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    Networked Crisis & The Reality Jockey
    Project: Polytopia
    by Leon Tan and Tomas Skovgaard


    Mixed Reality Publics

    Networked publics are mixed reality assemblages, open social wholes hacked
    together from Internetworked virtual spaces and actual locales. Mixed reality is a
    companion concept to that of the networked publics, and for our purposes, refers to the
    re/mixing of virtual and actual lifeworlds resulting from the embedding of Internet and
    mobile technologies and networks into the fabric of actual territories and their ritual
    social activities. As a concept, mixed reality was coined by Paul Milgram and Fumio
    Kishino (1994), who proposed a ‘virtuality continuum’ defined by ‘real’ environments on
    one end and ‘virtual’ environments on the other. Their virtuality continuum, displayed in
    the first diagram, has become quite influential in theorizing virtual experiences, with
    over 800 citations to date. The opposition that they make between virtual and real is
    however, incorrect. Instead, as the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1988) argues, the virtual
    is not opposed to the real, but to the actual. The second diagram replaces Milgram &
    Kishino’s ontologically naive proposal with a mixed reality continuum in which reality
    spans both virtuals and actuals. A minor correction to be sure, but one which allows us
    to escape the strange position of misunderstanding virtuality as deprived of/lacking
    reality in some way.



    Virtual Communication Topologies

    Communications topologies are key virtual components of the networked publics.
    A communications topology consists of “structures of links and nodes - rather than
    locations” (Adams, 2009: 69). It is a dynamic virtual space that connects human and
    inorganic machines through communication, regardless of geophysical location. We can
    think of such topologies as ‘informational milieus’ as Terranova (2004) proposes,
    immaterial neighborhoods composed by the circulation of linguistic and non-linguistic
    ideas. Linguistic ideas take the form of propositions as well as propositional attitudes,
    namely beliefs and desires. Non-linguistic ideas may be visual or aural, an idea of a face
    and an idea of its voice for example. Both kinds of ideas may be considered ‘currencies’
    in the informational milieus composed by Internetworking. They extend into “systems
    of action intended to change the world” (Gell, 1998: 6) largely by stimulating the
    production of what the philosopher David Hume (1977) called ‘impressions,’ secondary
    passions including pleasures and pains as well as "love and hatred, grief and joy, pride
    and humility" (Vol. II, p. 4). Passions are the variables that most influence the pursuit of
    desired ends, and are for this reason, the moving force behind social processes. The
    online circulation of ideas enables individuals to form affective links not only with each
    other but also with local spaces, architectures, events and circumstances. For our
    purposes, “topological spaces are lived spaces, that is, they are built and maintained,
    liked or disliked, invested with desire, fear, or other emotions, and they form contexts
    for the formation of subjectivity and social interaction.” (Adams, 2009: 70)

    Networked Crisis: Globalizing Political-Economic Contention

    According to the economic historian Fernand Braudel (1977), capitalist
    organizations and a roll call of hegemonic nations ‘globalized’ themselves at an early age,
    their command over long distance trade and capital enabling such institutions to deal
    with the problem of resource dependencies through elimination and vertical integration,
    and to gain an upper hand in claims-making in relation to small-scale and relatively
    powerless economic actors. As Braudel writes:

    At an early date, from the very beginning, they went beyond ‘national’ boundaries and were in touch with merchants in foreign commercial centers. These men knew a thousand ways of rigging the odds in their favor: the manipulation of credit and the profitable game of good money for bad... Who could doubt that these capitalists had monopolies at their disposal or that they simply had the power needed to eliminate competition nine times out of ten? (p. 57).


    Internetworked communications topologies of the last decade however, bring with
    them significant changes in the capacity of small-scale actors to express claims, giving
    rise to globalized waves of political-economic contention. Consider for instance, the
    recent eruption of claims-making in the form of The Pirate Bay (TPB) and so-called
    ‘media piracy,’ disrupting/eroding the prevailing claims (distribution models and revenue
    streams) of media oligopolies, and stimulating transformations in world markets. Despite
    the ruling of the Swedish courts against TPB organizers in 2009, TPB is still operating
    thanks to the global distribution of its component servers and users.

