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 15/11/2018 Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity Tlaxcala's Manifesto  
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 CULTURE & COMMUNICATION 
CULTURE & COMMUNICATION / Neurocapitalism. Technological Mediation and Vanishing Lines
The English edition
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 06/09/2018

Neurocapitalism. Technological Mediation and Vanishing Lines
The English edition

Giorgio Griziotti

 

Foreword to the English edition

Politics, technique and co-research

From a personal point of view, my desire to delve into writing this book comes from the intersection of my two main interests:  politics  and  technology. Throughout  my  lifetime,  these  vital  passions have been nourished by my practical experience in these fields.  My political involvement began with the social movements of the  ‘70s in Italy and, despite a few breaks determined by the somewhat    difficult contingencies of political exile, has continued throughout  my life while working with different collectives on seminars regarding political analysis and refection. My passion for technology goes   all the way back to my childhood and has manifested itself in an  intellectual curiosity and an interest not only for technological innovations but also for the socio-political implications they bring. My  studies therefore naturally oriented themselves towards the technical domain, up to obtaining my degree in engineering with a specialisation in the field that would later be called Information and  Communication Technologies (ICT*1) whose development has never slowed over the last few decades.

The ICT of the ‘70s didn’t benefit from the dominant position it  has today and, at the time, it didn’t seem very important to try to understand how the technological innovations of capitalism could turn  into an antagonism that radically transforms the present. However,  having posed this question relatively early, I found myself in the position of a technician who walks, a bit unconsciously, along the path  of co-research.*  At its roots, co-research is a practice born from activist field research with the workers of the Fiat Mirafori and other  Piedmont factories, including Engineer Adriano’s mythical tech company, Olivetti. There, the work of Romano Alquati, one of the founding fathers of this practice, is well noted. In his own words:

an  activity  that  is  both  research  and  process  of  consciousness as well as a reciprocal transformation of the  identity of the researcher and that which was in those  years being called worker subjectivity. Co-research, for    its  egalitarian  character,  is  counterpoised  and  substitutes the old avant-garde communist practice of guiding the masses in the struggle.2

It seems useful to detail – in chronological order – the three types      of experience that have characterised my personal relationship with  technological innovation in order to situate the ideas and the hypotheses developed in this book in a social and political context.

The first experience was in the context of my years as a consultant for large software applications in an IT consulting multinational  corporation.  At  the  moment  when  capitalist  innovation  began  extracting  knowledge  from  third-sector  workers  in  order  to  codify  it  into software packages that would then guarantee company control and the optimisation of rent, the process of co-research takes on a new dimension. With IT consultants on one side and the “investigated” cognitive workers on the other, these two groups are usually set  against one another by management. The whole challenge in practicing  co-research lies in creating a space where, instead of competing,  the cognitive worker can gain consciousness of the company’s financial and control objectives thanks to the automatization of internal  procedures and, later, acquire the capacity to redirect, modify or even block  the  processes  of  digitalised  exploitation.  An  arduous  mission  in an era when union influence was being visibly reduced and when labor organizations were entering the phase of destabilisation and decline that is now quite evident. An early signal of the hostilities that were manifested in companies where the articles published in specialised technical journals warning managers of the risk of the failure of  software projects to control workers through automation: it appears, in fact, that only a third of them were successful. Even though only  technical explanations were given, it was pretty clear that the forms of  cognitive worker resistance made the road to company normalisation  through dangerous technology.

The second type of experience is more fragmented, precisely due to the political activity that provoked ruptures and forced me to start   all over again – multiple times and in geographically diverse places – with my attempt to spread knowledge and alternative/antagonistic  uses of technological innovation. Whether it be creating a cooperative  start-up in Milan in the early ‘70s or, in the early ‘80s, an association  working to promote the first PCs education in non-profit social economies in France, or even in conceiving the first network application of labor rights to support union activities and the use of free software,  there has always been a thread tying these experiences together; experiences that, in a certain sense, come close to that of the modern world  of hackers.

