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The Dialectics of Digital Collectivity Harry Halpin University of Edinburgh

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1 The Dialectics of Digital Collectivity Harry Halpin University of Edinburgh

2 The Californian Ideology The greatest obstacle in understanding digital technology is the promise of the utopian technological future, which far from illuminating technology, merely serves as an ideological closure that masks the material and cognitive relationship between humanity and technology. The greatest obstacle in understanding digital technology is the promise of the utopian technological future, which far from illuminating technology, merely serves as an ideological closure that masks the material and cognitive relationship between humanity and technology. Dubbed “Californian Ideology” by Barbrooke. Dubbed “Californian Ideology” by Barbrooke.

3 The Return of History The negation of futurism can be found in what Jameson terms in The Political Unconsciousness “the one absolute and we may even say 'transhistorical' imperative” to always historicize. The negation of futurism can be found in what Jameson terms in The Political Unconsciousness “the one absolute and we may even say 'transhistorical' imperative” to always historicize. It is precisely this failure of technology to be historically understood allows it to be identified as a miraculous autonomous essence. It is precisely this failure of technology to be historically understood allows it to be identified as a miraculous autonomous essence.

4 Objectification and Dialectics From Hegel “emerges the central mechanism of the dialectic, the notion of objectification.” From Hegel “emerges the central mechanism of the dialectic, the notion of objectification.” The notion of objectification is far from idealistic, but instead is a purely material one, the creation of objects by the externalization of modes of abstract thought. The notion of objectification is far from idealistic, but instead is a purely material one, the creation of objects by the externalization of modes of abstract thought.

5 Dialectics and Technology As articulated by Andy Clark, is that these externalized tools can then be internalized so that the tool itself is part of our being, incorporated into ourselves in such a seamless way that we do not even recognize it as a tool. As articulated by Andy Clark, is that these externalized tools can then be internalized so that the tool itself is part of our being, incorporated into ourselves in such a seamless way that we do not even recognize it as a tool. Since the initial externalization of our thought as technology is always wanting in comparison to the problems thrown our way by the world (and the problems created by the technology itself), even after we have internalized the technology we must then externalize technology again. Since the initial externalization of our thought as technology is always wanting in comparison to the problems thrown our way by the world (and the problems created by the technology itself), even after we have internalized the technology we must then externalize technology again.

6 Time, Space, and Collectivity The dialectic of collectivity and individuality, and the dialectic between time and space. The dialectic of collectivity and individuality, and the dialectic between time and space. The former dialectic allows ever richer sharing between humans mediated by their externalized tools, and so their own sense of self becoming moving from individual to collective. The latter dialectic between time and space subsumes temporal-spatial dimensionality at bequest of ever lower latency of the human and the machine, and so their increasingly tighter coupling. The former dialectic allows ever richer sharing between humans mediated by their externalized tools, and so their own sense of self becoming moving from individual to collective. The latter dialectic between time and space subsumes temporal-spatial dimensionality at bequest of ever lower latency of the human and the machine, and so their increasingly tighter coupling.

7 Time-Sharing: The First Moment The first moment in the technological dialectic towards ever decreasing latency between humans and machines was the creation of interactive computing by McCarthy through time-sharing that took advantage of the fact that the computer, despite its centralized single processor, could run multiple program at once in a non-linear fashion, so instead of idling while waiting for the next program or human interaction, in moments nearly imperceptible to the human eye, it would share its time among multiple humans. The first moment in the technological dialectic towards ever decreasing latency between humans and machines was the creation of interactive computing by McCarthy through time-sharing that took advantage of the fact that the computer, despite its centralized single processor, could run multiple program at once in a non-linear fashion, so instead of idling while waiting for the next program or human interaction, in moments nearly imperceptible to the human eye, it would share its time among multiple humans.

8 The Moment of Space: The Net This led Licklider, inspired by symbiosis in the natural world, to get a position as director of the IPTO (Information Processing Technologies Office) at ARPA to push an agenda of “man-machine symbiosis” by funding a network of time-sharing computers. This led Licklider, inspired by symbiosis in the natural world, to get a position as director of the IPTO (Information Processing Technologies Office) at ARPA to push an agenda of “man-machine symbiosis” by funding a network of time-sharing computers. Licklider's lieutant Bob Taylor and his successor Larry Roberts contracted out BBN to create the Interface Message Processor, the hardware needed connect the various time-sharing computers across the USA. Licklider's lieutant Bob Taylor and his successor Larry Roberts contracted out BBN to create the Interface Message Processor, the hardware needed connect the various time-sharing computers across the USA.

9 Man-Machine Symbiosis The fig tree is pollinated only by the insect Blastophaga grossorun. The larva of the insect lives in the ovary of the fig tree, and there it gets its food. The tree and the insect are thus heavily interdependent: the tree cannot reproduce wit bout the insect; the insect cannot eat wit bout the tree; together, they constitute not only a viable but a productive and thriving partnership. This cooperative "living together in intimate association, or even close union, of two dissimilar organisms" is called symbiosis. The fig tree is pollinated only by the insect Blastophaga grossorun. The larva of the insect lives in the ovary of the fig tree, and there it gets its food. The tree and the insect are thus heavily interdependent: the tree cannot reproduce wit bout the insect; the insect cannot eat wit bout the tree; together, they constitute not only a viable but a productive and thriving partnership. This cooperative "living together in intimate association, or even close union, of two dissimilar organisms" is called symbiosis. Man-computer symbiosis is a subclass of man-machine systems. There are many man-machine systems. At present, however, there are no man-computer symbioses. The purposes of this paper are to present the concept and, hopefully, to foster the development of man-computer symbiosis by analyzing some problems of interaction between men and computing machines, calling attention to applicable principles of man-machine engineering, and pointing out a few questions to which research answers are needed. The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today. Licklider, 1960 Man-computer symbiosis is a subclass of man-machine systems. There are many man-machine systems. At present, however, there are no man-computer symbioses. The purposes of this paper are to present the concept and, hopefully, to foster the development of man-computer symbiosis by analyzing some problems of interaction between men and computing machines, calling attention to applicable principles of man-machine engineering, and pointing out a few questions to which research answers are needed. The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today. Licklider, 1960

