someone’s watching you – privacy of data, an appeal / round two

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“Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state, and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments. I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us.  … You know, in America and in western Europe we live in very wealthy democracies, we can do virtually anything we want, I’m able to write whatever I want to write. But I can’t be part of this culture of simulation, in the sense of the culture’s absorbing of everything. In doing that it neutralises anything dangerous, anything that might threaten the consumer society. In Cosmopolis Kinski says, “What a culture does is absorb and neutralise its adversaries”. If you’re a writer who, one way or another, comes to be seen as dangerous, you’ll wake up one morning and discover your face on a coffee mug or a t-shirt and you’ll have been neutralised.” Don DeLillo (Panic #1, Nov. 2005, pp. 90-95.)

And is it not at the same time a cynical paradox and the hybris of writers, artists and maybe even lawyers, yes, now that I mentioned it, certainly lawyers as well, that in striving to be effective, successful, sharp, persuasive, unveiling, exposing, revealing, uncovering the workings of the machine we also strive for the kind of recognition that neutralizes our very effort. This is still the romantic idea of the individual rebel, the genius writer, the brilliant artist, a sly title afforded with societal approval by the very system that is being accosted, criticized and opposed just because this honor neutralizes, even castrates the very effort it lauds. Don DeLillo writes accordingly in Underworld that true proof of existence lies with the recorder not the recorded, the one who does not have a name but the authority to write the code which makes time tick. My words, his idea, by the way.

If you did indeed value the corrosive of your intellectual ability  you would choose to remain unknown behind a work that was known for its efficiency. you would not buy the idea of the genius writer who ends up on a t-shirt or, for that matter, on Facebook where you can democratically and to no specific end be approved of by the click of a button, but you would anonymously and in a group of like-minded minds labor towards the specific end of a realization of your ideas.

this is, coming round from yesterday’s etude on the privacy of data, another appeal to keep private if you can and claim the right and authority to do so.

do you feel like you are being watched?

fearful knowledgeit’s because you are. the recent discussions about the privacy of data – or the absence of such privacy when it comes to any form of telecommunication or electronic communication – has revealed that for now that even the basic implications that could lead to a meaningful discussion of the issues at stake are at best only vaguely understood.

the increasingly public lives we seem to live obscure the nature of information even further. the general public as judged by news coverage and political discussion seems somewhat nonchalant about their own data privacy, maintaining that private data could not be of any use to those who fish for it (what do you care about what I had for breakfast?), and that those who had anything to hide should better be found out early, with other words that to the law-aiding citizen the privacy of data is not of great urgency. The sheer mass of private, non-relevant information creates the further illusion that what one reveals in electronic form was as elusive as a thought shared with a friend in a crowd of people.

to reintroduce the idea  that information may not be – as more commonly understood – an abstract observation extracted from a state of reality to communicate the specific nature of that given state, but instead the first cause to make reality, with other words, that information is to the “thing” it describes what the letter is to the word and the line that draws the letter is to the letter, to reintroduce this thought at the moment when countless legal aspects of data privacy are already causing the discussion to meander without true force, may be pushing the discussion to the brink of madness, but it could also turn out to be immensely useful.

“In the beginning was the word”, this grand opening refers to the provenance of the idea – translating thus the term “logos”, which refers to the inherent logic and order of things. The order of things as encoded in a word very much like a program that at the same time provides a building plan for a specific “thing”, is the cause for its realization and provides the necessary algorithms to build it. Furthermore, if the chosen word, data, information, has “wisdom” (Hebrew for “word”), which means: knowledge of the world as a whole, to speak the right word is to give the initial and irrevocable impulse for the creative act out of which reality follows.

Maintaining authority over that kind of knowledge as far as it refers to your individual data, even if it included plainly what you had for breakfast, whom you’ll meet for lunch and what your favorite color is, might be a cautious and recommended approach until you could positively rule out that this kind of data is indeed what makes you. That could be the making or the unmaking of you.

