Thursday, January 31, 2008

Caffeinated Nihilism

Perhaps it is only chemical arrangements within the brain that cause nihilism, or political pollyannaism, and everything in between. Perhaps even our convictions themselves can be traced to millions of movements of afferents carrying messages from the Politburo to our central nervous system. Over the last years studies have shown "leftist" and "right-wing" brains are different. The more liberal the more likely you are to deal well with conflicts. And that's why we ought to have a revolution, since it is the most radical thing to do, and only radicals can deal well with it. But let us not forget to get extremely caffeinated first. Caffeine and red wine in particular can transcend that abysmally nihilistic corner we have backed ourselves into and goad us into action. (Or make us want to kills ourselves quickly, whichever you prefer.) What do conservatives eat that make them single-minded, stodgy, status-quo mongers? Which leads me to my next question, is the world on caffeine any less true than the world on bacon or starch?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why is Kant so Suicidal?

If we look at this chart by Ben-Ami Scharfstein which compares all the important philosophers of the West and compares them in terms of how suicidal they were, we see that Kant above all the rest is immensely suicidal. He's a hypochondriac; he's fearful of inherited illness; he's depressive; he never married and he's the most suicidal.

One philosopher not on the chart is Albert Camus, who, from reading the Le Myth de Sisyphe, we know that although he is completely absurd, is not in fact suicidal. Or at least proclaims not to be. There aren't any reasons for Camus to commit suicide and so he lives out reason's fundamental contradictions. On the other hand, Kant, whose Kritik der reinen Vernunft demonstrated the contradictions of reason, was nonetheless committed to the completeness of reason. I think Kant knew this was fallacious, as Gödel's incompleteness theorem in logic had shown in the 20th Century. There is no "royal road" onto which reason can create foundations for all the sciences, mathematics and logic. I think Kant knew his project was committing "philosophical suicide" as Camus said about it, eventually leading Kant himself to feel suicidal since his identity was based on such a grandiose project.

Anarchist Story-Telling

Perhaps you should read for yourself what I'm talking about. The International Anarchist Conspiracy and its splinters and various copy-cats have adopted a new narrative by way of independent media.

A while ago a series of "communiques" like this one from the IAC related to the readership by way of wizardry and witchcraft (as they called it). I thought this was pretty hilarious. Anarchists were referred to as witches and wizards possessing strange forms of revolutionary magic; minutemen and other klansmen were referred to pejoratively as "muggles" as in, yes, Harry Potter. Other fantasy metaphors are used as they see fit, since they see their ideological narrative is sort of like casting spells on capitalists and breaking the spells of the spectacle.

Sometimes you'll read in one of these communiques that something happened that actually didn't happen. You ask yourself, wait - did the wizard actually blow up a bank? How do you know what part of it is real and what isn't? That probably makes a lot of people angry who want to know really bad whether it actually did happen or not. Especially the police. And they read that kind of stuff seriously. That makes it even more hilarious. So, on the one hand I find it really imaginative and clever, and on the other hand really cynical.

Kant's Permanent Revolutionary Strategy

When ancient astronomical conjectures had failed in predicting the movements of celestial bodies, a science based on the assumption that the bodies move around the spectator, Copernicus hypothesized that the spectator is revolving itself.

Kant claims his strategy in the Critique of Pure Reason is a Copernican strategy. His hypothesis is that hitherto to the Critique, all metaphysics assumes that the spectator’s knowledge conformed to what is real apart from the spectator. Kant calls these "objects". He says this is demonstrably false, since human reason has always defended itself cogently with contradictory knowledge about the objects.

Human reason is "brought to a stand", and what philosophers have done before is say we must merely "retrace our steps". But this does not "lead us in the direction in which we desire to go" according to the desires of natural reason. Natural reason wants to simply accumulate more and more knowledge about the objects themselves without examining knowledge of the perceiver.

What Kant suggests is the possibility that the spectator’s knowledge forces the objects to conform to the spectator. Or more succinctly, that objects conform to the human mind. Objects of human experience are not only “appearances” but also “mere representations”. The spectacles of human experience have, to use a phrase from Debord, “succeeded in totally colonizing” human reason.

It is not that objects are not themselves existent in themselves, but that they are not existent the way in which they appear to us. However, that distinction might easily give way to Berkeleyian idealism (to be is to perceive) if further pressure is applied. Kant denies this since his idealism only extends to properties of objects and not the existence of the objects. This position relies on a kind of Cartesian supposition that illusion presupposes reality that only a god can truly know.

At any rate, the change in the way of thinking ("Umänderung der Denkart") Kant calls for is likened to the change in the way of thinking that took place within Copernicus. The realism hitherto to Copernicus was that objects were exactly the way they appeared to him. Only under further examination the appearances change their appearance in the way they are understood by Copernicus.

This is not a shift from realism to idealism, but rather a shift from a primitive realism to a more sophisticated realism, from one appearance to another. (Maybe this is secretly Kant’s position.) The original Copernican strategy is ultimately still a transcendental realist position that is fundamentally anthropocentric. Kant’s change in the way of thinking is from transcendental realism to transcendental idealism, and therefore an attempt to attack all forms of anthropocentrism. But Kant's change in the way of thinking becomes anthropocentric too, since now the locus of human understanding is placed entirely inside the human mind itself, as if that were the center of the universe.

The Copernican analogy does not contain the basic elements of Kant’s own Umänderung der Denkart. It is understandable, however, that analogies are simply approximations of the subject at hand, and by virtue of not being identical, the Copernican Revolution cannot contain the exact same elements of the Kantian Revolution.

Copernicus did not ask whether knowledge about the stars were possible; he did not move the locus of understanding within himself, but only made alterations to his previous position. He moved the locus of earlier anthropocentrisms more closely to his relative position in the universe, thus amplifying the scope of his anthropocentrism. Copernicus is too naive to understand where his understanding is actually coming from, according to Kant. It is commonly thought that Copernicus' change in the way of thinking is a step away from anthropocentrism to heliocentrism, but I argue that it is only a better-fortified articulation of anthropocentrism a fortiori. If it is a step away from anything, it is a step away from his fellow dogmatists and colleagues (such as the priests, townsfolk and—all except the sailors—including philosophers) "mock-combated" over at the time of his discovery.

Copernicus doesn’t ask, "What kind of thing am I that I should understand what kind of thing is the star?" But rather, "What kind of thing is the earth such that I should understand what kind of thing is the star?"

