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Leonardo Reviews 231 point out cultural counter-strategies that would in particular enable the artist —more precisely, the artist who deliberately works like an “amateur” and strategically operates in the Net like a partisan (that is, anonymously and in small groups)—to uphold a diasporan standpoint towards communication structures that, in principle, govern global community and expert cultures. These two phenomena, globalization and expert systems, are two sides of the same coin, as the book, in agreement with recent social and cultural theory, tells us. While netculture provides a striking example of global communication , Cubitt explains that it not only requires a universal language system, but fundamentally relies upon the subordination of knowledge to power so that we have to face a “fully administrable knowledge world: the expert system” (p. 12). Where the author clearly names the cultural and technological preconditions that allow individuals to access global communication, his argumentation points out that, even in the early days of public reading and libraries , access to knowledge has always been the object of colonializing and universalizing forces. The sociologist Richard Sennett, in his recent study of the “corrosion of character,” talks about the resulting effects of this trend. Both Cubitt and Sennett, in their analyses of shifting power structures, conclude that the interrelation between the global scale and the emergence of a new type of expert result in the same effects that most efficiently maintain the expansion of global capitalism. What Sennett calls the “paradox of flexibility,” which means that specialization has itself become a flexible category and goes hand in hand with the “concentration without centralization of power,” finds a parallel in Cubitt’s diagnosis of universalization where “coherence is a mark of the corporate” (p. 151). Consequently, Cubitt’s critical reading of the effects of “globalization” is closely connected to the question of how alternative practices of “digital aesthetics ” would offer us ways of disturbing , disrupting and opposing the coherence on a global scale. Digital Aesthetics approaches this task in five different stages. The first chapter points out the subversive powers of the private, more precisely the “intimate reading” against the ordering of knowledge—first in library systems and later in computer icons. Cubitt explains with great lucidity how the connected history of the two “modes of reading” would later result in interwoven spheres that are inherited in universal Net languages. What becomes clear is that in fact the political questions of subversion, opposition and utopianism have only slightly changed today, but what has changed is the dimensionality. In the second chapter, Cubitt discusses the issue of realism as inscribed into the use of maps, and then defines the map as “the art form of realism” in contrast to the perspective projection, which he sees “as pure special effect” (p. 78). Consequently, on the one hand the map becomes the bearer of the realistic principle and forms the paradigm of universal knowledge through the accuracy of cartography (in particular, when the map represents the territory 1:1). But on the other hand, as Cubitt argues in the following chapter on “Spatial Effects,” the special effects that occur in perspective and cinema are basically “spatial effects” and as such they become part of the “history of flow” and point towards the transgression of fixity in the “endless dataspace.” It is in this context that the centrality of the film medium is explained, along with the shifting function of space. Starting from the assumption that, according to Christian Metz, “all cinema is special effect,” Cubitt refers to Vivan Sobchack’s argument that sciencefiction film constitutes the paradigm of cinematic space that encompasses the setting of an outside and the “other” as well as the transgression of frontier. As Sobchack says, where space is the final frontier, it is in particular the computer -modeled dataspace that pushes the (mobile) frontier even further. And finally, when space becomes openended , the challenge of the artist is to “meander” through space, a space that is always “foreign” and cannot be fully colonized. Surely this is the point, where Cubitt identifies the utopian quality of “digital aesthetics.” It is in the meanderings of dialogue where he sees the chance for “diasporan cultures” to escape universalized languages...


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pp. 231-232
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