The ecology of virtual or Stack coined by Benjamin Bratton will not exist if no interface connects the machine with man and nature or the environment. It hides the disposition of system beneath nor what we would call the real objective like the skin of an organism and an edited image of the glam K-pop stars. The pro-life of architecture or space is determined by the interface that we interact with. Youtubers convert their bedroom into a form of public theatre that fits into the 16:9 screen while the likes we click on Instagram's 6:6 images determine the post-occupancy state of a place. And of course, this is the exemplar of how these virtual platforms are turning the real world as part of the interface. The interface that has a purpose in which it is not just only simplify our hair wired relationship with the technosphere but a portal for the immaterial, technosphere connects to the objective world. Nevertheless, it is like what Keller Easterling depicted on the fancy tourism and promotional video of Free Trade Zone in her book, the Extrastatecraft as a cover-up for political disposition. Alas, such a condition happens to limit our criticalness towards something that is continuously growing and become more complicated than we can comprehend with our human mind. This will not only widen the chasm between man and the machines theorised by James Bridle but also their cognitive abilities. Benjamin Bratton, the Stack is not just a theorised future, warning for the people, but it is indeed happening now beyond the screen and four walls of architecture. If Rem Koolhaas redo his thesis on departure, the voluntary prisoners of architecture, it would be us with the screens nor hyper immersive environment enduring the delightful journey while watching its surroundings begin to mutate into some Lovecraftian reality. By then we would protest on the ethics of platform sovereignty. Still, the truth is we have been sidetracked from the most salience subjectivity by the media sovereignty according to George Monbiot from the Guardian. Lastly, Keiichi Matsuda hyperreality and Nathan Su’ in the eyes of Leviathan or even blade runner renders and superimposed the collapsing worlds of virtual and real. Data being externalised, visualised to continually reminding us of our desires. These speculations are like the others satirical sci-fiction present us a somewhat similar future, sometimes bleak, optimistic, romantic and whisper to us about the darkness lurking beneath our reality. How can we comprehend these when the most salient thing is somehow missing, which I believe is a map or a metaphor? However, maybe we do not start with a map but begin with an un-conditioned thought and finding ways to steer people to think in this convoluted cybernetic paradigm.
The Guide, The script and The Blinder
“We retreat into our bubbles, ...especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions ...And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinion, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.” - President Obama.
Every now and then, when we turned on our Facebook, the first thing we might see is the dystopian-alike post about how the friendly technology and the trusted platform companies of the society are in the process of turning against the will of their users. News about the rise of automation and artificial intelligence that will bring an end to both Fordist and Post-Fordist works are showing on the renown tech website like The Wired and news outlet like The Guardian. On the other hand, we watch TedTalk on Youtube that propagates both fears and hopes about the future of technology, while technophobic cautionary tales like Black Mirror is shown on Netflix and Nolan’s Westworld, is presented to us on HBO. However, not all news are bleak as the dystopian fiction written by William Gibson nor Phillip K Dick as some news about technological development promised us a brighter future. Like biotech firms started to look into ways to prolong the human lifespan, Google’s translator app could neutralise the language barrier, and Elon Musk’s proposed Neuralink as an exigency for humanity against the superiority of Artificial intelligence, etc. These spectacles continuously inform us about what’s right and wrong about the technology and, at the same time, nudge us to take necessary action to safeguard our future from the impending dangers that lurk around it. The bombardment of both hope and fear from mass media and new media has driven us to partake in the culture of constant strike for change in every stage of technological development. Besides, they also tell us what’s the best way to take action. But the question here is, do all these spectacles steer us into making the actual move that drives change? Are we just fulfilling the goals that set within the grand narrative presented to us by both mass media and new media to maintain the performance of the capitalist market and a kind of social order as John Fiske suggested that media is the connective tissue that all beings rely on forming relationships with the world as well as a worldly guidebook that we referred to construct our worldview? But before we rule our mind out to answer these broad questions, we need to understand the formidable power of both mass media and its successor, the new media, as well as our brief relationship with these intellectual technologies.
