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wants to be free

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A terrific passage from Alan Liu’s The Laws of Cool:

Now, perhaps, we can understand the true meaning of the emancipation proclamation of the information age first uttered in 1984 by Stewart Brand, publisher of The Whole Earth Catalog: “information wants tot be free.” In the era of the Whole Earth Corporation, “information wants to be free” is ultimately how we are no longer allowed to say “we” want to be free. “We,” the subject and class of information culture, come fully to know our world only in the blinding moment of illumination when the world network routes around our knowledge – that is, the us in our knowledge that Fukuyama (in the other half of his thesis) terms “the struggle for recognition” and Castells (in the second volume of his Information Age trilogy) calls “the power of identity.” We do not even need the hyperbole of cyberpunk science fiction, with its unerring instinct for the mutilation of subjects (e.g., the silicon-punctured bodies and flat-lined subjectivities of Gibson’s Neuromancer), to grasp the intensity of our loss – nor the uncanny double of that intensity, the blurred anomie of it all. “X” marks the spot where the whole generation of incipient knowledge workers in the United States suceeding the baby boomers – the generation caught in the “pipeline” from education to the corporation – has been deleted from the network. Indeed, we may speculate that the purely generational identity of “Gen X” (and now “Gen Y” after them) looms large at this moment precisely because it is an empty solidarity reflecting – as if in cyberpunk “mirrorshades” – the hollow form of the corporate world’s own generational identity as “workforce 2000.” “We” are no more than this transient moment when we have nothing more in common – as Jean-Luc Nancy might say in his Inoperative Community – than our finitude, our extinction, our “death.” (69)

Written by adswithoutproducts

May 22, 2006 at 11:43 pm

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