[NetBehaviour] Examples Please: - human uses of cooperation-enhancing network technology

Ruth Catlow ruth.catlow at furtherfield.org
Sun Nov 20 15:38:04 CET 2005

Hi All,

Thanks for this _dream.thick[ener]
The article you posted by Trebor Schulz, (crude summary - - about the 
slide of technology towards utilitarianism in the service of business 
and its encroachment on playtime), ends with the following.

"Networked technologies do not have to stand for servitude. We can 
imagine  human uses. We can support emerging alternative 
socio-technical networks by reflecting on technologies without 
utopia-glazed eyes. Critiquing the vicious nature of networked, 
neoliberal managers is vitally important. But don't stop there. Don't 
leave the discourse about human uses of cooperation-enhancing tools and 
networking to them (or to them inside of us.)"

He doesn't actually give examples in this article so I'd be interested 
in other NetBehaviourists' suggestions of examples of human uses of  
cooperation-enhancing network technology.

It might be helpful to think about what we mean by human uses-
- persistently antiutillitarian uses
- raising the proportion of flesh to tech agency (ie the interaction is 
more dependent on the ingenuity of the human input than on the tech)
- playful
- subversive

I'll start this thing off. Please add your own

Suggested Example (1): Skint Stream 

Skint Stream is a network which connects audiences and cultural spaces 
previously separated by economic, geographic and political factors. The 
use of streaming technology over existing infrastructure allows us to 
start a conversation between spaces separated by different types of 
distance. Passing the mic around will allow us to reflect on the 
cultural space each sound is coming from? And will ask questions like: 
is geographic isolation a factor in cultural expression? what does it 
mean to be culturally remote in an electronically networked world? can 
we still think of ourselves as being in margins or centres when digital 
technologies allow us to bridge distances and make our own connections? 
can live, technologically mediated experience ever substitute for 
face-to-face communication?


