Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Conversations From The Void: Heathen Social Critique"

Just got to "know" someone who created a Walden-like persona for himself. He retreated from contemporary German society, created his own world within it though - something he would probably deny. He re-named himself, went into self-sustaining agricultural life, and apparently got deeply into heathen German mythology. He is a staunch basic-democrat, currently trying to rebuild the ancient "Thing"-law and order structure on his land. Step by step, he is giving up all superfluous things, and he favours living in a completely unmediated reality: no money, soon there will be no internet-connection as well, and he prefers bartering over money-mediated ways of exchanging. There is no belief in the state at all, no trust in politics, no trust in the police, and no trust at all in protestant ethics and the related ways of life. Judged by his letters, a well educated Robinson who set up his goal to proove that actually there is an alternative system which - in his point of view - has more advantages than disadvantages compared to our system. Recently, I observed more and more interest in traditional tribal structures in Germany. Many people seem to ask what was there before Christianity took up his sword these days. There seems to be a need for clear and simple structures, probably a retreat from information overload, as - in this example - harsh media criticism goes along with his thoughts on how to organize a social life. Also, I somehow found another argument for explaining why Constructivism seems to be a good way of thinking.


So far, not all of my questions are being answered, but I already figured out that he has quite some interesting points. And there is already one question that answers itself:

Who am I to judge?

Monday, October 20, 2008

"New York, or: Super-Abundance"

This is how a visitor may experience the city: The last drop which makes the cup overflow has fallen many years ago, and it now drops, and rains, and pours, to nourish the floods which inundate the landscape. It drops, it rains and it pours superfluous information. The galleries on Madison Avenue overflow with works of famous painters, and those in the Village with works of painters which try to become famous. In book stores like Barnes and Noble a flood of alphabetically ordered paper backs distributes at minimal costs the intellectual production of the recent past to would-be receivers who perambulate there like lost sheep. Innumerable shop windows display the newest and the oldest objects of Western civilisation, and of those civilisations which penetrate the West, in order to conquer it from within. At the universities, the laboratories and the foundations numerous well equipped researchers in the natural sciences and in the humanities compete with each other to open up ever new frontiers for knowledge and action. At the same time numerous museums suck in forgotten and half-forgotten knowledge and action from the past and from exotic regions and they pour all this into the present. Every available surface, like walls, cars and sidewalks, is being covered with "creative" writing and painting. In uncounted corners all over town one dances, photographs, films, videos, one makes poems and music, one "expresses" oneself. New religions sprout like mushrooms, and old ones are reborn. Every thinkable and unthinkable type of social and political "revolution" is being advocated. Nothing comparable has existed before, not even in Hellenistic Alexandria.

Now such a deluge of quantity and quality is of course a desparate thing to behold, because it shows the futility of every creative endevour. As if civilisation were to suffocate on itself, to become superfluous from within itself. But such a subsummation of the phenomenon New York under the heading "decline of the West" is not what is called for. Because New York and what it represents, (namely the West), is not only a devastating experience, but also a challenge. A challenge which demands of us that we change our attitude toward civilisation, and, most of all, that we change our attitude toward creative action. It demands that we re-evaluate our commitment to civilisation. And this is far from easy, because it involves to abandon certain very fundamental values, and the search for new ones.

What New York is about is the discrepancy between available information and the human capacity to digest information. The discrepancy between the Sunday New York Times and our capacity to read it. New York does not challenge us to try and write an article for the New York Times under the desparate hope that it be published, read, and mediated by New Yorkers. It challenges us to do what we can to decipher in a meaningful way the New York Times, the City of New York, and the whole Western civilisation. It challenges us, not to add some further information to those already available, but to try and give a meaning to the informations which inundate us. Which is to say: to discriminate among informations.

To use the language of cybernetics and informatics, those disciplines which characterize the present situation: New York challenges us, not to produce and to store information, but to process the data which are put at our disposal. New York is a concrete challenge to analyze and to manipulate memories, not to try and enrich them further. Not only those new types of memories like the ones which are in the computers, but equally more traditional types of memories, like books, museums, exhibitions, and our own brains. In other words: New York challenges us concretely to try to "remember" in a critical fashion.

This demands of us that we change in a radical way: that we invert our glance, and no longer look outward, but inward. That we no longer try and look beyond the horizons, in order to transcend them, but that we now look toward the center, in order to give a meaning to our past "conquests", (our experiences, knowledge, and action). That we no longer try to acquire, but now try to order in a meaningful way what we have acquired. That we no longer seek progress, but consolidation. It seems that we have dangerously progressed too far and too quickly in the recent past, and that we must now try and correct this fatal error of ours. But if we do this, we must abandon a whole set of traditional values. For instance: we can no longer accept that "newness" is necessarily better than "oldness". We must stop to be "modern". "Modern times" is over.

Curiously enough, we possess a model for such a radical change of our attitude toward ourselves and the world. Fur such an inversion of the will, which no longer wants to experience, but now wants to remember. The Socratic model. For Socrates, like for us, memory is the central problem, although for him this means something differentfrom what it means at present. and for Socrates, like for us, wisdom is the capacity to remember. This, in the last resort, the super-abundance of New York is a concrete reminder of the original meaning of "wisdom".

Vilém Flusser
essay from the 1960s
(found in the archives in Berlin whilst doing some research on telematic societies)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart"

[googlage] "Palin Says"

Sarah Palin says Katie Couric interviews were "unfair".

Palin says she represents "Joe Six-pack".

Palin: US shouldn't second guess' defensive military steps.

Sarah Palin Says Katie Couric Annoyed Her.

Life on the Wicked Stage: Act 2. Sarah Palin says "Hi, Neighbor".

Pink Is Terrified Of Sarah Palin, Says She "Hates Women".

Sarah Palin says Obama "palling around" with terrorists.

Republican VP candidate: Sarah Palin says teen daugher is pregnant.

Palin says the war is from God and it's Gods plan.

Sarah Palin Says She Is Open To Teaching Creationism In Public Schools.

"Energy Expert" Sarah Palin Says Alaska Supplies Twenty Percent Of US Energy.

Sean Combs Is Scared Of Sarah Palin, Says She's "Worse Than The Boogeyman".

10/06/08, for breakfast

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Manchester and Salford: Regeneration and Reinvention 08"

The University of Salford just organized a European Studies conference titled "Regeneration and Reinvention - Practices of the New". My friend from Serbia and me were attending this conference, and it was indeed very interesting to see what this "New" actually was. It has been a very heterogeneous conference. The New in Great Britain came from various disciplines. A great deal of it was urban planning and architecture (culminating in a nice PR talk by one of the representatives of one of the major urban renewal companies on the island), but also some subcultural studies topics, the attempt to grasp the path of "New Labour" and "The Third Way" in politics, aspects of a new critical consumerism, social problems like binch drinking in GB, and some new fields in literature (hypertextual structures in Danielewski's print novel) and philosophy. Heidegger and Foucault, Barthes (Bojana) and Flusser (me) being connected to discussions of new technological aspects of our society. A lot of the talks were really inspiring. Plus Manchester and Salford are cities in a process of change these days, creating the right atmosphere for such a conference. Suitable evening programme was a visit of The Lowry art gallery and the Wire concert in the academy. Four very interesting days.