GuineaPigdom and The Climate of Control ( Part 3 )



GuineaPigdom and The Climate of Control

( Part 3 of our analyzing current events in Btropolis, see previous blog entries )

Reflections on the UNCOMMONS Conference put together by Berliner Gazette w/ many partners, such as Bundeszentrale Fuer Politische Bildung, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. EU (?), Knight-Mozilla Open News, Zeit-Stiftung, Avec Lab, Supermarkt, etc…

We won’t have time to make any deeper comments on their funding structure and partner relationships, but we are familiar enough with Berliner Gazette programs over the years to appreciate the information shared,  the people they bring together, and the experimentation with workshop formats ( rather than just the usual celebrity-speaker downloads). They really make an effort to create a tactical community engagement that resonates beyond the conference platform. That said, we don’t expect a lot of vociferous challenging of the so-called experts in the field, because they remain close to “center-left” positions … and those angles which do not ruffle too many institutional feathers. And in these contexts the atmosphere often remains overly polite.

We only arrived on the last of 3 days, so we really can’t give anything of a complete analysis or review. And it was very difficult to pull away from the HKW program on Wohnungsfrage ( On The Housing Question ). Focusing on this crisis of housing struggles in the midst of a vicious global trend to capitalize on basic human needs for survival. The housing market is one of the most visible and tangible dilemmas which exposes how the market is willing to forego social responsibility + care for social relations in order to “make a killing”. And this territory makes for a powerful common cause to bring about new systems and infrastructures through which to exit the devastating and exploitative neo-liberal trends and planning agendas.

And for us, it has been a satisfying switch to go into researching issues related to more immediate needs and concerns of communities under siege, rather than the, often abstract and remote, desires for upgrading society through technological developments, or say, defending the internet as a public tool to realize and facilitate “share culture” and a more sustainable global commons approach. Which as we will see, is not always w/o vested and colonizing interests.

That said, we were eager to hear the panel featuring Max Haivens, Michel Bauwens and Jochai Benkler on ” What could be our commons? “.

We won’t have time here to encapsulate all that was said, but if the video archive gets posted we’ll come back to share the link.

To preface our impressions, we will say that there was an impressive wealth of knowledge on the stage, and sincere intentions to articulate the struggles required in transitioning to more intelligent and collaborative social relations, beyond the predatory Krapitalism, which currently dominates our lives around the globe.

But where we wish to enter into this conversation, is from our now long-developed XLterrestrials critique that the dream for technotopian solutions, such as the digital commons, is now in a severe crisis, and not merely from a Post-Snowden perspective, but from a wider-angle view. From a historical perspective – brief as that may be in terms of net culture – there is an increasing mistrust that arises from analyzing the technological industrialization of human and cultural interactions and endeavors. The current forms of communication capitalism ( i.e. Jodi Dean, Astra Taylor ) that primarily drives the developments have already become a dangerous vortex. We should begin these conversations by asking: Will we succeed by going deeper ?! Will we survive the incorporated Net ?! Can cybernetic systems even be considered as re-routable ?!

We have many angles from which to critique the net effects of the current networked cultures, and we won’t address them all here… Our most recent text below aims at questioning how we arrived at this rather strange and perhaps untenable notion that the internet has become and should be so central to our future, and to the much-touted hope that therein lies the ultimate tool to achieve change of consciousness and new social structures on a mass scale. We might even argue that change on the local community level has more promise, especially in respect to averting totalitarian-type disasters and/or corporate abuse. Just as one can sharply critique that Monsanto’s grand plan for agricultural production to feed the world is clearly a profiteer’s ruse !

Perhaps if our civilization were not currently so deeply immersed in,  and at the mercy of, corporate-capital designs, the internet would indeed provide some radical transformations in social engineering and new sustainable infrastructures. But even then, our analysis paints a picture that these technological achievements do not provide a soft landing for human-scale and local community existences. They do not operate in our lives without severe reductionist implications and impacts. Brought in to bear on such all-encompassing aspects of living on the material and embodied plane, there begins a long list of questions regarding the directions we take, which are not being addressed adequately.

Perhaps due to a technology evangelism, perhaps due to the engrained linear-trajectory plans ( which begins with the history of mass media ), perhaps due to industry and/or academia entanglements, perhaps due to stubborn pride and/or hubris, perhaps due to positions of power within the very fields that benefit the most.

One thing is pretty clear, after two and a half decades of a supposed public domain internet, we have greatly accelerated the climate of control and empowered krapitalist domination. And our thinking needs to shift accordingly, because the hopes of Net-made liberation appears now to be a very unlikely outcome of our deep investment in the virtually-connected worlds.

