[FoRK] More JB Inflaming

Rob van Kranenburg <kranenbu at xs4all.nl> on Sat Mar 29 05:07:42 PDT 2008

Hi Owen and all,

Because I fear you're going to get a wrong idea on Holland as some kind 
of liberal country, well it is not anymore. Here's the intro to an essay 
I'm writing, hope it makes sense to post it here, otherwise delete quickly,

Breakdown Everyday People
Renegociating the balance between citizens, things and the state

Until we find a way to communicate effectively in these questions, 
silence remains 'the option' which is really no option at all, except 
- brian

1. Introduction

In this essay I argue that unless we challenge the seamlessness of 
ubiquitous computing slash ambient intelligence the dissolution of the 
national states in Western Europe that will effectuate itself in the 
coming decade will lead to major breakdown in everyday life and local 
relations; civil war. In order to avoid this breakdown the only option 
for technologies that outsource their interfaces and inner workings to 
an invisible background is to turn noise, criticism and critical 
feedback into more rules and control mechanisms that are hidden in the 

We are at a crossroads where artists and designers are not only 
increasingly taking control over the very principles and materiality of 
the 'networkwaves', but also are more determined to make local 
applications for everyday use. The convergence of highend EU projects 
like Haggle - opportunistic computing top down - and citizen designed 
networks like Hivenetworks - opportunistic computing bottom up- is 
becoming real in its technological and scaling aspects. According to 
Alexei Blinov (Hivesnetwork.net) a project is to “liberate embedded 
computers for artistic use”, we can now see the network as a content 
structure Ie “no longer only a connectivity structure through which 
access to the global internet is facilitated”.

Manifestly all around, the notion of breakdown is currently argued 
economically through the financial US mortgage crash, and culturally 
through the evergrowing tensions between muslim and non muslim 
populations in European cities. This essay posits that underlying these 
notions of breakdown is the unique and unforeseen global boost in 
individual agency that the internet; and more specifically the web 
(Mosaic, 1993) and mobile communications (Motorola DynaTAC, 1983) has 
facilitated. In between the formal structures of policy and 
institutational directive powers and the messyness of our everyday lives 
filled with serendipity, coincidence, luck and trouble that is very much 
ours – mine – we find a space growing with unstructured initiatives that 
come and go rapidly, numerous online social networks that stretch out 
into services in immediate practices (job searching through Linked in 
for example), networks emerging through specific local events (is the 
tree that Anne Frank looked at, really sick? ), political movements 
build on company structures, not structured as a political party (LTd 
Favorita, Rita Verdonk), medical tourism based on cheap flights and the 
internet as an online pharmacy . Institutions as such are rapidly losing 
their authority, witness the decision of the cycling teams to chose the 
side of ASO – Tour de France- over the International Cycling Federation 
UCI, as a group of concerned citizens near Schiphol Airport set up their 
own sound sensor network (geluidsnet.nl), and for the first time in 
parlementary history the editors of the Belgian newpapers can not find 
one picture in which all new excellencies are looking straight at the 
camera. They are either chatting to neighbours or gazing about.

As individuals explore the connectivity offered to them and the 
opportunities to organize and structure their activities with both local 
and global contacts, friends and acquiantances, they question the 
quality and kind of solidarities that have been slowly and painstakingly 
negociated by western democracies. In this essay I will argue that this 
individual agency unchecked by a moral consciousness or a deep need to 
declare economic, social and cultural solidarity will eventually break 
with the hardcoded solidarities that are inscribed in the state; namely 
paying taxes.

In the last century Europe has engendered and suffered from two major 
world wars. From Robert Schuman’s first conceptual attempts in the early 
fifties to the current debate on the Treaty of Lisbon, the European 
states have outsourced, privatized and sold a large number of hard 
possessions such as gold and land, have left an overwhelming majority of 
their core tasks to the open market, and have by default given up their 
national financial autonomies ( for the euro) as well as their their 
ability to make legislation within their boundaries (over 80% of all law 
and legislation in the Netherlands for example, or any EU country stems 
from Brussels). European poets and politicians have always been aware of 
the rhetorical importance that accompanies implementing ideas. Alphonse 
de Lamartine’s keyword, of which he never tires, is peace:

“The people and the revolution are one and the same. When they entered 
upon the revolution, the people brought with them their new wants of 
labour, industry, instruction, agriculture, commerce, morality, welfare, 
property, cheap living, navigation, and civilisation. All these are the 
wants of peace. The people and peace are but one word.”

Now, in 2008 too the people bring with them their new wants of labour, 
industry, instruction, agriculture, commerce, morality, welfare, 
property, cheap living, navigation, and civilisation. Little has changed 
in human needs in 300 years in living alone and living together in 
families, communities, regions, nations and united nations. But the 
keyword has. It is not peace that seems to drive us. We too have “Fifty 
years of the freedom of thought, speech, and writing,” after WW II 
engulfed Europe. But what has it produced? Have “books, journals, and 
the internet accomplished that apostolic mission of European 
intelligence, reason?” No. It has produced fear. Now this argument is 
not new. Many people have claimed it and will remain to do so. The point 
in this essay is not that there is too much surveillance, to much focus 
on security, the point is that with technologies such as RFID, and 
synthetic bio inspired intelligent information interfaces, and visions 
of computing such as pervasive computing, ubicomp, disappearing 
computer, things that think, ambient intelligence, digital territory, we 
are entering a new world. Not ‘just’ a hybrid one, not one that we can 
hope to deduct from what we know now of our analogue and our digital 
connectivities, no a new territory. In this territory identies such as 
we have will lose control of their own agency inspired contexts, 
scenarios and planning. With such distributed technology such as RFID, 
readers will be everywhere, reading out all the unique numbers in your 
immediate body sphere (clothes, groceries, bags, relatives) from a range 
of 3,3 meters in Europe and 9 in the Unites States. Data mining ensures 
that unique numbers of goods can and will eventually be linked to our 
identities. This then is the decisive moment of moving into the 21th 
century; not the cameras as such, not the disciplining design that 
scripts our bodily movements into even narrower circles and boundaries, 
not the convergence of macro, meso and micro levels of technological 
surveillance and control (from satellite, RFID to smart dust), but the 
awakening of our environment as a personage, as a dramatis personae, and 
a very smart one at that.

