Autonomy Design

From Hope and Fear Set Free

An Homage to (Isaiah) Berlin

After the long awaited liberation of collective mediocrity, an existential void opens itself. Vast landscapes of possibilities present themselves. Problems are suddenly no longer perceived as technical. The art of becoming singular reveals itself. Creative governance of the Self opens up liberty zones beyond the edges of the well-known networks. There is a resurrection against the arbitrary invasion from market forces, corporate brands, oppressive fashions and other orchestrated peer group pressures. Let’s imagine a twenty-first century free of spectacle and bureaucracy. Sounds impossible? Why wait? Don’t let business-gurus and other former dotcom visionaries claim the Future on your behalf. The future is what happens, no matter what. Be prepared to implement your personal anti-cyclical policies against events imposed on you. It is time to go autonomous.

Now that you have embarked on a timeless journey to the Uncommon, it is good to play with Destiny. Redesign yourself in a radical encounter with your techno-alien Other. Unwire the desperation of a positive and rational life. The rebellion against the soulless environments, traditional or modern, real or virtual has started. It is no longer cool to be cool. Cultural diversity has been contained — and so has the street and bedroom culture of youngsters. Today’s mooks and midriffs are closely monitored model consumers. They have no life outside of the spreadsheets of the media managers. As an answer to this structural violence of market forces ironic and subversive strategies have exhausted themselves and can be replaced by intimate forms of acting.

Enter a world free of resentment and rumors, full of untold stories, surprising designs and utopian poetics. Circumvent the bored spectacle and its agents. Free yourself from contemporary forms of slavery. We don’t need entertainment. You are not casually determined to consume your self-image defined by others. The more you study the nature of virtuality the better you will understand today’s dilemmas and paradoxes. The laws of mediation cannot easily be ridiculed. Instead it might be better to take technology into your own hands. Get ready for a rocky ride. There are no linear developments. The world is an amazingly interactive, cybernetic — and dialectic — opportunity. The spin doctors behind the powers-to-be cannot deal with the contradictory nature of events. So let’s drag them further into the swamp of complexity. But remember, knowledge and wisdom will not bring you any closer to freedom. Ideas are weapons that can easily backfire, also if you refrain from taking any action. European philosophers can’t tell you what freedom is. They will only teach you the higher knowledge of its limitations. It might therefore be good to switch your reference system for a while.

To be autonomous is to be able to make an unforced choice. Shape your independence of corporate capitalism and its manufactured desires. Overcome the vast impersonal forces. Autonomy is not something which can be learned from a manual. Is it not even a value that should be propagated. Every effort to sell autonomy as a lifestyle solution will be doomed to fail and only corrupts its antagonists. It is therefore important to ignore those who preach liberty and start practicing it. Just do not let capitalist libertarians or some Extropians define what liberty is. Claim the concept and put it in your toolbox.

During your transformations to become alien, the inherent tendency to deny the world may backfire on you. It is all about a life — a gentle, aesthetic and ecstatic way. Autonomy is not a right that can be obtained but one that has to be taken and should be defined in negative terms. Autonomy is a sudden and intense realization that a world free of power is possible.

What is autonomy today? It is no longer related to the heroism of some Italian sub-proletarian unemployed, black leather street fighters or a 70’s feminist faction. Autonomy as defined here would be the will to break out of the sticky and dusty (digital) networks. Autonomous desire grows out of a disgust with the media, art and design bohemia and its cheap flirtations with the dead market of cool pop culture. Perhaps autonomy lies in the opportunity not to become like you or me, or any known person. Self-determination is not about the construction of this or that identity. Rather it is a passionate search for the non-identical.

Compassionate autonomists, diverge.

Geert Lovink for NL-Design