It is based on predictions of objects rather than predictions of concepts. I use predict in the sense that it implies Copernicus’ empiricism while at the same time it proclaims to make use of dictums prior to any examining experience of the subject-constituted object.

The failures of discovering a "secure path" on which metaphysics can tread is what transitioned Kant into discussing similarities between Copernicus’ primary hypothesis and Kant’s own hypothesis. In Sebastian Gardner’s attempt to assist the student of Kant in deciding among competing interpretations, he says that both Kant and Copernicus represent a break from "common sense"—yet ultimately they have both replaced one common sense with another. The linguistic turn in the 20th Century demonstrated the same sort of Copernican-Kuhnian betrayal of the revolution as it shifted from concepts to language. The Copernican strategy was not "brought to a stand" after the Critique. In fact, it kept going in a kind of Trostkyan permanent revolution.

Yellow, Blue and Red Economics

On the cover of my microeconomics textbook, Microeconomics and Behavior, is an image from one of Piet Mondrian's Compositions in yellow, blue and red. The choices editors make for textbook art is really quite intriguing to me. It has been said not to "judge a book by its cover", but perhaps - just perhaps - the entire text can be summarized by their choice of this one piece of art.

Piet Mondrian was a neo-plasticist from the early 20th Century. He was largely influenced by the theosophical-mathematical writings of books like Schoenmaekers's Principles of Plastic Mathematics. The De Stijl movement (i.e. neo-plasticism in Dutch) was interested in ideal geometric objects and neoplatonic philosophy. To my knowledge there is no such "plastic" art movement, so it's worth noting that neo-plasticism had nothing prior to itself to build upon. The name itself is rather groundless. The entire movement can be summarized as saying that what is geometrically pleasing is aesthetically pleasing, and this was their measure of truth.

What is the author of Microeconomics and Behavior, Robert Frank, saying about economics then? Microeconomics, like neo-plasticism, is characterized by absolute simplicity in abstraction. Already this is somewhat of an insult to the student of economics. Does the author mean to imply that microeconomics itself or his presentation of it is simplistic? Regardless, the point of the text is not to ground microeconomics in calculus, as has been my experience in the past, but to provide the insights behind the models in order to aid students' understanding.

So already we have evidence for thinking the author believes that the mathematization (ex.g. formalism) of microeconomics is the best abstraction for a perfect aesthetic. It is only when discussions about behavior enter into the equation that doubts about a perfect science of human rationality plague neoclassical economics, yet this is not a small caveat.

The simplifying assumptions and conditions of neoclassical economics rarely hold. I would point out that Mondrian's composition avoids symmetry, and this is perhaps indicative of "information asymmetry" in microeconomics: when information is asymmetric, choices are skewed and solutions distorted. Various problems arise out of this one particular problem. And therefore the discussion of microeconomic decisions from this point on becomes imperfect and imprecise. The realization of the impurity and imprecision of behavioral economics and the autistic (or rather, "plastic") simplifications of neoclassical microeconomics has made the economics profession simultaneously idolatrous and skeptical with regards to its fundamental neoclassical assumptions.

Neo-Plasticism, Neo-Classicalism, all these are fundamentally idolatrous philosophies, versions of Neo-Platonic theories of truth. In my view the discussion of game theoretic behavior and cognitive psychology is a step away from the neoclassical assumptions about human rationality, but the book's author should have chosen something more Dadaist or Fluxist for the cover if he wanted to exemplify an all-out attack on rationality. Instead, just as the profession seeks to preserve some sense of microeconomic purity from attacks on rationality, and the Neo-Plasticists sought to provide some measure for truth in art by grounding it in the purity of mathematical asceticism, so too microeconomics is still reaching for an immutable rock on which to ground its cherished beginnings and foundations. Robert Frank's text as a whole symbolizes a defensive academic discipline whose foundations are struggling to survive the tide of skepticism being mounted against it.

Interpreting Children of Men Through Guernica

In 1937 Germany aided Franco's fascist rebels in the Spanish Civil War by bombing the Basque village of Guernica. Not too many people would have known this fact if it were not embodied in the fragmented cubist painting Guernica by Picasso. The fact that Picasso titled this piece Guernica tells us something about how we're supposed to think about it. Consider what we would have thought about it if he titled it Madrid Rush Hour. We could think of reasons as to why that interpretation fits. But we understand what is invoked when we're given a title that invokes fascism and violence.

Last week I watched Children of Men (2006) for the first time with a friend. Near the beginning of the film, we puzzled for a little bit over a painting that was featured in the background in one of the scenes. At first we only saw bits and pieces of it. Then we were shown the whole painting. When I realized these were images from Guernica, I understood what the entire film was about. Guernica is really the key to penetrating the entire film.

In the painting itself, the bull on the left seems to symbolize the brute force of Franco's fascism and the unleashing of bestial nature. He hovers over a woman holding the broken body of her child. In Children of Men, the whole plot is based on the fact that one woman has the ability to save the world through the birth of a child. But she is under constant threat from the warring fascists. When the rest of humanity is witness to the child, they realize its salvific power and stop fighting briefly. In Guernica, that image echoes the theme of the Pieta, the sculpture by Michaelangelo Buonarroti, with the Virgin Mary at the centerpiece holding the broken body of Christ. By extension, Children of Men is suggesting parallels between Mary and the African woman who gave birth to the single child. Mary is a Jewish outcast living in an outcasted and Roman-occupied Palestine; the people of Guernica were Basque outcasts in Spanish society which was also occupied by fascists; the people of Africa are outcasts today and the woman in COM is an outcast in fascist-occupied Britain.

It's also interesting that the original painting was done in black, white and brown instead of using vivid colors. The images reveal that humanity is chaotic, and that hope is a lost concept, a word that doesn't signify anything positively meaningful. Or if it is meaningful, it's negative. COM uses modern techniques in film to portray the negativity of human existence. It is a modern Guernica and a modern Pieta, and possibly interpreted through Gilles Deleuze who, in A Thousand Plateaus, wrote that the "body without organs" is the vast collections of drives that we have within ourselves that makes good and evil possible for every person. At the end of COM, the Joseph and Mary couple are floating around in an open sea, with no roots, no human nature, just a vast desert of nothingness. It is an attack on all Enlightenment and religious projects to solidify human nature, and instead restores us to our rootless, organ-less state of, as Deleuze said, "true freedom".

Monday, January 28, 2008

What's Special About Gift Economies?

After the reactions from the private property entry last week, I decided going to draw out one of the hybrid discussions here. Andrew brought up gift economy as an alternative to versions of private and state-owned property paradigms.