    Internetworked topologies also make possible the ad hoc formation of
    transnational political constituencies, enabling intensifications of claims-making anywhere
    in the online world economy. TPB related claims making for example, increased
    dramatically in the hours following the court ruling against TPB, leading to a surge in
    numbers for a loosely related Piratpartiet (Pirate Party), just in time to gain the fledgling
    party a seat in the European Parliament in 2009. The political success of Piratpartiet has
    since inspired a global pirate movement with official parties registered in states as
    diverse as Australia, Canada, Argentina, UK, France, Spain, Austria, Finland, Denmark
    and Belgium. As another example, the 2008 Beijing Olympics provided the perfect
    opportunity for pro-Tibetan activists to mobilize groups in different locations into a
    coordinated global wave of political claims-making demanding changes in Sino-Tibetan
    relations. Finally, terrorist organizations demonstrate how loosely knit collectives may
    rapidly reconstitute themselves as ‘terror cells’ in any city in the world with little or no
    forewarning and catastrophic consequences. Transnational assemblages such as these
    are endemic to the networked city. They may be considered ‘autonomous zones’ (Bey,
    1985) or ‘strategic sovereigns’ (Andersson, 2009), whose claims expressed online and
    offline have become exceedingly difficult to anticipate, control and censor. The
    networked publics are for this reason characterized by major institutions are in perpetual crisis, as
    claims-making and contention exceed and short circuit geopolitically bound legislative
    frameworks and established lines and arrangements of power.

    At the same time, the existence of power nodes or hubs in virtual topologies
    must not be neglected. Such nodes are immediately visible in network visualizations –
    they are the ones with an enormous number of connections. Search engines such as
    Google and major news websites such as The New York Times or the BBC are good
    examples of power nodes. By virtue of their centrality in many networks, such nodes
    may often function as opinion homogenizing machines. As DeLanda (2005) explains:
    “The overall effect of mass newspapers and news agencies was homogenizing.
    Newspapers aimed their presentation to the lowest common denominator, while news
    agencies attempted to create a product that would be acceptable to all their
    subscribers…” (p. 244). Combined with the global reach of the Internet, such
    homogenizing machines may exert formidable subjectivating pressures on vulnerable
    individuals. Nevertheless, the affordances of Internetworked topologies appear
    considerably greater for collectives of small-scale actors than for institutions on the side
    of prevailing power. According to Peter Evans’ (2008) analysis, such collectives may
    contribute to a kind of ‘counter-hegemonic globalization’ that redresses problems of
    ‘neo-liberal globalization,’ in particular, “failures to deliver social protection and collective
    goods” (p. 277).

    The networked publics are no utopia. It is an intensification of real
    informational/communicational flows traversing the online world economy, inspiring a
    turbulent remixing of virtual topologies with actual sites and circumstances. To survive
    the perpetual crises and cycles of contention in the networked city, one becomes a
    reality jockey (RJ). Learning from DJs and VJs, the RJ remixes virtuals and actuals in a
    pragmatic mode concerned only with whether or not things ‘work.’ Like DJs and VJs,
    the RJ is sensitive to its audiences or ‘publics’ and understands the importance of visual
    and aural ideas in affecting individual experiences and social interactions. The RJ is also
    acutely aware of the linguistic ideas over/coding the territories s/he belongs to,
    especially those ideas given by prevailing legislative frameworks, and attuned to
    opportunities for evasion and strategic manipulation. Immersed in globalized flows, the
    RJ has highly developed filters, and is able to rapidly sift through marketing and
    ideological ‘noise’ to yield information of relevance to the circumstances. Likely
    belonging to multiple transnational communities, the RJ is not attached to local
    nationalisms but instead has multiple neighborhoods to hand wherever ‘home’ happens
    to be. It is not as though actual places diminish in importance however, but rather that
    communications topologies gain a measure of autonomy from geopolitical moorings.
    The resulting upheaval is the RJ’s native milieu and hunting ground; networked crisis is a maelstorm of worlds and people to come.

    Authors

    Leon Tan (PhD, Auckland) is an independent art and media historian based in Sweden.
    His research focuses on Internet media, mixed/augmented reality and cultural studies.

    Tomas Skovgaard (arch.maa, Copenhagen) is an independent architect interested in
    digitalisation, communication and Internet media, theory vs practice.

    References

    Andersson, J. (2009). For the good of the Net: The Pirate Bay as a strategic sovereign.
    Culture Machine, 10.

    Bey, H. (1985). T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic
    Terrorism. New York: Autonomedia.

    Braudel, F. (1977). Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. Baltimore: Johns
    Hopkins University Press.

    DeLanda, M. (2005). A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. New York: Zone Books.

    Deleuze, G. (1988). Bergsonism. New York: Zone Books.

    Evans, P. (2008). Is an alternative globalization possible? Politics and Society, 36(2), 271-
    305.

    Gell, A. (1998). Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Oxford University
    Press.

    Hume, D. (1977). A Treatise of Human Nature. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

    Milgram, P., & Kishino, A. F. (1994). Taxonomy of mixed-reality visual displays. IEICE
    Transactions on Information and Systems, E77-D(12), 1321-1329.

    Terranova, T. (2004). Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age. London: Pluto
    Press.



    Mon, Jul 19, 2010  Permanent link

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    meika     Sun, Sep 12, 2010  Permanent link
    Arh, Delueze's Bergsonism, nice reference.
     
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