Archive for the Why/how Category

Ethics, hacking, and AIDS oh my!

Posted in AIDS, Foucault, Galloway, KL, Tech, Why/how on April 7, 2008 by untimelymediations

While I found the entirety of Galloway’s Protocol pleasurable, I found my interest most peaked in one of the final chapters on hacking and viruses.  Even more specifically, when Galloway discusses the ethics of hacking and relates the upsurge of computer viruses to the AIDS epidemic, I was intrigued because I had never read anything like that (sure, my knowledge of hacking is a bit slim and that could account for the oversight).  For this week’s post, then, I want to discuss how ethics, control, and biopower are interrelated.

After reading Jill’s post, I, too, am impressed that Galloway spends significant time laying out the why/how intricacies of the internet as we know it today.  Impressively, he wrote for an audience like myself (some techy knowledge under my belt), and also those with extreme fluency in the matter.  Before Protocol, I didn’t know there was a “hackers code of ethics.”  Following a lengthy discussion of code of ethics, Galloway mentions that, “hackers don’t care about rules, feelings, or opinions. They care about what is true and what is possible.  And in the logical world of computers, if it is possible then it is real.  Can you break into a computer, not should you” (168).  While hacking could be seen as a point of non-resistance, from a Foucauldian standpoint, I’d have to agree with Galloway that we’re simply seeing a different/another form of control.  However, what is most interesting about hacking and control is that the hackers seem to relinquish their bodily control to the machine.  Even though they write the code that wreaks havoc, it is the transference of power from the individual (hacker) to the machine (i.e. damaging code replicating itself in other computers) in which we clearly see the moment of control being illustrated.  Further, rather than trying to push through the control of the protocol, “hackers are created by protocol […] hackers are protocological actors par excellence” (158).  Hacking cannot and would not exist without protocol.

AIDS/Computer Viruses:

“Computer viruses appeared in a moment in history where the integrity and security of bodies, both human and technological, was considered extremely important.  Social anxieties surrounding both AIDS and the war on drugs testify to this” (179).

This quote suggests that bodies and computers are certainly interconnected through disease, subject to the same type of collapse.  (Again, I had never seen these connections before, so I might sound n00b-ish.)  During the AIDS epidemic and confusion, no one had [much] knowledge on its origins, treatment, or prevention, and we can see the same parallels to computer viruses.  At the time, hacking hadn’t “hit it big” yet, and just like AIDS, the population that it infected was unaware of its powers.  That is what’s most fascinating to me about this moment is that both the technological and the biological were experiencing the same sorts of attacks on their “bodies.”  Further, “bodies,” and ultimately biopower, has become even misconstrued (i.e. selling bodies on eBay).

Invention of Invention

Posted in Ambiguity, KL, Science, sophists, Stengers, Why/how on February 18, 2008 by untimelymediations

(Side note: I agree with Mike’s concern last week about feeling like I need a bit more background for this text.  I had a difficult time grounding it in any sense.  Maybe it’s just me – and I’m not trying to make excuses for my superficial post – but I just feel like I’m scratching the surface with Stengers, and I’m missing something really important.  Are there some specific texts that overview Science and Rhetoric?  I would be interested to read something that would help me ‘get’ this.)

This week’s reading was a bit complicated and confusing for me, so I had to read it through the lens of my favorite, confusing-as-hell addiction: Lost.  Like fans of any given television show, I obsess—completely. I should add that this obsession is not limited merely to ‘water-cooler discussions,’ but I have downloaded the Lost podcasts, read the message boards, and have even read the articles (not surprisingly, there are many scholarly ones out there).  We rabid fans are in search of two things – the why and the how (w/h) of the plot. Before Stengers, these are two qualities for which I did not realize I was searching.  In most other shows, we get the w/h.  We know why Jack Bauer is getting his ass kicked for his country.  We know how and why Dexter Morgan is killing his victims.  But on the island, no one knows either, and we are left to fend for ourselves in weekly battle of he-said/she-said.  And this is why I believe Stengers is so applicable to Lost: as shown in every episode, each character is inventing her/his own, new truth by fictionalizing the self and denying who s/he was before the plane crash.

For Stengers, truth and fiction are inseparable, and ultimately these modes invent

“an antidote to the belief that makes us so formidable, the belief that defines truth and fiction in terms of an opposition, in terms of the power that makes the first destroy the second, a belief older than the invention of the modern sciences, but whose invention constituted a ‘recommencement’” (164-5).

Inventions and interest are two crucial terms for Stengers, and she maintains throughout her text that truths are initially invented fictions.  On the island, and arguably for the Sophists as well, one cannot distinguish between what is real (truth) and simply what is flattery (fiction).  They are not in opposition, but instead become so blurred that they are essentially both creations of each other.  The characters on Lost exemplify this creation, as no one truly knows who the other survivors were before the crash.  All we see are the new identities as created through necessity.  Truth and fiction are therefore inventions in which individual interest is taken. Science, as “performed” in labs, is thus the result of an individual’s interest in “making” an idea come true.  People, then, are more ‘interested’ in interest as opposed to truth since the former is what actually unifies:

“It is precisely because interest, as opposed to ‘truth,’ does not claim the power to create unanimity, but lends itself to proliferation and association with other disparate interests, that it can bring together authors for whom the event poses the problem of history” (Stengers 96).

Finally, Stengers claims that there cannot be “a single historical process that is applicable to the history of philosophy, art, and science, for each of these enterprises is defined by a specific relationship with its own past” (41). Therefore, in terms of truth and fiction, we cannot separate them as they develop, nor with Lost can we watch the show without knowing each of the characters’ pre-island pasts.