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<nettime> Ippolita Collective: In the Facebook Aquarium (Part One, #2, 1
Patrice Riemens on Thu, 6 Feb 2014 02:35:51 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective: In the Facebook Aquarium (Part One, #2, 1)

NB I the previous (first) installment of this feuilleton it was
erroneously mentionned that the commercial rights for this book were
resting with Feltrinelli editore (as for the Google book). In fact, the
(commercial) rights rest exclusively with the Ippolita Collective. So the
correct mention is:
"This book and translation are published under Creative Commons license
2.0  (Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike).
Commercial distribution requires the authorisation of the copyright holders:
Ippolita Collective < info {AT} ippolita.net> "

(Part One, #2,1)

The era of democratic /attention-distraction/

The 'Web 2.0' does not stand for a set of new technologies [3], but rather
refers to a (new) mode of behaviour: to stay on-line all the time in order
to chat with friends, post pictures, texts and videos, to share all these
with one's /community/, to remain connected, to be part of the
'Zeitgeist', of the on-line world. 'Share!' is probably the slogan best
suited to describe this phenomenon. And maybe it's also the biggest
stupidity ever invented, but then - going by the numbers, the public is
for it, massively. E-mails, IRC chats, blogs, mailing lists, feeds, 
peer-to-peer, VoIP - you name it, wasn't that enough to share with? Nope,
because as per the belief in unlimited growth, the gospel of Californian
turbo-capitalism, one always needs more, bigger (or smaller but more
powerful), faster. Many among us bemoan this, and yet we're doing it too,
embracing with enthusiasm to-day's ideology: our latest mobile is more
powerful than our old desk-top computer, our new laptop has more capacity
that the old server at the office, this just-on-the-market messaging
program enables us to send attachments larger than anything we have been
sending before - combined, and our new digital camera has a better
resolution than our old television set!

With Facebook, the "we want it all and we want it now - but then faster!"
has entered a new,  quasi-religious phase. Salvation is the promise, and
"Share and Thou Shall Be Happy!" is the message. With more than nine
hundred million users in May 2012 (*), being the population of  United
States and European Union combined, exponential growth, a global scale of
operation and yet organised as (separate) groups of "friends", well, that
is something which couldn't escape the prying eyes of the Ippolita
Collective. And indeed, a radical critique of Facebook is a must, not only
because one should always go after the biggest quarry, but also because
such is part and parcel of Ippolita's core tactics. This as we want to
develop new (technological) instruments of self-management and of autonomy
which are not pressed on us from above under a well-policed theory, but
which have their basis in every-day usages and subversion practices  on
which we want to build our future worlds.

Now, if you are  Facebook fan (or of LinkedIn, MySpace, Groupon, Twitter,
etc.), and that to the point that you are unable or unwilling to take a
closer look at what is happening behind the scenes, then maybe you should
stop reading here. Our aim is namely not to convince you that Facebook is
the devil incarnate; if we study social networks here, the aim is merely
to arrive at a better understanding of the present. Hence, this is not an
'objective' enquiry. Starker: our line is entirely subjective,
opinionated, partisan, and based on a crystal clear postulate: the 'Web
2.0', and primarily Facebook, is a phenomenon of technocratic delegation,
and is as such dangerous. It doesn't matter wether the instruments
themselves are good or bad, or wether we love or hate them, and it doesn't
matter either wether we are captive and deluded users or on the contrary,
slick 'n' smart /geeks/.

The key assumption that underlies all the research conducted by the
Ippolita Collective is very simple: to connect to a network means tracing
a line between a point of origin and another point. In a certain way, it
is the same as opening up one's window to another world. It is not that
easy to engage in exchanges and to open up, because neither is immediate
or natural.  Specific competences, which one must develop in accordance
with one's personal needs and capacities, are necessary. And there is also
no such thing as absolute security - the only security you can be sure of
is when you do not connect - at all. But since we want to get in touch
with /the others/ and because we want to create tools to make this
possible, we are not going to renounce connectivity. Yet at the same time,
we are unwilling to lamely adopt al the 'new new' tech gadgets. Our aim is
rather to create tools for liberation you can't do without.

The 'rhizomatic' diffusion of social networks creates its own dynamics of
inclusion/exclusion which are the same as those we witnessed during the
boom days of mobile phones. People without a Facebook account are part of
no community at all! To put it even more strongly: they simply do not
exist, and it becomes difficult for them to stay in touch with their usual
contacts. This holds even more true for those who hadn't started building
up relationships before the magical era of social networks. Teenagers,
hence, face even more peer pressure, and that leads them to adopt these
new technologies exclusively - at the expense of other modes of
communication. OK, on the bright side, they are usually nimbler and
savvier than adults in managing these, and having been born and raised in
a world that was already electronically connected, they should know the up
and down aspects by own experience. But on the dark side,  unfortunately,
they usually lack historical memory: they believe [like all generations,
ever -transl ;-)], if wrongly so, that they are totally different from all
generations before them, that they are facing totally new problems and
challenges, and that they therefore need to have totally new, innovative
instruments at their disposal. And yet, to be made an ass on one's
Facebook wall looks suspiciously akin to all the bad jokes all teenagers
have been showeling on each other when they operate as a group, and this
regardless of  epoch or latitude. Social issues are human issues before
anything else: they are always relations- and environment specific.
Despite high resolution and touch-screens, 'Civilisation 2.0' looks very
much like all civilisations before it, as human beings have always felt
the need to attract each other's attention. They still need to feed, to
sleep, to maintain friendships, and to lend some signification to the
world they inhabit. They still fall in love, experience disappointments,
they hope and dream, they err, they go on the rampage, and they harm and
kill each other. To put it differently, humans must be aware that their
existence  has its limits both in time (the horrible reality of death) and
in space (the scandal that there are /others/, and a world outside) - and
this even in the era of digital social networks. We will see that, in the
era of global /attention-distraction/, it has not become any easier to
develop and implement well-adapted policies, as everybody is constantly
busy chatting, photographing, publishing, tweeting, etc. so much so, that
they have no time left to engage in genuine (non-virtual) relationships.

(to be continued)

[3] Ippolita, Geert Lovink, Ned Rossiter, The Digital Given. 10 Theses on
web 2.0, at:

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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