Losing Hope. Finding Europe. – Utopian Negation Reconsidered

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Losing Hope. Finding Europe. – Utopian Negation Reconsidered
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@NeinQuarterly, the "Compendium of Utopian Negation" that I began on Twitter a few years ago, began as a joke. And, I hope, has remained one. Yet my experience producing this odd little daily feed of playfully nihilistic jokes and aphorisms has also taught me a great deal that I've often found myself struggling to think through.
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so that this is the kind of
in the and
below can you hear me 9 0 OK perfect the that's nice he was we the people a tweet the word 1980 uh every day for the last 3 years I received at least 1 tweet that is if we said 9 uh so as far as I'm concerned my my work is done but had thank you very
much for coming thank you very much for having me here and I have to say I'm especially grateful that you had
me and especially for the advertising publicity work you've been doing because some of my visits have been met with some controversy uh at
times but if I know the Republic
as this is not afraid of a little controversy on on on occasion and but I would also think Republic of a making me a media partner along with a couple of local blogs I believe and yeah the I've heard of the thoughts and but also I want to thank my own media partners as well as
the bids items and thank you thank you very much for the word for that the
answers if a lot some of the other thing that's important to me I wasn't really sure if I was really the right person to speak to you at all and I spent a lot of time on the internet but I don't know much about the Internet and but maybe that makes the not such a bad person that to speak to you in some ways and you know what you're talking about and I'm thinking you might help me explain or understand what it is that I've been doing for the last few years and but I was so some hesitation decided come but when I heard that your brain speaker I couldn't be here I I I felt it was my duty to invite my friends Asher noble and have all joking aside uh I want to thank the such a personally myself he's the only reason I had ever heard about the republic and and he's also someone who may be interested in the whole topic of the politics of the internet something very little about and I think many of you remember that this article that such a road a little over a year ago uh which I know that many found quite disappointing but as far as I was concerned that was exactly the way you should feel about the internet right now as disappointed there's a great German word for disappointments of ends toys shown in a toy shown is a uh how to translate a delusion of such sorts right ends is the removal of something so if you're no longer diluted this is a good thing stay disappointed in in in a very special German way of being disappointed um In any case as I was around this time that such a wrote that and that much of the NSA news of course that had broken already was still breaking uh 1 of the more recent events at the time was the revelation that the US embassy in Berlin was about what the main uh listening posts uh for American intelligence services um which was interesting for me and it brought about an interesting imitation uh as well as from some of the State Department and which which gave me a very interesting opportunity to think about this white personally about
how it is that I position myself these of the uh the NSA vis-a-vis the US government etc. and so I did with any true patriot would do after receiving such a request and I wrote about it in
the comfort arguments item um but I did it in all fairness services very careful 0 you can read it that the course that I was very very careful about the details and quoted quite faithfully Zeller Germans love you and thank you very much for that of but from but for me it
was a very interesting time it did did did leave its mark on the paper for for some time to come and that thing is a
course leading as our most things uh which brings me to what is I'm hoping you talk about which is a a little something called utopia it and how 1 might get there
and if you'd ever actually want to get that as the as the other question and because for me the I
thought I had the perfect answer for you in terms of explaining this in uh as as as as many you might have found if you follow my feet uh tweets have a tendency to disappear and the somewhat ephemeral
so I had to give some thought to this myself recently and I thought about it and I that kept thinking about it and I became somewhat
reflective about my time in this my time in this city I started become
reflective about the time of year and about this special yeah that special thing in the year in spring in Germany I start to
think about life itself are there some Sugata in the audience if but honestly I did actually think a bit about my own
experience in Europe I was gonna say something about Europe and I and I look back and I remembered my my my my days as a as a young man visiting the Laurel life of all things enjoying Europe naively naively enjoying Europe very casually adopting the German identity without any problem whatsoever that spending time in the
Netherlands and the riding my bike around enjoying the local cuisine things start to change when I made
a couple of friends in Berlin so you might recognize these still and of course
there is that fateful trip the prox you never quite the same after prolog and reading Kafka by
my own experience of Europe was actually very much on my time living with the German family as this is exodus last summer my my hosts mother's birthday and this is actually just like for incidentally as a birthday presents a map of Europe with uh places marked where they had visited with uh be no less than 3 American exchange students they so I don't know who gives up the bond is spreading these toits uh these days but I would like to put in a good word for my family a castle but what I am
