Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Terror from the Air

Virilio, der Derian, and now Sloterdijk. But will this upcoming contribution be absorbed into journals such as War & Culture, or rendered persona non Grata on account of Sloterdijk's past excesses? (not least The Human Zoo, with its platonic vision of biotech. Or how about the other expressed fondness for the philosophy of a certain notorious Indian "love guru"?). None of this is enough to curb my enthusiasm though, as I can't wait to find out if this new work brings together Sloterdijk's genetic focus with the military strategy of targeting the enemy's "environment".

Is it possible to anticipate the likely critical reception in certain quarters, especially those where the governing assumption is the primacy of politics? I've found another book recently I'm keen to discuss in these terms (which I can then illustrate with an Alphonso Lingis quote, and in turn contrast with David Stove's quotation on Acheron's sidebar). But sticking to the topic at hand, I think a prime representative example is this critical assessment of Cooper's thesis of the commodification of regenerative medicine as equivalent to a new form of speculative surplus value. Randy Martin's Empire of Indifference is viewed likewise in the same review.

To anticipate Sloterdijk is not to claim that the review of Cooper and Martin lacks merit though. So until Sloterdijk's book materialises, one is free to enjoy Mute's satire of Martin's approach:

And so to the description of Terror from the Air:

Product Description

According to Peter Sloterdijk, the twentieth century started on a specific day and place: April 22, 1915, at Ypres in Northern France. That day, the German army used a chlorine gas meant to exterminate indiscriminately. Until then, war, as described by Clausewitz and practiced by Napoleon, involved attacking the adversary's vital function first. Using poison gas signaled the passage from classical war to terrorism. This terror from the air inaugurated an era in which the main idea was no longer to target the enemy's body, but their environment. From then on, what would be attacked in wartime as well as in peacetime would be the very conditions necessary for life.

This kind of terrorism became the matrix of modern and postmodern war, from World War I's toxic gas to the Nazi Zyklon B used in Auschwitz, from the bombing of Dresden to the attack on the World Trade Center. Sloterdijk goes on to describe the offensive of modern aesthetics, aesthetic terrorism from Surrealism to Malevich—an "atmo-terrorism" in the arts that parallels the assault on environment that had originated in warfare.

Foreign Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

About the Author
Peter Sloterdijk (b. 1947) is one of the best known and widely read German intellectuals writing today. His 1983 publication of Critique of Cynical Reason (published in English in 1988) became the best-selling German book of philosophy since World War II. He became president of the State Academy of Design at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe in 2001. He has been cohost of a discussion program, Der Philosophische Quartett (Philosophical Quartet) on German television since 2002.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Titicut Follies

Hopefully the posting will work this time, as I was amazed to discover that this notorious documentary has finally popped up on the Web.
If you get the "Forbidden" message, try here instead.

The Army Experience Center

Nick Turse will definitely have to publish a new edition of The Complex; it's almost impossible to keep up with the endo-colonisation of civilian life by military culture. I was stunned by this project, not least because its location in the Franklin Mills Mall, Philadelphia, almost brings full circle Virilio's theory of the "military entertainment complex". Indeed, his article on Aliens, which was published many years ago in Incorporations (edited by Kwitter and Crary), now seems even more prescient. Be sure to explore the official site, which really "brings it all back home".

“We’re not inflicting pain on these people…When people kill us they should be killed in greater numbers. I believe in killing people who try to hurt y

Hardly a very statesmanlike justification from President Clinton that is recorded for posterity in the history books. But with Obama now as President-elect, I've started to wonder if the media will start to ask any difficult questions about whether there will be any significant policy shifts with respect to Africom. I will be keeping a close eye on Khadija Sharife's blog as developments come to hand, as she has cannily identified Africom's chief purpose as "branding guns as roses". To this end, she cites Daniel Volman, the Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, and a specialist on U.S. military policy in Africa:
“The PR effort is designed to conceal the true purposes of AFRICOM which are primarily to secure resources, bolster the capabilities of allies and surrogates to repress internal political opposition, and act as proxies for the US (as Ethiopia is doing in Somalia for example), and counter the growing political and economic influence of China".
Such revelations complicate the ways we can legitimately think about the purposes of [alleged] humanitarian intervention. Not coincidentally, Somalia apparently has tremendous untapped [sic] potential with respect to natural resources (i.e. oil).
Here in Australia, the media made no undertaking to present this as an issue in the Presidential election, even though Green candidates and activists such as celebrity Danny Glover had actively campaigned against it.

For another extreme manifestation of strategic logic, it is worth looking at the history of Diego Garcia.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Nazi chic in Asia

I remember reading the story about the "Hong Kong Nazi Bar" on boing boing and elsewhere about 5 years ago, so I was interested to read about its appeal in some other parts of Asia. While it is true that Nazi chic is already familiar in the West, having featured in certain subcultures, notably punk, it appears that in Asia it is distinctive by virtue of a more mainstream appeal (e.g. it has featured in a department store, is used to sell cosmetics, and has even be celebrated in an educational setting). Although it is certainly important not to exaggerate the representative nature of these examples, this should not in principle prevent comparison with Mark Dery's excellent overview of Nazi chic, which was previously posted on this blog.
I'm also wondering if there are possible connections to thanatourism, in the sense that this commodity form might be able to percolate into other forms of consumption, such as fashion. This necessarily involves a substitution in the Asian context, given how references to the Third Reich do not entail any direct confrontation with the actual historical experience of fascism, at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army, thereby permitting the harboring of a transgressive [sic] appeal, or even mere novelty value. Of course, this is to say nothing regarding any residual appeal to subterranean ultranationalist groups.

"Superfree" rape club in Japan & Yoko Ono's "Rape"

This story is quite old by now, so evidently it had somehow passed me by. But given the footage of the accompanying gender studies class, I'm starting to wonder if any Japanese academics have published on this very disturbing phenomena. I can see possible connections to media studies "effects" type approaches as well, especially in light of the footage from the "Rapeman" anime featured in the report (which, incidentally, if memory serves me correctly, was the inspiration for the name Steve Albini chose for one of his groups once Big Black had dissolved).

