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003. Existential Scavenging: Cultural Artifacts for Future Archaeologists

Alongside the much spoken rise of social media, there is a far less debated phenomenon among everyday users of digital technologies, social media outsiders who, for merely existential purposes, engage themselves with the creation of “intimate media”. With or without a conscious method they scavenge their own existence by holding on to the digital traces they encounter. They, in this way, provide a substantial meaning to their lives. The resulting artifacts are likely to be fascinating collections, which, if on one side they are disregarded by the official cultural discourse, have allot of potential to entertain the audience of the future. The latter will look back, like a team of archaeologists, at the period of time in which these scavengers have operated. As in the case of Erkki Kurenniemi, the Finish pioneer who will reveal his ”virtual persona” only after his death or as in the case of other individuals packaging their scavenging in the form of ”time-capsules”, such an audience is likely to experience a sense of profound respect for the authenticity that these ancient reliquaries of a past digital age might provoke. In this sense is fundamental that, when the scavenger makes a conscious decision of encapsulating the result of his scavenging for a future audience, he uses a coherent and thus readable syntax and composes it using a wide range of media languages which such audience can interpret and compare. These media languages are only to increase the authenticity of such artifacts as are presumably created with digital technologies belonging to that time as it is for instance the case of black and white neorealist movie from 1960 (e.g. Ermanno Olmi's movie “Il Posto” shot in a corporation with actors and equipment belonging to the corporation where the very film takes place).

004. The Non-Hero, The Super-Hero and The Meta-Hero

Mikhail Lermontov, the poet of the Caucasus, the most celebrated Russian poet after Alexander Pushkin, is less known internationally, this due partly to the fact that he mostly wrote poems and poems might not be as easy to render in other languages as prose is. In his short and very Byronic life (he died in a duel at the age of 27 after he was sent on exile as a Dragoon in the Caucasus mountains, just like in his story), Lermontov did manage however to write a novel, known in English as A Hero of Our Time. The story is an account of Pechorin, a non-hero whom, according to Lermotov own words written in the preface, "is a portrait built up of all our generation's vices in full bloom". Pechorin is the usual Byronic and nihilist hero, a most bored young man who is however full of courage to the point that, in one of the five novellas which the book comprises of, he dares to steal Bela, a princess belonging to a Circassian tribe. This courage is however rather impulsive and Pechorin shows no emotions in future developments of the story when he, for instance, after many years, meets his comrade, Maxim Maximytch to whom he delegates his diaries before going to a trip to India and there die. It is rather striking the insignificance of this non-heroic "disappearance" similar to that of other "nonheroes" belonging to the 19th century literary tradition.

We may as well recall another non-hero, conceived by the naturalist Russian writer Ivan Turgenev in his short novel Father and Sons. The non-hero in question, Yegveny Bazarov, is a newly graduated medical student who goes on holiday at the family farmstead of his university classmate, Arkady. At the farm we have a very symbolic antagonism between the romantic and aristocratic views of Pavel Petrovich, Arkady's brother, and the scientific and nihilistic ones of the above mentioned Bazarov. Aside form the actual story, the antagonism may in itself be of relevance to elucidate on the very shift occurring towards the end of the 19th century from the former character to the other, from an aristocratic personage filled with meanings to a youngster basing his observations on science alone, scorning these meanings with the arrogance predicted by Socrates concerning the new pupils who are to learn the technique of reading and writing.