Mass media, as we know in general, referring to the medium and media technology that can communicate and deliver messages and information to en masse nor the general public across time and space. It embodies intellectual technologies that could extend our mind and cognitive ability as it serves as a knowledge vessel that indoctrinates nor to be more neutral, educate us about our society, surrounding, and social construct that we inhibit. Just like classical media such as books, manuscripts, artworks, the bible that act as a guide to orient us within a social fabric. However, Art Silverblatt argues that mass media emerged as a contemporary form of a social institution that can satisfy many of the functions of the traditional ones like school, government, and religious establishments. (Silverblatt, 2004) Social institutions are cultural establishments that are responsible for defining the standard values for the members of society to reference and practice to assimilate themselves as a member within the society and to unite everyone under the conventional societal narrative. In other words, what distinguished mass media from the traditional media is that they metaphorically performed like a church instead only function as an evangelical tool, like the bible nor the cathedral. The reason why I put it in such a historical analogy is that Church, as an institution, held the obligation nor the power to construct the exemplar, a model societal value system that the follower is obliged to practice to partake. It has the potency to steer the en masse into adopting its value via the media system such a bible.
Nevertheless, the reasoning drawn by Silverblatt rendered the mass media nor media in general act as a kind of instrument that assert an order intending to maintain social stability and possibly to maintain a sort of higher authority power asserted from the provider. For mass media, it seeks not only to cater to knowledge and enlightened innocent beings but to dominate their minds and organise their will and desires like any other institution as a form of control apparatus. On top of that, around five decades ago, a rebellious French philosopher named Guy Debord posed a polemic on mass media as a kind of hegemonic instrument that drives the spectacle phenomenon such as advertisements, television, film, and celebrity to distract, pacify the masses and eventually alters their way of life. For him, this instrument was conceived to reinforce capitalism as it steers us into living within the fictitious entity that is continuously informed by the corporate and political power via the staged image. Such a phenomenon reduced the world into a simple form of a staged narrative charged with rhetorical imagery to limit our perception of reality. On the other hand, Herman and Chomsky coined that the mass media operate through the five filters; it is also generally called the propaganda model. (Herman and Chomsky, 1988) The model strictly highlighted that wealth, power, and the struggle of inequality shapes the general operations of the mass media. Predominantly, the ownership of media organisation, as a first filter, plays a significant role that is responsible for setting up the global agenda. This affects what kind of information is fit to publish. Whether it is for the profit nor long term sustainability, it subjects to act instrumentally to achieve their goal.
Today, the members of society engage themselves with the world and reality through the new media like social media and internet hosted by the platform companies because of the insatiable amount of information and knowledge provided by it due to the convenience. It is a supercharged form of mass media as it operates under the umbrella of surveillance capitalism. The determinist strategy is the modus operandi of the platform’s media that seeks to dominate the possible future, placing the future into the prescribed models so that it automates the agent’s future behavior. In this way, the possibility of future reality is reduced to a mere predictable model controlled by the determinist and automated by their profit-hungry algorithm so that it enables the platform companies ability to manage the future projection of wealth and profit of their clients and investors efficiently. According to Fuchs, The mobilisation of the behaviorist technique also reinforces the existing five media filters that were once coined by Herman and Chomsky with the brave new filters such as deep state information, algorithms, filter bubbles, behavioral micro-targeting, and sock puppets. (Fuchs, 2018) The algorithm, filter bubbles, and behavioral micro-targeting play a crucial role in gatekeeping the information and, most importantly, to reinforce the audience's worldview. These filters would streamline our thoughts and actions by placing us in the echo chamber where information is fed to the audience based on their disposition and the inference gain from the past and history by default. It is a blinder that is designed to keep us on track with the designated goals that they prescribed for us in which it acts as an instrument to restrain and limit what information can the audience gain