By sheer coincidence I had just touched on this topic after reading the critique of Yoko Ono and John Lennon's short film Rape (1969) in Joan Hawkins' Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific Avant-garde , which is more concerned with the scopophilia of the cinematic apparatus. It is unclear to me though how a feminist film critic, even one generally receptive to Continental philosophy, would respond to a reading method such as this, which spends more time talking about Badiou's framework of the Truth-Event than the generative structure of patriarchy per se. However, given the brevity of this posting, I make no pretence to having unpacked the relevant stakes according to each theoretical position. In any case, here is the film in question:

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

VR (Virtual Reality Therapy)

Here is the accompanying piece [to the above clip] from The New Yorker.

"When it comes to graphics, less is often more. Therapeutic simulations need only be realistic enough to persuade us to play along. The more lifelike a simulation becomes, however, the more we notice its discrepancies with the real thing, says Ari Hollander, who designed the bus-bomb scenario. The goal in therapy is to re-create just enough details so that we engage in the believability, or "presence," of the virtual world, and allow patients to affix their own unique experiences.

The most compelling effects aren't necessarily visual. Researchers found back in the 1990s that very simple elements, such as the noise of a helicopter overhead or the sound of machine-gun fire, were enough to send a veteran several decades back in time. Since then, virtual reality has since been used to treat more benign conditions, such as phobias, or even how to prepare for a job interview. Overcoming a fear of flying is more cost-efficient in the virtual world than on the tarmac."

But before we start getting too carried away with Philip K Dick style "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale" futuristic scenarios, it is worth reading this sobering analysis:

Virtual Reality Exposure Treatment
High Priced Treatment or High Tech Failure?

By Captain Tom Bunn, MSW, CSW, LCSW

For twenty years, as an airline captain and licensed therapist, I have worked successfully with people seeking to overcome fear of flying.

When people ask me about the new Virtual Reality treatment for fear of flying, I am tempted to tell them it is fraudulent, but it is safer to say their claims are just grossly misleading. For example, an article in USA Today on August 18, 2000 states, "A new study has found the computer-based therapy . . . as effective as traditional therapy."

Why is this misleading? Consider what they call traditional therapy. "Those receiving the standard treatment went to an airport, sat on a plane and imagined the flying experience."

This is misleading because the "therapy" Virtual Reality is compared with is neither "traditional therapy" for fear of flying nor adequate treatment for treating fear of flying.

The traditional treatment for fear of flying was developed in the 1970s and made available to fearful fliers by Captain Truman Cummings, Dr. Albert Forgioni, The Fear of Flying Clinic, Carol Stauffer MSW and Captain Frank Petee. It included several hours of lecture on how flying works, how fear arises and how to control it. This was followed by exposure to a parked airliner, and finally an accompanied flight. The effectiveness of these programs in the 1970s far exceeded the results claimed by the new "high tech" treatment in 2000.

Subsequently, SOAR, the program I developed in the 1980s, produced still better results, as shown by research at the University of Tennessee. Further advancements have led to a nearly 100% success rate.

Larry Hodges, Ph.D, cofounder of Virtually Better Inc. states as follows: "Nearly all of the SE and VR patients flew within six months (80% of the VRET group and 90% of the SE group), . . . . " (VRET means Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy and SE means Standard Exposure).

More information and research on VRET:

Thus, by his own statistics, even the lame treatment used for comparison had half as many failures as Virtual Reality. When you consider that most people entering treatment can fly but experience great anxiety when doing it, an 80% "success rate" (success meaning how many later fly) may indicate no success at all.

This becomes more obvious in an article in the Psychiatric Times. Michael Kahan, M.D., of Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. states "The criteria for improvement was simply: did the patients fly?" Forty people entered treatment and thirty-one completed it. Following treatment, only twenty-one (68%) flew.

In an attempt to assess if the treatment had long term effects, only seven responded that they had flown, and some of those reported moderate anxiety.

This info is available at the Psychiatric Times web site at:

Seven out of 40 people is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good track record for a $1200.00 treatment.

The problem with the Virtual Reality approach is that people who suffer from fear of flying have such a vivid imagination that they easily create realistic images of impending disaster when flying. These images in their mind's eye are so real that the body reacts to the images as the body does to actual danger. Because the physical reactions that result are the same physical reactions one experiences in actual danger, it can become impossible for the person to separate feelings of danger from actual danger.

In addition, the feelings that result are so intense that the person may have no way to control them. On the ground, when one feels anxious, one naturally seeks to gain control of the situation so as to change it in a way that will alleviate anxiety. If that is not possible, escape is sought. In flight, neither control of the situation nor escape is available leaving the fearful flier no way to control his or her feelings.

The need for control or escape comes from feelings of anxiety. Since neither control nor escape is available, the problem can be addressed only by reducing the anxiety.

Adequate treatment to reduce the anxiety requires neutralization of the images the person already has in the mind. Additional frightening images presented in Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy may only add to the problem. VRET fails because, instead of neutralizing the images the person is already dealing with, it provides even more.

But I make no excuses for the soldier in the following clip. Did he have some inherently sadistic proclivities prior to his tour of duty in Iraq, or was his personality predominantly shaped upon his arrival?:

