Urbanity. Living in the Capital or technonature


This text is based on a lecture given as part of the national conference Pour une poétique du numérique 2, CNRS, University of Nantes, UFR SIC, 2010. Abstract : As a contradictory product, Internet is consubstantially the extension and intensification of urban society in our lives and the meaning of our urban life, between the dwelling of techno-capital and the politeness of the world; urban networks can be understood by the yardstick of digital networks just as we better understand the presence of the monkey by better understanding that of man.

Photo © Lionel Bouffier "Urbanity 41"

This sophisticated title proposes, if not an epistemological update (Ulmann, 2004), a (ninth) return to and a rapprochement between Karl Marx and Martin Heidegger (Axelos, 1961; Kittsteiner, 2007). In fact, in the few proposals that follow, I will draw on some of the reflections of the latter as well as on the work of Marxist sociologists and philosophers Henri Lefebvre (The Right to the City, 1968-1972) and Manuel Castells (La question urbaine, 1971-1975), as well as on the book La condition urbaine (2005) ofOlivier Mongin. (In his second work on the city, O. Mongin took up the theses of Françoise Choay (Pour une anthropologie de l'espace, 2006), theses which, beyond the ideology of the environment, seem Heideggerian, in the sense of an "existentialism of the soil" or an "earth philosophy").

dedaleAt the micro-, meso- and macro-social levels, in "the city", the digital worlds and on the Internet networks, the contemporary problems we are facing (the thing: "our business") are problems of doors, bridges, crossroads and cultural tectonics - games and socio-political issues of investment, competition and esteem (Hegel spoke of "mutual recognition"). In order to define these problems, some people spoke of universal dialectic/particularization, creolization or rhizome and reticularity, "network effect", or even "liquid modernity" (Hegel spoke of "mutual recognition").Georg Simmel would speak of seminal modernity). Before this modern style, one spoke more simply of maze and kabbalah (that of the "refuge city").

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In other words, in the middle of the world's night, for the (rather) Western being, what else is there but the city, the centre of all the centres to be lived and crossed? (In the "middle of the world's night", that is to say, in the middle of the ford, between day and night, the visible and the invisible, the low and the high, the public and the private, the obscenity of spectacle and privacy, the myths of interiority and sublimity).

For man, what is there as a "biotope", if not the city, the city as affirmation/confirmation and negation of the soil from which he comes?

Where, now, does the supposedly Western subject really live? That is to say: where do the four figures of "the human way of life" live, figures and qualities, which respond to each other and stand together, of the child, the adult, the woman and the man?

These figures live in the middle of the ford, between the sky of the Web and the everyday earth, among figures, the demigods of consumption and privacy (they are called avatars) and among men (they can also be called societies: "society" means "humanity" and conversely, there is no separation between them; a man himself is a site, a place, a society and there is no "human society" except in a man).

Let us argue that the middle of the world's night - cities, digital worlds and their daily and artistic practices - could, in general, that is, conceptually, be called urbanity.

From then on, we would rather understand this "urbanity" in a double meaning: the ancient meaning of politeness, the necessity of courtesy, and the more modern, Balzacian meaning, which goes beyond the Latin world (differently from the Latin world, which is the same as the Latin world), and the Balzacian meaning, which goes beyond the Latin world (differently from the Balzacian meaning).Yves Chalas in Contemporary Cities, 2002).

urbanite3In Le droit à la ville (pp. 21, 255), Henri Lefebvre wrote: "There is the urban fabric carrying this 'urbanity' and the centrality, old, renovated, new. (...) Destruction of nature while the urbanity is dispersed in a pseudo-natural space. »

Urbanity (what the urban world is) seems to go, if we believe the dialectic, with naturality; naturality or the third moment of Nature passed by the critique of the city, then the critique of the critique of the city .

For his part, Mongin speaks of the "diffuse urban", a refraction of the "diffuse spectacle" of the Guy Debord from 1967 maybe?

This "urban fabric", mixed mythologies of the city and the Internet, of art in the city and on the Internet, would be an in-act critique of centrality, let's say: a critique of the "concentrated spectacle", then of the 1988 version of the Spectacle. (That the concept of the Spectacle is both a prosperous metonymy and an astrology/superfection does not worry me: one recognizes in it the renewed critique of the techno-capital of the Marx and Heidegger years).

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This urban fabric carrying the city and the Internet, their fantasies and their critic(s), would be the middle of the ford where both the urban goods of Salvation and those of digital Salvation would be guessed (no difference between these Salvations: it is the same demand; natural cybersky for the natives/children of Tron, Johnny Mnemonic, Cobaye, Matrix, Tron Legacy, etc.).

Here is my thesis :

From now on, "the city", the Internet borders and their critics cannot conceptually go without each other, and all imaginations and all existences can only ever refer to one ground on which our desires and fears, our territories and our arts take place and take root in order to grow towards something else.

