Slaves of the Cyber-Market

Warning for the slavery of the market interview with Geert Lovink By Arnd Wesemann (Screen Multimedia 2/95) Also published on Ctheory:

Geert Lovink was involved with the Amsterdam newspaper mediamatic as well as the squatter’s-pirate radio station patapoe. In Germany he has become well-known in the scene as the author of various books as well as being a constitutive member of Adilkno (Agentur Bilwet)–along with Arjen Mulder and others.

Screen Multimedia: Is the future already over with?

Lovink: You can’t have the future every day. Our future is our neo-natural environment. It’s always already over with and we just missed it. The future isn’t some sort of projection room in two or three dimensions–which is why it’s not the case that, if we all work hard and that we’ll simply land in the future.

Screen Multimedia: So we’re already in the middle of the future?

Lovink: Square in the middle of the new media. Future and techno-culture are closely related. But it’s a drag that so much is projected on the new media in the techno-culture. As far as we’re concerned, the computer is a utensil prior to the future. The new technology comes out of old machines. To this extent the future has already happened. The new is junk left-over from research and military. All these machines are trash. It doesn’t matter whether someone is working with a computer that five years or a month old. In principle, we can only do the same things. The new computers are only quantitatively better–that is, faster or with more memory. The user shouldn’t give a damn about this more and this quicker. One should never enslave oneself to this market.

Screen Multimedia: Isn’t the future already laid out?

Lovink: The issue is rather whether computer-nets will become commercial or can free spaces continue to exist? Are there public spaces in the communication nets? How are they organized? The point is that they have to be shaped now and not in five or ten years. The inevitability of the computer should no more be allowed than letting television become a life necessity. Which is why it would be better–even if it’s no longer possible–not to be caught up in the computer-net. Only then can the new media offer a useful option. Everything else is coercion.

Screen Multimedia: Can a future without computer be imagined?

Lovink: It’s possible to be on-line without a computer–with the imagination, with drugs; this is no a hardware question. Finally it all boils down to exciting the senses. What does a four-color, 600-dpi picture do? It excites the senses. What is the computer? It simply has a whole bunch of technical ways of jiving up the senses.

Screen Multimedia: Does this radical media critique itself have a future?

Lovink: Of course. It’s important to carry out a radical criticism of media theory. To be sure, it could be argued that we already have all of that behind us–as if we should simply abandon ourselves to technological optimism and try to realize everything imaginable immediately. But the critical aspect is quite interesting. The way of dealing with media in the 80s, a lot of muttering and grumbling only to arrive at flat rejection, is over and done, finito. There will now be a media-criticism that is finally informed, and which, insofar as this criticism will take place in the nets, will finally be part of the new media themselves.

Screen Multimedia: What is the role of their content? Lovink: If you try to analyze media through its content, you’re lost. The only tenable position that approach permits is cultural pessimism: only the old media were right; the book is the only correct medium, because it’s the only one that can transport content all by itself. We reject this. For us, media are all media; for the new media incorporate all the others, admitting and tying them together. Contents should be judged solely according to contents and not be reduced to material vehicles. Information can assume every conceivable form. The conversation we’re carrying on here could become a dramatic piece, a file dropped in the net, a radio program, or even a multi-media artwork. It doesn’t matter.

Screen Multimedia: Is the future an electronic global village?

Lovink: It must be seen that there’s an enormous variety, even in the technoculture–but all this rap about the global village is bull-shit. We’ll never all watch the same films or the same programs or even be caught up in the same nets. The net is also the Tower of Babel, gobbling in hundreds of tongues. It’s technically possible to communicate with Japan, but the question is whether we understand the Japanese or whether the Japanese are interested in communicating with us, and whether it’s useful for either of us. One should not think that the computer-net is a better world. Such media are parodies of the real; researching them is hard work for the datadandy. On the average he spends an eight-hour day in front of the box and the newspaper. Which is why it’s obvious that to be a media consumer you have to be out of work.