Wednesday, March 28, 2012


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Stuart Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Tipping Point, Social Networking, Social Networks, Industrial Revolution,

I read this speech I wrote before the general assembly of Occupy Boston on Oct. 15, 2011.

The tipping point is the critical point at which a system is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium into a different state. Change cannot be stopped.

Systems, whether the chemical creation of life or social networks, are pushed to the edge of chaos and the brink of the tipping point, where they either transform or collapse. If they are to survive, they must adapt by recombining creatively into new forms.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Welcome to the Tipping Point.

Mark Taylor said conditions are right for a revolution as profound as the industrial revolution.

Our actions have led us to the point when we must choose between collapse of our network and change that preserves the best of it. Stagnation of power in the hands of the few at the cost of the many must give way. Either revolution or a spiraling down of Earth into violence and environmental disaster.

This is not about a few tents in a park. It is about a change in mankind.

There is no turning back. Soon things will get very strange. Reality will collide with representation. Reality will triumph. In the Information Age certain unpleasant truths will manifest, and the whole structure of deceit will begin to unravel. We will be left with a void once filled with self-deception. At that point we will have conflict with each other. Decisions will be forced on us all. Sometimes friend will become enemy, enemy friend.

If we are to live together, we have to face ourselves. Progress will force us upward in the long run. The quest is ever forward. Life doesn’t evolve backward, but toward a better place.

Thank you.

Stuart Kurtz

October 12, 2011 Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

The Radical Mind

Dear Occupiers Near and Far:

And so here we are, in the Revolution. Make no mistake. This is the big one. How big, we'll only know when we come out on the other side.

I was thinking: Who are we? What makes a radical, a dissident? I mean, I know many liberal people on the Left who do not protest, but keep the law and go about their business as law-abiding citizens of these states and elsewhere. But who are the ones who actually take to the streets in crisis, or, better yet, the ones who do so when there is seemingly no crisis (but, or course, there is always crisis)?

I used to think there was something wrong with me. Why was I so suspicious of my teachers, my guidance counselors, in fact my family? They all functioned alright. Things got done. The schools processed the kids; the churches saved our souls; the state kept democracy going. But I always resisted, made trouble. Something was wrong with me, the teachers said.

And then, much later in adulthood, I started trying to fit in. I even had a short-term government job. It wasn't the culture around me, so much, I thought. It was me.

Now we are seeing the truth. Our republic is collapsing from under us, and the dissidents don't look so bad now. Maybe we will see that it is not the ones who fit in, but the outsiders who hold the truth. Society moves forward not by the followers but by the rebels, the mavericks, the ne'er-do-wells, the freaks.

So stop asking yourself, if you are, "what is wrong with me?" People, there is nothing wrong with you and everything right. Nature has chosen you to feel the weight of oppression and have the sense to no something is wrong with the so-called just republic.

The ones contented to turn a blind eye will not see the oncoming train. We do and, some of us have always seen it. Now is our time. In a few years the normals might be saying, "What is wrong with me?"

Stuart Kurtz
November 17, 2011 Day of Action in solidarity with Wall Street crackdown Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

The Blimp's Full of Hot Air

The Blimp's Full of Hot Air

A few years back the news featured a story of how Goodyear or Fuji let a man use their blimp's LED board to propose to his girlfriend, who was down in the stadium with her. She said yes. Goodyear probably made out better than the man.

It made me wonder why Goodyear would take away precious advertising time to help
a guy out. Sure, sure, they did it for the publicity. It makes them look good, and so the consumer might be inclined to shop for tires there more. But something else might be going on.

If the man just published a new book, believe me, Goodyear would not promote it with free advertising. If he just one first place flipping the log in the Scottish Games, Goodyear would say sorry, no free ads. So it must be something special about his proposing to his girlfriend that would make Goodyear turn good.

Why would the man's new book contract or the Scottish Games not affect Goodyear's heart? No other personal success, not a new job, or climbing Mount Everest would do the trick. So it's something particular about marriage that Goodyear has an interest in.

Marriage must move along the same processes that keep Goodyear rolling in dough. Now, nothing is wrong with marriage on its own terms. It's the fulfillment of two people's love. But in terms of the Capitalist system there is something wrong. In Capitalist terms marriage creates stable home life, and that means stable workers. It often produces children - more workers for production. In fact, some women have been scorned for being selfish when they say they don't want children. What business is it of theirs? The business is that the production of children fuels the production of commodities, so that offspring themselves become a commodity - in Marxian terms, anything that has exchange value. It is the promise of future labor that makes the worth of new offspring.

