To tweet or not to tweet: a question.
The following is a meditation on a formulation that can only be asked with any seriousness in the 21st Century. “To Tweet or Not To Tweet”- that is the question. If Shakespeare is rolling in the grave at the absurdity, then my only hope is that the motherfucker doesn’t wake up. Nevertheless, in this culture of seriousness, a bad time to tweet is anytime. But less seriously, perhaps, I want to think about the meaning of thinking on Twitter and whether or not, Twitter offers the thinker anything, at all worth salvaging outside the promises of connections and relations which can only ever become networked connections (branding) and/or market relations (neoliberalism). This isn’t to say that these networked connections and relations based in marketing logics have not managed to be reappropriated into numerous means and instrumentalities for the service of attempting to liberate the damned from conditions of perverse depravity. Nor is it to say, that Twitter is not worth engagement, despite the branding and neoliberalism; nor is to say that one is ethical for tweeting or ethical for not. Nevertheless, it does underscore that alongside the presence of surveillance and racial capitalism that always necessarily subtends the logic of the architecture of the Internet, there is yet another issue surrounding the axioms which schematize the performance of its usage. The most interesting of which for me is the nature of the way in which the Internet not only provides a platform for writing and thinking, but conditions the grammar, syntax, mannerisms, idioms, and capacities, in a way that I understand to be its digital architectonics. In his second book Beginnings, Edward Said writes of writing that writing, “has its own kind of action, its own dreams, its own restrictions – all doubtless intimately connected to a psychological, social and historical context. The same is true of reading,” (24). What the digital architectonics speaks to is the way in which the structure of digital platforms enclose the writer within a writing (coding) that itself possesses perhaps, not so much a different psychological, social and historical context (a disparate metaphysics) but a different kind of action, dream and restriction (a disparate intention and method). To put it crudely, the question: To Tweet or Not to Tweet is a question of writing and what happens when a writer writes within a digital structure. Twitter is a useful platform to think this with because Twitter’s digital architectonic and its mode of restriction with and for the writer are so apparent. The 280 character limit being its most pertinent example. What interest me is the way in which the writer has been forced to maintain their Authenticity and Transparency in relationship to these platforms despite the various impossibilities to the process that are embedded within the very nature of the concept and existence of the Internet as Virtual.
We who engage in digital and virtual worlds must clothe ourselves in a digital-virtual Self, with a digital-virtual Persona, that produces its objectivity validity in and through regurgitated principles of Authenticity and Transparency. This digital-virtual Self is meant as a mirror of the actual-Self which gets reproduced in various digital-virtual formats. One tweets in the name of the Truth of who they are, and each tweet aims at or indexes a revelation of the Truth of one’s personhood, one’s knowledge, one’s being, one’s nature, one’s feeling, one’s image. One feigns that in death, future children might be able to compile and gather the series of Tweets one left behind into a Virtual form of resurrection. That one might find in the Tweets of a thinker, like the Writing of an author, the Truth of who they are. It wouldn’t necessarily truly matter whether or not one is an actual PhD or just a dog with a PhD in their bio: a lie becomes an almost immediate Truth since what is written is now Transparent. You are what you wrote, despite what you are. What you wrote is, despite what is. This is a twist which turns the diffusion of narrative into, not the deconstruction of the very principles of narrative itself (or rather, the “meta-narrative”), but rather the very ground of what it means to be Human. The very point of our problem. One’s access to being True in narrative is sealed, despite their immense perfusion, despite their immense complexity, inordinate chaos, and constant interrelation with virtuality and indeterminacy. The very act of writing itself becomes the reification of Transcendental I and one comes to believe that who they are, what they are, and where they are meant to be can, will and must be defined in writing, but increasingly in and through digital writing or rather, the placement of the writer within the digital.