when we talk about today is this idea of yeah utopian negation as it relates to Europe and as a relates to my own little Internet project and I try to define it in 1 way or another and but either of it every quite does a justice as much as to say that um what I'm interested in
is this word 9 saying no to that any number of things but not simply for the sake of saying no to something and but
saying no to something as a refusal to accept something and yet at the same time not exactly knowing what it is I might want instead and and that I think is very much the position that many of us find yourselves in today especially dealing with some of the main topics and that there have been discussed the last couple days of Republic of the but there than early phases of my work in which I wasn't so convinced of this
idea there even some rather painful periods that are hard to revisit there was even there is
even that the period of for a while and the Dutch periods
but it's there was a cost the inevitable
drug phase uh candle bidders success uh there was then of course uh the cubist
phase In the I've been ripped off
by Microsoft faced there is the
radically Nile is phase and of course there
was the idea so my book in a fucking country space yeah that is 1 of the strangest images size as I've I've ever had ever be held and but
let's let's return to the roots a little bit um that avatars basic courses many of you have had no on the german jewish philosopher terribly Adorno as someone whose work I spend a great deal of time with my old job as a professor and I've tried very much to
uh think about how relevant Adorno's still is in a very uh cut a broad sense and and his work is taken on its own life and what is that I do have an effect is become much more like as uh a voice that's closer to my own than that of of of any particular person Adorno included and but in what I'm doing I've tried very hard
to think about the ideas that are still very current uh in Adorno's work many of your course familiar with notions of Negative Dialectics or the culture industry even if you haven't read the donors work these things have entered the vocabulary in such a way that the was unavoidable so I try it in what I do to honor of the the spirit to honor the spirit of Adorno's work I don't like to do it anyway cheap its uh say by suggesting that the daughter still life living in Chicago and driving a Chevy Malibu convertible and please note the American flag and on on the left and but I've tried very hard to to honor Adorno
I would not want to in any way cheaper nor commodified uh the work the ideas the thought of such it uh oppression critic of commodification and nor would I and everyone to betray the legacy of their critique of capitalism nor would I Norway 1 to violate an esthetic sense of a thinker who was so so uh trenchant in his critique of esthetics in the connection to to politics and I also unwanted for the
German cultural tradition as a whole then and I and I would not in
any way want to reduce some of the greatest masterpieces of European cultures speaking of Europe to achieve joke or to achieve
political punch line and yeah and sometimes I feel bad about about the effect my workers had I apologize to any museum goers that day but I know that no matter what it is that I've done with culture and with Europe the Internet will always know little bit farther just a little bit farther than than I'll myself the so what what Adorno think
about this yeah at the Internet itself has an answer believe it or
not which is disappointing in its way uh I am happy at least to have
found offender to primarily in
Slovenia and philosophical community as some of you will recognize Joseph Stalin it as of
fear that it kind of is uh so what is it what is that I do have a y highlight like to read some sort of a uh higher tone word type of position or attitude that I think somehow in enacts and this
notion of of utopian negation and uh I think to talk about that it's important to remember a few basic definitions of comedy this 1 ingenious but not
my own company's tragedy was times I you probably need no reminder but of course Twitter comedy tragedy plus time minus time and the what to be no mistake german Twitter comedy or tragedy plus time Mei's time mice coming + part
jokes uh plus or minus legal so so you can take that home now and do it I do every day but with much better at so the thing is important a project like miners have realistic Goals and they know that there really isn't that much you can accomplish by writing a few jokes online but but still there
ways in which you can address an entire an entire philosophical tradition in a very they're very precise and and somehow uh quite quite quite effective way and it's also very helpful in terms of some vocabulary that many might not have gained yet it's a very good way to impart a greater and Alexa can't answer those who are learning German as a foreign language and so tried also of course to communicate something about a German Levon's diffuse if you will a certain just way of life that I
think many of us have become quite familiar with that in the present but the other thing that's important of course is to think about these terms that have been all around republic of the last days politics politique the layout politique nets politique and I've done my best to explain them but of course what is the Internet most interested in the Internet is still most interested in everyday culture but also as a more traditional cultural aspects as well as sometimes you're faced with the task of explaining that the German Santa Claus and if you're if
you're a good boy and you reveal all the secrets letters must have you'll be visited in Moscow is a lovely tradition and I I do my best I do my best to to explain that as as much as I
can but also deliver myself to Germany I know I'm interested in Europe that so we're talking with the kind of Europe that's being treated that in this particular format in this particular way and and an effort really to to address many common misperceptions about politics over
