'Cyberspace' as a term is sort of over. It's over in the way that, after a certain time, people stopped using the suffix '-electro' to make things cool, because everything was electrical. 'Electro' was all over the 20th century, and now it's gone. I think 'cyber' is sort of the same way.
The ubiquitous computational thought that forms the superstructures of the 21st century city require a sort of blind faith into their ability to predict and categorise everything into endless functionality — data shared between travel nexuses and banks, optimised route formations, surveillance cameras and whatever else needs to be interoperable — Meanwhile, the same computational thinking produces jumbled machinic content designed to be ordered preferentially for the atomised user of smart technologies. This permanent connectivity vanishes a third space between work and home. So what tactics do we have to build such a space?
In the 1960s, William S. Burroughs suggested that the Reality Studio directs its users through a drugged out and pornographic model of control, producing a type of desire that desires its own dead affect through predictable recordings of mechanical response patterns. To capture this artificial need within the speedfreak economy, he developed the 'cut-up' writing technique, in which fragments of his writing would be scissored and rearranged just as the Dadaists did it 40 years prior. For Burroughs, this jumbled machinic content feed would operate as a disruption of the societies of control. However, the advent of smartphones that are never out of reach has revealed that this shuffling content program is the preferred mode of surveillance kapital, with its algorithms that order things for individual users based on durational attention they give to things.
Markov chains are used in internet applications to predict and order an individual user's interest in series of data presented in their feeds. For instance, the Google PageRank feature is defined by a Markov chain. The maths going on here structures itself around a sort of game of snakes and ladders in which the possible future states are always fixed and defined by probabilistic rules within a stochastic [randomised] process. This type of mathematical object is also known as a 'random walk'. When the Situationists imagined new ways of navigating Paris at the same time as Burroughs was writing his cut-ups, they proposed the theory of the dérive [drift], a technique of 'rapid passage through varied ambiances'. They hoped that by submitting themselves to the contours of the city they would be able to access a kind of time that was uninterrupted by the spectacle of modernity, in order to discover the 'objective' terrain. Now, it's near impossible to navigate the city without passing through any of the computational grid that frames our affect, and even if you leave your phone at home, it is wondering why you have not checked it in that period of time, and attempting to predict what you will want to see when you next interact with it.
For James Bridle, as he argues in New Dark Age, it is these predictive machines giving rise to the largest database of knowledge ever produced that has made it impossible for us to forge a consensus reality. If we understand that these new technologies feed off us like parasites need submissive response patterns but not deathly submission (in the same way that Burroughs understood drugs and porn in the 60s) we might be able to access a kind of psychedelic urbanism. Scratching the itch of personalised content algorithms in itself of course is not a revolutionary procedure, but doing so in tandem with other recombinatory techniques may help access a time and space artificially stripped from us. In Alain Resnais' Last Year In Marienbad, the characters appear trapped inside the endless loop of a labyrinth. As the audience, our best bet in understanding what is happening here is to resist the temptation to try figure what is really going on beneath the surface: to us the characters are no different to the marble statues scattered across the garden of the mansion, and both have been positioned so carefully on the surface of the labyrinth that it would be missing the point to guess what's going on underneath. In the same way, we will never be able to comprehend the black-boxed technologies that dictate so much of what we see. We can only know the ideological frameworks that set them in motion.
the plane of immanence is pre-philosophical and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies a sort of groping experimentation and its layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable, rational, or reasonable. These measures belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess. We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are the eyes of the mind. Even Descartes had his dream. To think is always to follow the witch’s flight.
G. Deleuze & F. Guattari, What Is Philosophy?
I intend, then, to build a Markov chain in the form of a Twitter bot that constantly generates ideas that 'follow the witch's flight'. By feeding the bot any kind of transcript of forums responding to current events in the urbanism-technology nexus I hope that it will produce an endless stream of new recombinations of texts that have the potential to influence temporal collective responses to the city's pitiless consciousness razing. The film embedded at the beginning of this post combines manually cut-up drift notes with un/randomised handheld footage and a soundtrack sampling David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto's Forbidden Colours, as well as Pop Smoke and 808Melo's Dior.
Follow the twitter bot: @xpressbot1