MonthMay 2014

Mutation Vectors 5/31/2014

Laurie Penny is at it again with another must-read this week the European Parliment and creeping fascism. Key line: “Perhaps the greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince the world that he was really boring.”

Penny wrote that for Vice, which Gawker says is a really shit place to work. In response to the accusations, Vice says “fuck you,” but doesn’t exactly say the article wrong about how much the company pays, only that the salaries are “competitive.” Which doesn’t really mean much in a market where Gawker itself only pays new writers $1,500 a month and is being sued by unpaid interns.

But really, pretty much every media company these days is using tabloid clickbait garbage to subsidize its “real journalism.” But that’s a cold comfort to the people forced to survive by grinding out listicles for subsistence wages, as Paul Ford reminds us in a piece on Medium about the absurdity of viral content farms. You know, like Medium.

And over at renowned content farm The Atlantic Choire Sicha — who founded The Awl, where you can watch bear videos and read about the life and times of ¯\_(?)_/¯ — says the internet basically sucks now but is also amazing.

Oh well, at least Buzzfeed is run by some weird Deleuzian dude. Maybe the whole thing is some Accelerationist plot to make capitalism eat itself faster?

Aaaaannnnyyyyway, my favorite thing I read this week was David Forbes’ piece on the history of Grinding. My favorite thing of my own was my story on Transgress, a tool for routing around the online censorship of information about transgender issues.

Film

THELMA AND LOUISE

I watched Thelma and Louise for the first time this week. I can’t imagine this movie being made today. Which reminds me, you should also read Jacqueline Valencia’s essay on on the need for more lonely women in film. Not that Thelma and Louise is exactly the type of movie she’s talking about, but it reminded me of Falling Down which reminded me of her article.

Music

This week I saw Cult of Zir (above), Alien Parkinsons Project and Sister Mamie Foreskin play at the Lovecraft. The rest of Zir’s show is here.

I’d never heard Sister Mamie Foreskin before but I really dug them. They’re sort of in the same vein as The Soft Moon or maybe Comets on Fire. Their new album is here.

What Buzzfeed Learned from Deleuze and Guattari

Gilles Deleuze mural

Dylan Matthews on Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti’s background as a critical theorist:

“Nobody wants to be a shill for your brand,” former Buzzfeed chief creative officer Jeff Greenspan once told New York Magazine for a profile of the company’s founder, Jonah Peretti. “But they are happy to share information and content that helps them promote their own identity.”

So where did Peretti get that idea? Peretti’s academic writings offer one clue. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1996, Peretti published an article in the cultural theory journal Negations entitled “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” After the paper was mentioned in New York’s Peretti profile, Critical-Theory.com’s Eugene Wolters read through it, and found that it more or less lays out (and critiques) Buzzfeed’s entire business model—a full decade before the company was founded.

In brief, the paper argues that, going forward, capitalism will need to be constantly producing identities for people to adopt at an ever-increasing rate. And now Peretti’s at the helm of a firm that’s doing exactly that.

Full Story: Vox: Buzzfeed’s founder used to write Marxist theory and it explains Buzzfeed perfectly

See Also:

Defending Post-Modern Theory (As Always)

This reminds me of Zizek quoting Jean-Jacques Lecercle about how Deleuzian thought ironically became the ideology of the ruling class. In this excerpt, Lecercle imagines a Paris yuppie reading Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy:

he incongruity of the scene induces a smile – after all, this is a book explicitly written against yuppies /…/ Your smile turns into a grin as you imagine that this enlightenment-seeking yuppie bought the book because of its title /…/ Already you see the puzzled look on the yuppie’s face, as he reads page after page of vintage Deleuze… [4] What, however, is there is no puzzled look, but enthusiasm, when the yuppie reads about impersonal imitation of affects, about the communication of affective intensities beneath the level of meaning (“Yes, this is how I design my publicities!”), or when he reads about exploding the limits of self-contained subjectivity and directly coupling man to a machine (“This reminds me of my son’s favored toy, the action-man who can turn into a car!”), or about the need to reinvent oneself permanently, opening oneself up to a multitude of desires which push us to the limit (“Is this not the aim of the virtual sex video game I am working on now? It is no longer a question of reproducing sexual bodily contacts, but to explode the confines of established reality and imagine new unheard-of intensive mode of sexual pleasures!”). Is today’s popular culture not effectively permeated by Deleuzian motifs, from the Spinozean logic of imitatio afecti (is this impersonal circulation of affects, by-passing persons, not the very logic of publicity, of video clips, etc., where what matters is not the message about the product, but the intensity of the transmitted affects and perceptions?) to new trends in childrens’ toys (the so-called “Transformer” or “Animorph” toys, a car or a plane which can be transformed into a humanoid robot, an animal which can be morphed into a human or robot… is this not Deleuzian? There is no “metaphorics” here, the point is not that the mechanical or animal form is revealed as a mass containing a human shape, but, rather, the “becoming-machine” or “becoming-animal” of the human, the flow of continuous morphing. What is blurred is also the divide machine/living organism: a car transmutes into a humanoid/cyborg organism – therein resides the horror…)?