about at any number of of aspects that are related to
that 1 just walk by too fast recall and walking into a box and but also it's important to contextualize
European news for for the broader world as well you're really not sure what to make of these things if you don't have a somewhat larger context and
so I've tried also to keep up in many ways with Germany's in particular many attempts at multiculturalism and multilingualism you will remember this this this issue of the day on um but I
also do try to get to the root of some of the some of the key problems facing the continent today
um and especially to address questions of law making and legal tradition as well as of course scientific discovery and innovation that's become so important to Europe
and and of course also very important to address some of Europe's finest traditions and I do the best the best I can to do that without
without short-changing Europe Europeans with some explanation of the world that I know uh in the United States and so I try there as well to address any number of
aspects that must be quite confusing and to Europeans about the United States in our political culture for 1
thing and and I also try to address current controversies revelations uh uh with a nice Ramstein reference for the kids I think garishness spilled comes things that but the other thing and
born of course is to address tensions that are with us right now if if there's the
FIL 3 of drones and he hot if it's at the end but trying to to to address the what I
would consider defining tensions and in being so foolish as to take on the task of of giving might myself the topic of the of the entire people because I found rather quickly that this question of of finding Europe is really very little has riddled with finding Europe has much more do with inventing Europe were
fighting for a certain type of Europe that you want and and there's a type of Europe that I want you to half and and that would that's why it's very important for me to think about the discussions that are taking place here and will continue to take take place and will also the action that comes out of an event like this so the other thing that of course is important is to give some idea of the scope of current current events current struggles current problems within the global context and but also there in making the jump fit into print that I've done somewhat recently also to address some of these questions of the
US German relations but also uh tensions within Europe itself in terms of economic problems economic troubles and I've certainly address the question to very recently of migration immigration and asylum etc. and and tried also In a way to speak to 2 problems that are by no means European
alone and but in fact uh are every much world problems although there often like quite seen that when United States and and so certainly was recently
I've had much more to do with question serve the I think that's the only 1 of those of ever like so I kind of liked that 1 only because I could use that title uh that that that injury and but I know there are a
lot of ideas out there about defining Europe this is from burly monster who also treated our friend and session noble um but who's been helping to channel a in many ways about what kind of Europe could come about how it might come about and what kind of struggle is involved
and so I've tried myself to think a bit about how I might define Europe and anaphora in terms of esthetics
of thought about it in terms of economics and an economics and technology as much as I can the but
of course also talk thought about it as well in terms of of the questions of international relations um and and broader networks of of of power and but also very much again defining tensions internationally but also within within Europe itself um and again within a larger intellectual framework as well as been been important in terms of positioning whatever it is that Europe is now and is on its way to becoming so what is it
that I had to show for this and there's no mass movement uh that's that's going come about overnights by any
means but very little influence in politics in the United States and I'm sad to report and also very little
impact in Europe itself and although although there have been some some efforts made on occasion
but but there have been small rewards along the way small moments
of of recognition of shaping shaping the use of uh of the United States for instance this is my uh my nephew who will be paying some some rather intense uh therapist bills in the future but every now and then even out of the
blue and message in a bottle shows up on paper and from Europe and which which is to be and then these moments that I consider quality utopian
uh along the way of very every day stink anomalous Utopia's of some sort so I wanna leave from a time for for conversation but I'll end of East with with with a couple of words and there's a lot of sense that I've got on these that's been reported recently about people's sense of frustration in dealing with the
politics of the Internet and and certainly I think this is something that you should not necessarily shy away from but embrace this is something that I find major problem uniquely qualified to deal with uh a
European cultures that really should not become any more American when it comes to dealing with disappointment and bitterness and and regret you been trained in many
ways to live with such disappointment in a way that they could be quite productive for all of us and and I'm hoping that in many ways you you'll
take the opportunity of being disappointed to hope again in some rather different way but at type of Idaho but I think you'll
find in many ways there is a discussion it's happening all over the place now on Twitter on the internet which in fact takes aspects such as the recent
blocking of of Twitter Google in center and in Turkey is becoming an opportunity for a very
