A Fundamental Negation

A faithful DP reader in Prague has guided us towards the 1984 essay by Vaclav Havel, Politics and Conscience. Worth a careful read in its entirety, the heart of the essay — its “values and imperatives” — is excerpted below with italics added by DP for emphasis, and with images borrowed from Sanja Ivekovic’s 1982 video, Practice Makes A Master.

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We Are the Centuries

Rebecca Gordon prompted us to re-read a book we may have treated unfairly in past years, Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, a book whose meticulous dissection of various bodies within moral philosophy we now find both profoundly revealing regarding what ails us during this period of cultural darkness, and instructive with regards to that vexing question of what is to be done, “the engagement of plain persons”.

We will likely return to this careful yet distinctly revolutionary text often in months to come; for the moment we offer a brief passage from the preface (with images interjected by DP):

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THE WOUNDED ANGEL

THE WOUNDED ANGEL

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PORTAL FOR REGENERATION

PORTAL FOR REGENERATION: NOT FOR GODOT

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We find the texts lodged within the above text equally as illuminating, beginning with —–

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…. and closing with this absolutely electrifying passage from the Canticle for Leibowitz:

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The Tortured Body

Today we call your attention to an extraordinary essay written by the brave and brilliant Rebecca Gordon, in which she explores the implications of William Cavanaugh’s profound claim in Torture and Eucharist, that the state’s habitual practices of disappearance, rendition and torture cannot be separated from the church’s practice of celebrating the Eucharist. The entire essay (click the image) is worth a careful reading; the section Sanctus and Benedictus is excerpted below:

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Torture also exists as a teaching — indeed, has it become our most emblematic pedagogy?


The Tables Turned

SIMULATION FOR A VERNAL WOOD

SIMULATION FOR A VERNAL WOOD

Now comes Duncan Watts, identified as the principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and thereby a True Believer in the social welfare merits of behavioral research performed upon users of social media networks. Worried that the recent outcry over a study of “emotional contagion” might lead to a backlash that may considerably shrink the number of acres available for cultivation in his field, Mr. Watts sets forth the familiar idea that science is always and forever a good thing, assuming that such research is conducted ethically and with full transparency:

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Well, yes, fine enough, as far as such cheerleading goes. Yet the most dangerous ethical issues concern not how scientific research is generated, but how it is used. Alas, Mr. Watts does not venture into the close alliance between knowledge of social media and the exercise of power and control over communities, as evidenced for example in the self-description of a US Department of Defense (via DARPA) program tagged as SMISC, which sounds like something concocted by SMERSH:

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We can only speculate as to the DARPA criteria for what constitutes “truthful information”; but Ok, so having received copious DARPA funding, what will these hired gun network researchers do?

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In an example, we suppose, of how it is — according to other pioneering network scientists  — that the smartest person in the room is the room, clicking on the SMISC link for ethical implications summons forth the following:

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Mr. Watts drags poor old Wordsworth into the argument, via his deeply ironic poem titled “The Tables Turned”, and in particular the oft-quoted three lines, “Our meddling intellect Misshapes the beauteous forms of things. We murder to dissect.” The final three stanzas offer a better sense of the poem, though we remain uncertain what role they could ever play in Mr. Watts’ deadly earnest and humorless plea for more and better science:

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MODEL FOR A STRATEGIC SURPRISE

MODEL FOR A STRATEGIC SURPRISE


Emotional Contagion

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WHERE’S THE LIKE BUTTON?

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One of our main themes here at DP:

Our social life-world has become increasingly transformed into a vast data mine, an extractive and highly lucrative corporate bonanza in which the “mine” is our own subjectivity, together with whatever is left of our communities and collective identities. 

The behavioral psychology lab offers the dominant social organizational model, with strip miners such as Facebook and Twitter at one end of the spectrum, and more specific tunnel miners at the other end, such as the torture lab at Guantanamo Bay.

