Anti-Negroponte: Cybernetic Subjectivity in Digital Being and Time

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Timothy Luke reviews Nicholas Negroponte and takes a second look at ‘digital subjectivity.’

As the key overseer at MIT’s Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte has used his best-selling book, Being Digital, as the trailer for a transnational road trip on which he touts the exciting new online world as it is being invented in his digital workshops. Yet Negroponte’s enthusiasm about these possibilities leads him away from raising other, more interesting, questions about digital being, particularly those having to do with the kind of subjectivity that becomes possible in cybernetic spaces. Save for his somewhat overdrawn exhalations over the shift from “atoms” to “bits” as the wave of the future (a shift that was first noticed 15 years ago by the Tofflers in The Third Wave), he too sticks with the usual interpretive conceit: namely, that such new (wo)man/machine interfaces at the computer will simply reposition existing material styles and structures of social agency in a new cybernetic register, making everything more or less the same there (in “bits”) as it is here (in “atoms”), only maybe more so, meaning essentially quicker, better, closer, sharper, etc. 

Pull Quotes: 

....these digital beings are now deeply embedded life forms, created by and for those disciplinary institutions that generate power over and knowledge of them by meshing groups of people in vectors of influence coursing through complex statistical spaces. 

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