There certainly are gift economies. Whether those exchanged goods/services are pure gifts depends on a number of things. For example, by gift economy do we simply mean 'polite barter economy'? What gives me the right to give something away in the first place - doesn't that assume private property? And when I give something away, am I expecting something in return? After all, if the premise of my gift is that I expect future gifts from you, this is really just a system of trade with built in assumptions about private property.

My first point is that gifts don't exist without some broader, underlying notion of what ownership is. How can something be perceived as a gift at all if there is no sense of ownership? My second point is that gift economies cannot be imposed. By virtue of their being gifts, they cannot be imposed. So any gift economy is going to have to be purely voluntary before it could conceivably exchange the "pure gifts". Even when a gift economy exists, and transcends conventional ownership rights, it has to exist within a broader structure, a default structure which allows individuals the opportunity to give gifts or not to give them.

One of the important points of Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia is what happens to the individualist anarchist who does not want to be a part of any society. Murray Rothbard, who is an individualist anarcho-capitalist, said that the minimal state-like entities could under no circumstance coerce the individual to join up with their regime. Nozick said that in subtle ways the regimes could entice the individualist (whatever his or her sympathies) to join, and this wouldn't count as forceful coercion. At any rate, the individualist could have many reasons for not wanting to join. He or she doesn't have to be a greedy capitalist jerk because they want to be politically hermetic. But this poses problems for a pure gift economy that requires institutions of private property to be non-existent, since a non-consensual gift economy is a self-defeating concept.

Exhibit E: iPodic Scenery of the American Southwest

Over the weekend I was in L.A. for a journalism conference and I noticed that the iPod is nearly everywhere: on billboards, in pockets, and even -- yes -- in vending machines. I took this picture of an iPod vending machine at the Las Vegas Airport, in fact. Is this peculiar to the Southwest? One might think that marketing for Microsoft's Zune digital media player is more prevalent in the Northwest since Microsoft is based near Seattle, yet nowhere else have I seen that much marketing and availability of digital media player products as I saw in the American Southwest. While maintaining some use-value, the symbolic and sign value of the iPod seems to greatly extend beyond that in order to suggest our social values like dancing, racial acceptance, vibrant youth culture, and ethnic diversity. At least that's what the ads suggest to me. Yet the whiteness of the iPod is what stands out, and that's what Apple says is the key to attaining those values.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Journalistic Voices of Tom Hayden

This weekend I was in Los Angeles for the West Coast Youth Journalism Conference, sponsored by Campus Progress and The Nation Magazine. I stayed with a group of students who write the La Gente news magazine at UCLA.

One of the authors at the conference who really struck me was Tom Hayden, co-founder of the SDS movement at the University of Michigan. It was Tom Hayden who primarily wrote the famous Port Huron Statement in 1962, which popularized the idea of 'participatory democracy', argued against racial bigotry and nuclear armament. As a panel speaker along with big names like the publisher and editor of The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, professor of law Patricia Williams, and columnist Marc Cooper, he argued about how the 2008 election should be covered by journalists, what they thought about "objectivity" in journalism, and the issue of race and class in America. As time was running short, Tom wanted to stress that we are at war right now, and sustained the discussion for a bit longer than the organizers had in mind in order to dwell on war-time media.

Tom said that he had been able to cover a march Dr. King was involved in during the 60s in L.A. He was a student journalist in Michigan who was trying to glean quotes from Dr. King as he quasi-participated in the march, and said that he initially was trying to make some kind of big name for himself in covering the civil rights movement. When he finally was able to speak with Dr. King, King asked why Tom was not himself active in the movement and urged the young student to participate. When challenged about his own values, Tom decided that any kind of objectivity in reporting was a smoke screen.

These values are not universally observed, and hence striving for them is like holding up an image of a false god. For writers who think they can be detached and indifferent and know what is going on, Tom said they claim to know what is going on, but they don't really know. What Tom felt is important is what journalism calls the voice, which exposes the character, the advocacy and the value of the piece. In that sense the contribution that journalists make to society is by providing information and argument to force.

He continued to embed himself in the civil rights movement, but increasingly as an activist who told the stories of the 60s movement with force. I was able to ask him after the panel discussion a question which I was desirous to hear someone with a lot of experience as both a journalist, activist, and a politician answer.

I asked if he thought it was possible to flow in and out of various voices in journalism. Say, at one point you're telling the story from a first person point-of-view about an event, and the next you're writing a factual summary news piece about what the event is. That seems easy to say in writing, but is that practically possible and how, I wondered. Tom responded that yes, it's possible, but also very difficult. Successful journalists can be maladjusted. But journalists build a reputation, of course, and nuancing a reputation is often difficult to achieve. If one becomes a celebrity as an activist, or as an actor, or as a pop star, it seems that one often lives the rest of their life in the shadow of those events. Tom will always be remembered as a perennial activist, though he has many other voices. As Tom grew older, and became more active in drafting political documents for legislation, Tom's writing style changed, he recognized. His voice changed. His devices changed. He changed.

So, of course you can built different reputations over time. The question I was interested in was whether one can reputably commit oneself to several voices simultaneously and can be trusted to do each of them well. For example, if one begins to earn a reputation for advocacy journalism, can one make the switch when necessary to the mythical "objective" journalistic voice that field reporters are supposed to have. If I earn a reputation for covering youth activism with an certain advocacy voice can I also earn a reputation for covering, say, complex legal cases with a different kind of standard?

By way of response, Tom asked whether I had read the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I think Tom is absolutely right in bringing up the themes in this book, which have much to do with self-identity and self-denial. Siddhartha at one point feels that he is constantly trapped in a cycle of constantly losing and regaining the self, and decides that there is a better path to enlightenment. In Siddhartha’s lifetime, at various times he becomes suspicious that one path may lead to a dead end, and he quickly changes his course. He continues to follow whatever path makes itself available if he has clearly not yet reached Enlightenment. Siddhartha goes from place to place, experimenting with all sorts of teachers, philosophies, and lives their lives. Soon, he decides he cannot reach Nirvana their way and he leaves when the time is appropriate. Though Siddhartha's friend, Govinda, stays within the traditions of the Buddhists and Hindus, Siddhartha is even ready to deny the teachers and spiritual life altogether and search for Enlightenment in secular life.