If in the first two instances we see the representative heroes of the 19th century, the non-heroes, dying in most meaningless ways (Bazarov is to die at his parents' cabin after being deceived paradoxically by Anna Sergeevna Odintsova, a noble woman), the end of the 19th century presents us with a new kind of hero, a non-hero that is now completely conscious that no Napoleonic enterprises are possible in a much bureaucratized and Kafkian society, this new non-hero is Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, the main protagonist of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. Aside from the focus on the effects one is to experience after committing a crime, the literary critique may address the causes. The non-hero in question has had in fact an urge to accomplish in his youth something heroic. In the novel there are a few accounts of the protagonist himself trying, for instance, to save the life of two little children trapped in a house on fire, this episode being paradoxically similar to an antecedent found in Leo Tolstoy's opus magnum War and Peace where the Count Pyotr Bezukhov, after loosing his mind in several philanthropic projects, rescues a small child from a house set accidentally on fire by the uncontrollable troops of Napoleon plundering Moscow. Yet, while the Count recuperates his head during his imprisonment following the retreating Napoleonic troops, Rodion Romanovich loses his head completely to the point that his heroic action becomes that of killing Alyona Ivanovna, a money lander and a Jewish-like woman. For Rodion as well (as for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Ivan Denisovich half a century later), imprisonment in the harsh Russian landscape is a recuperation of sanity, particularly by seeing a nomadic tribe passing through the horizon.

One may be as bold as to assume that these Russian authors among many other Russian and international authors, are addressing a frustration of the modern and technologycomforted human. It is not too bold either to admit that the events that have so dramatically characterized the European and world history of the 20th century are not completely unlinked to these literary premises. Ironically speaking, the German dictator himself, Adolf Hitler may be seen as a Raskolnikov, who, unsuccessful in his efforts to pursue an artistic career and socially emancipated, turned to politics and did in fact manage to resurrect the Napoleonic hero, a model that Raskolnikov much longed for. Hitler too, like Napoleon, invaded Russia and there he too found his sanity with the natural impossibility he had to face, not to mention that he too, like Raskolnikov, solved to kill Jews among other minorities. In this respect we finally see the failure of this Überheld, a super-hero violently transcending the nihilism of a bourgeoise reality and its emancipation, yet resulting in a state where the heroic will, amplified by technology, finds no boundaries but that of self-destruction and ultimately becomes a Überschurke, a super-villain.

History here may seem to come to an end. The technical media, being too much of a personal amplifier have thus created the conditions for a democracy where the individual's will is limited, in order not to threaten other individuals. The concept of affective economy, coined by Sara Ahmed, is in this case relevant to explicate the incubation of conflicts in such a mediated context, particularly where individuals are kept confined in the manifestation of their will and are offered "bread and circus" in the form of "public media pacifiers". Has the heroic model then completely vanished from a Western culture that has so quickly rebuilt itself to saturation? Are heroes only the projections we can find in what the media industry administrates to us through their pretentious fictions? Nonetheless, like poisoning mushrooms of a rather controlled underbrush, the Raskolnikov types keep popping up unpredictably. Affections, like spores, spread, being lightly carried by the wind, our telecommunication technologies, the most light and fast messenger. Are those then the real heroes that our mediated culture generates?

We may as well follow these lines or, as this essay intends to pursue, we can take a glance back at the cultural development of our past century maintaining our focus on the heroic models it has in fact produced. If then, on one side, it is rather obvious that one model is that of the "super-hero", the fanatic terrorist (Hitler as well as the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, or recently the Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik), the other could be the total negation of it, as Bernardo Bertolucci depicted in his 1970s movie The Conformist, a character with absolutely no ideals to stand for, a passive being a total "non-hero". Among the latter heroes of which there are many instances, and to which we could ourselves associate to, there seems to be however a variant which stands out as a model of its own.

We may now think of James Joyce's Ulysses, a paradoxically non-eventful character which he names with a very unglamorous name, Leopold Bloom. We could then write entire essays and books speculating about the non-heroic nature of Leopold Bloom, yet something very remarkable can be completely left unspoken. This remarkable observation is that, while in fact Leopold Bloom might belong to the category of the non-hero, the very conceiver of the character, James Joyce is a whole new hero of his own, giving the possibility to coin a third category which has barely being noticed. While Leopold conducts his passive and uneventful life as the life of the non-hero, James Joyce's life was certainly most active. Rather than explode the system as the super-hero terrorist, or just live with it as the non-hero conformist, Joyce's heroic operandi lays in his labor, a labor which finds him massively absorbing and re-manipulating all that the information society casted onto him. Joyce takes the ready-made and restitches it, in an activity of appropriating and re-signifying. It opens up cultural and existential alternatives among those of destroying or conforming, it is that of regenerating the ready made fragments of reality to then bring them out of the fridge and make a new dough out of them. It is some kind of a cut and paste technique as described by Hebdige, not a sporadic method but a real immersive practice overarching Joyce's activity. In this case a rather Eastern type of hero (are the Eastern and Western civilizations swapping their polarities?), like a Buddhist monk set to meditate his own inner self and then reproduce it in a mandala. With such comparison one could say that the media are in fact an extension of our inner self and Joyce's work may be addressed as that of a meditating Buddhist collecting bits from it and later reconnecting them.