We may have reached a crossroads…

The 1st world wishes to “complete” this massive project of connecting the world through the cybernetic realm ( or even more extremist : mass exodus, total transference, ie. the Singularians), while the disenfranchised and developing world (which is really far more ubiquitous than this small sector of 1st world technotopian planners ) is clamoring for affordable shelter, access to agricultural lands and natural resources, clean water, migratory rights, a voice to determine their own futures, and a safe harbor refuge from the incessant disruptions of global-scale business.

The idea that The Net will provide them any of this is increasingly slim, rather it connects them to subjectification of powers from above, and embeds a technological realm that is far more suited to manage and control a population’s access to EVERYTHING ! ( i.e. EU borders )

Because…  we have obviously arrived at a breaking point and a finite earth, where the high standards of living are only attainable and maintainable for some, and not the many. Should we remain under the illusion that the market evolution of these powerful tech tools will bring about a reasonable equality, or even something remotely sane.

This is certainly not to contradict the desires to transition to a commons; That absolutely has to happen ! It is to question to what extent, realistically, will the digitally connected, incorporated networks be the primary facilitation to get us there. Sure, there’s great people working on the tools and a net culture by and for the people. But why put all our eggs in one basket ? Many things operate extremely well outside the realm of digital environments, and the inherent danger there of total domination by the same ol’ krapitalist controls is now propelled by the new wave of powerful global-scale-reaching technologies.

Analogies of 1.Airports + 2.Libraries

( draft )

1. Comedian CJ Lewis has a monologue that went viral expressing how westerners are incredible whiners regarding our modern achievements, and do not see that the sheer awesomeness in the fact that one can sit in a metal tube 10,000 meters high in the sky, flying from one side of the planet to the other, arriving in various cities within hours. Of course missing from this western-centric picture is the fact that a large percentage of non-westerners ( and westerners ) may never experience this opportunity, in their krapitalist contexts, and there is a very real debt – and ongoing massive cost – to the developing world and its peoples for these miraculous advancements.

But aside from that, YES, an airplane is a pretty mindblowing technology, we are already living in an incredible science fiction world. And YES, The internet is a pretty mindblowing technology.

But how did we arrive at the scenario where now this wonderous INTERNET has become so CENTRAL to our future ?! Sure, it’s a powerful tool, a powerful new language… but allowing it to “disrupt” all language and culture and our relationship to the SPECTACULAR “natural” environment around us… suddenly appears as an inconceivable con job.

As airplanes and airports are an incredible means to get from one place to another, we would never consider moving into an airport, or spending the better part of our days inside a metal tube. Though we can picture some zombie business suit doing just that: stepping out of the machine to shake the hand of another bizness player and then getting back into the cage to make a next appointment across the country.

We should never consider transfering all our cultural assets into these new airports. The airlines are a way to get from one place to another, as the internet transports us from one bit of knowledge to another.

Sure there are interesting elements of the net as a massive game-changer, a new language, new territories like the written word,  electricity, algebra, computing + code, film and media, or molecular biology, but we don’t have time in this essay to anlayze all that… Rather we wish here to say, if the development of this technology – the “Technosphere” – is willing to sacrifice so many other pre-existing forms with all their STILL invaluable and magical additions to LIFE, then you know it must be a corporate con, cause it could only be a corporate krapitalist agenda that would attempt to play us for such Idiots ! And beware, cause we are apparently easily seduced idiots, easily entranced by the new ads for the future on our screens !


2. Now let us put the analogy of a traditional social space – Public Libraries – into the mix, as they  became a part of the day’s conversations ( from a concerned elder).

The Digital Cult(ure) Enterprise has almost entirely inverted the concept of a shared resource, by designing a massively privatized form of a library. Using the internet is hardly a free-entrance public domain…

The industry has made the costs to enter the new libraries several thousand euros and upwards ( if you take into account the multiple devices, planned obsolescence techniques, the ability to keep pace in competitive environments, and rapid platform shifts which play favor the leading technology companies. – See: Rushkoff ).

The new library has gone from access for all, to a vicious hierarchical battlegrounds. It is arguable that this krapitalist advancement of technology and telecommunications has not gone towards upgrading of public interest + infrastructures, as much as they have gone into strategic monopolization. Worse, the entire digital game is now built on the betrayal of the consumer by selling personal data to competitive business. As Jaron Lanier once pointed out: we are in deep shit if advertising industry drives the development of mass media and communications.

In this sense the internet has already become TV 2.0, an exploitative trancification of mass consciousness. A massive dumbing-down and cubicle-ization of social relations. And brace yourselves, Web 3.0, the Internet of (Mass Consuming) Things is already under construction !

