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No War Machine

Stuart Moulthrop

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It is part of the paradoxical nature of postmodernism that old categories do not die; instead they stick around, generating influence anxiety. While certain media ecologists once though print might be dead, we now find ourselves in what Jay David Bolter calls "the late age of print" (2). The culture of writing did not vanish apocalyptically in a flash of cathode rays; it has persisted, stubbornly mutating, reappearing on what Donna Haraway calls "etched surfaces of the late twentieth century"(176) -- silicon chips and digital displays. Print is undead. In similar fashion, our current lust for technology, our headlong rush to re-invent and re-engineer everything from government to education to markets to personal relations, revives a certain nostalgic memory from the early twentieth century -- the old dream of revolution, or the myth of a world that could change. Though postmodernism testifies to the impossibility of revolution, the exhaustion of politics, the failure of all grand narratives, it carries at the same time an ironic demand for constant innovation, a requirement of regular paradigm shifts. After all, shouldn't there be something signally important to be done with these "new" technologies? Shouldn't these differences make a difference? For all our cynical sense of ourselves as post-revolutionary, post-apocalyptic, thoroughly belated, we seem to retain a strange, naive investment in the avant garde.

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