To put more emphasis on the regenerating part of this newly hypothesized heroic model, we might think of Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera". Even here bits of reality are gathered and then recomposed. The hero becomes the very man with the movie camera, who climbs the chimney of the new communist Russia of the 1920s from dusk to dawn. We thus now switch our focus to this new form of hero, a hero who embraces with genuine enthusiasm what the new technologies are bringing about; both media to consume, as in the case of Joyce, and media to produce, as in the case of Vertov. In this case the author becomes the very actor as in a pantomime, yet to re-frame from Walter Benjamin's discussion that the actor is aware of the filming device, we might argue that the continuous pervasiveness of the documenting medium in everyday life and its progressive unobtrusiveness (both in terms of hardware and software) has quite erased such a sensation.

The formulation of this type of hero is rather important. For the German philosopher Ernst Cassirer, it could fulfill a vision of a human being that is not shaped by technology but rather uses technology as its medium. This vision was also conceived a decade later by the American scientist Vannevar Bush in his article "As We May Think" where he also describes the possibility of the Memex, a wearable device which could allow the scientist of the future to use technology as rather a way to enhance his intellectual faculties by means of capturing and retrieving thoughts in the form of visual memories. The post-war pessimism linked to our other two forms of heroic models, the conforming non-hero and the destructive super-hero, has somewhat postponed the advent of such a character, which we may dare to define as the meta-hero. In a trajectory we could draw from the non-hero to the super-hero and to finally the meta-hero, we are able to detect how, through the usage of the media, the hero progressively becomes the author himself. This process is already rather recognizable in all the literary examples given in this text and particularly for Lermontov and Dostoyevsky.

It took half a century before techno-humanists such as Steve Mann, resurrected Bush's idea or simply followed up to what technology started to offer them, the possibility of creating wearable computers for personal awareness, an awareness and a persona threaten by the predominant rise of international corporations and their surveillance and mediatized systems they adopt to survey and consequently control the market economy. The 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium had been a rather promising realization of such a counter and individual oriented phenomena named by Mann sousvelliance. At that time, the World Wide Web was an open ground for experiments, a channel for each individual to craft and project themselves, an open frontier for the new pioneers. This until corporations saw the possibility for profit and once again turned individuals into a passive media consumer. In the new media evolution, any element that would have allowed personal craftsmanship has been diminished and the focus is in fact primarily on designing for media consumption. Statistics also show that most of social media users, for instance Facebook users, are really careful to post but mostly are there to consume other people's posts (an interesting program in this respect would be to device an artificial user that posts stuff).

Under these premises, we may be able to distinguish the culture produced by the masses through the interfaces provided by the media giants and an underground culture of individuals drafting their own interfaces and tools, partisans of the now corporation colonized World Wide Web. Going back to Tolstoy and his "War and Peace", we might find that the real hero is not a Napoleon Bonaparte, who is only the representative of what was anyway inevitable (the West invading the East), but the real heroes are only among the Russian partisans and their guerrilla warfare against the retreating Napoleonic army. The "Men and Women with their Digital Devices", despite their non-violent approach, are in fact good candidates to become the meta-heroes, or ontological cultivators, of our contemporary culture, outsiders of any high art establishment. The models for these meta-heroes could follow up on American transcendentalists such as Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy himself, who, in the last years of his life, inspired by Arthur Schopenhauer's The World As Will and Representation, looked back at Western and Eastern philosophy and embraced asceticism (not to mention Gandhi who was inspired by the two authors and named his first commune Tolstoy).

