Habermas Just Blowing Hard?

Ping: “War Strategies … for Daily Life?” at VibeWise

/*preliminary draft; do no quote, please and thank-you

When I spend more time on this it will be shorter. heh */

Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Habermas blows off question about the Internet and the Public Sphere – November 5th, 2007 by Howard Rheingold

“I think it’s important now to build new theories and not simply to rely on Habermas, who is signalling his ignorance of the meaning of the changes in the infosphere that have taken place in recent decades. He did his part in his time, but the ideal public sphere he described — a bourgeois public sphere dominated by broadcast media — should not be taken as the model for the formation of public opinion in 21st century democracies.”

What I’m going to write is that Habermas’ ideals are so far from being reali-ized that that their validlity and his perfunctory defense of them might seem without basis. My point is that even Web4.0 will fall short because real develop must be orthogonal to the “with this hammer I call AJAX I will hammer every nail” attitude that now dominates.

What has oriented me in these matters is having read (or, more precisely, being in the process of re-reading for the umpteenth time) Habermas’ “discourse ethics” in context of the operational considerations comprised by the OpenAccess project as set out by UBC/PKP’s Prof. John Willinksy.

A fancy toy is just a toy, for all its wonder. “And you shall know them by their uses”, we might say.

At the risk of seeming cynical or bitter or both: where (Oh, please! Do tell me where!) is there to be found the authentic discourse that Jurgen Habermas so skilfully depicted? I’m talking about operational criteria, not just aspirational-goodie-goodie bliss-ninnie light-and-love (by the pound, by the gram, whatevuh) … I mean authentic subjective narrative in discourse. (Two ways … sorry kidz, tweeting is almost 1/2 of that recipe.)

Here’s something I’d like to be corrected on: from both my studies of abhidharma and my practice as a Marxist I’ve bought into “activity conditions consciousness”. (Oh-wooops I left out cog-psych … “schema theory”, yes?) Endless hours of 1st person ejaculation (Think “soliloque” here … get your mind out’a gutter; make some room for the rest of us.) … equally endless hours of 1st person shooter … endlessly peregrinating constructs resulting in a tangle of conceptual fictions and fictional identities. (Nooo, not “personas” … I said identities and I meant identities.)

Discourse … not “discussion”, not “debate”, not just “exchange”. (I happen to love Edge. But to the vast majority of the human race it is effectively hermetic. “In effect” is the watchword of Pomo, please.)

It’s great fun to play fast and loose … sophistry (Think about it … “sophist-icated” … what I call the Marie Antoinette syndrome … like marketing: no need to produce and deliver bread if you can produce a clehvur joke about cake, ehh whot?) … to quip the old-school Zen, a painting of bread does not feed. (Ohhh sure sure, “Man does not live by bread alone”. Go without a coupla meals sometime!)

see also: TimBL on “net” and *shudder* “graph”

Earlier this evening (I took a break after writing the large part of the above; I put up a batch of my best bitter last week and tonight I’m enjoying some of it.) I thought back across my history with communications … a time before SBI (“Soviet-bloc illicits”) and ILS (Integrated Logistics Support) and troposcatter (uhhh … 10KW WiFi huh huh) and, and and … I mean my relationship to the phenomenon itself. I remember as a child gazing into the sky, extrapolating the sun’s movement, and wondering at how this time-piece was so similar and different from the one on the wall above the stove in the kitchen.

I believe it was thinking like that whot allowed me to grok LASER theory in grade 3. It was as though the molecules were communicating with one another, as though ducks scrambling to get into a row. So it was natural, only a few years later, to get into ham radio … watching the 20mtr beam swing towards its great-circle bearing to the distant antipodes … VK2RU, IIRC … Australia. And, in the late evening, knowing that the air around me was filled with uncountable conversations.


So it’s with a bit of a startle that I read, “Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Treating my Facebook community as a public” … ehhh? To treat FaceBook or whatevuh as anything other than public? Isn’t that like putting up a sound-proof wall all around your house so neighbours won’t by mis-chance or mis-deed happen to hear a bit of your commonplace and mundane?

Schema … in large part, barriers against what’s previously been tagged #noise, filtering in what’s salient. But those processes result in valence. I take it as confirmed that most kidz today take as “true” what is pleasant and “untrue” or even “wicked” whatever gives rise to dis-comfort in any sense. Valence … why it matters … and that, dear reader, is for me the heart-essence of discourse. Not “data”, and more than “information”.

