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Offline Browser

HSU Fong-Ray

The global cultural order we face today is a process of extreme capitalism evolution restructured socially and economically based on the logic of networking technology, expressed in network society via the driving force of global finance.

The spreading of networking technology substantially changes our manipulation toward the production processes of experience, power, history, and culture as well as the yielded results, shattering the very organizational concept and form based on fixed space, time, location, and state. The orientation it manifests takes the “flowing” power as priority. It not only accelerates the evolution of capitalism, but changes the nature of capital market. Meanwhile, it renews itself at a swift speed, producing global activities operating in real-time. Such technology paradigm, different from the early period of Information Age with the innovation of knowledge and information at its core, focuses more on how to apply knowledge and information on the production and communication levels. It expands/reduces further the experiences and knowledge management amidst the Mankind, technological objects, and the environment, and extends the dynamic relationships of various networks in human society, shaping the domination and evolution of the society. Nevertheless, networking technology is not determined unilaterally by the society, but more by the network worldview fabricated by the chain reaction triggered by the technology itself. Thus, how to comprehend and not be held by the power of this technology is the very strategy this Offline Browser deliberates.

#Extension of Technology
The information flow within a network society inherits the speed and elasticity of capitalism. Be it smartphone, TV, or computer, all are integrated onto the display medium that takes the Internet as the backend operation platform, while innovative technological objects integrate the information content and material interface of browsing. In the opaque cloud-computing room, data of various levels are being processed rapidly, changing the life forms of humanity. We all have had or having this kind of life experience: feeling at loss in driving to an unknown territory following the instructions of navigation system; exchanging our personal information for free applications and services; witnessing the wars in the real world being cracked swiftly and instantly through the maneuver in a virtual world game; full-bodied money becoming a series of digits, traversing in the invisible network to complete huge amounts of transactions in no time; search results feeding the intelligent computation of cloud platforms while feeding us more commodity information, etc. These are not only the cascading of feedback information computed by networking via the information content we produce as well as the footprints and desires we leave in the network world, but also the self-renewal process of the system. The information technology in the process is shaping the lives of humans, while being shaped by the forms of human living as well. 

The communication among “technological objects-man-environment” is expanding/reducing the life experience of the human race in the practice of networking technology. The inner logic it enhances is that the technological objects created by information technology, amidst the paradoxes produced in the utilization of man, has been migrating from the opposite relationship between technological object and environmental representation to the reinterpretation and redefinition of environment’s status by humans via technological objects or the other way around. That is, we believe in GPS navigation system more than our bodily experience; if the time on smartphone is 12:00 whereas the time on our mechanical watch is 11:50, it must be the mechanical watch that has some issue with the clockwork; and that the probability of precipitation referring to a region in general makes us to take an umbrella even just for a dining out for lunch just in case. The precondition for human life experience and the meaning of value production today is efficiency. What the organizational computation based on metadata under the unified principle in the world knowledge constructed by cloud platforms presents is that information technology is no longer the extension of humanity; instead, humanity becomes the extension of information technology.

#network society and metadata
What the metadata, as the basic source of networking technology, exposes is more than that by the data itself. If the data we produce is the content, the metadata is the context or index where the content is situated. In other words, if we want to monitor one individual, the contents of SMS messages, emails, and audio recordings of conversation may be more precise than the metadata. Nevertheless, when you want to monitor and control every individual, colossal metadata will be more meaningful and more efficient. The routine in a network society is that we no longer want to search for the information we desire because the search engine records completely our footprints in the Internet world. With enough data, the longer the duration is, the better these colossal metadata can understand humans in different networks through cloud-computing and artificial intelligence, so as to allocate and confine the latter in various comfort zones. Even if it is not doing well enough at the moment, it shall do better in the near future for it is renewing its own technology with our means of utilization and contents we are producing.

That being said, if we singularly focus on how capitalists and states collect data, it may not yield a complete picture, nevertheless. The truth is how these massive data are processed, compared and analyzed by the owner of technology, which “manages” the networks in our lives as the technology constantly renews itself. Such decisive technology that controls the diverse networks that are seen, converged, and separated often rules out the subversive power of the Internet as a social communication tool via the “routine” of networking. It accelerates information consumption, expedites the ignorance and forgetting of the environment and objects by man, and speeds up the virtualization of body, while cutting down the oppression brought by the networking system onto life as well as our capability to react on the levels of thinking, acting, and criticizing. In the day-to-day operational structure of network society, the decisive technology of networking not just alternates production and power source via organizational approach as well as the production, processing, and communication of information, but serves as a platform on the Internet to shatter the locality of space and rupture the sequence of time. It extends to beneath the attribute, and opens up individual’s form and power of political participation in network society. Mankind engages in flowing via the production of various messages on the network, and establishes his own existence through flowing. This construction of meaning not just is grounded on the symbolic identity of individual/group, but also is represented and enhances networking technology’s control over the real society, while consuming individual’s production swiftly to fragment the subject and to disperse the center, shattering in the dominance of networking.

