Dave Wakely on Fri, 13 Mar 1998 21:28:57 +0100 (MET)

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Re: <nettime> Technorealism

Bruce Fancher wrote:

"According to my dictionary "realism" is "concern for fact or reality
and rejection of the impractical and visionary."  Your manifesto is not
concerned with how things are in fact, but with how you believe they should
be, based on your particular ideology."

According to *my* dictionary, a manifesto is a "public declaration of
intentions or opinions" - which doesn't seem too far from what I understand
the Technorealism document as representing.

I don't personally see any great merit in labelling groups of individuals
as 'techno-utopian', 'neo-luddite' or 'technorealist', whether the
labelling be self-labelling or something closer to name-calling, but
baulking at someone else's audacity in holding , expressing and labelling
an opinion because we disagree with it doesn't seem to offer a very
optimistic path. It leaves the same kind of flavour in the mouth as an
argument for the ruthless minimisation of government because the rest of
the electorate has had the audacity to vote for something other than the
proponent's own favoured option.  If we are going to have freedom, it is
going to need to include the freedom to disagree - and might I suggest we
try harder than accusing others for 'failing to identify' those that they
implicitly criticise while arguing on behalf of an equally unidentified
'many of us'. Are we having this cake or eating it?

John Hutnyk wrote:

"Why should the State have any say in cyberspace? The technorealism
answer is: because they do in the rest of society. Well, this is upside
down thinking. We should be trying to deregulate meatspace, not import
its interferences and limitations - and the agendas thereby served -
onto our screens."

Again, a statement of opinion (no problem with that at all), but ... does
deregulation remove agendas, or is deregulation an agenda in its own right?
Depends on whether you agree with it in principle, I guess? And I'm sorry,
but I can't actually follow the apparent leap to the next sentence and the
'armed force' and 'blunt instrument' of the State keeping me in line -
could someone to paraphrase this one for me?

A brief question, if I may. If a majority felt that 'the State' should have
a say in cyberspace, what then? Are we going to work on ways of asking the
citizenry, or are we going to make a decision on their behalf?  Should
cyberspace be an extension of 'meatspace' (why such a contemptuous term, by
the way? I would prefer to think of myself as amounting to more than just a
few kilos of flesh), or should it seen as an entirely different entity? If
some of us believe the latter, does this reflect our  disagreement with the
existing governance of the physical world? Are those that are dissatisfied
with the governance of what some have referred to as 'real life' seeking
cyberspace as a form of refuge or escape? (And why make the distinction? -
cyberspace surely is real life; the dead are not reknown for their facility
with browser, mouse or keyboard, but without the living cyberspace would
cease to grow or function.) How exactly does a view that free markets
(where we can pick from the alternatives on sale or go without) determine
what is best for us differ from the view that the State (which we can elect
from the alternatives on the voting slip or go without) knows what best for
us? It's not an argument we're likely to ever settle, is it?

Apologies to everyone involved, but I get the sinking feeling I'm about to
spend  time reading email that makes me feel like a spectator at a tennis
match who is being subjected to exchanges of base-line play - and the
sinking feeling that I'm watching an argument that may mutate but never
actually ends.  Doesn't an argument in which one side accuses the other of
holding beliefs or opinions that they have already freely admitted to  seem
a little short on (trying to phrase this politely) insight?

The 'technorealist' (am I supposed to read 'social democrat' or
'possibly-left-of-centre-but-who-know-how-far?' here, and which 'side' am I
'agreeing' with if I do?) is doomed to exasperation, the 'cyber-utopian'
(yes, I can think of alternative labels  ...) is doomed to frustration, the
'neo-Luddite' is doomed (and will no doubt be hugely annoyed if they turn
out not to have been doomed): fine, no problem with any of that.  Surely
ELECTRONIC FRONTIERS' is explicitly saying that they don't accept an
unbridled free market approach - do we really *need* to go to the effort of
pointing this out to them? Someone making such a statement also  expects a
free market proponent to  disagree: simply disagreeing doesn't really move
anyone forward.

So how can we debate these issues - which the quantity and tone of prose
seem to indicate we consider important - without making them so ... well
... tedious?

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