Theory of the Update – Updating Theory

Running updates is an integral part of our technological culture. It is considered a necessary evil. Not downloading the patches would be suicidal. In contemporary theory production this practice has not yet been introduced. Within the humanities and the arts wikis remain underutilized. Theory is still considered a terrain of the sole author who contemplates the world, preferably offline, surrounded by a pile of books, a fountain pen and a notebook. This is of course a caricature, but where exactly should one locate the obstacle? Apart from a text having different versions before it is published, writers do not take out bugs or flaws after publishing the text even tough word processing and online text editing has become so easy. Instead of updating old texts, the consensus says, it is better to come with something new altogether. This not only satisfies producers and users; newness is what the market demands.

Radio maker and programmer Alexander Klosch from Weimar led me to the difference between updating and upgrading. Wikipedia continuously upgrades and downgrades its articles. Whereas updating has a time element, upgrading usually refers to quality and status. A change does not by definition result in an improvement or a disqualification. According to Alexander Klosch the update is best placed in collaborative work. A single maintainer is often overstreched, keeping a complex structure up-to-date. This is where a community or smaller group of maintainers comes into play. So far, online platforms are rarely used to create—and change—theoretical concepts. Theory books rarely make it to a next print run, let alone being rewritten for a second edition. Outdated theories, so the common belief, are hard to use, have bugs and limitations and can only be read under the rubric of history. In the Change Society in which we’re stuck, yesterday’s concept are not just worn out, they are by definition wrong while already deconstructed at the time of their release.
PS. Exception would be the Oekunux-related Open Theory project. Are there others?