Sean Cubitt on Sat, 24 Aug 2019 10:30:49 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> from Meatloaf to penalty Shoot Outs

hello Max

I got a similar thought  from Patrice: that a stressed society is perfect raw material for manufacturing anxieties. Whether aesthetic or rational education are enough to counter the effects of the last financial crisis and the one to come, and to counter (here I agree with David Harvey) the increasingly successful attempt to reverse the gains of the last 100 years since the Russian revolution and restore a pre-1914 gap between rich and poor - well, that's a question

Maybe those older solutions, stretching back in Europe through Habermas and the Bauhaus to Rousseau and Schiller, have to be rewritten. This is the message of Greta Thunberg's inspiration to the next generation - rethinking the world /with/ the world. 

Mindfulness is rather off my radar but many of the psycho-spiritual techniques my generation experimented with tended to be therapies for a self whose centrality to the myths of success and consumption are a symptom (if not a cause) of the same forces driving us to crisis. 

what if the core problem is over-production? The conversion from mass transit to private cars solved the 1929 crisis by making oil king; the oil crisis that began in 1973 has been ":solved" by the information economy, personal computers, and the same built-in obsolescence. 

Over-consumption (and uneven distribution) are symptoms of over-production: reducing consumption wouldn't stop over-production, which is built in to capital.

And maybe - just for a quasi-humorous thought experiment -  the Swiss challenge is that wholly admirable topics like reforming prison finance, slowing urban sprawl, and revisions to gun  control (2019's initiatives) do not address other key issues like the notorious secrecy of the banking system, and the alleged criminal use of the Geneva Freeport, or other massive problems. Perhaps because a referendum can only address a /national/ issue?

As David's post about the EMA points out, there's a huge architecture of governance at global levels (including the internet!). Maybe the next political revolution would have to start at that level of expert-managed global infrastructures - thew logistocs of supply chains that Trump's trade war is throwing into sharp focus; their environmental costs; the management of global financial flows, electro-technical standards - all things even governments have little power over (and often little interest in)

So the climate emergency folks are right to demand something new - and the technical-political question becomes whether it is possible a) to really 'think globally' while restricting action to the local; and b) how to engage the Alps / Arctic / Amazon in their own governance 

Currently migrants are governed without a voice in their own government. Solving that would, for my money, force a profound change in the concept of the nation-state; perhaps from that and from indigenous struggles for recognition in settler colonies we might begin to find models for global political engagement - necessarily requiring political-technical invention because time is so short 

bring back the poli-technics?


From: Max Herman <>
Sent: 23 August 2019 21:00
To: Sean Cubitt <>; <>
Subject: Re: from Meatloaf to penalty Shoot Outs

Interesting points Sean!

Manipulation of behavior is easier technologically when the goal is triggering anxieties.  That is a much more primitive brain-state.  Also, since the target populations are already highly stressed they are all the more susceptible to fear/hate suggestion and the concomitant primate leader-worship mode.  They are also likely more compulsive about their media usage and more prone to clicking.  

The contrary effort is to make people de-triggered, calm, wise, peaceful, and articulate.  This is a far more complex project, and one which requires long-term effort by the target individual (like building a house as opposed to setting one on fire).  Short term, the wisdom-fostering is slower and weaker and ever has been, which is why it is not referred to as "pushing someone's buttons" but rather the opposite.

This opposite, call it calming, teaching, reassuring, enlightening, or, so to speak, to "soothe the savage breast" might pertain less to technology than to artistic beauty in the highest and most technology-transcendent sense.  Open cheap technological communication might have a role in allowing a new aesthetic consciousness to form, but it might be more like teaching or pamphleteering than cathedral-building because again, some human states are not susceptible to button-pushing.  The UK mindfulness project could be a helpful start; I'd be curious to hear how that initiative is being received.

One could argue that low-tech pamphleteering and signing off, signing out, are actually how most of the great transitions and phase-shifts of aesthetic progress have occurred over history.  A new idea is more likely to emerge where the investment required and constraints imposed are low, than where they are high.  A large, high-budget, high-impact, technology-intensive entity is sometimes paradoxically less creative (hence Da Vinci, Galileo, James Austin, and such like).  

Is there any way that technology could help bring to more folks the essential experience of the following, and to associate it with mindfulness, and evoke a spontaneous pedagogical phenomenon which is both fun (appealing) and rewarding (restorative)?

