(Janos Sugar) (by way of Pit Schultz ) on Wed, 29 May 96 21:13 MDT

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nettime: paradigm shift interruptus - Janos Sugar



   The conscious and efficient grabbing of publicity is the order of the
communication environment following the era of enlightenment and the
consequent paradigm shift.  What is known by the most?  Whose publicity is
bigger?  The market (advertisement) value gives rank.  There are messages
which have to find their most efficient form2  in order to reach their real
objective,  we have to be able to sell (=make comprehenensable) our content
in an arena of large over-supply. Therefore it is essential to precisely
understand our own goals and the conditions of our chosen medium.
continuously we have to think ahead.3   This is the design of common sense,
the medial consciousness,  how to produce a  broad consensual
   This then is the original source of the so-called high/low conflict: the
publicity (= popularity of an idea) reaching for the common sense (= ground
level of  understanding); in contrast to the classical  avant-garde
attitude, which ignores and rejects the feedback (success, polls, surveys),
leading in a quasi-knowledge of the future, independent to the present
level of understanding.  Art has always explored this,  the current notion
or border of awareness,  not involving itself with instant popularity,
and/or not caring for the actual threshold of common-sense.  Similar to the
development of science4 and the scientific revolutions which were created
on an equally unpopular beginning.  By carrying out the most questionable
ideas - those with the weakest ties to the present - we can increase the
speed of the future (from the unknown to the known).  We can squeeze out
answers with which we only have to find the moment when the questions were
posed.  There is no authenticity or shall we say professionalism in the
moment of embarkation, only stubbornness,  or in other words - lobotomy.
All in all, the start is always incidental,  all specific targets remain at
the standard of the moment in which they were set, and therefore will be
surpassed during the phases of accomplishment.5


   The new 'technical media',  because it is not does not come from a
traditional cultural inspiration,  has to make itself acceptable to the
present, beginning with financial considerations.  We can also say that
they cannot wait till the social-cultural evolution wraps them in time
speed - the natural context of comprehension.  It has to find a role,  a
function,  it has to be successful in order to give further evolution to
the development.  This means popularity among the buyers6  who in fact
become quasi-voters. The most attractive aspects for the users seems to be
communication, perhaps because its possible to step out a bit from the
tormenting social-physical bounds,  from the unknown to the forum of
general impersonality.  What matters is that 'voting' in a general sense
(and the campaign beforehand) becomes a social medium.7
   The 'moral superhighway': the relationships/networks that form
civilization (religion, family, economy)  in which certain basis's of trust
(understanding, tolerance, empathy = social mores) enabled society to reach
a higher level.  The moral laws create the ground rules of co-operation,
rules of symbiosis (= networked existence),  since they give predictable
behavior standards,  they make calculable the other,  keeping secure the
framing of the possibilities.  On the solid basis of the global symbiosis
networks can be built the tower of babel,  not selfish or dysfunctional,
but a memorial to the logos.
   The enlightenment expelled from society the demand or the need of the
according of the different realms (science, aesthetics, philosophy,
religion),  creating the secular specialization which serves as a
background to progress.  The beneficial specialization of the past becomes
the threatening of today,  risking isolation and atrophy by the
interbreeding of knowledge.  With the break from the specializations,  the
computer enters as the essential tool of the separation,  allowing the
complexity of the world to be accessible and digestible.  If it is not
compulsory to interdisciplinarily check data,  we focus more towards and
are absorbed by the micro-problems - the developmental direction of the
civilization then becomes marked by the solution to contextless
problem-details (leading nowhere). The results of scientific, technological
and cultural specialization have become elements of daily life,  but due to
the lack of cross references,  more and more serious communication crises
arise (e.g., air pollution, wars, economic depression).  Since the most
diverse types of information are stored in a uniform digital format,
computer technology makes it possible to recreate this lacking
cross-referential matrix. Due to high-speed data processing, a large amount
of complex data is continuously available, becoming increasingly accessible
and user friendly.8.
   On the rim of the inter-woven networks (commerce, religions, money,
services,  communications)  there then appears the layer of the excluded
and the ignored,  ostracized from any larger economic or moral network.
Their ideology remaining tribalism. Enlightenment destroying the culture of
the illiterate (the gun is the type writer of the un-alphabet9)   In poor
civilizations the Kalashnikov refers more to a desperate psychological
state "aggression as a status symbol" than anything else.  Somalians have a
familiar proverb: "I and Somalia against the world, I and my clan against
Somalia, I and my family against the clan, I and my brother against the
family, I against my brother."
   The surplus class10  wants publicity,  and having no channels or
possibilities,  with a Herostratic gesture tries to reach the medium of
publicity (to attract media, i.e.. the RAF or Unabomber who blackmail
publicity).  A fresher phenomenon is the appearance of surplus countries,
and the same medial consciousness becomes a basic part of International
politics11.  The only supporter of these pirate actions is art12  which
sublimates its actions,  helping them into the domain of culture,
increasing the audience.