Towards what?.

Towards an exit from oneself and the city, towards the "being of the dwelling" (Heidegger, 1958) and a critique of the political economy in action .

According to this thesis, this urbanity would be the increased citizenship of the digital, social networks and the World Wild Web. (Perhaps it would be an "ecology of the city" or the symbiosis and its overcoming of the real city and the digital worlds, digital city and video games).

The rich title of this text, "Urbanity. Habiter le Capital ou la technonature" (Living in Capital or Technonature), implies a research postulate:

urbanite2De facto, this title, both a reasoned intuition and the fruit of other work - I study the imaginary (without Maffesoli) and try to understand the versions and evolutions of the Mathesis Universalis -, postulates that what the anthropological trajectory of the city shows is the "speaking word" of the Internet and that what the contemporary trajectory of the Internet shows is the "speaking word" of the city.

Heidegger's "saying word" means myth (What is meant by thinking?, 1954). For my part, I mean myth, logos and poetics: what is told and what is done, what is told and what is said (intellectual discourse).

In short, the city, like the Internet, is fulfilled as much in the regimes of myth and poetics as in logos, and vice versa.

The word says: who speaks in the city and on the Internet every time? and who lives in the city and the Internet as a mortal?

Heidegger writes elsewhere: "To live, (is) in any case, the end that presides over all construction. "He continues: "To be a man means to be on earth as a mortal, that is to say, to inhabit. ... We do not inhabit because we have 'built', but we build and have built inasmuch as we inhabit, that is to say, we are the inhabitants and are as such. "("Build-Habitating-Thinking", 1958)

What the western trajectory of inhabiting it shows us - above I spoke of the "anthropological trajectory of the city"; the search for the exact term and the exaggeration of certain assertions try to "bridge" from one world to another; so I assume the "excesses" of this modeling -, what the Western trajectory of inhabiting it makes us see is what the Internet and digital worlds can do (advantages and disadvantages) and what the trajectory of the Internet and digital worlds makes us see is what the Internet and digital worlds can do (advantages and disadvantages).

In this game of hollows (the digital or 0) and solids (the architecture or 1), there is not only refraction, like a mirror effect, but dialectic of habitation - a return to the source of what it "means" to inhabit.

To live: "will for technology" and "will for happiness" meet and overlap, even scaffold themselves (as a continual demand); these "technical ensembles" that are the city and the Internet would thus make the nature of the dwelling appear and seek it.

Perhaps this assertion will be better understood if we bring together two ideas of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Attali.

In The Disturbing Strangeness, the former states that "The opposite of the game is not seriousness, but... reality. "(1985: 35) and in Paths of Wisdom, the second writes that "Gambling is the enemy of war, since it is its simulacrum. (...) Tomorrow, the game will explain and denounce even more than today what war, terrorism and violence are. » (1996 : 195)

urbanite4I think that within reality itself, the game-simulacre is the enemy of reality; in other words, that its rules make explicit and denounce the dramatic attack on the being (and) the flesh. The "enemy of reality", i.e. its critical shadow, its negative, makes explicit and denounces, by contrast, this luminous reality: what happens there; the game, in its plan (in the double sense of the term), underlines reality, brings out of the ground what happens there: there is metonymy and "monadology" in the sense that each monad contains the world within it.

As "make appear", the game makes appear not the reality but what is happening there.

Now, long before e-economy, e-nazism and e-pedophily, and even before internetting (1972), what was the network developed by the US Air Force (1962) and Paul Baran (1964) and named ARPANET (1969), if not a game of cold war and university coders? What is this means of (total...) communication and re-centralization of what is happening in the world? What is this network of links, if not a new re-solution which, in a new language opposed to reality or a new contrasting opposition, makes explicit and "denounces" what it is, that is to say, what are humans and their (biotopes) living places? (Erving Goffman and Yves Winkin very aptly named (in Durkheimian?) their common work, Les moments et leurs hommes, 1988).

What is this language, if not one that speaks only of consciousness and the means to better transmit/preserve, that is to say, to inhabit the world as a poet?

Thus the urban social fact would speak of the habitation of the Internet network and the Internet social fact would speak of the urban habitation. However, the aim of these total social facts would be to speak of the "being of the dwelling"; to be of the dwelling that is the care and learning of all living, the care and care-building of the world.

monstrehadopiTo put it another way, the city and the Internet would be the Monsters (the signs in other translations) of something that withdraws and shows itself by withdrawing (Heidegger, 1954). What do these Monsters show?

They would argue that the technical systems of the city and of the Internet are what are monstrously meaningless and that we must - that is to say, it is our duty, precisely and preciously today, to give them meaning again. Restoring meaning to these systems, that is to say that we have an obligation to give them a counter-gift and, consequently, we are finally obliged to give them back what these systems "mean" - outside political economy.