Now, I don't consider myself a Buddhist - (though what Buddhist ever has?) - but I think the metaphor is apt. As one grows over time, you develop different voices and different ways of relating to society through writing. There may have been various aspects of my writing, and my views that fit with a kind of orthodoxy, but as Siddhartha was more open than Govinda, one must has to be willing to accept that the search for a "path" in the first place may be futile. The voices in journalism reflect varying sensibilities, and each place that Siddhartha went to, he had a different voice as a participant-observer in their communities. Yet all the while neither the communities, the secular world, nor does Siddhartha himself have something more than subjective truth. The wide open universe, to which there is no path, is not reducible to an enlightenment experience, so deliberate and aggressive pursuits of some kind of objectivity - while it has its place - leads us further from really experiencing the world and telling about the struggles it contains.

"Good luck with SDS," Tom told me, and then he disappeared in a sea of students.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What the World Is Really About:


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Class / Media

Last week I spoke at a local bookstore, King's Books, about independent media.

I would say the most important point I was making is that media is dominated by class, and perpetuated by the idea that only one class can tell our story for the rest of society (not to mention the permits and the badges and the capital.) One example of the class-based system I brought up was Josh Wolf, the video-blogger from San Fransisco who spent 6 months in jail to protect sources that the FBI wanted from him.

Josh Wolf is much more vulnerable than any other journalist simply because he is not affiliated with any major news media corporation. The video he took is his, and he does not need to reveal any of his sources because that would make him - and his profession - ipso facto investigators for the government. The government has all kinds of ways of getting information about its citizens, including wiretapping nowadays, and all the journalist has are the same tools everyone else as citizens in society have. They can agree to a confidentiality. If you take that away, you take investigative or original journalism away, and you're left with only the government as a means of getting information about your society. The government has become more devilish lately and has tried to push professional journalists in that direction, as we saw with the Valerie Plame case.

At any rate, through illustrations from independent work, essays, and history, my point was that the "Freedom of the Press" applies to the new conditions of production, where anyone with the ability to publish - and it doesn't need to be an acknowledged publisher - has the freedom of the press. There are literally hardly any barriers to entry. Anyone with a laptop or a cell phone can be reporter - so journalists aren’t the only ones with a license to film. Anyone can perform an act of journalism. I think it’s a big mistake to define journalism by the person who does it. Anyone can do journalism. The badge and other emblems of professional journalism are really just a symbol of the class system, seeing as badges are not legal documents. One of the many independent media models that I appreciate is Kuro5hin's ("Corrosion"), where the voting application allows users to increase the visibility of each article. There is also a set of standards that contributors are expected to follow, and users can also comment on the advertisements on the site.

Technology is empowering the user, hence the "Age of the User" (web 2.0), and with that class-barriers are breaking down. The standards debate is basically pointless at this point since if users wish to abide by a set of standards, they can. And if they'd like to publish whatever they'd like--articles on ideology and taxonomy one day, for example, and obscure poems the next--they are permitted that as well. That is what Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech mean in an open society.

One Reason I Don't Fit In With My Radical Friends

Because on this rare occasion I agree with Hollywood.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Smash I.C.E.

According to Operation End Game, the plan is to remove all undocumented migrants by 2012. Here is what an ACLU op-ed said about the plan:
There is no way to expel 12 million people without terrorizing and compromising the civil liberties of anyone who "looks foreign." Even US citizens, as well as immigrants who are here legally, will live with the fear of arrest.

ICE tactics call to mind sinister human rights abuses from other parts of the world. The United States went to war to stop Slobodan Milosevic's attempt to "ethnically cleanse" Kosovo in 1999. We should ask ourselves how, just eight years later, we came to be carrying out a policy that involves such similar tactics -- lightning raids, mass arrests, packed detention centers, and mass deportations.

As part of the operation, the largest GEO Group detention facility on the West Coast is located in Tacoma, WA. The video features a protest in Tacoma that was heavily policed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

From the Northwest to the Northeast

In 2003, Rachel Corrie from Olympia, WA was killed while sitting in front of a Palestinian home as an Israeli bulldozer crushed her. She had become a kind of martyr for the Olympia community, and her death became a media spectacle in the US. But soon her tactics were being used against the US military in Olympia as they shipped military equipment to the Middle East.

People from the city sat in front of trucks, blocked gates, and tried to convince port authorities not to ship the equipment. This tactic was soon dubbed Port Militarization Resistance. By 2007 the military said using the Port of Olympia was too costly, and they began using other ports such as my own city's port in Tacoma, WA. But for 12 days of protest, using the Port of Tacoma cost the military $.5 million for security and tear gas, so they moved elsewhere. Since then other cities began using similar tactics. Oakland, California, for example.

There is a Port Militarization Resistance action in Manhattan and Staten Island today. This is important news for us on the West Coast because it means that those at "the center of civilization" (i.e. New York City) are taking a stand against imperialism by using some of the same tactics as we have used in the Northwest, by targeting the shipment of military equipment and drawing attention to the militarization of their communities. The largest part of their protest has taken place one block West of Times Square, near the beating heart of American media, which is also where the loading docks are.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Blogging at the DNC

2004 was an interesting year for bloggers since the DNC and the RNC invited accredited bloggers to write about the events at the conventions. It was a path breaking moment for citizen media. This election cycle, I applied for video/blogging accreditation for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. I created a blog using the logo and model from OhmyNews, the South Korean citizen journalist site, called OhmyDNC. The Technorati authority for the Hyperborean here is a measly 13, so I doubt that will convince the DNCC to accept my application. However, since Indymedia Presents is a public access television show which airs in places like Chicago, New York and Seattle, perhaps that will convince them to accept my request. I plan to be at the convention regardless and will report on what events and activities are available to me to report.

How Iranian students can revolt

Iranian universities are places of repression.

About 20 to 30 students from the group Students for Freedom and Equality are being held as prisoners of conscience because of their political involvement at Amir Kabir University, an Amnesty International urgent action report said today. Over the summer Iranian students were publicly hanged for various fabricated charges. Such as for being homosexual, which is considered "immodest". (Though Iran performs more sex changes than any other nation besides Thailand!) But immodesty is a punishable offense in general. A Flickr user has a collection of photos from the hangings.

But when we talk about Iran we must be very careful in explaining what our position is.

If we talk about Iran in negative ways we run the risk of joining the chorus of American war-mongers in proclaiming "Islamo-Fascism" as the new enemy of America and lend credibility to the case for invasion. It therefore becomes very difficult to articulate a non-interventionist position while explaining the injustice in Iran.