> On my way to Zurich I just met a colleague at the airport. We both fly
> routinely. "I can't do it anymore." he said. "All this air travel is 
> just too
> much downtime for me." I moved onward passing through airport lobbies 
> in New
> York City, London, and finally my Swiss destination. In these 
> inbetween spaces
> I was persistently confronted with big, fat back-lid ads. And they 
> were all
> about time. T-Mobile's slogan is "Upgrade your downtime." The airline 
> Jetblue
> draws attention to their wireless hotspots at John F. Kennedy with the
> commanding "downtime-download." The mantra of the British Vodaphone is 
> "The
> power of now!" BT shows a jolly business man fly-jumping through what 
> looks
> like a landscape of Powerpoint charts: "The digital network economy. 
> Where
> business is done." In JFK, Sprint, the American cell phone tycoon, set 
> up
> yellow placards in the size of a house that say "yes to making just 
> about any
> place a work place." It made me stop. I was buffled. How dare they be 
> so in my
> face about what I perceive as the agony of immaterial labor?
> Before moving to San Francisco I never heard terms like "quality time" 
> or
> "downtime." In East Germany, for me, time was just time 
> indiscriminately. For a
> wide variety of reasons there are many that pledge allegiance to 
> everything
> not-networked, offline, and non-digital. Who can blame them? 
> Post-Fordist work
> conditions turn the super-mobile manager into a networked lap dog. At 
> six in
> the morning those waiting in the airport gate area pull out their 
> laptops.
> Sneaking over their shoulders I see spread sheets. The networked early 
> morning
> work day starts with coffee and a cheese-and-egg-pizzas. Downtime now 
> is
> download time. Life is work. There is not enough time to rest, cook, 
> reflect,
> or walk in the woods. The insidious penetration of the Internet into 
> our every
> grain is hard to deny. Workers become part-of-the-solution-nodes 
> rather than
> full-time employees. Health insurance can be done away with. Wages in 
> the
> immaterial networked realm don't have to bear resemblance to the work 
> that was
> done. And, who ever mentioned pensions? Also Unions get whacked when 
> the work
> force is geographically pieced together. Then there is all that sense 
> of place
> stuff that Lucy Lippard was so adament about. But the uprooted 
> lifestyle seems
> like peanuts compared to what is happening now, -- the horror, the 
> horror.
> Passing through these airports, the net started to feel like an itch 
> that we
> can't scratch.
> Much of the discussion about networking is focused entirely on 
> business. Howard
> Rheingold's essay "Technologies of Cooperation" is magnificent and 
> inspired,
> imho, but it is written in large part to help out the amazon-dot-coms 
> of this
> world. Doug Rushkoff comments on his blog that he hopes for the ideas 
> in his
> latest book to help businesses (and well, also a few others). Fair 
> enough.
> What's wrong with that you may ask? Well, let's just say that there is 
> an
> utilitarian impetus that rarifies play and experiment at least if they 
> don't
> link up with business interests sooner rather than later. Let's just 
> say that I
> hope for people with insight into network technologies and their human 
> uses to
> also take on projects that do not support those who already have 
> plenty. Why
> help eBay to make even more money? Who really needs our help?
> Some cultural workers have much in common with managerial networked 
> types. Brian
> Holmes points to that. It's not just the rock stars of what Richard 
> Florida
> calls the creative class who sit on planes next to the smiley jet set 
> manager.
> Artists become entrepreneur of themselves. Self-worth is quantified in 
> frequent
> flyer miles and numbers of invitations. But the opportunistic, 
> ego-tripping art
> enterpriser is not all there is. Cultural practioners travel and 
> perform their
> ideas all over the world. They are gift-givers with all the problematic
> hierarchies that this creates. On good days they enact their ideas with
> passion, inspiration and substance. The Brooklyn-based artist Martha 
> Rosler
> documented her more than frequent passing through airports in many 
> series of
> photographs and critical writing. She describes her motivation for 
> these works
> related to her occupation. And in new media as much as in photography, 
> the
> international scenes are closely knit. Travel is a substantial part of 
> the
> lives of cultural producers. I can't point to the travelling managerial
> networkers "over there." They are so distant and conveniently 
> different from
> me. I don't have all the ethical and political rightenousness on my 
> side. I am
> part of the picture. The network beast lives also inside me.
> We move through space. "We" are all those cultural producers who fly 
> thousands
> of miles to talk to different audiences or present their artwork. We 
> are quite
> the experts when it comes to travel. We know it all. Airport, home, 
> gallery,
> and lecture hall are equally familiar venues for us. We have it down. 
> We know
> how to block off obnoxiously loud fellow travelers. We recognize how 
> to remain
> friendly (most of the time)- with borderline-abusive security 
> personnel. We
> inhale every magazine article about tricks of air travel. Our bodies 
> are
> transported through the air. We are just resting. Covered with masks, 
> our eyes
> are closed. We enter a think space. We know what to do about the lack 
> of
> humidity on planes. The increased elevation at take-off jazzes us up. 
> We know
> when to stretch and which way to rotate our ankles. We developed a 
> continuity
> of purpose that makes it secondary where our bodies are located. The 
> scenarios
> through we move don't distract us so much anymore.
> We repurpose trains, and airport lobbies into offices. The person next 
> to us
> becomes unwillingly involved. We pull ourselves out of the public into 
> the
> private networked space. We shift through the walkways of airports, 
> drive in
> taxis and trains. Networked devices keep us always anchored, always in 
> touch,
> consistently connected to myriads of social networks. But the 
> flickering
> screens to which we are hooked is not just the bluetooth lifeline to 
> the boss.
> We have all those with whom we share our lives in reach nearly at all 
> times. We
> cannot feel the warmth of their face, we cannot touch. But in our 
> "downtime" we
> can talk or exchange text messages. And doing so may prevent us from 
> talking to
> the stranger right next to us.
> We "grow" network tentacles (like air roots) that allow us to be 
> always on.
> There is the perpetual, invisible link between our body and the 
> nearest cell
> phone tower. We are always plugged in, interlinked at all times. In 
> the city,
> at the moment when the subway train comes out of a tunnel to go over a 
> bridge
> dozens of people who endured at least 15 minutes of out-of-reach time 
> pull out
> their devices to feel reassured that they did not miss something. The
> technology is not plated into us. It is miniaturized. The only piece of
> hardware that Lev Manovich mentions on his blog, for example, is the 
> "I-Go," a
> universal connecting plug for all kinds of devices. It allows him to 
> leave the
> cable clutter at home. Our nano-sized multi purpose-devices are not 
> what
> counts. What matters is the linkage that they establish. The wireless 
> Internet
> signals casually picked up by our laptops facilitate exploitation. We 
> have to
> look hard to see the emancipatory nature of socio-technical networks. 
> But it's
> on the edges of network culture where the sun sparkles. It's not in 
> the center
> of pesky business culture.
> But network technologies cannot be reduced to instruments of 
> oppression and
> casualized labor that squeeze every last drop of genuine energy and 
> creativity
> out of the worker. Cooperation-enhancing technologies are not by 
> default
> networked assembly lines. The Treo is not the beast. Laptops are not 
> merely
> locative Wall Street furniture. Cell phones are not the pervasive 
> enemy. Groups
> of protesters at the Republican convention used them to escape police 
> tactics.
> But at the same token networked technologies are also not inherently 
> linked to
> a deviant life style or oppositional cultural practice. Technologies 
> define us.
> We are conditioned to relate to them in predefined ways. Using 
> technologies
> changes what we know and how we know it. But we do have a say in this. 
> We can
> shape the technologies that we are using.  Networked technologies do 
> not have
> to stand for servitude. We can imagine  human uses. We can support 
> emerging
> alternative socio-technical networks by reflecting on technologies 
> without
> utopia-glazed eyes. Critiquing the vicious nature of networked, 
> neoliberal
> managers is vitally important. But don't stop there. Don't leave the 
> discourse
> about human uses of cooperation-enhancing tools and networking to them 
> (or to
> them inside of us.)
> -Trebor
> You can read this text (with images) on my blog at:
> http://collectivate.net/journalisms/2005/11/19/downtime.html

_intricate mirror mem[e_st]ories_


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