The Multimedia Polity

The Four Networks
“The first network (of music) is that of sacrificial ritual…It is the distributive network for all of the orders, myths, and religious, social or economic relations of symbolic societies.
A new network of music emerges with representation … this network characterizes competitive capitalism, the primitive mode of capitalism.
The third network, that of repetition, appears at the end of the 19th century with the advent of recording… In this network, each spectator has a solitary relation with a material object. the consumption of music (media) is individualized; a simulacrum of ritual sacrifice, a blind spectacle… (This) new network first appears in music as the herald of a new age in the organization of capitalism, that of repetitive mass production of all social relations.
Finally we can envision one last network, beyond exchange, in which music could be lived as composition. In other words, in which it would be performed for the musician’s own enjoyment, a self-communication, with no other goal than his own pleasure, as something fundamentally outside all communication, as self-transcendence, a solitary, egotistical, non-commercial act.”
Jacques Attali
Noise: The Political Economy of Music
University of Minneapolis Press, 1985

“In fact, music may be the polity of the future.”
William Irwin Thompson
Gaia: A Way of Knowing
ed. W.I. Thompson
Inner Tradition/Lindisfarne Press, 1987
polity: (pól´í-të) -n. pl.-ties 1. The form of government of a nation, state, church, or organization. 2. An organized society, such as a nation, having one specific form of government. [OFr. politie < Lat. politia, government. -see police. ]
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The Multimedia Polity
by Rich Thoma and Joe Raimondo
(c) 1993 Rich Thoma and Joe Raimondo

