Author: William Bogard --- Date: 10/07/96 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

Interview with Bill Bogard
by Ricardo Dominguez

Escaping from the WEB we weave reduplicates the drive of digital-flesh. Digital-Dasein dreams of jumping over code, simulation, speed, and bodies--The GREAT ESCAPE just like Steve McQueen on his motorcycle, a hyper-line of fligth over the telematic state. The only problem is that in order to accomplish this break-out we must help build our own micro-panopticons, our own electronic pyramids, and pretend that we are digging our way out. Bill Bogard's The Simulation of Surveillance: Hyper Control in Telematic Societies traces the imaginary structure of our present holographic situation. The macro-desires of organizations like Identification Technologies International in Coral Gables, Florida, that has created a pixel signature system that uses only 96 bytes of memory and can easily be folded into a smart card. A biometric recognition process that can find any face in any crowd--the National Security Agency has exhibited a high-level of interest. Bogard's theory-fiction opens the backdoor of the always/already dream of total security of the global market. So slip on your mask and meet us by Cell Block C--remember to bring a spoon!"

Q. Our imaginary is becoming our real electronic state where the borders between speed and bodies, surveillence and simulation, technology and science fiction merge in an extropian implosion (a highly organized nano-culture or a society of invisible technology) that nolonger needs any external representaions of power. Can this always/already holograhic state be used by groups towards counter-networks of resistance? Such as the Zapatistas' use of netwar? Or is resistance part of our lost horizon?

A. It's always possible to resist. But I think resistance to these systems has to take the form of a counter-actualization rather than a negation. Negation is the logic of the system, already pushed to its extreme. You can't really appropriate or manipulate the media either, since it's become the very form of appropriation and manipulation. I follow Deleuze on this--freedom is located on the plane of the event, not the plane of information. Information systems can simulate events by coding them and playing them back ad nauseum, but events themselves unfold according to an entirely different temporal logic. However much telematic technologies appear to play with time, at bottom, in their operation, they're still linear and unidirectional, still caught up in making the event present. Events, though, as Deleuze says, move in two directions at once, into the future and the past at the same time, always eluding the present. To counter-actualize the event means exactly the opposite of producing the event as information. So I guess the short answer is that I don't think you resist the holographic state holographically. You search out the movements and singularities that elude coding and follow them.

Q. Your analytic process is part of growing movement of theory fiction which allow critique to enter by the backdoor, by sneaking up behind the demands and desires of code culture, and re-reading the cracks, punctures, gaps in the seamless dreams of our holographic state. Can these hallucinatory explorations give us more insight into our current situation than other forms of critical discourse?

A. I guess my thinking has changed about this. The danger is always that theory fictions will fall back on a traditional view of the concept as a logic of signification, and in that way become accomplices of the systems they critique--information is just the ecstatic form of the sign. What fiction can do, I suppose, is explore the imaginary limits of these systems, the places where they disappear or reverse or implode. But expressing the problem in terms of limits already forces us back into a framework of negation. In some sense, we have to turn our backs even more radically on telematic systems, which already produce abstract fictions so efficiently and profusely that they exhaust almost all of their critical possibilities. Theory fictions are one point of view on the problem, but they aren't better or worse or more right or wrong than other kinds of critical interventions in the mediascape. We need more than a critique of the media, anyway. We need to counter it with a whole different way of life, like becoming nomads again, and I don't mean electronic nomads.

Q. Is the techno-dialectic and its will to virtuality part of a substratum of history that is now emerging as the main drive of Western Culture? The will to overcome friction, time, and the screenal? Where is this uber-code leading us?

A. I think we have to distinguish at least two wills to virtuality, one technical or telematic, the other related to the event. The first will makes all becoming a matter of the code--smoothness and frictionlessness become functions of the well-designed program. The second will makes becoming a matter of fate and desire--smoothness here takes on an entirely different meaning. The term virtual today, unfortunately, has become synonymous with the technologies of simulation. But there is a deeper sense of virtual, too, one that develops from a distaff tradition in philosophy that runs through Duns Scotus and Bergson to Deleuze. Here the virtual is what rises to the surface from the depths and is actualized in the event, and has nothing to do with information or the sign or the subject. If the will to virtuality means becoming informated, it means sacrificing this second sense of the virtual, as the principle of a counter-actualization, or as what is revealed through the cracks in the surface. Western techno-culture, or the so-called bourgeois will to virtuality, on the contrary, is only about sealing up those cracks.

Q. Some theorists suggest that the transparent culture of total visibilty and control will actually spiral into a highly dense chaos that will flow beyond the States imaginary demands. That so much informatic stuff will create endless waste and blockage--enough to protect digital singularities from the big panopticons? Is this line of flight enough to overcome the seductions of auto-surveillence, the nano-panopticons, that are being sold to the public--for the good of the public. The Therapy State, Confess TV, COPS--to be watched is fun, to watch yourself is ectasy!

A. It's hard for me to conceive of digital singularities. If anything, digital systems eliminate singularities in favor of resemblances. It's true that information is like a gigantic waste dump and that even the state can't control it today. But to say this creates a space for individuality and freedom is to take a weird comfort from that fact.

Q. Finally, if you could build your very own prison-house what would it be?

A. Like Foucault says, I'll leave that to the architects and the police. I'm looking for the key, not the lock.

Email: ThingReviews

To post a response fill out the following form and click the "Submit" button. Or go back...
Your Comments:

Scroll down to read messages.