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This is the version that MONDO 2000 *didn't* publish.

Copyright (c) 1993, 1995 by Jon Lebkowsky, Paco Xander Nathan and
Allucquere Rosanne Stone.  The Microsoft Network is specifically
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Interviewers:  Paco Xander Nathan, Jon Lebkowsky, Dave Demaris

Allucquere Rosanne Stone: I notice the expression 'multiplicity' being
kicked around at one conference or another, so multiplicity is
apparently a happening thing all of a sudden. That's nice to see,
because the advantage of multiplicity as a political strategy is that
it's a way of disrupting the idea that people are single
personalities, which is a method of political control.
	Stephen Hawking is one of the examples of that.  Because he
uses a voice prosthesis, his vocal presence is electronic whether
you're standing next to him or on Mars, so you're not sure where his
edges are.  Multiplicity is another way of not being sure where
people's edges are, because there are a lot of them in the same
physical envelope, and you're never really sure which one you've got.
Politically it's a complete no-no -- when you name a person you've
named all of them. There's only one identity. All the others are
bogus, and that's a specific political strategy. It's a way of nailing
people down, and controlling them. The idea of creating the illusion
that everybody is singular is a way of producing a particularly
manageable, tractable kind of identity.  But nobody is really

Dave Demaris: The amazing thing to me is that people refer to obvious
collectivities, large organizations, as persons....

Jon Lebkowsky: The way it struck me was that most people just can't
handle that multiplicity. People who can handle multiplicity are aware
of it, and they just sort of deal with it that way. But the average
everyday guy, if you start talking to him about how "I'm a
multiplicity of cells" or "the government is a multiplicity of
organizations," or whatever, he just gets lost.

Paco Xander Nathan: Is that because of too many reality filters?

JL: Yeah, I think that most people only handle one perspective at a
time. They can't take a whole rainbow of possibilities and grasp 'em
all at once...

ARS: Ambiguity or multiplicity are anathema. It's like walking up to
somebody and saying "Hey, you're not really a guy, you're just trained
to think you're a guy, your identity doesn't have to be singular,
think of yourself as a boat at anchor in a sea of possibilities, all
you have to do is pull up the anchor...and you can drift around in
this field..." And they don't get it.

JL: When you say not really a guy, do mean like in the sense of...just
gender? Gender programming?

ARS: Gender programming, yes, but gender's only a part of our
socialization. Let's stay with gender for a minute, though. I look
around the table here and I see three guys, and you know...however you
see me...and that may be a consensual hallucination that we whip up for
each other, but it's not just us doing it, we're part of a whole structure of
power that constrains us to do it.

JL: There's an essential difference there, and we've added a layer and
layer of bullshit onto that...

ARS: Culturally...

JL: And what I see now in the gender-bender thing is that people are
trying to strip those layers away and see what's really there.

ARS: Uh-huh. And that's really _dangerous._ It's dangerous because,
the way power structures work, it really scares people.

PXN: The analogy is with LSD two decades ago. It seems directly
connected, because again you're stripping away the reality filters,
and the whole power structure is coming down, and realizing that
people won't necessarily that a conscious idea or movement
now? Something that people ought to look out for? Learning from the
mistakes of the past?

ARS: Yes, well, politically, acid was much more dangerous, first of
all, because it really stripped you down to the bone.

JL: You were hacking perception there, and you were hacking reality.

PXN: Yours or everybody else's?

JL: Well, maybe everybody else's, too. We're all one, and when you
start hacking your own reality, you're hacking everybody's reality, in
a sense, at least. One thing about the hacker spirit that makes it
dangerous is that it doesn't always think about consequences or it
doesn't alway know to be careful.

ARS: Tim Leary was onto this very early, and from a political point of
view doing it with chemicals was very dangerous. People are doing
minority discourse and queer theory from a similar standpoint to what
Tim Leary was doing, pointing out that what we call reality is
somebody's construction, and that it isn't always our construction of
choice. Hmm...Looking to Tim Leary for one of the origins of minority
discourse...that's like looking to Marshall McLuhan for the origin of
multimedia, except I can't imagine Woody Allen pulling Tim Leary out
of a line at a movie theatre....