Student activism in Iran is severely silenced, and this to me means they are spreading truths about the regime instead of libel. Just as the artists speak the truth about the situation in Plato's Republic, but Plato says they're only distorting the truth and therefore must be silenced.

In fact students are the ones who brought the Iranian Revolution years ago, just like in so many other places - Greece, for example. And now they are also the ones who fight against it. Groups like the Student Movement Coordination Committee For Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI) want to oust the regime and bring democracy to an increasingly fascist nation. They look forward to a "post theocratic Iran" they say. And now perhaps the only way they can overthrow the Ayatollahs is through violence, since a peaceful revolution has been ruled out of the question by the regime.

Media attention mining

With new media and Content 2.0, there are new ways of mapping information trends. We live in a sea of information and with that comes the need to categorize and graph the discovery of patterns and information so we are not lost. On top of that are further layers of categorization that allows us to categorize our categorizations. The following is a list of media attention syndications and profiles that I've been attempting to categorize:

Attention profiles:

  • The Global Attention Profile was developed by Ethan Zuckerman who was irritated that the New York Times had not reported on widely circulating information about a possible massacre in the Congo. It shows what percentage of news references are located in which national regions and it's mapped according to the news service.
  • Google Trends allows users to graph Google search volume and Google News reference volume by location and date.
  • A wikipedia tool, WikiRage, allows users to see which entries on Wikipedia are currently being revised at the fastest rates.
  • Buzztracker lets you see a map of the world and where various media "buzzes" are ocurring.
  • The Viral Video Chart allows users to map how popular video content has become over time and to see what links to that content.
  • Popurls is a syndication of the most-hit stories on syndications sites themselves, like Digg and Newsvine.
Artistic profiles:
  • Newsmap is an artistic map of what the news headlines look like today.
  • We Feel Fine is a creative "exploration of human emotion" that syndicates "I feel" statements and other propositional attitudes found in blog searches.
  • Similar to We Feel Fine is the Listening Post, which "culls text fragments in real time from thousands of unrestricted internet chatrooms."
Not within this category is a tool that I use for this blog, Google Analytics, which is a web analytic tool that allows me to graph the hits on my own blog, and to see the geographical locations where my content is most popular. Proprietary web analytics tools are mostly designed for SEO purposes and greyhat hackers. They're usually not free. The category I'm trying to build is specifically about blog and news media web mining services.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Toward a Theory of Public Ritual

Given that public art both reflects a society's attributes and serves to modify these attributes, when it is erased from memory it creates a valuable example of how anti-agoristic politics seek to denude the public sphere of all underground perceptual content and replace it with the symbols of the state and the corporation.

I recently discovered that the City of Tacoma had erased the art on the liberated walls of Antique Row's parking garage, which had been there for several years. Just last week I was rediscovering the psychogeography of that area, and took several pictures. They are perhaps the last pictures of the urban scenery that had flourished there. The city says public art is "a sign of urban decay" and in fact passed an ordinance that has made it obligatory that private property owners remove public art within 7 days or be billed by the city. This has created a public ritual nuisance where the city has turned the public against the public's art. "Silencing" has become an institution, a duty, a ritual, under the recuperation, guise of groups like "Tacoma CARES". They proclaim to "rebuild" the city instead of recuperate it.

The organizational and ideological sources of graffiti clean-up campaigns are rooted in the overt desire to gentrify the downtown area and nearby neighborhoods, which was once a largely African American community. To develop a sense of community in the gentrified parts one is confined to various family-based activities that the city will from time to time sponsor. As gentrifying forces and their institutions have taken over, it has confined the family to sterile play environments. Play and work are binary opposites transformed into compartmentalized zones of obedience and subjugation. The city condemns psychogeographical memory. Its categories and restrictions have turned memory against itself.

I FeedTacoma

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Framework and Discourse For Media Democracy

Chomsky wrote:

The concept of 'democratizing the media' has no real meaning within the terms of political discourse in the United States. In fact, the phrase has a paradoxical or even vaguely subversive ring to it. Citizen participation would be considered an infringement on freedom of the press, a blow struck against the independence of the media that would distort the mission they have undertaken to inform the public without fear or favor... this is because the general public must be reduced to its traditional apathy and obedience, and driven from the arena of political debate and action, if democracy is to survive.
Now obviously Chomsky gave the word "democracy" in that last bit an ironic signification. "Democracy" is supposed to be the framework the mainstream media exists within, yet their establishment is itself un-democractic. The press have created an a class-based society where only those who are credited by institutions and corporations can participate in society's story-telling process. The "Freedom of the Press" thus represents the disconnected autonomy that the press class has, and if class-barriers are coming down then this is an infringement upon autonomy. This is the implicit framework for political discourse about media democracy which the ruling classes have setup. When Chomsky wrote that 20 years ago, "media democracy" had no real meaning within that political discourse. Today media democracy has the potential to be a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and is potentially very meaningful. We realize that freedom of the press actually belongs to anyone with the ability to publish, which includes virtually everyone. Now the internal media democracy discourse should be focused on standards and whether there should be any.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Leonardo the Lovable will one day become a cyborg baby killer

A cuddly gremlin-looking humanoid unit known as "Leonardo the Lovable" was produced by the MIT media lab in conjunction with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) a few years ago. Furry little Leonardo and other robots that use "socially-guided learning" systems were featured on a 2005 Scientific American Frontiers show. And Leonardo's older brother, Kismet, who is kinda freakish looking to me, creates human-like facial expressions from voice activation software developed by the Spoken Language Systems Group (SLS).

Still, robots like this are more Eliza-like than human-like. (Eliza was the text machine that was supposed to give responses indiscernible from responses from real people.) But if you played the game long enough you'd figure out who was the Eliza and who was the real person. Look at the gallery of very limited expressions Kismet can make. It wouldn't take more than 1 face before you would figure out who was the robot and who was the person. Leonardo is more like a stuffed animal with very exaggerated facial features like a cartoon. I mean, you can still tell the difference between Leo and real gremlins, but he is convincingly cuter than Kismet at least.

Anticipating the fakeness, the designers of the Actroid race (robots that look like famous news anchors) built in human-like imperfections. People are imperfect, and that's what makes them human. So robots who squirm and scratch would probably look more human. But, the designers warned, when the actroids get stuck in glitchy mode and start staring - people get a little nervous because they look human but almost psychotic at the same time.

Now this: DARPA is interested in advanced vision systems and socially-interactive robots because of a long-term interest in colonizing Mars. That, it seems, or counter-terrorism. What do you think?

