Reification and Linguistic Revolt: The Etymology of "bioptikon".
Uploaded by Maurice113 on Sep 12, 2007
Reification and Linguistic Revolt: The Etymology of “bioptikon”.
The bioptikon—as a cultural artefact, as a semiotic signpost and as etymological curio—can stand in as an indication of where we are “at”, of the “kind of thing one can say about a person these days: Jenkins Butler for instance”. The term originated in the mid-1990s in the discourse of the New York cyberpoet subculture chronicled in Liam Davis’s sociological investigation “From Beat to Cyberpoetry” (Liam Davis, 1998). Davis, referred to this subculture as “the bastard child of neoliberal Prometheanism and postmodern culture jamming, shot through with a post-Kantian ethical brisance”, capturing well the heady atmosphere that spawned many linguistic neophytes, most of which, even now, defy categorisation. For an outsider, arriving on the scene some years after Davis chronicled this scene in its heyday, the sense of trepidation stepping into the now fabled Donkey Hospital Bar in the Lower East Side, dubbed the cyberDonkey by regulars, was akin to that felt by many a Jesuit arriving at some Melanesian outpost during the endgame of the first colonial phase (truncated by the battle for the Pacific in the second half of the “short 20th century”): “Hostility, insularity, messianism—a heady brew.” (Marus Felps, 1982)
This was not simply a cultural battleground, the last hurrah of the cyberpunks, as Nigel Phillips has argued (Nigel Phillips, 2001). The “scene” was a linguistic battleground too—something played down systematically by Phillips and the other apostles of “post-semiotic discourse analysis” (Brian Horace, 2002). Bubbling up from the cyberDonkey zymurgy was a rich foment of phases, rich in possibilities for an archaeology of cultural discourse. To some extent this was not new. It built on the Leet Orthography that had been born in the 1980s subculture of mainframe geeks, but what was new was the extent to which the argot of the cyberpoet milieu saw itself, self-consciously, fiercely and narcissistically (Liam Davis, 2000), as a critique. In fact, contra Davis, one might argue that the work of a least a section of this milieu saw itself not simply as critique, but as auto-critique, the hallmark of critical-theoretical praxis (Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, 1997).
This auto-critique took aim at the culture of reification of cultures that had given rise to the subculture itself. It was reflexive—supple.
The reification of this metaculture (one is tempted to say, with Horace, orthoculture) was not simply the transformation of the culture of relations (or the relations...