JL: I don't know, I could.  To buy a tab of acid from him. 

PXN: People online are talking about multiplicity, and it strikes me
that the issue of interface is something we really have to struggle
with.  Are people looking beyond interface now, and getting into inner
experience? Is that why you started talking about multiplicity?

ARS:  I think that people are beginning to realize that the definition
of interface that we grew up with, like a GUI, is way too narrow to
contain what's actually going on. You can look at interface, first of
all, as anything across which agency changes form, and that's a better
way to look at it. An even better way to look at it is that an
interface is that thing which mediates between a body and an
associated subjectivity, an associated person. But it doesn't have to
be _this_ body and _this_ person, it can be this body and _some_
_other_ person. It's the thing which provides some link between those
two things, wherever they are.  That's the definition of interface
that you use naturally when you're in the Internet, you know, when you
are in your body at the terminal and your self is actually pouring out
through your fingers to somewhere else in the world. The interface is
the thing that mediates between them.

PXN: Or your image when you're dancing with somebody at the Electronic

ARS: Yes. That is exactly the same thing that's going on. That's a new
way of thinking about it.

JL: So where is the interface? In so-called cyberspace?

ARS: "Where is the interface?" is an unanswerable question.

JL: Or "What is the interface?"

ARS: That's an unanswerable question, too. I mean, it's unanswerable
because the more you try to figure where it is, then the harder it
becomes to find. As we get to the end of the mechanical age, and we
start into a different kind of age, the definitions of what changes
agency become very hard to actually talk about. The closer you look at
them, the harder they are to find. That's a riff on Heisenberg, if you
will. For the same reasons.: An interface is a metaphor. We used to
think of it as a physical object, a keyboard...but interfaces are
metaphors, and they stand in for absent structures, and the absence is
the important word there, they're ABSENT structures. They're not where
you could see them. It doesn't even mean that they are inside the
machine, but they're in an elsewhere, they're in a virtual location.
You can call that "location" cyberspace, or you can call it symbolic
exchange -- there are lots of words that you can use for interfaces.
But they work, anyway, they have tremendous power. You can't see 'em,
but they still do things.

JL: I witnessed a conversation on an Internet mailing list. Someone
was saying that the cyberspace metaphor is very misleading, using a
space metaphor for something that is so unlike space.

ARS: As soon as people start talking about space they start thinking
in cartesian terms, and none of this stuff is really cartesian, so it
is an unfortunate metaphor but nobody has come up with any other one
that's stuck. And let's face it, it's become an object of discourse
that we're not going to dislodge, so we might as well get used to it.

DD: In the terms of our sensory modalities, you can see space in the
way that, as a baby born to touch, we immediately try to separate
things into objects.  I don't think there's as much of an immediate
impulse to reduce a field to a collection of objects as there is in
vision, so if that has anything to do with have to
construct objects before you pump them out ...

ARS: Yes, yes, you have to do that mentally.

DD: You have to do that mentally, so you can't make the field as
easily, I guess.

ARS: Yeah. Well, socially, we are raised to think of things in terms
of objects, and we think of definitions where we can put down some
things and give them some attributes, in other words, define them.
We're not going to get out of that very easily, because of the way
this particular reality happens to work.

PXN: But people know how to play with the reality very naturally
without thinking about it. You were talking about play being very
essential to what you're accomplishing here at the media lab.

ARS: Yes, there are two ways. The older thing is that...even Vannevar
Bush thought about computers as being a kind of a switch...a super
switch, but a switch, anyway. And even though the early computer
people thought of computers as being a kind of prosthesis, you know, a
tool,  a thing through which agency flows, they were still thinking
out of an earlier paradigm, and the transition to the newer paradigm
is the one that we're going through now, and it's going to make all of
the computers that we use obsolete very quickly. Which is a problem if
you're buying computers for a lab. (laughter) The new one is computers
as arenas for experience, essentially, as Brenda Laurel talks about
it, computers as theatre.  There's a field called Computer-Supported
Cooperative Work, the idea behind which is that what computers really
do is to support us in doing work. There's another side of that
paradigm, and I call it Computer Supported Cooperative Play. That's
the idea that what most of us are going to do with computers, rather
than work with them, is play with them. _With_ them.  They take an
active part in the process.  Through play, an unstructured interaction
in which there's a complex exchange between you and the device, you
and it teach each other, really. Playing requires a different kind of
openness than work, and different and quite deep learning takes place
during play.  And this isn't something that happens in the
future...some kids already spend more time playing computer games than
they do watching TV, which is a whale of a lot of time.  We haven't
even begun to address that.

