The Rhizome Digest merged into the Rhizome News in November 2008. These pages serve as an archive for 6-years worth of discussions and happenings from when the Digest was simply a plain-text, weekly email.

Subject: RHIZOME DIGEST: 1.03.03
Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2003 16:47:54 -0500

RHIZOME DIGEST: January 3, 2003


2. Benjamin Fischer: 6. Stuttgarter Filmwinter - online
3. cory arcangel: SAT ---> FROM SCRATCH
4. abraham linkoln: Call for rejected proposals

5. Mark Tribe: Development & Finance Internship at

6. Annie Abrahams: separation/séparation

7. Brett Stalbaum: Database Logic(s) and Landscape Art [1/5]

8. McKenzie Wark: review - Konrad Becker, Tactical Reality Dictionary:
Cultural Intelligence and Social Control

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Date: 12.23.02
From: RTMark Press (ann45 AT

December 23, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE assistance page:
Contact: mailto:thing-group AT


Bowing to pressure from the Dow Chemical Corporation, the internet
company Verio has booted the activist-oriented from the Web.

Internet service provider has been the primary service
provider for activist and artist organizations in the New York area
for 10 years.

On December 3, activists used a server housed by to post a
parody Dow press release on the eighteenth anniversary of the disaster
in which 20,000 people died as a result of an accident at a Union
Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. (Union Carbide is now owned by Dow.)
The deadpan statement, which many people took as real, explained that
Dow could not accept responsibility for the disaster due to its
primary allegiance to its shareholders and to its bottom line.

Dow was not amused, and sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
complaint to Verio, which immediately cut off the internet
for fifteen hours. A few days later, Verio announced that
had 60 days to move to another provider before being shut down
permanently, unilaterally terminating's 7-year-old contract.

Affected organizations include PS1/MOMA, Artforum, Nettime,
(which assists renters facing eviction), and hundreds more.

"Verio's actions are nothing short of outrageous," said Wolfgang
Staehle, Executive Director. "They could have resolved the
matter with the Dow parodists directly; instead they chose to shut
down our entire network. This self-appointed enforcement of the DMCA
could have a serious chilling effect on free speech, and has already
damaged our business."

RTMark, which publicizes corporate abuses of democracy, is housed on Please visit to help survive Dow's and Verio's actions, and to develop a plan to
avoid such problems in the future.

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Date: 12.23.02
From: Benjamin Fischer (benjamin_lists AT
Subject: 6. Stuttgarter Filmwinter - online

English version see below

Liebe FreundInnen des Filmwinters, es ist kurz vor Weihnachten und schon
bald steht die 16. Ausgabe des Stuttgarter Filmwinter - Festival for
Expanded Media - ins Haus. Ab dem 9. Januar geht es schon mit einigen Warm
Up-Veranstaltungen los. Vom 16.-19. Januar 2003 findet dann das Festival im
Filmhaus Stuttgart und im Ex-IKEA statt.

Aus 1300 Einreichungen in den Bereichen Kurzfilm und -video,
Medieninstallationen, CD-ROM und Internet haben die Vorauswahlkommissionen
die spannendsten Arbeiten ausgewählt. Im Rahmenprogramm gibt eine Werkschau
mit Videos von Erwin Wurm zu sehen. Unter dem Schlagwort "Erdung" haben wir
uns mit dem "neuen Heimatgefühl in der Medienkunst" auseinandergesetzt. Gibt
es ein Korrektiv auf Mobilisierung, Flexibilisierung und Globalisierung,
ohne in das traditionelle Werteschema zurückzufallen, das mit Begriffen wie
"Wurzel" oder "Heimat" verknüpft ist? Das Programm "Gegenspieler"
beschäftigt sich mit "Machinimas" und subversiven Erzählformen in

Weitere Informationen zu Programm und Gästen, Eintrittspreisen und
Veranstaltungsorten findet Ihr auf unserer Website

Cheers, Wanda


Dear friends of the Stuttgart Filmwinter, just before x-mas, I want to
announce the upcoming 16th Stuttgart Filmwinter - Festival for Expanded
Media. The event starts with a Warm Up from January 9 on with various
exhibitions and programmes. The festival itself takes place from January
16-19 at the Stuttgart Filmhaus and the Ex-IKEA (former IKEA-building).