   The appearance of the net realized the western myth of reachable
knowledge.  The net is the medium of searching,  it creates the notion of
the ideal spiritual working-place.  Faust is a hacker in the library of
Babel - the net works as an endless context-slot machine.  Everything is
reachable (infinite sources),  we are comfortably13 within the touch of a
finger to an endless sources of thoughts.  The complexity becomes simple,
the utopia of linear thinking is compelled to give its place to the reality
of associative thinking, the direct perception (vivisection,  dismantling,
interrogation)  gives a place to the interactive dialogue.14
  Global feedback takes shape,  the totally self-reflective social
environment permeated by the uncontrollable communication cross-references,
the traces of instant decisions marked only by contra-selections15.   The
science of selection will have a vital importance,  the 'who is who' search
engines smuggling  references in an impersonal network16; generating
content by selection.
   Global databases mean significantly increased field of associations,
where the frequency of random events are more dense.  Chance is a personal
experience in such a medium,  characterized by impersonality,  where the
possibility of meta-communication is totally excluded.  Since Eisenstein,
we have known that two distinct or random images (or information) placed
side by side can generate a third and unique associative entity, which can
then connect to a fourth, etc.  Since the advent of the reform Catholics,
providence, communicates with us through randomness17.  The complexity
which raises the level of randomness is a content automat,  the tower of
Babel reaches the logos when everyone is talking to everyone.


   The problem is whether  there will be content rather than votes? Since
the traditional content developer,  artists (researchers),  culture, press,
marketing,  politics,  are the dominant suppliers,  why should they give a
place,  reserve possibilities to the unknown content provider18?
The general characteristic of the technological boom is asynchonic being
the shift between synchonicity and the social reality.  When using
past-less tools (the medial technology),  it is typical that the context
comes later,  lags behind,  is late.  The hobo's of the telephone medium
(the famous Phreakers) only demonstrated the existence of the
possibilities,  they didn't utilize it to its full potential.  It was
Captain Crunch's famous act,  when he called the neighboring telephone
booth with a call that encircled the earth many times over19.
  The new,  unprecedented media,  is a product of the combination of
technical progress and a booming specialization,  because of this it has no
cultural references,  past or history of any kind.  The avant-garde has the
tradition of  radical use of (any) established media, and this experience
(the so-called didactic message of the avant-garde) appears in the usage,
testing and research of the new media.  Looking for and charting the
borders,  finding a limitless self-expression - the avant-garde discipline
of total competence,  vital in the days of global symbiosis and the growing
complexity.  In the medialized public world,  the research (browsing,
surfing) becomes the symbol of existence - the subversion becomes the
obligatory tool of perception20.
  The role of art in the net just begins to open up new ways and
possibilities and the culture follows;  tries to manifest in a didactic way
the unused possibilities.  It is didactic as the classical avant-garde  was
didactic:  it educated the cultural perception. The culture functions
always as a blueprint for an information society: context is the content
(wrong context = no contrast, new context = content) in other words to
shuffle the information until it finds the biggest contrast - to be
   The net is much like a stomach (the stomach and intestines of brain), an
omnivoric stomach of the time speed peristaltic - embodiment of the
abstract spirit .  We can depict the bits of the logos with hamburgers,
feedback turning into recycling (shit coming back as ketchup...).  Not
pregnant with the new paradigm,  perhaps the net has gas - only needing to


