Alan Shapiro on Sat, 1 Aug 2009 20:08:35 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Car of the Future

Dear nettime, just published the essay "The Car of the Future", by
Alan N. Shapiro and Alan Cholodenko (see link below).

I am sending you one-fourth of the text to publish on nettime.
If you decide to publish it (i hope so), please include the link to the
full text at noemalab.

Best regards,
Alan N. Shapiro

"The Car of the Future" published here:

The Car of the Future

by Alan N. Shapiro and Alan Cholodenko

Today we will speak about the "Car of the Future" considered as a trickster 
cyborg or Animatic Automaton situated at the center of a network of 
relationships - an automobile design project.[1] Note that there is a 
crucial distinction between the cyborg as articulated in Star Trek: 
Technologies of Disappearance and the cyborg as depicted in many instances 
of popular culture, including today's typical automobile advertisements.[2] 
The cyborg as thought in the Star Trek book and by iconic cyborg theorist 
Donna J. Haraway is a trickster figure, playing at the boundaries between 
fixed categories, as do Mr. Spock of Star Trek: The Original Series (Vulcan 
and human, logic and emotions) and Seven of Nine of Star Trek: Voyager (Borg 
and human, male and female). The trickster cyborg is ambivalently singular. 
The cyborg of much of popular culture is a clone, literal and hyperreal, 
combining life/flesh and technology with little thought invested, like 
Robocop or the Universal Soldier. We will also speak about the application 
of animation and multimedia in and to the "Car of the Future" - a media 
integration project. Animation will be in the car, and the car will be 
animated. We call this the 'Animatic Automaton', a term originated by Dr. 
Alan Cholodenko.

Planes, trains, and automobiles should be thoroughly redesigned for the 
experience of the riders rather than as mere vehicles for getting from point 
A to point B.
Our conception of the "Car of the Future" is primarily inspired by the 
theories of technology of Marshall McLuhan, Donna J. Haraway, Gregory 
Bateson, and Paul Virilio.

McLuhan was the Canadian founder of worldwide media theory. He made a 
pioneering entrepreneurial attempt in the 1960s to make money in the 
business world on the basis of his profound knowledge of the history and 
future of design, physical environments, architecture, urban planning, 
transportation, fashion, media, advertising, communication, technology, and 
culture, a knowledge that he possessed in the context of being a Professor 
of the Humanities and Literature. McLuhan
wrote presciently about the "Car of the Future" in a chapter of his major 
work Understanding Media (1964).[3]

Donna J. Haraway is the founder of cyborg theory, which she initiated with 
the 1985 essay "A Manifesto for Cyborgs."[4] Star Trek: Technologies of 
Disappearance contains about a hundred pages about cyborg theory, studying 
in three successive chapters the figures of Spock, the android Data of The 
Next Generation, and Seven of Nine. The application of cyborg theory to the 
car can be viewed as being an extensive deepening of the idea of the hybrid 
vehicle. Current ideas about hybrid vehicles are restricted to the single 
area of the car's power or fuel source, being a hybrid between petroleum and 
electrical energy, compressed air, the sun, or other power source. By 
intensifying the question of hybrid to the question of the cyborg, as well 
as generalizing the question of hybridity to every aspect and dimension of 
the vehicle without exception, a car company could separate itself from all 
other car companies in the world, conventional or alternative.

In Jacques Derrida's poststructuralism or deconstruction, binary oppositions 
or pairs, such as light/darkness, good/evil, masculine/feminine, and 
right/left, structure the organization of Western society on all levels.[5] 
The "Car of the Past and Present" is structured fundamentally around binary 
oppositions like inside/outside, individual/society, security/danger, and 
motion/immobility. The methodology to be pursued in designing the "Car of 
the Future" is to first identify all of the binary oppositions which define 
the "Car of the Past and Present" and then to rethink each area to which a 
given duality belongs as embodying a to-be-developed hybrid of the two 
previously opposed terms. Here our methodology is very influenced by both 
Derrida's deconstruction and Buddhism, and there is a significant difference 
between it and the Marxian dialectic. While Buddhism and deconstruction have 
their differences, they share the fully hybrid form that says that at once 
both of the prior oppositions A and B are true, and neither A nor B is true: 
both and neither at the same time. In our methodology, the "synthesis" 
(which is not one) is a sort of "impossible possible" that preserves the 
truths of A and B even while negating them, without being watered down. The 
Hegelian-Marxist dialectic errs in not preserving enough the truths of A and 
B when making the synthesis C. Many Marxists tend to want to make the 
previous oppositions irrelevant.