It's pretty obvious, DARPA has been extremely interested in funding all sorts of research institutes to bring unmanned military technology to the fore. And counter-terrorism requires all sorts of personable skills for detecting the slightest differences in behavior. Another goal is, I presume, to have unmanned robots fighting wars and doing reconnaissance missions in the future.

Here is a PBS documentary about the DARPA-sponsored driver-less vehicle race. Yeah, it may be all fun and games now, but in the future these cuddly killers will be breathing down your necks and hovering over your baby cribs like in Chucky III.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Things Look Better When You Put Them in a Circle

That's actually what it says on a German postcard I have. Inside the circle are some emails from people I met in Berlin at dance clubs and art galleries. I was glad to rediscover them and stay in touch. In the spirit of circles, I thought I should post a non-chronological summary of my exciting travels in Germany, since I never did that when I came back.

First of all, the boundary between art and everything else doesn't exist in Germany. Public art is everywhere, which I envied on numerous occasions. That is probably what I loved most about public spaces in Europe. There is, of course, indoor art. But I noticed that people wore their clothes like pieces of art, erected their lives around art, and lived for kultur. Pictured on the right is the farmer's market beneath the Munster Cathedral in Freiburg. Cities themselves, and city planning in general, is done with a better understanding of the public sphere and aesthetics (with gains for efficiency) in mind.

The people of the Eastern part of post-DDR Germany have a collections of "degenerate" art and public Marxist artifacts that isn't often seen. In Chemnitz and Leipzig I attempted to understand the important German art movements of the 20th Century, adding new interpretations to older forms.

I noticed that German girls were startlingly cute but could at times be eccentrically deterministic. At least one German girl whom, for whatever reason the cosmos has, always did her laundry exactly when I did mine. There was something oddly fatalistic about the whole place though. Germans are serious and simultaneously not-serious about folklore and other myths in places like Bavaria and Baden-Wurtemberg. For one weekend I stayed with on a family farm in the Schwarzwald and learned how they make Schnapps from apples. Then I hiked 40 kilometers into the wood and ruined my Birkenstocks - (silly Northwesterners use them for everything.) All is well that ends well, however - I met a German hiking troupe who shared a backpack full of white wine with me and we hiked back to Gengenbach together.

On the other side of the Rhine, French women live under a completely different cultural logos. (But I visited in Strasbourg, in the Alsace region, which I'm led to believe is less French than, say, Paris.) On the other side of Munich, Czech women can be assigned very astute gender codes. The image of the half-naked woman holding a Kalashnikov in one hand and in the other hand a bottle of vodka (or MP3 player) is evidence of one kind of male-dreamt phantasy leftover from the Soviet-era: but half-naked women with guns are supposed to be hot on both sides of the Atlantic. But after visiting the museum of communism, Kafka's museum, and more "degenerate art", the lens I viewed the Eastern parts through was probably tainted by cultural impressions of post-Soviet transitioning. (That impression is probably what drives part of the tourist industry there too.) The Czech women I met in Prague were adventuresome and liked to dance.

Did I mention that the G8 Summit also occurred while I was in Germany? (Time is a circle, right?) Unfortunately that was in the northernmost part of the country while I was studying EU agricultural policies (see "Viticulture and Capitalism") and EU expansionism in the southernmost part, Freiburg im Breisgau. Otherwise I certainly would have been there filming on behalf of the independent media collective. "Stop G8" was spraypainted in yellow and red all over Freiburg.

Looking back, annoyance was a dominant theme in my trip. At the Dachau Concentration Camp, the American students I was with annoyed me spectacularly. American tourists also annoyed me at bars and various other places in Munich. It seemed I could not escape the pervasive tentacle-ish expanse of American culture even while overseas. I wanted to know Germans, not Americans, especially not crude Americans. It almost sounds cliché to talk about the ugly American, but since most of my friends aren't ugly Americans, I was really surprised that the other students in fact were. It threw me off-guard. I remember two students from Claremont talking about wearing fur coats, how fashionable it is, and how animal rights activists can go to hell. They were loud and had short attention spans too. I wanted to puke my vegetarian food all over them.

At one point I analyzed a lecture at the university in Freiburg by a well-known American intellectual, Saskia Sassen. After studying European politics, I looked back on American sedition laws with sickening disapproval. Police states seem to bubbling up everywhere though.

I made a twelve-day excursion to Turkey, and feared that I was going to be stuck there during a riotous military coup. The AK party was re-elected 4 days later after I left. In Ankara, the capital, I visited the mausoleum of "the father of the Turks", Ataturk, and felt something Stalinist crawl up my spine. In my entries, however, I did not purposely leave out all the good things there is to say about Turkey. There are many good things to say about Turks, just not Turkish politics. Americans tend to see Turkey as setting "an example" for democracy in the "Islamic" or "Arab World" and I think that's very degrading. Turks are not Arabs; there is a high degree of animosity between Arabs and Turks. So if anything they're setting an example for other Turkish nations. (Invading Northern Iraq is not setting a good example!)

A Turkish man told me this joke: What are the three shortest books in the world? Let me tell you. The first is the connoisseur's guide to English cuisine; the second is the comedian's guide to understanding German humor; and the third is the Turkish guide to Turkish democracy.

I should mention the haikus I wrote. Back in the EU zone, I waxed poetically on everything from sidewalks and physiology exhibits to the primacy of vegetables and the day that cameras will rule the world.

Wayfaring my way to Nuremberg, school was out and I was free to be thoughtful and artsy in my own little world. In Dresden I over-Sartreized the pleasures I took in traveling. I spent a day in Wittenberg and visited all the places where Martin Luther had lived and taught. In Hamburg I must have gone to a dozen art galleries, all of them very good. I also met a house DJ on the Reperbahn (a popular street for clubs and prostitution) who invited me to a house party. We got very drunk. My impression of Bremen is that it's a sleepy town, and that probably has to do with the fact that I arrived too late for my hostel reservation and I ended sleeping in a park by a bed of flowers and under a windmill. It was dreamy and allergenic at the same time! But, it was summer season, and I found that to be a rather quixotic adventure in itself.

Another quixotic adventure took place in a small Dutch town where, because I was stranded at a train station after midnight, I met a married Bulgarian gypsy couple and they invited to stay at their home for the night. (No, it didn't end up the Tarantino film "Hostel" - I escaped the next morning safe and sound.) We watched a Bulgarian gypsy movie on their television and talked about all sorts of things using a pidgin version of Turkish and German, since neither of us could find a satisfying common language. I thought they were very hospitable and came to my rescue just when I unexpectedly needed it. But they were also too hospitable, since they made me an exorbitant amount of food to spoil me and make me feel like some sort of king. It was also unnerving since they wanted me to eat while they watched.