The recent study conducted by Facebook in conjunction with researchers from Cornell University and The University of California, makes no bones about the nature of the ore extracted from the data mine:

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As discussed at length inside James Grimmelmann’s consistently excellent Laboratorium:

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In an almost unbearably mealy-mouthed and sniveling “apology” that belies not only the absence of any ethical compass but also a dregs pit in the neuronal space where one might hope to find something resembling philosophy, author Adam Kramer writes:

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Mr. Kramer does not have the guts to tell it like it is: YO PEOPLE THIS IS WHAT WE DO. EVERY DAY AND NIGHT. 24/7. GET OVER IT! Read his last sentence again: even the “reaction to this paper” will swiftly become absorbed within the behavioral algorithm. Your behavior; your algorithm. Forever, for however long is left to us.

Dear DP readers, we know that the sand is spilling quickly from the hourglass of the anthropocene. Yet in this time of massive crisis in every domain in which our species does the dirty to every other living thing over and over and then all over again, there are small yet important ways we can all resist:

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Friendica and Diaspora offer decentralized and user-controlled alternatives networking possibilities that remain outside the data mine. As for WordPress, though not perfect, it is certainly far superior to Facebook, and DP has discovered a variety of ways to strengthen privacy, and minimize participation within the strip mine. We are happy to share our methods with anyone who contacts us.

PORTRAIT OF A FACEBOOK USER

PORTRAIT OF A FACEBOOK USER


Just One Word

The graduate returns home for the summer. The neighbors have gathered over freely flowing cocktails at the family residence to offer their congratulations, their felicitations — and their advice:

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Today we offer another word to think about, just one word: PLASTIGLOMERATE. As described in the abstract to a research paper published by the Geological Society of America:

Recognition of increasing plastic debris pollution over the last several decades has led to investigations of the imminent dangers posed to marine organisms and their ecosystems, but very little is known about the preservation potential of plastics in the rock record. As anthropogenically derived materials, plastics are astonishingly abundant in oceans, seas, and lakes, where they accumulate at or near the water surface, on lake and ocean bottoms, and along shorelines. The burial potential of plastic debris is chiefly dependent on the material’s density and abundance, in addition to the depositional environment. Here, we report the appearance of a new “stone” formed through intermingling of melted plastic, beach sediment, basaltic lava fragments, and organic debris from Kamilo Beach on the island of Hawaii. The material, herein referred to as “plastiglomerate,” is divided into in situ and clastic types that were distributed over all areas of the beach. Agglutination of natural sediments to melted plastic during campfire burning has increased the overall density of plastiglomerate, which inhibits transport by wind or water, thereby increasing the potential for burial and subsequent preservation. Our results indicate that this anthropogenically influenced material has great potential to form a marker horizon of human pollution, signaling the occurrence of the informal Anthropocene epoch.

A MARKER HORIZON FOR THE ANTHROPOCENE

A MARKER HORIZON FOR THE ANTHROPOCENE

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ARE YOU LISTENING?

THINK ABOUT IT. WILL YOU THINK ABOUT IT?


Out of Darkness Floods the Light

An English Landscape (American Surveillance Base near Harrogate, Yorkshire artwork

TREVOR PAGLEN: TYPICAL ENGLISH LANDSCAPE

Tomorrow morning, users of a London tube station will witness the launch of an important new installation by artist Trevor Paglen, whose brave geography of black sites and other official invisibles disrupts the ignorant passivity required by the ever-expanding global surveillance state, and renders into light that which exists to render into darkness:

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Given the prevailing fashion for conceptually opaque art works, generating press releases that can be deciphered only by a tiny handful of pomo mandarins, Paglen’s explanation for this exceptional aesthetic-empirical work, as given in a recent interview, is refreshingly lucid and direct:

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THE SALT PIT

THE SALT PIT: DESERT OBSCURITY BROUGHT BACK INTO THE SUN

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WHERE'S THE REAPER?