The nature of this paradox is confounding especially once one recognizes the complexity within the requirement to “go to” the Virtual in order to gain access to the Authentic. Time, which cannot be said to be past, which cannot be said to be now, is with us in every negation of difference and repetition. Time, subsist and desist in the future, and Transcendence exist as affirmations of an axiom of difference of repetition which functions to negate every difference that might exalts its reoccurrence. There was a time perhaps (if Time is even a word that makes sense anymore) where one related to the Internet as the false space of Reality, the locus of the un/Real as Virtual. In those (these) times, the Transparent I was retained in what was thought to be the World outside the Virtual. One was Authentic if and only if one was in the “Real” World. Yet, as cybernetification continues, as speed exponentializes speed, and acceleration accelerated acceleration (or rather, war accelerated acceleration), this time quickly passed (subsists). Then, the Internet became (differientated-with/in) the Virtual space of the possibility of experiencing Transparency-through-Virtuality. In this short-lived times, the difference which emerged in them were a fantasy of flight. These fantasies of flight became an articulation of the manifestation of one’s honest Self. One ran to the Virtual to be Free, to be Whole, to be True. These fantasies of flight led to various forms of Transparent self-contained communities such that one could argue that the Internet experienced transformations of a paradigmatic sort in similar trajectory to that of World-formations yet, in a pace unprecedented in Histories-known-to-Man. These communities formed an endless dehiscence of rupture and continuity. Each immanently folding into one another, each connected, each networked, each intra-acting, and distinct. The basis of the constitution of the distinctions almost always followed along lines that Karen Barad describes as intra-acting agencies in Meeting the Universe Halfway. The immanent production of these communities: the infinity of their possibilities, the infinity of their constitution, the infinity of their capacity, the infinity of their production and co-production, is part and parcel of what caused Jean Francois-Lyotard to write his “The Post-Modern Condition: The Report of Knowledge,” in 1979. What he considered a crisis of narrative turned out to be, upon further speculation, forty-years after the “advances” of cybernetic society, the transformation of Man2 – biocentric man – into Man3 – man of narrative.
It should go without saying, that our world, is a techno-scientific world. That this spatio-temporal present is a spatio-temporality wherein wires, electricity, virtuality, computation and data constitute a major network of interrelation in the dark ecology of today. If this moment is undeniably a moment of immense techno-culture, then it is undeniably necessary for one to think the present debacle, or rather the ongoing debacle that preserves, consolidates and re-pressurizes what Saidiya Hartman would justifiably call “the afterlife of slavery,” in relation to this techno-scientific entanglement. For what is often left unthought in analysis of the Post-Sixties break in revolutionary hydraulics is the function of increased technicity, datasization and algorithmicization of not only the Human, but the Non-Human as well. Or rather, what cannot be overstated enough in any theorizations of the present is this relatively new formation, the Cybernetictification of the Planet.
The Internet provides the thinker with a vexed relationship with Transparency. To Tweet is to be Transparent, to not Tweet is to fall into the shadows of a dark reality. Let’s call this reality: Oblivion. On the opposite side of the Internet, there is Oblivion. Reality, yes. But indeterminate Oblivion. The University pushes the thinker onto the Internet to avoid Oblivion in their name – build a profile they say, get LinkedIn. The Facebooker archives their Facebook post and accounts despite the fact that they never use it anymore to avoid Oblivion. The Tweeter returns to Twitter for fear of becoming Oblivion. The Instagrammer influences the tide of Oblivion away with every new follower. Oblivion: the possibility of falling away into a nothingness of which the Virtual was born to forbid. Yet despite these changes in relations of Virtual-to-Realities, the present re-stabilized system of Hyper-chaos perpetually re-inaugurates the category of the damned while simultaneously insisting upon grounding the Black as its corporeal-semiotic embodiment. By this I mean, the topology of anti-Blackness while shifted/shifting in its fractal structure or non-typical geometry still remains substantively shaped by the same logics of coherence. Thus, if the post post-racial means or announces anything at all, it is not the death of anti-Blackness, but rather the re-constitution of anti-Blackness within a paradigm of exalted difference – diffused narrative. Thus, the world continues to proceed coherently and incoherently-as-coherence with the Black functioning as the “positionality against which Humanity establishes, maintains, and renews it coherence, its corporeal integrity,” (Frank Wilderson, Red, White and Black). This coherence finds its appearance in an allegiance to a violence with gravitational and differend-ly antagonistic force.