>From 1300 submissions in the field von short film and video, media
installation, CD-ROM and Internet the selection committees have selected the
outstanding works. In the special programmes we feature a video
retrospective of Erwin Wurm. Under the catchwork "Erdung" (Grounding) we
have compiled works and organized lectures which deals with the "new feeling
of attachment to one's home town". Which roles inhere geographical and
emotional places in today's media society? Is there a corrective to the
trends of mobilization, flexploitation, and globalization? And does this
mean we are returning to traditional value systems, implying expressions
such as "home" and "roots"? The programme "Gegenspieler" (counterplots)
deals with "Machinimas" and subversive narration in computer games.

You find all relevant information on programme and guests, admission and
venues on our web site

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Date: 1.2.03
From: cory arcangel (corya AT
Subject: SAT ---> FROM SCRATCH

>From Scratch
a FREE Music / Art Event

Saturday 1/4/2003  6:00PM

Gale-Martin Fine Art
134 10th Avenue  (between 18th and 19th St)
New York
A/C/E to 14th St or L to 8th Ave
(food provided by Big Mama?s Food Shop)
Public Contact:  fromscratchny AT

Our culture is soaked in digital perfection. Seamless digital imagery,
sequenced samples and software-tuned pop singers mediate our references to
the world and to each other. The artists in From Scratch share a common
practice of using handmade electronic equipment and altering (hacking)
factory-made machines; tugging at the seams of our technology. The intrinsic
imprecision of their machines enables creativity, instead of their
creativity being defined by the machines they use. They put themselves into
their machines. The results are fascinating.

>From Scratch is a program of electronically based music, video and
installations featuring artists who build their own equipment from scratch.
The sounds, performances and images will be noisy and amusingly hard to

The Artists

Nautical Almanac (Baltimore)
Hanson Records
?[Nautical Almanac] look like creatures that have crawled out of a
futuristic trashheap with an inexplicablecommunications technology...
post-apocalyptic alchemists... a carefully considered chaos born of
technological refinement and cannibalism.?
(Baltimore City Paper)
5000 oscillators pitchshifted, reverbed, and delayed, wires everywhere,
resistors ascew, chips hacked, all gets taken apart and reformed. No
equipement is safe from the prying minds of Nautical Almanac. Watch out! A
mere stare from their razor sharp eyes will take apart your computers.

Diagram A (western MA)
music/video performance
Diagram A is cobbled together from "disposable technology" like children's
toys, video games and surplus electronics. Sonically and visually
demonstrating man's war with his own technology through the language
specific to machines - Noise.

Iron Lap (Brooklyn)
music performance
Sounds Okay
Sonic slagheaps.  Careening, voluptuous spasms of barely controllable
electronoise. Raw and epic in scale. And there's a guitar so it's rock and
roll. No laptops.

Gavin R. Russom & Delia R. Gonzalez (NY)
music performance

Cory Arcangel (NY)
music/video performance/installation
Beige Records
His work and collaborations with BEIGE have been called "a testament to
nerdiness" by The New York Times, "genius" by XLR8R magazine, "riotous" by
the Village Voice, and "Dope, dope, dope, dope" by Paul D. Miller.

LoVid (NY)
video/sound performance
A sound and video project by Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus. Fragile
compositions of the decay of sound and image present a portrait of the human
figure trapped in the chaos of electronic noise.

Douglas Irving Repetto (NY)
installation: crash and bloom
crash and bloom
plastic boxes, colored LEDs, piezo speakers, custom circuitry
dimensions variable
crash and bloom is an electronic sculpture that exhibits emergent behavior
similar to the "crash and bloom" cycles experienced by many biological

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Date: 12.27.02
From: abraham linkoln (abelinkoln AT
Subject: Call for rejected proposals

Have you made a web page proposal for a project grant or show and have been
rejected? If so I?d like to link to your proposal page for a show on
projects that never had a chance to actualize for one reason (money) or
another (lack of resources, loss of interest, etc).
Please email your links to abelinkoln AT


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Date: 12.30.02
From: Mark Tribe (mt AT
Subject: Development & Finance Internship at is seeking a responsible, professional and energetic individual
to work with the Executive Director on institutional development and related
financial planning. This internship will offer valuable hands-on experience
and significant responsibility. The ideal candidate is highly organized and
efficient, has experience with grants and budgets and is either a student at
or recent graduate of an arts administration program or business school.
Exceptional candidates with equivalent experience may also be considered.