DRONE ZONE IN RED: WHERE’S THE REAPER?

Unsurprisingly, Paglen goes on to trace the genesis of his shadowland geography back to the events of 9/11, and the US response:

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We are reminded of the interview on 9/16 with Dick Cheney, as he “carefully” (and oh so smugly) hints at his future as a war criminal:

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ENTRANCE TO THE SOUL OF DICK CHENEY

ENTRANCE TO THE SOUL OF DICK CHENEY

An excellent forensic discussion of the geography of state secrecy and deception, with specific trackings and tracings performed by Paglen himself, can be found by clicking the below image; if you ever had any doubt that state paranoia always ends in lunacy, we recommend close viewing. Finally, his perception that we are in the midst of a massive cultural shift from a visual regime of representation to an operational regime where the visual is actually a totally invisible data stream strikes us as immensely important, and not just for the art world.

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Silent Spring

We write today in praise of a remarkable recent project by Chris Jordan, whose precise documentation of the fate of albatrosses on Midway we have long admired here at DP; indeed, we rank those photographs among the essential visual documents of the anthropocene. To this category, we now add the extraordinary collaborative photograph, Silent Spring, Jordan’s most recent addition to his  “Running the Numbers” series. The photograph is based on an absolutely stunning series of drawings by Rebecca Clark.

CLICK TO FLY INTO SILENT SPRING

CLICK TO FLY INTO SILENT SPRING

The linked report from Defenders of Wildlife deserves careful study in its entirety; we excerpt only the opening paragraphs:

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The entire text for Rachel Carson’s Fable for Tomorrow is available here. Rebecca Clark, whose initials underscore a close kindred relationship with the Carson worldview, describes her work as follows:

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The Ship of Theseus

WHOSE BOAT DOES THIS FLOAT?

WHOSE BOAT DOES THIS FLOAT?

A correspondent in Germany, knowing of our interest in the post-mortem market for celebrity body parts, has alerted us to an exhibition at the ZKM Media Museum in Karlsruhe, featuring an installation by  Diemut Strebe titled Sugababe. On her own website, Strebe writes:

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Thus the Sugababe app/ears…

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The ear was grown in Boston, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and is apparently impervious to mental illness. Enter the ancient paradox of the Ship of Theseus, floating down the estuary of Heraclitus, somewhere beyond Boston Harbor:

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TALK TO ME, BABY

TALK TO ME, BABY

Interestingly, the opening for Sugababe coincided in both time and space with a lecture by Noam Chomsky on US foreign policy. We wonder if Noam had a private little chat with Sugababe?

ALL EARS FOR CHOMSKY

ALL EARS FOR CHOMSKY

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EN ROUTE TO AN IDENTITY CRISIS

EN ROUTE TO AN IDENTITY CRISIS


Deep Time

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A faithful correspondent recently reminded us of the writings of philosopher Joanna Macy, particularly her thoughts on the need to retrieve a deeper, slower sense of time, if we are to have any chance whatsoever of surviving the suicidal and ecocidal implications of the terminal-velocity anthropocene:

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There is no better place to contemplate and embody the rhythms of deep time than the Appalachian Trail, where we were reminded of our transient insignificance with every climb through the densely wooded moraine.

Humans are designed to be walkers; walking moves through time and space at a speed we can handle. The lethal anthropocene remakes us as sedentary finger twitchers, and the DP staff is not excluded from this fate. Yet over the past weeks, we definitely reconnected to the earth and to the night sky, and we return to our desks lighter in both flesh and spirit – released from old fears, and in awe of our larger story.

Along the way we connected to that remarkable community of fellow walkers, with trail names such as Triple Canopy, Firefly, Honey Badger, Fusion and Goat Girl. Their resilience and open embrace of life revives our conviction that there is a viable path towards the future, if only we can find the courage and the will to slow down, breathe deeply and love every step, even when the toes are screaming.

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