Of course there’s sincere, sharp and dedicated players to help level the field of a library commons, but we’re not sure that this will realisticaly outmaneuver capital-financed infrastructures…. While it is a hopeful territory for power from below to re-code net culture, we must face the facts, as one presenter at Uncommons – Morana Miljanovic (Hertie School of Governance) – pointed out, the extent to which the entire infrastructure of the Net belongs to the for-profit business sector. [ her slide here ]

So we might suggest it’s high time to question the usual strategic tact, and/or revolt in ways that do not enhance our dependencies to net culture. In fact, it should be on the table at this seriously grim moment to consider various types of internet Boycotts, for clearly the net is BROKEN, and one could argue no longer heading in the direction of the public good ! At least not until the rules are overhauled and new dreams awakened in the context of lost territories ! Defeating trade codifications like ACTA and PIPA in this respect are only defensive measures, band-aids on a gaping wound. They are far from our demands for a reclaimed and safe net culture in co-existence with liberated embodiments. Such top-down enclosures will continue to keep us extremely busy … occupied ! And many of these battles are not won ! We have seen the success ratio of NGOs on this front, it’s not a pretty picture. [ Anyone know the battle score-card from an org like EFF? - wins / losses. We used to think that this would be too devastating to reveal, but now it's possible it's needed to really make the right decisions. ]

So one small idea, as a starting point point…. what if we consider returning the power of the net to the actual physical  domain of libraries, rather than attempting to win the battle of retro-actively levelling the field in the realm of personal consumer devices, gadgets, and the toxic flood of endless new electronic products, which are consistently designed by leading industry players ?! The hardware which massively shapes the user, massively separates the haves from the have-nots, and restructures are individual being to operate optimally FOR the machines’ evolution.

Is there more potential at achieving scenarios of equality and access by making actual refurbished libraries the public’s main access points to the Net ?!

Imagine 1000 Internet Archives ( in reclaimed “churches”, as in San Francisco ) arising. Each one actively participating in the (r)evolution of better non-commercial and non-predatory technologies.

As it is now Public Libraries are slipping behind in dwindling budgets and into anachronistic holes, rarely equipped to sufficiently serve the people at the street level. Those who cannot invest in the membership imposed by device consumerism are losing, badly.

Actually we may already call it an Asymmetrical Massacre, if we imagine the high-speed technologies being used for extremely cryptic high-speed stock market trading next to the kid in Kalamazoo logged in to share the latest viral meme ( which may have anyway been spawned by a marketing agency ), much less a family in Haiti trying to find information on water-filters from the one connected social center in the nearest town.

As we’ve written about before, we are falling into the One-Laptop-Per-Child trajectory of an industry’s myopic Dysneytopian fairy tale, which is a natural resources and toxic waste catastrophe ! One Anything Per EveryOne is a drooling marketworld plan, that is already creating unfathomable havoc on the ground.

Can we still de-personalize the user-interfaces? Return the internet to a publicly accessed and minimized hardware ?!

And perhaps the biggest advantage of such a shift in really-shared user technologies, is that skilled experts can actually create terminals which are secure. Educating the public sector to protect themselves will never keep pace in the new rising markets of security tech and governments w/ nearly bottomless black budget funds for intrusive developments.

The often- inspiring phenomenon of Hacklabs are already an encouraging movement in this direction. Though to this day, we’ve only seen ONE attempting to provide a nearly suitable number of terminals for public use. Noisebridge in San Francisco, an anomaly region which can take advantage of an abundance of skilled high-tech workers, gear and tech money to chip into these micro-experiments. But even in this kind of high-tech oasis, Other severe obstacles arise, because as much as they try to serve the average citizen, there’s a tendency to become social clubs for privileged techies, who do not necessarily share or perceive the desperations of the disenfranchised.  And they are NOT devoting the time required in social work, rather more-often-than-not joining in the competitive climbing of the tech industry ladders. And let’s not forget the military industrial complex is not sleeping:  “infiltrations” by DARPA-type funding + influence, and the recruitment of tech talent is becoming the norm.


{ for CiTiZEN KiNO #47 : GuineaPigdom, coming in Nov. }

#Uncommons skewed

All these perspectives were highlighted by the 3 panels we attended at #UNcommons, and… in particular, as we butted heads with Jochai Benkler – a Harvard Guru of the Net, over whether or not our society could opt out of such a massive wave of new precarious technological developments [ at least to some extent,  in order to make various sectors of the populations less vulnerable to corporate power] . He misinterpreted or misrepresented our critique as retreating to some “pastoral life”, which he described as a dangerous idea.

To us it was as if suddenly a deep-thinking humanitarian was reduced to some caricature from Wired magazine, a Kevin Kelly-Donut or a Mark Zuckerborg peddling the latest digital sugar in front of the neighborhood public school, like a delirious eighties cyber cultist. This seemed really out of touch with just how predatory and dangerous the net – as it currently operates – has become.