To conclude this journey across the main representations of heroic models in our technological time, we can present a really striking and gender correct example, the incredible life long enterprise of a totally emancipated Polish woman, Janina Turek. From 1941, when her husband was confined in a concentration camp, to the time she died sixty years later, Mrs. Turek collected on more than seven hundred note-books every details of her life such as all the TV programs she watched, everyone she saw, all the phone calls she received and so forth. As these kinds of enterprises may be also judged quantitatively, her work of a low class yet well read woman, can be far more relevant than the equivalent work of much celebrated artists within the Olympus of the high art, such as On Kawara and her countryman Roman Opalka. Janina is just one of the many cultural producers selected out by the elite of cultural managers which only a historical revision of cultural phenomena can bring back to life. She represents a model of a hero that is at last compatible with the ever technological age: the housewife.

005. Culture of the Oppressed

The Great Leap Forward campaign launched by the Chinese Communist Party in 1958, was meant to bring in fifteen years time China among the industrial powers of the world, surpassing the old time imperialist enemies like the UK and the USA with whom the Korean war was recently and successfully concluded, despite the many millions casualties on the Chinese side. Enthusiastic of the mission, many a Chinese peasants gave up farming to produce steel in their back yard, burning even their furniture to keep the home-made furnaces going. Those farmers that did indeed kept farming were unwillingly put in cooperatives, thus deprived of their small properties assigned to them in 1948 following the eradication of the big land owners. After so much effort and illusion, China soon found the home-made steel to be unusable and the grain production to be inflated by the cooperatives seeking to break any record. The result was a three years famine that killed an estimated number of 30.000.000 peasants, the worst famine ever recorded in the history of human kind.

After this campaign Mao Tse-tung, chairman of the Communist party, decided to retire from political activity. He spent years reading classics and avoiding any public appearance. Around 1966 the chairman, tired of his political isolation and feeling discontent with the economical blooming of China, had a dispute with his successors and found the whole country on his side. Millions of youth marched to Beijing to support chairman Mao who then gave them "the right to rebel". It was the start of the Cultural Revolution, a revolution that can be seen as one of these periodical purges that are often accounted by many historians such as Plutarch writing about Sulla's proscriptions and other emperor's purgation of the Romans. Mao, with his speeches and a personality-cult boasted paradoxically by his previous disappearance, unleashed a youth of millions to experience the revolutionary way, a state of yearlong civil war. By marching from city to city and experiencing revolution, the red guards grew even more fond of Mao as Roman soldiers did for Julius Cesar after marching with him across Europe, and the many other marches bringing faith to many a historical leaders. The revolution was addressed to these young Chinese, namely Mao's Red Guards, to cleanse out of China the four olds: old customs, old culture, old habits, old ideas. This also kept including any tendency towards bourgeoisism and to some extend capitalism. In reality, it helped Mao to regain his power and defeat all of his political enemies. As part of the revolution many city-dwellers were voluntary rerooting themselves to the countryside. Several others, including Chinese intellectuals and other people who cultivated certain interests labeled as rightist, if not persecuted, where deported to the countryside to re-establish a connection with nature and thus simplify their artificial thinking by having to concentrate on their natural survival.

The Down to the Countryside approach would have certainly delighted many thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry Davids Thoreau, a return to nature. Lao Tsu himself, the founder of Taoism, left society to die in peace in the desert yet, according to his teachings, Mao's revolution can be seen as a boasted action, a sort of vertical imposition, an exception in his otherwise sensitive propaganda spread homogeneously from village to village as exemplified by Jacques Ellul in his book on propaganda. The Great Leap Forward itself goes against Chinese traditional philosophy in which, in order to go forward one is supposed to go half a step backward. Such an action of purging bourgeoisie corruption from his people, has in fact provoked a completely opposite result. Ten years later, at his death, replaced by Deng Xiaoping, China was to embrace in wide open arms capitalism, quickly becoming the second largest world economy, setting the Chinese population to strive for money and accumulate richness as their first principle. This has been in fact the Great Leap Forward while the Cultural Revolution can be now seen as the Small Leap Backward.

