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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium, Part One, Secti
Patrice Riemens on Tue, 25 Feb 2014 19:18:24 +0100 (CET)

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

In the Facebook Aquarium, Part One, section 5, #3 (& end)

Now, one will better understand what the real implication is of the
statement attributed to Pierre Levy: "No one knows everything, everyone
knows something, all knowledge resides in the Net(works)." [22] This is a
very treacherous aphorism indeed, both on account of what it implies, and
due to its consequences. Hence, it demands our full attention. The
articulation between 'no one', 'every one' and 'all' together amounts to a
dialectical pea soup, nothing less. Indeed, overcoming individual
boundaries (thesis: no one knows everything) happens by way of a positive
reassessment of scattered knowledge (antithesis: everyone knows
something), to arrive at the synthesis which equals a total tipping over
into the external: all the knowledge is 'out there' (that is: all there
is, period, if one's epistemological point of departure is that reality
equals information). It sounds entirely reasonable: since everybody knows
something, just have everybody spit out what sHe knows, and all becomes
clear. To do the trick, let everyone reach out and help her/himself in the
vast repository of knowledge 'out there'. In that sense, to be part of the
construction of shared worlds looks like kids' play.

But, as we will soon see in detail, everything, really everything, 'out
there', has been the creation of individual minds, who are able to
socialise, and then (and only then) to become something collective. The
apparently innofensive idea to hoard knowledge 'out there' in order to
exploit it to the tilt belongs to the belief in information as such [23]
Well, we're sorry to say: there exists no information 'as such', unless it
is meta-category intended to wipe off, as with a sponge, the complexity of
communicative interactions. What is the substance of information?
Intangible and ethereal, digital information needs heavy hard disks made
up of metals, silica and rare earths as support. Engineering and industry
are required to manufacture the circuits through which information flows
around; electricity (obtained from coal, oil, nuclear fusion, the wind or
the sun) is essential to make information available. Also, without
extremely sophisticated data unbundling mechanisms, information would not
at all be understandable to us. The digital world is not disembodied, it
is material. And on the other hand, no support is external to us.
Knowledge cannot be separated from the human brains producing it. To put
it in more technical terms: minds are co-extensive to bodies, and bodies
are co-extensive to minds. It may be that, some day, non-human bodies will
be able to display conscious mental abilities, but these will not be of a
human variety.

Consequently, even if this type of external support (whether digital or
otherwise) would exist for knowledge (as it already exists for information
- but then, information is not self-conscious) it would not act in our
collective interest. (The concept of) Automatic sociality run by machines
is an absurdity. Even without going deeper into the argument, we are able
to state with certainty that data in general, and Big Data in particular,
is devoid of intelligence. Quantity of information does not in itself
generate sociality. And the quantity of information generated by Big Data
does not make it amenable to sociability. Big Data does not liberate or
empower us, neither does it make us autonomous and happy, automatically.
The collective network intelligence is actually a reactionnary dream of
control. The collective imagination, when it stops looking at and
reflecting about itself [24], gels, and engenders oppressive institutions.
Institutions are of course necessary for social organisations, but almost
always they will hide their historical origins. They do not operate for
the good of people, but in order to perpetuate themselves and
self-reproduce, sucking the life-blood of individuals in the process. It
is not difficult to envisage that the institutions which would come out of
the collective technological imagination will be even more more inhuman
than the ones we have already witnessed in history. Just take the example
of digital control, that is digital policing: whereas it is, generally
speaking, always feasible to escape human domination, how will it be
possible to rebel against the 'external' machine that has been entrusted
with the task to ensure the law is respected? [25]. It is not by accident
that institutions are step by step adopting the network model and thereby
transform themselves in reticular (network/ed) organisations. In doing so,
they unload the negative externalities onto the weak parts of the network,
and manage to accumulate even more power in the process. And when
institutions don't even have a public remit, or a quasi-democratic facade,
but are blatantly governed by anti-social principles, such as are
anarcho-capitalist private enterprises like Facebook, it should be easy to
see that the social network being shaped is nothing but a trap.

To conclude: in order to communicate the Self, one's own identity, the
right appraoch is not to have less rules and a smaller range of tools,
easy to use and the same for all, but on the contrary, it is to have more
rules, and a greater range of tools, which need to be appropriate for
various particular situations, and to be different according to the type
of communication being used. And yes, there will be also a learning curve
regarding their practice. There is no other way to attain a greater
autonomy, meaning the power to 'establish one's own rules'. At the
opposite, mass participation on Facebook only sets the stage for an
illusory world where only 'friends' exist - and no ennemies.  And worse
still, where the best way  to keep one's 'fiends' is not to go out and
meet them, but to update one's own profile as often as possible. With
other words: how to enter the downward spiral of toxic social network

(to be continued)

Next section: Public and Private, Ontology and Identity

[22] The original (in french) quote was "Nobody knows everything,
everybody knows something, and the sum total of knowledge resides in
humanity as a whole"; our quote reflects the popular, more widespread
version. See the backcover of the (first) American edition, Pierre Levy,
Collective Intelligence, New York, Basic Books, 1995
(There have been a few more editions after that, a.o. by Progress Books. I
couldn't trace the first edition on-line, other editions have a different
backcover, so in the end I couldn' find out the 'vulgar' version of the
quote, the more so since other source quote ... the original phrasing
(-transl - bit miffed.)
[23] As expounded at length in Manuel Castells'  The Rise of The Network
Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Hoboken, John
Wiley & Sons, 2000.
[24] See Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society 
(trans. Kathleen Blamey), MIT Press, Cambridge 1997 [2: 1987].
[25] Digital democracy, based on the assumption of one link = 1 vote,
rapidly morphs into a retroactive guidance system (Google, Amazon,
Facebook, etc.), which factually, contrives to the militarization of
networks. Profiling services (just as EU law&order ministers -transl) keep
repeating "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to hide". They
argue that the law will not allow them to utilize information provided by
the user against the user. This is a rather a thin defense to hush up the
truth that we have been totally robbed of our personal data.

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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