 

the art of evolution

IMG_0875the line that weaves a monster creates a world of possibilities. hopeful monsters, evolution by systemic mutations, as developed by goldschmidt in his theory on “hopeful monsters”, provides, as a metaphorical recourse, the right to hope against all odds that what is uneven – think Kant and the crooked timber of humanity – might be not only necessary but at times preferable to what is normatively expected. (citation after: dartouth.edu/~dietrich/NRG2003.pdf
“a single mutational step affecting the right process at the right moment can accomplish everything, providing that it is able to set in motion the ever-present potentialities of embryonic regulation” Goldschmidt, R. The Material Basis of Evolution (Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1940).

everywhere and nowhere – a trip to berlin and back

 

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black ball pen, anywhere paper. while working as a lawyer specialized on the representation of visual artists, sometimes the time in between, travel time, waiting times, coffee breaks during a conference turns out to be a creative space in which not just some kind of creative maintenance seems to happen but actually – while I am using readily available art supplies like note paper and ball pens provided at said conference – something interesting, some original kind of work or an idea that will be worth developing. like this weekend. i added to my to do list for the day: buy plenty refills for black ball pens. something’s coming.

Where were you when Thompson hit that home run?

Brooklyn Dodgers

Brooklyn Dodgers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You see, writing that sentence to me is kind of scary, in fact, it requires quite a bit of courage. In a few words it describes all I know – and I do not know – about a culture I lived in and that I breathed in for thirteen years. And then some. If you think “13” you’ll understand how well suited I was to be in that place, because it seems to me that it is more important to have an association to the fact that Ralph Branca wore the 13 that day, way back then, in 1951, than to even have been born at the time when Thompson hit that home run and the Giants won the game 5-4.

A long time ago a friend taught me my first real American phrase. This was after years of English classes at school had rendered me a perfect fluent, neutral speaker of a language that is so rich in tones and associations that my lack of sensibility for the colors of a certain word might have invoked an association equivalent to a machine’s translation of, say, John Updike.

My first real American words were: “How about them Yankees?” And we practiced them for a few weeks. We lived in the same apartment  building on 95th Street at that time, and we would practice in the elevator upon chance meetings. Me: “Hi Joe! How – about – them – Yankees?” He: “Howabout’em?”. Eventually, I sounded somewhat more like I was asking what I was asking. Only, of course, I didn’t. Because I wasn’t. Asking. I had not the first clue about baseball. But I kind of started getting the gist of things.

Maybe you have guessed from the first paragraph what I am reading at present. I am still the academic speaker I was when I first lived in New York, fluent to a fault and with blank undertones to my speech. But then again, I have those in my original, my native language too, the blank undertones, speech that leaves no associations for the listener even if it seems rich with referrals and meaning to me.

But be that as it might, not for nothing have the years passed and have I entertained something that should be called, for lack of other words, an illegitimate affair with a language not my own but with a passion so strong that at least I feel like I have staked a small claim on a land that rightfully belongs to others.

And that claim should not be judged by my own ability to play the instrument,to speak the lingo, to actually ask about that homer, scary thought! – but by the fact that my ear is now catching all that it might have missed when I first listened to that tireless speech of the city, 95th Street, Columbus, Broadway. I read about the outfielder Bobby Thompson on that day in baseball history, Oct. 3rd 1951, in that landmark novel and I do not only think “Ralph Waldo Emerson” and “Shot heard ’round the world” from his Concord Hymn, something I might have done before (and something, fittingly, DeLillo never mentions, the “Shot heard ’round the world”).

I mean, I know this, but I can also actually picture the guys, J. Edgar Hoover with the torn newspaper and all, and I hear them as clear as I hear music from Mozart though I am separated from that in time and space and culture, too, and I get it. Or, let’s be honest and a bit humble, I think, I get it.  I think I know who they are, these guys and their wives, like  Nick and Marian, and where they come from and why it is inevitable that one of of them should head straight into cardiac arrest after the game, and I know that they are real and I might meet them out there one day and recognize them and smile at them. And they, in return, would not give a f- and would have no clue who that meager shadow was, passing by. Which would be just fine with me.

I get so much reading these pages and listening to them, so much detail that I didn’t get before that it delights and amazes me despite the fact that it is of no use to anyone including myself other than for its sheer entertainment value. Which is a result of half a lifetime of practice. There is something in there that tells you about how language connects us to a specific place and time and how obstinate and inefficient love insists on being.