The rush for capitalism, however justified in terms of new socialist politics, is certainly a well known counter-effect of Mao's rather imposed Cultural Revolution, a revolution that did certainly for some extend utilized an horizontal propaganda, diffusing the message in the big Chinese countryside, but was in fact a rather vertical approach in the cities where the real purge had to be administrated. Many a Chinese had to give up certain hobbies that might have being considered anti-revolutionary. It is the case of the teacher of the famous Chinese dancer Lao Cunxin who was deported after producing a classic ballet for Mao's wife Jiang Qing (then head of the film section of the CPC Propaganda Department) and not complying with her revolutionary ideas. It was also the case of far less known artists ("artist" in the Eastern sense, meaning people mastering a discipline as a mean for meditation rather than people showing off their talent seeking for fame) of the time like a Shanghai-based amateur photographer documenting ancient trees or other people with individual passions who have suddenly all now regained their status as the country fiercely tries to rebuild its wiped out cultural heritage.

We can here presents a possibly never discussed, secondary effect provoked by the Cultural Revolution, namely a strange phenomena: "the strongest is the oppression of something, the strongest this something survives". This is an obvious manifestation in Jewish culture that has survived many a persecutions through hundreds of years and has even got stronger with what was going to be its final oppression by the Nazis. The same phenomena has never been taken in consideration in regards of the Cultural Revolution's oppression. We find that, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, the purge was meant to eradicate not only the bad influences coming from the capitalist West but also those inherited in traditional Chinese culture. For example, the practice of Tai Chi, the ancient gymnastic deriving from Buddhist monks' observation of animal movements, the base of many a martial arts, was considered too superstitious a ritual and was thus persecuted as Falun Gong is persecuted to these days by the Chinese government much afraid of a new, irrational "revolution" threatening their oligarch ruling.

Despite the initial persecution, Chinese traditional practices has not only well survived but they have become for that generation of Chinese, a way to endure political oppression. An interesting parallel can be drawn here with the Hong Kong region which, being under British administration, was not subjected by the Cultural Revolution and where these traditional practices have completely vanished. Thus, while a park in any Chinese city is the place to manifest oneself through these ancient practices, a park in Hong Kong can be totally empty, like many Western parks, with the exception of Victoria Park. The latter has in fact become a renown meeting point for another group of oppressed, Indonesian women leaving their husbands and sons in their country to come and earn more money by working as babysitters for the richer Chinese. The park is for them a platform not only where to socialize with themselves but also to unleash their persona via traditional and religious practices like ritualistic singing or modern ones like Hip Hop dancing.

Parks in China are then the platform for the oppressed Chinese population. While the political oppression diminishes considerably, the oppression becomes more of an environmental one: the parks remain the only sites where nature is preserved and where it can be manifested, the surrounding is just undergoing a continuous speculation of every inch of a land which no one but the state can own. The park (and many a parks were created by "relocating" entire neighborhoods and make some green spaces, although these modern parks are less utilized), becomes the cultural platform for the ordinary Chinese, this really aside from the much pretentious and imported culture exhibited in museums often located in the context of the park as it is the case for the People's Park in the heart of Shanghai.

Chinese people's traditional culture is however in the moment of disappearing. The new generation has ceased to find any interest in it although one can still easily find an older master that would gladly spend much of his time to transmit to any pupil his discipline. Yet the new pupils are much more attracted to video-games and new mobile technologies also under strict censorship. To then capture a blink of a Chinese park in its disappearance, as Benjamin on his turn capture the Parisian arcades, we could for instance briefly introduce parks like Luxin (where dogs and Chinese were not allowed during the time of colonization after the Opium War) or better Fuxing Park, nicely located at the edge of the 19th century French built concession frictioning against the much more developed and speculated area of the Shanghai city center.