from it while on the other hand, it reengineer their worldviews with repeated stories, images and promises by algorithmic recommendation. In that sense, it hijacks our cognitive abilities then automate us into becoming the labor of reproduction in maintaining the dominant market needs. The blinder not only narrow and reduce our scope of knowledge capacity, but it also engineers our minds to automate our action into becoming habits that reinforce the given idea to us. Even the most vigorous thinker nor most intelligent being may become the subject as the blinder amplify the role of the brain- slacker. Furthermore, it disables us from knowing what we do not know, which makes learning almost impossible as Levitin puts it; If we know what we don’t know, we can learn, but if we think we know it all, then learning is impossible. (Levitin, 2017)
“These guardians make their domestic cattle stupid and carefully prevent the docile creatures from taking a single step without the leading-strings to which they have fastened them. Then they show them the danger that would threaten them if they should try to walk by themselves” - Immanuel Kant
Filter bubbles narrow the scope of content that the audience would encounter while echo chamber reinforced the viewpoint of the user by reinforcing them with repeated content. (Hao, 2019) The recommendation system deployed on the new media not only able to alter user’s behavior, framing their choices but also homogenising users behaviors as it urges similar users to interact with the same categories of items. (Chaney, Stewart and Engelhardts, 2018) Besides, I argue that the blinder itself maybe the neoliberal subject nor our favorite instrument as it helps us, the subject to focus on their own track and also allow them to manifest their potential nor to cultivate it. It gave them a sense of security where it ensures them to stay within a convention/nature in which the survival of a neoliberal subject depends on something that would allow them to anticipate. The anticipation secures the identity as it is something that already knew; it is the maintenance of stability. As Eli Pariser puts it, the filter bubbles prevent us from experiencing cognitive dissonance by constraining what we see and amplify our desires with the familiar ones hence leaving us unaware of the unknown tides. (Pariser and Heyborne, 2011) On the other hand, our dependency led us to adapt in this reality that the platform constructed where we give up our agency on our psyche estates on their hands as fuel for inhumane market capitalism rather believing that should be an alternative that free from all this. (O’Shea, 2019) The act forgoing the agency towards the most salience thing that we had become a surplus to our neoliberal selves as when the network intelligence made a carbon copy of us in the digital stream to study our disposition, it provides us, the subject a piece of more accurate information nor a product that we need to overcome our insecurities. Therefore, the neoliberal subjects it is more likely addicted in hiding themselves inside the digital echo chamber nor the epistemic bubble as Nguyen suggested that the epistemic bubble boost users self- confidence rather than undermining them with content that opposes their beliefs. (Nguyen, 2018) Also, the participation in the act of striking for change gave subjects a fundamental purpose, a role, and identity in the current society, like a hero or heroine who advocates the potency of change. These underlying conditions motivate them to perform under the narrative that’s presented to them. Alas, change is almost impossible to even countless cautionary tales, film and design fictions proliferate as a commentary on the technological issue, but at the same time, the society is trapped within the echo chamber. As a result, no actual effort was made to carry out actual change as we were running in circles. The only thing that has changed is us. And the verdict is we are suffering from a kind of cognitive decay that restraint our ability to think beyond the blinder.
X Fiction but Genre design
“If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on--then I have no need to exert myself.” - Immanuel Kant
Just imagine if the library of Alexandria were to be built in our current society, it would not be a physical architecture nor knowledge institution that we used to know. Instead, it would be just like the intellectual technology that we depended on to update, shapes our worldview, and expand our knowledge. No longer we seek the unknown because the unknown seeks us and reveals itself to us. Thus, we can pronounce the death of the flaneur and the serendipitous nature of knowledge-seeking as the library is no longer just a repository, but an automated informant that spoon feeds us with tailored knowledge that slowly conditions our thoughts. As a result, we will be facing cognitive decay just like what I have mentioned in chapter 1 on how our intellectual technology may be a double edge sword that has the potency to shun our ability to imagine new possibilities to steer change. Hence, there is a need for us to investigate other forms of intellectual technology.