A lot of schools and businesses don't let people get online,
because they think of access to the net as a chance to just fuck around. 
But this is the future of computation...the idea of the ludic sensibility, 
the idea of experimentation. Unstructured messing around, invoking a
sense of fun, and of mystery...all of the things that are important to
the learning experience, which is not a dry, soulless thing. When we
first start doing it on our own, before we get into schools, it's
always a thing that's filled with mystery, and it's filled with danger
and with fun and humor, and with chance encounters. And that's what
computers are going to mediate or prostheticize, if we find our way
through this morass....

PXN: Something about the MUDs just really bugs the hell out of me,
though. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there are so many
people that I know that are very comfortable with computers, and
express that same feeling of disturbance. I haven't pinned it down
yet, but if I had to try, I would probably invoke The Robot Group as a
counter-example, because to be on a MUD, you have to have this thing,
it's still an object. And even though you can use it to get into this
land of play, you still have to basically bow and pray before an
object with type on it. But to look at it like the Robot
Group...they've set up the premise of play, and the things they've
created are nominally computers, but they don't look like it, and they
don't play like it...they feel they're being played with. Have you
been studying that?

ARS: Yes, but you have to remember that MUDs in their present form
are not the future of Computer Supported Cooperative Play. They're a
kind of primitive instantiation, a prelude to better things.  Some
very interesting people, like John Garnett in the ACTlab, are
designing graphic based MUDs and MOOs that aren't dependent on text,
in which the objects talk to each other and evolve in a Darwinian way
even when no biologically based people are logged in. Those will be
much more engaging and challenging environments. People in today's
MUDs still have one foot in the old paradigm. As the text object goes
away we'll be shifting the focus of the interaction from the clunky
computer to more like what the Robot Group is doing, things like
wearable technology, and cyborg technology...

PXN: The triceratop's transition into a small furry mammal.

ARS: Right. The hardware is still there, we still work with this big
box. But we're moving toward a period of ubiquitous, cyborg

PXN: Right, warm-blooded computers! I love it.

ARS: It truly is warm-blooded computers, because in cyborg technology
the boundary between you and the machine disappears. It becomes a true
prosthetic, which is to say, an invisible, impalpable and unconscious
extension of your own agency, where you no longer struggle with the
keyboard, and you no longer think about this barrier between you and
what it is that's going on. It becomes part of your presence, and
that's what ubiquity is all about. It becomes invisible by changing
shape, not being a box on the desk any more, just the way mainframes
stopped being big things, and shrank to the size of a box on the desk.
That took many many years...IBM only saw the writing on the wall this
year! Now we've still got the little boxes to contend with, but some
people, very fortunately, are getting beyond the box to the hand held
computer, and shortly they'll go beyond the handheld computer to the
wearable computer, and beyond the wearable computer to the ubiquitous
or cyborg computer. And of course that's not a computer at all, any
more. It's something new.

PXN: Is this credible in academia? Is this something that the academic
world understands and groks, and pretty much agrees on, or is this
still a matter of contention.

ARS: Well, this depends on whom you're talking to, and what their
agendas are. This is something that the Media Lab at MIT fooled around
with for a while. They did very good things with it, but they're also
oriented in the direction of demonstrating potentially marketable
products. And that was not the time for that commercial product, so
now they're onto other things. It's hard to figure out just what the
various academic nodes that are doing stuff like this are into. A lot
of them are still thinking of high tech interactive multimedia in
terms of hypercard stacks, and this is a real problem. They're
thinking of interactive tv in terms of touch tone, where you get
different views of a football game. And this is so sad, because it's
what we're likely to get for interactive tv, it's not even truly
seeking interaction anymore.

