The New Situationist International

I read the introductory few pages of McKenzie Wark’s The Beach Beneath The Street and was immediately inspired to organise or join an artist/philosophical collective like the Situationist International. I don’t have a great understanding of them, their goals and practices, having learnt virtually everything about them everything through reading Wikipedia, a couple of chapters in books and from hearing them mentioned in a reverential awe by a few people. But the idea of being part of a collective of collaborators – like-minded thinkers and artists, etc – has appealed to me for a long time.

So I was thinking – how would I create a New Situationist International? How would I bring together some of the best thinkers to work on some nebulous, aspirational project? I don’t know enough people in Sydney, and I barely know enough in Australia – but then it hit me, I don’t need to do anything like that because the new SI already exists: it’s there if we want to think about it in that way.

What am I talking about? The videogame blogosphere. This week we’ve turned Kirk Hamilton’s wall into a shitty temporary exhibition of macros of our own satirical-critique of videogame conventions; like a hyper-localised version of Warhol’s soup can images. We’ve got this amazing Wiki that effectively parodies the same things, and a fantastic podcast to go with it. Just this week we’ve (this is the collective ‘we’ not the royal we) also written about What It’s Like To Attend E3, ‘How I Get My Hair So Pink’, and made fun of academics using questionable jargon; and that’s just the fun stuff. It’s the new SI because it’s a strange group, and probably not even a real ‘group’ except that we ‘go together’ in the Latour/Callon sense. We make stuff. We also make stuff up. We work, and we get paid, and we do things for fun and for serious.

The temptation might be to think that the VG blogosphere needs ‘inciting’ or organising to do or to start something, particularly something political. But it’s becoming incredibly obvious that everything is political, almost especially play and playfulness. Perhaps ‘playfulness’ isn’t the perfect word for it – it’s certainly not the whole of it. Non-seriousness, perhaps. Fun, with an ambiguous deployment of irony. Fun for adults. In his book The Ecological Thought, Tim Morton writes about a new aesthetic he calls ‘Dark Ecology’ that ‘puts hesitation, uncertainty, irony, and thoughtfulness back into ecological thinking’. Morton feels that ‘Democracy is well served by irony, because irony insists that there are other points of view we must acknowledge.’ (Contrast: the modern, fashionably gentrified ‘irony’ that isn’t really ironic in the slightest)

Rather than trying to get the blogosphere to do stuff, it’s a more productive approach to instead change our thinking about what the blogosphere already does. From a vantage point of 30 years in the future, what is going to appear valuable that is being done in the VG blogosphere right now? That’s a really interesting question, and I’m not sure the obvious answers are the right ones. Is it really the position essays, the philosophical pieces that people will remember?

But perhaps (hopefully) it’s not even specifically the CV blogosphere that’s unique in this. Perhaps it’s the internet community sui generis that is going to become this century’s ascendant social structure. Structure isn’t even precisely the right word because it’s not all that structured, but I use it because it helps contrast it with 20th Century social structures like Church, School, Clubs and other organisations. The internet community is already these things, and more. But not in the same way, in a different (and interesting) way.

So thinking entirely selfishly for a moment – how to document this stuff for my own research? Is it important that I save links to all the image macros on Kirk’s Facebook wall? Do I need to document for future observers what the whole ‘trinketmonger’ half-joke is actually about? No. Why not? Because a) it’s too labour intensive, and b) because it’s largely irrelevant anyway.

The point of an Actor-Network Theory approach in a digital environment, or to use Morton’s more reader-inclusive terminology, the point of an approach that obeys ‘The Ecological Thought’ in all its networked and connected, ultra-massively expansive fullness, is to make backups, duplicates, redundancies. The point is to re-share, re-link, re-post, and re-tweet. The account of the (present) happens later, or else we end up with an already-past-present where everything is seen through the lens of the camera, or in our case, through the lens of the future ANT/Eco documenting-theorist. The ultimate irony then: an ANT/Eco theorist from the future is influencing the present/past already.