Around two centuries ago, Mary Shelley’s Magnum opus, The Frankenstein became the first fiction destined to define one of the most profound fictional genre, which is Science fiction. A genre that allows the writer to imagine a fictional world and stories with the knowledge of science intersect with the freedom of fictitious thought. It not only serves as a literary device that incites the audience to think about the hopes and fears of the future but also acts as a commentary vessel. Likewise, the narrative of The Modern Prometheus was informed by the age of conflict between science and religion and challenge the idea of humanity trying to play god to create their living specimen then became one of the vital intellectual resources that our society still relies on it to imagine the social implications of technology and scientific development until today. (Nationalgeographic.com, 2019) Nevertheless, I believe the genre itself is a form of intellectual technology nor thought instrument that imbues us to contemplate alternate realities as Samuel R. Delany puts it Science fiction operates through speculation and extrapolation, and most importantly, it often takes place in a future tense like a time machine. Shaviro thinks science fiction is a kind of thought experiment that offers an output location to question the “what if.” (Shaviro, 2016) While Albert Wendland suggested that Science fiction deals objectively with social trends, prophecies warnings, and making foresight on scientific discoveries that might impose a threat to our living world. (Malgram, 1991)On top of that, Alfred North Whitehead argued that the speculative nature of science should be one of the cornerstones for scientific discoveries as the free play of imagination could help us to formulate diverse hypotheses beyond the immediate imperatives. (Shaviro, 2016) For Neal Stephenson, it functioned as an intersubjective language for the future like hieroglyphs that would assist us in constructing a kind of map that penetrates the future-present. (Stephenson, 2011) Besides, the founding of science fiction also paved the way for design discourse such as design fiction, also known as critical design, to become apparent in the teenage years of the 21st century. It emerged with the hope to intervene in the high charge techno-optimism future that the late-capitalist world imposed on us via prototyping fictional products and cautionary tales to educate the audience. However, the discourse itself wasn’t new towards the postmodern society as the idea of design fiction was heavily influenced by the 1960’s Radical Italian design movement spearheaded by Superstudio, Archizoom, and Britain based Archigram that emphasised on designing theoretical ideas that heavily stressed on social, political, economic and technological agendas. According to Bruce Sterling, design fiction is a design method that designers would utilise diegetic prototypes to speculate the future world. (Bosch, 2010) A diegetic prototype is a fictive functional piece of designed technology that exists within a fictional world, intending to demonstrate it to the public audience. (Kirby, 2010) The purpose is to steer the audience's attention into focusing the object nor services offered from the science fiction future that they have extrapolated based on the current societal development. Whether it is science fiction nor design fiction, I consider both are a kind of thought instrument nor technology that tends to stretch both the author and audience to think about alternatives at the same time reflect about our current conditions.
As a researcher, designer, and architect, other than extrapolating and speculate a possible representation world that imbued by either today’s conditions and situations with these thought instruments for the sake to inform the public and expand their cultural imagination about the possibilities and consequences that comes with it. I think we have to find a method that could urge them to contemplate as we have hypothesised that the neoliberal subjects are in the process of suffering from cognitive decay in the previous chapter. The ability for neoliberal subjects to imagine the outside is disrupted by the cybernetic world as well as the need for the blinder as the essential tool to survive in this unforgiving post-thatcher reality. Thus, thinking alternative is a dead end no matter how critical the knowledge is presented through the narratives that conceive within the framework offered from the thought instrument as a genre. And by all means, that also includes us, the ones who will be writing and designing the future as we are also the neoliberal subjects. However, It wasn’t totally because of our incapacity to think alternatively within the cybernetic landscape that we are living in, but the problem also lies within the thought instrument that was supposed to make us think outside of the box. As we know that thought instrument is a kind of cultural discourse that presents us a way of thinking about the present social, political condition that is supercharged with the radical technologies in the form of storytelling and designed narratives. (Hollinger, 2006) It is a genre that was famously known as a vessel for polemics and critique, and it is relatively fashionable for entertainment usage as well until today. Nevertheless, we first have to understand that a genre, by definition, refers to the convention that’s used to define the typology of the content. It could be based on the mode of presentation, structure, style, themes, settings, forms, etc. that are intersubjectively agreed by both audiences and producers. Furthermore, the convention is a framework that a content producer needs to follow to construct, deliver a message and pacify the right audience regardless he/she is a filmmaker nor a writer as John Fiske puts it that genre forms both their audience and the reading subjects. (chandler, 1997) In that sense, it acts as the backbone of the content like a prescription that could fulfill the audience's expectation and, to the extent, target new audiences. We could also put it this way that genre is a rhetorical device because it has the propensity to convince nor persuade the audience to partake the content and cultivate a prospective audience. The reason I stressed about the utilisation of above thought instrument as a method for us to think and act alternatively could be one of the problems that unintentionally places us within the intellectual trap is because its operations are defined by the convention framework under the veil defied its functionality to expand one's mind.
