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The Complicated Legacy of Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog” | The New Yorker
"Brand now describes himself as “post-libertarian,” a shift he attributes to a brief stint working with Jerry Brown, during his first term as California’s governor, in the nineteen-seventies, and to books like Michael Lewis’s “The Fifth Risk,” which describes the Trump Administration’s damage to vital federal agencies. “ ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ was very libertarian, but that’s because it was about people in their twenties, and everybody then was reading Robert Heinlein and asserting themselves and all that stuff,” Brand said. “We didn’t know what government did. The whole government apparatus is quite wonderful, and quite crucial. [It] makes me frantic, that it’s being taken away.” A few weeks after our conversation, Brand spoke at a conference, in Prague, hosted by the Ethereum Foundation, which supports an eponymous, open-source, blockchain-based computing platform and cryptocurrency. In his address, he apologized for over-valorizing hackers. “Frankly,” he said, “most of the real engineering was done by people with narrow ties who worked nine to five, often with federal money.”

Brand is nonetheless impressed by the new tech billionaires, and he described two startup founders as “unicorns” who “deserve every penny.” “One of the things I hear from the young innovators in the Bay Area these days is ‘How do you stay creative?’ ” Brand said. “The new crowd has this, in some ways, much more interesting problem of how you be creative, and feel good about the world, and collaborate, and all that stuff, when you have wads of money.” He is excited by their philanthropic efforts. “That never used to happen,” he said. “Philanthropy was something you did when you were retired, and you were working on your legacy, so the money went to the college or opera.”

Brand himself has been the beneficiary of tech’s new philanthropists. His main concern, the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit focussed on “long-term thinking,” counts Peter Thiel and Pierre Omidyar among its funders. The organization hosts a lecture series, operates a steampunk bar in San Francisco’s Fort Mason, and runs the Revive & Restore project, which aims to make species like the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon “de-extinct.” The Long Now Foundation is also in the process of erecting a gigantic monument to long-term thought, in Western Texas—a clock that will tick, once a year, for a hundred centuries. Jeff Bezos has donated forty-two million dollars to the construction project and owns the land on which the clock is being built. When I first heard about the ten-thousand-year clock, as it is known, it struck me as embodying the contemporary crisis of masculinity. I was not thinking about death.

Although Brand is in good health and is a dedicated CrossFit practitioner, working on long-term projects has offered him useful perspective. “You’re relaxed about your own death, because it’s a blip on the scale you’re talking about,” he said, then quoted Jenny Holzer’s “Truisms,” saying, “Much was decided before you were born.” Brand is concerned about climate change but bullish on the potential of nuclear energy, urbanization, and genetic modification. “I think whatever happens, most of life will keep going,” he said. “The degree to which it’s a nuisance—the degree to which it is an absolutely horrifying, unrelenting problem is what’s being negotiated.” A newfound interest in history has helped to inform this relaxed approach to the future. “It’s been a long hard slog for women. It’s been a long hard slog for people of color. There’s a long way to go,” he said. “And yet you can be surprised by successes. Gay marriage was unthinkable, and then it was the norm. In-vitro fertilization was unthinkable, and then a week later it was the norm. Part of the comfort of the Long Now perspective, and Steven Pinker has done a good job of spelling this out, is how far we’ve come. Aggregate success rate is astonishing.”

As I sat on the couch in my apartment, overheating in the late-afternoon sun, I felt a growing unease that this vision for the future, however soothing, was largely fantasy. For weeks, all I had been able to feel for the future was grief. I pictured woolly mammoths roaming the charred landscape of Northern California and future archeologists discovering the remains of the ten-thousand-year clock in a swamp of nuclear waste. While antagonism between millennials and boomers is a Freudian trope, Brand’s generation will leave behind a frightening, if unintentional, inheritance. My generation, and those after us, are staring down a ravaged environment, eviscerated institutions, and the increasing erosion of democracy. In this context, the long-term view is as seductive as the apolitical, inward turn of the communards from the nineteen-sixties. What a luxury it is to be released from politics––to picture it all panning out."
stewartband  wholeearthcatalog  technosolutionism  technology  libertarianism  2018  annawiener  babyboomers  boomers  millennials  generations  longnow  longnowfoundation  siliconvalley  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  politics  economics  government  time  apathy  apolitical  californianideology  stevenpinker  jennyholzer  change  handwashing  peterthiel  pierreomidyar  bayarea  donaldtrump  michaellewis  jerrybrown  california  us  technolibertarianism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power by Byung-Chul Han – review | Books | The Guardian
"The new surveillance society that has arisen since 1984, argues Han, works differently yet is more elegantly totalitarian and oppressive than anything described by Orwell or Jeremy Bentham. “Confession obtained by force has been replaced by voluntary disclosure,” he writes. “Smartphones have been substituted for torture chambers.” Well, not quite. Torture chambers still exist, it’s just that we in the neoliberal west have outsourced them (thanks, rendition flights) so that that obscenity called polite society can pretend they don’t exist.