lively discussion online and there are also very good signs to in terms of European connections that are being made that we might not have expected the bikers ever arrive at that story gonna die before a before I found out if if if they made a you but
there are other small steps that you yourself can make in terms of dealing with some of these these problems so I don't want you to feel helpless they're deathly
things that can be done but for now I'll simply wish to the very the nicest walking wanted on like and thank you for your attention and look forward to your questions and thank you very much few so all any questions please raise your hands like don't we ask myself the
question know all we have all yeah go and so in your Tweets you often play with the German language to think it's a easier for you because you're not the German native speaker
as was the 1st guy lectures in your your your playing with the German language evolves in your Tweets and do you think that it is easier for you because you are have a certain distance to the German language because it's not your native language but yeah I think so I mean it's
it's a kind of interest because in my old job as a by the German professor I was never quite good enough with the languages started relate to have an accent I'm a grammar errors all these things and I always feel extremely insecure about that but in fact what is with 4 what is that I'm doing now it can be an advantage to have a distance for the language you recognize things that you would not if the languages that natural to use so so yes so I do the it does lead to some very bad puns however that 1 might have better judgment about if 1 were a native speaker of the language of any more questions please all we are look will minimize guidance in the kind a cover letter and put them as well as and I'm sorry for sitting in the back on I had a lot of fun and yeah talk but I didn't quite get semester she wanted to get and did did you wanna your again this
year out uh in 140 characters please that'd probably better at doing than than that and summarizing here well this is that the thing and the message that I've had is really 1 of of of a type of encouragement I suppose and in that what I've seen and I can really talk about the Internet or talk about Europe from this tiny little perspective of 1 particular project that had been involved in but what I've seen I wasn't someone who spent much time online at all in the past before this time but what I have seen is the potential for a certain type of that community come back out that I've seen done some very generous and very interesting and very innovative things and as a result of people liking is stupid Hagel joke of people liking a a bad pollen and that to me has been really interesting and because I think primarily what what I've what I found is that there are people who have come together there's a type of community that's formed that would not have if essentially there wasn't the form there wasn't the kind of of playful aspects of of what it is that I'm doing and then I'd say what I've tried to do this is give you some taste of what that looks like right and but also to ask you you to way to consider if that isn't maybe uh important element to to keep in mind in terms of facing the kind of struggles that you're facing right now and the the message that I've been getting at both from from what I've seen of of Republika last year in the Stream and what I've seen this time around as well is that that these are extremely difficult issues in terms of the questions of net neutrality is a terrible term and but extremely important issue and certainly the questions of surveillance and but also uh these questions as well that have very little to do with with with governments per say a much more to do with a private industry and what what it what a company knows about you have the how and in
fact the data that is that is collected can have a extremely significant aspect as soon as significant an
impact on on your life in a way that we might be more used to thinking about uh within the context of the state and but actually uh what what I think is 1 the being issues right now and in United States at least is very much the question of agglomeration of data with in a commercial context so for me and primarily the that the point that that I've had at any is that of this is a long struggle it's going to take a lot of energy and for a long time in a lot of organizing and while these are serious issues you need to keep in mind is well what is it that can keep you going what is it also that can speak to an audience of people who doesn't necessarily have the same investment in some these issues that they might have that investment the internet might be just as important to them but they don't know it right and and to me the the project that I've had on online has been marked largely 1 of translating what I consider important issues into a language that works on Twitter or that works for an audience that isn't necessarily already interested in these topics and and so if anything that the message is that of don't forget house to communicate as some these issues and how to connect with people about about the issues that matter and you'll have to fight for for some time but um that's that's that's uninspiring have to say that is the way it is I mean you know that these I mean from what i've gathered in the talks about you so far but we're not talking about a very sexy struggle when you're dealing with EU politics and these are things that are drooling and an extremely detailed from what I gather and these are the things are also hard communicate and so some of the things that I've seen online be very effective
and have been in things like nets quality can use more humor and a lot of the message that they're that they're communicating by you can question how what kind impacts that have how effective is it but I do think that that's significant in terms of that initial connection with someone that in fact maybe there is something and that's at stake for me as well in these issues that will be the computer Internet expert since you know something about some the question OK 1 more question no think mode of went the belt to give I'd like you to wound yes it is thinking in the like to ask how what
