David Garcia reflects on subcultures, Alt-s and the politics of transgression
Does the appropriation of transgressive cultural expressions and tactics by right-wing subcultures mean the end of the road for progressive and playful subcultures? In their conversation “Better Think Twice: Subcultures, Alt-s, and the Politics of Transgression” at transmediale 2018 face value, Florian Cramer and Angela Nagle discussed how this question is related to an excessive faith in the inherently progressive and left-wing character of subcultures as well as to a longer history of ambiguous youth, pop and experimental art practices. However, given today’s interaction between alternative and mainstream public spheres and political life, David Garcia’s response to the Cramer and Nagle discussion demonstrates that a “folk politics” of the Left can still matter.
The protagonist of this short story by Stewart Home trusts no one. Flush with capital from his cryptocurrency investments, he is finance-obsessed and disinterested in humanity. The story takes place only a few years from the present, but cryptofinance has already gone through many stages of evolution. The main character has used his crypto-winnings to buy a penthouse apartment in a behemoth London development called The Denizen. Home’s London has fallen under the shadow of such real estate projects, and his protagonist is the poster child for the dehumanization of rampant profit-making dependent on nothing but capital to create capital. When he suffers an accident and his finances tank, the unnamed investor takes vengeance.
Faisal Devji proposes an alternative to the politics of visibility
What is the best way to assemble meaning out of the mass of information available today? How can data be converted reliably into something like truth, when simply identifying misinformation can seem a Herculean task? Truth has come to mean different things according to different beliefs and agendas—for some, truth is what is most readily available on the surface, while for others, truth lies deep beneath all the numbers and opinions and must be laboriously unearthed. In this essay, Faisal Devji calls this condition “the simultaneous desire for and disenchantment with a life on the surface.” Devji argues that if the surface could be converted from the supposed site of visibility into “an arena for play and illusion,” new and more powerful kinds of meaning might be produced. Esotericism and skepticism, he says, could reinstate mystery in meaning, rather than the fetishization of either visibility or revelation.
Beginning with the figure of Roko’s Basilisk, a hypothetical vengeful future AI that emerged in online forums, Ana Teixeira Pinto launches her analysis of the psychological state engendered by online interaction that has led to a seemingly paradoxical set of views: totally paranoid yet ironically detached. Feelings of disenfranchisement coupled with the seeming omnipotence afforded by the internet, she suggests, have found symbolic form in apocalyptic fantasies. These delusions of quasi-magical and hyperstitious nature have coalesced into an ideology that is as religious as it is logical, despite its proponents’ insistence on the primacy of deductive reason. Faced with a series of double binds, she says, certain demographics will end up promoting “violence and sociopathy” in response to their own powerlessness, despite the information age’s promise of unbounded individual power.
Biometric technology is on the rise. Its applications are wide-ranging: facial scanning to replace passwords; iris recognition to replace debit cards; fingerprints to replace passports. Value is increasingly tied to faces, and faces have increasing value. Boaz Levin and Vera Tollmann, theorists and cofounders of the Research Center For Proxy Politics, explore the “token value” of identity resulting from such software and hardware, where one’s “digital identity and physical body become closely entangled” and one’s virtual proxy enters the political realm. Can the one-to-one relationship between self and proxy be skewed through forms of obfuscation? What will happen when the face on the screen looks back?
Stefan Heidenreich’s book recently published by Merve Verlag is titled Money(2017). What it presents is not exactly a polemic against money, but rather a convincing speculation that soon we may not need money at all. While the notion that currency might soon become obsolete sounds like science fiction to many, Heidenreich argues that we are likely already within the first phase of a media transition leading to that point. Given the complex information infrastructures that have already been developed for documenting transactions, tying consumer habits to identities, and accurately predicting future exchanges, the substructure of a new kind of economy is now in place. In excerpts from his book, Heidenreich explores the potential ways this system might function, based partially on sophisticated “matching” formulas, leading to an age that could be more fair and equitable, but that might also produce monopolization and co-option in entirely new ways.