I can understand their traditionalist background, but that was too disturbing for me. I ate a couple tomatoes and then I said I was full just to be polite. The whole ordeal was the Bulgarian gypsy's husband's fault though, since he ordered the wife around like a farm dog while he insisted that we men lay back, relax, and smoke cigarettes. My disgust soon overcame my gratefulness and I left early the next morning.

Amsterdam is one of the freest cities in the world, and my time their was too short. But, I must say, Berlin is really where I felt situated as if I belonged there. It's incredibly diverse and has all the freedom and accompaniment of intelligent, sexy people I could have imagined. I visited fewer art galleries in Berlin than Hamburg because the city was too spectacular not to live in it and introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you. Berlin is where I met the swinging, transsexual dancer from London, who goes by the name "Hollywood". One Friday we partied all night in a former nuclear power plant, though it's now turned into a 4-story dance club, and we hung out with a group of refined party-tourists from Madrid. Two brunettes from Paris, Marie (and Marion?), especially excited from all the speed they took, led us to some very wild night clubs. In the taxi Marie laughed and said to me, "I can't stop dancing!" Another night-creature I met in Berlin, named Victor from Buenos Aires, spoke at least 12 different languages very fluently.

Travelers are impressive!

At the same time I hope I made impressions upon people (how can you not as a visitor?) and I hope that those impressions reflected well on myself and my country. Even at home, one is always a representative of some place or another. I often become an effigy for various sorts of things - "the left" when I'm in the presence of my neoconservative uncle, or "people who know something about technology" when I'm at work, for example - so being aware of one's representations and appearances does mean quite a bit, though that sounds somewhat superficial. Representations and appearances mean perhaps more to me than it meant before I visited Germany. Art and kultur also mean a lot more to me as well.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Army of None: a Televisual Montage

Army of None is a book written by David Solnit and Aimee Allison about the "military recruitment complex" - their term for the researchers and advertisers who profit from military recruitment needs - and how to counter-strategize and shut down the war machine through counter-recruitment actions. The authors have been in the Northwest recently, and I produced a short video report from their visit in Olympia, WA where IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) activist Chanan Suarez-Diaz from Fort Lewis was present.

The Go Army videos emphasize that the US Army is the strongest force in the world. It's "not just strength in numbers, but strength in brothers." It's "more than physical strength, it's emotional strength." Our allies have similar military complexes. This British Recruitment ad is a series of buzzwords with images of heroes from action film scenes. "For the fun. For the friendships. For the Friday nights," the narrator says in a Scottish accent, just as we're shown a hipster scene at a foreign dance club. Watch this Australian recruitment ad. "Challenge yourself" is the challenge the aussies are putting to their youth. This multi-million dollar advertising industry is also a challenge to counter.

But with just a few extra dollars spent on wigs and paint, my favorite counter-spectaclists with their powers combined become the Clown Army. The clowns seem to be most prominent in Scotland, where they wander around aimlessly proclaiming "love and respect.... la la la..." while the police have no idea what to do with them. Here is a video of the Oakland, CA Clown Army at their Army recruiting station, oohing and ahhing at "all this stuff..." The Clown Army at the 2007 G8 Conference in Rostock appear to be leading attacks on everyone: the polizei and the black block. They also look for happiness at McDonald's but can't seem to find it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Have "KINK"

I recently came across a message online from Seattle artist Aaron Bagley which read:

Show Starts: now
Show Ends: NEVER
send this password: KINK
and a mailing address to [won't repost here]
and receive the next piece of the show.

When I wrote to Aaron Bagley with the message "I have 'KINK'" and included my mailing address he responded by saying "art is on its way soon", and then I knew he was serious.

Days later I received something in the mail from him. This:

Along with this picture came another password. This time it was "Guffman". It turns out "KINK" is the code for only a small piece of the show and each time you send him a password, he sends you corresponding art pieces.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Anarchists

These habits are meant for anarcho-agorists working to transition
their societies "from here to there". It is also a pun on

1) Be an individual. The first step in the micro strategy starts with yourself. A participatory polis and economy can be achieved by individuals who are innovative, take risks, and to the degree which they are comfortable, autonomous. Individuals create a fruitful marketplace of ideas. They also create the kinds of marketplaces and the kinds of public spheres which are only possible through their consent.

2) Scheme with the end in mind. Keep in mind your macro strategies. The goal is to create a lively polis where governance is not imposed by force. Therefore every action can be seen as aimed toward that end.

3) Put the Revolution first. Visible imbalances are symptoms of the greater problem which is the state apparatus itself. The state has become the object of immense politicking, lobbying and control. The agorist addresses deep-seated structural problems such as patriarchy, coercion or the institutions of torture, with a consistent position proclaiming that society's movement away from statism and towards agorism ought to be accelerated and this will undermine its practices.

4) Reflect on rights. The anarcho-agorist reveals the contradictions in the state through a reflection of individual rights. The principles of 'liberalism' in general are built upon assumptions about the arbitrariness of the state and the primacy of individual will. Every interaction in a society that is coercive is therefore viewed from an external point of view, and it is this very idea that individuals have rights and want to use them which the state condemns as subversive.

5) Seek first to counter. Counter-institutions and counter-cultures cannot gain substantial ground in a society dominated by modern conditions of production and their ideologies. As long as the state offers incentives obtained through coercion, counter-hegemonic options will be less attractive to those who do not see the larger picture. Direct political action and education serve therefore as a starting point for the creation of a society which will eventually sever its ties to the surplus-sucking bureaucrats who have stolen your community.

6) Agorize! Agorists recognize that effective change will not take place through political reform alone, so seeking first to agorize and strike the state's centralized power at its root will be the most effective long-term tactic. Agorization includes forming labor unions, forming tax-resistances, creating sanctuary cities and anarchovillages, forming security alliances to counter the state's, creating participatory institutions that fulfill the same needs as coercive institutions, and otherwise severing local ties from arbitrary state and federal authorities.

7) Wield your shield. The state will stop at nothing to prevent you from succeeding from its power. Pogroms (mass arrests) may occur if the state believes the threat of losing its power is great enough, or that "widespread anarchy" may come about. Violent revolution is not necessary, only insofar as the state does not provoke one, though a fundamental tension will brew between individuals who deny the state's institutions and the concept of citizenship which may require allegience to various institutions. At this point, collectivized security operations, like extensive neighborhood watches, to protect against the state's marauders may require diversified defensive tactics.

