virilio, who does speak about differentials of
speed, or the gearbox of speeds. But in the main i think my approach is
quite different. Virilio does not really address what I am calling third
nature, where the landscape of the communication vector becomes a space
and time over and above the space and time of things, both directing it
and managing it, but also producing new kinds of 'accident', or what i
call the weird global media event.

Thanks to Miguel for mentioning the epidemological use of the term vector,
which is also a good way of understanding the term. A vector for HIV is
human blood; a vector for cholera is water. It defines a space of
possibility and also of impossibility. You can't get AIDS from drinking
water; cholera cannot really use the air as a vector, etc. Even within the
space of possibility, it doesn't determin why *this* blood, *this* water
is actualized as the vector. Or in other words, this is a 'technological
possibilist' line of thought, not a technological determinism.

I would point out to Are that I was *not* one of those people wetting
their pants over headsets and data gloves. In fact these are the concepts
by which i managed to *avoid* some of the fetishisms of technoculture

Of course you are all free to just worship at the feet of famous names,
and attribute all that is good in thought to your favorite idols. Or we
can think for ourselves, here and now, by finding what is productive in
each other's thought. That way might lie an ethics of the vector...

                   ... we no longer have roots, we have aerials ...


Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 15:42:54 -0500
From: "Eugene Thacker" <>
Subject: RE: <nettime> There are only Vectors

Hi all - I've been reading McKenzie's interesting posts for some time &
wanted to add a few more perspectives:

(i) Information: it seems that a certain notion of "information" is
central to the vector & vectoralization. The vector seems to depend on
three proce= sses that are at once technical and political:
informatization (encoding; everything is information), commodification
(property-without-matter; information valuation), and distribution
(regulation of how that information moves).

Maybe a historicizing of information may help clarify the "ontological
jam" McKenzie mentions. For instance, much of the modern, technical
definitions of info arise out of US military research - Wiener's
cybernetics defines information as "negative entropy" in the context of
anti-aircraft ballistics technologies, where "informational feedback" is
of central concern. Similarly, Shannon's work at Bell labs not only
established the sender-message-ch annel-receiver model of communications,
but also defined "noise" in relation to cryptography. Shannon & Weaver are
interesting - and exemplary - becau se they explicitly define information
in a quantitative manner, irrespective of content.

(ii) Wet data: McKenzie talks about vectors as "the capacity to
subordinate materiality to 'informationality'" & also mentions
epidemiology & viruses in his work, and maybe the example from biology is
instructive, if only as a counter-point. There's all this talk about
genetic "information" and DNA as a "code" (there's a number of events
celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA this year...).
And, historians of science have pointe= d out the cross-disciplinary
transactions between cybernetics/engineering & biology/genetics during the
post-war era, culminating in the informatic view of biological life. But
there's some very obvious ways in which the information-materiality issues
haven't been resolved in artifacts like genome databases, biochips, or
genetic drugs - or rather, they have been resolved strategically by the
pharma industry by saying that information is essential, abstract pattern
(DNA) that is defined by its mobility (database, pill, body).

Do biologists mean the same thing by "information" that technologists do?
The implication is that the genome is an Internet, but if you look closely
t= he term mutates when it goes from one context (engineering,
cybernetics, military-tech) to another context (biology, genetic
engineering). Evelyn Fox Keller mentions this when she notes that, for
Watson & Crick, "information" means both content and form (sequence +
double-helix; a mutation can mean = disease), both quality and quantity.
Whereas for Shannon & Weaver, information is not to be confused with the
"content" of a message.

This is why the vectors of biology are an interesting case - the term is
also used in molecular genetics textbooks in the context of gene therapy,
clo= ning, and in protein synthesis. What's interesting is that whenever
"information" is used, it's used in its technical sense, but, in
biological networ= ks, there is no channel separate from a message, no
data or file that's passed from node to node. Membrane signaling, for
instance, in which molecules are brought into or kept out of a cell, is
not really signaling in Shannon's sense, because everything happens
through intra-molecular interactions. = There's no data sent across cable,
everything's physical (which doesn't mean it's natural). The body is
already information long before the computeriz= ation of biology & genome

(iii) Virtual vectors: which leads to a question - can vectors be virtual?
McKenzie I think states that they are, with qualifications. It can be
asked another way - is information movement, or is information a mobile?

(iv) Mathematization of politics, or politicization of math? I'm still
looking for texts which really address the implications of appropriating
math terms like vectors, graphs, networks, nodes, edges, hubs, topology,
etcetc. into political discourse...

- -Eugene

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