* Collect and organize grant application and reporting materials based
existing grant schedule
* Update grant schedule as needed
* Prepare grant budgets based on existing organizational budgets and
discussion with program staff
* Coordinate writing of grants with program staff
* Assemble and post completed grant application and report materials
* Additional or alternative responsibilities, such as major donor campaigns,
are also possible

Required Knowledge and Skills:
* Knowledge of grant application and reporting process
* Allocation of income and expenses in grant budgets
* High level of proficiency in Microsoft Excel and Word

Hours: 20+ hours per week

Dates: January 15 - April 15, 2003

How to apply: Please send a cover letter in the body of an email message
with resume attached as MS Word or RTF document to Mark Tribe
<mt AT>.

Note: This is an unpaid internship; if you plan to receive credit for this
work, we will be happy complete any necessary forms.

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Virtual reality has been a recurrent theme throughout art history, from
trompe l'oeil to Smell-o-vision. Oliver Grau's forthcoming book Virtual
Art:From Illusion to Immersion traces virtual reality from ancient Rome
to contemporary art. To order your copy visit our website AT

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Date: 12.29.02
From: Annie Abrahams (a AT
Subject: separation/séparation


'separation/séparation' or 'my hart hurts/mon coeur me fait mal'
collaboration with/avec l'association Panoplie

Originally a text written during a stay in the hospital in 2001. The
visitor is constrained to follow the implemented exercises. Don't be fooled
this piece is working.
A l'origine un texte écrit en 2001 pendant un séjour à l'hôpital. Dans sa
mise en forme l'internaute est obligé de suivre les contraintes
implémentées. Ne vous trompez pas ce travail marche bel et bien.

Besides in French/français and in Greek you can now be reassured in
Dutch/nederlands, Norwegian/norsk, German/deutsch and in Arab.

Sur quatre quizz sur Mouchette, Eric Maillet,
Claude Closky et Annie Abrahams.(only in french) is made by Nicolas Freshpech, whose piece:'Je suis ton ami(e)...tu
peux me dire tes secrets' has been off line (censured) already for a year.
more info:
Je suis ton ami(e)...tu ne peux me dire tes secrets
1 année de censure !!! info:

Annie Abrahams

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Date: 12.18.02
From: Brett Stalbaum (beestal AT
Subject: Database Logic(s) and Landscape Art [1/5]

Database Logic(s) and Landscape Art
Brett Stalbaum, C5 corporation

Introduction: the logics of database logic [1/5]

The important question for contemporary information artists working with
global information systems is, "How do we view the landscape according to
database logic?" But before this surprisingly complicated problem can be
parsed, there is a semantic issue regarding the meaning of "database
logic" that must be clarified before we can embark on our search for an
answer. "Database logic" is overloaded. One signature of the aesthetics of
database is multi-layered, relating to various data modeling techniques
and APIs for accessing and processing data, whereas another signature of
"database logic" lies in relation to the visual, audible and interactive
presentation of a work: interfacial aesthetics. Thus there are more
"database logics" than those that are directly manifest in the visual,
interactive and user interface related aspects of the information arts.
Once past the user interface, analysis is able to expand to the formal
organization of data, as well as the computational, semiotic, and cultural
behavior that is expressed in the structural coupling of data to the
environment in which it functions. The logistics required in dealing with
the landscape through database logic necessarily involves the
implementation of database logic in addition to the representation of
database logic, and this is a pivotal issue that touches many of the other
issues facing artists dealing with landscape as data.

