Felix Stalder on Thu, 16 May 2013 09:18:35 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Jaron lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class

On 05/15/2013 05:40 PM, Newmedia@aol.com wrote:

Is there any body of research that does this -- with or without

Manuel Castells immediately springs to mind, who not only wrote a book
called "Internet Galaxy" (by far not his best, though), but premises
his entire analysis on the transformation of the cultural-material
basis of social institutions (i.e. the ground, in ML's parlance),
that is, the emergence of ubiquitous digital networks and associated
infrastructures, which create, what he calls, the space of flows.

But even technological development always takes place in concrete
historical settings, in which all kinds of dynamics unfold in
different rhythms and at different scales. The difficulty is, of
course, that they interact in ways that are unpredictable. The past
never disappears. My favorite example here is the fact that a sizable
portion of EU agricultural subsidies ends up with in the coffers of
the aristocracy. So, you have basically the Acien Regime operating
through the network state.

The trouble with McLuhan-style analysis is that in order to avoid
these complexities, one has to resort to extreme abstraction. McLuhan
thought in very large historical periods and concentrated on very
foundational patterns. So, in this view, little happened between 1800
and 1900, and there is little difference between Fordist capitalism
and soviet communism, after all, they are both based on assembly
line production (print linearity), rigid division of labor (again,
print induced specialization and separation), and bureaucratic
administration (typographic man).

Fair enough, and anyone who disregards this is really missing
something substantial. Castells bases his analysis of the collapse of
the Soviet Union on its inability to move out of an industrial and
into a networked mode (or, if you like, to manage its way out if the
Gutenberg Galaxy). This is, in my view, the most lucid part of his
entire work, because it manages to connect the movement of history
with the experience of life.

Because, seen from the scale of a human life, a lot of things did
happen between 1800 and 1900, and, yes, life was different in the
"East" and in the "West".

So, if you shrink the scale, things become more difficult. It's a
commonly held misunderstanding that long-term social analysis is more
difficult, more ambitious than short or medium term analysis. It's
exactly the other way around, and not just because "in the long run,
we are all dead" (which, incidentally, is correct even if you have
children, but that's another story.) Just look at McLuhan when he was
trying to dispense business (i.e. short-term) advice. Pathetic.


-|- http://felix.openflows.com ------------------------ books out now:
*|Cultures & Ethics of Sharing/Kulturen & Ethiken des Teilens UIP 2012
*|Vergessene Zukunft. Radikale Netzkulturen in Europa. transcript 2012
*|Deep Search. The Politics of Searching Beyond Google. Studienv. 2009
*|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions. Scheidegger&Spiess2008
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society.Polity P. 2006
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed Futura / Revolver, 2005

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