What kind of subjectivity is produced when the museum adapts to the metabolism of the database? What role is left for institutional critique?  Hito Steyerl has interrogated the varying types of subjects produced by the past stages of institutional critique. In “The Institution of Critique” (2006) Steyerl offers a framework for the present museological predicament. For Steyerl, each wave of institutional critique was founded on different ideas about the public sphere. The first wave of institutional critique implicated a socio-political public sphere, and it primarily concerned the institution's entanglements with the nation-state. The second wave implicated identity politics and aspired to “integration into representation.” But the most recent wave of institutional critique is trapped by neoliberal models, where the logic emerges from a fully-commodified public sphere. Here the institution’s only recourse is to mount a protectionist defense, as it has already started to operate in the logical arena of the unbridled free market capitalism. A state of deep precarity results as there are decreasingly workable answers to why the enlightenment institutions should still hold weight in a public sphere defined by digital exchange.

source: http://eipcp.net/transversal/0106/steyerl/en/base_edit

AuthorMike Pepi


Other points that are generally missing from most breathless internet utopian essays are the fact that:

1. The infrastructure that enables the "internet", and most of its applications, are owned and operated by private corporations

...and, more recently...

2. That the end of "net neutrality" has potentially disastrous implications for all of the emancipatory notions of the net.

If there was anything revelatory about Stereyl's essay it would have perhaps been a nod to the end of "net neutrality" as perfectly indicative of the internet being dead, but this wasn't mentioned in the essay nor even foreseen as a potential consequence of private corporations moving to capitalize on what seems to be posited here as an autonomous social force disconnected from any class interests. I am wary of Medium as much as the next person (the Tech-Bro soap box par excellence), but this is a nice little run down of what the end of "net neutrality" might hold.

Another thing Stereyl perhaps meant, but didn't make it explicit, when she said “build new Internets” along side the dead one was the plan that is being proposed in this Medium article, namely municipal broadband. But one wonders how we treat the “Internet” differently when it comes to us from local government. What would happen to the utopian visions?




Hito Steyerl asks what happened to the internet after it stopped being a possibility. She's also interested in what happens when the internet "starts to move offline." But the problem immediately arises that the "Internet" can't move offline. The internet is not a thing unto or outside of itself. Worse still, the internet is not a thing at all. It is all of our computers connected using TCP/IP.

To be fair, Steyerl is perhaps more specifically interested in the behaviors conditioned by digital networks as they begin to fall into what are perceived as "non-digital" arenas. Yet, almost throughout this is a breathless paean to internet utopianism, the unsupported claims of an internet centrist who posits the "Internet" as a discrete entity with cultural logic unto itself, as opposed to a distributed series of actors on a network. Its final claims for open access border on the absurd in an effort to advance an accelerated circulationism.


"But here is the ultimate consequence of the internet moving offline. If images can be shared and circulated, why can’t everything else be too? If data moves across screens, so can its material incarnations move across shop windows and other enclosures. If copyright can be dodged and called into question, why can’t private property? If one can share a restaurant dish JPEG on Facebook, why not the real meal? Why not apply fair use to space, parks, and swimming pools? Why only claim open access to JSTOR and not MIT—or any school, hospital, or university for that matter? Why shouldn’t data clouds discharge as storming supermarkets? Why not open-source water, energy, and Dom Pérignon champagne?

If circulationism is to mean anything, it has to move into the world of offline distribution, of 3D dissemination of resources, of music, land, and inspiration. Why not slowly withdraw from an undead internet to build a few others next to it?"