The third and last type of activity is tied to the intuition of the  impact that the spread of networks and mobile technologies has on  society. This intuition gave me the opportunity to set up an experimental laboratory to implement the very frst mobile applications, the  famous “apps” that will later be discussed at length.

At the beginning of the digital era, a certain similarity still existed  between writing an article or a book and writing a program, despite  the differences between natural languages and software code. In both  cases, however, it was a predominantly solitary activity for which a  long and tiresome testing phase was needed before the program “ran”   or before the writing was fluid. In the first case, objectivity prevailed  over the author’s subjectivity. With the spread of networks and the  birth of new movements, especially the hacker movement, modalities of  cooperation  changed  and,  consequently,  the  method  for  writing  software was profoundly modified. This was made possible by a timely  integration  of  a  global  community. The  programmer’s  original  solitude is tempered by this potential. Making contributions available and being able to cooperate in an open context, participating in various projects, introducing evolutions or simply correcting errors become the commons* of free software.* In a noted article, E. Raymond3  uses the metaphor of the “bazaar”4 to evoke a methodology that lacks  hierarchy in the common work of hackers which enabled the success of Linux,5 an extremely complex artefact. He counterpoises this way of  cooperating to the “cathedral,” i.e. a restricted nucleus of experts and  specialists who construct a masterpiece; a technique that, according to the author, doesn’t lend itself to creating great works of software. 

The “bazaar” method has had an influence on writing this book, both for the intensity and the frequency of my exchanges on the various   topics addressed, as well as for the support that many people have given me to compensate for my numerous weaknesses, including the literary  and  linguistic  shortcomings  of  an  engineer  who  emigrated  decades ago.

Another part of this “bazaar” attitude can be seen in my potentially ingenuous attempt to make the materials accumulated from numerous articles, texts and books (in various languages) available in the  form of a digital library. Unfortunately, this initiative was blocked due  to copyright infringements using the Digital Millennium Copyright  Act (DMCA), surprisingly coming also from authors and publishers  known for their sympathy for copyleft principles.

While it is difficult that the diffusion of knowledge is stigmatised   or prosecuted in the hacker movement, the same cannot be said for  the academic and publishing world where this principle is less valid.

Even though the great majority of what is published in my techno-socio-political digital library is in relation to the ethics and the practice  of free software, the copyright machinery has not stopped and continues to impede the free circulation of knowledge.

Notes

1 From here on, an asterisk* indicates a reference to the Glossary at the end of the  book for more details. The acronym ICT will be used throughout the book.

2 Armano & Sacchetto, 2012 [our translation].

3 (Raymond, 2001)

4 E Raymond is also a fierce opponent of Copyleft and of free software, against which he proposes open source, a term of his invention. In this regard, see (Ippolita, Open  non è Free. Comunità digitali tra etica hacker e mercato globale, 2005).

5 Linux is the family of Unix-like operating systems, released with the GNU GPL  licenses that characterize free software (see the Glossary), under various possible  distributions, with the common characteristic of using Linux kernel as the core.  For more details, see Linux in the Glossary and the later paragraphs dedicated to  Unix and Linux.

Neurocapitalism
Technological Mediation and Vanishing Lines

Giorgio Griziotti
Foreword by Tiziana Terranova
Translated by Jason Francis McGimsey

Official release to the book trade in February 2019.

Available direct from Minor Compositions now for the special price of £10.

You can also download it here: 

Neurocapitalism

250 pages, 5.5 x 8.5
UK: £20 / US: $25
ISBN 978-1-57027-342-1

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Courtesy of Minor Compositions
Source: http://www.minorcompositions.info/?p=887
Publication date of original article: 02/09/2018
URL of this page : http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=24009

 

Tags: NeurocapitalismBiohypermediaGiorgio GriziottiMinor CompositionsInternet capitalismInternet capitalism
 

 
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