"Useless Eaters" & Synthetic Biology

Francis Galton, who coined the word "eugenics" in 1865, envisioned a system of artificial selection whereby society would permit people with "desirable" qualities to have children (positive eugenics), while individuals with "undesirable" traits would be prevented from having children (negative eugenics). For a thirty-year span, between 1900 and 1929, the eugenics movement captured the attention of America’s leading reformers, academicians, professionals, and political leaders, including industrialist John Kellogg, inventor Alexander Graham Bell (who advocated sterilization of the deaf and the dismantling of deaf people's culture), and women’s rights advocate Margaret Sanger. By the early 1930s, however, the climate that had been receptive to eugenics in America had broken down. Several factors led to the downfall of the American eugenics movement, including the Stock Market crash of 1929, scientific discoveries in the new field of genetics, and public mistrust of the restrictions on marriage and childrearing that selective breeding required. The rise of Nazism in the 1930s completely discredited the eugenics movement for the next four decades. Eugenics re-emerged as a scientific endeavor—and as a social issue—following the advent of biotechnology in the early 1970s, when bacterial DNA from two different species was combined by two researchers, Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert Boyer of the University of California. Although the Cohen-Boyer experiment involved rDNA technology, it demonstrated the possibility of direct gene manipulation, and scientists rapidly saw the potential use of the technique in human-gene therapy.
Human-gene therapy is a procedure in which defective (faulty) copies of a gene are replaced with non-defective (functional) copies. For example, Severe Combined Immuno-Deficiency syndrome (SCID) is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in a single gene, adenosine deaminase (ADA), which is on human chromosome 20. Individuals who possess two defective copies of this gene cannot make the protein adenosine deaminase; thus, they do not possess a functioning immune system. Gene therapy treatments for SCID involve putting non-defective copies of ADA into the DNA of an affected individual’s bone cells, allowing them to make adenosine deaminase. Gene therapy can either be used to treat individuals who already have a genetic disorder (somatic cell therapy), or to correct genes in sperm, eggs, or embryonic cells (germ-line therapy). Germ-line therapy gives scientists the ability to change an individual’s genetic makeup before they are born, or even conceived.
The treatment of highly deleterious genetic disorders does not create public anxiety about gene therapy. Cosmetic gene therapy, however, conjures up images of a new eugenics because it not only allows healthy individuals to change their physical appearance and/or behaviors through gene manipulation, but allows these changes to be passed down to future generations. Molecular biologists have already isolated the genes that code for many physical traits, such as skin color, baldness, and stature. In addition, some scientists claim to have found genes that code for complex behaviors, such as shyness and homosexuality. Although many of these arguments have been shown to be fallacious, popular press coverage has contributed to the growing public belief that behaviors are genetically determined. Even granting the dubious character of some of these more sweeping claims, it is almost certainly the case that within the next few decades our increasing knowledge of human genetics, combined with germ-line therapy, will enable us to produce custom-designed genetic individuals.

Inevitably, when the bioethical issues surrounding eugenics are discussed, one of the first images conjured up is of the blond-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned "Aryan race" as envisioned during the Nazi eugenics program (note Flash Player required to view Mark Mostert's site). The new eugenics, however, will encompass not only such physical characteristics as skin, eye, and hair color, but will potentially include genetic manipulation of behaviors and personality. Thus, anxiety over a new eugenics is predicated upon the belief that all human traits are genetically determined in the first place. Genetic determinism, which is also known as bio-determinism or genetic essentialism, is the belief that human behavior, personality, and physical appearance are determined exclusively by a person’s genetic makeup. Genetic determinism is a reductionist ideology in that it seeks to explain a complex whole (a human being) in terms of its component parts (individual genes). Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon Kamin, biologists and longtime critics of genetic determinism, summarize the basic ideology as follows:
Biological [genetic] determinists ask, in essence, Why are individuals as they are? Why do they do what they do? And they answer that human lives and actions are inevitable consequences of the biochemical properties of the cells that make up the individual; and these characteristics are in turn uniquely determined by the constituents of the genes possessed by each individual. Ultimately, all human behavior—hence all human society—is governed by a chain of determinants that runs from the gene to the individual to the sum of the behaviors of all individuals.
Considering that the goal of eugenics is to improve humanity through genetic manipulation, it is clear that a eugenics program cannot succeed unless genetic determinism is accepted as the true state of the world. Gene therapy will lead to a new eugenics only if society follows to some degree a genetic-determinist ideology.

But for this ideology to take hold, it would have to be a symptom of a very powerful logic of commodification. Some sense of what will be at stake is discernible from the following debate, in which Jim Thomas questions the assumption that a movement to "open source" will automatically provide the needed safeguard against corporate oligopolies and militarization. Thomas draws some much needed lessons from history to encourage greater public accountability.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

“What does it mean to be a featherless, two-legged, linguistically conscious creature born between urine and feces?"

Examined Life

I wish this would be your colour

It's not the red of the dying sun
the morning sheet's surprising stain
It's not the red of which we bleed
the red of cabernet sauvignon
a world of ruby all in vain
It's not that red, it's not that red
It's not that red, it's not that red

It's not as golden as zeus' famous shower
it doesn't not at all come from above
It's in the open but it doesn't get stolen
It's not that gold
It's not as golden as memory
Or the age of the same name
It's not that gold, it's not that gold
It's not that gold, it's not gold at all

I wish that would be your colour
I wish this would be your colour
I wish this would be your colour
your colour i wish

I wish this would be your colour
I wish this would be your colour
I wish this would be your colour
your colour i wish

It is as black as malevich's square
the cold furnace in which we stare
A high pitch on a future scale
It is a starless winter night's tale
It suits you well
It is a dead black, it is that black
It is that black, it is that black

I wish this would be your colour
I wish this would be your colour
I wish this would be your colour
I wish this would be your colour ....
your colour i wish

Einsturzende Neubauten

Friday, 28 November 2008

"Employer of the year, grandmaster of fear / My blood flows satanical, mechanical, masonical and chemical / habitual ritual "

"I deal in the market, every man, woman and child is a target / A closet full of faceless, nameless pay more for less empitness /I’ll make you scrounge, in my executive lounge / you pay less tax, but I’ll gain more back"

Corporate Cannibal ~ Grace Jones

"Writing in 1930, Keynes was most interested in the process of deflation and in countering the dangerous advice of conventional finance. Orthodoxy put the pound back on gold at a punishingly high rate in 1925, torturing British industry and pushing up unemployment in the name of sound money. Central banks, Keynes feared, were being too timid about bringing down interest rates. Against orthodoxy’s austerity nostrums, Keynes celebrated booms in a manner that would do a Texas populist proud. Shakespeare, said Keynes, died rich, and his days were 'the palmy days of profit — one of the greatest "bull" movements ever known until modern days in the United States…. [B]y far the greater proportion of the world’s greatest writers and artists have flourished in the atmosphere of buoyancy, exhilaration and the freedom from economic cares felt by the governing class, which is engendered by profit inflations' (CW VI, p. 137). The Shakespeares of the era of junk finance have yet to be discovered, unless Bret Easton Ellis qualifies."

Wall Street (1997) by Doug Henwood

Monday, 24 November 2008

Life After Lehman Brothers

"What I miss most...paying bums to blow each other. It never got old."

Operation W.A.N.T. (We Are Not Toys)

"Last month, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) waged a guerilla-advertising war against what they call an illegal one in Iraq. Early on October 11, a seven-member brigade from its LA chapter formed Operation W.A.N.T. (We Are Not Toys) and set a dramatic stage for early-morning customers at a local gas station.