See also: IDF read Deleuze and Guattari for urban warfare insights

Why the Solar Roadways Project on Indiegogo is Actually Really Silly

Solar Roadways

Joel Anderson says the Solar Roadways that raised over $1.5 million is visionary but extremely impractical:

But why NOT use our roads? I mean, roofs, roads, who cares, right? Well, in short, because we drive our cars there. Our big, metal, heavy cars. There’s currently a virtually endless supply of places you could install solar panels that DON’T have cars driving over them and, as such, don’t require fancy high-tech glass covering them. Or, for that matter, don’t mean you have to worry about the long term wear-and-tear of millions of tons of steel and rubber driving over them at high speed every year.

This, I’m guessing, is why the question of cost doesn’t come up at any point in either the IndieGoGo video OR the couple’s website. It’s why their idea doesn’t actually make any sense. This is basically just a pitch for a new way to install solar capacity that would cost a lot more than the ways we currently have for installing solar capacity. Which might make sense if we had already exhausted our options for places we could build solar panels on the cheap (we haven’t).

Full Story: Equities: Why the Solar Roadways Project on Indiegogo is Actually Really Silly

(via GlobalInfoWatch)

Four More Reads on Rage Killing and Misogyny

Rage Killings in the Neoliberal World

UCSB: A Terrible Lesson in Digital Dualism and Misogyny

Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

Dudes, Stop Putting Women in the Girlfriendzone

Grinders: Tomorrow’s Cyberpunks are Here Today

Grinding:  Sovereign Bleak, post magnet installation

David Forbes looks at the history of the grinder/DIY transhumanist movement, tracing its origins from the experiments of Kevin Warwick and Lepht Anonym to Warren Ellis’ Doktor Sleepless comic to the Grinding.be website to Grindhouse Wetware:

Usually, a subculture starts in a particular societal splinter just far enough off the beaten path to find breathing room. Its members begin talking to one another, and eventually someone puts a name on it that sticks. The group hits a nerve or a style, and in time a journalist tells a bit of their story. Often, the writers who deal with subcultures act more as archaeologists than engineers, dredging up what’s already been rather than creating what is to be.

Grinders — who are dedicated to bringing a cyberpunk tomorrow into reality today through DIY body modification — are different. They started with a name in the literary world and migrated seemingly backwards into reality. In 2007, comic writer Warren Ellis launched Doktor Sleepless, a series about the eponymous mad scientist and his apocalyptic plots. It’s a stew of wild ideas — occult magic, implants, urban breakdown — set in a just-past-tomorrow era. The series, which lasted more than a year, is a bit hit or miss but with some truly fascinating moments and a heaping hodgepodge of speculative ideas. Central to Doktor Sleepless are grinders — the term originating from video games, where players “grind” their character through repetitive actions to reach a higher level of power. While identity overhaul has been a selling point of alternative cultures back to prehistory, Ellis’s grinders emphasized identity as a character sheet, with each capability up for modification, for upgrade.

Full Story: Airship Daily: Grinders: Tomorrow’s Cyberpunks are Here Today

See also:

Short Documentary On The DIY Bodyhacking/Transhumanist Underground

Interview with Stelarc, A Grinder Before It Was Cool

One in four Germans wants microchip under skin

Transgender Activists Fight Back Against Web Filters

Transgender coders at TransHack

Another one from me at Wired today:

For the transgender community, the web is an important resource for finding trans-friendly doctors, housing, jobs and public restrooms–many things the rest of us take for granted. But web filtering software designed to prevent access to pornography often stops people from accessing websites that with information on a host of other topics, such as breast feeding, safe sex and, yes, transgender issues. It’s a subtle–and possibly unintentional–form of discrimination, one that can have a big impact. Web filters are more than a temporary inconvenience for many transgender people who rely on public libraries and internet cafes to access the internet. The problem is even worse in the UK, where all new internet connections are filtered by default at the ISP level.

