requiem for certainty

Posts Tagged ‘internet

Net Theory Talk

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Poster for an event tomorrow for a speaker Event_NewMedia_NewConcepts_NewForms_imgseries I helped co-organize.  Our inaugural talk will be by Wendy Chun (Brown Univ) on her new project on networks.  The title of the talk is “Imagined Networks, Affective Connections”.  EMU Fir Room 12.00p-1.30p, Thur 1/17/13.

Also in a related vein just saw this (thanks Andrew Lison):


Written by Colin Koopman

January 17, 2013 at 1:13 am

Posted in internet

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Assange’s Secrets and Ours

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The British courts are holding WikiLeaks maestro Julian Assange on charges related to sexual misconduct, or sexual molestation, or sexual something-or-other.  The confusion over just what Assange did wrong when he had sex with two Swedish women is, or perhaps should be, an object of concern.  The charges in Sweden were filed, dropped, then filed again.

The WikiLeaks example is growing richer every minute.  It is a perfect little capsule of contemporary culture, in its obsessions with truthfulness, both at the political level of international diplomacy (where we have for so long demanded state secrecy) and at the personal level of the sexual confessional (where we so fervently demand of ourselves, and especially of those ‘in power’ in some form, that they give up all their secrets).

Assange told our secrets and now we are forcing him to tell his.

Our secrets reveal acts of violence, hatred, intrigue, and all the other harsh realities one might expect from the diplomacy of the hegemon.  Assange’s secrets, for which he is now being held in a jail cell in Britain without bail, have it that, at least according to the charges, he would not consent to using a condom when he had sex.  Interestingly the coverage of just what the charges of ‘sexual misconduct’ amount to is all over the map.  The coverage on NPR this morning made no mention of the nature of the charges and only used vague terms that suggested, to me, nonconcensual sex, perhaps sexual assault or rape (definitely gaspable material, that).  The coverage in the Times buries the nature of the charge, saying that the sexual acts “became nonconsensual after he was no longer using a condom” (this sounds problematic but is very unclear to my untrained non-lawyer ears).  The coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald is fuller.  But things are all over the map.

All this suggests that it is, once again, these mega-states that are dirty, not Assange.  (Correction: it just may be that Assange is dirty, too, at least in one way.) It is one of the oldest plays in the book to make life a living hell for those who challenge the state by trotting out charges of sexual misconduct.  There is a sad and long history of this in the United States.  Martin Luther King, Jr. is just one of the favorite examples.  Assange is no King.  King was a hero.  Assange is a humble technician of a new way of ideas.  Both challenged prevailing wisdom.  And both were sent to the sexual slammer.

Update (756pm PST): Thanks to Jeremy for the comments.  You are right that the language above is too brash and vague. It is not my aim to trivialize the content of the allegations, but only to encourage reflectiveness about the procedure.

Written by Colin Koopman

December 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Our New Age of Information Transparency: The WikiLeaks Cables

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So here we are: CableGate, WikiLeaks, etc., and whatever else it will come to be called.  I propose that we hyperbolically refer to all this as the First Major Event in the New Epoch of Information Transparency.  The story over at the Times offers pretty good reporting (says this amateur reader):

But there are (at least) two stories here.  There is the ‘regular’ story about diplomacy, espionage, and political intrigue.  Exciting!  But there is another story, one composed of more humble and quotidian details, which is much harder to tell, but which in this instance is painfully bright for all to see.  This is a story about information transparency, and how the internet is, once again, changing everything.

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Written by Colin Koopman

November 29, 2010 at 4:39 am

Participation and Collaboration

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I recently attended a talk at UO by Gardner Campbell, who works on New Media, Lit, & Pedagogy (and more) at Baylor U..  The focus of the talk was why we as educators should take new media, digital technologies, and networking quite seriously.  I am sold, but of course I already bought in some time ago (to the extent that I, then a mere post-doc, and now a mere newly-minted t-t asst. has any purchasing power).