"In black t-shirts and ski masks, the group arranged 4,200 miniature toy soldiers on the pavement accompanying signs that read, "The Price of Gas: 4171 US Soldiers." (On its website, IVAW is quick to point out that since the action, that number has grown to 4,193.)"


10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military


New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

B-roll of fake New York Times Distribution, November 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

The New York Times

One Nation Under Debt


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Pasolini's "Canterbury Tales"

It must be something like 20 years ago that I originally took in Pasolini's Canterbury Tales at the Empire Cinema in Surry Hills. I walked out of the film absolutely stunned and reinvigorated at the possibilities of pure cinema. A few years after that I took in Salo as part of Sydney's Mardi Gras, which also made an indelible impression. So many memories; I wasn't sure I'd ever see this again, particularly the sequence in this clip that totally blew me away. Before you ask ahuthnance, no, it is not the commercial that would have screened had John Howard defeated Kevin Rudd in the election, but in a way it's not unrelated. As a dedicated communist, Pasolini was fascinated by feudalism, and his work should be seen as consonant with that of later critical theorists warning of a "back to the future" scenario, in which we find ourselves living in a new [sic] Middle Ages. For example:
The Middle Ages ended when the rise of capitalism on a national scale led to powerful states with sovereignty over particular territories and populations. Now that capitalism is operating globally, those states are eroding and a new medievalism is emerging, marked by multiple and overlapping sovereignties and identities -- particularly in the developing world, where states were never strong in the first place.
Having digested these thoughts, watch the clip, then immediately rewatch it just to be sure of what you have witnessed....

Mike Davis: "Against the Grain"

Perilous Light

How is visuality — understood here as the mutual constitution of the visual and the social (W. J. T. Mitchell) — implicated in the mediated construction of instances of distant suffering in various parts of the world, and what are the effects of such implications? After a brief history of the visual representation of humanitarian crises by Euro-American civil society institutions, the presentation turns to a consideration of the perils and prospects of humanitarian visuality. In particular, I turn to an inescapable aporia of this visual economy, the simultaneous production and negation of the otherness of vulnerable subjects. Finally, the presentation discusses certain strategies for a critical visuality, notably a defence of the image’s interpretive ambiguity as well as practices of phenomenological reintensification and structuralist expansion of the image.A public lecture by Fuyuki Kurasawa

Aihwa Ong

Ong’s anthropological and ethnographic approach to neo-liberalism and citizenship is presented in part as a critique of authors such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who contend, inter alia, that a uniform global labour regime is emerging. Rather, Ong argues in favour of more localized and situated analyses of labour regimes, focusing on the various manifestations of ‘translocal publics’, for example, where specific interests intersect and are given particular formulations (p. 62). As an alternative to examining ‘identities’, which are often simplified interpretations of national groups or ethnic communities possessing considerable diversity, Neoliberalism as Exception emphasizes that the concept of translocal publics describes ‘the new kinds of borderless ethnic identifications enabled by technologies and forums of opinion making’ (p. 63). Ong’s work examines a wide range of regional events and assemblages, from the Chinese diaspora after the 1997 Asian financial crisis (chapter 2), to foreign domestic workers in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong (chapter 9).
Neo-liberalism as exception is also a critique of juridical-legal interpretations of the connections between citizenship and government. Ong argues that this method is evident in Giorgio Agamben’s focus on the bifurcation of the population into two halves: zones of citizenship, consisting of political beings, and zones of bare life, consisting of those without citizenship protections (p. 22). Instead, Ong contends that a ‘temporal conceptualization of the politics of exception’ is a more appropriate means for recognizing the validity of other ethical regimes - such as the various world religions - that also ‘operate along the continuum of inclusion and exclusion, though without mapping onto the same division between citizens and bare life’ (p. 197). In contrast to Agamben, Ong argues that new modes of analysis are necessary for examining the ways in which those without territorialized citizenship might make claims, whether through local communities, NGOs or corporations (p. 24). While most of the book’s content consists of essays already published elsewhere, Ong also presents new contributions, and has reworked and reorganized the existing material to provide an ethnographic perspective critical to an understanding of the global economy and socio-political systems. By placing each article in a particular context that reveals new insights into neo-liberal transformations of citizenship and sovereignty, Ong brings theoretical potency and empirical energy to a growing field of scholarship.

Eliot Che's review, "Rethinking Neoliberalism", Originally published in: International Affairs 83(4), 2007.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Obama's Third Way?

Below is an article by John Cassidy in which he critically examines the new behavioral economics theory of 'nudge' as propounded by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein. It seems that Barack Obama, who was a fellow teacher with Sunstein at the University of Chicago Law School, is a keen believer in its potential as a 'Third Way' of policy-making. Such a weak centrist position, which aims to preserve/encourage 'freedom of choice', would employ little in the way of govt. regulation in tackling the inequities of the market, rather it would merely aim to encourage people to seek alternative action. Not surprisingly, this agency-oriented model, which Thaler and Sunstein describe as a form of 'libertarian paternalism', has also captured the imagination of the British Conservative Party. As Cassidy maintains, this structural deficient approach seems hardly sufficient in addressing some of the fundamental problems facing, for example, the American health care system and the financial crisis. More, he concludes, will be needed than simply attempting to "'nudge' the country in a different direction."

Slum Tourism/Poorism

Having at last read, on NHuthnance's recommendation, Houellebecq's 'Platform', I thought it was rather fitting when, quite by chance, I happened upon an article about the growing popularity of, and controversy surrounding, so-called 'Slum Tourism'.
It seems that despite the tour operator's claims regarding the (limited) benefits such tours offer the poor, it, again, ultimately proves that capitalism will commodify anything, not least the very victims of its own structural inequalities...

Friday, 21 November 2008

CEOs: they just don't get it, do they?

Something is wrong with the U.S Automotive Industry. It seems that either the carmakers need to change the way they make cars in USA or the car companies may need to change the CEOs or the management, as the CEO's flew to Washington D.C. to seek 25 billion bailout in private jets.

Perhaps the Harvard economist Martin Feldstein is right when he called for the Big Three automakers to enter bankruptcy to rewrite excessive union contracts. One Lawmaker has said to the CEOs that flying jet to the bailout hearing is like going to "soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo."

Rep. Brad Sherman has asked CEOs whether they would fly back commercial. The company representatives pointed out to safety, travel policies as reasons for flying jets.

Oh come on!

"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York,

told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of

the House Financial Services Committee.