“Because homelessness and poverty are such a big issues in the trans community, many don’t have access to unfiltered, uncensored internet,” says Lauren Voswinkel, a transgender software developer based Pittsburgh. These hurdles to accessing information can make it even harder for transgender people to escape poverty.

That’s why she’s building Transgress, a tool that lets people bypass web filters to access sites about transgender issues and only transgender issues.

Full Story: Wired: How to Build a Kinder Web for the Transgender Community

ANTVR: A Virtual Reality Gadget That Anyone Can Hack

ANTVR virtual reality headset

In March 2012 I wrote:

We’ve had steampunk and dieselpunk and atompunk, so now it’s pixelpunk. We’re about to hit full circle and have retro-cyberpunk complete with VR headsets and Power Gloves.

Later that year Oculus did a Kickstarter for their virtual reality headset, which also happened to kickstart a new wave of VR kit. I just wrote about the latest one for Wired:

The designs for the ANTVR headset itself and its nifty convertible game controller are proprietary technology. But the designs and firmware for the wireless receiver–which sits between the headset, the controller, and the gaming console–are open source. That opens up a range of possibilities, such as creating custom controllers or using the ANTVR controller to control other devices.

For example, ANTVR co-founder Qin Zheng says you could write software for using ANTVR to control a Roomba vacuum cleaner robot, perhaps using the headset to watch the feed from the bot’s on-board camera. You could also make your own version of the receiver specifically designed to work with a game console or device not officially supported by ANTVR. “You can use the signal straight from the USB port,” Zheng says. “We will give the developer all the documentation and libraries.”

Full Story: Wired: A Virtual Reality Gadget That Anyone Can Hack

Still no Power Gloves, though…

Mutation Vectors 5/25/2014

Sorry I’m a little late with this one everyone, but there’s plenty of reading for you in this one…

Journalism

The long read of the week has to be Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations.” It’s so long, in fact, that I’m only about 40% of the way through it, but I’ve already learned a lot.

This week’s other “must read” of the week was, of course, Laurie Penny’s essay about Isla Vista killings . But the media event of the week for me was The Baffler‘s essay on neoreaction.

Elsewhere: by now you’ve probably heard of the rock star economist Thomas Piketty. Of course the right disgrees with his policy suggestions, but no one has quibbled with quality of his data research. Until this week, that is, when Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles claimed that Piketty made serious errors that undercut his work. But The Economist isn’t sure there are actually any errors in the data, and says that even if there are, they probably aren’t important enough to undermine Piketty’s conclusions.

This week in tech: Quinn Norton told us that everything is broken and I was like just wait until the Internet of Broken Things, and then Michael Rogers and Eleanor Saitta were like hey, we’re trying to fix it. Actually the chronology of that was competely different but you might as well read it in that order anyway.

I also read that in an alternate universe the Internet of Things debuted around 2001 in the form of a keychain thingy that connected you to your web portal of choice. Instead we got the Danger Hiptop (aka the T-Mobile Sidekick), one of the first smart phones on the market (I got one of the original models the day it came out. Long-time readers may remember me complaining about it). Fun aside: The founder of Danger, Andy Rubin, also founded Android which was acquired by Google and, well, you know the rest. Danger itself was acquired my Microsoft and became the basis of the doomed Kin.

And speaking of broken things, Wikipedia may also be broken, but historian Stephen W. Campbell has a plan to fix it.

This week in stuff from the depths of my Pocket: How Tyrants Endure, from the New York Times in 2011.

Music

Warning: if you have epilepsy or any other condition where rapid blinky things affect you do NOT watch this vid:

I’ve watched the new M.I.A. video almost every day this week. And if you thought I was done throwing stuff to read at you, you were wrong because here’s Adam Rothstein’s essay about the video.

Film

I finally saw the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary this week, which was amazing (just like Tim Maughan said). I also watched the Milius documentary, which is on Netflix, which was good but not quite amazing, but maybe that’s just because I’m comparing it to Dune.

Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism

I’m reluctant to write about , because the media needs to stop inspiring copycat murders and because of the amount of confusion and misreporting that surrounded the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.