The paradox about the conventionalise framework is that it not only draws us to partake the content naively, but it primarily shapes our cognitive ability through priming us with the conventions. Likewise, Schmidt defined the genre as media action schemata based on schema theory, which functions like a cognitive instrument that draws our brain to process a vast amount of information into producing cognitive invariance, nor he called it the “Stereotype knowledge.”(Schmidt, 1987) This stereotype knowledge is generally known as schemas in cognitive psychology, where it performs like guides and maps that our brain used to recognise and to identify things spontaneously. (Cherry, 2019) According to Seel, schemas are developed through long term socialisation, exposure to real experience, and long- term process of learning through repetition as well as from fiction, films, myths, dialogues, and role models. (Seel, 2012) And most importantly, our brain developed these schemas so that we could immediately make assumptions on the thing we observed by referring to the cognitive invariance in our cognitive repository. However, these mental frameworks will also lead us to exclude other helpful pieces of information as well as to confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. (Cherry, 2019) Nonetheless, it can hinder us from adopting new knowledge when it does not go accordingly to the existing schemas. For that reason, I argue that thought instrument in the present days could have lost its utility as a vessel for imagination that invites the audience to contemplate as the disposition itself has internalise to our mind and has developed into a kind of mental model that our mind reference on. Hence, any message delivered through this thought instrument could only function as some sort of fulfillment to the projected expectation with clues, assume conclusion, preconceived expectation from the schemas. That is why people rather sit around and wait for the next dystopia to spoon-feed them about how things going to turn sour. (Bergen, 2018) It is because the audience already expected what information they may receive next from the thought instrument. In that sense, our knowledge and creativity would most likely be limited by the given mental model unless it starts to develop and change. According to Seel, schema can only be built through the process of assimilation and accommodation. (Seel, 2012) It only changes, and the mental structures developed when our schema failed to comprehend an alien situation that we encounter. Alas, these alterations happened to be more difficult when people grew older as the existing schema will often reinforce itself when he/she is presented with pieces of information that contradict her own beliefs and world view. Otherwise, the change could happen when they are deliberately overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of pieces of information that emphasised on change. (Cherry, 2019)
Dunne and Raby
“Change is the stimulants to our cognitive activity, and without the elements of change, our perceptual system does not a function” - Professor Sophie Scott.
At this point, making stories nor designing a cautionary tale as the intervention to incite the audience to contemplate may not be the most effective method as the message lies within the narratives defined by the thought instrument above. It is fear that the speculation and news ended up to become another instant gratification product that is conceived to pacify the audience. Besides, it might just lead us into the trap of reproducing the dominant possibilities that already presented to us within the echo chamber because we as the neoliberal subjects have the innate tendency to fulfill the market expectation to thrive in this neoliberal market climate. That does not mean we are seeking an egress in this technologically charged society as the cybernetic technology has helped human civilisation developed within a short period that inherently extended our survivability as a species on a planetary scale. But rethink the way of disseminating messages and constructing the message instead of continually relying on the similar thought instruments that we all already know as the mental assault tool. What we meant in general, instead of designing the narrative, we should create the thought instrument. By designing the convention of the content, it enables us to define the expectation of the audience and structure the way how the message should be disseminated to the spectators. And by doing so, we could disrupt the cognitive schemas of the audience, therefore, leading their mind to accommodate the change presented from the genre itself.
Genre design became Cognitive Instrument
Genre is an active form as Keller Easterling puts its active form is active even in stasis, and its activity does not rely on any events or a movement per se because the action is in a latent state. ( Hauptmann et al, 2010) And I argue that Easterling’s definition of active forms can remain active in the dormant state without any constant need of extroverted performance to influence the actors due to the workings of the dynamic mental model. Besides, she also describes that the active forms are an action performed within a group then infect the en masse’s movement nor reengineer a population. ( Hauptmann et al., 2010) Hence, the act of designing the genre is considered to be an act of constructing a reality nor a world-building process as it could determine what the audience should think and the actions they make to extend displacing the reality with the newly constructed ones. But the displacement of the totality would only happen at the later stage when a convention framework becomes a common practice. However, not all acts of the designing genre have a primary objective that seeks to rewire how the world should perform, but some have a somewhat more down to earth objective like to disrupt and stretch their audience thought. Besides, this is not something relatively new to us as there are some authors, film producers, and even politicians do perform a similar intervention that resembles such an act that weaponised genre as a cognitive instrument to cognitively assault its audience into submitting to their will, changing worldview, etc.