10 The Moment of Collectivities Via time-sharing, users could share resources, and digital collectivity emerged for the first time. Via time-sharing, users could share resources, and digital collectivity emerged for the first time. The network was to defeat the confines of space, and by its ability to encompass all networks via the software of TCP/IP to create the universalizing Internet. The network was to defeat the confines of space, and by its ability to encompass all networks via the software of TCP/IP to create the universalizing Internet.

11 The Human Augmentation Project Engelbart, one of Licklider's researchers, realized that one of the the primary reasons for the high latency between the human and machine the interface of the machine itself, as the keyboard was at best a limited channel for machinic communication. In the course of meticulous experimentation in search of low latency, Engelbart invented the mouse. Engelbart, one of Licklider's researchers, realized that one of the the primary reasons for the high latency between the human and machine the interface of the machine itself, as the keyboard was at best a limited channel for machinic communication. In the course of meticulous experimentation in search of low latency, Engelbart invented the mouse.

12 Engelbart and Collective Intelligence Man's population and gross product are increasing at a considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity.... Man's population and gross product are increasing at a considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity.... by "augmenting human intellect" we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble

13 Xerox PARC The temporal dimension returned for as soon as many users logged onto a single time-sharing machine the latency between each individual user and the machine increased. The temporal dimension returned for as soon as many users logged onto a single time-sharing machine the latency between each individual user and the machine increased. The vision of the personal computer invented at Xerox PARC sought to resolve this contradiction by giving each user his own high-speed personal machine whose latency would be uniform, regardless of time of use. The vision of the personal computer invented at Xerox PARC sought to resolve this contradiction by giving each user his own high-speed personal machine whose latency would be uniform, regardless of time of use.

14 Atomization and the Ethernet Yet the personal computer sacrificed the important functions of networking and collectivity that existed in time-sharing machines. Yet the personal computer sacrificed the important functions of networking and collectivity that existed in time-sharing machines. Ethernet, local high-speed networking of personal computing, allowed the personal computer to go beyond its individual isolation, so letting computers join networks and establish collectivity without the drawbacks of time- sharing. Ethernet, local high-speed networking of personal computing, allowed the personal computer to go beyond its individual isolation, so letting computers join networks and establish collectivity without the drawbacks of time- sharing.

15 The World-Wide Web: Universalizing Information Space With both the personal computer and the Internet permeating society, Tim Berners-Lee of CERN invented the World Wide Web as a universalizing information space, created by a singular naming convention that subsumed the chaos of previous Internet software. With both the personal computer and the Internet permeating society, Tim Berners-Lee of CERN invented the World Wide Web as a universalizing information space, created by a singular naming convention that subsumed the chaos of previous Internet software.

16 Web 2.0: Collectivity on the Web However, the hypertext web had few authors and many users, and was an individualizing experience. This was superseded by the Web 2.0, which is merely the development of the Web to allow contribution and modification, and so making the Web a truly collective space. However, the hypertext web had few authors and many users, and was an individualizing experience. This was superseded by the Web 2.0, which is merely the development of the Web to allow contribution and modification, and so making the Web a truly collective space. The Semantic Web hopes to make the Web a truly universal space by giving URIs to things not accessible on the Web. The Semantic Web hopes to make the Web a truly universal space by giving URIs to things not accessible on the Web.

17 Latency and the Self With ever lower latency provided by the penetration of wireless and broadband, the universalizing information space of the Web is now a constant feature of our form of life, and our knowledge is more and more externalized and common. With ever lower latency provided by the penetration of wireless and broadband, the universalizing information space of the Web is now a constant feature of our form of life, and our knowledge is more and more externalized and common.

18 Against Embodiment Could it be that the humanist individual is a historical notion, not even a coherent transcendental and biological category. Could it be that the humanist individual is a historical notion, not even a coherent transcendental and biological category. So that the focus on embodiment as in “having a body” and in “having irreducible context” is ultimately a reactionary notion? So that the focus on embodiment as in “having a body” and in “having irreducible context” is ultimately a reactionary notion? After all, coffee-cups are embodied. After all, coffee-cups are embodied.

19 The Future of Collectivity Collective Intelligence as the seamless social power of what Pierre Levy defines as “a form of universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills.” Collective Intelligence as the seamless social power of what Pierre Levy defines as “a form of universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills.” Which might just be our last best hope today in the face of ecological and social collapse. Which might just be our last best hope today in the face of ecological and social collapse.

20 Late Capitalism Technology is the concretization of our social relationships, which have gone from being post- human (Hayles) to anti- human (Althusser). Technology is the concretization of our social relationships, which have gone from being post- human (Hayles) to anti- human (Althusser). Due to this lack of self- consciousness, collective intelligence is today held in check by more primitive social forms of the late capitalism and the accompanying ideological form of modern techno- futurism. Due to this lack of self- consciousness, collective intelligence is today held in check by more primitive social forms of the late capitalism and the accompanying ideological form of modern techno- futurism.

21 Questions? Merci! Merci!


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