Situating Change: Combinatory Writing, Collaboration, and Technopolitical Reality

Scott Rettberg
2015 Hyperrhiz  
The theme of this issue of Hyperrhiz is "mapping culture." This is apropos of the subject I address here [1], "situating change." Beyond the novelty of engaging with new technologies, multimedia platforms, and computational methods that can stretch writing in new ways, introduce new modes of literary signification, new forms of internationally networked creative community, and new amalgamations of literature and other art forms, I argue that electronic literature is particularly well-suited to
more » ... apping culture during a period of ubiquitous technological transformation. The global network, mobile technologies, and many other technological innovations have clearly already changed contemporary culture in ways that affect nearly every aspect of our lives in positive and negative ways. Our communication technologies and to some extent the very nature of our social relations have changed profoundly during the past several decades. Simultaneous with an accelerated pace of technological change, we are forced to come to grips with the increasingly evident consequences of the anthropocene obsession with technological progress: for example the effects of global warming, toxic environments, and mass extinction. Paul Virilio's warnings that the ever-increasing power of the military-industrial complex would only be accelerated by advancement of network technologies, that the Internet might ultimately be best understood as a surveillance weapon and war machine-an "Information Bomb"-have largely already been realized, as Edward Snowden's 2013 revelation of the NSA's wholesale surveillance program reiterated. Even as Silicon Valley billionaires spin venture capital into apps and IPOs, Bitcoin and gold, drones target enemies on an approved killlist in a seemingly perpetual campaign of assassination-based warfare. We have incredible access to knowledge, information, entertainment, and consumer electronics that would have seemed like science-fiction during my childhood but also the unenviable responsibility of explaining to our own children such phenomena as frequent terrorist attacks, nuclear meltdowns, robot assassins, government-sanctioned torture, school shootings, YouTube beheadings, and mass crucifixions. Time has passed and advancements have been made, but they cannot all be understood as progress. The contemporary network is neither an anarchy nor a democracy. Capital has won. We inhabit social networks online. The Internet is dominated by flows of capital, by the generation and consumption of discourse, "user generated content" which is subsequently harvested, utilized, manipulated and controlled by corporate actors and other centers of power. The literal flows of energy involved in the Internet are also non-trivial. Many estimates now put the portion of the world's energy consumption used by internet applications and infrastructure at around 10% [2]. Every iPhone annually consumes about the same amount of energy as an efficient refrigerator.
doi:10.20415/hyp/012.me01 fatcat:wbesxbshdjczdkdeuwjmpfwgrq