He added, "couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something

to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it."

Man hunting killer robots

The Pentagon's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program recently sent out a call for contractors to design a pack of robots whose main purpose would be to track down what the SBIR ominously referred to as "noncooperative human subject[s]."

How does the robot pack decide which human is cooperative and which is not? Welcome to the wonderful, dystopian world of defense pork.

The call immediately raised red flags, as well as philosophical and moral chills, from one end of humankind to the other. Not surprisingly, it was quickly removed from the public Web site before its cyborg spark evolved into a full-fledged paranoia over machine armies and murderous artificial intelligence, the likes of which were previously known only in seminal science-fiction exercises as old-school as Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Philip K. Dick's stories, "Minority Report" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and as new-school as the Star Wars, Terminator and Matrix franchises.

According to the SBIR offer, the "Multi-Robot Pursuit System" would need "a software and sensor package to enable a team of robots to search for and detect human presence in an indoor environment." The robots would be led by a human commander using "semiautonomous map-based control." For good measure, the offer added that there "has also been significant research in the game-theory community involving pursuit/evasion scenarios." According to the offer, the robots should weight a little over 200 pounds apiece, and there should be three to five of them assigned to their human overlord.

Read the full story here:

Friday, 14 November 2008

New Scientist: The future of science fiction

Science fiction is all about the future, but what does the future hold for science fiction?

These days, science can be stranger than science fiction, and mainstream literature is increasingly futuristic and speculative. So are the genre's days numbered? We asked six leading writers for their thoughts on the future of science fiction, including Margaret Atwood, William Gibson and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Plus, we review the latest sci-fi novels, highlight the writers to watch and reveal the results our poll of your all-time favourite sci-fi films and books.

The future of sci-fi

Is science fiction dying, asks Marcus Chown

What does the future hold for the genre of science fiction? We asked six leading writers:

Margaret Atwood

Stephen Baxter

William Gibson

Ursula K Le Guin

Kim Stanley Robinson

Nick Sagan

Book reviews

Anathem by Neal StephensonMovie Camera - including an exclusive video interview with Stephenson

The Last Theorem by Arthur C Clarke and Frederik Pohl

City at the End of Time by Greg Bear

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

Incandescence by Greg Egan

Plus: The best of the restMovie Camera - including an exclusive video interview with Brian Greene

Who are the hot new writers to watch out for?

Your favourite sci-fi

Read the results of our readers' poll

See all the votes in the film poll

See all the votes in the book poll

Find out New Scientist's favourite sci-fi:

New Scientist staffers' favourite (and most hated) sci-fi filmsMovie Camera

New Scientist staffers' favourite (and most-difficult-to-understand) sci-fi books

The editorial and accompanying articles are also definitely not to be missed.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

"Star Wars in Iraq": Zeus energy weapon

Incredibly this weapon uses the same name as the "Zeus Cannon" featured in the movie Final Fantasy (I keep coming back to that earlier William Gibson quote about the difficulty of writing science fiction because it is now colonising reality). For some, this might be a story to put in the Kode9 files. I was interested in not only the possible applications in theaters of war, but also as part of an Urban Pacification Program (as per the Weyland Yutani corporation in Alien, albeit not particularly "biological" in its focus).
This dystopic reading is certainly necessary, although it is equally striking how its antidote can be found in unexpected places. For example, reading last night about the making and cultural legacy of Night of the Living Dead, I discovered that the black lead actor, Duane Jones, had insisted that his character be killed, as he thought this would meet the expectations of black audiences. This was confirmed shortly thereafter when Martin Luther King was assassinated. But here I was reading this on the night that Obama was confirmed as the 44th president! I felt his speech was long on agency, and short on structural references, as might be expected given the strength of his liberal convictions and the highest voter turnout in decades. Indeed, it was this characteristic that I found made for a stark comparison with the Republican side, who more closely resembled the kind of machinic pathologies in Michael Powell's version of The Tales of Hoffmann, which had originally inspired Romero to make his film (right down to its scenes of graphic dismemberment). Hence I see Powell's film as a morality tale warning of the appearance on the historical stage of a new era of machine politics, which drives the development of weapons such as Zeus: John McCain as Spalanzani, with Sarah Palin his automaton, Olympia. Of course, the electorate are allegorically represented by Hoffmann. The beauty of the representation of violence in this context though, as described by Romero himself, is that "the most important thing about horror and sci fi is to not restore order...We don't want things the way they are or we wouldn't be trying to shock you into an alternative place." Hence the violence is really about being held accountable for one's actions. By extension, Night is not a conservative representation of the failure of revolution, with the repressed past rising up to eat the future before a progressive alternative has time to take hold; it is clearly not that.
However, some clarification is seemingly required in regard to where the traditional reading may be more suitably applied. If not to Romero's film, then where? For example, is it possible that the dystopic machine politics of the Republican party are not alone? Perhaps also in proximity to the "silent majority" reading of revolution (albeit unintentionally in many instances) would be the tendencies of the Continental philosophy blogosphere (already critiqued on this blog), at least to the extent it equates to an almost zombie like paralysis of will? Therefore I am eagerly awaiting Derridata's deconstruction of Badiou's reading of "capital"...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

"You think of the Republican Party as a isn't. The Republican Party is a Mayan sect"

"I don't know who you are!" Gore Vidal versus David Dimbleby

No Country for Old Men

The Henry Rollins Show - The Corruption of Election 2008

Monday, 3 November 2008

Remnants of Nazi Germany's Concrete Empire

The following clips are of two surviving examples of Nazi Germany's enormous flakturms (flak towers) found in, respectively, Berlin and Vienna. While like most Nazi military structures flakturms embodied the Nazi pursuit of, both literal and metaphysical, borders and boundaries between themselves and their 'enemies', on a more practical level the towers, generally, fulfilled several important roles, including: the principle role of anti-aircraft towers; air raid shelters for up to 30,000 people; storage facilities; and defensive strongpoints. Indeed, the towers in Berlin proved to be impregnable even to the largest Soviet weapons, and provided significant assistance for German troops by using their heavy flak guns in a ground support role.

"Spreading the Wealth..."

