Broken Circuits


Maybe speech and communication have been corrupted. They’re thoroughly per​meated by money—and not by accident but by their very nature. We’ve got to hijack speech. Creating has always been something dif​ferent from communicating. The key thing may be to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control. “Control and Becoming” (Interview between Gilles Deleuze and Antonio Negri)

Geert Lovink has put out an excellent review of Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation by Eugene Thacker, Alexander Galloway, and McKenzie Wark in. Excommunication is a work of media studies, but unlike the mainstream discourse, it seeks to uncouple the “new” from new media, approaching the digital utopianism of limitless communique with a wary eye, revealing it for the stagnation that it really is.

Against the reams of computer-coded, interface-mediated technobabble, Excommunication steps backwards in time, drawing upon Greek mythology for a new vernacular to discuss the latent postpolitical dimensions in this new dialogue. Lovink links this turn against communication to a generalized disenfranchisement with the global media networks that seemed so promising in yesterday’s editions of Wired magazine and Mondo 2000. At the dawn of the post-Cold War world, long before the bursting of the Dot-Com Bubble and September 11th and the financial crisis, Timothy Leary famously proclaimed that the personal computer would be the LSD of the 90s. The claim has been refuted, in so many ways, by rise of Big Data and Big Brother – the cataloging, storage, and analysis of every sale and purchase in the so-called freedoms of the market, and the cataloging, storage, and analysis of every transmission of information in the so-called freedoms of (neo)liberal democracy.

Kill all your darlings, or, how to say farewell to new media… For the New York trio, the key question is: “What is mediation?” To pose this question means to imagine the opposite: there is no communication without excommunication. What if we stop mediating? Instead of digging into the ongoing rise of the connected world, the authors favor studying the “insufficiency of mediation,” and “modes of mediation that refuse bi-directionality, that obviate determinacy, and that dissolve devices entirely.” Not everything that exists has to be represented and mediated.

To what extent is this different from the traditional “deconstruction” agenda, the “glitch” aesthetics à la Rosa Menkman, or even the “exploit” philosophy as formulated by Galloway and Thacker themselves? Already at that point the authors argued in favor of a “counterprotocol,” an “anti-web,” or, to put it in philosophical parlance, an “exceptional topology.” If we exclude offline romanticism, how could we translate this analysis into a workable political program? It is one thing to imagine a specific aesthetic. There are multitudes of artists working in this direction. In the post-Snowden age, it is no longer sufficient to call for open-source alternatives that merely copy the corporate premises of the dominant platforms (the friends logic and so on). The social graph order itself has to be questioned. Can we bring together a collective intelligence that is capable of formulating the very principles of another communication order?

Excommunication is not just a reference to a world after media, to post-media or the post-digital, as some characterize this next phase. We also must perform a literal reading of acts of power. We are excommunicated from the new media paradise and suddenly confronted with the cold logic of Big Politics. A generation thought it was possible to refine the very terms under which they were communicating. One impulse, do-it-yourself, brought together punks, geeks, and entrepreneurs. The radical disillusionment after Snowden should be classified as a secular version of the late-nineteenth-century discovery that God is Dead. However, the ecclesiastical censure of this age is non-technological in nature. We have not been expelled from the networks. Smartphones and tablets have not been confiscated. The problem is neither increasing censorship nor advanced filter techniques that we are only half aware of. Technological blockades can be circumvented. We can armor ourselves with layers of crypto protection, but the problem goes much deeper. What the NSA revelations have unleashed is the existential uncertainty that comes along with “everything you say can and will be used against you.” The long-term implications of such destruction of informal exchange are yet unknown. Will online communication become more formal? Will there be fewer trolls? In short, will new cultures of conflict arise, or be suppressed from the start—or not show up in the first place?

Meanwhile, Andrew Culp (Anarchist Without Content) been conjuring up his own acts of negation by formulating a “Dark Deleuze” – Deleuze without the affirmation and joy, a Deleuze bursting with the powers of the negative, a Deleuze not geared towards the endless connectivity of assemblages but one of rage against our present time, far more akin to the uncompromising nature of the Situationists, DIY punk culture and Tiqqun instead of the California Ideology. Check it out, if you haven’t already!

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