Confronting Connectivity

The future is ‘connectivity,’ or so say today’s tech execs. “Soon everyone on Earth will be connected,” they declare, followed by worn promises of increased productivity, health, education, and happiness.[i] On its face, they are simply echoing the old trope of the level playing field repeated by empire builders from Niccolò Machiavelli to Thomas Friedman. What then is new? How connectivity forges horizontal connections between the virtual and physical worlds. As a consequence, the digital logic of combinatorial difference is now used as a tool of governance to “intensify, accelerate, and exacerbate phenomena in the world so that a difference in degree will become a difference in kind.”[ii] In sum, connectivity is the new techno-utopian business strategy that braids the physical with the virtual to create a socio-political empire of difference.

Google’s connectivity thesis is a sign that power is logistical – its authority resides in roads, cellphone towers, and data centers, which are overseen by legislators who keep the flows moving. There are political consequences for this shift; principally, connectivity names a power not primarily controlled by institutions associated with the state.[iii] The transformation carries through power’s abstract form and material expression. The abstract form of logistical power is not exclusion but inclusive disjunction (inclusive exclusion, inclusive omission, selective inclusion, etc.).[iv] The material expression of logistical power is not the centralized state but the decentralized neighborhoods of the city. To more easily reference this new type of power, I call it ‘The Metropolis.’ The name Metropolis draws on a term first used in Italy, and whose sense of struggle Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri clarify by stating that “the Metropolis” is to us today as “the factory was to the industrial working class.”[v] Scholars of the ‘infrastructural turn’ usually locate resistance in blockades or counter-infrastructure, such as the disruption of Google buses in the San Francisco Bay Area or the development of new computational tools for activists.[vi] My argument is that these scholars fail to appreciate the intersection of infrastructure and culture, such as “pharmaco-pornographic regime,” which is the techno-sexual mixture of stimulation and exposure embedded in connectivity’s liberal dreams of revealing transparency.[vii] Culture can be relocated through the formal politics of asymmetry and feminist artistic practices. Abstractly, through connectivity, “power has become the environment itself.”[viii] Materially, feminist approaches to technology enact novel forms of embodiment to weather the Metropolis as a bad storm.

– An excerpt from my forthcoming article “Confronting Connectivity: Feminist Challenges to the Metropolis” in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies.

[i] Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business (New York: Doubleday, 2013), 13.

[ii] Ibid, 6

[iii] The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends, trans. Robert Hurley (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2015), 82.

[iv] joshua kurz, “(Dis)locating Control: Transmigration, Precarity, and the Governmentality of Control,” Behemoth 5:1 (2012): 30-51; Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013); The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, eds. Api Ophir, Michal Givoni, and Sari Hanafi (New York: Zone Books, 2009).

[v] Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Commonwealth (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2009), 250. For an earlier notion of the Metropolis, see Manfredo Tafuri, Giorgio Piccinato, and Vieri Quilici’s “La Città Territorio – Verso una Nuova Dimensione,” Casabella Continuà (December 1962).

[vi] Ibid, 99-129; Jasper Bernes, “Logistics, Counterlogistics, and the Communist Project,” Endnotes 3 (2013): 172-201; Alberto Toscano, “Burning, Dwelling, Thinking,” Mute, 2015, (accessed August 1, 2015).

[vii] Beatriz Preciado (Paul Preciado), “Pharmaco-pornographic Politics: Towards a New Gender Ecology,” parallax 14:1 (2008): 105-117; Cohen and Schmidt, New Digital Age, 98.

[viii] Invisible Committee, To Our Friends, 87.

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