Frank Hartmann on Wed, 23 Jul 1997 08:26:54 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Last exit to net-criticism?

Re: <nettime> Geert Lovink's portrait of the Virtual Intellectual

Geert, with his (as always exiting) piece on the virtual intellectual,
gave us a a sum up of the ideas and essays he (and Pit) prepublished on
nettime and recently got printed here and there, whenever a critical
voice was needed by some clueless publisher. A summons for
net-criticism, an interim report on net-criticism, adnotes to
net-criticism, net-criticism as a work-in-progress for true. It makes me
wonder where net-criticism really takes place and what its agenda really
is, aside from stressful conference tourism. 

But now net-criticism finally arrived at its terminal, the definition of
its true actor, the "virtual intellectual". It certainly highlights a
situation, especially when relating to the aesthetic and moral wholeness
some elitist intellectuals (the classic mediators) are anxious to save. 
And at the same time this text seems to unwillingly fall back into the
old quarrel over the best position within the field - a very common
manifestation of the classic intellectual. 

Critique seems to have lost its object, while stressing the descriptive
qualities of what is going on beyond the old intellectual task of
managing the Gutenberg-galaxy. Is this truly the end of critique?
Information negation as the true core of post-enlightenment: its claim
is to lead us out of Gate's software cave, and into the authentic light
and warmth of "joyous negativism" of gay data nihilism. Now this sounds
to me a lot like alternatively living that gesture of "data dandyism"
formerly criticized by the ADILKNO-crew. Economy, history, ideology and
ideas seem no longer to exist for the net-intellectual. It is another
aesthetisation of the intellectual, thus not so far from the position
just overcome, or simply just another strategy to survive in the swamp
of the post-massmedia discourse. I also take it not as a coincidence
that after the introduction of the term "virtual intellectual", the grey
eminence of net-critique, Arthur Kroker, is presented once more like the
hare out of the magician's hat.

Another observation. The quest for "theory fiction" strongly reminds me
of Richard Rorty's attempt to save philosophy by "edifying discourse",
and even more of Umberto Eco, who first published his "Apocalittici e
integrati" in 1964 as a critique of the dualistic cultural critique. Eco
not only recommended the intellectual to immerse in mass culture and
media, he also did a nice job in producing a theory fiction which made
it to the bestsellers-list.

So: d'accord with the general problem Geert presents, but with the
reservation that coining another term (like the virtual intellectual)
does not lead the way out of this logic of decline fostered by so many
traditional intellectuals. Wasn't it Vilém Flusser who, for the
intellectual of the future, imagined a conceptual suicide of sorts, as
the disintegration of objects and their subjects already became an
everday experience against which our culture holds up so many fictitious
belief systems (much underestimated in this context: one of his last
writings with the programmatic title "Vom Subjekt zum Projekt"). The job
is not finished yet.

~Frank Hartmann

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