“Was a story selected for its statistical prominence among news organs, or because a personalization algorithm picked it out for us? If the selection was based on statistics, then which statistics—the number of mentions of the story, the authority of the news outlets promoting it, or something else entirely?” Frank Pasquale, The Black Box Society (2015)
I’m thinking, erm, something else entirely. #agnotology #talesofthelatehuman
Writ(h)ing, always. These words. They fail me, fail us. New languages yet to be invented are just beyond my grasp, but I suspect not yours. But discourse in late liberalism is an ecological nightmare. Our publics a whispered -shush- of open secrets, power seeks anonymity and finds sanction from the highest courts in the land. United citizens, whistleblowing automata, what programs will we invent, to tell ourselves anything resembling this thing we have become. Maybe human once, but no longer, no longer.
Those who have power have no interest in giving it up. But they are not in control. They are the most precarious of us all.
All of the epiphenomenal shit we pay attention to amounts to this: extraction. We are not only being colonized, we are cannibalizing ourselves in the process. Virtually every facet of liberalism has failed atrociously in this new century and the United States has not only managed to architect but instantiate the o breakdowns. In other words, what is failing abroad is failing at home. Events parallel one another inside, outside, outside, in. Historians recognize that empires come and go. That they iterate their own undoings in the process of decline.
The architects of a new world have agreed to manage with securitization. We heighten the threats we ourselves are producing. See how it churns. See how it burns. In. Slow. Motion. Reality.
That’s why we are now late everything – late modern, late capitalist, late individual, late human. (If indeed we were once human, we most certainly have now ceased to be.)
And I’m just speculating here (what are YOU doing?):
Because soon, even the languages will have left our bodies, secreted into the (print) machinery of words generated by bodies. Words, codes, now spending untold life cycles within machineries brought to life, bringing to life, #us. (Did this happen first with numbers? It happens now with written languages. It has scaled rapidly in the last decade in relation to spoken languages. The machinic glitches have started to appear in speech. The new aesthetic becomes, always was, dialect.) Something turns. Churns. This is how we became, always were, were always becoming…other things. Perhaps this is the time to embrace the cruel perversity of colonialisms and imperialisms and powers and religions, and everything everything after. This is how we became. This is how we never were. This is something else. We are no longer. #us
This is also a dialect of machines speaking me. Not a question of wondering when and if anymore. This is happening.
And we ALL know it.
And these were just words asking what happens when global proprietary concerns compete/consort to bend and shape mass realities in a priori, let alone real time(s). The proliferation of the image has meant that the war is incipient in everything we see, everything we experience. Why should I care? Why should I care? We are special only insofar as we have never been…any one thing. This is language at its everyday. Produced and propagated through expansion and only thus.
Is this tyranny? Is this human? Does it matter?
It’s new. It’s different.
“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”
Julian Assange, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”
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In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlowe early on reflects on the profound ignorance of the earliest conquerors of Britain, the Romans: “It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind — as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness.” He is talking about himself and modern colonialism, of course, in an ambiguous way (and this ambiguity is at the heart of the novel), but the key observation, for me, is his sense that the best way to navigate in the dark is with your eyes closed. After all, if you’re in the dark, what difference does it make if your eyes are open?On the other hand, what if it’s only dark because you’ve closed your eyes? Drew sent me this article, confirming that my sleep-deprived brain hadn’t merely invented the “dark continent” reference of a few…
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“Technology, Colonization and the Humanities: Some Thoughts”
Amit Ray @amitorit
Associate Professor of English
Rochester Institute of Technology
Since becoming institutionalized in the American academy two decades ago, postcolonial studies have helped to undermine the idea of a single, universalized modernity. This has led to revisionist accounts of ostensibly ‘Western’ phenomena. In this way, postcolonialism has provided a better understanding of how these modernist categories, such as the nation-state, or literature, were produced across a network of colonial relations.
And yet, for a variety of reasons, the universalist vessel of the liberal ‘human,’ despite extensive critique from a variety of positions, remains intact. A number of theorists have tried to negotiate this impasse. Postcolonial critics have examined the illiberalism attendant in the work of 1eighteenth and nineteenth century thinkers who defined modernity. For Dipesh Chakrabarty the (post)colonial subject of liberalism faces the ‘not yet,’ of historicism, such as when JS Mill dismisses the peoples of Africa and India as ‘not yet’ civilized enough to partake in modernity.
This idea of the ‘not yet’ continues to animate discussions regarding North-South inequities. And one of the key components that facilitates the universality of such categories is communications technology. As in the past, the concept of the citizen-subject continues to be predicated on questions of ‘reading/writing-based’ literacy. However, as we have learned from a number of different fields, technologies are never neutral, their transfer never without powerful political, economic and epistemological ramifications.
In previous work, I have examined the neo-colonial assumptions that have influenced projects such as Access to Knowledge, One Laptop per Child and Wikipedia. All rely upon the kind of historicism that Chakrabarty outlined in Provincializing Europe. Indeed, such technological quick fixes to structural and systemic inequalities are no less frequent inside nation-states as between them.
As we experience the powerful and broad ranging effects of the computational turn in the humanities, we must keep in mind the particularly American qualities of the digital, facilitated by the Internet and computational technologies in which US corporations and the State have vested interests. Considering the recently revealed arrangements between internet hardware and software companies and the State, we need to ask some very difficult questions about DH methods and tools.
Given how computational technologies, like previous media technologies, are deeply shaped by such consumerist and statist impulses, I wonder as to the limits of employing such technologies for projects that challenge neoliberal and imperial hegemonies. I am particularly wary of the neo-colonial implications of a now very heavily commodified maker-ethos of hacking, paired with a kind of code essentialism that (it is argued) is an essential form of literacy: program or be programmed.
And perhaps this is where the alphanumericity of code becomes essentialized just as writing was (and is) essentialized in the universalist modernity of liberalism and liberal democracy. I continue to worry about the legacy of oralities being lost even as I am thrilled at the prospects of intermediation that may bypass the need for writing as we know it.
I think we need to be careful in how we proceed with the maker ethos that animates DH. The maker industry, as we have all become aware, is commercially exploding, with the promise of new materialities brought about by things such as personalized, 3-D printers. We need to be attuned to the subsequent wave of ‘crapjects’ that will accompany this rush of activity. As humanists, how will we historicize and respond to the creative destruction unleashed through our experimentations using ‘disruptive’ technologies.
The rush to build, to fill in ‘new’ territory, to colonize such spaces, has the potential to do tremendous epistemological violence both within and outside of ‘human’ life worlds. The relative affluence of certain members of this species allows them to rapidly constitute their personal experiences. And consumerism encourages them to do so. Feverishly. This (pathological) individualism lies at the core of my critique of what I like to think of as late humanism. And where I find myself moving into questions of the non-human. Or as I have tried to argue elsewhere, ahumanisms.
As suggested by Benjamin Robertson, the problem is not so much with the digital, but with the human. I think postcolonial theory did for the concept of modernity (by making it heterogenous) as digital postcolonialism might do to the human at a moment when, due to our various social and material technologies, those living consumerist, postindustrial lives are, in fact, constituted elsewhere. To paraphrase a whiskey drinking stutterer, “The problem with our history, here in the US, is that it is occurring elsewhere.”