There are no capital letters on the internet. The internet resists reification. It is clean and invisible. Its shit don’t stink. But like a Sun God it demands tribute, sacrifices – rare metals and the poor. Vast megaservers are powered and cooled in equal measure by vast hydroelectric damns, but are they serving us or are we serving them? And what do these seductively kitsch tablets and devices want from us? Plastic never decays, it cheats death – nature’s greatest invention.
Social networking sites, such as twitter, facebook and personwordthing, don’t have anything to do with these issues however. They exist on the internet and the internet is clean and invisible. The internet is the post industrial landscape, the pure relational placeless space of the knowledge economy. Apple factories are physical, the internet is metaphysical. So when devising a new social networking site I realised it would have to not depend on computers. The internet is for everyone and not everyone can have a computer. I’d also have to make something totally out of my control, incapable of surveillance, because the internet is decentralised.
Having foregone computers, I got to thinking about data as a kind of non-physical stuff to make my site. Data goes back to the 17th century – back then it was called ideas. Ideas are infinitely replicable and combinable and exist in a subject object relation. Descartes had a lump of wax. The wax was composed of softness, yellowness, warmth and smelling of bees. He could imagine a red piece of wax that smelt of owls, reproductions of sense impressions, data management by the subject, or user. The user was forged from a series of world historical events including the Reformation and the Copernican revolution. Using implies distance (if you are using me, you are not my friend, we are not together).
Whilst its causal bases are heterogeneous (it could be randomly generated by a computer or the result of someone filming a cute kitten), data itself is perfectly smooth and homogeneous. That’s why you can’t say what the difference between red and green is for example. The thing is – there’s no data on social networking sites! Everything on facebook is boring, exciting, coincidental, sick-making etc. How can data be funny or make you jealous? Data is useful, it’s so useful we become users, that’s why since the Archimedean point sought refuge in the ego, we’ve sucked the natural world up like milkshake. The Cartesian ego is just a weird data receiving node, it’s not even conscious.
So data is something we can’t see. In the metaphysical world of the internet, data is always behind things. Data is matter – the basis for sight and sound but unknowable in itself. Even 0s and 1s are a representation of data. Information is a difference which makes a difference (0 and 1 are different but so what). But it’s hard to see how even this difference which makes a difference makes any difference to the user.
So I got to thinking about apps – some kind of organising principal so the user could make sense of all this bland data/info. Kant introduced apps – time and space for example. Now we have stuff like where’s the nearest Chinese restaurant? but it’s the same, we’re just running out of ideas. Software is apps. By endowing the user with apps her experience makes some kind of sense – things are meaningfully orientated.
But meaningfully orientated towards what? Users don’t use social networking sites, people do. In order to interrelate people, social networking sites use things that don’t get used. Husserl turned ‘To the things themselves!’ The spec for things to be a personwordthing is that they must be an object you can fit easily into the palm of your hand – like a mouse and the way the cursor is about the same size as the icons. When you look around you see a lot of shunned objects – on the street, in your house – penlids, packaging, broken ephemera, snail shells. Useless realia, abandoning the ego, the user. Take them under your wing, activate them, collect, curate, constellate. Link differently. They are not data or information existing in a subject object relation. They are minted from the same world as you, uniquely scarred and set by the same contingencies, harmonising with your own being.
There are more important things to do. But we will do these things anyway. Because they occur with the blessed earth, social networking sites are pre-modern, incorporating that which is found anywhere into a meaningful social/representational rhizome. This is why instead of the 140-character limit I introduce the word. The word of personwordthing is quite loosely defined – I’ve heard examples such as coffee machine – is that hyphenated?
The internet is like a mirror, preaching to the converted. So in a sense the person of personwordthing is always you, just as on facebook, twitter etc but the person can also be someone who is related to you via the exchange of thingwordpersons, they could also also be you having turned to themselves. A sock for example may be a conglomeration of your uncle and ‘clown’ but it may have been given to you by the Queen. The theology of trinitarianism is how you chose to analyse the unity of thing, word and person.
Because the totally invisible, instantaneous nature of the word and person of the personwordthing are encumbered in the form of a corporeal object – they have to be transferred by hand. Even in the case of computer data, a handheld object (CD) being transferred by hand is faster in most cases than servers. personwordthing runs at this improved speed. You needn’t carry too many wordthingpersons out of the house or have many at all – the mysterious lack of objective of personwordthing is intended as a way of allowing you to enjoy an offline existence more easily.
Reaction to thingpersonword determines a person’s self awareness of superstition, as well as the general level of superstition. By committing ontological taboos about correct access and use of the internet, the traditional channels of power are disrupted.
[First published on Posterous.com November 22, 2011]