To think of something as hybrid is the beginning of thinking about systems 
as composed of relationships, not only parts; and we would consider the car 
as being a trickster cyborg or Animatic Automaton at the center of a network 
of relationships. As the scientist-philosopher Gregory Bateson wrote in his 
major work Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972), "the whole is always in a 
metarelationship with its parts."[6] "Part of the discovery of the beauty of 
a biological form," he elaborated in the Esalen Center Lecture Series, "is 
the discovery that it is put together of relations and not put together of 
parts. This means that with a correction of our epistemology [theory of 
knowledge], you might find the world was a great deal more beautiful than 
you thought it was."[7] Seeing a network of relations goes together with 
perceiving the supremacy of patterns. Patterns are everywhere, anywhere, and 
nowhere. Patterns are in between, ephemeral yet real. They exist in parallel 
to what we commonly call reality. We can only perceive them if we are 
precisely tuned in to their wavelength. They only become visible to us under 
certain specific conditions. Bateson foresaw the initiation of a shared 
collective project of friends to imagine and bring about a vivid awareness 
of the profound structures and dynamics that underlie the true realities of 
nature and human existence. Together with Steve Valk, Michael Klien, and 
Jeffrey Gormly, we call this process "social choreography."

Paul Virilio is a French theorist of technology whose work has focused on 
architecture, art, transportation, war, urban planning, and the cinema. 
Virilio's central concept is speed, as in the title of his major early work 
Speed and Politics (1977).[8] He is also a theorist of accidents and 
crashes. Virilio argues that military technologies and agendas drive 
history. All important technologies of the twentieth century derive 
inherently from military technology. In the case of the automobile, Virilio 
emphasizes its relationship to strategic-logistic technologies of 
surveillance and control over physical territories, the car's affiliation 
with the airplane and the tank. The advent of armoured vehicles powered by 
the internal combustion engine played a major role in bringing World War I 
to an end. But for some time now, he contends in Polar Inertia (1994), the 
car has been in decline as a vehicle for moving through conventional 
space.[9] We now primarily inhabit time rather than space, and driving is 
intrinsically a cinematic experience. As we drive, the world is speeded up, 
rendered perspectival, and edited, just as in a film. As long as automobile 
manufacturers persist in not recognizing this, the car will continue to be 
upstaged by the "trans-dimensional" vehicles of media image streams such as 
TV and the Internet, tele-commuting and tele-shopping, experienced by the 
public as a better way to navigate the virtual reality in which we now live. 
In an important sense, the car needs to be redesigned from scratch in order 
to keep up with these developments of the supercession - to a significant 
degree - of the physical real by the virtual (what we want is a new, more 
embodied relationship between the physical real and the virtual). This 
comprehensive redesign is something entirely different from simply equipping 
the car with high-tech gadgets ranging from cell phones, MP3 players, video 
screens and recorders to radar detectors, global positioning systems, and 
command-oriented speech interaction.

This analysis of the deficit of the automobile with respect to TV, 
computers, and telecommunications leads to the formulation of the idea of 
the "Car of the Future" as a new VR entertainment platform: the Tele-Car or 
Tele-Mobile, the Holo-Car. The car will become a cockpit for all kinds of 
simulations or virtual realities.


1 - Alan Cholodenko, "Speculations on the Animatic Automaton," in Alan 
Cholodenko, ed., The Illusion of Life II: More Essays on Animation (Sydney: 
Power Institute Foundation for Art and Visual Culture, 2007).

2 - Alan N. Shapiro, Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance (Berlin: 
AVINUS Verlag, 2004).

3 - Marshall McLuhan, "Motorcar: The Mechanical Bride," in Understanding 
Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994) 
(originally published in 1964).

4 - Donna J. Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and 
Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and 
Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991) (essay 
originally published in 1985).

5 - See, for example, Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (translated by 
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak) (originally published in French in 1967) 
(Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976) (corrected 
English edition published in 1998).

6 - Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (with a new Foreword by 
Mary Catherine Bateson) (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000) 
(originally published in 1972).

7 - Gregory Bateson, Esalen Center Lecture Series.

8 - Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology (originally 
published in French in 1977) (translated by Mark Polizzotti) (New York: 
Semiotext(e): 1986).

9 - Paul Virilio, Polar Inertia (originally published in French in 1990) 
(translated by Patrick Camiller) (London: SAGE Publications, 1999). 

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