John Hutnyk on Sat, 14 Mar 1998 08:02:09 +0100 (MET)

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Re: <nettime> Technorealism

Sorry, for some reason an earlier - full of typos - draft was posted.
This is the rant as it hould have been.



> even as the debate over technology has been 
> dominated by the louder voices at the extremes, a new, more balanced 
> consensus has quietly taken shape
> We are technology "critics" in the 
> same way, and for the same reasons, that others are food critics, art 
> critics, or literary critics.

Unreasonable comments re: Technorealism.

I think it's a trick.

A moderate and polite tone which argues for middle way might seem
reasonable and real, but c'mon, this old charm doesn't work anymore.

What this amount to is the new snake-oil dressed up in a less outrageous
bottle, a dash of bad Heidegger (technology provides ways of seeing the
world...), a dollop of creamy populism, and lashings of caring concerned
pseudo sauce...

The reasonable description of technology, so well moderated, has
achieved nothing but business as usual. The point is to change the

Technology is hyped, sure, but it is a good thing too. Well, how could
anyone be so impolite as to disagree. Burp.

But if technology critics are gonna be no more than food critics, I
think the same old relegation to the very back pages of my newspaper is
in order for this stuff. When I want to read a food critic I'll turn to
the bit just before the comics section (and of course there I'll expect
NOTHING abut the politics of technology, nothing about the entire
socio-economic context which enables the food critic to be so bland -
and so I will expect the food critic to ignore, say, the economics of
illegal immigrant exploitation for cheap service labour in restaurants
that serves up the meals, or of the specifics of food import across the
international division of wealth and privilege, WB/IMF, NAFTA etc etc).
But, when I want something more than a place to dine...

Actually, oftentimes even the comic section manages to say something.
This technorealism minifesto does not.

The whole point about the hype of technology, the question of fear or
fascination, is nothing about being reasonable. I am for being
unreasonable, and for demanding all more technology, for more of us. For
'all' of us. Rather than quake in fear at the idea of technology out of
'our' control, rather than try to secure what we, in the 'advanced'
sectors, already have, yes, let us find another way. But for this we do
not need moderation, we need to demand unreasonable things. We should
keep well in mind that the advances in technology which have the
potential to improve lives on this planet are vast, but that the
ownership and control of these possibilities at present is confined to a
very small clique of first world savants and their good news
propagandists (at best eventually a few also benefit from a trickle down
effect, gee wasn't it great when Netscape decided to hand out its
browser for 'free'!).

No surprise that the propaganda for this division of spoils (5% with the
menu in their hands, 45 percent with scraps, 50% still not even close to
getting a telephone so as to book a table at the feast) appears as dire
warnings about the future and sometimes as unthinking celebration of
hyper-modernity (from Bill Gates' styles, obviously, to the
avatars of the revolutionary potency of the net - not even close to
being laptop Lenins and Microprocessor Maos). Reasonableness does not
diminish the fact that these reasonable words are part and parcel of
the snake-oil sales pitch.

> As the representative of the people 
> and the guardian of democratic values, the state has the right and 
> responsibility to help integrate cyberspace and conventional society. 

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. Which State actually has been anything more than armed
force accompanied by the alibi of persuasion and the moderate tones
of reasonableness and realism - but in the end stands ready with blunt
instruments to make sure we keep in line?

I refrain from point by point discussion of the incredible ingredients
of this bourgeois routine:

> the art of teaching
> knowledge and wisdom
>  we must update old laws and interpretations so that information 
> receives roughly the same protection it did in the context of old media.
> we should subject them [the tools] to a similar 
> democratic scrutiny. 
> our goal is
> neither to champion nor dismiss technology, but rather to understand 
> it and apply it in a manner more consistent with basic human values. 
> The citizenry should benefit and profit from the use of 
> public frequencies, and should retain a portion of the spectrum for 
> educational, cultural, and public access uses

Except to say: Why only a portion? [we want the whole meal]. Who are the
wise? Who makes the laws? Protection from whom? Scrutiny how? - by
voting? [what is this kind of contentless democracy if not also another
television trick] Who decides these basic human values? [do you mean
something like the value of the market?]
'Rather to understand'???? And then?

Call me bulimic, but these food critics make me want to purge.

John Hutnyk

> we anticipate mixed blessings

So say grace before you tuck in...

ps. Meanwhile, technorealism has other meanings. In order to 'bounce
back' from the Ringitt crisis Malaysian companies have a promo ad
running on CNN, and Prime Minster Mahathir has guaranteed the viability
of the Multimedia Super Corridor project - and, surprise, was it the
word 'technorealism' he used when asked about the 350 retrenchments at
one of the companies planning for the MSC? That's 350 local workers
losing their jobs, while 20 expats with the company are kept on handsome
retainers. AND while the Indonesian crisis cannot be wholly made a
technology related issue, it is certainly the case that the financial
flows complex laughingly called the stock market has much to do with
that same international division of wealth mentioned above.
Technorealism here means whipping up fears of a flood of economic
refugees arriving from Indonesia, and the Malaysian police using the
Internal Security Act to detain people who harbour 'illegals', and the
Inspector General of Police threatens floggings for captured illegal
immigrants. There are campaigns related to many things such as this, to
which perhaps people's efforts would be better directed, rather than
chewing over these all so tasteless mumblefestos.

Stomp Stomp. Bit grouchy today, must be something I ate <keep taking the
pills, John>

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