nonlocated online


Knowbotic Research

> territories, incorporation and the matrix

Labels such as cyberspace, information highway, teleorganism, plasma, net world or virtual communities illustrate the yet unregulated potential of information and communication technologies. They suggest an expanded and expendable cultural environment and are symptoms of the so-called digital (r)evolution. The innumerable computers linked into global networks, with their memory capacities and computing potential, form a digital fieldsof interlinked data-territories. The shapes and incorporations prevailing in this space are still being developed and expanded. The requisite infrastructure is provided by the Internet, the world´s largest data network (originally designed by the American military to be decentrally reconstructible after a potential nuclear strike, hence its non-hierarchic structure). So far, the system has evolved as a link between universities and 'super computer' centers, remaining more or less in the shadow of political and economic interests. But if we want to prevent this data space (consistently growing in size and complexity due to the incipient commerzialization of the network) from becoming just a failed duplicate of reality, then we must not view data landscape and networked communities as a mere program engineering and marketing problem within a self-regulating technocracy. The possibility of constructing reality (or several realities!), and the opportunities inherent in the networked worlds which can be derived from them, has given rise to a general sense of insecurity and disconcertion for the public spheres. It becomes interesting, when the resulting public tensions crave to be solved, in the face of an obviously self-organizing system, by a set of equally entitled protagonists (crisis managers, chaos physicists, media theoreticians, artists, cognition researchers, architects, sociologists, cybernetics scientists, ecologists, context designers, etc.) and require to be unfolded into processual fields of distributed information and creativity (Tim Druckrey).


It is this elated atmosphere preceding our departure toward a new identity of the public and cultural space in which the present publication, "Non located online" situates itself. It is an open compilation of material dealing with the design and implementation of potential "real" realities.

There is much current talk about the cyberspace; everybody is emphasizing the Utopian innuendo of the "virtual" and rejoicing in the conclusiveness of the term "reality" (safer reality). But flight simulators, video games and medical inside views of our brain are nothing more than mimetic representations supporting the everyday world with their complex convenience . The interesting part are certain emerging phenomena, e.g., the incomprehensible dimensions, the numerous constellations (layers) of events, and the still enigmatic co-ordinates of spatial movements which grow on this technology-supported culture medium. They will require us to part with our two-dimensional imagination and three-dimensional reconstruction habits, challenging us to develop an abstract multidimensional imagination instead. The underlying spatial dimensions, for instance, such as the condensing non-hierarchical node system of the Internet, are plainly impossible to conceive. Yet, thesephenomena do not embody structures of isolated effects but formalize real entities impacting our everyday life.


The approach taken by "Non located online" will therefore take us beyond the communicative aspects of data networks (talk channels) which are of such topical interest today. As "virtual communities", they have been extensively described by Howard Rheingold in the traditional American pioneering spirit, but he too, like most commentators, tends to view the network merely as an expanded reality (i.e., an extension of the one, everyday, reality). Common metaphors such as "digital city", "global village", "virtual city", "telepolis" refer to the single concept of a megacity with its main street, post office, shopping line and financial district, and reflect the wish for the network to become more densely colonized. The traditional humanistic world view is thus re- conceptualized in the sense of being re-duplicated. In such outlines uninhabited outer regions are negated, sub- or cybversive forms of existence are ignored (i.e., ghettoized), micristructures are overlooked, chaotic behaviour and uncertainty are curbed, etc. These defects reflect a lingering continuation of an economic and ideological 'missionary' approach, as well as elements of a colonial attitude. This type of virtual culture draws its reality-constituting factors from the "use" of prefabricated structures; the user elements are algorithmized components of our city culture.

In response to this approach, the material compiled below describes views of open processes, development strategies, and dynamic processes in artificial territories which, in the interests of consistency, can be based on the cognitive principles of science and the abstracting methods employed in the arts.

The English biologist and philosopher Richard Dawkins, for instance, proposed the concept of the memes (cf. the text by O. Dyens) as self-replicable information sets which settle in our cultural awareness, like a set of 'idea viruses' using DNA-generated life as an ideal carrier substance in the manner of parasites. The dynamics and synergy of an organism can only be ensured if it is activated by "individuals". In the present case, these are data and infor-mation carriers, i.e., mobile units performing functions as man's representativeagents. No matter whether we call them knowbots, meme or digital organisms - they all act as incorporations inside the network a n d, within the meaning of the 'idea virus' concept, definitely operate outside the electronic spaces. Their energy potential fascinates artificial life researchers and political scientists alike, regardless of whether these entities "live out" paradox or teleological dynamics. They determine events, acting as the cause of the generative and processual elements which characterize this data space approach. This productive aspect, which evokes creative impulses not only among its supporters (cf. Gert Döben-Henisch), will induce "design" activity in its widest and most artistic sense. We are faced with the following questions: How can we describe the non-locatable (multi-present) data-space if the traditional laws of nature are not applicable in this case? What kind of infrastructure may support such artificial, digital territories? Which objects and signifiers do these infrastructures use and how can we experience and peceive this hybrid mesh of interrelated effects, which is to a certain extent self-organizing? Which are the functions of the developer/user/observer of such digital space/time configigurations in which the importance does not rest with the storage and time-delayed call-up and transformation of information, but in the interaction with pre-existing entities continuously re-constituting themselves? How can we render this imaginary matrix of persistently self-generating and simultaneous speech conceptions perceivable (e.g., through three-dimensional visualization), with its rules being continuously violated and re-invented by thousands of unpaid Internet developers?

We are obviously witnessing the emergence of a cultural process entailing a conquest of network territory that gives rise to new concept definitions and perception qualities. The present publication can only sensitize the reader to the fact that the latter (and their symptoms) need to be identified. We still lack the conventions to embark on any target-oriented cognitive approach towards the phenomena, energetic forces, dynamic compressions, stratifications, and traces involved; the process is still not sufficiently self-referential, but it is full of poetic opportunities to establish an event space for these undiscovered data habitats, one that may function as the "language of the absent".

The matrix:

The self-referential approach, proceeding according to McLuhan' s principle that "the medium is the message" (i.e., abstracting from social and political effects) will certainly prevail for yet a while due to the elite-restricted propagation of the medium. But if the rapid proliferation of the network continues and freedom of access remains ensured (although every open system is at risk these days), the "matrix" concept will have to be expanded. The idealistic goal envisaged by many network developers and users is the democratization of knowledge presentation and generating systems, as exemplified by the WorldWideWeb, a flat-hierarchy hypertext system publishing private and institutional knowledge on an equal-rights basis, a type of vision which once accompanied the advent of television or portable VCRs. What matters are not the complex network structures within the data space but the superimpositions between the various concepts of reality (in addition to all the gaps, holes and cracks), and hence, the corridors to the so-called "first reality" (refer to the "specific" projects by Ingo Günther and Gottfried Meyer-Kress).

Thus we are called upon to counteract the above mentioned disconcertion of the public space by engaging in a disarmament of world views, and to keep the (network) doors open in the manner described by Peter Sloterdijk as the "Copernican mobilization" effort.

KR+cF thanks all authors for their commitment and support. Except for the contributions by Jordan Crandall, Ingo Günther, H.P.-Sandkühler (thanks again to Meiner Publishing Co. for their permission to reprint this material) and VNS-Matrix, the texts appearing below were prepared specifically for this publication.