And we would argue it is far more dangerous to imagine that we can live completely detached ( or decoupled ) from the land. [ see Monbiot ]. And in fact a vast portion of global civilization still subsists directly from its relationship to the land. And in fact the rest of the (urbanized and imbalanced) planet ALSO subsists from that connection… and that labor, which is almost always a neo-colonial slave labor !

Isn’t it far more dangerous to imagine being entirely dependent on an existence which becomes entirely managed and mediated through a corporate-held Technosphere ? Here there is a crucial point, and all the more reason to discuss rehabilitating the idea of a digital commons ( and in the mainstream discourse), but reveals an even more essential goal: to re-establish the commons of the land and agriculture !

Because, unless Benkler and all his comrades in the academic ivory towers have now all subscribed to purchasing Soylent packets ( an artificial food concoction from a Bezerkeley  / Silicon Valley start-up ) They and Us will all need a more reasonable public control of natural resources and land-based production to survive the next century.

We – XLterrestrials – do not surrender to a cybernetic regime, and “techno-industrialism”, of which he appeared to be an evangelical proponent. Put into the context of what the industrial world is now doing to our planet,  we should not argue whether or not the Technosphere is humanity’s destiny, but whether or not our participation in it equates to a form of Techno-fascism.

Participating in the build-up of technological industries on a global scale , as it lays waste to not just an entire ecosystem of sustainable livelihoods but also to the vast millions-year-old genetic library of natural species living amongst us is the perspective we must now preface any conversation regarding where we are headed on the accelerating high-tech horizons.

By the way, isn’t it long overdue to admit the cybernetic dreamers NAIVELY and SERIOUSLY FUCKED UP !? There is no logical reason to give these frenzied cybernetic gamblers, who have laid the foundations for both high-tech krapitalism AND deep state surveillance, more rope with which to hang us ! The Technosphere remains a seriously untested gambit – for the future of ALL LIFE on the planet.

In fact, technological remedies are often, now when we can begin to see how bad our global crisis has become, being pitched as the inevitable escape route, rather than facing them as the actual roots of an unfolding humanitarian disaster.

We do not reject further advancement of incredible online tech tools, but the tech community, after producing a number of massive FAILS, needs to realize they are no longer the central planning committee for an extremely diverse and multi-faceted citizenry of THE various COMMONS !



Extra notes: MASS EXTINCTION, oops !

This article below, (which came to us via the Uncivilization list, which discusses these issue in-depth ) on the 6th Mass Extinction will help emphasize the current situations we are facing, and we will continue to investigate the programs on the Technosphere at HKW.

And our preface to the post:

We recently encountered the geologist Peter Haff in person in Berlin for the opening weekend of TECHNOSPHERE ( exhibition and seminars, a 4-year topic of investigations  ) …. A nice guy, pretty humble for a US scientist currently in the limelight…. But his theory is not entirely convincing … as it extends itself too easily to the Anthrobscene / Corporacene / Capitalcene, and humans ( collectively) have far more agency to opt out of this nightmare… when they understand the Faustian bargains involved. Warning: if your just tuning in to the 6th Mass Extinction topic, this article may disturb your sleep.

How humans are driving the sixth mass extinction, by Jeremy Hance – Oct. 20, 2015


{ Electronic waste in Agbogbloshie dump, Accra, Ghana. E-waste trash pickers risk their health in search of metals they can sell. Foto: Andrew McConnell / Alamy. From Guardian UK }

xtra xtra notes…

sketches for further elaboration ( like everything else we write )


Note: We put this on your screen not because it is the only angle we perceive, but because it’s perhaps an important one that too few seem to be properly evaluating in the course of accepting incredibly stupid ideas and forces into our lives.

And all this at a critical stage or juncture of our evolution, which in many respects looks as though our species – and millions of others – may not survive the next turn.

The Internet can be cool. The Internet is a massive powerful tool. But the Internet began as a military communications project. And after 6 decades ( 2.5 of which have now been a public domain ) its presence has not only done little to alter the course of humanity’s calamitous industrial scourge on the planet, but rather accelerated the concentration of wealth and power, accelerated the consumer- frenzied cultures, and vastly expands the reach of state and corporate power into shaping and controlling both citizen’s lives and mass consciousness.  One could say it has even become more of a military + corporate + industrial wet dream than any of the egghead lackeys who are funded by them ever imagined.

So why are all facets of our future still being sold as inextricably linked to the future of the internet, and still held high – by the left – as our supposed and/or sole means of liberation from krapitalist and corporate exploitation, and made as inescapably central  to rescuing our societies from dangerous political, economic and technocratic operating systems ?!

Is it because Guineapigdom is still doing great at the box office !?

We have a few questions, before we submit any further to this massively volatile and unproven experiment. :)

Our topics to be elaborated and put on the table for discuss for CiTiZEN KiNO #47… in November @ Spektrum, Berlin… and other venues ? ( contact us ! )

to be cont.

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