Some interesting comments from historian David Kaiser's blog:
I talked a few weeks ago about one of Barack Obama’s few missteps during the campaign—his reference to poorer white voters in places like semi-rural Pennsylvania and Ohio who cling to religion and guns out of bitterness. I said then, and I still believe, that Obama has shown that he understands that that is only half the the problem, the other half being that Democrats have failed to do anything meaningful to make their lives better for so long. His remarkable infomercial made that point beautifully by looking at the real lives of four such American families (even though one family was black, their story was representative of a whole economic group.) Sarah Palin and John McCain have done their best to make what capital they could out of that quote, but they have not been very successful. Indeed, their campaign has made clear to a shocking extent that the Republicans have nothing to offer such people but bitterness and empty dreams.Essentially the Republican campaign has been telling poorer whites during the entire campaign that whatever their economic condition, they, not the Democrats, have the right values, and they are the true Americans who live in the American parts of America. That is the essential Republican appeal to what the Party calls its “base,” and many of its strategies have forgotten that it is impossible to win on one’s base alone. (In recent days commentators like William Bennett talk as if Tuesday’s election were a Republican primary: as long as McCain/Palin have the base behind them, they have nothing to worry about. Democrats and independents will however also be voting on Monday.) Meanwhile, the Republicans want to flatter the dreams of Thomas Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, that with proper tax policies they can become rich. This aspect of their message was even more obvious in a speech I saw Arnold Schwarznegger give for McCain in Ohio two nights ago. Arnold explained that he had left Europe because of the regulations that stifled opportunity there and had come to the United States to make his fortune. Europe, he said, was now “wising up” and beginning to free its economies, but Obama wanted to go backwards, in the wrong direction. (That of course is silly: in practice every major right-wing party in Europe, like Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in Germany, is well to the left of our Democrats.) Vote Republican, he seemed to say, and your children can be like me—not, it seems to me, a very comforting notion based upon the laws of probability. With their constant attacks on the notions of “spreading the wealth around,” the Republicans seem to be embracing the notion of a society divided into an enormously wealth few and a declining mass, flatterring their supporters that with the right values, they can ascend to the top. This appeals to the traditional Calvinism of America, which saw material success as proof of the Lord’s blessing. Indeed, all we need to do to accept the idea of some mild redistribution of the wealth—which in the long run will help our economy more anyway—is to accept that chance plays at least as big a role as grace or ability in determining the extent of our economic success, and that there is no reason not to structure our tax system to acknowledge the role of chance and even it out a bit. In any event, economic justice means justice for the many, or it means nothing at all.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Kenneth Eng & The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism

In this pathbreaking book sociologists Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin examine, for the first time in depth, racial stereotyping and discrimination daily faced by Asian Americans long viewed by whites as the “model minority.” Drawing on more than 40 field interviews across the country, they examine the everyday lives of Asian Americans in numerous different national origin groups. Their data contrast sharply with white-honed, especially media, depictions of racially untroubled Asian American success. Many hypocritical whites make sure that Asian Americans know their racially inferior “place” in U.S. society so that Asian people live lives constantly oppressed and stressed by white racism. The authors explore numerous instances of white-imposed discrimination faced by Asian Americans in a variety of settings, from elementary schools to college settings, to employment, to restaurants and other public accommodations. The responses of Asian Americans to the U.S. racial hierarchy and its rationalizing racist framing are traced—with some Asian Americans choosing to conform aggressively to whiteness and others choosing to resist actively the imposition of the U.S. brand of anti-Asian oppression. This book destroys any naïve notion that Asian Americans are universally “favored” by whites and have an easy time adapting to life in this still racist society.

See an interview with Rosalind S. Chou at Rosalind S. Chou Interview
  • • In this pathbreaking book sociologists Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin examine, for the first time in depth, racial stereotyping and discrimination faced by Asian Americans.
  • Their data contrast sharply with white-honed, especially media, depictions of racially untroubled Asian American success.
  • Long viewed by whites as the “model minority,” many hypocritical whites make sure that Asian Americans know their racially inferior “place” in U.S. society and live lives constantly oppressed and stressed by white racism.
  • The authors explore numerous instances of white-imposed discrimination faced by Asian Americans in a variety of settings, from elementary schools to college settings, to employment, to restaurants and other public accommodations.
  • The responses of Asian Americans to the U.S. racial hierarchy and its rationalizing racist framing are traced—with some Asian Americans choosing to conform aggressively to whiteness and others choosing to resist actively this anti-Asian oppression.
  • This book destroys any naïve notion that Asian Americans are universally “favored” by whites and have an easy time adapting to life in this still racist society.
Rosalind S. Chou spent six years working at a nonprofit camp for at-risk girls before moving to Texas in 2005 for graduate studies in sociology at Texas A&M University and to play rugby for the Austin Valkyries.
Joe R. Feagin is Professor of sociology at Texas A&M University. He is author of 52 books, including Black in Blue: African-American Police Officers and Racism (Taylor and Francis 2007); and, most recently, Two-Faced Racism: White in the Backstage and Frontstage (Routledge 2007).
“The authors show how the ‘model minority’ is a myth, too inaccurate to be useful. They reveal how it reflects invidious assumptions and is abused for political purposes. Anyone who cares about Asian Americans—indeed, who is interested in the dynamics of diversity—should be interested in this detailed critique. Very highly recommended.”
—Frank H. Wu, author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White

“Through a compelling analysis of white racism experienced by Asian Americans in their everyday lives, Chou and Feagin offer a powerful examination of the psychological and emotional burdens imposed by racism in contemporary society.”
—Leland T. Saito, University of Southern California

“Most Americans believe Asian Americans are content, do not suffer from discrimination, and are all in the path to whiteness. Bravo to the authors for bringing to the fore the racial oppression endured by Asian Americans!”
—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke University

“This book captures how individual Asian Americans encounter racial hostility and discrimination in a variety of social and institutional spaces, and the distinct ways they strategically respond to such treatment. Some respondents resign themselves to situations while others challenge and actively resist stereotyping, inequitable treatment, and harassment. But as Chou and Feagin convincingly argue, all are both blessed and cursed with the ‘double consciousness’ shaped by a pervasive ‘white racial frame.’”
—Michael Omi, University of California–Berkeley

“As an often invisible and silent minority, Asian Americans can at last find voice in this brilliant book that recognizes the reality of their experience. The courage, nobility, and honesty of the authors will assist all involved in the struggle for equity and inclusion.”
—Edna B. Chun, Broward Community College