What this means is the violence done to and upon the Black not only gives the World coherence, but additionally provides reciprocity, recognition and incorporation within the current milieu of multi-modal, multi-functional, and multi-cultured critics. The critics are those for whom categories of recognition, reciprocity, development, humanity, culture and civilization are and can be presupposed from the outset. Yet, it also includes those of us who might in a vein attempt at Tweeting our way out of abjection fall flat into the traps of Transparency and the violent anti-Blackness which figures it. See me we say, I too have Truth. It sleeps on my tongue and whispers in the ears of the Night. Even if the claim to these categories result in conflicting instantiations or visions of the aforementioned categories, resulting in zones of contingent conflict between one vision or another, the intra-Human nature of these conflicts (Real, Virtual and Imagined) never reach the “zone of non-Being,” that consistently characterizes the being of the Black (in the Real, Virtual and Imaginary). In Said’s words, perhaps not necessarily in conformity with Said’s intention, which would be much more in conformity with the methods of the meme, “I am interested, however, in noting how these themes reflect the critic’s impasse…”
What accompanies this post-Sixties moment of (re)placement of the Black at the “nigger” rung of being human is not simply the repetitious, or rather gratuitous nature of anti-Black subjection, but its eternal reoccurrence in the accoutrements of novelty. Put simply, one not only misunderstands anti-Blackness if one does not sit with its longue duree, its continuous and ongoing presence and present-tense from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to now, but one also misunderstands anti-Blackness if one does not see the way in which the Human through anti-Blackness as well as the always already sexed/sexualizing racial capitalism co-produces new means of producing natal alienation, general dishonor and social death one generation after another. With this being said, one lays with/in the mystification of the moment, the post-modernization that accompanies the cyberneticity of the planet if and only if one does not see what Sylvia Wynter might call, “the Janus-Face” accoutrements of the post-Sixties paradigm. This structural shift in topology, at the core of the performance of the paradigm, marks a moment of both difference and repetition launched in the cyclical vestige of anti-Blackness.
Our moment, if its elicits any sense of profound confusion in the vain of post-modern incredulity, it is not because of “incredulity towards meta-narrative,” but instead it is due to the multiplicity of meta-narrated conflicts and the chaotic influx of information available to concretize its coherence in Thought. Every Tweeter is an “I Think” of a Transcendent sort to their Transcendentally grounded communities. Put differently, it is not skepticism to axiomatic narrative sets which characterizes this moment but rather it is the exponentialization of axiomatic narrative sets which sets the tempo, consensus and contestations of the 21st Century. Afro-Brazilian Feminist scholar, Denise Ferriera Da Silva puts it this way, “Holding onto the promises of historicity, which Renan articulated in the 19th Century, the works that compose the critical arsenal [critical race theorizations and postmodern criticism] recuperate the universality of differentiation to write the ‘Others of Europe’ as always already historical subjects, and then move to capture a moment before racial subjection, where they are already historical, enjoying transparency before engulfment.” (177) The Internet is where we all go to be engulfed. The exponentialization of meta-narratives, or rather, narratives of transparency, foment in order to fall safely under the axiomatic set of all axiomatic social sets, namely, the rubric and curriculum of the onto-epistemology of Man. Hence, the logic states: We can all be Human as long as one continues to verify the Universality of the Human, the Laws and Coordinates of Civil Society, the Conceptual Economy of Modernity and Hyper-modernity, and the Transcendent I. Your Tweet is as True as Mine as long as Truth remains to be a War of Right. It is against exactly this function – of incorporation, assimilation, and engulfment – that Sylvia Wynter writes, “The emergence of the Black Studies Movement in its original thrust, before its later cooption into the mainstream … had arisen to contest,” (Sylvia Wynter, How We Mistook the Map).
What the revolutions of the 60s opened up was the space for a different style of narrative to enter into Man, resulting in what Sylvia Wynter might call a “re-description of the Human” extending the range of Humanity to those for whom the post post-racial can now accommodate under the now-understood consensus of the Human as homo narrans. And so the saying goes: We all have our stories. More specifically, we all have (his)tories and with these histories, even the “Others of Europe” can identify a moment prior to Western usurpation, decimation and obliteration where Transparency once was and through the re-telling of the “Truth” of ourselves, one Tweet after another, we can recuperate or re-present Authenticity. These stories find both their generative diffusion and their reciprocal interlocution with and through what is perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of homo narrans as homo narrans namely, the advent of the Internet.