Nonetheless, what capitalism realised in the neoliberal era, Han argues, is that it didn’t need to be tough, but seductive. This is what he calls smartpolitics. Instead of saying no, it says yes: instead of denying us with commandments, discipline and shortages, it seems to allow us to buy what we want when we want, become what we want and realise our dream of freedom. “Instead of forbidding and depriving it works through pleasing and fulfilling. Instead of making people compliant, it seeks to make them dependent.”

Your smartphone, for Han, is crucial in this respect, the multifunctional tool of our auto-exploitation. We are all Big Brother now. It is in part Catholicism with better technology, a modern rosary that is handheld confessional and effective surveillance apparatus in one. “Both the rosary and the smartphone serve the purpose of self-monitoring and control,” he explains. “Power operates more effectively when it delegates surveillance to discrete individuals.” And we queue overnight to get the latest model: we desire our own domination. No wonder the motto for Han’s book is US video artist Jenny Holzer’s slogan: “Protect me from what I want.”

Han considers that the old form of oppressive capitalism that found its personification in Big Brother has found its most resonant expression in Bentham’s notion of a panopticon, whereby all inmates of an institution could be observed by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they were being watched. Bentham’s invention in turn catalysed French theorist Michel Foucault’s reflections on the disciplinary, punishing power that arose with industrial capitalism, leading him to coin the term biopolitics. Because the body was the central force in industrial production, Han argues, then a politics of disciplining, punishing and perfecting the body was understandably central to Foucault’s notion of how power worked.

But in the west’s deindustrialised, neoliberal era, such biopolitics is obsolete. Instead, by means of deploying “big data”, neoliberalism has tapped into the psychic realm and exploited it, with the result that, as Han colourfully puts it, “individuals degrade into the genital organs of capital”. Consider that the next time you’re reviewing your Argos purchase, streaming porn or retweeting Paul Mason. Instead of watching over human behaviour, big data’s digital panopticon subjects it to psychopolitical steering."



"At least in Nineteen Eighty-Four, nobody felt free. In 2017, for Han, everybody feels free, which is the problem. “Of our own free will, we put any and all conceivable information about ourselves on the internet, without having the slightest idea who knows what, when or in what occasion. This lack of control represents a crisis of freedom to be taken seriously.”"



"No matter. How might we resist psychopolitics? In this respect, Han cuts an intriguing figure. He rarely makes public appearances or gives interviews (and when he does he requires journalists turn off their recorders ), his Facebook page seems to have been set up by Spanish admirers, and only recently did he set up an email address which he scarcely uses. He isn’t ungooglable nor yet off the grid, but rather professor at Berlin’s University of the Arts and has written 16 mostly lovely, slender volumes of elegant cultural critique (I particularly recommend The Burnout Society, The Scent of Time, Saving Beauty and The Expulsion of the Other – all available in English) and is often heralded, along with Markus Gabriel and Richard David Precht, as a wunderkind of a newly resurgent and unprecedentedly readable German philosophy.

For all that, and I mean this as a compliment, Byung-Chul Han is an idiot. He writes: “Thoroughgoing digital networking and communication have massively amplified the compulsion to conform. The attendant violence of consensus is suppressing idiotisms.”

Indeed, the book’s last chapter is called “Idiotism”, and traces philosophy’s rich history of counter-cultural idiocy. Socrates knew only one thing, namely that he knew nothing. Descartes doubted everything in his “I think therefore I am”. Han seeks to reclaim this idiotic tradition. In an age of compulsory self-expression, he cultivates the twin heresies of secrets and silence.

Perhaps similarly, for our own well being, in our age of overspeak and underthink, we should learn the virtue of shutting up."
capitalism  latecapitalism  technology  politics  2017  biopolitics  byung-chulhan  stuartjeffries  1984  freedom  control  data  mobile  phones  facebook  twitter  conformity  conformism  amazon  internet  web  online  markusgabriel  richarddavidprecht  philosophy  idiocy  overspeak  underthink  thinking  communication  neoliberalism  foucault  power  smartphones  bigbrother  catholicsm  jennyholzer  desire  michelfoucault 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Web-to-print-to-street
"1
An experiment in making public by Paul Soulellis
OPEN SET Summer Design School
V2 INSTITUTE FOR THE UNSTABLE MEDIA
3 AUG 2016 10–18

When considering the future of publishing, why not look to the street? Tracing the act of “making public” in physical space is a trajectory that stretches back as far as urbanity itself. Spoken, written and visual language evolved in spaces of assembly and commercial activity, and flourished along trade routes; the distribution of media is intimately tangled up with the history of built environments and the movement of people, goods and services. And it’s this connection between the physical body and the circulation of information that bears examining: since material now flows along immaterial networks, might we look to the artist performing in public as a new site, or perhaps a re-siting, of publishing activity?

