the new ontology

8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.


Today’s thesis does a little double word play. The prefixes italicized above imply a prepositional relationship between the nouns these words adjective.

Say what?

Yesterday I wrote about how the Word keeps us confined to grammar. With the sentence above, you can see the performance of such. I had to look up the prefixes just to be sure I would know where to begin. Let’s get word nerdy.

If markets are internetworked, they are all connected together; there is no outside of the network of markets. They are wholly integrated with one another. Thus is the realm of the internet.

However, the complication arises in the shift: intranetworked employees. Huhm. When I looked this up, I noted that the prefix stands for a relation to things as they are internal. This is where the notion of the material comes into play.

In order for an inside, or an interiority, we have to accept that employees are the internal material of markets. This naturally lends itself to a capitalist analysis.

Rather than delving into that directly, expressly, or with Marxist vigor (as I hope my fellow writers will take up anyway), I would like to retell what I learned last night in my first class of the quarter.

Professor Rhodes gave a lecture which shook all my previous knowledge on economy, writing, and technology via powerpoint. I do not have a copy of this presentation, but I did manage to take some great notes. Therefore, I will expand on what I have learned in a way that makes sense to me, and hopefully to you.

Rhodes told us that “histories of writing are about systems of control.” We can see this with the examples she gave considering the Dewey Decimal System, book-binding, print technologies, etc. Throughout our human existence, we have set out to find ways to physically control our information.

Theories tell us that in Mesopotamia, humans used what is called bulla technology. They would carve symbols into clay, then press them into large clay balls. These symbols represented physical objects worthy of trade: livestock, produce, and the like. (hello semiotics much?) When a human would travel to a different area, he would put the small symbols inside a large clay ball, to have it function as an envelope. This allowed him to break it open, and say “hey, I got all this. You want it? What will you give me for it?” Talk about a man-purse!

This theory is one of economy, where writing performs a function in relationship to trade and consumerism.

Then Rhodes said something cool: “Writing is not natural. It is something we do to get something.” Yep, rhetoric.

Another theory tells us that the Chinese may have carved symbols onto the shoulder blades of cattle, calling them “dragon bones.” In religious ceremony, they may have burned them to send messages to the gods. As time went on, the carvings might have gotten more elaborate, more personal and social. As if to say, “Hey gods, can you take care of me and my family? So and so isn’t doing so well, and my children are hungry.”

Again, writing as a means to acquiring salvation and sanity. Don’t we all just want a good promise of health and happiness?

I am not going to go into the following histories—those of the Egyptians, and the future technologies of the printing press and the beginnings of mass media. I am not going to because these are more researched and more studied. You all can wiki the heck out of that stuff. [look up Gutenburg, the Chinese linen guys who made “paper” out of linen underwear, Incunabula, the Codex, and the history of newspapers.]

What I want to get back to is the relationship to the inside, and to speech acts. Thesis 8 tells us that people are speaking to each other in new ways. Yes, indeed this is so. Here I am reaching any of you reading (hello!) from the nice, quiet solitude of my house. I don’t even have to leave to speak with my friends, colleagues, or students.

The point I am trying to make by referencing these possible historical truths regarding the bulla and dragon bones is that we have been embracing whatever technological advances and “new” media at our disposal to reach one another.

We use technology to get something: human interaction. Whether it is economic, political, religious, or social, every act of writing returns to personal need. It connects us to one another. There aren’t necessarily “new” ways of speaking but new ways in which to speak. The new is technology—whatever that happens to be when we are.

But Rhodes said something else; this was the main point of her lecture: “New media creates nostalgia for what was just before it.”

When we think about nostalgia, it is, perhaps, always useful to go to Debord. So I’ll go there, and get him in here.

Number 32 of the Society of the Spectacle:

The spectacle within society corresponds to a concrete manufacture of alienation. Economic expansion is mainly the expansion of this specific industrial production. What grows with the economy in motion for itself can only be the very alienation which was at its origin.

Debord is probably telling us that what causes alienation among humans (and the world beings) is when society is functioning outside of itself. Because this is technically impossible—and I am arguing Derrida’s il n’y a pas de hors-texte—the alienation occurs in the unnatural state of a natural habitat. We are not meant to treat one another as means of industrial production. When we correspond with one another based on trade value, we begin accessing each other as values, not humans or beings. This economy of life creates that alienation, or separation.

Debord has stuff for that. Number 181:

The struggle between tradition and innovation, which is the principle of internal culture development in historical societies, can be carried on only through the permanent victory of innovation. Yet cultural innovation is carried by nothing other than the total historical movement which, by becoming conscious of its totality, tends to supersede its own cultural presuppositions and moves toward the suppression of all separation.

Okay, I am going to tear into this for my own advances and purposes (did I just meta-prove something? uups.). We have the chance to read this part of Debord’s work alone, but in context of Number 32. Since we are cultural beings struggling to innovate via technology, we are enabling the industrial, economic system to continue treating us a value objects, not as beings. This continues to alienate us from one another, and ourselves. This is why economy is not conducive to culture or living.

Yet all is not lost.

Once we admit to ourselves collectively that this has always been our history—that we have always used culture and production for the act of economic alienation—we can see our historical truth as what it is: bullshit.

Only then can we stop working for the machine, and start working for ourselves. All we are going to need to do, though, is start utilizing what technologies we have to speak to each other about these “new” ways of being.

The new ontology continues tomorrow…


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