Giving meaning back to the urban system and the Internet, so I call it urbanity. (Vague or painful arrogance on my part, this urbanity, common, structural, would exceed the sociological proposals on the modern city and the Internet).

And then, in these lines where to find the cultures and territories of art?.

We find them in the subtext of this text and in the undergrounds of our lives, in all those interstitial practices, poaching and tinkering of critical everyday life; interstitial practices that are consubstantially made and undone both in the sensual city and on the imaginary Net, both in the digital ether and in urban matter.

In short, I just wanted to remind you that there is no new content to urban systems, the Internet and the arts, no new feeling, but there are the new languages of new speakers/appearances that we should name, not ninja surfers or Internet users (users of the Internet network), but inhabitants of the urbanity.

Now, if, according to what is taught Carl von Clausewitz in De la guerre, Book VIII, Chapter 6B, "War is an instrument of politics. "War is nothing but a continuation of political relations through the interference of other means (and that) these political relations do not cease with war itself (and) remain in their essence, whatever means they use. If I were to say, "The political economy of the Internet is nothing more than a continuation of urban relations through the interference of other means", then, in this brief essay on the poetics of the digital, I would argue that the political economy of the Internet is nothing more than a continuation of urban relations through the interference of other means, and that these urban relations do not cease with the Internet itself, and that they subsist in their essence, whatever the means by which these urban relations are used.

Here, I repeat that the political economy of the Internet is an instrument of the political economy of "urban society" and of political economy in general. Whether its air is frighteningly rationalist or frighteningly anti-rationalist, that is to say modern, technophile or technophobic on the same ideological cursor of the second modernity, does not change its instrumentation in any way.

Above all, the political economy of the Internet is the return of industry and the social division of labour to our lives.

A contradictory product (Plato, The Republic, Book VII), the Internet is consubstantially the extension and intensification of urban society in our lives and the meaning of the city, the meaning of this urban life, ours, inhabitants of the urbanity and politeness of the world.

From then on, urban networks can be understood in the same way as digital networks can be understood in the same way that the presence of the ape can be better understood by understanding the presence of man. (If Marx writes something like that, Jean-Pierre Séris also announces: "Technology must not hide techniques from us. It should even help us understand them better. "Séris, La technique, 1994. I understand this sentence as follows: technology and its ideology should not hide the city from us; it should even help us to better understand its nature).

liveIn its broadest sense, as on highways, ring roads and in cities, the e-political economy, i.e. sites distributing goods, information and capital, sites of global prostitution and social networks, is inhabited. This means that there is always someone to contemplate, as a Hegelian anthropologist, a Marxist broker, a technophobic pedophile or a more or less metropolitan technophile, the spectacle of the global diffusion and circulation of these sites and capital, of these globalized goods, information and prostitution.

The arts and, more precisely, the digital and digitized arts - which, like politics in war, thus retain their essence but not their commercial forms, their exchange value -, the arts intervene at this very moment, that of looking at the spectrum or contemplating the global spectacle. (This assertion poses that I care more for C. von Clausewitz than for Walter Benjamin: the digital and digitized arts are nothing more than a continuation of the relationship to art through the interference of other means. These relationships to art do not cease with digital and digitized art and subsist in their essence, regardless of the means they use). These arts intervene in the interstices that social life incessantly finds and develops. Social life, i.e. the unfinished critique of the political economy of urban society and, via the arts and "digital everyday life", the critique of urban everyday life.

Also, through the arts, the digital condition criticizes the urban condition and, old thing, aesthetics criticizes the reproduction of the forces of production, etc.

If, finally, there is a political economy of the city and a political economy of the digital city (e-political economy), then, synthetically/dialectically, there is a political economy of the urbanity, fruit, sheath and seed of capitalism. This political economy of capitalist politeness, in spite of capitalism's lack of concern and care, in spite of its inclination towards the destruction of housing in the Heideggerian sense, some call it "sustainable development"... In short, everything that is needed for capitalism to persist in its essence.

For my part, I call this vision of the world that is constantly being objectified "nice capitalism" (technological, permissive, joyful pessimism) or "sustainable capitalism". (The first expression is recorded in the first notebooks of the Internationale Salopard (Nantes, 1994-1998); as for the second, it is obviously neither the IKEA meaning of the term, nor the green-liberal-libertarian meaning). For, every day and even at night, what are we talking about?

We will all ask ourselves about the means and ends of how to inhabit the Capital - not the world.

There will therefore inevitably be, by fashion and by science, a critique of the political economy of capitalist politeness and urbanity, that is to say, a critique that is at least Marxist and Heideggerian of the urban and digital economic totality that takes itself for the social totality or habitation of the world.

David Morin Ulmann / OMNSH - Observatoire des Mondes Numériques en Sciences Humaines (Observatory of Digital Worlds in the Social Sciences and Humanities)

{Jacuzzi on}

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