Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another comment on another post. "All Tech is Social", by Claude S Fischer
If all tech is social then bureaucracy is cool; but it's not, is it?
Tech is neither social or asocial; it's inanimate. Tech-fetishists however are asoclal. Tell me about the social life of techs and I'll point you to Gambetta's Engineers of Jihad or Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France 1753-1815   
People who are really into printing presses aren't so interested in words. Every word has many meanings, and numbers by comparison are simple; I think you'll see where that leads cause it's led there already. 
It's techs who argue for the end of print; they're happy with the socialism of termites and bees. It's up to others to find a way to do something interesting with the crap they design. And to do something interesting  is to find a way to use it to slow things down, to return to the ambiguities of language that techs themselves abhor.
Techs and philosophers, Modernists and sociologists. Deleuze liked to refer to Borges, the reactionary anti-storyteller, the self-hating writer of fictions, the impotent nihilist. Still, all of it describes a return to narrative, to communication the only way it's possible, as subjectivities and common forms. Tech isn't social; the social is social (another comment at the Boston Review). But that relates to Fischer's post, so here we go again. Another comment, a bit sloppy
I should have added this before, in reference to the increase in social activity:
Simon Waxman, "Market Basket's Fair Deal" on this site. I posted two links in comments. 
Yes, there is a return to the social, but it's got nothing to do with tech except the way we see it. Modernism and the idealism it carried are dead. Ideological individualism is fading as a model of justice. The question is whether what follows is feudalism, individualism without idealism, or democracy.  
Science sees the individual and the individual act or event as valuable only as an aspect of the aggregate. The average is "truth" which is transposed to the ideal. Measuring to the mean puts downward pressure on the mean. Objectivity becomes passivity, exemplified here. If you want to defend tech as such, then defend the fact that Buzzfeed is now valued at more than three times the value of the Washington Post. But journalism high and low is thriving; it's the earnest complacent middlebrow that's fading, in journalism as elsewhere, inside and outside the academy.  The model of objectivity has faded; subjectivism is atomism and barbarism. Free debate is not social idea it's social form: collective by definition, not command. It requires both commitment to your own opinion and to the form of debate itself; to victory and the rules of the game. Pedantry is not a model for adulthood. Adults need to be able to contradict themselves and shrug. 
If you want to understand the rise of the social you need to understand not just that the humanities are dying as an academic subject but why, and why those things the humanities study and claim to elevate are thriving.  When The Name of the Rose came out I recognized it immediately as an allegory of the death of Modernism and of the bureaucratic academy, and of the rebirth of Humanism, in its original sense. As someone who grew up hating Tolkien and Tolkienism, the culture of fantasy and fantasy games, of overgrown preadolescence (Borges for the more happily sexless) it's interesting to think that the success of the Harry Potter books has less to do with fantasy, games and tricks, good and evil, the binaries beloved by geeks than that they seem to be an articulate description of the problems of people, of adults and children. Magic's not the central theme it's a McGuffin. By comparison you could do a good study of the shared literary and philosophical weaknesses of Tolkien and Rawls.

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