Paradigm Shift Interruptus

Date: Sun, 26 May 1996 20:30:51 +0200 (MET DST)

From: (Janos Sugar)

Paradigm Shift Interruptus [1]

The Fate of Publicity in the Global Feedback Society

János Sugár

The conscious and efficient grabbing of publicity is the order of the communication environment following the era of enlightenment and the consequent paradigm shift. What is known by most? Whose publicity is greater? The market (advertisement) value gives rank. There are messages which have to find their most efficient form [2] in order to reach their real objective, we have to be able to sell (=make comprehensible) our content in an arena of large over-supply. Therefore, it is essential to precisely understand our own goals and the conditions of our chosen medium.

Continuously we have to think ahead.[3] This is the design of common sense, the medial consciousness, how to produce a broad consensual understanding.

This then is the original source of the so-called high/low conflict: the publicity (= popularity of an idea) reaching for the common sense (= ground level of understanding); in contrast to the classical avant-garde attitude, which ignores and rejects the feedback (success, polls, surveys,) leading to a quasi-knowledge of the future, independent of the present level of understanding. Art has always explored this, the current notion or border of awareness, not involving itself with instant popularity, and/or not caring for the actual threshold of common-sense. Similar to the development of science [4] and the scientific revolutions which were created with an equally unpopular beginning. By carrying out the most questionable ideas - those with the weakest ties to the present - we can increase the speed of the future (from the unknown to the known). We can squeeze out the answers to which we only have to find the moment when the questions were posed. There is no authenticity or shall we say professionalism in the moment of embarkation, only stubbornness, or in other words - lobotomy.

All in all, the start is always incidental, all specific targets remain at the standard of the moment in which they were set, and therefore will be surpassed during the phases of accomplishment. [5]

The Moral Superhighway

The new 'technical media', because it is not does not come from a traditional cultural inspiration, has to make itself acceptable to the present, beginning with financial considerations. We can also say that they cannot wait till the social-cultural evolution wraps them in time speed - the natural context of comprehension. It has to find a role, a function, it has to be successful in order to give further evolution to development. This means popularity among the buyers [6], who in fact become quasi-voters. The most attractive aspect for the users seems to be communication, perhaps because it's possible to step out a bit from the tormenting social-physical bounds, from the unknown to the forum of general impersonality. What matters is that 'voting' in a general sense (and the campaign beforehand) becomes a social medium.[7]

The 'moral superhighway': the relationships/networks that form civilization (religion, family, economy) in which certain basis' of trust (understanding, tolerance, empathy = social mores) enabled society to reach a higher level. The moral laws create the ground rules of co-operation, rules of symbiosis (= networked existence), since they give predictable behavior standards, they make calculable the other, securing the future framing of the possibilities. On the solid basis of the global symbiosis, networks can be built to the tower of babel, not selfish or dysfunctional, but a memorial to the logos.

The enlightenment expelled from society the demand, or the need, according to the different realms (science, aesthetics, philosophy, religion), creating the secular specialization which serves as a background to progress. The beneficial specialization of the past becomes the threatening of today, risking isolation and atrophy by the interbreeding of knowledge. With the break from specializations, the computer enters as the essential tool of the separation, allowing the complexity of the world to be accessible and digestible. If it is not compulsory to interdisciplinarily check data, we focus more towards, and are absorbed by, the micro-problems - the developmental direction of civilization then becomes marked by the solution to contextless problem-details (leading nowhere). The results of scientific, technological and cultural specialization have become elements of daily life, but due to the lack of cross references, more and more serious communication crises arise (e.g., air pollution, war, economic depression). Since the most diverse types of information are stored in a uniform digital format, computer technology makes it possible to recreate this lacking cross-referential matrix. Due to high-speed data processing, a large amount of complex data is continuously available, becoming increasingly accessible and user friendly.[8].

On the rim of the inter-woven networks (commerce, religions, money, services, communications) there then appears the layer of the excluded and the ignored, ostracized from any larger economic or moral network.

Their ideology remaining tribal. Enlightenment destroying the culture of the illiterate (the gun is the type-writer of the un-alphabet [9]) In poor civilizations the Kalashnikov refers more to a desperate psychological state "aggression as a status symbol" than anything else. Somalians have a familiar proverb: "I and Somalia against the world, I and my clan against Somalia, I and my family against the clan, I and my brother against the family, I against my brother."