Antoio Gramsci had a word to express a situation in which the forces in 
conflict balance each other in a catastrophic manner, Ceasarism:

"does not in all cases have the same historical significance . There can 
be both progressive and reactionary forms of Ceasarism; the exact 
significance of each form can, in the last analysis, be reconstructed 
only through concrete history, and not by means of any sociological rule 
of thumb. Ceasarism is progressive when its intervention helps the 
progressive force to triumph, albeit with its victory tempered by 
certain compromise and limitations. It is reactionary when its 
intervention helps the reactionary force to triumph, in this case too 
with certain compromises and limitations, which have however, a 
different value, extent and significance than in the former."

It is inevitable that the state as a national entity will disappear. It 
has made itself redundant in order to make way for a supranational 
entity, Europe, but has not foreseen that individuals have gained an 
individual agency that allows themselves to organize their everyday 
activities themselves. Realizing it loses authority with every new 
manifestation of semi organized networks,/ it resorts to 
enduserdisciplining on a massive scale, thereby reassuring itself of 
itself as state, as a particular historical form of organization./

As we shall see in the discussion on ambient intelligence, it is the 
very nature of techné that demands that this form of organization should 
endure, as by outsourcing their ability to master the hardware and the 
infrastructure of their comfort technologies to ‘the environment’, 
citizens who may be able to map their own street infrastructures, energy 
supplies, pollution levels, cannot make these infrastructures, thus 
setting forth and positioning the state as the provider of the stability 
of ambient functionalies and performativity. Ambient Techné demands 
stability. As the interfaces have disappeared, citizens must trust 
whatever it is that is running in the background. This background is not 
disinterested. It is an amalgam of industrial and state interests. It 
favours a quiet, silent world. Even more, this frozen world is the sine 
qua non of its other; the seemingly dynamic, playful world of locative 
media and models where citizens can map, blog, and play their serious 

As democracy quietly slips into totalitarianism, forged by her own 
dependence on ambient techné, individual citizens realize that old 
comforting solidarities are being broken, and they are the first to 
react. In the Netherlands they either leave the cities for the 
countryside, or the leave the country altogether. More Dutch citizens 
are leaving Holland, then Poles are leaving Poland. Emigration Monitor 
2007 shows Holland topping the list of countries in Europe in which more 
people leave then immigrate into. These isolated yet related events of 
individual citizens will eventually only strengthen the last moments of 
the state as, unsure about the underlying reasons, a real anti-movement 
can not begin to articulate itself as a movement on a national level, 
only as disappointed individuals. Resulting in the Ceasarist moment of 
either facilitating the state in securing peace and institutional 
performance through ever more technologies of control out of fear of 
violence, the breakdown into gangs and city states, or attempting to 
forge a renewed national solidarity among frustrated and culturally 
divided citizens. In Supercapitalism (2007) Robert Reich argues that we 
are all heading towards a Chinese authoritarian capitalism model if we 
do not strengthen the state, but why should citizens finance their own 
subjugation to a state that outsources its agency to a corporate logic, 
that is in Reich’s own words ‘disinterested’?

The question then is if a third option. Is it possible to opt out of the 
national boundaries of the state while still retaining an agency over 
the infrastructures of technology? Is it possible to declare one’s own 
solidarities with both local and global friends and situations? What 
would a group look like that could build a transnational common story, 
beyond national states, beyond religious beliefs, beyond cultural 

In chapter four the conditions for such a light community (term by Menno 
Hurenkamp) will be sketched, in an analysis of a recent initiative, 
bricolabs, which aims to become a global platform to investigate the new 
loop of open content, software and hardware for generic infrastructures. 
First I will investigate rfid and ambient intelligence in the framework 
of techné. The second chapter explores our changing notions of ‘thing’. 
Chapter three deals with the notion of generic infrastructures.


Greetings! Rob

Owen Byrne schreef:
> Seen this morning
> Owen
> http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=6d6cc84a-6f9d-4ece-ab51-d809380762be 
> No smoking ... except for cannabis
> Canwest News Service
> Published: Friday, March 28, 2008
> BRUSSELS - Cannabis will be exempt from a Dutch smoking ban that comes 
> into force in two months.
> Restrictions on smokers in cafes and restaurants will not apply as 
> long as cannabis is consumed neat, without tobacco. The exemption 
> follows fears that many of Amsterdam's lucrative "coffee shops" would 
> be forced to close if soft drug users had to smoke elsewhere.
> Liberal Dutch policies, introduced in 1972, on the sale and use of 
> cannabis have generated a trade valued at more than $6.1 billion Cdn a 
> year. The coffee shops, which draw millions of tourists each year, 
> allow users to buy cannabis over the counter and smoke it without fear 
> of arrest.
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