   The question is how will the net-medium be general.  In other words it
should be a personal decision not a financial decision,  the state of being
on-line/off-line,  similar to the right of voting.  If the net will not be
complete,  if it is not continuous,  with gaps and holes (and on top of all
it is structured on the current social and economic geography) it is good
for nothing. Everything retaining the status quo.  In this case the net
remains an elitist medium,  where only the trend setting/watching, theory
and design are interwoven - plus a little web folklore.  Not at the state
but at the private level (wired magazine) and the masses will look for some
open access terminal in a museum - perhaps this is the word of our age.
  It doesn't matter if it is elitist (writing, art and the sciences are
elitist),  but because its socially barred from underneath it could be an
easy target of the excluded,  be abused by politics to create the perfect
foe.  Although its global,  it is damageable by aggression,  only a broad
mass of users can make it profitable hence secure.
   A general access would require a new role of the state and economic
capital,  net culture can be a real business only if the access side (from
hardware to provider) can be leveled, with no basic quality differences
(similar to the telephone) - providing a universal service. It is necessary
to invest in the user, to become aware of the simple truth: that this
cannot exist without users.  The non-conventional layers should be involved
as well,  those who might have a non-economic standing yet have content
(non-students, retired, unemployed, minorities). With the (hopefully)
change of state and economic attitude no one is blackmailed23  because of
their communication needs.  The free access becomes a generally used,
global service, the medium of the society - while of course remaining the
toy of the elite (the level of research).  Every single participant of
public life (publicity) can have their own server,  can provide access. The
name of the provider becoming as referential as the family name, public
institutions functioning as databases.  Let's put our HDs public!
Everyone who possesses information should deeply think about what is public
and what is not.  The lower border of the elite is penetrated by memes, the
trail beaten by art. Everyone has to immediately decide the maximum level
of what can be public.  Possessing information automatically invites abuse,
therefore even possessing information can be seen as a crime. Every
content-owner has to define the maximum publicity, the off-the-record
threshold. Of course, everyone is only interested in secrets. It is very

Janos Sugar
(Edited by Noel Villers)
1 for friends I met through the MetaForum.
2  Two examples:  during the Nazi occupation the King of Denmark wore the
yellow star,  followed by the whole country,  making deportation
impossible;  or the red ribbon worn by famous celebrities (art in the
3 Chess,  Empathy and James Bond
4 Feyerabend,  Anarchist Ontology,  Kuhn
5 J.S..  Minus Pathos,  published by Balassi,  Budapest, 1995  ISBN 963 506 0130
6. An interesting phenomenon is the commercial film which represents a
transformation between the future-oriented art and the present-oriented
7. Such as surveys,  for example the job approval of the British heir to
the throne is 33%.  This idea would be previously undefined.
8. Plagiarism also becomes simpler,  it is not a chance that one of the new
synonyms of understanding is appropriation.
9. Barry Sanders
10. Arthur Kroker
11. Typical is one of the last action (closing?) of the cold war when the
US President during a sound check announced immanent bombardment of the
soviet union.   (J.S..  The price of History in HVG 1992 p.26)
12. "On the common source of political art"  (G. Szines in Sublimed Forms
MRF 1997)
13. Throughout history only poor people cannot handle complexity.  For the
privileged class the big question of our age is "whether I am beyond the
possibility of being a refugee".
14. F. Rosenzweig,  M. Buber
15. After conventional wisdom,  the 87'/88' stock crash was caused by the
instantaneous reactions of computers to each other.
16. The black market of celebrity book marks - parents educating there kids
by individually programmed V-chips bearing the family traditions,  the main
activity of the children then becomes the hacking of the family v-chip.
17. A miracle is the unbelievable accumulation of randomness,  when the
random transforms into necessity.
18. The first memorial to the unknown soldier was erected in France
following the first world war,  in Imperial Rome there was an alter to the
unknown god  (Altar was the name of the very first personal computer).
19. The researcher of interactive media have a strange experience when
realizing that the major groups of spontaneous users are using the
communication possibilities in a more random less responsible or
articulated way than when eye to eye. (S.J.,  The endless take in cafe
Babel,  Budapest 1992)
20. S.J.  The Reference Generator (The Butterfly Effect,  SCCA Budapest  1996)
21. The avante-garde strategy became generalized,  first used by the
military industry then by the medial environment
22. not to forget: Glasnost,  Perestroyka,  Uskarenye  (c) M. Gorbatschev
23. i.e. the price structure of gasoline:  blackmailing through the natural
need of moving

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