PXN: Yeah, in the current issue of Mondo, we're talking about a guy in
Philadelphia who gets laptops and makes wearables, and sells them to
people out of his garage. If he can do it, certainly Apple can do it.

ARS: Garage wearability. Yeah, but I think somebody like Apple's gonna
do it a few years later in a little bit more sophisticated way.

PXN: It seems like Silicon Valley and everybody else is running to the
beat of this drummer that has trendlike projections coming out of

ARS: Deep interactivity is not going to come from there. It might come
from Sega, and it might come from Nintendo.

JL: There's a golden age science fiction story, I can't remember the
name of the story, where the protagonist lands on a planet that seems
to be totally primitive, there's no sign of technology anywhere. And
the bottom line is that the technology is so advanced that it's

DD: Stanislaw Lem writes that story over and over again...

ARS: There was a wonderful one called _A Martian Odyssey_ which sort
of touched on that, which was about the same period, I think.

PXN: Atlantis and Lemuria, First Foundation and Second Foundation, and
that kind of story over and over again. Getting back to mind
techniques, I get the sense that you're seeing mind over body...

JL: It wasn't just mind, they did it with machine technologies, but
they were just so integrated, so totally integrated, that you couldn't
see them anyhwere.

ARS: Yes, like contact lenses. That's the most classic example I can
think of at the moment, it's a prosthetic that disappears into your
body, and then you forget it's there, until, as with any tool, it
suddenly becomes visible because it stops working. That's a whole
different story. But Silicon Valley is still coming inescapably from
the computer paradigm to the laptop paradigm, and with the experience
of having been burned to the chops on computer games. Look what
happened to Atari. So in the meantime, over there in left field, we've
got Sega and we've got Nintendo, which are, in their particular way,
going to take over the world, not in terms of computation, but in
terms of a very significant intrusion into deep interactivity. I don't
think that anybody is noticing the link, which doesn't yet exist,
between what those guys are doing, and what the Silicon Valley people
are doing in terms of interactive technology. And in the meantime,
Sega and Nintendo are running away with the market, they're doing
amazing things. We use them as examples in the ACTlab.

JL: One of the things I see wrong with computer games is exemplified
in Castle Wolfenstein.

ARS: Yes, it's been around for a long, long time.

JL: And the thing about's kind of an interesting
three-dimensional, virtual reality sort of environment, but what the
guy does, and this is somewhat controversial, is shoot people. He runs
through a castle where there's pictures of Hitler and swastikas on the
wall, and he shoots people.

PXN: Identifiable icons that will motivate people to violence, right?

ARS: Yes. These guys are making millions and millions of dollars on
essentially producing nothing more than bang-bang shootemup games, but
at the same time they are putting into place an incredible technology.
These guys are developing the tools for imagination, for play, and for
VR and putting those things in place in a way that hasn't yet been
used or noticed by the people who are doing educational texts.

JL: Have you read issue #10 of bOING bOING? The thing that I wrote
about the VR arcade? You have tokens, you're in the arcade, you have a
full-body VR suit on, and you're having a series of sexual
experiences, and you can push the button like you can in a
contemporary arcade. You change the image, and there's a sense of a
completely detached sexual experience, jumping from one to another. I
was interested in talking about that, and about gender switch, which I
was trying to explain so someone from China. It's not easy to explain
gender bender stuff to someone from China.

PXN: One third of the planet.

JL: Yeah, and I think they're pretty rigidly structured, where gender
is concerned. I'm not sure she was getting it.

ARS: I'm not sure there's a whole lot you can do about that. Gender
bending is such a complex area...For instance, two transsexuals making
love is an interesting situation, because many transies have
considerable socialization in both of the usual gender roles.  They
have well-developed multiple identities in that respect. So there can
be a continuous sort of shifting of sexuality between the poles of
traditional gender experience when transies make love. Sometimes it's
homosexual love, and sometimes it's heterosexual love, sometimes it's
reverse homosexual love, or reverse heterosexual love, sometimes none
of those, and you can't figure out what the hell the categories are,
or if there are really supposed to be categories. Some heterosexual
couples tell me they feel as if they float out of their usual gender
identities during lovemaking, but they usually don't have extensive
dual socialization as a background for those experiences.