Preface and Acknowledgments

1 The Reality of Asian American Oppression

2 Everyday Racism: Anti-Asian Discrimination in Public Places

3 Everday Racism: Anti-Asian Discrimination in Schools and Workplaces

4 The Many Costs of Anti-Asian Discrimination

5 Struggle and Conformity: The White Racial Frame

6 Acts of Resistance

7 Reprise and Conclusions


I started looking even more closely into this issue after doing some research on science fiction, and coming across the controversial case of Kenneth Eng. I understand that at the time he achieved notoriety, Eng was among the youngest persons to have ever had a science fiction novel published. Naturally I cannot endorse the views he espouses in the following interview, but I am more objectively able to view this series of events in terms of some pretty selective filtering, and perhaps even obliviousness, by the Australian news media (in fact I can't recall any Australian media outlet reporting this story). Eng was also known to have not only remarked that he understood why the [Korean American] perpetrator of the Virginia Tech Massacre committed such a violent act, but that he would have liked to have switched places with him if given the opportunity. I understand that Eng was subsequently committed to a secure mental health facility for a period after threatening a neighbour, and at least as far as I know, he hasn't written anything else since.
But all this background information only leaves me wondering if Science Fiction Studies has, or letalone could even consider, studying Eng's novel more closely? How would it be classified and critically evaluated with respect to the existing paradigms in sci fi? I've seen references to David L Eng's Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America in relation to various literary works, but have yet to find anyone who looks at Kenneth Eng through anything other than the liberal lens of the popular news media; i.e. as nothing more than a case of individual pathology or a cynical attempt to generate publicity.

Disco Marxism

I'm conscious of not wanting to appear as if my post on the Continental philosophy blogosphere was merely shadowboxing with any of the substantive issues such a mode of reasoning might potentially raise. Therefore I think it incumbent on me to also map out the two of the basic options it makes available. I wonder only if each eventually coalesces with my typology of the noosphere. Simon Critchley has made a case that one should ideally set out to avoid espousing what he describes as "Disco Marxism", as briefly explained in the following clip:

Critchley has elaborated on this position in the edited collection, Radical Democracy. From my initial inspection of the contents, there is some potential compatibility with the expressed preference on this blog for utilising the critical concept of the public sphere (as discussed in one chapter by Laclau). But I'm yet to discover any convergence with the emphasis in social theory on cosmopolitan public spheres as necessary in the negotiation of global cultural identities. It is not clear to me that general references to "difference" are up to the job. In this respect, Pheng Cheah's work on cosmopolitics could mark a more convincing intervention of a Continental perspective, in light of the fact that he has also considered Chinese cosmopolitanism, and finds the Habermasian vision wanting on account of its [alleged] Eurocentric view that solidarity can be evoked by entwining national and global public spheres. A long time ago I posted an audio of Gerard Delanty talking about cosmopolitanism, and I know he has done subsequent work on Europe and Asia: Beyond East and West, so I suspect he is mindful of critiques of Habermas, and notwithstanding their differences, one thing that connects them is a willingness to include empirical work, thereby moderating the tendencies that can be found in the noosphere, and by association, Disco Marxism.
However, the latter point requires some qualification, as the 2 authors which dominate the Continental blogosphere, Deleuze and Zizek, can in some sense be put to work against the presumptions of Disco Marxism. I've just referenced an article by Wark, and I do not endorse his own use of Debord and Deleuze as any great advance over the forms of cultural studies he critiques in the piece. I do, however, suggest the piece is useful in setting out the basic telling conceptual differences between Disco Marxism, lack and abundance, which I imagine would be accepted as a conventional characterisation by the Continental blogosphere.
Be this as it may, it does not dissuade me from wanting to further pursue the mapping of this blogosphere as discussed in my earlier post. Therefore I remain interested in its conditions of emergence and dissemination, and stand by my noting of the characteristic lack of empirical robustness. It can still be said that the Continental philosophy/cultural studies blogosphere functions as depicted in The Matrix, with an Agent Smith running amok through the network, converting everyone into a clone of Zizek and Deleuze.

I had no idea what Wark was talking about in his piece when he complains about the imperative to always be "resisting something", so I sought solace instead in this vivid illustration of Herbert Marcuse's vision (think Eros and Civilization particularly):

How Kevin Bacon cured cancer

This interesting program, which was clearly intended to popularise science, screened on the ABC last night. Disappointingly though, sociology was conspicuous only by its absence (and the same could be said of the graph theory of Leonard Euler). Network science was heralded as "the science of the 21st century", and Duncan J Watts provided a major focus for the program. Now I just happen to also own a copy of Watts' book, Six Degrees: the Science of a Connected Age, in which an intellectual debt to sociology is frankly acknowledged. Simmel is specifically mentioned on account of his theory of triads as the fundamental unit of group structure (p58), and this long sociological pedigree extends right through to today, as evidenced by the Journal of Mathematical Sociology and actor network theory.
Elsewhere on this blog I have referred to actor network theory in critical terms, which by extension makes me less sanguine than the makers of this documentary that network science is going to necessarily have a positive democratising effect by reminding us all that every problem is essentially a "small world" problem because of our interconnections. Indeed, the program counteracts its own intentions in these respects by demonstrating the increasing penetration of network science into the Westpoint Military Academy. Its proselytisers at Westpoint even credit it with helping them to capture Saddam Hussein.
Another point of interest for me was how it is particular hubs, or nodal points if preferred, that are instrumental in how a network distributes its flow of information. By extension, referencing my earlier post, one could use BlogPulse as a bibliometric tool to determine the major hubs in the Continental philosophy blogosphere, by tracking conversations to see who most consistently captures the attention space in the first instance.
But I should finish by returning to my point that the program was not reflexive enough to situate its complicity in maintaining the hegemony of science as a public discourse. Watts mentions Asimov's Foundation series in his book, Asimov's novels positively reference sociology, and another scientist mentions Asimov again [without mentioning sociology] in the film, reminding us that we are living in a world where science, and even science fiction, are afforded more public legitimacy than sociology. Although that thought is quite depressing, it is still worth watching the program as evidence of the phenomenon of homophily, where that which is similar tends to cluster in a network. I regard homophily as a heuristic relative of the term I like to bandy about, seriality.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Oscar-nominated documentary about the war in Iraq is available for free

The Oscar-nominated documentary “No End in Sight,” which chronicles the early months of the American occupation of Iraq, will be available on YouTube starting Monday and continuing through the presidential election on Nov. 4. Charles Ferguson, the director of the film, which won the Documentary Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, said in a statement that he had underwritten its screening on YouTube because “I wanted to make the film, and the facts about the occupation of Iraq, accessible to a larger group of people.” He added, “My hope is that this will contribute to the process of making better foreign policy decisions moving forward in Iraq and elsewhere.”

