notes : Mushon Zer-Aviv

excerpts from Notes : Mushon Zer-Aviv

[4] EDITORS’ NOTE: Mark Hansen examines this complexity of information as it articulates digital (“prosthetic”) identity “intrinsic duality of technologies of containment and control like surveillance and cyberspace: while they are deployed to target certain minority bodies, they are, more generally, machinic assemblages that can potentially become vehicles for post-identitarian identification on the basis of the singularity or impropriety common to us all.” Mark B.N.Hansen. Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media. (New York: Routledge, 2006), 158.

Hansen’s post-identitarian politics are aligned with the emphasis on de-identification proposed by K. Aarons and Calvin Warren, in contrast to the anarchist tradition of the autonomous self. “Beyond the simple destruction of power lies its deactivation,” writes Aarons. “We must call into question the entire framework of expropriation in the widest sense of the term: the expropriation of once-possessed land, of culture, of relational capacity and of labor from the hands of the State and the capitalist, patriarchal class. We must no longer envision the remedy for suffering as entailing the recovery of a lost wholeness, entitlement or plenitude of which one is presently deprived.” K. Aarons. “No Selves to Abolish: Afropessimism, Anti-Politics, and the End of the World” (Ill Will Editions, 2016), 15.

[8] EDITORS’ NOTE: Networked spaces are not devoid of the geographic and political affects of physical infrastructures. A deceptively disembodied transference of data carries the trauma of apartheid into cyberspace, manifesting as a mediator of agency and environment. As examined by Miriyam Aouragh and Helga Tawil-Souri in the context of the Palestinian resistance and the role of digital activism, a technodeterminist position is deliberately ignorant of the complexity that underlies the function, accessibility and scope of technological interfaces. In the context of Gaza, the basic accessibility of the World Wide Web is dependent on the whims of a colonising state; the apparent boundlessness of cyberspace is limited by the monopolies of neoliberal actors whose militarised infrastructures control the extent of networked space.

Aouragh and Tawil-Souri compare the flawed conceptions of both the Israeli and Palestinian states, of the internet’s role in Palestinian resistance, where the contrasting views hold the internet as either integral to re-establishing Palestinian statehood, or as an “ideological and practical danger.” Aouragh and Tawil-Souri argue that “both views are a form of technological determinism. They remove the internet from human, historical, and geopolitical contexts, and posit it as agent of political, social, or economic change. We contend that neither position is valid. Besides overlooking power relations and on-the-ground dynamics, a technological determinist view is inherently ahistorical. It neither contextualizes technological change itself nor the rhetoric around it.” Helga Tawil-Souri and Miriyam Aouragh. “Intifada 3.0? Cyber colonialism and Palestinian ResistanceArab Studies Journal 22, no. 1 (2014): 102-133.

By disintegrating the view of a technosphere that posits technologies, individuals, environments, and political interests as separate entities (or, “extraterrestrial”, as Mushon describes), this entanglement of tangible and intangible infrastructures and interfaces is brought closer to us. Digital interfaces contain depth, instead of a misidentified flatness that disregards the transference of material trauma into the perceived intangibility of data. [See also Zer-Aviv’s project, “You Are Not Here,” and Mark Hansen, regarding racialised identity in human-computer interfaces.]

[10] EDITORS’ NOTE: See also Donald MacKenzie on “lock-in” in derivatives markets: “Lock-in results from the advantages that sometimes flow to an incumbent technology or derivatives exchange simply by virtue of being incumbent. QWERTY’s advantages are the familiarity of millions of users with that key layout and the difficulties they would face in the first few weeks of using a different one. The internal combustion engine’s advantages include the century of intensive research and development effort that has been devoted to it (and not to its rivals), and the huge infrastructure of fuel supply and maintenance that a rival would have to create afresh.

In the case of derivatives exchanges, business tends to flow to where existing volumes of trading are high, because high volumes mean liquidity (even large transactions can be conducted quickly, easily and without a large impact on price), low transaction costs and a robust market price. Conversely, low volumes mean illiquidity, high costs and unreliable prices. So an exchange that gains an established position in a particular derivative becomes, like QWERTY, hard to challenge.” Donald MacKenzie. “The Material Production of Virtuality: Innovation, Cultural Geography and Facticity in Derivatives MarketsEconomy and Society 36, no. 3 (2007): 362.

[13] EDITORS’ NOTE: In collaboration with journalist Laila El-Haddad, Mushon Zer-Aviv developed You Are Not Here, a map that contrasts views of Gaza alongside street-views of Tel Aviv. The experiment with ‘meta-tourism’ overlays the geopolitical interface of a city map with the corporeal, immediate experience of wandering. This visual trans-location of urban centres also dislocates the “emotional and political detachment” of the two cities, as Zer-Aviv writes, thereby questioning the contrasts that become visible within the physical city. Differences that are otherwise abstracted as data, become immediately tangible at the convergence of digital and material space. This visualisation of contrasts between Gaza and Tel Aviv politically engages with the affordances of interface technology, through a type of “forensics”. [See also Eyal Weizman. “Forensic Architecture: Notes from Fields and Forumscontinent. 4, no. 4 (2015): 81–87.]