The surplus class [10] wants publicity, and having no channels or possibilities, with a Herostratic gesture, tries to reach the medium of publicity (to attract media, i.e.. the RAF or Unabomber who blackmail publicity). A fresher phenomenon is the appearance of surplus countries, and the same medial consciousness becomes a basic part of international politics [11]. The only supporter of these pirate actions is art [12] which sublimates its actions, helping them into the domain of culture, increasing the audience.

Hype and Death

The appearance of the net realized the western myth of attainable knowledge. The net is the medium of searching, it creates the notion of the ideal spiritual working-place. Faust is a hacker in the library of Babel - the net works as an endless context-slot machine. Everything is reachable (infinite sources), we are comfortably [13] within the touch of a finger to endless sources of thoughts. The complexity becomes simple, the utopia of linear thinking is compelled to give its place to the reality of associative thinking, the direct perception (vivisection, dismantling, interrogation) gives a place to the interactive dialogue.[14]

Global feedback takes shape, the totally self-reflective social environment permeated by the uncontrollable communication cross-references, the traces of instant decisions marked only by contra-selections [15]. The science of selection will have a vital importance, the 'who is who' search engines smuggling references in an impersonal network [16]; generating content by selection.

Global databases mean a significantly increased field of associations, where the frequency of random events are more dense. Chance is a personal experience in such a medium, characterized by impersonality, where the possibility of meta-communication is totally excluded. Since Eisenstein, we have known that two distinct or random images (or information) placed side by side can generate a third and unique associative entity, which can then connect to a fourth, etc. Since the advent of the reform Catholics, providence, communicates with us through randomness[17]. The complexity which raises the level of randomness is a content automat, the tower of Babel reaches the logos when everyone is talking to everyone.

From Feedback to Recycling

The problem is whether there will be content rather than votes? Since the traditional content developer, artists (researchers), culture, press, marketing, politics, are the dominant suppliers, why should they give a place, reserve possibilities to the unknown content provider [18]?

The general characteristic of the technological boom is asynchonic, being the shift between synchonicity and the social reality. When using past-less tools (the medial technology), it is typical that the context comes later, lags behind, is late. The hobos of the telephone medium (the famous Phreakers) only demonstrated the existence of the possibilities, they didn't utilize it to its full potential. It was Captain Crunch's famous act, when he called the neighboring telephone booth with a call that encircled the earth many times over [19].

The new, unprecedented media, is a product of the combination of technical progress and a booming specialization, because of this, it has no cultural references, past or history of any kind. The avant-garde has the tradition of radical use of (any) established media, and this experience (the so-called didactic message of the avant-garde) appears in the usage, testing, and research of the new media. Looking for and charting the borders, finding a limitless self-expression - the avant-garde discipline of total competence, vital in the days of global symbiosis and growing complexity. In the medialized public world, the research (browsing, surfing) becomes the symbol of existence - the subversion becomes the obligatory tool of perception [20].

The role of art in the net just begins to open up new ways and possibilities and the culture follows; tries to manifest in a didactic way the unused possibilities. It is didactic as the classical avant-garde was didactic: it educated the cultural perception. The culture functions always as a blueprint for an information society: context is the content (wrong context = no contrast, new context = content) in other words to shuffle the information until it finds the biggest contrast - to be efficient.[21]

The net is much like a stomach (the stomach and intestines of brain), an omnivoric stomach of the time speed peristaltic - embodiment of the abstract spirit . We can depict the bits of the logos with hamburgers, feedback turning into recycling (shit coming back as ketchup...). Not pregnant with the new paradigm, perhaps the net has gas - only needing to fart?

Digital Glasnost 22

The question is how will the net-medium be general. In other words it should be a personal decision not a financial decision, the state of being on-line/off-line, similar to the right of voting. If the net will not be complete, if it is not continuous, with gaps and holes (and on top of all it is structured on the current social and economic geography) it is good for nothing. Everything retaining the status quo. In this case the net remains an elitist medium, where only the trend setting/watching, theory and design are interwoven - plus a little web folklore. Not at the state, but at the private level (wired magazine) and the masses will look for some open access terminal in a museum - perhaps this is the word of our age.