Jacques Attali's vision of spontaneous, interactive, auto-composition, borne on media for conducting live facilitation of group work and performance , and the ability to interact flexibly with multimedia artifacts becomes more of a reality each day. An organic synthesis of new participatory groupings and spaces is drawing together. They are about to come alive anew, as efforts in media development slowly but inexorably reorient from a lumbering, large-scale orientation, to building in a cross-hatch weave of interfaces, transports, processors, and personalities.
Developments in television transport media using both coaxial cable and cellular transmission media will soon be able to deliver some 1500 conventional channels, all of which can be broken off and processed by a receiving CPU. In addition, the data coming in can easily be packetized and transported using standard data communication technologies. This means two things: you'll want to get some sort of cellular reception device and have it run live through a media CPU. Cellular internetworking will quickly bring high bandwidth — but so will conventional cable. Coax easily accommodates enough data to run a mix of media, and could be used to bring in all data and voice traffic that an average home/performance space/work pod would use — the fiber protocol over copper standard (CDDI) is at 100Mbps — and is pushing outward. Heavy duty video traffic remains strictly the realm of broadcast — which is in a new infancy with the hot cellular cable developments — or of fibre optics. And it's certain that fiber optics promises something genuinely special — as it pushes the 10Gbps envelope it approaches Nicholas Negroponte's dream throughput of 45Gbps — for sending live holograms. Now stir in personal VSAT units and you're ready for complete location independent multimedia production.
Overlooked until recently, plastics for fiber optics will pulling super high bandwidth through a local space — and do so relatively cheaply. Developed for and used effectively in high-end audio, it is a juicy technology just waiting for somebody to run something hot enough to use it into their space.
New compression devices that run as co-processors on standard PC buses likewise add more bang for the buck. A cable interface could mitigate local mass storage demand. It is now feasible to look at building a "media server" from standard parts to pull all of your voice and data off the physical medium and then distribute it. A communications server would pull off all data transfer from switched 56Kbps service, fast, high compression supportive V.FAST modems, as well as switching all data network traffic from media receivers.
Of course all of this hardware is useless without the software to run it. This is where the political shift occurs: as people get more tightly interconnected in potential (through all of this media), the building of new coalitions and partnerships can occur. The agent here is interactive software that uses the model developed through study of meetings. Now, loose amalgamations of people can stay in their home, and conduct community work in a virtual setting as they also manage their other concerns. The work product of their concern/amenity is then captured in whatever feasible medium — text and smart-text now — but voice and video in the near future. This will allow groups to cook ideas quickly and serve them in easily digested media formats.
A key departure point for participating in a multimedia society is to get past the single CPU bottleneck. Business computing teaches us that distributed, specialized processing is the key to media processing synergy. Networks of CPUs dedicated to Media (as mentioned), communications, messaging, and filing, along with a portable Home client/agent development CPU that acts as primary interface with the other server components. Once you see yourself working on a peer network of specialized server appliances — all overseen with a single portable, next-to-edible processor — then you will be suitably fitted for participation in musical (creative) activity and thereby in political-social activity anywhere on the globe.
These tools spark a vision of multiple community-based work projects that can avail themselves of the set of exchange media that will arise to capture value in a more subjective and personal way than our present hierarchical money system. The focus of computer technology development is shifting away from serving the needs of active tasking in corporate industrial settings to supporting a mixed activity pattern typical of most people in the world. Once people orient themselves around information utilities that expand their ability to carry out structured and semi-structured interactions, then we will be able to transition from our dependency on the now-outmoded industrial production hierarchy.
This is buttressed by Marshall Rose's vision of a true multimedia global Internet and of Dave Hughes' seminal vision of on-line polity — now attenuated with multimedia. While the road to realizing this vision is fraught with potholes laid down by make-work-mentality public utilities, the focus for those interested in interacting in this new society must be on the immediate availability of mid-priced solutions for adding this kind of throughput now. Stay away from the temptation of focusing too soon on the commoditization of network components at the sacrifice of their quality and usefulness — which seems to be the big boys' plan.
Picture This
Visualize simultaneous salons in Seattle, Edinburgh, and Antananarivo, Madagascar. Each group being facilitated using the same conversational model, and each connected via television, stereo audio, high-speed data representing analog transmission to be de-coded on scene, and with packetized Ethernet data pushing TCP/IP transmission. Data goes through a communications server to which are attached several peer networked workstations. Each workstation runs an application that guides the meeting and allows input, and has windows with Newsnet feeds and other Internet searches relevant to the present virtual amalgamation. Media goes through a server running a virtual control panel for digital media throughput .
Each person has prepared for this more formal face-to-face multimedia event after having worked through their own auto-facilitated event-scenario process — a process of navigating multimedia repositories, opening relevant pieces, annotating them, and having the relevant information back indexed and then fed into a context-relevant knowledge base that they will activate at the meeting. This process could be driven by music selections or other virtual visual cues, and could be integrated into other related knowledge search activity. Once situated in the meeting the person has the opportunity to link their own personally realized event scenario into the common group experience processing.
Picture still — modern dancers in similarly far-flung sites interactively viewing multiple video-based views of a piece — a piece designed for interactive performance wherever and with whomever cares to download it. All of these activities could be facilitated by a personal-taste-schooled knowbot that has accompanied you all the while you are decorating your digital garden. Indeed the gardening metaphor rings most completely here — the giving birth of new pattern from pattern primitives.
And beyond digital realization, opportunities for analog interaction — glove and sensor telemetry, et. al. — could easily come bundled with this conglomeration of digital media. Indeed the analog transmission component represents the final frontier, as the full impact of the analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog becomes better understood — in terms of loss and attenuation — this is a place for fractal-dimensional compression to junp in.
In the end, the opportunity is for global use of personal media development environments that guide you interactively through interest areas and which provide the necessary tools (and mentoring on-line) to suitably manipulate the medium at hand. This will then be encapsulated into a tag-along super-set of interests that will allow you to plug into both expressive and productive affiliation. This constant process of tuning and pruning will be guided by a personally chosen media mixture: a virtual Chinese restaurant menu for the brain for channeling desire and intention rather than scarcity of choice, with time-consuming, arduous acquisition. If thought is a gleaning and construction, let us inference through ubiquitous choice.

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