The Media Gesture Of Data DandyismGeert Lovink
It is common knowledge that the city as a walled polis or society has
disintegrated and only comes to us as a touristic facade. Architecture theorist
Paul Virilio has described this development sufficiently. The 'mechanics' of the
city should be more than a description of infrastructures, more than
cybernetics. The metropolis is more than a unfolded map of points and lines. The
historic places with their local significance, intersected by circular traffic
systems, have no meaning to us anymore. The city has become our second skin.
Alienation is a self-evident condition humaine, without nostalgia for the stone
age or fascination for digitalism. Also, the metropolis is more than the supply
of subcultural hobby identities. Of course, the specular city can be consumed
and everything can assume characteristics of goods. We can surrender ourselves
to the fashion and hype, and draw the city as a trajectory of discotheques and
concert halls, squatted houses, book stores, graffiti, boutiques and record
shops, galleries, hashish coffee shops, festivals and street music. But to what
extent is 'consumerism' a sign of a subjectivity that no longer exists? Users
are no longer subjects (subjected to the plan), but rather projects, moving
around the data universe in a Brownian way. The 'mental nomadism' of Deleuze
& Guattari can also be understood (and criticized) in a consumptive way.
Cruising and shopping are no longer distinguishable. Even the 'Temporary
Autonomous Zones' (TAZ) of Hakim Bey can both be constructed in an active sense,
and be consumed free of any obligation.
When the city can no longer be conceived materially or systematically, but
can be seen as a mental space, the question is: By whom and how will sensory
experiences be shaped? How will the shapeless, the immaterial be shaped? It no
longer matters that we move permanently, until the 'furious standstill'
(Virilio). From now on, it is important how we move, how we inform ourselves,
whom we pass ourselves off as, which gesture (Flusser) we propagate and which
shape (Junger) we take. The parallel world of cyberspace will take on a liquid
architecture (Michael Benedikt). But the inhabitants will be as liquid as their
environment. They will therefore be occupied with both the design of shape and
One of the potential shapes is the digidandy. He matters because predecessor
from the 19th century had a special bond to the city, the masses and street
life. In this period of large scale conformism it is not done out of a longing
for the return of the (virtual) rebel or revolutionary, but in order to examine
how the system can be weakened and disrupted.
The digidandy only collects information to flaunt it, not to transfer it. He
is informed all too well, even excessively so. Specific questions prompt
undesired answers. The phenotype of the digidandy is confronted with the same
fear as his historic predecessor, whose stages were the street and the salon.
The elegant extravagance with which the most detailed information is displayed,
shocks the efficient media user. He mocks measured consumption and intake of
current news and amusement in dosages and doesn't worry about excess or overload
of specialistic knowledge. His carefully composed information portfolio shows no
constructive motivation. His zapping is not prompted by boredom, but by a
superior unwillingness to stay in touch with current events and the latest
The screen is the mirror in front of which he does his toilet. The
button/unbutton of the textile dandyism has found its successor in the channel
surfing of the on/off decadentia. He spends the majority of his computer time on
the dashing structure of his hard disk and the creation of refined connections
between thousands of heterogeneous software bibelots. The powerbook as an
ornament is the pride of many a salon digitalist. He jeers at actuality, hype
and fashion: for a moment, an I emerges, which is his own anchorman.
In the era of multi-media mass information there is no discernible difference
between uniformity and multiformity. Neither a grand overview nor the
explanatory detail can control the confusion of mind. In that light, the
digidandy proves what everybody already knows: that information is omnipresent,
but not freely available. Certain facts are very decorative and you have to
develop a good nose for that. In contrast to the data collector, the ditto dandy
is not concerned with the obsession of the complete file, but the accumulation
of as many immaterial ornaments as possible. While the otaku is an introvert and
never crosses the boundaries of his lone cultivations (Grassmuck), the digidandy
searches out the most extroverted news groups in order to launch his
unproductive contributions. Whatever the digidandy snatches to present elsewhere
would be latently of interest, if it were not that his presentation were so
indiscreet. His whimsical wit distracts from everyday items. The genius of his
bon mots lasts 30 seconds, after which they disappear from the screen . Our
dandy is a broker in gigo-ware. Your garbage is his make-up and his substance
What the street used to be to historical dandies like Brummell, Baudelaire
and Wilde, the Net is to the electronical one. Cruising along the data
boulevards cannot be prohibited and clogs the entire bandwidth in the end. The
all too civilised conversation during the rendezvous stirs up some misplaced and
inconvenient information, but never leads to dissidence. Willfully wrong
navigation and elegant joy riding in somebody else's electro-environment is
targeted to trigger admiration, jealousy and confusion, and self-assuredly heads
toward a stylized incomprehension. One fathoms the beauty of one's virtual
appearance; to the moral indignation and the amusement of the plugged-in
civilians. It is a natural quality of the carpet-knight to enjoy the shock of
the artificial. That is why he feels so much at home in cyberspace and with all
its attributes. Only, the scented water and the red stockings have been replaced
with the prestigious 'Intel', delicate datagloves, and butterfly goggles laid in
with rubies, and there are sensors in his eyebrows and nostrils.
Down with the boorish NASA aesthetics of the cybernauts! We have long since
passed the stage of pioneering. What matters now is the grace of the media
Geert Lovink is a writer and journalist living and working in
Amsterdam. He is a member of the editorial board of CTHEORY, and has written
extensively on nomadism and digital culture.
Agentur Bilwet, Medien-Archiv, Bensheim 1993.
Adilkno, Cracking the Movement, Squatting beyond the Media, New
Adilkno, The Longest Bridge, a touristic essay, Sonsbeek 93,
Hakim Bey, TAZ, New York 1993.
Volker Grassmuck, Otaku, Mediamatic 5#4.
Geert Lovink, Hoer zu oder Stirb, Berlin 1992.
(The above is an excerpt from a larger work entitled The Art of Being
Informed, and is also part of Dictionary of Art &
Technology, published by the InterCommunication Center (ICC) in Tokyo.
This dictionary will also be a database, called ICC Matrix.)
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