Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

WFS Re-Post

I've re-posted a very slightly edited version of the Techbro Mythopoetics essay over at the World Future Society.


D. Ghirlandaio said...

I was thinking of ways to be as clear as possible, quick but not "gnomic", and since you're reposted the post elsewhere, I'll take the opportunity.

Your arguments are with futurist utopians, but you're a futurist. My argument is with speculation itself as opposed to observation. Futurists oppose historians, not by studying the future since its impossible but by speculating about it, following and seeing justification in other older forms of speculation, of ideas philosophy and theology all concerned through reason with a search for "truth", an effort historically opposed to the arts and fiction, an opposition beginning with Plato and Moses v Aron. Fine art later developed a relation to philosophy through its connection to the Church and to power, producing images claimed to represent truth and later doubling as expensive objects. To this day the art world is full of discussion of philosophy, even as its relation to power continues. Hence the absurdity of Badiou at the boutique and Ranciere at Frieze, alongside Sotheby's. October, name included, has no parallel in strictly literary journals. Fiction, story-teling is put in another category. Modern art was seen as opposed to fiction. Various forms of modernism were opposed to both fiction and history. "History is like foreign travel. It broadens the mind, but it does not deepen it." That's Descartes, exhibiting the most dangerous delusions of modernity. Speculative fiction however is fiction licensed by high purpose. It's the fiction of intent, which is both politically and artistically risky, since propaganda is considered usually an artistic failure. Very few people go to the Louvre to see monarchist and Christian propaganda. They go in spite of what the work was once supposed to be. The same with Warhol. His best work is tragic, but he'd never say that. Scalia's reading of the intentions of the past, denying interpretation, parallels liberals speculative assumptions for future readership. To say "they said what they meant" is as fallacious as "I mean what I say." Everything we do is interpreted by strangers. The world is the theater of Rashomon, but also a game of Telephone.

Below, two quotes on one topic. The first is yours. The second is John Mortimer.

-"Rhetoric is the facilitation of efficacious discourse and inquiry into the terms on the basis of which discourse comes to seem efficacious or not. Historically, rhetoric has taken the figurative as seriously as the literal, insists on the occasional and situated character of intelligible and forceful agency, and recognizes the passionate character of speech."

-“Doing these cases I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying. I was no longer entirely what my professional duties demanded, the old taxi on the rank waiting for the client to open the door and give his instruction, prepared to drive off in any direction, with the disbelief suspended.”

The quote is reference to cases he cared about, The Sex Pistols and Wole Soyinka, as opposed to his usual diet of thieves and murderers. He was an empiricist and a humanist, paying more attention to observation than to speculation and fantasy. He was a lawyer, popular novelist, playwright and screenwriter, a champagne socialist, society party goer, a bisexual, and an honorable skirt-chaser. And he's the best answer I can think of to the indulgences of theory and philosophy, of every sort.

The last 300 years record the failures of speculative intelligence, leaving desolation its wake. We need a return to empiricism, not as theory but lived practice.

Dale Carrico said...

The two quotes of which mine is one don't say the same things at all. Indeed, a facilitation of efficacious discourse (a term as pluralizing as there are indefinitely many effects), which includes an interminable inquiry into that very term is quite directly at odds with the spirit to which you mean to assimilate it.

You accuse me of indulging in futurism while critiquing it. All the big boys make such moves, I don't think less of you for trying it. I have heard what you have to say so far, and I must say it seems to me you are baldly wrong to say this, and that believing it sends you off-track.

But of course I'm open to your case, I definitely don't have all the answers and I enjoy having my mind changed. You will want to make an actual case, though, a few paragraph of name-dropping where each name is a placeholder for a whole set of arguments you don't let anybody quite in on won't do. And don't kid yourself: it's because there are more things than one to say about each of your placeholders not because nobody knows the figures to which you allude that confusion is happening here. You need to define your terms, identify the assumptions and aspirations you think my anti-futurological critique shares with the futurologists I critique, expose the limitations that presumably arise from this, and so on.

What I mean by futurism has its origins in specific institutional histories and discursive practices: namely, the emergence of fraudulent methodologies/ rationales of speculation in market futures and the extrapolative genre of the scenario in military think-tanks -- all taking place in the wider context of the suffusion of public deliberation and culture with the hyperbolic and deceptive techno-progressive norms and forms of consumer advertizing.

Dale Carrico said...

By the way, I can be plenty gnomic myself, believe me. That is to say, I understand where you are coming from when you try to telescope a complex case with placeholders. To give you a sense of where I am coming from and to give you a sense of what I am hearing when you say "modernity" and how I might try to take us elsewhere with futurity-against-futurology, I provide this handy sketch:

To the extent that post-modernity (or whatever) is the post-ww1/2 inflation of the petrochemical bubble in which other financial bubbles are blown, my anti-futurology is of a piece with Lyotard's (whatever my differences with him, of which I have many, he makes some of the same warnings). To the extent that futurism markets elite-incumbency as progress, my anti-futurology is also of a piece with some of Debord's critique of the spectacle (the parts about "enhanced survival" in particular), specifically to the extent that Debor's being degraded into having degraded into appearing proposal derives from Adorno's culture industrialization/formula-filling and Benjamin's War Machine in the epilogue of Art in the Age.

Your emphasis seems more attuned to aesthetic modernities, so the larger context for me is the proposal that between the bookends of 30-years wars (from Westphalia to Bretton Woods) European modernity indulged in a host of quarrels des anciens et des modernes, culture wars presiding over and rationalizing the ongoing organization of social militarization/ administration of nation-states systems and their competitive internationalism.

"The Future" of futurisms is my sense arises out of those discourses (design discourses are especially exemplary for me, for example, since they are patently futurological, but still quite modern in what I think is your sense of the term) but futurological global/digital rationality is for me at once a vestige of modern internationalism and a harbinger of post-nationalist planetarity.

Planetarity is a term I am taking from Spivak, and my sense of where we are headed -- if anywhere -- is informed by queer/critical race/post-colonial/environmental justice theories like hers. In my various theory courses I usually advocate in my final lecture (the one with the final warnings and visions in it) for a polycultural planetarity -- where "polyculture" resonates with Paul Gilroy's post-Fanonian convivial multiculturalism as well as with the repudiation of industrial monoculture for companion planting practices in the service of sustainability in permaculture/agroforestry models of ecology, and then planetarity marks the failure/ eclipse of nation-state internationalism/UN-IMF-World Bank globalization in digital financialization, fraud, marketing harassment, and surveillance and ecological catastrophe and builds ethics as contingent universalization (from my training with Judoth Butler) in the future anterior (a Spivakian understanding of culture as interpretation practices toward practical conviviality).

I suspect you might be tempted to assimilate all that feminist/queer/posthumanrace theoretical complex to the categories you already know -- forgive me if I have jumped to conclusions in so saying -- but I think that would be an error, more an effort to dismiss and hence not have to read the work than think what we are doing as Hannah Arendt enjoined, the call I hear every day that keeps me going.