Newmedia on Fri, 4 Oct 2013 17:25:44 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> This is Your Mind on Drugs (OAC Seminar: Hart, Drummond, Stahlman, McCreery etc)

Keith Hart (who I met on this list) was generous enough to let me  
participate in the now-almost 3-week-long  Open Anthropology Cooperative  seminar, 
which was begun around a discussion of Lee Drummond's essay "Lance  
Armstrong: The Reality Show (A Cultural Analysis.)"
Lee is a "renegade" anthropologist who runs his Center for Peripheral  
Studies from Palm Springs CA.  As Keith would no doubt agree (so don't hold  my 
recommendation against him), Lee is a very smart fellow with a lot to say  
about topics relevant to this list, so take a look.
Below is my most recent post to the seminar, addressing questions and  
statements that you will not fully understand unless you go and read the thread  
yourself.  Yes, that's asking a lot, since there are 100+ posts (but you  
can always skip to the end) . . . <g>
ments_ (
I'm posting it because I try to get to the core of the issue of why "whole  
systems" cybernetics "branding" (ala Gregory Bateson and Stewart Brand et 
al)  *replaced* stimulus/response-style advertising in the 1950s, when  
cool-media-television-choice replaced hot-media-radio-propaganda as our  
cultural/technological environment.  This is an account of the birth of  
cybernetics-based "social engineering" (and the associated interest in "memes"  as well 
as the modern notion of "democracy") which has recently been a  
topic-of-interest for this list (and conferences, like the one in Berlin).
Nowadays, we're all on some *very* different drugs (which some might  even 
refer to as "nettime" and which are why the US government is currently  shut 
down, why the Italian elites are terrified about another  election and why 
both the Vatican and Beijing are aggressively tackling  "corruption") . . . 
Keith,  Lee et al: 
"This  is your mind on drugs!"  Sizzle, sizzle.  (Who knew that Nancy 
Reagan  was a McLuhanite? <g>) 
This  is your mind on manuscripts.  This is your mind on books.  This is  
your mind on radio.  This is your mind on television.  This is your  mind on 
Facebook.  Sizzle, sizzle. 
What  Keith is doing with Kant is the same as what Lee is doing with 
Nietzsche.  They are *both* deliberately putting their MINDS on something other 
than  today's media "drugs."  This is their anti-environment, affording them  
perspective so that they can think.  How "alien" the Enlightenment and  
pre-Socratic Anatolia must seem to those watching "Breaking Bad" (and then  
tweeting about it).  This is why Lee can "criticize" television/movies  (i.e. 
Lance and Oprah etc) as well as the millennarian "rapturizers" (who, btw,  
were also a crucial part of the Enlightenment, as that term implies).  It  is 
also why Keith can consider a "human economy."  Okay, and it's *why*  this 
seminar happened the way that it did. 
Regarding  Bateson's "woodsman," isn't it interesting that he didn't simply 
recount the  story of Kybernetes, the helmsman?  Norbert Wiener is my 
"godfather"  because my father was one of a handful passing around a jug of 
Chianti late one  night in Cambridge MA (circa 1946) when they ran through 
"mythology" to come up  with a name for the "science of feedback."  As a result, 
we have CYBER in  our vocabulary, reflecting the necessary "unity" between 
the waves, the rocks,  the wind, the sail, the keel, the tiller and the 
helmsman.  This is your  brain on *feedback* (with a drop of Florentine 
liquid-renaissance added) --  glug, glug. 
But  Wiener and Bateson didn't completely see eye-to-eye (or, since the 
*environment*  had by then become thoroughly "electric," ear-to-ear).  In fact, 
Wiener  goes out of his way to note that he refused to work with Bateson 
(and his  then-wife Mead) on the application of cybernetics to the "pressing 
problems of  society" in the preface to his 1948 "Cybernetics."   
So  far, I've pointed this out to numerous scholars of the period, none of 
whom had  noticed it.  Am I the only one who takes "introductions" (which 
are  typically written last) seriously?  The next thing Wiener wrote was his  
1950 "The Human Use of Human Beings."  Might he have had Bateson/Mead/Lewin  
(and "general systems" plus Social Psychology) in mind? 
It  seems that Bateson (and many others from the Rockefeller world, 
including those  sponsoring the Macy Conferences, like Larry Frank, in whose 
Japan-themed home  Margaret left her young daughter, Mary Catherine, when she was 
off to  Washington, who then chronicled her absentee father's later life) 
was very  interested in using "feedback" to CONTROL human behaviors.  Wiener 
was not  interested in contributing to this project.  He was an insider.  He  
knew where all this was going. 
Yes,  by the 1950s, S/R (which had a long-run in the advertising world) 
wasn't  "working" anymore.  Much too "hot media" (i.e. radio-based and  
"filling-in-the-blanks")?  It needed an update.  Something that didn't  tell people 
what to do, as radio-based propaganda did, but rather let them  "choose" 
among alternatives.  Something much more "democratic."  Ford  or Chevy?  
Democrat or Republican?  Apple or Windows?  Something  that required more 
"involvement," as demanded by the new "cool medium."  Something with a BRAND.  This 
is your brain on television -- sizzle,  sizzle. 
If  Wiener refused to become a "social engineer," then what about all the 
others?  Did post-WW II Rockefeller social science based "feedback 
engineering"  take hold anyplace else?  General McArthur supposedly kept a copy of  
Benedict's "Chrysanthemum and the Sword" on his bed-stand. Mead reportedly got 
 Truman on the phone and stopped the plan to "capture" the Emperor.  The  
Rockefeller interests were very strong in Japan, which, after the 
"Atlanticists"  refused to admit Asia to their club, became the anchor for David R's 
Trilateral  Commission.  SONY supposedly stands for "Standard Oil of New 
York."  How about Scandanavia and Germany?  Any "feedback engineering" going  on 
there in the 1950s?  Whose idea was the "Peace Prize"? 
But  now all this "when politics worked" (i.e. the television-based 
engineering  environmental "consensus," with two branded "parties" that were 
actually the  same, like cars or computers) is *seriously* breaking down.  In the  
environment of the INTERWEB, the notion that was *cynically* promoted by  
television -- that we are all "individuals" who are supposed to make our own  
"choices" (when, as Bateson wrote, the "maze is rigged" to promote the 
false  notion of "free will") -- is actually being taken seriously.  When pushed 
 to the extreme, suggested McLuhan, thing tend to FLIP.  Now people *are*  
acting like individuals and there are a lot of people who don't like the  
results.  Like they actually have *free will(y)* . . . !! 
Yes,  some of those individuals are home-schooling and looking for the 
millennial  "spaceship."  Yes, some of them want Swedish-style "socialism" and 
the  Finland-style taking children away from their parents at 8 months 
(presumably to  provide them with a more "nourishing" teat, as per H.G. Wells and 
his "human  rights").  So, is all this bad?  Or, is it a *pattern* that we 
can  recognize? 
Now  early 20th-century "propaganda" (i.e. radio and S/R psychology etc) 
and late  20th-century "choice" (i.e. television and "cognitive" psychology 
etc) seem to  have *all* become obsolete.  Economics doesn't work anymore.  
Anthropology doesn't work anymore.  What's a social ENGINEER to do?  Move to 
Mark Stahlman 
Brooklyn NY

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