cyberpunk is dead

notes on the development of the so-called social web and the role of cyberpunks inside this process, by el. short version, read the full text here on

the text talks about cyberpunk as it came from literary, and cyberpunk as it was reproduced by netpunks, and cyberpunks as the cliché for post-first-generation hackers:

The weakness of cyberpunk was its virtuality, being a complex of imagery mostly used by writers in fiction, by bloggers in egomany and by journalists in, well, „journalism“. What was missing, is a cyberpunk realism, in the sense of an aesthetics that relates to and occupies something else than the realms of literature. From this viewpoint, real existing cyberpunk was the adaption of cyberpunk as a shiny static representation for what was left of the dynamic of electronic pioneers, the early computer hackers, and their process of dissolving their avant-guard status in time and into mass. Comparable to the punks that were the mass reproduction of the avantgarde activists before them.

virtuality is seen as a failure, as it only provided a static identity and didn’t allow for playing with reality:

Inside the historic #fail of cyberpunk, still were hacker groups and cyberpunk collectives not only representing the literary images of cyberpunk, but trying to do cyberpunk realism. In the sense of picking up the punk culture and porting it to the cyberspace. Working with images and text in the new media, taking it back to the roots of post-war pre-punk movements, creating free tools, cultural gifts and mixed artworks, like all the minds from Guy Debord (and many before), to John Lyndon, to Allen Ginsberg, to Wau Holland, had shown the way. But working with punk attitude in the 90s and the Zeros proofs to be a delicate business. Now we can see the last phase of cyberpunk, the virus has spread, it has dissolved into one of its more justified aims: the dissolution in non-elitist mass approaches. If you search today for crazy netpunks, doing the mix with images, ideas and slogans, fighting cyberwars against scientology and other creepy institutions, you don‘t come to the avantgarde collectives, you go the chans.

the real-existing netbased cyberpunk-scene is going down:

After the autonomous text production of the last two decades, we face a shift to short notes and images. The DIY music scene remains a bit unaffected by this, since the hope to become a money earning musician is still a more powerful cultureindustrial meme than the one of a writer actually getting paid. The recent shifting from myspace to facebook shows although, that everyone-is-an-artist wasn‘t a powerful enough idea. It had to be self-representation, mini-blogging, star-cult, focus on images and other spectacular media instead of text: The hyperindividualist self-representation platform of facebook suited the masses best.

faces on facebook:

For large parts, this big network is filled with representations of static faces. Faces, that are amongst our most subliminal ways of communicating, become our fastest and most plain way of making a statement. Update profile picture, comment, like, like back, update again. The collectivization of communication (lat. communicare = do sth. together) failed, in fact this means the failure of mass art. Todays market of representations means that we exchange images that are valued by statements without consequence, statements whose only value is the one of attention, something we have learned from the advertising process, which has become the key process of culture. This cultural praxis fails to find a history of the human faces. The faces tried to break the boundaries of word and image, they were processes of conscious creation of speaking images for the feelings that words fail to describe. The times of boredom that everyone wanders now, through images that don‘t form related stories anymore, are a result of loosing our dream of creating non-static post-representative playful expressions. To associate the fragile idea of friendship still with the formalized and online media based networks of „friends“ is the dramatic deception that covers this loss. It was the fragile nature of friendship itself that was lost, that what made communication between friends comfortable. The need to be near to others and to be free on ones own at the same time, was dissolved into the mode of being present to each other only through distance. The tools of social media cover up the failure of the social itself. Giving up the idea of the possibility of social relations in which one can give each other the comfort of being together and granting all freedom the same time, is a failure whose results may be not so easy to cover. This is not a judgment about the idea of mass communication per se, but about the idea and modes of social media networks.

books instead of facebook:

So from this learning process we gain the perspective of boringness. Being a progressive participant of cyberspace today is not about being elite and surfing the most underground hubs. It’s about surfing on the top of it all, on the big normal junkyard of human creation and picking up the inspirations together. It’s also about reading a book again, following an author’s thought through 400 pages instead of 140 letters. And also in the same sense: doing a website again, a static thing that waits for hundreds to come by, just like a book in the library, instead of giving daily updates to attract some other thousands that need their daily fix of info. Some books still are more actual than the daily news reports (when these were still existing, now the news must be updated all the time). And maybe the lost dreams in these books need an actualisation through a website, instead of just a quotation in the fast streams of actualities. It’s about refusing the entertainment, it’s about finding enlightment in thought processes themselves and not in what forms they have been given for representation. It’s about picking up something dead and giving it life instead of living the perpetual death of the bubble of statements.

So what’s the challenge?

The non-conformism of today is a real challenge: To deal with something beyond the instantaneous satisfaction of a pseudodynamic static image. The progressive illustrations, thoughts, projects and processes will need you to stumble over them, to search for them, to look closely or even stare at them (not like you stared at the TV since 50 years ago, at youtube since 5 years ago). It needs you to stop worrying about the central hub, website or plattform that you feel like home in. It needs you to stop worrying about any rss-feeds that you only used to feed your identity out of angst in this process of identification, representation and individualisation. Not to learn even more exiting ways of being alone – you can easily find those in the entertainment industry – but to pick up again the idea of communication. Surf around, take off from time to time and play with what and whom you might find.

Read the whole text here on the blog of the Cult of the Dead Cow

One thought on “cyberpunk is dead

  1. Pingback: cyberpunk is dead « el

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