Our lives are not just our own but the Capitalist system's. It is not just for the common good but for the production of surplus value - profit for the managers - that the messages of the state creates for all of us a complicity with the methods of production. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Danger of the Virtual

The Danger of Virtuality.

Virtual reality has changed our world dramatically. We have Autocad, by which architects can create any structure whatsoever by letting the program configure the possible physics. We have medicine whereby surgeons can go in with a fiber optic camera fed to a computer which can tell the doctors where to go. We have the most advanced games imaginable, that thrust kids into alternate worlds.

Eversion, acc. to Marcos Novak, is the casting of virtuality away from its technological systems and into lived experience. That should send up an immediate red flag to you. When we can't distinguish between reality and virtual reality, it opens the doors for forces to take advantage oof our false sensibility to prey on our very real property and health.

That is why we had the "virtual wheat" scam of 2010, MF Global got involved in unauthorised trading in CME wheat futures. Deceptive speculators created an artificial bubble of grain futures. In 1971 Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, so the promise of paper currency that there was gold in Fort Knox to back it up was false and a kind of early virtuality in a way. Representation through advertising creates images of false worlds where everybody is happy and free from pain. Virtual games, psychologists say, are making kids separate from the real world. And many of us get lost in our technologies, interacting with false Facebook friends than real ones.

Keeping us tuned in to this virtuality, advertisers, business, and government keep us away from the very real foreclosures, layoffs, and medical crisis going on around us. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Golden Fleece

What makes us love gold? It's shininess and luxury. Ah, but brass is also shiny and beautiful. But people want the gold. If you were a castaway on a desert island and had some brass, you wouldn't care that it weren't gold. So it's something not about the physical properties of the gold but its relation to something else. What is that something? Well, you are alone on the desert island and in that case do not care whether your telescope is made of gold or brass. So it must be a relation to something absent. The comforts of civilization of course. But some of those are shiny luxury goods, and you don't care about the gold, so you won't care about them. So what is missing?

Other people are missing. When you are back home, they admire your finery, but here you are alone. So the relationship between you and gold is really the relationship between you and other persons. They put the value on the gold (diamonds, furniture, car), but the gold is really the intermediary between you and the appreciator.

Money works this way. On that island the money is just paper. You could make better use of it as kindling, but try to barter with it. So value rests in the relationship one person to others. The greater the value the object, the greater the value of the relationship. But is it?

In many countries people regard people with wealth with greater esteem. Think of how impressed some are with the people who have yachts, private jets, and mansions. The press in America used to have headline features of what the rich were up to: "Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt to Hold Gala Ball." And you get the royal treatment when you dine in Tavern on the Green, but go into a greasy spoon, and the waitress says: "Sit over there. I'll be there in a minute, Hon." So many people dole out respect according to how much wealth you have.

The relationship then is not ego to object but ego to ego. As the medium of exchange in relationships is often gold (or money, silver, commodities in general), relationships are often built on falseness. And, as they are not really built on value of others' spirits or goodness or good deeds but on the wealth they acquire, we can give to relationships a negative premium. It is based on "love thy neighbor"...if thy neighbor owns more. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Technology and Changing Power

In Citizens: a Chronicle of the French Revolution writer, Simon Schama asserts that the first hot air balloon may have initiated the French Revolution. In 1783 at Annonay, France the Montgolfier brothers sent up the first balloon, and later the Aeorstat Revellion at Versailles with crew of sheep, duck, and rooster, and later a manned flight. It captured the public imagination.

Schama believes it allowed French subjects to imagine themselves as Montgolfier, lofted above the earth and freed in some way from worldly bounds.

Every revolution is precipitated by some new invention.