It is in the implementation of relational, object-oriented,
object-relational, multidimensional and other database models where
explorations of landscape data and its world might be expressed, allowed
to self-express, or express in collaboration with human subjects; the user
interface is secondary representation to the structure and organization of
data. Indeed, it is not even clear that the technical organization of data
is necessarily a strong predicate of user interface. This is demonstrated
in the cultural realm of human-machinic interaction by the dogged
reemergence of the command line interface (mostly thanks to Linux); even
as many began to assume that the CLI was dead. Even the computer operating
system formerly known best for its GUI Puritanism, the MacOS, is now
actually a Unix OS called MacOSX, (it is really BSD [1] under the GUI
covers), that for the first time makes a shell interface available to Mac
users. The fact that database is often accessed, designed, and managed
using both GUIs and CLIs indicates that the underlying data and various
API layers are not necessarily bound to any particular aesthetic
experience of database at the interface. [2] This is not to say that there
is no coupling between these layers [3], nor is it to say that there is no
'database aesthetic' that is expressed as a visible or interfacial part of
our culture. Rather than drive the analysis of database aesthetics away
from the interface, the intention is to extend aesthetics down into at
least the technical implementation of data, allowing the inclusion of
data, its organization and possibly its inter-textual or extra-textual
behaviors regardless of external intentionalities and semantics.

Thus for artists working with landscape data, there are aesthetic
correlates to the original question involving the strategic and tactical
approaches that are necessary for dealing with the inherent uncertainty of
mined/revealed relations amidst (or between) extremely large sets of
geo-data organized logically and discretely, particularly in consideration
of data with a formal basis in relational or multidimensional algebra. It
is not clear that landscape as database art is best expressed through
either the command line interface or graphical user interface in the first
instance, (although I would never deny that it could be expressed in such
a way). It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that computer artists
working with landscape and database might avoid any computer mediated
interface to their production altogether. There are other questions which
I will treat as well, such as how the nature and conceptions of place are
altered by database, and how the nature of being in place (the role of the
narrative in place), is similarly altered.

Answering these problems of database and landscape requires a great deal
of work, most of which is honestly speculative at this time, and which can
not be secured in this essay. But the reason to make art (and to write) is
to understand, rather than because one already understands, (exploration
not explication), so I ask the reader to pardon the dust as I construct a
bridge between the precession of models, the semiotic and cultural context
of database, and the formal technical logics of data that impinge upon the
practice of database as landscape art. If I mistakenly include the
Buenaventura River [4] flowing to the Pacific in my early maps, only at
some later time to discover my initial anticipations evaporate in the
Humboldt Sink, so be it. The Humboldt Sink may be adequately interesting
for reasons other than transport to the Pacific.

It is important to this analysis to reference certain philosophical
notions that impinge upon and inform the cultural logic of late 20th and
early 21st century art. These will be indexed but not detailed except as
necessary to drive this analysis away from certain pitfalls. The first is
the tradition of semiology, particularly the theoretical thread that
emerged from narrative analysis dealing specifically with the aesthetic
consequences of syntagm and paradigm. Another is the precession of
simulacra, or matters of models of the real and their impact on, or
replacement of, the real. Finally, there is the theory of abstract
machines, or immanent models or attractors around which systems
spontaneously organize their material manifestation. The first is largely
influenced by Roland Barthes, the second derives primarily from
Baudrillard, the latter from Deleuze, and his best reader, Manuel
DeLanda. The pitfalls that I want to be very careful about are the clichs
metaphors that spin out of the discourse of the postmodern, which have
been favored by artists and intellectuals in the 20th century. [5] Rather
than limit analysis to conceptual models of nomadic ridicule,
deconstruction of the text, copy-left cut and paste, or ironic criticism
of cultural institutions, I instead seek an analysis that views the
precession of models, abstract machines, and the technical logic of
database as aspects of the actual that should be explored by artists [6]
in the context of landscape.

