[NetBehaviour] Agony and the Ecstasy: On Zoom Burnout. (pre-paper draft)

Annie Abrahams bram.org at gmail.com
Tue Jul 21 15:03:30 CEST 2020

thanks Patrick

On Tue, Jul 21, 2020 at 2:44 PM Patrick Lichty <lists at voyd.com> wrote:

> Agony and the Ecstasy: Net-hanging in the age of Covid
> The era of Covid lockdown is Zoom-time. Although at the time of this
> writing, the crest of the wave is starting to pass, its impact is evident.
> In over three months of lockdown, stay at home, 24/7 Zoom culture has come
> to dominate global telepresent communications, standing in for ever-present
> cyber vernissages, online conferences, talks and visits. The need to work,
> communicate, and even socially function has necessitated the rise of
> platforms like Zoom and Adobe Connect, and what I have come to understand
> as platform politics and their neoliberal connotations.  Although places
> like The Well and John Perry Barlow’s Declaration of Cyberspace
> Independence call and were founded under the notion of cyberfreedom and
> fluid congregation outside of the agendas of capital, the Covid pandemic
> has created a scenario where the private sector has found tenterhooks into
> the foundations of institutional communications. This is not to say that
> Social Media does not do this, but one of the differences I want to allude
> to is the institution-in-itself (facebook) as opposed to platform as
> channel of communication for institutions. Unlike a public utility, Zoom,
> as well as others like Adobe Connect, and Facebook Rooms, and so on are
> portals in which institutions found a necessity for network that was not
> facilitated by a commons, but by corporations, and by agendas of maximizing
> connections and communications. These two effects(institutional adoption of
> private protocols [Galloway] and the necessity of a will-to-connect)  are
> the poles in which capital has pushed further into the control regimes of
> markets, networks, and political engineering as to where private interests
> further govern sociocultural concerns. It even got the UAE to release its
> national ban on VoIP communications. That isn;t so much about any
> particular country, but the effect that Zoom has had on global
> communication under the Covid crisis.
> This isn’t the first time the idea of having online platforms be the lens
> for focusing social interaction. Second Life, with its inherently
> capitalist foundations, tried to tout itself as the 3D World Wide Web,
> almost like an analogy to the 3D Internet analogue in the Robert Longo
> movie, Johnny Mnemonic.  With the neoliberal dream of the Linden Dollar
> superceding John Perry Barlow’s Declaration of Cyberspace Independence,
> FOMO-driven corporations from Domino’s Pizza to Playboy flooded into the
> platform.  christian von borries, documentary, The Dubai in Me, imperfectly
> compares financial speculative evangelicalism between Second Life and the
> “Dubai Miracle”, much of which operated on the notion of rotating real
> estate speculation. For some time, this was reflected in Second Life, when
> the mythology of Chinese real estate trader Anshe Chung announced that she
> had made her first million dollars on virtual real estates.  However the
> differences between a foundation based on a technology (HTTP) and that
> based on a single-provider platform (Second Life) in that a provider often
> takes a majority of the profit, and that the upsurge of traffic caused
> multiple technical issues, caused most of those glittering dreams to
> collapse within 2-3 years. Another difference is that while the interaction
> with the World Wide Web is relatively simple Second Life required a
> relatively powerful machine and at least a couple days learning SL’s rather
> cumbersome interface. In interaction and commerce design, the rule is that
> the least friction yields the greatest returns.
> But then, the socio(economic) frictionlessness is one of the biggest
> problems with platforms like Zoom, or Adobe Connect, or whatever flavor you
> mention.  In the artworld, I always saw the necessary friction that artists
> thought had to happen was exclusivity or access, to an event or an object.
> But then, I had not inhabited Istanbul or Dubai, which are big enough
> cities with capital to support a contemporary cultural community, (and even
> Chelsea is similar), but with accessibility comes the expectation to
> access.  Once you are there and become part of the community, there are
> expectations to be met, places to be seen. And this is a crucial point –
> the demand to be seen. Further linkage to privilege in the case of Zoom is
> multilayered, from communities that wish to engage, and from the company,
> wishing to focus social capital through its portal.
> What is important about this will-to-access is not that it is resultant
> from the community, it is resultant from the platform. The first layer of a
> demand-to-access is expectations to attend, but the other is that of the
> platform, and in the end, the platform is a cybernetic system that os a
> control apparatus.  Although Adobe Connect has also been adopted widely,
