Dark Fiber

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Can't remember why exactly I read this text, but I know it had something to do with its excellent cover art and its MIT publishing imprint, which is always a good sign. Turns out to be a crucial bit of reading.

Contents

Bibliographic Deets

Lovink, Geert 2002. Dark Fiber: Tracking critical internet culture. MIT Press, Cambridge USA.

Contents

A long book, I focused on the first two chapters for this initial reading

Essay on Speculative Media Theory

In this chapter, Lovink traces out the current and influential past schools of media theory, critiquing some, valorizing others, but still very open to a future that he implies is sure to bring improvemets as well as complications

German Media Theory

  • Lovink cites "German media theory" as one of the dominant intellectual traditions today
  • German Media Theory is:
    • Friedrich Kittler
    • Siegfried Zielinski
    • Norbert Bolz
    • Christoph Tholen
    • With influence from Baurdillard and Virilio (and thru them the whole French side of things)
  • Characteristics
    • "It's not exactly academic or even scientific. There is a strong emphasis on style" (24)
    • "At best, it's techne-poetry, brilliant in its search for new, historical patterns. At worst, it is dry, academic hermeneutics. There is a strong affection for art and aesthetics, and it has a strong relationship to literature and philosophy." (24)
    • "Take the works of Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Ernst Junger, Friedrich Nietzsche, J.G. Hamann, Novalis, and J.W. Goethe, simmer them in a suace of the latest media technologies, flavor it with a dash of the French Theory. That's the basic recipe" (24-25)
    • "Their success lies in presenting new media to a conservative cultural elite" (26)
    • "The War is the father of all media, and the founding fathers of media theory are Heidegger and Benjamin (McLuhan being the good third). Combine all these elements and you have an impressive and productive research program for decades to come" (27).
  • Methods, There are two
    • Media Archaeology -> Kittler
    • Hermeneutics
  • "A crucial term, if we want to study this media theory, seems to me the definition of aesthetics. Media theory rejects the classical definition of aesthetics used by art historians (a set of rules to judge the artwork) and comes up with a new one, focusing on the technical determination of perception" (28).

The Virtual Intellectual

In which Geert Lovink predicts the advent of me and a lot of my friends

  • Lovink begins by asking how the role of the intellectual should be changing in "age of cyber technologies"
  • This emerging or possibly imagined figure is referred to by Lovink as the "Virtual Intellectual"
  • "Today's challenge lies in orchestrating radical intercultural exchanges not in closed monocultures" (36)
  • "the VI described here is more than just a cool spokesperson for the new media industry and the battalions of 'digital artisans' attached to it. The virtual intellectual is first of all equipped with technical skills and can freely move around within online databases, list cultures, search engines, and hypertext environments. A lively and critical online life requires the transfer of crucial heritage into the digital public domain" (38)
  • the VI has a personal and a historical perspective - " a will to design, to construct the public part of cyberspace, to be 'radically modern' (beyond the melancholy of postmodernism) , combined with the ability to reflect and criticize the (new) medi a from all possible perspectives. In both cases, design and critique, it is important to overcome the widespread resentments, cynicism, and elitism such a position attracts, on the one hand, and over-hyped sales talk on the other. This implies that all forms of technological determinism should be condemned. Technology is not inevitability; it is designed, it can be criticized, altered, undermined, mutated and, at times, ignored in order to subvert its limiting, totalitarian tendencies caused by either states or markets." (39)
  • "What is it that makes this type of intellectual 'virtual'? Needless to say that s/he will no longer accept the editorial tyranny of the Gutenberg bosses. The virtual intellectual of my dreams would freely move around on the net, having its own website and attached revenue string of micro payments, establishing alternative reputation systems, wary of the reintroduction of scarcity and proprietary models. Like other professions migrating into cyberspace, this new figure will be constituted through their specific mixture of local and global cultures, digitized and non-digitized source material, and real and screen-only experiences" (39).
  • "Media freedom ultimately means leaving the media question behind. It means mixing and sampling the local and the global while flying through self-made hybrid data landscapes. The virtual intellectual: always under construction." (41)
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