The New York Times

M is for Military Keynesianism
Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony

Massive US military budget passed

Last days of the American Republic?

The encirclement of Russia

Obama, McCain and the Empire


Friday, 24 October 2008

The Continental Philosophy Blogosphere: Noosphere or Public Sphere?

I'm deep in the throes of editing a paper for an academic economics journal, so my thoughts here will have to be impressionistic and require future unpacking. But I'm in a playful mood and need to unwind for a moment. Suffice to say, I'm struck of late by the serial effect of so much of what passes for critical analysis in the blogosphere: take the latest Continental philosopher who refers to "capital", and then apply said reading method to the film, dubstep album etc of your choice. In my earlier "Crash" post I touched on a few characteristics of the kind of "interpretive community" that may have generated these tendencies, and I've wondered ever since if they could bear closer examination in terms of a sociology of knowledge, or the perspective I'm more familiar with, social epistemology.

The questions asked would need to be reflexive ones about why these people blog, which should ideally help to elucidate any commonalities between them. It would also have to be determined why this reading method has proliferated to the point where it seems to be the preferred option when it comes to sociocultural theory in the blogosphere. A cynic might argue that it has to do with Donald Campbell's infamous "fish scale model of omniscience", where those who conduct the least amount of empirical research are particularly suited to the mobile conditions of a network society. When such individuals have tenureship, one can expect to find them disproportionately represented at international conferences. When there is no tenureship, cyberspace substitutes as the preferred space for generating network connectivity. Crosscutting both situations, however, is the tendency for depth of knowledge to explode in direct proportion to interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary mobility.

What typologies could potentially be used to draw the relevant distinctions? As I see it, there are essentially 3 choices. Surprisingly, in a moment of rare lucidity, Slavoj Zizek has managed to sketch 2 of these, which could serve as heuristic devices when investigating the blogosphere of Continental philosophy. In his words:

If I understand this point of a one-mind-entity correctly, then it's a version of cyberspace I didn't mention. I first of all mentioned the deconstructionist version of cyberspace which is this post-Cartesian one: Each of us can play with his/her identities and so forth. This is the feminist, deconstructionist, Foucaultian version. But as you probably know there is another, let's call it the New Age school of cyberspace-ideology. It is this neo-Jungian idea that we live in an age of mechanistic, false individualism and that we are now on the threshold of a new mutation...
...the Noosphere...
Slavoj Zizek: Yes, that's precisely the idea. We all share one collective mind.
The first alternative is clear enough, but I'm wondering if the second has any explanatory power when it comes to understanding the curious phenomenon in which capitalism is portrayed as increasingly emancipated from human agency, and that it is this inherent tendency that might explain its current dysfunction? I suspect the answer would be "yes", insofar as the Continental response, for all of its rhetorical appeal to complexity, merely complements the widespread disenchantment with human subjectivity as the driver of change on the contemporay scene. We are typically presented with portrayals of the "alien" nature of capital, which affords the Continental commentariat the luxury of just in effect sitting back and anticipating how the disaster will play itself out. Only at that point may the rising crescendo of voices proclaim the emergence of a "new mutation"; in Deleuzian terms, for example, something like "a non facialised individual", and/or a realisation of the promise of "the multitude" (Hardt & Negri). If these preliminary speculations are amenable to further analysis, then their provenance might also be traced back even further.
For example, here is how the social epistemologist Steve Fuller interprets the opportunism of the Continental movement [sic]:

Intellectual pathologies of our times I: Continental philosophy

Generally speaking, today’s stereotype of the intellectual is the continental philosopher – a quasi-literary, somewhat deep figure of French or German origin. The origin of this image is normally traced the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who regarded himself as a ‘universal intellectual’, very much on the model of an Enlightenment figure like Voltaire. However, this image came under serious reconstruction after the disappointments of the student revolts in the 1960s. At this point Michel Foucault emerges as a downsized and more academicised version of the Sartrean intellectual. Here we shall explore how continental philosophy provides intellectual rationalisation for political impotence that has spread to cover a wide range of movements, including feminism.
The third alternative is one which I am more familiar and sympathetic with. What needs to be determined here is the extent to which the blogosphere can be modelled on a public sphere. Unlike the Continentals, it is a perspective less preoccupied with the complexities of "the virtual", than the development of new concepts and their practical, collective applications, such as "information war". A key figure here is Frank Webster, who is one of the most renowned, sociologically influenced, critics of the idea of "the information society". A further advantage of his work is that it spares one from the option of having to endure the crude polemicism that oftentimes features in exchanges between the Continental blogosphere and its opponents. Like Fuller then, Webster has developed a detailed system of thought which offers the promise of constructive criticism when engaging with the mediation of ICTs by capitalist interests.
I did once come across a superb Adorno quote from Minima Moralia that speaks to the sense of how the historical moment can give the tenured Continental philosopher an innate sense that they are a fraud (which I'll have to track down again). It's particularly frightening when this sense of powerlessness is compensated for by the overzealous marking of students' work. The image which came to my mind was of some of the younger dons, who are more likely to perceive students as future competition, thereby increasing a feeling of insecurity, as resembling Jack Torrance in The Shining; except in the philosopher's case the university substitutes for the Overlook Hotel. In each scenario, the place where they toil merely teases out the innate destructive capacities by giving them a space for their free reign. Word counts and body counts hence become indistinguishable as writing transmutes into a form of serial violence repeated ad infinitum (Mark Seltzer style)........
But rather than end on such a pessimistic note, I can at least report that my preliminary research on the noosphere has yielded an interesting science fiction find: the anime, intriguingly titled, in light of my last remarks, Serial Experiments Lain. I hope I can track it down some time.

Oh yes, and I can't forget about some other pertinent observations concerning the death of libertarianism at this point in our economic history. It would follow that seasteading is merely a retreat into degenerate utopia once the signs of market failure have become too obvious to ignore (and in the case of the seasteaders, too obvious to deal with).