Hence, it is not too difficult to comprehend that all sorts of populism and conservatism seen in the society today are not an accident at all. They did not simply come from the setbacks of subjects in the political participation in real society, but more from the result of the market logic of neoliberalism strengthening the management of networking technology. After destroying the organization of civil society, they plunge the powerful social conflicts into the hands of networking technology, reverberating in the fluid status of society and the ever-extending space-time. What the process enhances is not class struggle, but the needs from every interest group as well as the antipathy and resistance of the participants in society arising from unjust results. The participants in network society herein can easily be shaped, divided, and separated by networking technology to certain ideologies or races. Shrouded in virtual formal democracy, it kills the true public persons, or exiles the excluded individuals to the endless routines of network society. The resistance of individuals to network comes with anxiety, mixed in the realized virtualization and virtualized realization interface. This force that has to extend itself to fight against the never-ending time can possibly be influenced by the populism and conservatism it was born with synchronically, and gradually becomes a limited cultural resistance, confined in specific community and network. Meanwhile, the aesthetic speculation and cultural criticism initiated by issues can also become the arena for disputes easily, instead of the venue for cultural reproduction. The individuals in network society are thus at loss, and the horizon they march as a whole to is not a more complete liberty, nor is it the end of history, however, but the beginning of everything.

#Hypertext at the Reality-Virtuality Border
Networking constructs the form of the contemporary society. In the network space, no place and no one can be self-sustaining. All the people, things, and objects are transformed into nodes and hubs, and weave out the network that cocoons the lives of human beings, overthrowing the conditions in reality like geography, identity, and resource. It can turn the most impossible peripheral in reality into the node at center, and can exile the original center due to its neglect of technology. In the face of a network society where the material foundations of space and time have been transformed, the traits surrounding the delocalized space and perpetually extended time are organized. The dominating value and interest-orientation within need not to refer to the past nor the future, but take the flowing concept of globalized economy as its faith, eradicating all limits in order to create a more efficient return on capital. The non-temporal, non-local attribute initiated by networking forces the meanings of history and symbol lose their orientation amidst this status of suspension. After the cloud space and computing mechanism take over the management of data, messages across different Internet space-time (whether it is text, image, video or audio) are put together as a web-like hypertext. It allows individual message element to connect with and cite each other, while making the production, utilization and construction of messages on the Internet go through a qualitative change. The key not only lies in how a text narrative is produced, but more in the complicated relationship between the cloud database and message texts. These messages in the network society disintegrate and converge once again the identifying mechanism of network society in a rapid-flowing process. While it allows networking technology to gain the power to distribute, it also makes the capital logic inescapable from time, so as to remove the continuity in society and the temporality in history, hollowing the substantive social relationship. Thus, the real and virtual culture of network society is physically reflected on aspects such as the digital financial transactions, the flexible working patterns, and the blurring of individual’s life cycle. 

After networking systematically mixed all kinds of tenses, the ability to transform in between reality and virtuality in the society shall make the interpretation and coding of messages substantially become the primary proposition to recognize the “technological object-man-environment” relationship. That is, the situation unable to be changed in the real society may be extended to another real resistance and identity in the virtualized network society. The events happening in the real society enter the virtual network society and reshape their symbolic representations. In the process of attempting to gain the power of the public from the network society and to return to the real society to fight, hypertext serves as the information node in the networking technology. In the meantime, hypertext is very likely to be drowned in the colossal information wastes, even though this subversive power did “once” and “sporadically” change the political participation in the real society via such technology. The operational level of networking today is at the mercy of the capitalists and states that possess a huge amount of data and capability to monitor. Yet, we shall not forget that while the technology and self-renewal of networking is shaping our lives, they are also being shaped by our forms of life. The relationship therein is a cascading and computing of never-ending loop. Even if the networking technology bestows us an illusion that we are living the same life, the truth is right the opposite with no connection to each other whatsoever. Nonetheless, on the hand, the looping representation of information and the computing mechanism of market-orientation will give themselves away every now and then carelessly, so we may gain the possibility of transcendence on the instant when the mind is off line from the Internet during the browsing process of information.

#Offline Browser
Now that the open social structure constructed by network can be expanded indefinitely, it will always be an open terminal disregard the direction you approaches from. As long as the same communication codes are flowing and consumed on the Internet, they could be integrated into the new nodes, exploring the unknown network. The 2018 Taiwan International Video Art – Offline Browser contemplates the relationship between the production and flowing of images in the networking society via the domains of “Resistance to Routine”, “Production of Hypertext”, “Real-Virtual Technological Conversion”, and “Counter-Infiltration of Data”. The ideas and contents produced by the various domains due to the influence of networking technology are intertwined and symbiotic. How to contemplate, resist, and act via image culture in the face of extreme capitalist logic that keeps renews itself is the very goal this exhibition concerns about.