All we know about Russian politics from the media is how they weaponised new media to disrupt other democratic society with fake news and as well as initiating cyberwarfare. And these pieces of information about them may as well be a hoax nor contains a certain degree of authenticity. On the other hand, there weren’t many pieces of information about how they govern the post-soviet society besides knowing their post-truth political strategies. However, what we all know was just the tip of the iceberg before Adam Curtis released a documentary about Hyper-normalisation, and Peter Pomerantsev’s launched a book about the adventures in modern Russia. According to the information that Pomerantsev documented, Post-truth in Russia is not all about the spreading of convincing fictitious news and staged media content to manufacture public consent nor reinforce public stability. (Pomerantsev, 2017) Post-truth initially was about fabricating news to shame the opposition’s ideology but the latter it is about managing the opposing ideologies and performances by embracing all of them rather shunning them through the media (Pomerantsev, 2017) It is also true that there is no such thing as truth in Russia, especially the hegemonic media, are own by Oligarch and the State to manipulate consensus. Hence, the ones who are responsible for funding the media content can manipulate the consensus in general. The whole idea of constant manufacturing reality through the use of media was introduced by Boris Berezovsky before the Vladislav Surkov transform Russian politics into a postmodern theatre. It is Surkov who introduced the idea of adopting all kinds of political ideology then turned each of them into the veil of Russian state politics. By investing in others, bringing other conventions in not only augment how people see the Kremlin's ideology but also strengthening it. In a way, Kremlin owns all kinds of narrative to create a mass illusion that has the shapeshifting capabilities so that it can keep everyone under the same hegemonic umbrella so that they able to steer every single action. Furthermore, the shapeshifting capabilities are defined by how well its Kremlin ideology could mix and match with the foreign ones to create its supporters to criticise the foreign ones. For instance, Surkov utilised the language of liberal hipster to rebrand the image of Kremlin so they could gain the supporters from the youth even though the ideology that the liberal hipsters practice oppose to the Kremlin ones.
Next, Mark Z Danielewski hijacks the way how his audience read a novel and redefines the way how a literature device could operate that would inherently lead his audience into the rabbit hole of making interpretations. He aspired to experiment beyond the formality of a textual space and the typical properties of the novel, thus transforming a literary device that challenges the reader into exploring how the book should have interacted throughout the journey of consuming the narrative. (Gibson, 2012) In his infamous cult horror, The House of Leaves, it was the first ergodic literature that he pens out with the agenda to transform the trivial literature device that requires a non-trivial effort from the reader to navigate the narratives both mentally and physically. For Danielewski, he utilised every page of the novel like a film director and cinematographer as a means to choreograph every pace and experience that a reader would encounter. ( Biancotti, 2012) Thus, he can dictate, allure, and transform his reader into a performer to invoke the experience through the rituals of exploration encoded within the book itself. However, the story wasn’t composed in a traditional method where it operates linearly, although the story still was written based on the horror genre. It was written in an oddly different format as the entire grand narratives are made out of three fragmented linear narratives and each of the fragments present of a different piece of pieces of information about the fictional world. And each of the narratives is presented with specific textual formatting to emphasised the narrator’s disposition. As a result, the readers become the world builder that piece the information together through the convoluted textual format that Danielewski crafted to interpret the message behind it. The format that Danielewski was designed in an obvious way to disorient his reader, but at the same time, the format itself functions as a compass that guides them into the polarised narrative world to seek for the answers. Also, Mark Z hijacks how our brain interprets a narrative or information by turning the convention of cause and effect structure is a kind of puzzle that the readers need to do their part to interpret it. He left the story with ambiguous resolution and in the open-ended too, leading the readers to continue to decipher and revisiting the book every time. Consequently, the endless interpretation led the fans into forming a cult-like forum to discuss the resolution gain from the book.
In 1975, a Chilean film director named Alejandro Jodorowsky had a crazy idea to change the world with one film that he envisioned to make with the most talented artist during that time. It was an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, although it becomes just a paper proposal at the end due to Jodorowsky’s overwhelming ambition the pre-production work itself has altered our cultural imagination about the aesthetics of science fiction thus became the convention for the industry today. Besides, the result of it broadens the range of form and interpretation of how science fiction can be once imagined and visualised on-screen, and most importantly, it introduced the world-building approach as a tradition for the sci-fi filmmakers and storytellers to pitch their vision to the media. And perhaps it has succeeded in fulfilling the initial purpose despite the failure of realising the story into a time-based media. The journey nor exercise became the map nor the guide that influence the way how science fiction narrative told in the film. Without this initiation, there will be no Star Wars, Aliens, and some other prolific science-fiction movies.