[next installment: Surveyor: Precession of models and landscape]

[1] Berkeley System Distribution, a Unix OS developed in the 1970's by
Bill Joy and others.
[2] The historical influence of the hierarchical database as file system
is noted, but the matter is of how it is visualized and implemented as an
interactive system. For example GUI's vs Unix CLI commands such as ls, cd,
and pwd, are very different aesthetically, even if both depend upon
single-parent nodes for containment.
[3] Refer to 2.
[4] Fremont, John C. 1845, Report Of The Exploring Expedition To The Rocky
Mountains In The Year 1842, And To Oregon And North California In The
Years 1843-44. By Brevet Captain J.C. Fremont, Of The Topographical
Engineers, Under The Orders Of Col. J.J. Abert, Chief Of The Topographical
Bureau. Printed By Order Of The Senate Of The United States. page 196
[5] This is itself a nested clich.
[6]For a related thesis, see Foster, Hal The Return of the Real, The MIT
Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996

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Mute, issue 25, is out this week. Conceptually and volumetrically
expanded, (involves more cartographic & artists' projects & has doubled
the pages), this new bi-annual volume is phat. Articles on: WarChalking,
the Artists' Placement Group and Ambient Culture and more.

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Date: 12.29.02
From: McKenzie Wark (mw35 AT
Subject: konrad becker review

Konrad Becker, Tactical Reality Dictionary: Cultural Intelligence and
Social Control, edition selene, Vienna, 2002 (distributed by

Reviewed by McKenzie Wark (mw35 AT

Konrad Becker -- a contributor to nettime since its earliest
incarnations, offers this remarkable little lexicon as a field manual
for constructing 'tactical' realities. These just might be the worm
holes through which to wriggle out of the consensual hallucination of
global corporate media domination, in this era when the front line has
mutated "from cold war to code war." (11)

The ontology animating the text takes as its guiding postulate that
there is more to what is actual than what is real. "The human 3D world
is embedded in 'n' dimensions, but what is out there feeding from our
dimensional sub- domains?" (129) The virtual is foreclosed, flattened
out, and a thin reality is presented as if it were all there is. This
reality masks the existence of "living entities living off humans,
eating brain." (81) The surplus potential of reality is restricted in
the name of reproducing a normality that serves merely corporate

To the extent that information society can be said to exist, it exists
as quite the opposite of the enlightening, emancipatory rhetoric in
which it is usually shrouded. Becker's book is not about information as
fact, information as "a myth filled with the landmarks of consensual
hallucination." (68)

Becker's starting point is the disturbing proposition that "humans
possess the capacity to relinquish their autonomy." (52) Corporate
designs on the communication vector aims to achieve precisely this.
Autonomy means access to the construction of alternate realities;
enslavement here means entrapment within a reality coercively defined
and policed. As Becker says: "Production of wealth in the empire of
signs is the reproduction of scarcity and the cyber-policed poverty of
everything outside." (130)

Becker's text works by turning the language of communications research
against itself. He turns up the volume of its pseudo-scientific rhetoric
so can hear the static of power. Most of the entries in this dictionary
are successions of statements, such as: "perception is influenced by
mental scenarios that establish the symbolic order." (9) Or: "Enforcing
homogenization of social behavior patterns through comprehensive
automatic classification of 'normality' is in the interest not only of
large scale psychological operations or technologies of political
control but also appealing for global mass marketing of consumer
products." (21)

What is interesting about this text is that it does not pretend to
"speak truth to power". It dispenses altogether with the enlightenment
ideology of debunking ideology. The struggle in Becker's terms is rather
one of who controls the mechanisms defining truth and illusion. There is
a whiff of Foucault here, but Foucault only examined 19th century
discourses within which truth was produced. He did not tackle the
master-discourse of the 20th century -- 'communication'.

Writes Becker: "Belief and imagination construct reality, from the basic
mechanisms of survival to the brain-stem controlled hit-and-run instinct
and territorial behavior to the abstract symbolism of the neural
impulses coded in mental images and underlying world views." (109) This
reads not so much like a parody of communication discourse as a deadpan
plagiarism. He is not out to debunk this language, but to repurpose its

"Because of limits in capacity to cope directly with the complexity of
the world, the mind constructs simplified mental models of reality."
(98) These statements read like outtakes from academic journals,
military manuals or public relations pitch books -- three genres that
may effectively have merged anyway. These three genres -- the academic,
military and commercial aspects of communication research -- come
together as corporate intelligence, which is "a means of protecting
corporate power against democratic forces." (32)

Intelligence is the key word here, in all its senses. "Intelligence is
the virtual substitute for violence in the Information Society." (36) On
the one hand, corporate intelligence; on the other, cultural
intelligence. The difference between them is not in who possesses the
truth, but in the techniques each deploys for the construction of
realities. One is based on a hierarchy of exchange values; the other on
a proliferation of use values.