PXN: That would be perfect for VR...

ARS: Yes, I think that transsexuals invented VR...(laughter)

JL: We were talking about a man experiencing sex as a woman
experiences it, or vice versa, which is something that....

ARS: No! No! You can't.... When you say a man experiences sex
differently from a woman experiencing sex, you have to understand that
men and women are trained and socialized to experience sex
differently, and that means that if you were raised as a man you can
never experience sex as a woman. Even if you could put on a woman's
body,  you could never understand what it was like to have sex as a
woman unless you were _socialized_ as a woman.  Sex is not just
physical, it's social.

JL: But this is the whole gender switch thing that they keep talking
about doing in VR, about how now you're a man, but you can be a

ARS: It's bullshit! All bullshit, folks!

PXN: Don't you think it's more a matter of social tension...I mean,
sex adds tension, rather than sex as a mechanical act?

ARS: Sure, in fact sex is all about social tension, except at the most
elementary level. So what about all this stuff about being able to
try on other bodies in cyberspace? If you want sex as a mechanical
act, you want to put on a clitoris, maybe we could make you a cybersex
suit so you could physically feel like you had a clitoris. But that's
experiencing a clitoris overlaid on your experience of having a penis.
So as long as you've got a penis that reacts sexually when you imagine
that you have a clitoris, that's not going to work. You can't
experience what it's like to have a clitoris as long as what responds
is a penis, or vice versa. That's just the physical problem. Then there's
the virtual problem. The hype about sex in VR is, you can be a
physical male and experience being in a woman's body. Well, it doesn't
work. Bodies are bodies, but it's the _meaning_ you assign to bodies, and
to different parts of bodies -- including your own -- that makes them
erotic and desirable, and meaning is one hundred per cent social. You
could look down in the simulation and see that you had a woman's body,
and maybe you could feel a simulacrum of certain sensations, but you
wouldn't be experiencing a woman's'd be experiencing your
_fantasy_ of what a woman's body might be like...and that's
sometimes true even if you happen to _be_ a woman.  That is, a
genetic female who performs woman socially.

PXN: Still too damn cold-blooded.

ARS: Yeah. But unless you're willing to take the time to realize how
asymmetrical gendering works, how asymmetrical power structures work,
and how asymmetrical socialization works, you can never understand
what it is to be on the other side of that line. Because it's not just
two people looking at each other from opposite poles of an experience.
It's not equal and opposite, it's unequal and opposite, because in our
society men and women are not equal. And that's also true for...ever
heard of a book _Black Like Me_?
It's written by a guy who dyed his skin black and passed for
black in the south, to see what it was like to be black. He seems to
have gotten some black socialization in the process, and that's
because he did it over a period of several months... he didn't get
that socialization overnight. But even at the end of that time, he
only knew what it was like from the standpoint of the oppression that
he experienced over those months. He had no conception what it was
like to have that kind of oppression from birth. It's the same
situation with gender switch. Gender switch is a wonderful thing to
talk about, because it has such interesting potential, but at the same
time there's this element of bullshit to it. It's a real kick for men
to cross-dress on the net as women, because they get a lot of
attention. But that doesn't tell them anything about the other side of
getting that attention, about being an object rather than a subject of
desire. Being a person whose social role is one down, who can be
perceived romantically. Not thinking about those things is what makes
it possible for men to swarm around people who log in as women on the
	If we could actually put a man inside a woman's head, give him
the whole process of socialization so he understood what it's like to
be a woman, he might find it wasn't the terrific experience that he
expected. He would understand from the woman's side about the defenses
and the dodges that women must practice in order to survive. If you
want to be black for a while, that's great, if you seriously want to
take on an oppression to find out what it's like to become an exotic
other, great, do it! And if you want to become a woman, if you really
want to take on the oppression that you have to take on in order to
be a woman, in order to find out what that's like, then great, do
it!  Then maybe you've earned the right to romanticize it.