China Mieville, the author who famously known for his literature like The City and The City and The Perdido Street Station, utilised the knowledge of the genre to assault his audience mentally. The reason is that Mieville wanted his audience to reject their predetermined expectations that they have before consuming his work. Hence, he urged them to make conceptual leaps that would lead them to contemplate. (Farley, 2009) And Mieville did it was by disorienting his audience predetermined expectation via the manipulation of the genre convention and how fiction would operate. In his book, The City and The City, the story was set out to an impression to his audience that the novel appears to be
a detective fiction, but Mieville gave it a twist that transcends the detective story into a fantasy fiction then leading the audience back to where they have started. The fundamental principle was rather direct and straightforward, as the entire genre is being invented by Mieville through the play of different genres into one grand narrative.
In short, from what we learn from this case study is that every ideology has its convention, structure, and expectations that resembles a genre on its own. To Surkov and the Kremlin, these are their hegemonic instruments that can alter the reality that the Russian perceive and also can steer their actions. On the other hand, Mark Z’s manipulation of the genre formatting on novel presentation reinvents the way how a reader process information and interpret a story. As a result, it became a cult artifact that gathers all the readers to interpret the meanings behind the book. Besides, Jodorowsky's ambitious world-building exercise has changed our collective imagination about science fiction forever that has eventually shaped the products we used today. And last but not least, Mieville’s play of narrative convention negates the idea of genre priming on expectations.
The Plague, The Egress and A kind of Thought instrument
Google Data center Expansion
"it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism,” - Mark Fisher
There's a plague coming from the outmost territory that’s alienated from the living beings protected by the companies that we trust and buried within a language that is only understandable by a fraction of the intellectual people on earth. The infectants are so hungry that it feast in seconds, maybe even less to satisfy its bottom-less appetite. Every single day and night, it creeps underneath the most intimate devices and the public spaces that we use and wants to consume every single piece of information that we produce until the day the plague is freed by our actions that is honed by their very own pavlovian agents. Hence, bringing doom with joy to the modern renaissance of the 21st century, thus giving power to the new dark age transcend from the hellish nightmare presented by the visionaries, poets, and writers. But the bleakness of the new dark age is given a paint job by the jolly tech companies that transform the rather cold and wicked outlook into warm and friendly ones that could lure everyone into believing in the promising future they offered us. Everyday life is powered with hope and fear that the act revolution has become a cultural norm that everyone practices. Unlike the medieval dark ages, the plague did not bring death to us but hope and love for us in this precarious society that suppressed the fear and insecurity of the masses. Mainly, we all know the plague is a devilish gift that has the power to overrule life beyond human control. Still, paradoxically, it is also the antidote that we need it for survival and to build our defense system. As a result, the society ended up forging a partnership with the plague itself than giving agency to them so that we could suppress and interfere with its dominance. However, the irony is that the suppression may be a placebo effort as it already dominated us in the first place when the plague was brewing. Our thoughts are subjugated by it hence transforming every one of us into the host that helps spread the infectious disease like a zombie nor as to the slave to the plague. Alas, the plague itself is an idea of subjugation with maximum oppression that has no cure yet because of the unreadiness towards its unknown disposition. And the epidemic is the dominant ideology and practice of technology of the current epoch, and we can also name it as the everyday life of the platform kingdom.
The world became a different place after the meltdown of Cambridge Analytica as none of the future that they steer the great empires such as the United Kingdom and the States into was irreversible. At the same time, our faith in the platform companies falters as the emergence of these tech firms placed human rights at risk when our priceless and private pieces of information are harvested as the fuel to keep their names in Wall Street and this free market. And the way we look at our technology has changed especially towards the one we depended on for our contemporary way of socialisation, Facebook after the shocking victory of Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica was charged by the British government as well as Zuckerberg’s hearing. Apart from that, cases like how tech companies study our behavior started to surface in the media. Many seem aware that the dreamy technological fantasy future was no longer a pleasant and comfortable one; instead, it has become a bewildering one that is full of predators and watchers in which deemed not safe for us to live in. But it was too late for alternatives even there is one out there since the neoliberal society has adapted towards this techno-culture as part of their everyday life. Thus, we can't get rid of it with the most primitive act like destroy and abandon whatever that has the potency to threaten us in the long run. As a result, we ended up embracing such faith like accepting the flaw of the system by compromising our invaluable freedom and privacy also pushed the society one step further into a condition that is not susceptible for change but becomes more dependant ever to the tech company that the society already rely on. Our dependency again gives them full agency on deciding our future histories with technology and shapes our cultural practice. Likewise, Apple, Google, and Facebook now turning their heads into advocating the welfare of the people by producing Privacy-focused products as a gesture to build consumer trust and to maintain their relationship with them after the incident of Cambridge Analytica. On the other hand, these companies also penetrating our lives and seek to be intimate to us in a multifarious way such as they are at the verge of transforming themselves into real estate developer that promotes dataveillance activities. However, this news left us with no definite clue on where we are heading next, but all we know that the situation is oddly different now, especially when the masses have an outlook on their doings, whereas there are visionaries started to illustrate the bleak future we might be heading.