Becker follows closely the post-enlightenment turn in corporate
intelligence, which may promote 'democracy' as an official ideology, but
is mainly in the business of exploiting the non- rational attributes of
the citizen-subject. "Individuals are subject to very consistent and
predictable errors in judgment. These errors of reason are not due to a
lack of expertise or intelligence but are embedded in the fundamental
mechanisms by which we process information." (29) The struggle is over
whether these apparent shortcomings in the human organism's processing
of information can be exploited to subjugate it, or could be the quirks
and particularities out of which the virtuality of the world might be

With corporate intelligence, "the aim is alertness reduction, programmed
confusion and flattening of the mind." (44) In the cultural studies
tradition, much is made of the ordinary capacity to interpret dominant
texts otherwise. But this does not take into account the emerging
hegemony of interpretative resources. It is not a world view that
dominates, but a particular machinery for making world views. Attacking
a dominant worldview is not the same as dismantling its means of
production. The tantalizing possibility of the Tactical Reality
Dictionary is that it points the way to this more pressing task.

Becker speaks of dominant media processes with a vectoral language of
flows: "The News are the waves and ripples generated by fundamental
currents in the deep sea of unconscious agreements, reinforcing myths
and conditioned reflexes." (105) And again: "The dramas of mythological
soap operas and their strange attractors generate self-sustaining
patterns." (105) These are the techniques for the reproduction of
reality as repetition, much as Debord spoke of the spectacle as a
timeless refutation of history.

In a nod to the plebian nature of genuine recalcitrance, Becker notes
that "if you cannot read you are less vulnerable to propaganda" and
hence "intellectuals are the best targets of Perception Management."
This is of course "due to their implanted feeling of being immune."
(111) The information society works its delusions on the informed, not
on the uninformed. Those I have elsewhere called the 'infoproles' have
the good sense to ignore the shrill righteousness emanating from elite
American colleges as much as the exhortations of fundamentalist

The basic principle of maintaining coercive reality is for Becker almost
a physiological one: "It takes more information and data processing to
recognize an unexpected phenomenon than an expected one." (100) Once a
society has outlived the founding violence with which the vector is
inserted into the body politic, it requires not much more than coercive
persuasion to maintain the illusion that it was ever thus. Hence perhaps
the mutual incomprehension between the overdeveloped world, where a
selective reality has become normalized to the point of boredom, and the
underdeveloped world, where it is still being established by force.

Yet one should not underestimate the extent to which the colonization of
territory has always been simultaneously a matter of seizing the means
of producing its representation. As Becker muses, "with hindsight, whole
empires could turn out to be products of cultural engineering." (10) The
emergent empire of our times seems to have a particular affinity with
"the synthetic representation of the world in a system of game rules"
(123) The globe is being produced by a Playstation empire which assigns
relative and relational values to any and everything. This is a world in
which "the dammed are the left-out, suppressed and excluded data. Their
graves lie at the cross roads of Trivia." (125)

The difficulty Becker's text raises is in conceptualizing the difference
between what is merely a variation on the same old coercive reality and
what might open a line of escape from it. He offers this deadpan
sentence -- straight from astroturf training manuals -- as an indication
of the problem: "Deactivation of a social activist group is achieved by
a three step strategy of isolating the radicals, cultivating and
education the idealists into realists and finally co- opting the
realists." (33) One thinks of all the well meaning folk in NGOs one
meets, and the rhetorics by which they justify their compromises.... As
Becker says, "pragmatic realists and opportunists are manipulated
through trade-offs and perceptions of 'partial victories'." (33)

The consensual hallucination of official reality even has its own
zealots, who critique everyday appearances that fall short of the
official social norms in its own terms, and pretend this is a species of
radicalism. One can recognize these thought reformers by their
procedures: "demands for confession, unconditional agreement to
ideology, manipulation of language into clichés." (24) These are the
techniques of those who want a token presence within the current
consensual reality, rather than turning over the means of its making to
the people it claims to represent.