> the frictionlessness of the Zoom platform has allowed it to be quickly
> adopted by the institutional community, and without having a professional
> account, interactions are limited to 40 minutes.  This has a number of
> effects from further socioeconomic limits to access to further
> neoliberalization of communications.  The emergence of a solution in a
> panic event-space mitigates an acritical adoption in light of necessity.
> This means that Zoom, although possessing the least friction, is corporate,
> requires payment for the best experience, and still mitigates certain
> resources for optimum connection. And the notion of panic adoption has
> resulted in the institutionalization of Zoom as one de facto standard
> without full security or best practices development.  There is a need,
> there has to be a solution, and the market supplies one, and it has to be
> adopted as soon as possible.
> The other problem with post-COVID networked society is that the notion of
> access falls under the optical control regime of neoliberal capitalism.
> What this means is that, as Sara Cook noted in the discussions surrounding
> the Sleep Mode exhibition at Somerset House, that internal documents by
> companies like Facebook consider sleep a challenge to their business model
> of attention optics. The show described sleep itself as a tactic against
> neoliberal infocapitalism’s need to consume and convert every possible
> resource into use-value. In another text, Event Horizons, I describe that
> even if sleep were to be conquered, there would be the Malthusian limit of
> the sidereal day itself. How do you multiply the cognitive load of the
> attention span of one human being once the physical limits of the system
> are met. Perhaps there are exotic solutions like parallel cognitive loading
> across multiple machines, or even more abstract metaphors likening the
> deterioration of attention to the evaporation of a black hole due to
> Hawking Radiation, but the reality is far more simple. A human being is
> simply not going to stay awake 24 hours a day to comment on your cat video,
> and taken to extremes, we simply cannot fulfill zoom’s Second Life’s, or
> whoever’s desire for us to be together constantly, forever public, forever
> panoptic.  It is an ontological equivalent to the 2008 financial collapse –
> expectations for access, like capital productivity, continue to balloon
> until all methods to appease the machines collapse, mitigating solutionism.
> It’s just not going to happen.
> Things have changed.  With the Coronavirus not going anywhere soon, and
> the automation of the labor-site, even if that labor is visibility,
> collapses into the home, institutions see no need to be entirely physical
> anymore, and like the “gig” economy, investiture in the physical space is
> no longer entirely necessary.  Therefore look for a more “hybrid”
> ontology.  Relating to New Media Art of the 1990’s, There are some
> parallels, when the network was the necessary channel for connection, then
> due to the small size of the community, now due to the necessity to
> distance.  But the frictions of infrastructural support are less with the
> privately funded model of Zoom.  In the neoliberal environment, when
> governments pull away from funding of infrastructures, favoring market
> politics, the ability to link capital to the network facilitates the
> platform. Period. Even incrementally, with minimal cost, this is a wringing
> out of the socioeconomic frame of need to solution, and Zoom life is the
> solution.
> It’s a cost-benefit solution. Online portals like Zoom create less
> frictioned telepresence give access to more programmes, create more
> opportunity to interact by the screen. But on the other hand, there is the
> pressure to take ten classes a month, be at twenty vernissages, call ten
> friends, up your productivity tenfold – from your home. It’s a win-win.
> Actually, it’s more like The Matrix, where we are tied into our scopophilic
> pods, viewing and being viewed. Zoom as new Panopticon, regulate by the
> frictions of the platform, epidemiology, and socioeconomic politics. As I
> see the age of 60 on the horizon, I realize that the cost-benefit of being
> increasingly online has not always realized itself, and when I move back to
> America in 2021, I want to be truly “hybrid”, that is, more engaged with
> the real, like time with my family cooking, seeing nature, and being
> physically present with friends.  This is also ironic in that VR artists
> are becoming more obsessed with realism through programs like Substance and
> ultra high rez scans.
> But from this writer’s perspective, this is the frission that venturing
> closer to the event horizon of total access leads; the lure of
> connectedness while being paralyzed at the computer screen. This is the
> paradox, and a site of resistance, as it is neoliberal forces that
> encourage this effect, and as Sarah Cook suggested, perhaps sleep, managing
> willful disconnection and social intentionality are the things that will
> shape the post-Covid culture.
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