Spending a day in Fuxing park from dusk to dawn means getting acquainted with the whole of Chinese society. We have the early birds walking backward holding an actual bird cage which is however covered until they reach the community of other early birds who happily hang the cages together on bushes and uncover them letting their birds sing to the light of the rising sun in the mist of a much polluted horizon. With them we have the more introvert Tai Chi practitioners or other gymnasts imitating for instance Pandas by yelling freely in the bushes or crashing the sides of their body against trees (a very good practice to gain good blood circulation). As the day gets warmer, we encounter groups of acrobats pirouetting their Yo-yo or swords or weeps in the air and nicely choreographing their park-lots while, on a more protected corner of the park, begin to gather the complainers who start pouring their discontent in such crow-like manner that our early birds recover their cages and quit the park. As midday approaches, more middle-age and elders, influenced by western culture yet still very skilled, starts dancing in pairs or gather to sing karaoke on a purposely designed apparatus (a shopping cart driven by a car battery). This all choreographed by large drakes flying in the sky. On another side, and throughout the day, we may encounter the more vicious Chinese people who greedily spend their time playing poker and smoking, drinking and swearing yet never harassing any of the viewers surrounding them.

Nonetheless, Chinese traditional culture is quite developed, based on much individual training in its various instances, it is a question of mastery and perfection only achieved through time and experience, a mastery that is somewhat scorned by any civilized culture where traditions have come to loose their meaning and might be only replayed either as an exclusive event for an elite of spectators and by masters who are elevated to a high standard. The same passionate drive that generates new culture today can be seen in various other socially oppressed community as those seeking gender equality. It is also a relevant conclusion for these countries which, by directly subsidizing their cultural producers, achieves very mediocre results despite the generous fundings. Where are we, for instance, to find a cultural equivalent to the experimental films and stop motion animations produced in Poland throughout the 70s and beginning of the 80s? Those cultural productions were generally carried out by much oppressed workers in a much oppressive sovietized surrounding after a full day of work, basically after-work productions which surpass by far the more formal and official productions of the culture industries of that time and are still impressive to watch now-a-days despite the fact that the cultural industry main stream makes them hard to find.

The McLuhan prophesied advent of a globally interconnected village, the Internet, gave a unique possibility for the mass to get out of the cultural industry hegemony. The blocked communication that the former mass media had created, as pointed by Jean Baudrillard a few years previously, was finally unblocked and users could create and communicate their own content rather than only receiving it. From roughly a decade, a new ground for cultural experimentation was born, a ground in which many a pioneers created a new media aesthetic shaped around textual and audio-visual hyper-linking. All of these cultural industry independent works of art, were in real time produced and shared with the public. This phase can be seen as that of the silent moving images at the beginning of the last century and it is normally named Web 1.0. The advent of the Web 2.0 has been an equal catastrophe for the Web 1.0 as the advent of the "talkies", films with synchronized audio, has been for the silent pictures in the 1930s when the art of the pantomiming actors like Charlie Chaplin and Burton Keaton were suddenly eclipsed by much chatting based films. The Web 2.0 can be seen as the colonization of the web by cultural industries, the old cultural industries with just a new mask, a much more acceptable mask as it gives the mass the illusion that they are to create the content. Are these "friendly" culture industries simply providing them with the tools, or is this yet another form of hidden persuasion, as Vance Packard would define it? On one side then we see a mass which has been lazy enough not to learn the easy programming language behind the web and on the other we see this mass, like a flock of sheep all going in the same direction, e.g. Facebook. The illusion of authorship is ambiguous yet, these social media giant can be seen as the directors of a major play where the mass acts within the industry provided frames like in an contemporary improvisational theater performance.

What is the strategy left? Disappearance by total embracement? Once nature becomes less oppressive because of the artificial commodities we might either think like Mao and get the mass back to it, resisting to such artificiality. Another strategy, as technology concerned philosophers also suggest, would be to regain a state of oppression by fully embracing technology. Lev Manovich claims that under the new cultural industry oppression, individuals are only allowed to come up with tactics to survive within an imposed strategy, the social media template which is like the imposed urban planning which a citydweller cannot change but can only adapt to. One may argue here though that the virtual space is still a limitless land. It is true that that culture industry new giants have overshadowed individual's initiatives like a giant shopping center overshadows a small shop. It is true that the small owner will feel compelled to give up his or her shop and will have to in the end join the shopping center or just in the end give up the activity altogether and start working at the cash desk of one of the few established shops within it. This is true, however Manovich, as other new media researchers, lack to acknowledge that these very personally driven activities flourishing in the Web 1.0 era may as well keep on, on a hide, unofficially, unseen, underground. The extreme publication of the masses is then compensated by an extreme anonymity and hiding of authentic culture, thus preserved by the culture industry phagocitation.