Rather than confronting the illusion of reality with the reality of
illusion, Becker counsels a different strategy: "reality as a normative
hallucination is the virtual prison system of a social organization.
Individuals who flee from these representations and concepts of the
world have more choices than those who cannot escape the
straight-jackets of imposed reality." (53) Let a thousand realities

As Becker notes, "most of the early hopes of emacipatory practice in a
society based on information exchange seem to have vanished." (13)
Information is not transparent or neutral, and while we may wonder
whether it actually exists, even the illusion of its existence is a
powerful effect. What would it mean to dispense with the reality of
information? It's a difficult line of thought. As Becker notes, "the
difficulty is not in acquiring new perceptions or new ideas, but that
already established perceptions are difficult to change." (17) And so we
are stuck with information, as it is. Perhaps we can figure out how to
deploy the illusion of its existence differently.

Says Becker: "Humans need to find ways to escape the vicious circle of
forced work for wages and imposed leisure, to escape symbolic dominance
and cultural entertainment, the 'reality' of everyday life and the
flatlands of binary logic." (34) There is hope. "The movement of
hedonistic escape from materialism is a global language of zero work
ethics in full e-fact. Towards the united international hedonistic
diversification, critical escapism will dance at the grave of ordinary
pan-capitalism." (35) If the vector can be used to orchestrate and
conduct flows, perhaps it can also be used to extend the dimensions of
existence of that more autonomous, embodied movement that appears here
in the figure of the dance.

Like Critical Art Ensemble, Becker turns one edge of his rhetorical
creation against actually existing art practice. "In a conflict of
resistance to zombie culture it is understood that traditional art can
no longer be justified as an activity to which one could honorably or
usefully devote oneself." (36) He proposes an image of "the artist as a
reality hacker" (36) The artist does not construct (or even deconstruct)
images of the world, but constructs worlds of images.

In place of the artist, one might imagine what Becker calls cultural
intelligence, which "gathers, evaluates and processes meta-information
about the foundations of information based society." (38) Cultural
intelligence might be no less committed to deception and ambiguity than
corporate intelligence, but toward other ends. Evading surveillance for
Becker's reality hackers is a matter of "avoiding anything a computer
would find interesting." (39) These "hedonistic engineers explore escape
routes from an anxiously bored society knowing that speed and deception
secretly free from imposed values." (53) The goal is the production of
"autonomous neuro-stimulation zones" (131)

Becker sometimes couches statements in the political rhetoric of the
times, but with a somewhat different purpose: "A key ecological issue
concerns the preservation and increase of the use value for the public
at large and the non- commercial properties of information as opposed to
the exchange value." (45) Or: "Digital human rights are based on the
understanding of communication as motor of civilization and a base of
individuality as well as society." (46) Becker rethinks the ecological
for a world that has passed beyond second nature to third nature, and
human rights in a world which hovers on the precipice between the
posthuman and the inhuman.

In what may be a nod toward the kind of art- practice of groups like The
Yes Men, Becker notes that: "The nets are used by cultural activists as
meta-data tools according to a new artistic tradition of inspired
interpretation of data within a panopticon of commodified world views."
(115) By which we might take the Yes Men not as a critical negation of
dominant ideologies, but as an instance of the autonomous production of
a parallel reality -- one in which Dow Chemical really does apologize
for the mistakes of its subsidiaries. One might ask, in the gap between
these world, which is less possible. All we know is that "What is 'real'
is not certain, but what is certain is not 'real'." (109)

The most invigorating aspect of this book is not its playful paranoia
about communication as a power of constraint, but its joyful insistence
that there are more dimensions to this reality that the impoverished
three we are told exhaust it. As Becker puts it: "Lock picking the
future requites multi-dimensional maps of the world for new exits and
safe havens in hyperspace." (110)

McKenzie Wark,
Dept of English, SUNY Albany

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