Debugging the 21st Century

Social bodies

The idea of society has always been linked to a form, with its shape or body made up of humans, earth or other material. This shape has shifted over the centuries depending on which links were accepted as established and which flows of communication were practiced—a central aspect of that what makes a society is communication. We are somehow connected, by a keyboard, an image, a voice, a protocol, the wifi, 4G, a cable, by optical fibre and undersea cables, 2cm thick. The contemporary shape that depicts the bodies of our societies is often linked to a network. But what kind of body is a network? What does its shape say about the state we find ourselves in?

Modern western body politics is based on ghosts, i.e. on the idea that each king or queen is simultaneously a person and an embodiment of the political that never dies. Medieval cadaver tombs show this by displaying two bodies of the same person: the political body in full arms, and the natural one rotting away in a horror show; John Fitz Alan, 14th Earl of Arundel is worth googling. Then two became many: in Hobbes’ Leviathan, the political body is again made up of more than one person. But now its corps is built on the multitude of citizens as Abraham Bosse’s depiction of Hobbes’ Leviathan shows. The king’s upper body rising in front of the land is an artificial one, made up of citizens looking towards his head (or is it their own head?) gazing into the distance like a distracted kid at a toy train table. The body of the king had become many. With parliament becoming even more important, these many soon find themselves in a new shape: instead of having a home in the king’s body they are now sitting in the architecture of the parliament. Houses and not human bodies became the vessel for the political, borders and not kings or queens defined the nation. Society started to have people “upstairs” and “downstairs” carefully con­trolling what was passing from one floor to another. A class system had become the political body. An image colonialism mirrored.

Today a different body form has become the home of the people: the network. The network does not depict the place or position of humans in a system anymore but suggests movement. The mass that could threaten the political body is now busy being all over the place. All there is, are individual transactions. Money, products, goods, holiday makers and migrants accompanied by smartphones and emails. But the network image is also hiding two political aspects. One is resistance: how to behead the king, or turn the house upside down? There seems to be no outside to this network, i.e. no alternative society or network to choose. The other aspect is inequality. For when depicted as positions, all those movements fall into the shape of a “long tail,” the distribution curve of our time. Its starts high up to steeply come down ending in a long thin tail mirroring the current trend of the rich getting richer; even in Europe 10% of households now own 51.2% of total net wealth according to the ECB. The form we are transforming into is the opposite to the bell curve which has a large middle-class belly in its middle framed by a thin head and tail. The long-tail curve is the real image of the network: things and humans move according to an unfair logic, which cleverly stepped out of the frame leaving us with the need to find its image, and to create a spectre haunting this time not just Europe but earth.

Starship 17: Cover Park McArthur, Martin Ebner
  1. Shibuya/Sumida Martin Ebner
  2. Some follow up questions Park McArthur
  3. Editorial #17 Starship, Gerry Bibby, Ariane Müller, Nikola Dietrich, Henrik Olesen, Martin Ebner
  4. New York City in 1979, shot in 1981 Anne Turyn, Chris Kraus
  5. E.very D.amn C.olor Eric D. Clark
  6. Then I wanted to make a happy end for once Ariane Müller, Verena Kathrein
  7. Answering Lagos Dunja Herzog
  8. Fashion Fiction Eduardo Costa
  9. Hello world Vera Tollmann, Stephanie Fezer
  10. Social bodies Mercedes Bunz
  11. Saint Lucy Luzie Meyer
  12. The Overworked Body: An Anthology of 2000s Dress Robert McKenzie, Matthew Linde
  13. Untitled (waiting for trouble) Tony Conrad
  14. #PLZ, RESCHYKLI$CCH Karl Holmqvist
  15. Life, Liberty, and Data Antek Walczak
  16. Eine schmutzig-weisse Schweizerin Hans-Christian Dany
  17. Butterrr Mikhail Wassmer
  18. Botanical Quinn Latimer
  19. Marie Angeletti; Les veaux, les agneaux Marie Angeletti
  20. Insect Love Tenzing Barshee
  21. In the Name of Jakob Kolding
  22. Pavilion-in-Parts. A Logbook. Florian Zeyfang
  23. 2017, Year of the L.I.E. Jay Chung
  24. Schriftproben bei Vergiftungen Stefan Burger
  25. Flightless Gerry Bibby
  26. Der Beautiful Books Club (BBC) Stephan Janitzky
  27. The Provenance of Privilege in the Primary Market Mitchell Anderson
  28. MD / NS Natasha Soobramanien
  29. Time Warner Some Notes on Now Monika Senz
  30. Image is an Orphan Shahryar Nashat
  31. The Bavarian Vampire 1–4 Veit Laurent Kurz, Levi Easterbrooks
  32. Indefinite Violence David Bussel
  33. Because of you I know that I exist Viktor Neumann
  34. Discarded Sounds (Intro) Robert Meijer
  35. Verweile doch Theresa Patzschke
  36. rare fragments from the notebook of an unspecified archetype Scott Cameron Weaver
  37. Starship 17 Julian Göthe
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