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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium, Part One, Secti
Patrice Riemens on Fri, 21 Feb 2014 13:59:21 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium, Part One, Section 5,

Part One, Section 5,1.

The Performance Society

To sum up: opening an account with/on Facebook means sharing digital
'materials' which make up virtual identities. I am what my behavior
on-line is. But spending time creating an on-line image of the self does
bear consequences for (one's) life off-line. The virtual identities one is
able to construct with the help of Facebook's tools are generally 'flat':
they lack the depth characteristic of real identities, which are rich in
shades and nuances. In real life, before commituing to utter what one
'really thinks', one takes time to think and weight in the fors and
contras. One doesn't storm into the street to shout out that one has just
been dumped - by way of a SMS - and is available again on the meat market.
Facebook demands unfiltered action - and this maximum 'sincerity' often
amounts to crass stupidity and guile.

But human feelings are far more complex, not to say f----d up. Literature,
the arts, and creativity in general all show the extraordinary capicity of
human beings to create shared worlds that enable to feel in harmony with
others. The risk is very high that massive partaking in life on social
network won't lead to 'collective authorship', but to a buzz-swarm of
totally superficial interactions. As Michel de Certeau has convincigly
argued [15] it is time, and time only, which makes it possible to shape
the everyday world 'below'. When one does not have a place of one's own,
one acts on someone else's territory; if one is unable to put a strategy
in practice, one can resort to tactics. In theory, personal time can
therefore be used to build up significant relationships, also within
heteronymous contexts as are social networks, whose rules are not
established by users themselves. But even when they attain a high degree
of sophistication, subversive tactics in the use of the tools provided
very rarely result in genuine zones of experimentation. The living time is
next to always reapropriated by the digital spaces and diverted towards
profit generation. Hence, an increasing number of people, and that include
technolphiles, are beginning to understand that there is something badly
amiss with the system. As artist Richard Foreman has phrased it: "we've
been pounded into instantly-available pancakes, becoming the unpredictable
but statistically critical synapses in the whole Gödel-to-Google
net."[16a] For sure, speed is a two-sided sword. The illusion of immediate
search results on request (Google) and of immediate sociality on demand
(Facebook) reduce the depth of book culture and also the possibility to
build up a signification-rich shared world. Richard Foreman again:

"But today, I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of
complex inner density with a new kind of self-evolving under the pressure
of information overload and the technology of the "instantly available". A
new self that needs to contain less and less of an inner repertory of
dense cultural inheritance?as we all become "pancake people"?spread wide
and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by
the mere touch of a button." [16b]

Individual interiority empties itself here in order to completely pour
itself again into the vessel of digital exteriority. This process is
related to external stress, that is the permanent pursuit of significant
responses (in terms of knowledge) and worthwhile contacts (in terms of
affect) seeked by individuals. The networks' responses, as they are given
by mechanical appliances (computers, cables, infrastructures) and content
devices (software programs), belong to the scientific domain. But as
Feyerabend noted before, where science wants to impose a single truth, it
displays the quality of the religious [17]. As the mother of technical
thought and technological objects, it operates like a vapor saturating all
discursive space, by imposing itself by way of the proselyting methods
which have been invented and perfected by the world's most ancient and
most effective universal hierarchy: the Catholic Church. Just as a good
shepperd takes good care of his flock, so does the modern technocrat cater
for all the needs of his sheep, provided they are docile and transparent,
are sincerely declaring all their concerns, and welcome with fervor the
(Holy) Gospel of the Digital Society. What is new is that the sheep now
need to actively self-define themselves acording to the criteria that have
been put at their disposal (#*). They do not constitute an indistinct
mass, yet their identities differ only minimally, and these variations are
defined by very clearly specified criteria. That is the only way digital
technologies can offer a personalised and immediate truth satisfying all
the users' wishes at the same time. Google, Facebook and the other small
deities of the economy of search and attention, are hence all minor
hypostases (underlying substances) with the help of which one celebrates
the High Mass of Superior and Liberating Technology.

We are impatient to learn what the search algorithms have ferreted out for
us. Even if we are in a hurry, and if a few seconds less or more appear of
paramount importance, still we remain in control. This because the
sociality provided by Google and Facebook has managed to make us acquire a
phenomenal amount of self-control. We anxiously check out our e-mail
several times a day, we sometimes even maintain more than one mail
account. We monitor our Facebook wall and keep watch over the feedback of
our followers on Twitter, and we make sure that we haven't missed any
message on our smartphones, tablets and GSMs, all while we plug into
Skype, MSN, or any other on-line chat system to see if someone is trying
to contact us. This is what turbo-capitalist sociality looks like and
forces us to control and to compulsively refresh our digital profile lest
we fall short of the 'world outside'. /We verify that we exist/: because
if we aren't here and there (and now), it is proof that we do not exist.
'Self-control' in its primary meaning of 'controlling oneself' has become
a second nature, an automatic reflex induced by the presence of
technological objects by way of which we partake into a global
technological system. We expect people to answer our mails, react to our
posts, we want to be recognized, and 'tagued'. We all would like to get
loads of attention, but we get only crumbs and snippets of time, of the
same quality as what are prepared to give to others, who are far too busy,
just as we are, with the creation of a digital alter ego that matches
their ambition.  Welcome to the performance society!

And despite being less codified than your run-of-the-mill religion, the
superstitious rituals which go together with the daily practice of the
digital media provide a sauce giving a little taste-up to the bland fare
dished out on-line. Still, the control mechanisms put in place 'for our
security' are militarizing the outer space and end up regimenting on-line
behavior as a whole (#**). As a consequence, the 'inner space'[18] of the
/pancake people/ is extremely circumscribed, as they live in fear to loose
their 'friends', their acquaintances, and their /followers/.

(to be continued)

(next time: here come the technophile$$$ ...)


[15] Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 1 and 2. 1: 'Art de
Faire' (the Art of Doing) is published in Englih, translation by Steven
Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley 1984; 2: 'Habiter,
cuisiner' (to dwell, to cook) is not, In French, edited by Luce Giard,
Paris, Gallimard, 1990.
[16a+b] "The Pancake People", or, "The gods are pounding my head"
[17] Paul Feyarabend, Against Method. Outline of an Anarchist Theory of
Knowledge, 4th ed., New York, NY: Verso Books, 2010, esp Chapter 18.
(#*) That is actually not that different from the life of real sheep these
days, which have to do without shepperd and guardian dog, as they are
moved from one enclosure to the next and left to their own devices, a
shepperd usually taking care of several flocks - or none at all, just the
farmer roaming along in his Land Rover
(#**) On the link between financial and military 'securitization', see an
interesting article in the November 2013 issue of Cultural Politics:
Max Haiven, Walmart, Financialization, and the Cultural Politics of
Securitization, Cultural Politics (2013) 9(3): 239-262
[18] James G. Ballard had already expressed the idea that the inner space
is the last space that still can be explored - that is: the last /other/
space. Cf J.G. Ballard, Which Way to Inner Space, New World, May 1962.
- this is also what Paul Virilio refers to as 'endo-colonisation' (-transl)

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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