Iran: Information Asymmetry for Media Audiences

It has been mentioned before in Hyperborea that the US plan to bomb several thousand targets in Iran was real, and so is the intention to provoke an amphibious invasion through the Strait of Hormuz. And every time Bush or Cheney visit the region, some confrontation happens between the US and Iran.

The Pentagon recently released a video describing what happened between US and Iranian naval vessels on Sunday. Five small Iranian boats sped towards the American vessels, and so the US Navy took a "base of action", they said. All the news reports on this, such as CBS's, shows American and Iranian vessels firing into the air. But no shots were actually fired during this incident. (Our tolerance for viewing American and Iranian forces interacting violently at least on the television screen is stepping up.) According to an AP summary of the radio transcript, someone had said that the American warship would "explode", implying some sort of suicide naval operation.

An AP report says that Iranian officials consider whatever happened not out of the ordinary. "This is an ordinary occurrence which happens every now and then for both sides," a foreign ministry spokesman said. The Pentagon says the US vessels were operating within international waters, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard says they had entered regional waters. A portion of the Strait is within Iranian borders, as was quoted by Iran's Fars News Agency. And it has been reported before that the US presence there looks much more like a blockade. That has most likely contributed to rising world oil prices ($100 a barrel this week), but that is less important for the US since Iranian oil is boycotted. A real conflict would cripple world oil supplies and perhaps raise the price to $200 a barrel.

President Bush is using what he calls a "provocative act" on Iran's behalf to step up propagandistic language regarding Iran. The Fars News Agency said that the Americans are spinning the incident against Iran, quoting an unidentified parliamentary speaker as saying,

"We have always demanded establishment of peace and security and the hue and cry made by the US media in this regard is a part of the same psychological warfare they have always launched against Iran."

Meanwhile media audiences on both sides have no reason to accept either account, other than some sense of allegiance to one's own nation state and its news agencies. With Iran, as with Iraq, there have been incredible information assymetries, since Western media outlets gather nearly all the information from these incidents from public officials (and usually unnamed "public" officials at that). Identities are secret and information is supposed to be credible. The strong case against is Iran has been building up ever since Rice and Bush discussed last year (see the first link) how they could convince Congress that Iran is a real threat. Even if what senior members of whichever department are saying is false, the slow buildup of impressions like that does create a sense of looming threat. It is most likely that both sides are doing this, and we therefore have no reason to accept the accounts of either.

The mainstream Western media is failing here since they fail to include their own shortcomings when reporting these incidents. Iranian media is much more directly a mouthpiece for the state, and yet it is clear to see how Western media can serve the exact same function.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Tacoma-Style Situationism

The situationists had this idea that their city was either recuperated or alienated through various sensations of Paris's geographical landscapes. Today I took to the streets and, in my spontaneous moment of dérive, did a bit of Tacoma-style drifting myself.

Psychogeography, as it's called, is an idea with roots deeper than situationism in fact, traceable at least to Jürgen Habermas' idea of the "public sphere" as a realm where public opinion is formed through "communicative action" in interpersonal relationships which are not necessarily between persons, but between landscapes and architectures as well.

Graffiti, as specific kind of psychogeography, has always interested me. I've found that graffiti, especially when it is much more akin to public art, helps shape impressions we have about our own situation, and helps shape our ideas of what it's like to perceive our situation (or to be a "dasein") in our own cities. It gives us an impression of what is brewing beneath the many layers of (- to pick on a particular enterprise -) disinterested corporations and their marketing campaigns.

Graffiti is hardly tolerated in any legal sense, but in a social sense, I think it is. (This image above was thrown up least two years ago.) The underground sphere is a pure, well-established, communicative method with ancient roots. In fact, archaeologists had a better idea of what it was like to live in ancient cities when they discovered ancient caricatures and markings on the walls, which expressed public opinions about religious topics in places like Rome, Jerusalem, etc.

This ancient markup language (- a metaphorical GML if you will -) provides a way to use text while simultaneously including all sorts of 'extra information' about it. It gives, for example, the somewhat obvious impression that there are all sorts of underground goings-on (or "going-ons"?) in your city, a sort of black market message-exchange for the oppressed. Like the fish who realizes he swims in water, this all-too-"unorthodox" expressive style (not always a style) makes one more aware of the various categories of bourgeois society.

Public art, as opposed to corporate art etc., is recuperative. A city without public art is dead. It is nothing but an immense accumulation of impressions with no life of their own, or life to draw upon, no life to detourne. City councils want nothing more than to kill the underground message-exchange ("illegal" communicative acts) while providing ample spaces for messaging systems guaranteed to pay well for permit-makers and tax-collectors. Thus while Tacoma makes its city attractive for businesses from Seattle, it drives out that special feeling of having a public and unitary urban situation and replaces it with the deadish society of spectacles.

Flâneur in French means "to stroll", but specifically to stroll through one's city in order to experience it. I suggest you try it some time in your own city, and notice the expressive formations which have impressed meaning onto the city. We, at least we students, don't flâneur much in Tacoma. I admit that I used to think that a stroll through Commerce Street was all one needed to do in order to really experience the city's beating heart. A barista in a coffee shop told me today that the university neighborhood is just a "bubble" for students where the language of universal separation has alienated us even from our own neighbors, whilst all along the city has been speaking to its drifters in non-conventional ways.

In the Manifesto of Industrial Painting, Pinot-Gallizio wrote "the new industrial culture will be strictly 'Made Amongst People' or not at all! The time of the Scribes is over." That's for sure. We've accepted the special code of the marketers and scribes and yet we've forgotten about the special code of the perhaps the most ancient and primitive messaging systems of our species, the spontaneous markup language for walls, the word on the street, the urban code, the language of industrial paint: graffiti.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Politics and Informatcs: A Possible Connection

Using this trendy tool, I found that the volume of news references to "Barack Obama", "John Edwards" and "Hilary Clinton" appear to be in line with the Washington Post's election results, as pictured below.

The Republican race appears to be no different: the sheer volume of references to any particular candidate appears to have been a leading indicator in determining the caucus winners in Iowa. Media tycoons are constantly reminding just how much power they have in democratic regimes.

Lastly, another striking comparison: Britney Spears has been consistently higher in search volume than Barack Obama all year, even though there have been fewer news references to her.