But I think the issues Laurie Penny raises in her piece on the topic are worth discussing. Penny notes that this wouldn’t be the first time that a sexually frustrated man has used feminism as an excuse for a killing spree:

In 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lépine shot 28 people at the École Polytechnique in Quebec, Canada, claiming he was “fighting feminism”. Fourteen women died. In 2009, a 48-year-old man called George Sodini walked into a gym in the Pittsburgh area and shot 13 women, three of whom died. His digital manifesto was a lengthier version of Rodger’s, vowing vengeance against the female sex for refusing to provide him with pleasure and comfort. Online misogynists approved.

Up ’til now companies like Twitter haven’t taken seriously the threats and harassment that misogynist activists terrorize women with. Penny writes:

For the countless women and girls who have come to live with harassment as a daily cost of being in public and productive while female – let alone while feminist – the tragedy at Isla Vista has been a chilling wake-up call. I know I will never be able to tell myself in quite the same way that the men who link me to two-hundred-post threads about how I ought to be raped can’t actually hurt my body, no matter how much they savage my peace of mind.

We have been told for a long time that the best way to deal with this sort of harrassment and violence is to laugh it off. Women and girls and queer people have been told that online misogynists pose no real threat, even when they’re sharing intimate guides to how to destroy a woman’s self-esteem and force her into sexual submission. Well, now we have seen what the new ideology of misogyny looks like at its most extreme. We have seen incontrovertible evidence of real people being shot and killed in the name of that ideology, by a young man barely out of childhood himself who had been seduced into a disturbing cult of woman-hatred. Elliot Rodger was a victim – but not for the reasons he believed.

Full Story: New Statesmen: Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism

As to how much blame to place specifically on the “men’s rights activists” (MRA), “pick-up artists” (PUA) movements, I’m reminded of Leon Wieseltier writing about the idea ofcollective responsibility vs. individual responsibility in the case of Jewish and Islamic terrorism:

If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own.

I’d also like to echo Chip Berlet’s comments on Democracy Now following the murder of George Tiller in 2009:

I don’t think the issue here is urging the government to expand its repressive powers. I think that’s a mistake. I think what we have here are groups of criminals and criminal individuals who need to be pursued and prosecuted, as appropriate.

And I think it’s important to understand that, for many years, clinic violence was not treated with the same aggressive attention by the federal government and state governments as other forms of vandalism and violence. And I think that that’s because the anti-abortion movement has a very large political and religious constituency that makes it very difficult for state and federal officials to try and actually enforce the existing laws that they should be doing.

See also:

The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

The Baffler on Neoreactionaries

keanu

Corey Pein writes for The Baffler:

This plea for autocracy is the essence of Yarvin’s work. He has concluded that America’s problems come not from a deficit of democracy but from an excess of it—or, as Yarvin puts it, “chronic kinglessness.” Incredible as it sounds, absolute dictatorship may be the least objectionable tenet espoused by the Dark Enlightenment neoreactionaries.

Moldbug is the widely acknowledged lodestar of the movement, but he’s not the only leading figure. Another is Nick Land, a British former academic now living in Shanghai, where he writes admiringly of Chinese eugenics and the impending global reign of “autistic nerds, who alone are capable of participating effectively in the advanced technological processes that characterize the emerging economy.”

These imaginary übermensch have inspired a sprawling network of blogs, sub-Reddits and meetups aimed at spreading their views. Apart from their reverence for old-timey tyrants, they espouse a belief in “human biodiversity,” which is basically racism in a lab coat. This scientific-sounding euphemism invariably refers to supposed differences in intelligence across races. It is so spurious that the Wikipedia article on human biodiversity was deleted because, in the words of one editor, it is “purely an Internet theory.” Censored once again by The Cathedral, alas.

“I am not a white nationalist, but I do read white-nationalist blogs, and I’m not afraid to link to them . . . I am not exactly allergic to the stuff,” Yarvin writes. He also praises a blogger who advocated the deportation of Muslims and the closure of mosques as “probably the most imaginative and interesting right-wing writer on the planet.” Hectoring a Swarthmore history professor, Yarvin rhapsodizes on colonial rule in Southern Africa, and suggests that black people had it better under apartheid. “If you ask me to condemn [mass murderer] Anders Breivik, but adore Nelson Mandela, perhaps you have a mother you’d like to fuck,” Yarvin writes.

Full Story: The Baffler: Mouthbreathing Machiavellis Dream Of A Silicon Reich

(Thanks Paul)

See also: my article on neoreaction for TechCrunch.

Continue reading

© 2014 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