Sean Cubitt via Nettime-tmp on Wed, 2 Aug 2023 18:23:51 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Imagine

Great challenge and great responses. My first thought would be to go back to the 90s and Sadie Plant’s story of the women who wove computation. If computation survived but not the internet, would women not be in the brutalised position that social media platforms have subjected them to? Would pornography have survived feminism? Would digital corporations have far better representation than the miserable 33% identifying as women currently in Google employee surveys?

I was watching Jules Dassin’s police procedural (and noir classic) The Naked City last night: at various points, as a villain hopped on the New York El and escaped, I kept thinking that mobile phones would have helped, but if in David’s scenario there is telnet but not internet, that doesn’t change. Computation only powers up the procedural aspect - consulting files basically. Old movies are a great way to see how the world operates without later tech.

So if there were mobile telephony but nothing beyond voice (and maybe text), would someone have come up with something like Gopher? (There were telephone news agencies operating throughout the first half of the 20th century)
Or something akin to ftp (which I recall using on a McGill mainframe in the 70s)?
And let’s suppose celnet without internet would only be capable of very lo-res graphics; and voice and text were therefore far more central  
Then we would have a far more language-based culture - not unlike nettime

Meanwhile if cable is allowed, and over-the-air broadcasting supplemented with services like Ceefax - telegraphic text screens carrying news, its not hard to imagine they would have developed image and video compression sufficient for at least lo-res imagery, maybe video

Institutional or domestic fixed-line media share fixed locations. High-res images and video, ftp/gopher would all need you to be somewhere, and in shared space. The extreme gendering of personal high-res broad bandwidth media  would not have evolved. On the other hand, access would have been extremely limited - by education to access institutions, or by wealth to afford domestic media, with broadcasting and cable narrowcasts much more susceptible to censorship (I hasten to add I am in favour of censorship - I just want to be in charge of what gets censored)

OR the utopian possibility: with women in charge, would freedom to speak come with the obligation to listen?


Message: 1
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2023 12:07:30 +0200
From: Felix Stalder <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Imagine
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8; format=flowed

That's a great intellectual challenge. And the TRUMP is a pretty good
answer, not the least because Trump is a not an isolated phenomenon, but
the culmination of a lot of longer-term developments.

Let's say the internet became socially relevant during the 1990s and
let's look at the "great acceleration" charts, arguably the most
relevant summary of socio-physical trends over the 250 years.
Surprisingly, there seems to be no connection. We cannot see an impact
of the internet on these charts.

I made the argument elsewhere [1] that the bend in all the indicators
around 1950 can be explained by computerization and the new more
intensive extraction processes it required and enabled. In this view,
the internet allowed a trend to continue that might otherwise have run
into its own contradictions and limitations.

[1] Escape Velocity. Computing and the Great Acceleration. 2022

This view is close to Weizenbaum's famous analysis of the first wave of
computerization in the 1970s:

?Many of the problems of growth and complexity that pressed insistently
and irresistibly during the postwar decades could have served as
incentives for political innovation....Yet, the computer did arrive
?just in time.?But in time for what? In time to save?and to save very
nearly intact, indeed, to entrench and stabilize?social and political
structures that otherwise might have been either radically renovated or
allowed to totter under the demands that were sure to be made on them.
The computer, then, was used to conserve America?s social and political
institutions. It buttressed them and immunized them, at least
temporarily, against enormous pressure for change. Its influence has
been substantially the same in other societies that have allowed the
computer to make substantial inroads upon their institutions: Japan and
Germany immediately come to mind.? (1976: 31)

Thus, in my view, what the internet enabled was the continuation of the
great acceleration beyond previous social systemic limits. Now we are
crashing against the geophysical woefully unprepared socially. Which
creates openings for people like Trump.

On 8/1/23 17:08, David Garcia via Nettime-tmp wrote:
> Thanks Chris, one response that has struck me as a strong candidate, was
> the response when I asked my partner, Nanette, to name just one
> significant thing that would be different if the internet had never been
> invented... She gave a one word answer "TRUMP".
> On 2023-08-01 07:22, christine treguier wrote:
>> Thanks for that challenge? david. Not easy indeed and politically so
>> interesting. A way to un-knitt, or re-knitt what has been mistakingnly
>> knitted...
>> Chris
>> Le 01/08/2023 ? 11:20, David Garcia via Nettime-tmp a ?crit?:
>>> Science fiction is by no means always about the future it can also
>>> start by imagining an alternative past or present but with a single key
>>> counterfactual that changes everything. So taking this as a starting
>>> point let's suppose the internet had never been invented (or otherwise
>>> come into being). In this scenario the computer is still there, mobile
>>> telephony is still there, just not the internet. There are those who
>>> might argue that such a proposition is itself technologically
>>> illiterate as the internet follows as inevitably as night follows day
>>> from the existence and proximity of telephony and computers. So the
>>> marriage is inevitable as is the progeny. To which I reply; of course
>>> but that is the author?s challenge, to imagine a plausible set of
>>> circumstantial obstacles, social, political, technical or military. How
>>> might it have happened and how would the world look? what would have
>>> changed? The exercise is in some sense a war against amnesia as even
>>> those of us born before the age of mass computing would struggle to
>>> remember what life was like before the internet.

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