Theories of List Evolution (1)

> Date: Wed, wazzu 20 May 1998 a 21:52:01 
> From: cubicubicubic 
> Subject: CyberArcheology Part 2 (Long - but Definitely on Topic!)
> ... Programmers come and go; the core group that once understood
> the issues has written its code and moved on; new programmers have come,
> left their bit of understanding in the code and moved on in turn.
> Eventually, no one individual or group knows the full range of the problem
> behind the program, the solutions we chose, the ones we rejected and why.
> Over time, the only representation of the original knowledge becomes the
> code itself, which by now is something we can run but not exactly
> understand. It has become a process, something we can operate but no longer
> rethink deeply...

Dissenting from Stephan's power-struggle theory, the revival of the split-list issue reminded me of this: the turnover may seem remarkably short, but doesnt the `CM problem' fit the same mold? Once upon a time, we (the list) understood the need to keep the `levels of discourse' integrated, but, `in turn,' our (the list's) successive representations/ transmogrifications see that the code runs but [we] don't exactly understand why.

This leads to the question, What code is there to be understood/ rediscovered? I take this to mean, What criteria exist to distinguish chat from theory as those categories are *presently* understood? One characteristic may be sufficient here: chat is *responsive*; threads go on (interminably), while anything that even whiffs of theory is left to itself, as a work of art, perhaps, but more like a tomato on an abandoned vine.

Rather than seek an ex-machina, not to say modernist, solution where no problem yet exists, then, why don't we, as a single list, exert ourselves just a little to at least acknowledge posts, even if `serious' criticism is beyond us? We dont have to be professional theoreticians to practice a little consideration of the issues such as Cyberarcheology, to accept such offerings as part of the dialog rather than some wierd kind of TVshow that just doesnt happen to be what one wants to watch. The fact that even the responses to Alan's broaching the topic were almost all in the `I like/ don't like it' vein suggests that we fall a trifle short of our own claim that everything is grist for the Cybermental mill - does no one wonder why such a question arises in cyberspace? Is there no space in which to take up an issue as such - e.g. topicality, or list-management, or why one should expect to `vote' on it nevertheless? We poormouth backchannelling, but how is it different from an ad-hoc list, which any group of c-mentalists can create and manage quite easily?

I dont say we all have to be sworn post-modernists here, but if mutiplicity and openness (Hi Eldon!) have any existential meaning whatsoever, it seems to me that integration has to be equally a part of the picture. If `intellectualism' is alien to you, if you feel you just cant get along with those folks, even to openly exhibit your ignorance and thus learn something, you might nevertheless notice that chat among pure equals, when strictly segregated in a list-reserve or barroom of its own, is a pitifully thin excuse for conversation. The code, in short, is one of cosmopolitanism - dangerous stuff.

Interview with Allucquere Rosanne Stone ²

JL: And what I see now in the gender-bender thing is that people are
trying to strip those layers away and see what's really there.

ARS: Uh-huh. And that's really _dangerous._ It's dangerous because, the way power structures work, it really scares people.

PXN: The analogy is with LSD two decades ago. It seems directly connected, because again you're stripping away the reality filters, and the whole power structure is coming down, and realizing that people won't necessarily that a conscious idea or movement now? Something that people ought to look out for? Learning from the mistakes of the past?

ARS: Yes, well, politically, acid was much more dangerous, first of all, because it really stripped you down to the bone.

JL: You were hacking perception there, and you were hacking reality.

PXN: Yours or everybody else's?

JL: Well, maybe everybody else's, too. We're all one, and when you start hacking your own reality, you're hacking everybody's reality, in a sense, at least. One thing about the hacker spirit that makes it dangerous is that it doesn't always think about consequences or it doesn't alway know to be careful. ARS: Tim Leary was onto this very early, and from a political point of view doing it with chemicals was very dangerous. People are doing minority discourse and queer theory from a similar standpoint to what Tim Leary was doing, pointing out that what we call reality is somebody's construction, and that it isn't always our construction of choice. Hmm...Looking to Tim Leary for one of the origins of minority discourse...that's like looking to Marshall McLuhan for the origin of multimedia, except I can't imagine Woody Allen pulling Tim Leary out of a line at a movie theatre....

JL: I don't know, I could. To buy a tab of acid from him.

PXN: People online are talking about multiplicity, and it strikes me that the issue of interface is something we really have to struggle with. Are people looking beyond interface now, and getting into inner experience? Is that why you started talking about multiplicity?

ARS: I think that people are beginning to realize that the definition of interface that we grew up with, like a GUI, is way too narrow to contain what's actually going on. You can look at interface, first of all, as anything across which agency changes form, and that's a better way to look at it. An even better way to look at it is that an interface is that thing which mediates between a body and an associated subjectivity, an associated person. But it doesn't have to be this body and this person, it can be this body and some other person. It's the thing which provides some link between those two things, wherever they are....


(1) Copyright (c) 1993, 1995 by Jon Lebkowsky, Paco Xander Nathan and Allucquere Rosanne Stone. "This is the [ version] that MONDO 2000 didn't publish."

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