Ever since then, this uncertainty has forced the general public into focusing on one dominant condition, and to some degree, it has nudged us to take every chance to intervene, to think new strategies, and to propose new prototypes with the hope to solve the issues that we are facing now. However, I have already argued that in chapter one that we are incapable of thinking further and outside the current dominant paradigm. Every single decision that we make now might be an act of reproducing the reality that they have presented to us through the media. And perhaps we are only building the future that they wanted us to develop as when our thoughts were already streamlined by tech companies. Besides, every possible imagined future and proposed solutions may face the judgment of being homogeneous and similar to each other that includes this thesis as well. I believed what we lack now is the tendency to think outside the cybernetic loop as we failed always to disrupt our cognitive schemata to develop new thoughts. As Keller Easterling suggests that the problem with cybernetician thinking always leads everything back in the “predicted solutions” within a familiar loop. And so instead of looking forward to designing solutions, we have to design the problem now. (Easterling, 2019) For that reason, I proposed “The Egress” as a project that seeks not only to speculate and extrapolate an alternate condition that we might face in through science fiction, but it is imbued to disrupt the cognitive schema of the audience. It is designed to oppose the idea of “convenience knowledge production” and “convenience thinking” by introducing a way to stimulate thoughts and conversations that could lead us to think alternatively. That being said, I am attempting to design a kind of thought instrument instead of just thinking about the alternate conditions through science fiction. The reason is that if the message is disseminated through the vessel of science fiction, then any pieces of information that we want to argue would be expected by the audience. This is because the cognitive invariance in the brain would prime them with an expectation that has the capacity to restrained our thinking ability. Therefore, I think through the bastardisation of the genre, science fiction could initiate the audience to make an effort to contemplate and to the extent, invent a new discourse just like how Mark Z Danielewski, China Mieville, and Alexandro Jodorowsky did in the past.
Nevertheless, The Egress was first conceived out of a broader question on how platform company may transcend to become a government and bring down the existing old establishments. And what kind of built environments, politics, interactions, etc. would emerge from a situation like this? The question was, however, inspired by our techno-optimism culture nurtured from cyberneticians labs such as MIT Media Lab, Interactive Architecture Lab at The Bartlett, UCL, and Google, where I witness the sudden obsession towards augmented and virtual reality. However, the future studies become more and more myopic and possibly overdosed by the jolly technologically charged tunnel vision would interfere with our hindsight in exploring a broader agenda. Furthermore, The Egress is not just fiction, but a thought instrument that is designed with the hope to draw us from the rioting plague to cultivate new thoughts. Lizzie O’Shea says to create the desirable world that we all want in our digital future; first, we must invent a past with a living value to realise it. (Shea, 2019) But before we invent, we must learn how to think.
In a nutshell, we are still far from the actual outbreak of the plague, but that does not mean it is not happening right now. It has begun to infect us slowly by creeping into our minds through the rituals that we perform in our everyday lives, like as simple as searching for inspiration on Pinterest and Google itself. And we can’t deny that these are the knowledge repository of the 21st century that operates like the Library of Alexandria in ancient times, but the only thing that is deemed harmful for us is they condition the way we think. As a result, our mental model and schema of reality are shaped by the profit-hungry algorithm that belongs to the platform companies. Thus, it can implant the personalised world view that is beneficial for the company, then transforming the idea of creation into reproduction. In that sense, there will be no escape from this reality because we are already stepping into such a future that is waiting for us to bring it to reality. Even if there is a ready proposal for us to carry out a coup d’état to overturn the dominant paradigm, one challenge we still deem to face is what I called the Neoliberal Dilemma in which we as the neoliberal subjects would struggle to decide to cut ties with their life support systems. For that reason, if we have the urge to commit a radical change first we have to rewire the way think about things and possibly expand the masses' point of view into investigating different discourse. And that is the most salient action we can do for now instead of wasting the resources purely on the repetitive production of ideas.
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