Lovink replies

Geert Lovink replied to my runaway post on "Cultural Pessimism and Pragmatic Optimism", which was a reply to his article "Blogging, the Nihilist Impulse".

hi, as an activist i really do not get your obsession with 'cultural pessimism'. to me it just shows that you are unfamiliar with my work and position and confuse ruthless (self) analysis with some projected melancholic mood. to me blogs are first and foremost software, or to be more precise, a specific software culture that needs to be compared with email, usenet, web forums and so on. we activists and artists and other irregulars are not married to one specific format or platform. the other idea is, of course, that blogging emerges from a certain tendency in society, it is NOT a non-historical tool that is out there, somewhere and that can be used for optimistic or pessimistic causes.

Best, Geert

PS. if you would have used a search engine you would have found that I do indeed have a blog, was involved an early collaborative blogging and webforum experiment called Discordia and that I more than once called myself a radical pragmatist.
First: thank you for commenting, Geert! I was hoping you would stop by.

I did (and do!) indeed use search engines, but Google shows a part of your blog (net critique) which made me think it was somebody else's blog commenting on your article. So it goes. And if my post showed you that I was unfamiliar with your work, it's unsurprising, because I am. But then, familiarity with your work and position should not be a requirement for commenting on a single article by you.

But I think you might have misread my disagreement with you. I certainly never said and obviously do not think (if you are familiar with my work & positions, wink wink) that the blog is an ahistorical phenomenon. We do not disagree about the need to historicise. Our disagreement is more on what shape the historification should take, and to what pragmatic ends. I'm glad that you're still inclined after your critique to use the internet for activism, I just think that maybe your essay might make such activism more, rather than less, difficult.

Let me pull some specific critiques out of my response, which I would like to hear your response to:

1. You wrote: "I see blogs as part of an unfolding process of 'massification' of this still new medium. What the Internet lost after 2000 was the 'illusion of change'." Am I reading this right in thinking that you are saying the internet is not a massive shift in what our culture is and what it does?

2. You also react to the irrelevance of blogging. Isn't this irrelevance, as someone who seems [says Google] to sympathise with anarchist ideals, precisely the point? Isn't the fact that we can say things which are outside the capitalist machines - the printing presses, the demand for marketability, etc. - precisely the point?

3. I claim that: "[Lovink] does not allow blogs to enact the difference he claims that they eradicate, because he describes in homogenic terms a heterogeneous phenomenon." In the introduction to your article, you seem to agree that blogs are heterogenous & hard to describe under single terms, but you still try to put blogs in general under the expansive, nihilist position you describe later in the essay. How do you reconcile this difference in the phenomenon with homogenic terms like for instance "nihilist"? Isn't the proliferation of modes of blogging a counter-argument in itself?

4. You say that "It would be interesting to investigate why criticism has not become popular, and aligned itself with such new-media practices as blogging". I disagree that this is the case, and in fact find a new culture of criticism - literary, cultural, political, philosophical, theoretical - to be one of the most marked elements of what I think are the interesting bits of the blogging culture.

But the major faultline in our disagreement is still that between pessimism and optimism. I write in my original post that: "There is a claim [in Baudrillard, and your article] of celebrating a difference and subjectivity now lost, but at the same time there is an attack on the material conditions necessary to allow real difference to be actualised and flourish, coupled with what amounts to an attack on actual difference in the world today, because it is not 'real', not 'genuine' enough." In short: I think that you are attacking a tool which can allow us to actualise cultural and political difference.

Back to historicising: I suspect that your line of thought will participate in the (historical) shaping of the tool. By attacking something with a lot of possibility, you end up with an attempt at taking apart something which we (you and me and other blogger-activists) could use to do something with. Why not have an optimistic, utopian redescription, instead of what I would call a pessimistic reductive argument which falls against the tool? I think that when you try to read blogging as emerging and expressing these tendencies in culture, you are being reductive. It's too much a huge and complex and emergent phenomenon to describe like this. I suspect our energies would be better spent criticising those aspects of the culture which gave birth to what you see as the negative side of blogs than the blogs themselves. They are articulating and articulated, right? I would rather focus on their articulating capacity than one aspect of their articulation.

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Blogger Peter Larsen said...

You gotta love this guy! (And as you are familiar with both my work and position, you know exactly how to read that last statement.)

June 27, 2007 1:08 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

I wrote Lovink an email telling him I'd replied, and he sent me the following reply (btw is it not incredibly annoying that Blogger doesn't allow blockquotes in comments?):

"hi, i read your comments and disagree with you, what activism needs is
a lot of self-inspection and radical criticsm, not some religious
glorification of one's good deeds and forced optimism. new age has done
a lot of damage to social movements and i see it is as my task to
question attempts like yours that in my view block thinking, which in
my view is very important if you want to come up with successful
strategies and study previous 'mistakes'. yours, geert"

Which I thought was unsatisfying, but if he doesn't want to debate, that's ok.

And I'm assuming that the comma is misplaced in the following sentence:

"i see it is as my task to
question attempts like yours that in my view block thinking, which in
my view is very important if you want to come up with successful
strategies and study previous 'mistakes'."

Because I'm pretty sure that I don't block thinking.

June 28, 2007 11:32 am  
Blogger Peter Larsen said...

But you do love blockquotes, you blockhead you.

June 28, 2007 12:16 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

At least I don't have writer's block.

June 28, 2007 12:50 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

I'm sorry to break up your little party but I think you block thinking all the time.

June 28, 2007 2:59 pm  

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