I doubt I could pull it off, that question, asked leisurely in a conversation. As if it was something, one asked, conjuring up a feeling of common history, no matter where you stood.  And, sorry Joe, I still have to ask someone in the streets about them Yankees, but I know what it means when I hear someone doing it, and I hear the city and its history and its people and their loans and their marriages and their kids at college. So, let me get back to reading then. Underworld.

legal terms: royalty

royal

Royalty: a fee that is paid to the owner or creator of intellectual property when it is used again. Black’s Law dictionary

Intellectual property is a legal concept  and like other legal concepts dependent on definition and open to political use and abuse.

The physical, geographical world has indeed been mapped extensively, some might say: exhaustingly, and to the extent that one may not walk this earth anymore without treading on another man’ or woman’s property.

As we are starting to protect that what we call intellectual property – with good reason, think compensation of artists, musicians, inventors who cannot work for free and live on nothing any more than any other trade could – we also have to think of what it means that we are willing to treat ideas very much the same way that we treat the surface of this planet.

As much as one – at the beginning of tis new century with its overwhelming environmental, cultural and economical problems – could question whether the concept of the exclusive private rights to use the land (property) and its resources has been beneficial one should now very carefully consider whether a similar approach of mapping the works of the mind through exclusive rights seems the path we should follow if we hope to address those problems that are not individual but communal problems, not problems of one country but of all people hoping to keep this earth a home for future generations.

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13th, 1813

the nice king breathes the world into existence

the nice king breathes the world into existence

i don’t count the times when people ask me whether i could draw something nice for a change people ask me that a lot can’t you draw something nice for a change don’t think it offends me, it doesn’t but … Continue reading

MONSTER Nr. 23

One wild thing: on closer inspection of these canvases you'd find bits and pieces of found objects enclosed such as children cherish. Pieces of beach glass substitute for teeth, small beads, glitter, all children I know love glitter!, keys and bottle caps and lost and found buttons. When did we forget to spin the dream, when did our world cease to hold small promises of meaning and adventure, a life time of stories still to be told? How did we grow up to forget the sensual richness of the world, the intense pleasure we can find only in  simple things and moments. When did we cease to live today in order to reach for a tomorrow that we never truly know will exist - and if it does it comes only to be given up and traded in for yet another tomorrow until there is none anymore? When did we start squandering our present moments for squalid projections? When did we tire of that what we have , right here and right now, the word, the discovery of nothing and everything, the breath of boredom and adventure alike? Ask an expert what life could be like, go hunt for chestnuts and bottle caps and pieces of this and that lost and found. Talk to a stranger and as for their story, smile every once in a while even if convention doesn't require you to, lift your eyes up and look at the disorderly lines of roofs and antennas and imagine Karlsson living up there somewhere or go to your knees and pick up something that glitters without whisking out a disinfectant afterwards. Be a MONSTER. Breathe. There is still some life to be had. Laugh without any particular reason. MONSTER Nr. 23

One wild thing: on closer inspection of these canvases you’d find bits and pieces of found objects enclosed such as children cherish. Pieces of beach glass substitute for teeth, small beads, glitter, all children I know love glitter!, keys and bottle caps and lost and found buttons.

When did we forget to spin the dream, when did our world cease to hold small promises of meaning and adventure, a life time of stories still to be told? How did we grow up to forget the sensual richness of the world, the intense pleasure we can find only in simple things and moments? When did we cease to live today in order to reach for a tomorrow that we never truly know will exist – and if it does, it comes only to be given up and traded in for yet another tomorrow until there is no tomorrow left? When did we start squandering our present moments for squalid projections of who we could be if only? When did we tire of that what we have , right here and right now, the word, the discovery of nothing and everything, the breath of boredom and adventure alike?

Ask an expert, a child no older than six, what life could be like if you’d find it again, go hunt for chestnuts and bottle caps and pieces of this and that, lost and found. Talk to a stranger and ask for their story, smile every once in a while even if convention doesn’t require it, lift your eyes up and look at the disorderly lines of roof shingles, chimneys and antennas and in your mind create a stage for a play that involves precarious acts of balance and skill. Think “Karlsson” by Astrid Lindgren.

Go down to your knees, seeking the perspective of a five year old,  and pick something from the ground that glitters just because it catches your eye – without whisking out a disinfectant afterwards. Be a MONSTER. Breathe. Laugh without any particular reason. Be the absolutely unremarkable, remarkable YOU you were born to be. Nothing more, nothing less. MONSTER Nr. 23