Digging a deeper hole: cloud computing and the tame ghost of radicalism

Coley, Rob and Lockwood, Dean (2011) Digging a deeper hole: cloud computing and the tame ghost of radicalism. In: Platform Politics, 12 - 13 May, 2011, Anglia Ruskin University.

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Abstract

We propose to consider platform politics in relation to the coming of the ‘Cloud’. Specifically we will suggest that developments in digital culture represented by this phenomenon considerably complicate the radical potential claimed for the digital commons and the ‘multitude’ by Hardt and Negri and others.

Two recent think tank reports by Charles Leadbeater align the radical power inherent to cloud computing with seventeenth century English revolutionary group, The Diggers. Leadbeater’s suggestion is that, in order to resist the incursion of capital into the digital commons, we must ‘look back to move forwards’ and follow the example of these proto-communists. Yet, in reality, the danger of a cloud-based capitalism has not only become fact but the Cloud must also be recognized as the precise configuration of a new force of control. Indeed, we propose that the spectre of Gerrard Winstanley, founder of The Diggers, is haunting digital culture, perversely conjured by the powers of cloud capitalism as genius loci of connectivity and collaboration. The Cloud represents what Paolo Virno has called ‘the communism of capital’ in its most flagrant form.

As ‘virtual computing’ this new paradigm not only enables capital to rationalize the superfluous into the Cloud, it also effects the translation of the web into a single computing resource, a platform through which the networked multitude are ‘on tap’, a utility on demand. In a process of enclosure in line with ‘disaster capitalism’ (Klein, 2008), the Cloud harnesses network invention-power, its principle productive force being the cognitive and social power inherent to the commons. Management and control function through a ‘disjunctive synthesis’ (Diken, 2009), the cooptation of the multitude as multitude, as distributed network of individuals. Consequently, the Cloud epitomizes ontological, post-hegemonic power (Lash, 2010), a power immanent to the virtuality of the multitude itself, in its potential. This is nothing less than the enclosure of the virtual.

As a result, the multitude finds itself in a post-political funk, unable to move ‘outside’ this modulative enclosure, incapable of escaping the situation where radical or revolutionary action is reduced to productive reaction. In his own writing, Winstanley fought against transcendent values but, in ‘cloud culture’, these have collapsed into a flexible, manipulable immanence, allowing the Cloud to effect an oscillation of the will, to constantly redefine the truth, to maintain productive capacity. Worshipping the virtual in the actual we are infected only with a nihilistic faith. Winstanley’s resurrection is thus as a figure of radicalism banalized.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information:We propose to consider platform politics in relation to the coming of the ‘Cloud’. Specifically we will suggest that developments in digital culture represented by this phenomenon considerably complicate the radical potential claimed for the digital commons and the ‘multitude’ by Hardt and Negri and others. Two recent think tank reports by Charles Leadbeater align the radical power inherent to cloud computing with seventeenth century English revolutionary group, The Diggers. Leadbeater’s suggestion is that, in order to resist the incursion of capital into the digital commons, we must ‘look back to move forwards’ and follow the example of these proto-communists. Yet, in reality, the danger of a cloud-based capitalism has not only become fact but the Cloud must also be recognized as the precise configuration of a new force of control. Indeed, we propose that the spectre of Gerrard Winstanley, founder of The Diggers, is haunting digital culture, perversely conjured by the powers of cloud capitalism as genius loci of connectivity and collaboration. The Cloud represents what Paolo Virno has called ‘the communism of capital’ in its most flagrant form. As ‘virtual computing’ this new paradigm not only enables capital to rationalize the superfluous into the Cloud, it also effects the translation of the web into a single computing resource, a platform through which the networked multitude are ‘on tap’, a utility on demand. In a process of enclosure in line with ‘disaster capitalism’ (Klein, 2008), the Cloud harnesses network invention-power, its principle productive force being the cognitive and social power inherent to the commons. Management and control function through a ‘disjunctive synthesis’ (Diken, 2009), the cooptation of the multitude as multitude, as distributed network of individuals. Consequently, the Cloud epitomizes ontological, post-hegemonic power (Lash, 2010), a power immanent to the virtuality of the multitude itself, in its potential. This is nothing less than the enclosure of the virtual. As a result, the multitude finds itself in a post-political funk, unable to move ‘outside’ this modulative enclosure, incapable of escaping the situation where radical or revolutionary action is reduced to productive reaction. In his own writing, Winstanley fought against transcendent values but, in ‘cloud culture’, these have collapsed into a flexible, manipulable immanence, allowing the Cloud to effect an oscillation of the will, to constantly redefine the truth, to maintain productive capacity. Worshipping the virtual in the actual we are infected only with a nihilistic faith. Winstanley’s resurrection is thus as a figure of radicalism banalized.
Keywords:cloud computing, radical politics, communism, commons, Deleuze
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Media
ID Code:5929
Deposited By: Rob Coley
Deposited On:26 Jun 2012 19:25
Last Modified:26 Jun 2012 19:25

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