- Logging in and Getting Off: Login, Labor, Literature, and the Subject of the Net
Let me cite: in a posthumous fragment, Sigmund Freud writes, “Psyche is extended; knows nothing about it” (1964, 300).
Let me state: I write away, as in wear away, one drifting piece of our inconceivable inhabitation of the Net. Writing away through myself and towards myself and in lieu of myself. Writing as weapon and spew and nothing.
Let me ask: how many times a day do you do it? Once, twice, seven, eighteen, fifty…. Are your hands tired; your fingers calloused; are you out of breath? We all do it. It is, at the least, a shared experience, more or less habitual, our fingers finding the way automatically. What is it? I am writing on the (k)not of logging the subject of the Net.
Let me admit: we all do it, and yet it is hard to describe. What is logon like? It is difficult to find analogies or remediations from other media forms. For example, if logon seems similar to the signature, to the inscription and circulation of proper names, say in publication or in an accounting book, it differs because I inhabit logon. I am told: “You must be logged in to do that.” I not only represent myself online but act through logon. Is “represent” even adequate here? Can we think logon in terms of a singular and situated subject who logs onto the network, the subject who is “over here” and who logs onto the network “over there”? Logon is not simple. Is it not a science fiction scenario of being elsewhere, loaded onto the computer? We must acknowledge its fundamental oddness. You may set the machine to log in automatically, say on powering the system up, and you may setup to log out automatically. You may also physically log out, by turning off the machine, which differs from the protocol of logging out of an account.
You can also be logged on but not there. You can log in and go away for coffee or go to sleep. You may also log on with several accounts, split yourself across the net.
It is a question of who or what logs on, or is logged on? Am I logged on? Yes, I am logged on. No, it logs on, it is logged on.
Let me propose three formulas about logon. Number three, as follows: [End Page 143] “log in me more than me.”1 Or as Freud quotes a patient, “It shot through me…. There was something in me at that moment that was stronger than me” (1969, 16). To log on is to mark your occupation of an otherness that always already haunts your imaginary.
To arrive at the second formula on logon, I differentiate log on (two words) as the action or verb, from logon (one word) as the state or the modality of being online. The action requires a story of logon, a narrative and an accounting—and it comes down to accounting—of the labor of logon. Logon is necessary because of accountancy. You logon and begin spending resources. The differential between logon and off is a condition of capitalization. The meter is running as you surf the Net, even if do not notice it. With this in mind, the formula echoes Neuromancer-style: “logon as jack in and jack off.” The labor of logon is a matter of putting to work excessive affect and surplus pleasure, of mobilizing body parts on the interface, of the productivity of organs and fluids that are donated to but never delivered to the Net.
Still ahead of myself. Formula one: “logon is part of writing my self into the Net.” This first formulaic statement makes logon a project of being and presence on the Net, of construal and working through the Net’s otherness, where the Net is “always on,” as defined in RFC 1, the very first of the Internet “Requests for Communication” that set out the protocols and administrations of the Internet.2 All that the Net nets is smoothed and hardened and purified. You login to a UNIX system and the shell executes...