PXN: It's like somebody who's marginally famous. They have to deal
with the desire of people to talk to them, but that also conflicts

ARS: ...their desire to be themselves.

JL:  I knew a couple, briefly, who were both at different stages of
sex change, both guys who were becoming women, perhaps not a couple,
just two people who were living together. And one was much farther
along than the other. There was something that was never quite right,
especially the one who was much farther along. She was so much like a
woman, yet not a woman, I could sense that. This supports what you
were saying....

ARS: There's a whole spectrum within the field of transgender, there
are transgendered people who feel like cross-dressing is what they
want to do, and there are people who like going back and forth across
the boundaries. There are people who need surgery because that makes
them happy, and there is everything in between. But what is the
socialization element involved in transgender, in going across those
genders and getting to the other side?

DD: There are irreversible processes that you can't get across, even
if you make those physical changes, right?

ARS: Yeah, how much oppression can you learn? Look at James Morris.
James Morris climbed Mt. Everest with the Hilary-Tenzing expedition,
and wrote about it, and wrote other fantastic travel pieces. Then he
decided that his deep identity was really a woman, he was really Jan
Morris, and did a sex change, and he reported on it. She says "I kept
getting told, subtly, that as a woman I was supposed to be
incompetent. Well, you know, if women are supposed to be incompetent,
I guess maybe I'd better learn to be incompetent." So she set out to do
that, and said "The more I was told I was incompetent, the more
incompetent I became. People began opening doors for me, and you know,
okay..." That apparently was not her idea of what constituted
femininity, but it turned out to be part of the package. So she went
along, she learned that socialization, and apparently she's done a
very good job of it...not necessarily the incompetent part, but a good
job of living as a woman. Any of those positions in society are
learned, they don't come by nature, and for whatever reason we may
want to occupy them, maybe it has something to do with a crazy view of
socialization, maybe it has nothing to do with socialization at all,
and maybe you just have to learn the socialization in order to get on
with life. I dunno. That's a complete mystery to me.

PXN: One thing I'd really like to talk about is multiculturalism,
which is very fashionable...

ARS: Politicallly correct.

PXN: Yeah, it 's a good thing that this has come so far, but is
multiculturalism a gateway into deeper issues of transgenderism that
should be discussed?

ARS: Yes, because multiculturalism is an aspect of multiplicity, and a

PXN: Is that an agenda item, then, for a lot of people? Is that
something that's being pushed that standard college freshmen don't

ARS: Yeah, it definitely is. And it leads to some interesting
problems. Inside the academy, you get people celebrating
multiculturalism, and the idea of the wonders of difference and the
need to perpetuate cultural identities so that everyone can have a
voice and an individuality. Then you go out in the world, and instead
of finding everybody of Spanish or Mexican or Indio descent arguing
over whether they should call themselves Latinos or Mexicanos or
Indios, what you find instead is some are doing that, and some are
rushing as fast as they can to be assimilated into the mainstream
white culture. So who's for multiculturalism? It depends on whom
you're talking to. Some people don't want shit to do with
multiculturalism. They want to get in there with the oppressor, and
just have a good time!

PXN: Let's discuss your works, what you've been publishing.