Let’s re-visit the street as a modality for making public. If we define publishing as the filtering and amplification of material, then public space is an obvious place to find this activity, bound up in material and performative notions. The urban street is a market of materialities: a mesh of connected systems, infrastructure, and networks. Like the internet, the public street is an open, flowing landscape where extreme conditions of chance and restriction exist in constant negotiation. These distinctions between physical and immaterial space, once easy, now break down in the street, where every citizen is a node on the network.

“Web-to-print-to-street” is a one-day workshop where we will take an inventory of possible moves in the street, from posting to stacking to dropping to hand delivery. Publishing is performed continuously on social media, so as material boundaries blur and blend, let’s consider the literal translation of network culture into physical space as an acta diurna (a daily act). Our site is the city of Rotterdam and we have countless publics available to us. For a few hours, we’ll examine our own networks and feeds for worthy material, considering the effects of selection and printing on the value of our work. We will experiment with simple moves that “de-amplify” our content, moving it from fast social media to slower rooms of sociability. Our goal is discovery: what kinds of publics and performative techniques are possible? What are new strategies for slowing down attention in the physical encounter?

READINGS

Workshop PDF
Michael Warner, “Publics and Counterpublics,” 2002.
Annette Gilbert (ed.), Publishing as Artistic Practice, Sternberg Press, 2016.
Susan Stallman, “The Ethos of the Edition: The Stacks of Felix Gonzalez-Torres,” Arts Magazine 66, 1991.
Michael Bhaskar, The Content Machine: Towards a Theory of Publishing from the Printing Press to the Digital Network. New York: Anthem Press, 2013.
Seth Price, “Dispersion,” 2002.
Paul Soulellis, “Performing Publishing: Infrathin Tales from the Printed Web,” 2015.

2
REFERENCES

Post
Jenny Holzer
Norman B. Colp
Stephanie Syjuco
Brian William Green
Julia Weist
Drop
Flugblätter (flying leaves)
Aram Bartholl Dead Drops
Sal Randolph’s Free Words
Anastasia Kubrak
Little Free Library
Stack
Edson Chagas / Tankboys
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Perform
Town crier
David Horvitz pickpockets an art fair
Weymouths
Anouk Kruithof’s Pixel Stress
Facebook Live Map

3
WORKSHOP

10–11:15 Introduction and discussion
11:15–12:15 Filtering
12:15–13:30 Break
13:30–14:30 Production (Print! Assemble!)
14:30–17 Amplification! Make public.
17–18 Share, celebrate, publish."
paulsoulellis  design  publishing  public  makingpublic  printedweb  papernet  social  sociability  sharing  classideas  jennyholzer  juliaweist  salrandolph  deaddrops  arambartholl  anastasiakubrak  littlefreelibrary  towncrier  davidhorvitz  weymouths  anoukkruithof  pixelstress  facebooklivemap  edsonchagas  tankboys  normancolp  stephaniesyjuco  brianwilliamgreen  michaelwarner  annettegilbert  susanstallman  michaelbhaskar  sethprice 
august 2016 by robertogreco
San Jose Museum of Art: Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns
"Part 1: June 30, 2015 through January 10, 2016
Part 2: August 29, 2015 through January 10, 2016

The world is a very different place after 9/11. Surveillance, security, data collection, and privacy have become everyday concerns. Covert Operations is the first survey of a generation of artists who respond to the uncertainties of the post-9/11 world. They employ the tools of democracy to bear witness to attacks on liberty and the abuse of power: constitutional ideals, open government, safety, and civil rights are primary values here. They unearth, collect, and explore previously covert information, using legal procedures as well as resources such as the Freedom of Information Act, government archives, field research, and insider connections. In thirty-five powerful works, international artists push our idea of art beyond conventional thinking.

Many of the artists examine the complicity behind human rights violations or pry into the hidden economy of the United States’ intelligence community and so-called “black sites,” locations of clandestine governmental operations. Covert Operations sheds light on the complicated relationship between freedom and security, individuals and the state, fundamental extremism and democracy. The first phase of Covert Operations, opening June 30, showcases artists’ stylistic use of technology, gaming, and computer-generated imagery. It will include works by Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0, Harun Farocki, and collaborators Anne-Marie Schleiner and Luis Hernandez Galvan. The second phase will open August 29 with works by Ahmed Basiony, Thomas Demand, Hasan Elahi, Jenny Holzer, Trevor Paglen, Taryn Simon, and Kerry Tribe.

Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns was organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

This exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. The Exhibition Award program was founded in 1998 to honor Emily Hall Tremaine. It rewards innovation and experimentation among curators by supporting thematic exhibitions that challenge audiences and expand the boundaries of contemporary art. Additional support for the exhibition catalogue was provided by Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation."
sanjose  tosee  2015  art  surveillance  security  data  datacollection  privacy  exhibits  togo  government  democracy  harunfarocki  anne-marieschleiner  luishernandezgalvan  ahmedbasiony  thomasdemand  hasanelahi  jennyholzer  trevorpaglen  tarynsimon  kerrytribe  covertoperations  us  blacksites  liberty  freedom 
july 2015 by robertogreco

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