Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-01-10 - 10:23 p.m.
Friday I had a really awful ANT-printer episode - I checked with some colleagues who were able to reassure me that a number (rather just one or two) actants were contributing to my discomfort - playing up the way they do.
During the first week back in the office and picked up the colds that various colleagues have been spraying around. It seems to bring out the worst in the ANTs.
To help cope I called in at the pub on the way home from the office and read Feenberg on Alternative Technologies over a pint of Guinness - the central bit about French ICT and the pomo. Apparently in the 80s the French came up with a centralized public ICT system based on videotext - ie a modernist implementation based on hierarchy and objectivity. They out there could access the databanks in here. But to everyone’s surprise, the videotext was subverted by nasty users to become an illicit communication system where subjectivities were in the ascendant. The suggestion is that as the C takes over from the I in ICT so social identity and control are disrupted and the pomo rips away - anything goes.
James arrived back from Moscow very early on Saturday and left for Cambridge less than twelve hours later. He seemed to enjoy his trip - he visited a Norwegian banker who had a steel reinforced front door to his flat that had the ability to resist a rocket propelled grenade - one way of asking for an overdraft I suppose.
Vita has started working on a photo essay on the subject of decay. Last week she and Mrs C went to see the Diane Arbus exhibition at the V&A. She looks normally weird now but then she was weird weird.
I spent some of the weekend looking at scores and listening to the short aphoristic atonal pieces that got written in Vienna just before the first world war. Besides Schoenberg’s famous Op19 and Berg’s Op 5 for clarinet there are a number by Webern including two sets of pieces for string quartet and two sets of orchestral pieces.
This morning I managed to throw into the briefcase the Kathryn Bailey biography of Webern that fell into my hand by chance one rainy evening in San Francisco. This (rainy) evening in The Engine in Kenilworth I began to pick my way through the sections which cover the creation of the musical aphorisms. Webern writes lots of aphoristic pieces - Berg and Schoenberg very few.
(Meanwhile equally great pieces are being written elsewhere - the Rite of Spring, Jeux, Syrinx, for example.) On the way to SF I had a Webern moment in the High Sierras - the points of colour from the flora in the high alpine meadows.
For Webern the time of the aphorisms is especially turbulent - he is trying to make his way in the world, something he is pretty crap at, while at the same time the Mr & Mrs Schoenberg debacle is in full spate. So the plot thickens as the sublime of the small moves into the ascendant - the first great burst of minimalism in the 20th century - the connection to the next burst is shorter than you might imagine.
Currently my morning ritual is to listen to the local orchestra doing Farben and then the 6 Web pieces for v large orchestra.- and then the Suite from the great Californian opera, Lulu - deceptively tuneful as enlightenment sinks beneath the waves.
Imagine my surprise, in The Engine, when I pulled out my old copy of ‘Towards a Rational Society’ and started on Chapter 4 - Technical Progress and the Social Life World - to find Hux in my sights. Habermas takes him to task for suggesting that science might make its way into poetry - writing in 1968 and can (I suppose) be forgiven for not knowing that that is exactly what Prynne and crew are up to at that point.
the prime joy / of control engineering is what they please/ to denote (through the quartzite window) / “self optimizing systems”, which they like/ to consider as a plan/ for the basic living unit.
That said, most of Ch 4 of TARS is pretty much on the money - it makes more sense at the moment than the Dialectics of Enlightenment even though this was written in Pacific Palisades where (and when) Hux and Stravinsky would spend relaxing evenings together reflecting on the state of possible worlds.
The DoE raises (rather elliptically) how culture and technology can co-exist. Habermas picks up the baton and comes up with an account of why it doesn’t have to be like this which I am not sure has been surpassed since - Habermas throws the gauntlet down and we are still waiting for someone to pick it up.
Habermas made me realise that at the point when Hegel is mapping spirit’s path, science entered the life-world through by the behaviour codes governing the man of science. We get an echo of this today through the feigned shock that accompanies the discovery of the stem-cell deception in Korea. How could someone committed to the pursuit of truth behave in such a way? Hux has one foot in this culture and the other on the sofa with Lulu waiting for a tab of something enlightening.