ARS: There's this business about the crisis of representation in the
social sciences. In a funny way I kind of wandered into the social
sciences because I came in off the street in the rain into the wrong
doorway.  And now I'm drifting away from social sciences, and I'm
slipping down the soapy pole of performance art. I think this is the
way to go for me, because it resolves certain problems that I've been
having with the question of representation in the social sciences,
which is that, if you're talking about minority discourse, and you're
talking about post-transsexual theory, and you want to do things like
queer theory, which I think is an aspect of minority discourse, and
you want to do some of the more interesting work which is still on the
fringes of academia, the traditional way of dealing with academic
subjects is that you do theory.
Theory means that you get up at conferences and you read your
research to an audience of other academics. I find myself drifting
away from that, and into performance, where you raise the issues in
terms of a question of sensibility and aesthetics, and you get at
people from a more emotional level.
Instead of dealing with the technical issues of the way that
queer theory works or the way that minority discourse works, as we're
inclined to do in the academy, I'm experimenting with pointing out
that what many the issues of minority discourse and of queer theory
and of post-transsexual theory are about is really a kind of
performance, and that the theatre for that performance is the body.
But it's not an abstract body. It's not just _a_ body or _some_ body,
it's specifically grounded, it's _this_ body, it's _my_ body or _your_
body. Our bodies are the place where whatever pain and coercion the
political apparatus can exert upon you comes down to ground.
Multiplicity is one of the strategies for addressing this, but what
we're talking about as much as the joys and problems of multiplicity
is how you deal with the problem of political systems that exert
control on you through the medium of physical coercion and pain. And
it's a fuck of a practical problem.

PXN: How about being able to pass this body of wisdom etc. on to the
next generation, does that work through performance?

ARS: Did Genet pass on a body of wisdom? 

PXN: Yeah, yeah...

ARS: Yes, I am inclined to think so. It's a different body of wisdom,
it's not something that you can articulate in terms of words and
phrases that you can parse.  It's passed on in a different way. It's a
way for which there's a place in particular academic areas and not in
others. But if you're getting to the point, as I may be, where you
begin to think that theory may be exhausting itself, then you have to
start looking for new ways to do the same thing.

PXN: It sounds like you're re-inoculating the culture with
storytelling, and with the great traditions that may have been lost,
may have been subdued.

JL: Yeah, how does that work in the academic political context.

ARS: In many academic contexts, it's shit, you's anathema,
it's dangerous. But in some areas, it's not so dangerous. One of the
things that I hope to see come out of the center for the arts and
technology that we're planning here is the possibility of getting
these two frames of reference together in one place, and in one arena,
where you have the arts and technology producing things that are
beneficial to both. Now if we can incorporate theory with new forms of
academic representation at the intersections of art and technology,
then we're taking a jump into a new area where there's real promise.

JL: You're blowing the myth of the two cultures away.

ARS: Yeah...seriously!

PXN: On the other side of it, people like Stelarc seem already to have
jumped some boundaries.  People doing that kind of performance art,
but very high tech, seem very sexy to the people who are also high
tech, and ensconced in theory.

ARS: Yes.

PXN: Yet you're coming from the other side...can you leapfrog off

ARS: I think you can. As a matter of fact, I talk about Stelarc in
some of my courses for precisely that reason, and for better or worse
I talk about the Fakir, because he's also useful in a lot of ways. The
Fakir is a real interruption, if you use certain pictures of him. I
like to put up a picture of the Fakir hanging by hooks through his
pecs, blowing on his bone whistle. The last time I did this I was
talking to about 400 undergraduates, and I said "I'm going to show you
a slide now, and I want you to pay attention to what happens when I
show this to you. First of all, I'm going to tell you intellectually
what's going to happen. You're going to go 'Holy Shit!' and for just
an instant there, something very peculiar is going to happen inside
you, and then we're going to go back and pursue what that was when it
happened," and then I put the Fakir slide up, and the audience goes
...they invariably do, they just come apart for an
instant there. And then I say, "All right, what just happened?"
For just an instant, this image really disrupts your normal
train of thought. You can't just go on from the second before that
rupture to the second after as if nothing happened, because this guy
makes you want to throw up for just that second, it's _really
strange._  And in that instant, the nuts and bolts that make up the
way reality works suddenly become visible, and if you can grab hold,
and use that interruption as an entry point to open up the seamless
quality of everyday reality, then you have some idea about ...not only
how to change your perception, but also something about how your
social structure works. You have to learn to develop that moment, the
moment of rupture, to develop the sensitivity to those moments, to
hold onto them and use them for yourself, as reality tools.

PXN: I was thinking how "The Crying Game" is the pop movie of 1993,
the timing just couldn't be better.