Eric Fromm wrote about how a parent who, upon hearing a devestating prognosis regarding a child, is ill who responds by asking about probabilities. It’s more than cost/benefit … and so it’s more than signal/noise (“SNR”, in my business).

But it’s late. And my best bitter, if not actually my best, is very very good.

Front of mind? I miss my old springer spaniel … “Duart’s Mr. Chips” … Chippie … won Canadian Kennel Champion in his first show, he did … and trained himself, he did too. Missing him matters to me … it shows me I still care about the beings in my past. And I daren’t lose that.

–bentrem 00:18 29DEC07


3 Responses to Habermas Just Blowing Hard?

  1. bentrem says:

    I’ll post here what I commented in SmartMobs:

    Greets –
    I feel myself at a disadvanted; much more at home with MIL-SPEC tech_docs (Look Ma! I completed FMECA!!) … lacking honed scholastic skills. (Oh, did I get my elbows up there? *grin*)

    I was drawn to this post by a tweet by dweinberger tagged #habermas … like a fish to water in a deep sense.
    The works of Jurgen Habermas have been with me for years. (AJ Ayer I left behind.) Alongside Paulo Freire (“Education for Critical Consciousness”, not “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”) and Matthew Fox (famous for “On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American Style” (1976), but I’m partial to “A Spirituality Named Compassion and The Healing of the Global Village; Humpty Dumpty and Us”), he has reminded me of our fundamental humanity. (I can say that Fukayama dignifies intellect, but when reading his work I Skinner’s behaviourism keeps rising to front of mind.)
    This to say why I’m rising to the point here and now.

    The point I’m taking on (I’ve begun to essai a fuller expression at my “Many2Many”) is that we have failed to grasp … what … not “the nettle” … more like we’ve failed to grasp, say, the rose … as sign and symbol.
    A technocratic appreciation of exchange (may we say “intercourse”?), however veiled by hi-falutin sophistry or the cant of aspiration values, diminishes participants’ humanity by devaluing the communicative gesture. We can, as I’m sure we’re all aware, engage in parallel soliloques.

    It was (long story / short) while happening to have both Habermas’ “Discourse Ethics” and John Willinsky’s recently released book on the OpenAccess project open both together and in mind at once that my three decades of work on what I call “participatory deliberation” (“group discernment”, anyone?) veered off, away from the techniques of Semantic Web and the methodologies of concept mapping and I found myself with a foundationally new design. New like Socrates teaching the slave boy in Phaedrus. (Teach? But to elicit … edu.care … Freire’s instructions to “agents of extension”!) New like Hegel and Marx with the dialectic. And *drum roll please!!* new like Hesse’s glasperlenspiel.

    “Information” contra “data” … and the subjectivity of narrative we should hallow falls through the distributed middle.

    Discourse … dialectic … subjectivity … no matter how entertaining, nonsense is merely self-referential, while human discourse is ?what? fractal.

    So … this clumsy blurt from a silly old man.

    and greetings to those here assembled

    ever-playfully yours
    and truly

  2. bentrem says:

    Commenting on “A Personal Walk Through 41 Years of Newspapering” by Jack Lail, in his blog, I came up with this on one particular in what HRheingold wrote:

    “the ideal public sphere he described — a bourgeois public sphere dominated by broadcast media — should not be taken as the model for the formation of public opinion in 21st century democracies”. And that, to me, resonates with your point here.

    In [this post here] I very nearly mooted the point entirely, suggesting that we had more/less missed the point of disruptive innovation. And, specifically, I think w/respect the HReingold has missed the point of discourse ethics … not that he’s wrong about Habermas and broadcasting. But that the bourgeois traditions arise up out of the age of rationality and the emancipation project … the freedom from religious cant, so often traded in for political cant, and now-days *I submit* traded for serial moments of superficial attention.
    And not that he’s /wrong/ with his view of discourse, just that he’s missed the pointy end of the stick, the bit that allows us to operationalize it.

    Jingoism, “spin”, marketing blather … the oligarchs’ variant of the rainbow-coloured smoke used throughout history to bamboozle and en-thrall. And the precious yada-bla-yada-blah of aspirational clap-trap is just the chirping of the crickets.

  3. bentrem says:

    Hi – It’s called “Saphire”. cheers

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