show you or carrying academic influence your acoustic respect and somehow while world I you decided to go from a very clause environment towards off opt out why there uh arms yes perspective like that 1 provided by you by the Met headed I decide to to to make that step yes I was asking how large your academic experience influence you heuristic perspective but I would say for me this that was a very high because I didn't have
a choice and I was feeling at at what it is that I was doing which was I couldn't find a language within my academic work that meant anything to me anymore I actually had had
difficulty in trying to write academic prose and that I found that I was just reversing the same cliches time after time and so what is that appealed to me is in fact that
language is still present for me somehow right but what I'm mainly interested in doing these things that yes the dumb the dumb little jokes but they're trying to work with the language that's out there and that that I can work with in a very different way and that I think is and is trying to recontextualize that philosophical ideas but also trying to recontextualize some language that you might know within the context of politics or marketing of whatever happens to be and to do something different with they have a different form of recognition and of in fact these these ways of thought and structures of power that with this every day uh although they're not terribly uh and uh obvious to a set at all times so I would say it's always there and what is that I like about doing what I'm doing is in fact the opportunity to take that apart and do something else with so 1 more question moved up here we so hello so these truckers on things like net neutrality
and on on all partly from the
wall on works so I think of new speak is a thing you place or a big role in this so it's toward the government and people of fight about wrote so just descriptions and can you help them invent new roads I'd I'd be happy to help and this
is a conversation I had with people in the last couple of days is what other what other words out there for 4 that's . in spite of all right and I've that is challenging and I think it's extremely difficult and um I've learned about some interesting resources that are out there were that attempt is being made at on that there's an easy answer that but actually that's quite crucial I mean it might sound like a really surface kind of marketing and PR kind of question but it's actually central to to organizing broader support for any number these issues and I think it's very hard to get behind a concept of neutrality that is not of that is not something you imagine as a glorious struggle behind the the notion of neutrality no matter what happens to be that the associations with that for instance and so I think that's a key problem and and I don't have any easy answers for that I mean you see that for me it's been about trying to somehow take those terms and do something with them re-contextualizing somehow but um reinventing them in establishing and is a whole other task in a difficult 1 but I think it's 1 that has to be taken on a question about it divide the flag over here in the thought hello and in some of the tweets Europe quite critical about Europe as well so maybe you can just see 1 or 2 sentences about your perspective on Europe and
maybe we can find Europe slogan is yet have I guess for me it's a question of assign a matter of finding anything I mean it's very much a question of of creating inventing in the Europe that you're going to
have 1 to having to struggle and it's interesting just and uh yesterday in uh uses was the New York Times this was about Germany in particular question about and New Canaan Conn Time Friedman about them for surely doing so many things right but it has to finally become serious as a global player out essentially means uh and coming to terms with its uh with its global power and especially in terms of military cetera and that this antiquated pacifism etc. etc. these discussions are taking place at all different levels and but I think that it's it's primarily uh what I've been noticing a last days is that these questions about and they're very specific issues but in the and if you use the term internet community and are in fact that seems to be more more European issues stemming from some other the talks that I've heard and I were talking about policies that are coming from Brussels within the context of EU this actually means some sort of investment re-engaged reinvigorated investment in whatever that EU project hits and despite the fact that again speaking prose of language and that that's very very tricky and in my sense is that it's very hard for people to engage with the number of these these issues and EU policy that essential to their wives but seems so very far removed and to me I think that that much of the work of organizing for creating the kind of Europe that you want is going to be focused on a finding a way to translate and the complexities of these things take on uh within that context into into uh well into a language that people can understand and understand what's at stake and I would I would think that's part of the main legacy of my time in academia is in fact that was always the question might be writing a paper about about about a uh a playful 18th century that very few people know and yet you had to identify what is at stake in the why does it matter to read that and what is the argument you gonna make about that and how can you actually make the case that this is worth paying attention to and if anything that is the world that I'm coming from and the challenge that I found in it and I think that translates into any number of the issues that people been talking like you've lost couple days and so that's a very broad answer but that's that's the level which I'm operating on in in terms of questions Eric figure much your calls please thanks I you