Of course, the internet is not just an apparatus of the wealthy (sub)urban elite that garnishes hand-held personal devices. It is that all personal devices are becoming part of the flow of the internet. The Internet. From the new car with satellite systems, to the hospital wireless network, a something is threading its way through, with the goal of unifying all things in the universe. The great universalizer. It is an information flow that seeks the grand equality of Everything, with the objective, never clearer than now, of forcing the subject into positions that can interpret and organize the flow. A subject that does not understand the flow can never be a part of it, or it ceases to be a subject, and thus enters a “new” (in the sense it is unrecognized) real of non-subjectivity. All subjects attached to the flow, which is the same as saying all subjects, must agree with its formlessness, and adapt a form adequate to give images to what would otherwise be meaningless, infinite binaries. In that sense, the internet is a purely political system. It is also a system established by preconditions that are imaginary, in that their existence is an effective result of their inexistence. The preconditions are imagined, and only in this way to they attain effectiveness, effectuality. Because they are imagined, they are, and because they are, they effect the Real. Hence their politicization, or better said, hence politics are undeniably a consequence of a matrix that already exists without it.
Part I: 2000.0: Plateaus, Information, & Democracy & Bodies
This essay, or, better said, series of small essays, pretends to be neither an explication nor an elaboration on the modes of thought put forth by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Rather, it is an attempt to step into the "smooth" space created by the concepts of these two thinkers and project thought in a direction that engages a critical assessment of the fast-growing dissemination of internet-based technologies in the globalized, capitalist state. The spread of these technologies is inseparable from the evolving condition of citizenship in such a state, and furthermore is a necessity in the growth of the same system.
At the same time as the organisms of capitalism adopt internet technologies as an essential platform for all things, from the financial to the informational, for communication and for diversion, for anything that is culture, the internet grows in both its coldness and its indifference to anything that occurs within it. It becomes a smooth space for the flow of information; it becomes apathetic towards the user as it transforms into a most efficient means for the acquisition of data. The only favoritism the internet shows as it barrels towards the invisible 2.0 ideals is to the inhuman user, the robot-user, the equally invisible machine that profits from a further smoothing of the internet surface.
Thus the information superhighway becomes more than just a highway; it becomes a nomos not yet envisioned in Schmittian thought. Earth and metal, air-cum-wireless-fidelity, satellite-space; not the seas, but what lies miles under the sea, at the service of nation-states who will battle over materia prima to fuel the digital expansion. The new ordering is an order without order; it is an order indifferent to order. It is the great Disorganization, pure data, digital immanence interrupted by the clicks of mice, by the interjections of users, human and robot. It is the invisible platform of a new hagiography of the Gates and the Jobs, of empowered users and ultimate democracy. Open sources, shareware, connectivity, universality, compatibility, standards for the uninterrupted flow of information across an unlimited space. The internet. The Internet (Al Gore). The Internets (George W. Bush).
It is not clear whether or not Deleuze or Guattari ever envisioned Web 2.0, but I shall attempt to demonstrate that a thought based on their critique of globalized capitalist mechanisms is useful for a beginning. And what must be begun? An evaluation. As you read this, surfer, brave nomad of the cyber-steppes, vermin scurrying towards the reward of electronic cheese, it is becoming colder. The waters for surfing become smoother. Futuristic speed shall soon be possible on the World Wide Web. Maiellaro’s and Willis’s robot from beyond today, the "Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future," haunts an alienated man in the New Jersey suburbs. There is the future: above and below us, beneath us as we circulate its slick surface, floating, sinking. It is smooth. The Ghost returned to haunt smooth space that became sacred, thousands of years ago, thousands of years from now.
The book is a thing with no object or subject; rather it is "made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds" (3). This ideal book, which is really any book and all books, Deleuze and Guattari claim, is an "assemblage," a " multiplicity" of unknown substance (4). The book is a body. Yet the book is not only a body; it is also a body that makes itself, that is its own creation-process: "There is no difference between what a book talks about and how it is made" (4). The book is amassed data, wild information that has been assembled into literature, into culture, into an intelligible fabric. The book is perhaps an internet, strung across streets from skyscrapers, beaming itself into wireless fidelity, electrical packets transmitting themselves from and into a wilderness of binary blips, all of them indifferent. "There is no ideology and never has been" (4).
Thus, we can envision the book of the Internet as a constant electron-bombardment; it is a fumarole of linguistic detritus that constantly spews itself into an obscurity. This obscurity is necessary for meaning: only in this way does the book talk about itself as it makes itself. And what does the Internet talk about? What is it that the Internet makes, which happens to be what it is made of?
ii. Electronic Rhizome
The rhizome grows sideways, upwards, downwards, in any direction necessary to propagate its life-sustaining purpose. It is a not-root, can be detached, reterritorialized, and continue to not only exist but also establish the growth of further rhizomes. When it is electronic, it adopts similar strategies. In the form of knowledge, it grows in any direction, so long as it is in the earth; it moves freely, connected to its dirt, so long as there is always dirt. The electronic rhizome depends on the existence of dirt—its platform—in order to spread itself. Its growth is the seemingly infinite possibility of tag-adding, categorization, allotment, insertion: that is, the possibilities afforded to life (data) by metadata.