Going back to the useful example provided by the Chinese Cultural Revolution, we may also begin drawing some parallels between the official cultural manifestations in such a totalitarian propaganda and and those typical of a democracies. The former is hegemonic and in fact controlled by a great cult, the personality-cult of Mao Tse-tung, whose portrait appeared in different scales whether in public or private spaces. He was omnipresent, as a God observing and to whom one had to be observant to (e.g. by daily performing the Mao's dance). The same phenomena can be seen in many other totalitarian regimes. In democracies such an imposition of personality leading to fanaticism is more scattered and actually have had a tendency of diminishing drastically over the years. Citizens of a democratic civilization are in fact quite "allergic" to any imposed personality. The Arab Spring revolution has also been alimented by a desire to remove any hegemonic personality, to get rid of any patriarch.

Now that the media is commonly distributed and everyone is virtually able to produce content, we see another phenomena. The cult of personality has not in fact disappeared but we can definitely see it emerging from the very mass, a mass that the democratic propaganda wants homogeneous yet a mass that now finds in social media a surrogate to manifest a cult of their own persona. It is quite striking how easily Benito Mussolini's repertoire of photographs could easily fit in for instance a Facebook profile, the profile picture being shot from below with him seating on a horse, then pictures of him in bare arms helping the farmers, and him swimming with his masculine body. His statements could be easily appear daily in the Facebook template: "Benito says: BEST ONE DAY AS A LION THAN A LIFE AS A SHIP" (Facebook at this point has being obliged to add a capital bold letters function) or the next days he updates his status with: "Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power". In the "likes" Benito writes a list of books and possibly also a list of not-likes where he drastically censures other books and films and other cultural forms. He has a network of friends and can easily add as well as remove them (he did in fact had no restrain to "un-friend" with his working colleagues Giacomo Matteotti and Antonio Gramsci as much as Mao un-friended with Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping).

In their much fuel-propelling essay on the culture industries, Theodor Adorno and Max Horheimer managed to point out, sixty years prior the advent of social media, how the bourgeoise, whose existence is split, is already virtually a Nazi or a modern city-dweller who can now only imagine friendship as a "social contact". It is here rather striking to review the whole social-media phenomena as, on the first hand, a reaction to the propaganda of integration characteristic of democracies. The bourgeoisie in question, homogenized in the mass, has via a social-media platform the possibility to manifest his or her persona. On the other hand one can easily deduce, by means of comparison with the above mentioned examples, that these socially mediated manifestations may in fact resemble a vertical propaganda typical of totalitarian regimes. Yet here, while in a totalitarian regime such a vertical propaganda is imposed from above, the totalitarian propaganda of each small dictator-like bourgeoisie is shot "on-air" from below and facing gravity parabolicly falls back on the mass of other small-dictators standing on an equally leveled ground yet maintaining the illusion of being in fact in control.

Reasoning further on such a phenomena the reader can also deduce how at last, the very ones to be in control are the actual culture industries, the providers of the platform where all the crowd of small dictator-like users are amassed. These platforms are like spaceships with tele-transportation. Each user can migrate from one to another and even "own" a projection of himself in several a spaceship at the same time. The spaceships are totalitarian regimes of their own yet the user can in fact endure them as he or she is able anytime to leave or at least he or she thinks he can, not realizing that all this ships are actually a whole, forming a battleship that has long left planet earth, where for a time in history he or she might have had the opportunity to build his own craft (meaning space-craft but also craftsmanship). Some of these space-crafts are in fact still wondering anonymously as many relicts of the now fully colonized digital universe, as soon as they reveal themselves they are instantly captured by the official ships, while few others, aware of this fact keeps in the darker corners of this universe feeding occasionally on the very light reflected by these ships.

