Pit Schultz on Mon, 30 Mar 1998 22:46:44 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Lance Arthur: Technosurrealism, or "I'm a technorealist, too!"

[ another great report from www.theobvious.com , a good place for a frequent
surf in the hood, not just because of the suprisingly functional web design.
this one bugged me for quite a while, the question if net.critique gets a
new child. not a particulary lovable, but a boring one, well behaving, and
sureley getting good at school & church soon. so this guy puts away some
fog and adds some spices. join mediocracy. dull is cool. common sense is 
fun. /p ]



Technosurrealism, or "I'm a technorealist, too!"
by Lance Arthur 

The Technorealists really need a snappy sort of title to frame themselves as 
originators of this new non-movement, these twelve who sat before us 
fortunate few gathered at Harvard Law School last Thursday. Ostensibly, they 
were there to explain what the hell they were talking about and to attempt 
to place Technorealism into real-life applications. Other than as a 
journalist's consolation prize for not finding Esther Dyson before deadline. 
Like "The Gang Of Twelve", which, because it's a derivative title, would fit 
right in with their non-agenda agenda. 

I went in thinking that I was probably a technorealist, mostly because I've 
never been a TechnoUtopian nor a neoLuddite (the apparently opposing forces 
of this movement with no enemies) and agreed that there is a middle ground 
but who really cares about that? It's no fun to stand in the middle while 
the polars are lobbing tomatoes at each other. You want to spur them on so 
you can laugh at them. 

So the first panel sits down and explains that they aren't going to hurt 
anyone, that the media is at fault, that technology is just this big thing 
that no one understands, that schools need better bathrooms and that 
"information wants to be protected" which translates into "I write for a 
living and my copyrights are as useful as paper towels at an oil spill". 
I read and reread the manifesto that is no manifesto because, it was 
explained, "we took pains not to write that on it" (which conjured visions 
of Steven Johnson grasping hold of Silberman's hands as he attempted to type 
MANIFESTO across the top of the document, screaming "No! No!") and still 
came away with that slightly empty feeling one gets after consuming an 
entire box of Nilla Wafers. Judging from the hue of the paper the 
non-manifesto was printed on and that of the accompanying Web site, the 
color of the TR's appears to be yellow. An unfortunate choice, given that 
most of them are journalists. 

The audience was looking for a fight and would come away more than 
disappointed as the first six took turns patting each other on the back and 
explaining that they all agreed with certain parts of the document, but also 
agreed that pretty much whatever the audience said was wrong was also 
probably a fair statement. They had a collective head scratcher about the 
negative reaction to their proclamation because they didn't, apparently, 
mean to do anything other than ascribe the word "technorealism" to what had 
been called here-to-fore "the boring people with nothing interesting to say." 
The second panel, convening after a break during which much cheese was 
consumed and the gathered TR's were pressed for new and more boring 
platitudes by the gathered and incredibly silent press, was supposed to 
provide what some audience members likely wanted to hear most; The answer to 
"so what the hell are you going to do, you silly self-promotional authors?" 
What did this, uh, platform? Political movement? Journalistic ethics 
crusade? Non-threatening positional variance... whatever... propose to do to 
make the world a better place to live? Did they really want to stop wiring 
schools? Answer: Yes, and no. Did they think we should do away with 
copyright? Answer: No, of course not. We need to get paid! Okay, what did 
they propose, then, to resolve the problem of copyright enforcement on the 
Web? Code watermarks? Some pot o' creds that everyone pays into who accesses 
anything that is then divvied up among the card-carrying? Answer: We'll get 
back to you on that, we're not here to give solutions, only to foster 

Okay, should the government get involved in the Web more? Answer: It already 
is! But it's also not! So yes, and no! 
Okay, who is the enemy? 
Ready for this one? Answer: Bullshit. 

Three hours later, and I was left with more questions than answers. It then 
hit me, they had succeeded! All along they kept carrying on that what they 
wanted was not answers at all, that they were not seeking to define any 
paradigms, crystallize any new ideas, gift us with The Answers. They only 
wanted to fertilize a new landscape to deposit their increasingly 
nonsensical ravings on. So rather than wander aimlessly through the old crap 
we're all tired of and no one believes anyway, they invented a huge middle 
ground without any edges so they could get a few more miles out of that 
pundit pool. Genius, it was, there before me. Pure and simple. These were 
journalists decrying the way the media treats technology issues, positioning 
themselves as pundits so they can, in turn, interview each other about a 
movement they created designed to remove obfuscation and Drudgey 
sensationalism because, say it with me now: Dull Is Cool! 

Did I buy it? 
Answer: Yes! And no! I'm a technorealist! 

Lance Arthur works in Boston, but lives in the hearts of children 
everywhere. He understands technology only slightly less than the meaning of 
human existence, has never been paid for a written word in his life 
(including these) and was slightly creeped out about Paulina Borsook staring 
at him like that. 
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