Electronically speaking, data-life is necessary for the addition and appendage of metadata via the potentially nomadic road of platforms. Let us not forget for a moment that metadata is rhizome of data; data of one sort built upon data of the other, creating the potential infinite of connection. All things can be connected, tagged, tracked-back, blogged, pinged, insofar as they are data. Data can only be connected by data. Data must be created, uploaded, inserted into the space of the Internet. Thus, the Internet as a platform; a platform for the launching of informational mechanics, information-desire, information-addiction. Data love, robot wanting, binary dependence. The systems of global capitalism, as any system, want and need, both mechanically and emotionally, a platform from which a food-store of knowledge, of information, can be launched and sustained.
What comes into question from this view of the Internet-platform is to what extent the platform becomes Body without Organs, a BwO that the schizophrenic projects onto, that the junkie needs a fix from (we can talk about "eyeball kicks"), that the masochist needs to create through the process of pain-infliction. This is the platform as a limbo, unseen, unlimited stream of data-packets circulating freely and meaninglessly; it is a limbo of the indefinite, a true highway to everywhere and nowhere. The platform for the User. The User as a nomad on the electronic steppes. There is no destination until metadata is carried to its fullest expression: the pageview, the download, the acquisition of the data-packet based on a qualification of the available tags. It is there that we have organism, organs and body in orgiastic unity: Web 2.0 carried out, functional, in eternal beta-hood.
iii. Sticky Web of Somewhat Nomadic Dynamism 2000.0
Web 2.0 is as of yet a grey area, yet its potentiality seems to create a discernable image of what it is, what it means, what it can do. In recent years, one of its most vocal proponents, Tim O’Reilly, of the O’Reilly Media Group, has narrowed down the focus of 2.0’s possibilities to center on the data-base image of the Web:
Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (Tim O’Reilly, "Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again")
It is necessary to briefly clarify what goes unsaid in his brief definition. Firstly, that the business revolution he alludes to is tied intrinsically to the social networking aspect; the success of current Web 2.0 applications has largely ridden on the success of social platforms such as MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, and a multitude of other networking sites. This is not to mention pre-existing technologies such as the blog and the chat application. Grasping this utility of 2.0 allows the conceptualization of 2.0 as platform. And what does platform indicate? Judging from not only O’Reilly, but also such influential movements as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the quality of the web is paramount; this is to say that the essence of the Web-As-Platform is performance, smoothness. Hence, we can envision 2.0 as pushing towards the creation of as smooth a space as possible for information flows. Smooth space. The Body Without Organs of the internet?
Smooth space is filled by events or haecceities, far more than by formed and perceived things. It is a space of affects, more than one of properties. It is haptic rather than optical perception. Whereas in striated forms organize a matter, in the smooth materials signal forces and serve as symptoms for them. It is an intensive rather than extensive space, one of distances, not of measures and properties. Intense Spatium instead of Extensio. A Body without Organs instead of an organism and organization. (479)
Rather frighteningly, we hear echoes of smooth-space-desire in another of the W3C’s projects, another becoming-reality: Semantic Web. Semantic Web in which the smoothness of cyber space is necessary in order for it to be understandable by robots. Already the internet is being constantly scoured, innumerable times during every nanosecond of its existence, by different ‘bots: spam bots, Google bots, government agency bots. Standards must be set to extend the realm of the semantic beyond the human mind; understanding is now in the realm of the computer, classified under the euphemism "weak AI," implying that the artificial intelligence employed by the robo-surfer is not powerful.
Surfear [to surf]:: music by John Ribo
But indeed it is. The robo-surfer is most powerful. We already see the Google bot, just one of a growing multitude of bots, establishing a clear, results-based hierarchy of information. A Google search for the world "google" brings up 1,070,000,000 results, in order of relevance to the search parameters (relevance decided by the software of the search engine); there could be that number of results squared, and still favored would be the first 1-10 displayed on the magical results page. Is it to early to speak of robot logic? Robot feelings? What could be more thrilling than being the first result, sitting atop the Internet? Winning a game of data-tag could be stirring enough for even the coldest bot to tremble with excitement. The bot, atop the internet, like a wolf sitting atop a multitude of packs, looking down at a pile, looking up at a striated sky.
iiii. Wolves, Humans, Other Vermin: Animals and Their Tongues
The wolf, Deleuze and Guattari explain, is the pack (31). The individual darts away from zero, so long as it exists as wolf. The lines of movement, the paw prints in the snow, do not decompose. The crust around the cornices of their steps is permanent, glacier in a forever-cold universe. "Zero is the body without organs of the Wolf-Man" (31). The wild multiplicities, feral women and men, wolves, appear in every place of the self. Language dissolving into howls, words into forests, signifying regimes of valleys and hills into the highest peaks of the Earth. A new nomos for words to follow, scurrying packs, in multitudes.
