Feedback: Media Parasites & Circuits of Communication (Dada and Burroughs)

“In this article I will discuss based on two examples from the twentieth century avant-garde how such a feedback is employed as an aesthetic strategy for social manipulation.3 At first I will outline the parasitical strategies of Dada performances in the early twentieth century and at second I will focus on the project of a subversive media tactics as suggested by the famous experimental writer William S. Burroughs in his text The Electronic Revolution.4 Central to my discussion is a distinction from electrical engineering. Electrical engineers differentiate between negative and positive feedback. Negative feedback decreases the disorder in a system while positive feedback amplifies everything and thus creates ample options for unpredictable noise and disturbances.5 It is exactly this double nature of feedback that Dada artists discovered and which Burroughs used in order to suggest a hybrid bio-technological feedback system for social manipulation.”

About dmf

alienist @ large, mostly on foot
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2 Responses to Feedback: Media Parasites & Circuits of Communication (Dada and Burroughs)

  1. edmundberger says:

    Maybe the most clear elucidation of Burrough’s ideas in “The Electronic Revolution” (written with the Situationists in mind, incidentally) is the 1984 West German cyberpunk film “Decoder”. Burroughs himself appears in the movie, but what’s more interesting is the way that his notions of the cut-up being a revolutionary tool is put on full display. The film itself had a big impact on European hacker culture: in the post-Autonomia squat scene of Italy, a collective naming itself for the film cropped up promising to turn the newly available digital technology over to the people. While many of the ideas seem antiquated or naive today (though there is something charming about the purple prose of the internet’s early days), the idea that these technologies can be used in a radically different mode than its military origins and corporate command is what makes them so important.

    • dmf says:

      indeed this article reminded me of your own more thorough investigations into these phenomena so I thought I’d add it to the mix.

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