Lovink, Geert (2003) - My First Recession: Critical Internet Culture in Transition

Notes - Garnet Hertz
Updated 30 November 2006

General Thoughts

I had a discussion with Geert on Aug 24th 2006 in relation to my project and theories of media change. These are my notes from that conversation:

Geert also talked on Aug 23rd 2006, and these are some notes in relation to my project and theories of media change:

In terms of "My First Recession", the text provides a number of essays/memoirs around a number of examples from the dotcom boom/bust. Topics include: critical theory, critical internet culture, Dreyfus, Castells, Lessig, Dotcom Mania, Kosovo conflict/war, the Xchange Network, New Media in Art Education, Free Software, Open Publishing, and blogs.

Physically, this is a beautifully printed book.


[10] {dotcom, cool, residue, hype, 2003, www, internet, transition, terrorism, business, economy, backlash, utopia, distopia} This study looks in particular at the moment of transition, as the "economy of the cool" is fading away, its cultural residues are being absorbed into the everyday, and "all-to-human" characteristics are hitting the interface surface. By now, Internet culture has created its own history. In 2003, ten years after the introduction of the World Wide Web, talk about the Internet as the final frontier and as a cornucopia for all has faded away. Streams of messages about corporate collapses and cyberterrorism have replaced popular cyberculture. There is a rising awareness of backlash.

[11] {media archaeology, critical, dotcom, methodology, past, present, technology, history} Critical Internet research is faced with a dilemma: it does not seek to glorify high tech or (post-) dotcom business models, nor does it buy into the cynical reasoning that in the end everything will remain the same. The critical history-of-the-present approach proposed here operates in an elective affiliation with "media archaeology." Media archaeology is first and foremost a methodology, a hermeneutic reading of the "new" against the grain of the past, rather than a telling of the history of technologies from past to present.

[13] {critical, critical theory, Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Frankfurt School, 1990s, hype, Marx, 1968, thinking, action, internet, theory, craze} The word "critical" does not, for me, automatically refer to the so-called Frankfurt School critical theory of Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and others, no matter how tempting it may be to frame Net criticism within that particular theoretical tradition. The crisis of continental critical theory as an obscure academic niche has taken its toll. There is no neo-Marxist network theory that critically engages with new-media culture, and we might wait in vain for the aging 1968 generation to grasp the Internet and take it serious as an object of theory. "Critical," in this context, refers to the urgent need for reflection and thinking, combined with action, felt by many in the 1990s to be necessary to counter hyped-up, buzz-word-obsessed media coverage.

[43] {1980s, libertarianism, massification, Wired, Mondo 2000, dotcom, craze, 2000, 2001, 2002, depression, recession, academic, Dreyfus, internet} ...the academic Internet of the 1980s; the mythological-libertarian techno-imagination of Mondo 2000 and Wired; the massification of the medium, accompanied by the dotcom craze; the consolidation during the 2000-02 depression. [This quote is referred to by Gitelman (2006) on page 11.]

[63] {revolution, new, old, young} ...every revolution eats its young.

[64] {boom, bust, downturn, cycle, technology, 1990s, economy, stock, money, growth, hype} To say that the US economy goes through periods of boom, bust and cyclical downturn may sound like a harmless, obvious statement, but it was heretical knowledge during the late 1990s. The overall presumption was that victorious technology had brought real growth, and the expansion was reflected in rising stock values. To question skyrocketing equity prices was like attacking the computer itself: irritating but irrelevant.

[64] {Moore, Gartner, Gartner Group, Castells, exponential growth, business, ecommerce, technology, information, IT, downturn, recession, 2001, 2002} Until late 2001 there had been a widespread belief that the IT sector could not be affected by economic downturn. It was presumed that there would always be strong demand for technology products and services; after many decades of growth the tech industry simply could not imagine that it could be hit by a recession. "Moore's law" of the doubling of chip capacity every 18 months was presumed to be applicable to the tech business. Overproduction could not occur. The industry was only familiar with overdemand for the latest models. Technology was in the driver's seat, not Wall Street. Even Manuel Castells, in The Internet Galaxy, was not free from this dogma. He wrote: "For all the hype surrounding the dot.com firms, they only represent a small, entrepraneurial vanguard of the new economic world. And, as with all the daring enterprises, the business landscape is littered with the wreckage of unwarranted fantasies." Castells could see only bright futures ahead, and uncritically copy-pasted Maoist-type forecasts of e-commerce growth predictions into his text, fabricated by Gartner, a bullish consultancy firm that was itself highly dependent on the continuous (share-value) growth of the IT market and never predicted the coming of the 2001-02 IT recession.

[68] {Rostetto, Rosetto's Law, content, technology, Wired, Wired Magazine} ..."Rosetto's law" -- named after Wired founder Louis Resetto -- which says that content, not technology, is king.

[68] {speed, dotcom, Darwin, Virillio} The dotcoms became victims of their own speed religion. They wanted the crops without planting. The dromo-Darwinist belief in the "survival of the fastest" (you are either one or zero, nothing in between) dominated all other considerations.

[69] {dotom, first, speed, land, property, trade, brand, marketing, Wolff} Michael Wolff sums up what would become a dotcom mantra: "The hierarchy, the aristocracy, depends on being first. Land, as in most aristocacies, is the measure. Not trade. Who has the resources to claim the most valuable property -- occupy space through the promotion of brands, the building of name recognition, the creation of an identity -- is the name of the game. Conquer first, reap later."

[170] {Novak, transvergence, convergence, divergence, episteme, cluster, dotcom, settling, stabilization, UCSB} After the dotcom golden age, the education sector has reached the state of "transvergence," as UC Santa Barbara professor Marcos Novak calls it -- a new "epistemic cluster" that overcomes both the "convergence" crisis and its opposite, the tendency toward "divergence."

[185] {Penny, hacker, inventor, artist, engineer, prototype, subculture, maker} Simon Penny... "a small community of inventor-artist types doggedly persist, and historically have originated prototype technologies and techno-social situations which do not occur in the academic-industrial research world for a decade or a generation..."

[186] {interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinary, Barthes, intermedia, Higgins, Fluxus, transdisciplinarity, Guattari}

[252-253] {hack, hacker, content, commerce, economics, freedom, free, information, 1980s, 1990s, hegemony, security} Critical Internet culture has by and large supported the classic hackers' position that "information wants to be free." In other words, regardless of commercial or political interests, information cannot be hidden behind passwords and should not be paid for. How content producers make a living is their problem. If information is "jailed" on secure servers, hackers will appear and "liberate" it. The hackers' hegemony throughout the 1980s and 1990s prevented, with a few exceptions, serious attempts to create widely accepted pay-for-content systems.

[256] {email, e-mail, settling, erosion, fatigue, social, communication, postal, snail mail, new, spam} The use of e-mail is becoming more complex and unpredictable. As I pointed out earlier, a rapid "erosion of e-mail" is occuring. The spreading of e-mail as a mass communication tool results in the paradox of longer reply times and increased disruptions. It is a communication tool that increasingly suffers from inflation of social fatigue while remaining the cornerstone of the Net. Getting an answer three weeks later, actually much slower than "snail mail" through the conventional postal system would take, is not uncommon anymore. Let's not even mention spam here -- a topic that became the number one concern for system administrators in 2003. There are problems with overflowing mailboxes, crashed mail servers, bugs in Microsoft products, bouncing e-mails, broken transcontinental cables and bankrupt ISPs. Incidents such as these can no longer be blamed on the newness of the technology.

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Garnet Hertz - http://www.conceptlab.com