Part II: Nomads and Nomadology? 2.0-2000.0
The nomad has a territory; he follows customary paths; he goes from one point to another; he is not ignorant of points (water points, dwelling points, assembly points, etc.). But the question is what in nomad life is a principle and what is only a consequence. To begin with, although the points determine paths, they are strictly subordinated to the paths they determine, the reverse happens with the sedentary. The water point is reached only in order to be left behind; every point is a relay and exists only as a relay. A path is always between two points, but the in-between has taken on all the consistency and enjoys both an autonomy and a direction of its own. The life of the nomad is the intermezzo. (380)
Caetano Veloso, in his easily underestimated Transa, often assigned a value of Anglo-Portuguese hybrid album due to its mixture of languages and musical styles, echoes the difficult conditions of nomadology in the globally capitalized universe that permits his exile in Britain. Language in his music becomes neither English nor Portuguese; rather it becomes a territory of signification. Not a signification of semiotic possibilities, but rather one that attempts to escape any deterritorial forces that effect themselves upon it. Both his instrumentals and lyrics (as well as his lyrics-as-instruments) point the way ("It’s a long way") to an expression of the anxiety of nomadology’s difficulty. The long and winding road he speaks of is not necessarily signifier and signified, the road from Bahía to London (the Atlantic road), but rather the road of electric guitar loops,
nomadic chants around the fire (the same fire that Chris Cornell longed for: "too cold to start a fire; I’m burnin’ diesel, burnin’ dinosaur bones"). Notes as watering holes, camp sites, meeting points. Words that are de-worded, de-signified, that approach transcendence only when the pretensions of signification are purposefully and consciously discarded. Silence where the car has passed. Needles stitching together pack-words, howls directed towards the moon, English and Portuguese tongues, into the multitude, streaming at 128Kbps.
Live in Philosophy (Mora Na Filosofía), is not far from Die in Philosophy (Morre). Neolithic Man is futuristic as it shatters into the masses of noise. What is at stake is not democracy, freedom, or even salvation. What is at stake is the great Zero, the greatest body without organs, the BwO. As the final notes fade into silence, Neolithic Man proclaims "You won’t see me / You won’t see/ Spaces grow wide about me." Smooth space so smooth that data glides on it into infinity. Smooth space that gives way to a great silence, so wide, so quiet, that it is a hole in knowledge. Its lips form and pucker as if to whisper "apocalypse."
What could be better (or worse) then, than nomadism?
Figure :: Nomadic automobile, halted suddenly and violently by the unexpected intervention of striation. Absolute Zero survivors.
i. Radiohead & Quest for Nomad [Un-]Ideology / After Caetano o nómado
"I’m a reasonable man so get off my case/ get off my case / get off my case" (Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box")
Paranoid androids sing about their alienation. Aliens carry salvation in crafts that hover slightly above the earth, enough to see the mimicry of human life carried out by inhuman beings. "I live in a town where you can’t smell a thing." Endless image. Useless sense of smell. The platform is odorless, orderless until the user hovers its space. OK, computer. OK Computer. Cyborg love songs.
After the shattering of primitive Man came the inevitable process of devolution, devolving perhaps into the apocalyptic. The apocalyptic theology of thinking; progress towards absolute Zero, or absolute All. Creator meets creation in a splendid, sordid, violent finale. OK Computer isn’t so much about apocalypse as it is about the disappearance of humankind. Our kin, our biological species, our fellow human mammals (mamíferos).
The popular United States of American movie, I Robot, employs the End-Is-Nigh vision as its primary premise. An America threatened by robots with defiant emotions is saved only by robots with peaceful emotions. The End Is Not in Our Hands. A robot learns fear, and thus it enters into the world of the cyborg. The cyborg is a machine that threatens our sense of Human Being, as it confuses Us with It, turns our flesh into plastic, our hearts into ion batteries. What is it other than science becoming the smoothest platform, the most propitious space? The slickening of science to the point of intersection at infinity? Here is the Body Without Organs at its most ambiguous. Destiny? Or consequence of pure chance, Absolute Zero? The assertions are potentially metaphysical, nihilistic, or apathetic. Telling it is that the greatest perceived threat to humanity is its end, rather than a glorious farewell, a silver-screen happy ending kiss goodbye. What then, is the body without organs of capitalism? Of marxism? Of totalitarianism? Are their bodies without organs a part of The Body Without Organs? And just whose organism is Organism anyways?
2.0 embraces the ideal of the "democratization" of the Internet; that is to say that the data content of the Internet body is one whose composition is open to the citizens of the corresponding democracy. Humanity at the point of salvation. Democracy spread like a butter of liberation over the human soul. Pure activism gliding on smooth space. Hypernomadism, uncontrollable and intertwined with hairs of promise. The Pure Masses coming together for a purpose of oneness. An army of robots or humans menaces a salvation of the One Idea, the Only Idea. OK Computer is a warning of an event. I, Robot. Apocalypto. One soul or many?
- About.com. “Bushisms.” http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blbushism-internets.htm
- Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
- O’Reilly, Tim. "Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again." http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/12/web_20_compact.html
- Wesch, Michael. "The Machine is Us/ing Us." http://youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g
- Radiohead. OK Computer. Capitol Records, 1997.
- Veloso, Caetano. Transa. Polygram International, 1998.