I also applaud Campbell for the way he brings new media tools and projects into his classes.  We are at the stage of initial inquiry with all this stuff.  This means that nobody knows and that it is time for experimentation.  So that’s great.  We need to learn from each other and, as Campbell points out, from our students, too.

Campbell really emphasized the ‘publish it to the web’ approach for harnessing the internet in his classes.  Students, I guess, publish their work to the web, even if just on a blog, etc..  This seems to me useful, but just the beginning.  The talk got me to thinking about what the specific diacritic of emerging internet technopractices might be.  Of course, that’s something I (like to) think about anyway.

But here is one thought.

The internet facilitates new forms of social interaction whereby political, educational, and otherwise social processes work well.  The forms that tend to work well in internetworking are not well-facilitated by traditional models of publication (the coffeehouse, newspaper, and broadcast models).

There is a broader context here in political theory.  At its best, a focus on publicness in terms of ‘publication’ (rather than ‘internetworking’) has historically tended to assume two valences in political theory.  One of those is participation (the ideal dream of democratic theory across the twentieth-century — be it deliberative participation or some other form), and the other is representation (which is a second-best when participation is not possible, or not desired).

My view (for today at least) is that democracy (et. al.) is now best facilitated not by forms of publication, but rather by way of forms of collaboration.  This is not a critique of participation or representation (and it need not be), but rather a claim on behalf of collaboration.

Collaboration may sound strange as a new procedural ideal for, say, democracy, but I believe we are in a position now to see its increasing importance.  Here is my (experimental) claim for today: Collaboration may lead us from the participatory-representative model to an innovative-connective model of politics, society, culture, &c..

Participation is the model of the citizen joining in the efforts of the public sphere.  But there is no public sphere, indeed no public, in internetworked contexts.  The public is no longer given.  Not in advance.  There is, rather, a plurality of publics.  Publics are made.  How to engage?  Not by ‘participating’ in something that is already there.  But rather by ‘innovation‘, which in a collaborative model sometimes (indeed often) means forming new publics.

Representation is what happens when interests need to be made public, yet there is no will (or practical means) to do so via participation.  So then our interests are represented, e.g. by our representatives.  This has long been a subject of severe critique in political theory.  I will not rehearse those critiques here (but nor do I presume them).  What’s new in the internetworked context?  Representation is more difficult than ever, and perhaps more useless.  Here again collaboration supplies a better conceptual model than publication, because the latter presumes a public up-and-running into which one’s interests are translated by a representative medium.  What form does collaboration take instead?  It takes the form of connection.  Interests are connected, not represented.  Mine and yours, and those as yet undreamt of, are woven together not only by us (which involves collaboration), but also by the technology itself and the entire knowledge ecology it sustains (which helps us in those instances where we have no will or means to collaborate).

So. To summarize….

From publication to collaboration.

From participation to innovation.

From representation to connection.

Therein you have a tidy little manifesto of sorts.  I undoubtedly will abandon the manifesto before you have read this.  I am just experimenting.  And where is the harm in that?  If you disagree, please do disagree out loud.  That is just what this medium is good for: collaborative disagreements in virtue of which we connect and may even together innovate.

Written by Colin Koopman

November 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm

How does internetworking work? (Talk at Metaphi.)

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This is for a little (2-minute!) talk I am giving tonight at Metaphi: <>.

What are media?  What is a medium?  We hear a lot these days about new media, old media, broadcast media, collaborative media, social media, civic media, and all other kinds of new-and-exciting media.  At the center of all this hubbub is the hub of hubs, that thing that we all call the internet.  But is that all that the internet is?  Is it just some new medium or new media?

What is the internet?  This seems like an easy question.  But it’s not.  Nobody in this room, given an hour of time, could craft a definition that would satisfy most of the other people in the room.  My sense is that we do not even yet have a concept for the thing that we call the internet, namely that thing we all use on a daily basis to send our flurries of emails, publish our articles, read the Times, and watch all those funny but exasparatingly innane YouTube memes.

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Written by Colin Koopman

May 10, 2010 at 11:46 pm

What’s wrong with Lessig’s “Harmful To Minors” tag?

