I used to work in the theatre, and to teach it – now they were great days, as they say! Teaching theatre is completely different to anything else – simply because learning is embodied in a very different way (no one seems to care too much about marks for one thing – either it’s too much fun or there’s too much as stake – performance is not the abstract kind of constricted non-performance of performativity). This is by way of introducing the truism that you have to get involved with things to really understand them.
So the last couple of weeks – since I’ve finally had time to do a few things I’ve wanted to – I’ve been engaging with new media differently. I’ve started blogging more. I’ve realized quickly how relational it is – primarily via the generous welcome to the blog world by N Pepperell at Rough theory. I also read blogs very differently when involved. I’ve realized that the level of discussion in blogs is in fact very high – much higher (for academics) than many other contexts one could name. It’s hard to really realize this until you understand how complex a dialogue it is, even if in parallel. I already read a lot of blogs before, but now I’m beginning to realize what a different and complex mode of being it is – socially much more than technically.
Strangely enough, there was also a sudden migration of a lot of my friends to Facebook this week. I’ve long avoided MySpace and so on (although I’ve been using Last.fm, YouTube and Flickr for a while). For one thing, a lot of the lists I’ve been on have been immersed in long debates about all that’s wrong with web 2.0 (see especially the wonderful Institute for Distributed Creativity – Trebor Scholz is one of the most informed and articulate on these issues – and I can’t wait to get The Art of Free Cooperation, published by Trebor and Geert Lovink). Of course, there is a lot to this criticism, especially concerning precarity, but it’s also, as nearly all the critics point out, pretty hard to just step outside the system – and more interesting are the moves in different directions in any case. In any case, my very brief take on this is that there’s much more to cognitive labour, a la Virno‘s description in Grammar of the Multitudes (which I’ve discussed here) than sociable media (the previously mentioned culture of performance in what I call a politics of cognitive models – maybe another post). I guess that I mean there are worse systems of precarity and cognitive exploitation that give very little back to the user/used, although this doesn’t mean we can’t work to make more things open source, and to make sociable media genuinely sociable. In the meantime, in the face of peer pressure, I signed up for Facebook so yet another enterprise could skim my lifestyle profile. We’ll see how long it lasts but I must say I was surprised by how many people I know there, and how active they all are. More surprising was the sudden migration itself, a kind of wave – a sudden instance of a change in resonance in Larval Subject’s subtle and very useful discussion of the term.
Makes my previous discussion about new forms of embodiment in relation to networks and computers more relevant – to myself!
The final instance of this – since I couldn’t go to the Documenta12 publishing week, I’ve been getting involved online. This has been great really. I’ve read papers, listened to podcasts and blogged here and also here (the latter on OpenMute). Of course, the problem is that I’ve also seen the pictures of everyone sitting around drinking beer.
I guess it’s not a question of distribution versus presence. It’s rather a question of a lot different forms of distribution involving different kinds of presence – from the publishing and distribution of blogs to the “publishing and distribution” of beer.