ARS: I was very pleased that it did what it did. I run into a lot of
people who say, "Oh, I knew it from the beginning."  So
what? It still fucks with your head with identity in so many different
ways, and with the issues of passing in so many different ways,
passing politically, passing as an individual, passing for
subjectivity, passing for gender, and they all keep coming up and
getting twisted and confused. Stelarc and the people who do the kind
of work that Stelarc does, and the Fakir in his way, are all doing
things about remapping the surface of the body, and pointing out that
when you remap the body you remap the way sensation works with regard
to the body, and you can use those sensations differently from the
ways you're accustomed to thinking about how sensations are used. So
sensation becomes a kind of plastic thing itself, another art medium.
When you start doing that kind of thing, you've got to be
careful of how people perceive the meaning of what you're doing.
Society in the large perceives pain as an aspect of social control. So
it's important to make distinctions, to draw boundaries and take
sides. For instance, you can't let remapping bodily sensation as a
tool for personal expression get confused with torture, where pain is
a political tool for personal oppression. So when people start to use
pain in performance as a way of remapping the body's sensorium, they
have to be careful to remember that while they're doing that very
ludic, very important work, at that very same moment pain is being
used somewhere in ways that are not fun, it's being used as an adjunct
of control. When you're doing a scene, and you're hurting somebody,
and they haven't said their safe word yet...though you know that
you're hurting them, that's an entirely different thing from having
somebody in prison strapped to a table and slowly raising the electric
voltage when no safe word exists. We have to figure out how to deal
with both. We have to find a workable political framework that deals
with both, that finds some way to expose the reality of torture and
get rid of it, while at the same time preserving the validity of play
in the sadomasochistic framework. That's a fuck of a problem. I don't
have any easy answers, I don't have any answers at all. Does that make
any sense?

PXN: Yeah, it does. I'm not coming off the angle of torture as much as
the angle of terror, I think that we have to learn to validate terror
a lot more...

JL: That's just another kind of pain, psychological pain...

PXN: We've had our first terrorist bombing in the U.S., as you know.
We have to come to grips with terror. It keeps us in
check-and-balance, but we've been denying it for a couple of hundred
years here...

ARS: Oh, boy, is the net alive with that argument right now, have you
been following any of this? There's a tremendous amount of discussion
of terror right now, and some of the people who live in countries
where terror is the order of the day are saying "It's about time you
guys got on the program!" 

JL: I was thinking about those millenialists in Waco, too...

PXN: I was hanging out with the PLO in the early 80s, and I guess a
lot of my mind-set comes out  of the fact that I personally validate
terror in that sense, intellectually, not in terms of going out and
doing random car bombings, but I recognize it as a means of political

JL: Poetic terrorism.

PXN: Yeah....

ARS: That's the Hakim Bey approach to terrorism. There's a real
problem with the word. People are being very careful about talking
about poetic terrorism and real terrorism.

JL: What Hakim Bey's talking about is subversion rather than real

PXN: In summary, I've got this question for you. People ask, "I wanna
major in cyberspace in college, what kind of book should I read now?"
It just strikes me that telling someone to go program in C is not
enough...they ought to be developing a different conceptual,
intellectual structure...where can a person go?

ARS: Study improv. Read Brenda Laurel, she's incredible, she's
brilliant, she's political. And also the book she edited on the art of
human-computer interface design.  Don Norman on the design of everyday
things.  Marvin Minsky. Stuart Brand's book on the Media Lab. And of
course, Marshall McLuhan. And then read certain selected articles,
which is going to sound awfully egocentric...

PXN: Go for it:

ARS: One of them is Stone, in _Incorporations_, which is called
"Virtual Systems." The other is Stone, in _Cyberspace, First Steps_,
which is called "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up." And then there
are several forthcoming things which are not out yet, articles and
three books. One of the articles is called "Split Subjects, Not Atoms,
or How I Learned to Love My Prosthesis," which will be out very
shortly. Then there's a piece coming out in a book called...the
subtitle is "The History of Media Induced Experience," and the main
title is "Lost Boundaries." That should be out late this year, or
early 1994. I have a piece in there which is an extension of this
work.  The books are "Presence:  The war of desire and technology at
the close of the mechanical age", and "Transgression: Adventures at
the edges of identity".


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