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In Code v 2.0 Lessig advances an argument about how to deal with harmful content on the internet (i.e., how to help parents keep their kids from checking out the plethora of online porn).  You can find the argument in Chapter 12 on the wiki version of the book.  Search for “kids-mode-browsing”: page 253 in my old-fashioned printed book, with dog-eared page.

I do not follow the argument.  But it seems to me that it is so obviously objectionable that I must be missing something important here.  Probably there is some legal nuance I am not sensitive to.  Ah, the delicacies of the intelligence that ever elude.  I would be grateful if any random reader (or friend) who comes along might help me see the light.

Lessig’s argument is in service of his proposal for a “kids-mode-browsing” (KMB) based on a code-level implementation of a “harmful to minors” ([H2M]) tag.  The proposal is meant to address both the producer (speaker) and consumer (listener) sides of the speech transaction in a way that is consistent with both a viable interpretation of First Amendment rights and the perceived need to protect kids from content society deems harmful to them.  The implementation of the tag shifts the burden of identifying harmful content to content producers and purveyors (i.e., websites).  The implementation of the browsing functionality takes advantage of this tag to enable parents to configure their kids’ computers (or desktop profiles) such that content so-tagged will not be objectionable.

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Written by Colin Koopman

February 28, 2009 at 4:47 am

Posted in internet, lessig

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(Preliminary) Response to Lessig

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A number of political theorists have concluded that the new set of technologies and practices known as the internet undermines some of the core epistemic, civic, and moral conditions for democratic culture.  See, for instance, my post on Cass Sunstein’s 2.o.  I disagree with Sunstein et. al. but I find their arguments worth addressing.

One way of addressing these arguments is to take them seriously but to offer some kind of response, perhaps provisional, as to how the challenges contained therein might be met.  This is how I have been reading the work of cultural critic and Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig (at least this is how I have been reading it this week).  Lessig’s work is probably the most important of that which tries to respond to the problems laid out by Sunstein and others.  It is the most important not only because the most influential, but also because the most radical. Lessig’s work is also usefully representative insofar as it aims to respond to the problems posed by seeking to restore the familiar equilibria of liberal democracy as we have known it for quite some time now.

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Written by Colin Koopman

February 27, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Castells: Seeing Networks Everywhere He Looks

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A little obligatory reading lately, namely Manuel Castells on the network society.  This is for my ongoing research project on emerging internetworking practices (i.e., what most people misleadingly refer to as ‘the internet’).  Castells I regard as obligatory here insofar as my object of inquiry in many respects overlaps with that on which his impressive body of work is focused.  But in a first pass through some of his most recent suitably-sized (i.e., <50 page) self-summaries of his work, I am struck by the extent to which my method is quite different.  So what are the differences? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

February 7, 2009 at 2:32 am

Ars Synthetica Conference

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Ars Synthetica: The Anthropology of the Contemporary took place this past Friday at UC Santa Cruz.  I organized this event to bring Paul Rabinow, some of his students in UC Berkeley Anthropology, and other colleagues working in collaboration in recent years, down to UCSC to present their work.  At the center of the event as we envisioned it was Rabinow’s newest offerings under the auspices of the Ars Synthetica web forum.  My thanks to all participants (both presenters and audience) for making this such an engaging, inspiring, and generative event.  It is exactly what I needed as I prepare to dive into a solid two weeks of revision and polishing before I send my Foucault manuscript off to the publisher for review.  Following is a short summary of the day’s three sessions.

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Sunstein’s “ 2.0”

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So I just finished Sunstein’s revision of this evening, published by Princeton UP last year as 2.0.  I’m happy that someone as intelligent, engaged, and interesting as Sunstein is turning his attention to internet practices and their affects on democratic practices.  This is an important topic and too-much neglected by political theorists and political philosophers.  So Sunstein’s book deserves reading if for that reason alone.  Despite all the praise I might want to lavish on the book, however, there is also a good deal of criticism I would want to heap on it.  I will focus just on the criticisms for now. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

July 24, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Posted in dewey, hayek, internet, mill

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