In the domain defined by “Resistance to Routine” is equipped with the symbolic feature extremely out of balance in the network society, which reveals the material opposition and cultural resistance of image production in the face of the acceleration system of extreme capitalist consumption and under the self-renewal f networking technology. The contemplating actions and practices regarding networking manifested in life phenomenon, issue construction and symbol production process are interpreted in the image perspectives of Semiconductor, Ko Sin Tung, Gilles Ribero, Vincent Pouydesseau, and Susanna Flock. The position as well as the meaning in the network society is defined by the process of flowing and exchanging. The diverse cross-cultural, cross-geographical, and cross-historical hypertext produced in the hyperspace, fragmented sequence, the behavior is in the status of sequence lost if not instantaneous. It changes the characteristics of writing, speaking, and audiovisual model of human communication, reconstructing the means of image narrative. As to the artworks of HO Tzu Nyen, Eun-Hee Lee, Makis Kyriakopoulos, and Valentino Russo, they see from the various nodes in the hyperspace to acquire thinking beyond interpretation. The transformation in the realm of “Real-Virtual Technological Conversion” continues the hypertext so as to escape from the space-time, compressed into a minute, random instant. As the User resists the informationization of network society, the authenticity as well as the body is immersed in the virtual setting and the camouflaged world. The cultural symbol within not just is a metaphor, but includes authentic experience. In the artworks of Harun Farocki, Lawrence Lek, ZHENG Yuan, Paul Wiersbinski, Andrew Luk & Alexis Mailles & Peter Nelson, and LIANG Chao, criticism and sarcasm toward technological conversion are reflected, creating network nodes and positioning that is able to identify individuals in the cracks of reduction and exclusion. The data produced in the network society is like the exhaust emitted in the Age of Information. The colossal metadata converts at ease this colossal exhaust into the infrastructure of the empire that holds this technology via artificial intelligence and cloud computing. What it dominates is the entire human race. “Counter-Infiltration of Data” is precisely the reverse-production and the contemplation on the information cascading in such context. The artworks of this category such as the ones of Hito Steyerl, Piotr Krzymowski, Joseph Wilcox, Nestor Siré and Julia Weis, CHENG Hsien-Yu, and CHEN Chen-Yu are the reactions as well as infiltrations into data and technology. 

“Offline Browser” stresses not the functional interpretation of online and offline on the Internet, nor does it pose us a binary question whether to leave or to stay. What It attempts to discuss, however, is that when we are using the platform constructed by the Internet, how we should reexamine the structural relationship between individual production and network amidst the networking technology enhanced by the trinity of us as a producer/user/consumer, and convert the perspective of technical tool in the network society into a perspective of medium, infiltrating data via the reverse production of information and eventually affecting the material basis of algorithm. What it refers is the value and the identifying form when the subject faces information technology and the latest form of capitalism. “Browsing” oftentimes plays the role in the cultural production process of network society that accelerates and maximizes the benefits of capitalism. In such behavior, we unseal the representation and interpretation relationship toward network society via the utilization of technological objects and the consumption of messages. Expanding/reducing our experiences of the real world in the repeated, enormous superimposition, we reach and experience geographical border we could have never reached, write about the history of lost time sequence, and adapting to the realized virtualization as well as virtualized realization. The experience and management formed by “man, technological object, and environment” overlooked in the process are constituted by our actions. In between the production and utilization of information, the culture in the network society is shaped by technology as well. Meanwhile, all the participants also possess the agency to shape the technology. Thus, how to comprehend and not be held by the power is the very strategy the contemporary image culture deliberates: Offline Browser.


This text was written on the occasion of the 2018 Taiwan Video Biennale.


Alphabet (after Amanda Lear), video, 3min 30sec, 2017

Artists participating in the 2018 Taiwan Video Biennale:

David BLANDY (UK), CHEN Chen-Yu (Taiwan), CHEN I-Hsuen (Taiwan), CHENG Hsien-Yu (Taiwan), CHENG Ting-Ting (Taiwan), CHONG Heman (Singapore), Gabriel DESPLANQUE (France), Harun FAROCKI (Germany), Alessandra FERRINI (Italy), Susanna FLOCK (Austria), Ewan GOLDER (UK), Gregory HAYMAN (UK), HO Tzu Nyen (Singapore), JEONG Kahee (South Korea), Vasils KARVOUNIS (Greece), KO Sin Tung (Hong Kong), Piotr KRZYMOWSKI (Poland), Makis KYRIAKOPOULOS (Greece), LEE Eunhee (South Korea), LEE Jaewook (South Korea), Lawrence LEK (Germany), LIANG Chao (China), LIN Tzu-Huan (Taiwan), LO Sheng-Wen (Taiwan), Andrew LUK / Alexis MAILLES / Peter NELSON (Hong Kong), Randa MAROUFI (Morocco), María MOLINA PEIRÓ (Spain), Naween NOPPAKUN (Thailand), Vincent POUYDESSEAU (France), Gilles RIBERO (France), Valentino RUSSO (Italy), Semiconductor (UK), Itamar SHIMSHONY (Israeli), Nestor SIRÉ + Julia WEIST (Cuba + USA), Natalia SKOBEEVA (Russia / Belgium), Hito STEYERL (Germany), Elisa STRINNA (Italy), Jurgen TRAUTWEIN (Germany), WU Sih-Chin (Taiwan), James WYLIE (New Zealand), Joseph WILCOX (USA), Paul WIERSBINSKI (Germany), YANG Qin-Hua (China), ZHENG Yuan (China)

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