the diversity thread unravels...

Posted by Rhizome | Fri Mar 7th 1997 1 a.m.

In reply to recent discussions of diversity in new media art, Mike
Tulloch wrote:

There is already "minority penetration" of the new medium. Heck, I don't
know the race of the individuals who might get this message. Nor does it
matter. There's tons of people out there on the Net and the Web who are
minorities; but you're only aware that they *are* minorities if they
make a case out of it. Otherwise, you see what they're saying, not them.
Which I thought was the idea--the transference of data.

Elisha Sessions responded:

Again the enlightenment raises its horrid head. And we were so way-new,
we thought.

A national (or international) space inhabited by pure reason has been
the dream of Western tyrants and institutional oppression for centuries.
It is the fiction that drives the Economics departments. It is the lie
that ensures white access to power. It is what quietly turns
postmodernists into fascists.

But the author was oppressive, right? Now we have texts zipping around,
disembodied, free of the shackles of their origin - transforming,
mutating, etc. Who could not applaud such a development? Now we are
free of the egos of the modernists - sometimes they made a "case" out of
things - and now what you say has force despite who you are, not because
of it. It is what you say, not who you are. The author's body was an
imposition, unsightly. Now we hear that it has turned entirely to
speech, and that everyone has an equal share and equal opportunity to
debate the consequences.

But simply declaring a space to be free of status distinctions is not
enough to make it so. It is the voice of power that can make these
effortless declarations, like "race does not matter." It is the voice
of the pre-modernist, coffee-house intellectual of Enlightenment Vienna
that supposes an eradication of difference as the first step towards
democracy. It is the voice of the white western man that has never had
to make a case for itself.

Honoria added:

Go Elisha Go!!!

Thank you for your passion and intellect in responding to the
powerstructures with their glass ceilings cluttering up ciberspazio
(cyberspace).

To which G.H. Hovagimyan replied:

This is one of the oddest expressions I've ever read. What space? Whose
dream?

Where do you come up with this notion? And since when has the West been
the center of tyranny? You ever hear of Genghis Khan? Or Idi Amin? Or
Mao Tse Tung? How about Joseph Stalin?

Maybe you meant to say male dominated hierarchies such as governments,
universities, armed forces and so on.

Then Elisha Sessions wrote:

Re: what space?

The kind of space you enter when you pick up the newspaper. My post was
a specific response to a familiar assertion about electronic discourse:
that it is a space for discussion and debate that passes over - must
pass over - the bodily or positive origin of the speakers whose texts
populate it.

I agree that this "space" is a pretty abstract one, but this abstraction
is its defining characteristic. Mike Tulloch, and others, demand strict
adherence. They insist on speakers abstracting themselves out of their
cultural particularities, presumably towards some ideal circulation of
rational arguments. Texts speak to texts, the music of the spheres. I
see this as a handy alibi for cementing the power and class
relationships already in place. In this context it's pretty easy to
disregard people and groups that have traditionally had to pay attention
to cultural specificity - the vague desire some people have for black
folks to just "get over it," i.e. your blackness doesn't matter to me,
so why do you keep "making a case" about it?

Re: whose dream?

It is the great confusing dream of western civilization; one version is
known as "the American dream" - work hard and you'll succeed. A logical
meritocracy, unencumbered with specificity. Any high school kid trying
to get a summer job can tell otherwise.

I am interested: what made you think of Genghis Khan, etc? I suppose
this is as open for critique as anything else, but I figured western
print capitalism and its attendant rhetorics of abstract rationality as
an appropriate context for what was being talked about. Bringing
rationalism and enlightenment to overembodied, irrational peoples has
been one of the weapons of choice in western territorial conquest for
several hundred years. I didn't mean to imply that all territorial
conquest has been accomplished with this justification. Did I
understand you correctly?

Then, commenting on Mike Tulloch, Tamas Banovich wrote:

Somehow your "Hahahahhaha..." did not get to me until the RHIZOME
DIGEST. I live on planet USA where about 30 million are wired, and the
net was invented on this planet for transfer of scientific/military
data, on government money.

It, along the way, became a "platform where people can communicate" and
a very small and shrinking minority does, however the overwhelming
majority of it is used to "MAKE MONEY", unbiased, on this planet. You
can ignore it but isn't that ignorance? I absolutely agree with you that
the race, sex, etc. should not matter, the artworld specifically is
overwhelmed with body, sex, race politics, PC, Cultural Diversity. But
than where the hell this idiotic idea is coming from, to make the ISEA
yet an other platform for these very same agendas.

On my planet, to be fair, there is a lot of racism as well. Lots of
angry, incoherent peoples too. Also, on this planet most units taking
part in "transference of data" are people, not immaterial ideas. You can
close your eyes and mind, you can ignore it....

By "minority penetration" I meant that there will be lots of minority
programming (yes business)

Hahahahhaha...i dunno what planet you're on.
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