Virtual Reality is the dream of pure telematic experience. Beginning in the cybernetic shadowland of head-mounted scanners, wired gloves, and data suits, virtual reality has quickly become the electronic horizon of the twenty-first century. A cold world where bodies get prepped for downloading into data, where seeing means artificial optics, where hearing is listening to the high-speed world of sampler culture, where travelling becomes a nomadic journey across the MUD (Multiple User Dungeons), and where communication disappears into the high-speed fibre "backbone" of the Internet. In virtual reality, flesh vaporizes into virtuality as (twentieth-) century bodies are repackaged with (twenty-first-) century cybernetic nervous systems for speeding across the electronic frontier.
The gigantic nova of technotopia pulses with such brilliant energy beca use western society is in the terminal phase of a slow, but nonetheless fatal, fade-out. A prolonged evacuation of the energies of the social where the biological organism flips into the electronic body, and where the cult of the "wired" is the ruling rhetoric of all the technological fetishists.
The wired body is perfect. Travelling like an electronic nomad through the circulatory flows of the mediascape, it possesses only the virtual biological form of a multi-layered scanner image. Abandoning the heavy referential history of a central nervous system, the wired body actually grows a telematic nervous system that is freely distributed across the electronic mirror of the Internet. A product of neural tapping and image-processing, the wired body is the (technoid) life-form that finally cracks its way out of the dead shell of human culture.
Technotopia is about disappearances: the vanishing of the body (into a relational data base), the nervous system into "distributive processing," and the skin into wetware. As technology comes alive as a distinctive species, we finally encounter the end of (human) history and the beginning of virtual history. A waiting time of growing bodies for endless circulation through all the synapses and gateways of the data networks. A euphoric space where subjectivity drains away into televisual memories, and desire is recombined into a vertiginous matrix of doubled possibilities. Virtual reality skin-grafts the logic of the ambivalent sign onto the "standing reserve" of the social. Here the delirium of the recline of western civilization is experienced as both the ecstasy of crash culture and the catastrophe of our burn-out in digital culture.
Scanning the Media-Net
Taking virtual reality as the (ir)real world of the electronic frontier, Data Trash operates like a deep space galactic explorer. Approaching the media-net with long-distance (theory) scans, it sweeps the virtual world with a rapid series of media probes, mapping the political economy of virtual reality and recombinant culture. It then arcs away with some final sampler images of crash history. Here, technology means the will to virtuality, and virtuality is about the recline of western civilization, an historical non-time marked by recurrent bouts of spasmodic violence and random crashes of alt the big referents, which are all horizoned by the ascendant politics of liberal- and retro-fascism. Unlike the 1890s with its romantic invocation of catastrophe scenarios, the 1990s emerge as an era of general cultural recline: a time of cynical romanticism and cold love, where the body disappears into a virtual imaging-system, and where even catastrophes are reversed by the media-net into specular publicity for a crash that will never happen. On the one hand, the weakened body becomes a prosthetic to the media-net; and on the other the body electronic is data trash struggling to come alive again in recombinant form: to quick-learn how to survive the spasms and crashes of (digital) life on the virtual road. Reclining (into virtuality) and data trash (with a will?) This is the fate of the body electronic in the interminable countdown to the Year 2000.
Focusing on contemporary American politics but developing a more general historical thesis, Data Trash traces the will to virtuality as it becomes the primal impulse of pan-capitalism (virtual political economy), the mediascape (virtual culture), and post-history (virtual history). Using the literary device of media event-scenes, the theoretical analysis of Data Trash is mutated and accelerated by ongoing transformations in the cultural politics of the media-net. And why not? Data Trash is itself a wavering event-scene: a violent interzone between the will to virtuality and battered (human) flesh.