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Richard Barbrook
Mark Dery
memes


Memes
part 1

INTRODUCTION

Being the most politically outspoken and controversial speakers of the first day of the symposium, the idea of doing an interview with both Mark Dery and Richard Barbrook at the same occasion seemed as maybe not an altogether original still yet a very sane thing to pursue. Moreover, Barbrook for a large part determined the 'nature' of the discussion in the Future of Evolution net symposium, by criticising the biologisation of the social sciences, and the paralysing effect it may have on critical thought. Both, Dery and Barbrook share that same critical stance towards the primarilly Californian 'ideology' but given that affliation with each other's ideas it seemed an interesting thing to give them for the journal the opportunity to speak the differences of their convictions. Thus focussing in on the off-centered, shadowy American quality of Dery's approach and the more historical Arbeiteristic (workerist) European approach of Richard Barbrook.

THE MEMESIS CONCEPT

Mark Dery: 'I've done precisely what you suggest Richard Barbrook has done which is: restore a sense of historical context to the whole of the discussion on Memetix or Memesis. In fact I've taking us not to the Meta-Meme but to the Ur-Meme: nature. Which is precisely what Richard argued in a different way. He refered to the creeping biologisation of the social sciences or what might also loosely and rather inaccurately be called the humanities but specifically, critical exegesis of cultural dynamics. That was precisely the point of my paper. That appeals to nature as mute inscrutable legitimator of human agency in the social sphere with real delitarious, measurable, profound corrossive impact on the whorp and whoof of peoples everyday lives is a profoundly pernishes gesture nor is it recently arrived. I'm absolutely the historian when I talk in my paper about previous appeals to the beginning of the 20th century: the Eugenics movement in America leaps immediately to mind but we can even go further back to the 17th century where as I said in my paper the compressed crania of women, non-whites and other lesser ethers in the lower most wrongs of the great chain of being were adduced as incontrovertable, scientific, biological evidence of their inferiority.

WvW: If dialectics is still a usefull tool in structuring the various viewpoints and subleties in the debate then it was this remark that roughly synthesized the core of the one, skeptical camp versus the Meme suggestion, against the camp of scientists and artists who are the defenders and afficionado's of the Meme. This journal has chosen to concentrate its investigations on the former side of the discussion. Still it is remarkable that simple, unelaborated historical facts without a context and random remembrances can be of such a convincing 'nature' that they actually close off, reduce and belittle entire discussions. For, at least in this talk, the whole 'biological' part of the discussion was after the Dery statement more or less left behind, the attention shifting more towards the role the advocates of the Memetic rhetoric play in the media and public sphere, propagating the adoption of 'biological' metaphors and references in social analysis. Thus making way for the political discussion of how to adress the issue of (net-) democracy at the era of the 'end of organized capitalism'. Let this review be of any help in the choosing of positions in the debate.

Richard Barbrook: The key point is what Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine and the Extropians and other leaders of this Memes cult are doing which is basically recycling Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism. Which comes, as you know, out of Victorian England. It's a defense of liberal economics against the need for state regulation and state intervention.

 
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