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Author: Bradford Lee Eden
Title: Geert Lovink's Uncanny Networks: Dialogues with the Virtual Intelligentsia
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
December 2004

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Source: Geert Lovink's Uncanny Networks: Dialogues with the Virtual Intelligentsia
Bradford Lee Eden

vol. 7, no. 3, December 2004
Article Type: Book Review

Uncanny Networks: Dialogues with the Virtual Intelligentsia

Brad Eden, Ph.D.

Head, Web and Digitization Services
University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries

Geert Lovink. Uncanny Networks: Dialogues with the Virtual Intelligentsia. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002.

This book is a collection of thirty-five interviews that examine the various political, ideological, and theoretical opinions of significant media and cultural theorists, critics, artists, and philosophers from the past decade, on the topic of the blurring of distinctions between cultural theory and information. The interviewer, Geert Lovink, is a media theorist, former editor of the new media arts magazine Mediamatic, founder of Nettime mailing lists, the cofounder of the online community server Digital City, and the author of Dark Fiber: Tracking Critical Internet Culture (MIT Press, 2002).

According to the Foreword by Joel Slayton, the interview discourse can be roughly grouped into four overlapping ideas: 1) media theory and criticism; 2) sociology, economics, and cultural theory of digital computation, networks, and communications; 3) theoretical ontology relating to an architecture of media; and 4) new media art as information strategy. Topics discussed include cyberspace and the rise of nongovernmental organizations, digital aesthetics, corporate takeover of the Internet, sound art, virtual and urban spaces, navigating deep audio space, theory of the virtual class, European media philosophy, the storage of social movements, the Internet in Eastern Europe, hybrid identities, the mixing of old and new in India, Japanese techno tribes, and critical media studies in the Asia-Pacific, just to name a few.

For Lovink, interviews are imaginative texts creating global networked discourses between and among professions, cultures, and social groups. Most of the interviews were done online, allowing the participants to write responses to questions that have both depth and breadth, given that time periods of weeks and months passed before the entire interview with each participant was completed. Many of the interviewees are well-known and unknown artists, critics, theorists, and philosophers worldwide who are building and designing the content, interfaces, and architectures of new media.

After the Foreword, the book begins with an interesting self-interview of Geert Lovink himself. A quick snapshot of each interviewee and topics of discussion include:

  • Dietmar Kamper: disguised form of simulation and authenticity in cyberspace
  • Norbert Bolz: transformation of media theory into computational theory
  • Michael Heim: the implication of technological metaphysics
  • Slavoj Zizek: suspicion of multicultural, neutral, liberal attitudes surrounding nationalist madness
  • Arthur Kroker: virtual class as predatory capitalists and computer visionaries
  • Luchezar Boyadjiev: financial sector as the avant-garde in artistic media strategy
  • Gayatri Spivak: ethics of choice between telematic culture and the reality of a developing state
  • Lev Manovich: digital modernism for a new era
  • Tjebbe van Tijen: dramatization of pluralistic social and historical information in artistic media strategy
  • Saskia Sassen: social and political differences between public and private digital space
  • Mark Dery: advocacy of a progressive pragmatic futurism in which critical resistance is more than just symbolic
  • Ravi Sundaram: alternative of a quotidian commodity culture centered on locality and neighborhood
  • Herbert I. Schiller: living in a period of innocence and bankruptcy of values
  • Kuan-Hsing Chen: media activism for the enabling of alternative critical cultures operating outside the boundaries and control of bourgeois democratization
  • Jonathan Peizer: justification for the collateral benefit of programs that address specific cultural needs, not open access for all
  • Bruno Latour: the hype surrounding speed, universality, openness, globalization, and immediacy
  • Edward Muka: the implosion of media in Albania and the implications of post neocolonialism
  • Hartmut Winkler: a revisionist media theory connected to social activities
  • Mike Davis: the militarization of space justified in terms of personal security
  • Marita Liulia: art in the age of the mobile phone
  • Thomas Keenan: relationship of media intervention and humanitarianism
  • Zina Kaye: audio freedom
  • Peter Lunenfeld: the symbiotic nature of art and economics
  • Mongrel: multiculturalism as stereotype in artistic media strategy
  • Boris Groys: the ontology of media theory
  • Toshiya Ueno: a dissident sociology of constructing a political practice
  • Janos Sugar: intermedia as the digital Bauhaus
  • Susan George: the out-of-control invention of financial instruments
  • Frank Hartmann: the need for a social context of philosophy
  • Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: real and virtual light of relational architecture
  • McKenzie Wark: the masses as fetish objects of communication professionals
  • Calin Dan: symbolic aspect of culture clashes
  • Paulina Borsook: values, ethics, and morality of Silicon Valley
  • Kodwo Eshun: "fluctuating bits" as Babelogue