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky.
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Of course, if the world's most powerful military-economic powers are dead-set against any type of new aesthetic phase for humanity it can almost certainly be successfully extirpated.  Tolstoy thought something new could happen however, even though he was largely at a loss to articulate how, and felt great frustration and ambivalence toward his own corpus in his later years.  Perhaps something like 
Shakespeare could be a model for collaboration or at least loyal opposition between the temporal and artistic powers?

From: <> on behalf of Sean Cubitt <>
Sent: Friday, August 23, 2019 2:20 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> from Meatloaf to penalty Shoot Outs

Hi Michael

Patrice also contacted me off-list with the same point about Switzerland - and mentioning the Irish referendum. Solid point.

My problem is the use of media technology, specifically but not exclusively social media, and  opinion polling.

I've no idea why the system works in Switzerland.

But it's clear how it failed in the UK: through the active intervention of click farms targeting specific anxieties, often with little relevance to the question at hand. Though UKIP/Brexit Party are rare among EU populists in not having clear links to Putin, the technology of targeted messaging  based on profiling suggests that the technology does not produce democracy - I'd be interested to hear whether there is anything different about the Swiss case.  Perhaps extracting the UK from the EU is a more significant goal, seriously weakening competition for US/Russian hegemony, and so attracts serious money and - to return to another key term - expertise.

And to repeat: a technology that opened on non-human participation in collective decisions would be a convincing argument for technological solutions. Is there anything to look out for?


Sean Cubitt

Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies

Goldsmiths, University of London

New Cross, London SE14 6NW

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Message: 2
Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2019 12:56:07 +0100
From: Michael Guggenheim <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> from Meatloaf to penalty Shoot Outs
Message-ID: <>
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I beg to disagree, and I would love to invite you to a trip to
Switzerland, where indeed referenda are held 4 times a year on all kinds
of things, from deciding whether to build a new school or (infamously)
whether to ban minarets. Sometimes you and I may agree or disagree with
an outcome, but the last time I checked, overall policy decisions in
Switzerland were no better or worse (according to my parochial judgment)
than those of any other European country without regular referenda.

When I last checked (a week ago), Switzerland was not "frighteningly
fascistic". In fact, it is the opposite. A simple reason is that if
people are asked in referenda /repeatedly/, they /learn/ how to act in
referenda (including the fact that the state develops complex techniques
for administering them, that overcome the beginner mistakes of the
Brexit referendum (was it advisory or not? What were the options
exactly? etc.). Most importantly, they /do/ get engaged in the relevant
questions and are much better informed about issues. They also have the
possibility to decide case by case whether they agree with a certain
policy, rather than being forced to vote for a party with which they may
agree in some issues bit disagree in others.

(Also ask yourself: Are MPs better informed and do they make better
arguments than random people on the street? Answer: They do not, for the
simple reason that they are not trained to be policy makers).



On 23/08/2019 11:28, Sean Cubitt wrote:
> John writes:
> Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 08:48:41 -0700
> From: John Preston <>
> To:
> Subject: Re: <nettime> From Meat Loaf to Penalty Shoot Outs
> Message-ID: <>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> Technological development puts pressure on social institutions. We need
> a system of governance which encourages rapid iteration and mass
> participation, two features lacking in our current democracies.
> the problem is that referendums are not a viable alternative - partly
> for the reasons David gives: abandonment of evidence, argument or -
> I'd add - a commitment to the good life for all.
> Judiciously timed, a referendum on restoring the death penalty would
> succeed in any European country. So would bans on abortion, gay
> marriage, modest dress for Muslim women, immigration, and very
> probably heavy metal
> There is surely an arrogance in expertise, and a we-know-best among
> professional politicos. But to exchange that for constant (and
> compulsory?) opinion polling wouldn't change the new problem which is
> exactly that: ubiquitous real-time comment IS government by opinion
> poll, and it is frighteningly fascistic. The new national-populisms
> rely on just such technological by-passes because they know they do
> not construct the public but a plurality of publics, each of which can
> be triggered by the right (usually negative) stimulus - this is the
> whole strategy of social media marketing in the US, UK and across Europe.
> Sadly - since it requires far more work - the political solutions are
> the only response?to political problems. Yes, any politics in the 21st
> century must be mediated, and media techniques and technologies impact
> politics just as politics impact on technologies and techniques.
> The challenge is to build political media that are in service of the
> good of all - including non-humans --?a medium that allows the Amazon
> a voice, that could be interesting . . . .
> Sean
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Michael Guggenheim
17 Popham Street
N1 8QW London

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