I discovered an interesting website yesterday, The Age of Embodiment, a forum for commentary on what Karl Shroeder, a science fiction author must praised by Cory Doctorow, but which I haven’t read yet, sees “as a massive cultural change that’s sweeping towards us: the end of the Modern/Postmodern age, and the beginning of a new era.”
It kept me awake and then had some kind of dream, and when I woke up, I suddenly was making connections between what is happening in technology, namely mash-ups, and what is happening to ourselves. My conclusion: mash-ups are really a constructive answer to the postmodernist issue of the fragmentation of our selves.
Please follow this reasoning for a moment:
Postmodernism was all about deconstructing oppressive mental structures that we inherited from modernity. Amongst other things the Cartesian subject/object split and the alienating effects of Kantian’s impossibility of knowing true reality; it was a necessary destructive passage, a cleaning out process, but it didn’t, as its names “post”- indicate, construct anything. So in my view, if modernity was about constructing the individual (along subject/object divisions), and postmodernity about deconstructing this, then this new era, which I’ld like to call the era of participation, is about constructing relationality or participation. We are not going back to the premodern wholistic era and feelings, but just as modernity was about rigorously individualising everything, eventually reaching the current dead-end of hyper-individualism, we are now just as rigorously ‘relationising’ everything. If in premodernity we thought, we are parts of a whole that is one and above us, and in modernity we thought we are separate and unified individuals, a world onto ourselves, and in postmodernity saw ourselves fragmenting, and pretty much lamented this, then this is the mash-up era. We now know that all this fragments can be reconstructed with the zillions of fragment of the others, into zillions of commonalities, into temporary wholes that are so many new creative projects, but all united in a ever-moving Commons that is open to all of us..
So the fragmentation of postmodernity is a given for us now, but we are no longer lamenting, we are discovering the technologies (infrastructural, collaborative-software-ish, political, but above all the mental and epistemological) that allow us to use this fragmentation to create the Great Cosmic Mash-Up. That is the historical task of the emerging Peer to Peer Era.
In my manuscript, I have a chapter where I’m trying to map out ‘the new articulation between the individual and the collective’, and the different historical and philosophical sources we could use for this, and I mention the contemporary re-appropriation of native American spirituality and other participatory metaphysics, the forgotten traditional of cosmobiological leftism (drawing to the hegelian-boehmian sources of the young Marx and a long line of Renaissance thinkers that were eclipsed by the Enlightenment, described by Loren Goldner), Goethean traditions of participatory knowing, monitored by Steve Talbott at the Nature Institute, Gebserian aperspectivism, and I’m pretty sure there are other strands we could use.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be mapping these new concepts in the P2P Encyclopedia
,but if you want to know more, there’s already lot of relevant concepts in the 300+ collection of P2P concepts.