The Renaissance brought perspective in painting and then the printing press. Marshall McLuhan said this:

Print technology transformed the medieval zero into the Renaissance infinity, not only by convergence - perspective and vanishing point - but by bringing into play for the first time in human history the factor of exact repeatability. Print gave to men the concept of indefinite repetition so necessary to the mathematical concept of infinity. 1

The uniformity and repeatability of print permeated the Renaissance with the idea of time and space as continuous measurable quantities. The immediate effect of this idea was to desacralize the world of nature and the world of power alike. The new technique of control of physical processes by segmentation and fragmentation separated God and Nature as much as Man and Nature, or man and man. 2

The discovery of the New World later in the Renaissance opened up new physical territory and exploded the myth of a flat world. A cognate was found in Renaissance perspective which removed the mystical, godlike space in art the church fed the masses. Renaissance people now wanted rational art and narratives. that ended the unified, all-encompassing space of Medievalism and ushered in the measurable, logical world of Man, in which Man was the center of this world, and God was confined to Heaven.

Turning points in history come in with changes in the political and social sphere, but they are founded on new technological inventions, devices that change the way people look at the world. The old ways of command and control can't work any more, and the power structures in place are shaken to their core.

Take the photograph. Daguerre created the first silver negative in 1839. Photography's reliable reproduction of reality made citizens no longer dependent on accounts of reality fed to them by the press and its government in the way With a new reliance on themselves to observe naturalistic reality in all its starkness, Europeans created the revolutions of the 1840s.

With the end of the 1848 climax of the revolution the Second Industrial Revolution began, in which mass consumption, made possible with advanced industry, was in bloom. People were not only free to revolt but to consume. McLuhan mentions the transience of the photograph.3 An analogy to it is the limited-use commodity, such as the raft of souvenirs created in the mid-19th century. The early Renaissance, prior to printing press and perspective nevertheless brought in a degree of human nature into the art of Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, and others. From this "invention" came the workshops and guilds, which created a mass market for art for wealthy patrons.

Now we have the very mass media of the Internet and social networking. They have their down sides, as they isolate some of us into an unreal world. And Facebook friends are not your real friends. They do, in fairness though, remove the unilateral nature of earlier mass media. We are not dependent on what NBC has to tell us. We can search the Net for hundreds of news sources. And without social networking we would have no 2009 Iranian uprising, no Arab Spring. The Internet and social networking do not have a command structure as the networks do. Every point (person, that is) is equivalent to every other. As others have said, the dissemination of knowledge is limitless, like Renaissance infinity and the printing press, but much more so. With it power of the elites is weakening into more democratic expression.

The last technology for this essay is the conversion of analog to digital.

NYU Professor, James Carse, once told his class that he opened up his country house and found a leak in the well. So he put his hand over it. But the water shot out at another hole, so he put his hand over that to plug it up. But water came out of two new holes. He said he couldn't figure out the source of the leak until he realized the water was coming from everywhere. And that's the case here. The information revolution is unleashing a wellspring of knowledge in a democratic way. It can't be stopped. It's what we do with information that's the test.

A more abstract development in technology is the conversion of transmissions from analog to digital. Analog technology is structural in its processes. It depends on a hierarchy of steps A - B - C on variable waves. It's frequencies have a theoretically endless number of values. It's cognate would be social organization of the past with kings at the top, then bishops, ministers, knights, merchants, commoners; or president, prime minister, cabinet, and down to voters. Analog depends on a chain of command along a linear path. Its, well, analog in the social and political field is hierarchical power. That is until now.

With digital technology, everything is reduced to binary code...ones and zeros. It is dependent on sampling. Marcos Novak says:

In a world of fields, the distinction between what is and what is not is one
of degree. There can be as many sampling points where something is not as
there are where something is. Sampling involves an intermediate sense of
reality, something between real and integer numbers, a fractal notion of
qualified truth, truth-to-a-point. An object's boundary is simply the
reconstructed contour of an arbitrarily chosen value.4.

While binary leaves itself open to an either/or outlook and can be used to continue a bipolar world view, inviting class conflict, racism, social Darwinism, sampling takes the ones and zeros of binary along a bandwidth of qualified truth, as Novak says. It is not structured the way analog is.

Humanity is becoming more networked, more egalitarian like this digital bandwidth. We are evolving more into one community, certainly not in the short term, but as an impetus for centuries to come.

Stuart Kurtz
November 12, 2011

1. McLuhan, Marshall, Understanding Media, (M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1964, 1994, Ninth edition 2001)pg. 116.
2. Ibid, pg. 176.

3. Ibid, pg. 196.

4. Novak, Marcos, Transmitting Architecture: The Transphysical City, Edited by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, (published 11/29/1996) Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo