ELECTRONIC LONELINESS BY GEERT LOVINK
Jun. 22, 2014


VIA RENATA LEMOS-MORAIS

TRANSCRIPT:

“On close examination, people experience nothing whatsoever anymore. Biographies constitute a tactical standstill, a drama without movement. Life, above all, is a matter of inner experience. We bathe in a profusion of interpretations, whether to do with suppressed lives, automobile makes and holiday destinations, or domestic problems. The last anchors to cling to are the collective childhood experiences, enlarged to mythic proportions: the pop concerts, parties, summer camps, military service, a strike or a riot, a soccer championship, campsites, and favorite pubs back then.

A loop is created, from the past which meant nothing to a future that will have nothing to offer. Existence without context is condemned to the present. No breakout, no despair, not a dream.

Success is not a triumph but a necessity; otherwise, what story would one have to tell? There’s no mistaking it: You are only rewarded for the risks you are prepared to take. Once out of context, actions become indefinable. Any will power or ambition that is brought to bear is arbitrary. There are no external, urgent necessities to justify choices of profession, hobbies, or partners; no force or coercion to render life evident. Thus, everything must come from within. There, all is barren, empty and cold. Thus, actions take on the character of a flight forward: a submission to fate, sought anywhere one can, without ever finding a thing. The result is the diversified extremism of workaholics, Doctors Without Borders, the Guinness Book of World Records, raves, mountaineering and bungee jumping. Backlash effects consist of disablement, senior workouts, walker shopping, insomnia, chronic fatigue, agoraphobia and incontinence – including the accompanying therapy package.

At home, we are invaded by science fiction: Spaceships lodge in the living room and the impression is that everybody is on a virtual journey into space. From “We’re here to go” to “We’re here to stay”: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Video games, 800 numbers, interactive media and home shopping have created the right mood and acquainted us with the necessary tactile skills to work at a distance for cash. Now, all we have to do is stimulate the decision makers to equip the telesector with the required technological and ideological infrastructure. We can support them by articulating our commitment to create a perspective on economic activities within a positive climate of collective individuals. The axiom of self-realization is casually slapped onto telework: You cannot become a full person unless you make yourself useful. No identity without activity. Pep talks, training and performance evaluations have to prepare the individualized masses for digital piecework.

Telework is not an institution but a constitution, a frame of mind to nourish the new work effort. It is a matter of psychology before anything else: What used to be called apathy, being glued to the TV set, has become a first requirement for job performance. Isolation must be conditioned to this end: Individuals are locked up in niches where they are at one with the network.

We are urged to keep our minds on the screen, for it is all we have. No flourishing family life or professional adultery awaits us; even the promised outlet of virtual sex is a dead end. All we are left with is the bill.

The other’s ever-absent radiance and perfection form a social basis for boredom and apathy.
Intercourse is stifled, and the tele-existences remain otherwise invisible and meaningless to one another. Martin Buber, where are you?

By all practical standards, the telehovel has become intolerable of children. In this empty, coated
environment, there is no room left to create a world of your own. Little people are firmly caught in a
monitored development scheme. Ever since their moment of conception, they have been clones of a cultural ideal. They are made for perfection.

Play has become education, as exemplified by computers. For example, Nintendo education lays the medial foundation for future generation gaps. Those who have already grasped computers at age four
will never experience the ‘Net as the domain of rebellion. So they hang around on the streets, the ultimate forbidden territory (weapons, drugs, sex, fashion, joyriding). Outside is still the domain of the informal, of indefinite chance: fighting over nothing, making out, long waits, breakaways, accidents.

The parents, meanwhile, remain chained to their home terminals, forever unable to break free. They find their peers in miscellaneous media and use them to share their despair. Locked inside a perfect world, they simply cannot imagine that anyone would have it any other way.

Actually existing electronic loneliness cannot be expressed in metaphysical or psychiatric terms. It is not a matter of profound melancholy but of shallow artificiality. Desolation is a fatal production
factor, a trap one stumbles into by reckless thinking and believing in daydreams. Only organized tourism is still considered a way out: the assembly of a collection of psycho-physical experiences, from meditation, repentance, exhaustion, ecstasy, fasting and pilgrimage to heroic relief campaigns. But none of these sensations can help one brace oneself for that highly personal confrontation with the machine. Pulling the plug on the ‘Net means suicide. There is no future without the ‘Net, and there are no alternative scenarios left. Nothing seems to prevent the advance of enclosures. We have finally left the age of despair. Get serious. Emotions have settled within the archeological layers of consciousness, in an age in which the history of attitudes is being recorded. The ‘Net as the ideal merry-go-round for self-styled identities will neither create revolutionary situations nor bring the world to an end. Cybernetic emptiness need not be filled, nor will it ever be (with desire, disgust, nor unrest). Finally, telematic energy will disappear into the flatland of silence. Commands may still flicker on the screen, but it is you who has disappeared.”



photo by Olivia J Taylor
INDEX •Geert LovinkElectronic LonelinessRenata Lemos Morais