November 23rd, 2006


A new theory of everything

Two things for you today, an article in AIGA Voice about why we aren't allowed to display cultural goods at home in the sexy, innovative ways they're displayed in stores and exhibitions, and an mp3 of the lecture I gave last Friday in Birmingham.

"I want a new theory of everything," I sang in my song Lady Fancy Knickers, "-- a tub of custard, a manky carpet and a piece of string". Well, The IT Culture, the Daniel Hunt Lecture I delivered last Friday at the invitation of the University of Central England's Visualization Research Unit came pretty close to putting custard, carpet and string -- in the form of recurrent themes on Click Opera -- together to make a big picture, a sort of snapshot of where we are now, as I see it, in terms of technology, philosophy and politics.

Keen Click Opera readers will have seen these themes before. But where the lecture succeeds, I think, is in connecting them up. Here, for the first time, I begin to find tentative, unexpected connections between, say, Kim Cascone's essay "The Aesthetics of Failure" and the Bush regime's motto (well, it would be if they could speak Latin) oderint dum metuant -- let them hate as long as they fear. Or between the idea of identity politics, culture and situation being about wanting to be loved "warts and all" and the ideas of Marshall McLuhan about how displaced media stop pretending to be a "window on the world" and start hoping to be loved just as "li'l ole me". Or between the idea that satirists look in the mirror one day and see their enemies, and the idea that, in a world of power laws where there's a star spike and a long comet tail, there can't really be true pluralism because those "famous for 15 people" people in the tail are all defining themselves in relation to the stars in the spike... Above all, it's about the question "Who gets to be what Hegel called the concrete universal? Who gets to be IT?"

I did this lecture -- a "hobbyhorse probe", I called it on the night -- without much preparation and very few notes, really just extemporizing. Of course it's a fairly superficial skim across some huge themes. But I think it all came together quite well in the end, tying up lots of strings. Here it is, anyway.

The IT Culture (24.8MB mono mp3 file, 54 mins. 12 secs.)

Thanks to Greg Sporton, Robert Sharl and Catha Knuth, girlfriend of the late Dan Hunt, who told me all about him. The UCE VRU's own website may soon be hosting an enhanced version of this file with visual inserts that'll pop up on your iPod, so keep an eye on their website. Oh, and you may also like to know that Last.FM has an rss feed for future Momus events. It lists my next two London appearances, but not the Madrid concert I'll be playing on Saturday, December 16th at NeuClub. Mainly because it hasn't been announced until right now! More details soon.