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Qui Parle, Volume 14, Number 1, Fall/Winter 2003

Vol. 14 | No. 1 | Fall/Winter 2003


Network Digital Information Humachines: A Conversation with Mark Poster
Mark Poster and Stuart J. Murray

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Stuart J. Murray — Perhaps I can start by asking you a general question about subjectivity as this pertains to electronic media. My ability to communicate more effectively over space and time — electronically — undoubtedly has an influence on where I am, and on what I am as a spatio-temporal referent. But how does my manipulation of space/time impact on my bodysubject, on who I am? How do we figure this ability in the mode of information? Although you have cautioned against the imposition of a liberalist metanarrative, if we theorize the subject's communicative abilities in the language of intentionality, should we consider the subject in the mode of information as an extended "I can," to use Husserl's phrasing? How might we conceive of the human, if not by its abilities, its agency?

Mark Poster — You ask about who I am and my agency in cyberspace, about my manipulation of space/time. I don't think it's my manipulation of space/time; that implies too much agency. Instead, we are a point in a circuit of a space/time configuration. And how does that affect who I am? Well, if you regard the subject as consciousness, then this question leads in a certain direction. But I come to it from the linguistic turn, and look at the subject not from the point of view of its own consciousness, but the way in which it is figured as a cultural entity. This happens in part — not wholly, but in part — through media; through media, but also through face-to-face relations and through other practices. Your question returns to intentionality and seems to want to pull back to the position of the conscious subject; however, with Foucault and in my own work, I believe there is an attempt to understand how it is through culture that individuals are figured as conscious subjects or as agents, in other words, to understand what makes conscious subjectivity or agency possible in our culture, because not all cultures configure the individual in this way.

Read now at Duke University Press

Digital Copyright and the Possibility of Pure Law
Gordon Hull

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

In 1908, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the applicability of the Copyright Act to the new music technology du jour: the piano roll machine. The question at hand was whether or not a piano roll constituted a "copy" of the sheet music that it played. If so, copyright owners could enjoin unauthorized piano rolls of the songs for which they owned the copyright. If not, piano roll producers could freely produce and market their versions of the songs. In ruling that the Copyright Act did not extend to piano rolls (and would not, absent explicit revision by Congress), the Court reasoned in a manner that will seem surprising to a contemporary ear accustomed to hearing complaints about digital music piracy:

“It may be true that in a broad sense a mechanical instrument which reproduces a tune copies it; but this is a strained and artificial meaning. When the combination of musical sounds is reproduced to the ear it is the original tune as conceived by the author which is heard. These musical tones are not a copy which appeals to the eye. In no sense can musical sounds which reach us through the sense of hearing be said to be copies as that term is generally understood, and as we believe it was intended to be understood in the statutes under consideration...”

Read now at Duke University Press

The Aesthetics of Net.Art
Julian Stallabrass

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

On the face of it, the subject of net.art's aesthetic seems slightly perverse; indeed, a colleague of mine once asked what I was working on, and when I told her replied with the single word: "yuk." Much of the aesthetic feeling traditionally derived from fine art depends on the interplay between representation, idea and its instantiation in some material form, and the feeling of that material being worked with. That seems absent in online art. Furthermore, much net.art, as we shall see, strives to be manifestly anti-aesthetic, and the usual procedures that the art world uses for marking objects for aesthetic attention are not available, or are not taken up, online. I hope, though, that its very resistance to the aesthetic makes it a useful because extreme test case.

"Net.art" is the term used to refer to a strain of Internet art that emerged soon after the invention and wide take-up of web-browsers in the mid 1990s: it was a conceptually informed art that explored the possibilities of this new arena for art, had an at best ambivalent relationship with the mainstream art world, was often collaborative, and was supported by a lively and disputatious criticism, much of it penned by the artists themselves.

Not all Internet art was at all like this, and artists continue to produce a very wide range of work online — some of it manifestly designed to elicit an aesthetic response. Much net.art played with the legacy of modernism; but for an example of another, more straightforward response we can look to the work by online commercial designer and artist John Maeda, who has produced what is both a technical update, and an idealist realization of Malevich's painted cosmological fantasies. Viewers, who have a passive relation to the work once they have clicked on the link to initiate the animation of floating squares, are I think meant to find it beautiful.

Read now at Duke University Press

Enduring Freedom: War, Corporate Television, and the Delusion of the Delusion
Gerhard Richter

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

When the policy and propaganda divisions of the current Bush Administration set out to generate a rhetoric that could be mobilized to inaugurate a new foreign policy in the wake of the horrific terrorist crimes of September 11, 2001, they inadvertently radicalized Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of truth as a “moveable army of metaphors and metonymies" by instrumentalizing this concept to achieve a clearly stated set of interlocking stratagems: to reinterpret the meaning of terrorism, to establish precedent for the disregard of international law and the will of the electorate, and to rule the global community by force. In the months leading up to the second Iraq War, elements of this rhetoric were mobilized to justify any number of questionable maneuvers, ranging from the attack on Afghanistan to the inhumane treatment of Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, a treatment that was legitimized by the Administration through a particularly narrow interpretation of the Geneva Convention, limiting POW status — and, effectively, the human rights of prisoners — to combatants deriving from conventionally recognized nation states. During the second Iraq War, the Administration and its variegated agents once again attempted to declare any critique of its actions off-limits by deploying the catachrestic and perplexing trope "Support Our Troops” — catachrestic and perplexing because in actuality the troops are supposed to support us, not the other way around. Since then, under the patronage of a new so-called Department of Homeland Security, the moveable army of tropes has colonized an ever broadening terrain, including even the American system of higher education, in which foreign students attending colleges and universities across the country are now forced to pay a “special fee" that is used by the government to fund the surveillance of these students through a database and tracking program called "SEVIS."

Read now at Duke University Press

Peace is Resistence to the Terrible Satisfactions of War: An Interview with Judith Butler
Judith Butler and Jill Stauffer

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Jill Stauffer — I was going to begin by asking you about your work on gender, and you indicated that you wanted to talk about philosophy and peace. So I guess it's fair to ask: What does philosophy have to do with peace?

Judith Butler — I'm always glad to talk about gender — maybe we'll get to that later. But it seems to me that, with the start of this war — which started just 72 hours prior to the start of this conversation — questions arise about how human beings characterize what they're doing and, in particular, how people deal with violence: inflicting it, being on the receiving end of it, and how it gets made unreal somehow in the media. And I suppose these are philosophical questions if you ask at a basic level what our obligations are to other human beings and why it is that we may need to consider whether there are ever situations in which it is justified to do violence to another human being. This seems to me to be a very important philosophical question. In my own view, I've become more and more interested in the problem of non-violence lately. In particular, as a Jew, I've been looking into what the sources of non-violence are within Judaism. I think many people consider Judaism to be a religion based on revenge, and I think that's not true. Revenge may certainly be one part of Judaism, but there are also several strains of Jewish philosophy that believe that the way to handle conflict is through protracted interpretation.

Read now at Duke University Press

   Review Essay

Shaken Realism
Todd Cronan

A review of Fried, Michael, Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in Nineteenth-Century Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).

Read now at Duke University Press

Cover: Ilkka Uimonen, Magnum Photos.

Volume 14.1 is available at Duke University Press and JSTOR. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.