006. From Body To Mental Art

Many artists throughout the 1970s felt a need to re-establish a link to the human body, a body that was seen then as the last remaining of a nature completely exploited by progress, the last stronghold of a much threatening colonization dictated by technology. Aside from the few super-star-celebrities rising from that period, like Marina Abramovic´, we may recall a less known artist, who is rather representative of that movement, now defined as Body Art. Gina Pane, the artist in question, conducted a series of performances where, under different premises, she wounded her body in order to re-awake the public senses. Her various actions of wounding her body were rather subtle and to some degree poetic, like inserting thorns into her forearms or going up a ladder with metal protrusions, this while bare feet.

We can here mention several other more or less renown instances of Body Art like the many courageous performances of Chris Burden, or other less bloody actions reviving not only the body of the artist but the very spirit of the viewers confronted with a big problematic, namely: “Why is an artist that should paint beautiful things end up doing this?”. Joseph Beyus, also prominent in many various performance acts in the 1970s, explained this as a need for a Sciamanic act in an over-rational society. However, a new trend coming out of the Body Art movement and probably of art itself, has arisen since the 1980s. As the stronghold of the body has also been invaded and phagocytized by the culture industry, this new trend is more identifiable as dealing with the exploitation of the mental, the psychological. As the latter part of the Body Art movement shows a certain tendency to introduce technology, augmenting the body as in the case of Stelarc with a third robotic arm, the 1980s shows examples of performances where the artist is no longer enduring physically but psychologically, he is no longer staging his performance in a galley but in his domestic environment, he is no longer performing for an hour, or a day but for years. Tehching Hsieh, the New York based Taiwanese artist, can be seen as the most emblematic representative of this shift, with his year-long performances which required much psychological endurance, such as confining himself in a cage. The artist then comes from a rather emancipated, Raskolnikov-like existence and in cases also begins to use the technical medium as the only way to document and thus testify such actions. One of the year-long performances of the Taiwanese artist consists in fact of photographing himself while punching a time clock every hour on the hour (again this for a whole year).

At last, in the 1990s, what has been for long anticipated throughout the 20th century by avant-garde movements such as Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism and Constructivism but also post-war movements such as the OULIPO and Neo-Realism, has come true. As also anticipated by scientist themselves such as Vanneaver Bush, the possibility of turning life into a complete work of art and/or vice-versa (following Oscar Wilde's logic) became an actual reality. Extending the consistent practices of artists like On Kawara and Roman Opalka, the computer revolution of the 1990s brought the possibility of extending the temporal and spatial boundaries of performative practices, practices meant to recuperate the human self with a technology which paradoxically distantiate this self even further. As art became more eliterian and concerned with its own prestige, thus less keen to any avant-garde "dirtying" experiments, the new possibility was explored by hybrid techno-humanists such as Erkki Kurenniemi and Steve Mann. These people were among the first ones to lay out the possibility of logging one's own life which became a rather spread phenomena throughout the beginning of year 2000 with the increasing availability of such recording and computing technology. At that time several have been the experiments to utilize the documenting medium as a way to create streams of reality whether of one self or its surroundings. This phenomena which has rarely being contextualized within the cultural realm, has actually created an alternative usage of media, from the fiction-based, pretentious and over-imposed mass media to a more factual and time-based and thus authentic and self-imposed personal media.

Such a cultural potential for this intimate documentation of the everyday has risen again a poetic nourishing from the local and the personal, a rather vital movement in times in which an urge for self-sustainability and de-corporazations is needed. As no dream can last, the very global corporations, disguised in friendly service-provider, has now recuperated their status of mass media producer by freely providing the tools to create such poetics. While before they were simply suggesting what we should do, now they are listening to what we want to do, directing us to an even more targeted product. As this silent coup d'etat has taken place, we may now analyze the different kinds of corporation-provided life-logging templates (e.g. Facebook) and compare them with those that are or were self-crafted. As the latter, overshadowed by the colonization of the media giants, have quasi-completely disappear from any public appearance, it is the aim of this research to provide them with an historical background and describe their cultural potential, such as envisioning a future audience of media archaeologists retrieving such culturally relevant human data.