Monday, Tuesday, Happy Days...

By Mute Editor, 30 August 1998


Including: Graham Harwood, Lisa Haskel and Pauline van Mourik Broekman on 'Mongrel Britain', Simon Pope's 'Futile Style of London', Helen Sloane on science and art, Critical Art Ensemble interviewed by Mark Dery + Drew Hemment's 'Corpus of Sound' and Josephine Bosma's short history of

In front of me I have an ad from the back page of a technology magazine. It comes courtesy of Bacardi Rum and says: "Deadlines by day, Bacardi by night". Behind the Gothic, funky Batman typography sit two boy buddies. Deep in fly-by-night ecstatic mood, they are smiling - one tapping a tribal drum and suitably decked out with dreadlocks; the other looking over in checked shirt and khakis (the obligatory, the ubiquitous, probably GAP, possibly Carhartt). Both are proud bearers of conspicuous necklace-bracelet-rings tackle - I can't help thinking Photoshop has played a part in their lustre.

Like anyone chuckling about a stupid, transparent ad, I presume I am different from these PR avatars. I presume people like this don't actually exist, and that the most we may share is our apparent age. Deadlines by day, Bacardi by night?! We should be so lucky. Isn't it Deadlines by day, deadlines by night? Forget choice! Night and day, work and leisure, job and no job - thank you workfare - don't split so easily down the middle anymore.

By and large, the Wired World my boy buddies and I inhabit is offered to us as the creation of the Woodstock generation: liberal, open-minded, socially engaged men and women who knew what war was and knew why they were against it. Individuals who knew what it meant to go out in the streets and show you why. Individuals who, post-1968 and then post-Watergate, lost faith in traditional government and broadcast media and fought for a different way of doing things, a different politics. We, on the other hand - or so the story goes - represent a generation birthed and reared in the age of virtuality (virtual identity, virtual experience, virtual wars). Even if we partake of our predecessors' liberatory products and infrastructures, our defining characteristic - or so the story goes - is political apathy. Some don't even think the word 'individual' fits us that well anymore: in our post-Enlightenment age, they deign to call us post-human.

But, as even post-humanists know, the virtual always has (what some persist in calling) 'real' consequences. Virtual war, virtual anything, is never what it says on the label; it has a corporeal face, even if our media don't relay it to us. The Net is making new global relationships possible but, as any sceptic is happy to tell you, only a minuscule percentage of the world is wired. While we - the Wired World, not forgetting all the Woodstock babyboomers now happily nurturing their NASDAQ stock - eulogise the efficacy of micropolitics and net economics, India and Pakistan are involved in a nuclear stand-off, Kosovans are the victims of genocide, the economies of the East (and therefore the West) are in danger and the African continent goes on suffering the fallout of its imperialist occupation. Is this the face of the economy of abundance?

This issue of Mute includes a special insert on net.politics, made in collaboration with Manchester's temporary media lab Revolting []. In it, we ask what the Net means for politics, what revolt means in these revolting times and, in the long run, whether we citizens of the virtual republic are doing anything about it, or are too busy meeting our deadlines.