It doesn't matter if it is elitist (writing, art and the sciences are elitist), but because its socially barred from underneath, it could be an easy target of the excluded, be abused by politics to create the perfect foe. Although it's global, it is damageable by aggression, only a broad mass of users can make it profitable, hence secure.

A general access would require a new role of the state and economic capital, net culture can be a real business only if the access side (from hardware to provider) can be leveled, with no basic quality differences (similar to the telephone) - providing a universal service. It is necessary to invest in the user, to become aware of the simple truth: that this cannot exist without users. The non-conventional layers should be involved as well, those who might have a non-economic standing yet have content (non-students, retired, unemployed, minorities). With the (hopefully) change of state and economic attitude, no one is blackmailed [23] because of their communication needs. Free access becomes a generally used, global service, the medium of the society - while of course remaining the toy of the elite (the level of research). Every single participant of public life (publicity) can have their own server, can provide access. The name of the provider becoming as referential as the family name, public institutions functioning as databases. Let's make our HDs public!

Everyone who possesses information should deeply think about what is public and what is not. The lower border of the elite is penetrated by memes, the trail beaten by art. Everyone has to immediately decide the maximum level of what can be public. Possessing information automatically invites abuse, therefore even possessing information can be seen as a crime. Every content-owner has to define the maximum publicity, the off-the-record threshold. Of course, everyone is only interested in secrets. It is very human.

Janos Sugar

(Edited by Noel Villers)


[1] for friends I met through the MetaForum

[2] Two examples: during the Nazi occupation the King of Denmark wore the yellow star, followed by the whole country, making deportation impossible; or the red ribbon worn by famous celebrities (art in the present)

[3] Chess, Empathy and James Bond

[4] Feyerabend, Anarchist Ontology, Kuhn 5 J.S.. Minus Pathos, published by Balassi, Budapest, 1995 ISBN 963 506 0130 6. An interesting phenomenon is the commercial film which represents a transformation between future-oriented art and present-oriented profit

[5 ] J.S.. Minus Pathos, published by Balassi, Budapest, 1995 ISBN 963 506 0130

[6] Plagiarism also becomes simpler, it is not by chance that one of the new synonyms of understanding is appropriation.

[7] Such as surveys, for example the job approval of the British heir to the throne is 33%. This idea would be previously undefined..

[8] An interesting phenomenon is the commercial film which represents a transformation between future-oriented art and present-oriented profit

[9] Barry Sanders

[10] Arthur Kroker

[11] Typical is one of the last actions (closing?) of the cold war when the US President, during a sound check announced immanent bombardment of the soviet union. (J.S.. The price of History in HVG 1992 p.26)

[12] "On the common source of political art" (G. Szines in Sublimed Forms MRF 1997)

[13] Throughout history only poor people cannot handle complexity. For the privileged class the big question of our age is "whether I am beyond the possibility of being a refugee"

[14] F. Rosenzweig, M. Buber

[15] After conventional wisdom, the 87'/88' stock crash was caused by the instantaneous reactions of computers to each other.

[16] The black market of celebrity book marks - parents educating their kids by individually programmed V-chips bearing the family traditions, the main activity of the children then becomes the hacking of the family v-chip.

[17] A miracle is the unbelievable accumulation of randomness, when the random transforms into necessity.

[18] The first memorial to the unknown soldier was erected in France following the first world war, in Imperial Rome there was an alter to the unknown god (Altar was the name of the very first personal computer).

[19] The researcher of interactive media have a strange experience when realizing that the major groups of spontaneous users are using the communication possibilities in a more random, less responsible or articulated way than when eye to eye. (S.J., The endless take in cafe Babel, Budapest 1992)

[20] S.J. The Reference Generator (The Butterfly Effect, SCCA Budapest 1996)

[21] The avante-garde strategy became generalized, first used by the military industry then by the medial environment

22 not to forget: Glasnost, Perestroyka, Uskarenye (c) M. Gorbatschev

[23] i.e. the price structure of gasoline: blackmailing through the natural need of moving