I spent the last year in the hellish, spindly grips of unknown technological forces that, for whatever reason, filled this domain with spammy redirects to pages for prescription drugs and blushing babes. Google promptly shut down all access to this domain, including my ability to access files, links, texts I had written and published (or didn’t). I spent months cleaning out every last speck of errant code, resubmitting the site to Google, and waiting. After a few months, I would resubmit the site again, wait again. And then one day, nearly a year after the initial shutdown, with no announcement, the site was back. The blog was exactly as I had left it, down to the dusty drafts filled with half-written thoughts about things like “the true is the whole” and the problematic architecture of Fishtown galleries.
I was in digital purgatory. We presume our digital output to be indefinitely accessible — this is the archive, the source of anxious articles directed at tweet-happy teens warning them of their ineradicable present. But this static view that our coded footprints are collected, catalogued, and preserved is one that is both institutional and architectural. In focusing on the originality of our output, we isolate it from its social context and relation to other systems, people, or code. If the content that we produce on the internet isn’t as freely-growing as Deleuze and Guattari envisioned, then it is the viruses that infect that content that are the rhizome.
My website was diseased, infected — I felt what Georges Canguilhem called “disease as error”. I associated the infection of code with death, something untrue but not without historical precedent. I’ve been reading through Alex Galloway and Eugene Thacker’s The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, tying the biological and the historical to contemporary internet operations. Galloway and Thacker stitch the line between disease (epidemics, contagion, transmission) and networks. What Foucault termed the “problem of multiplicities”, the center-less, unpreventable processes of transmission and infection, is inherent in these networks, whether they are biological (pathogens) or technological (viruses). And thus, it’s not just an issue of disease but of politics, or as Galloway and Thacker put it, “the problem of multiplicities in networks is the tension between sovereignty and control.”
Sovereignty and control. My files and writings, the static sovereignty of my domain, and the control asserted in controlling access to them by a larger, mysterious force. This too is more than just a tension between individual (me) and corporation (Google) — it is, as Galloway and Thacker describe, a pitting against a far more eschatological premonition:
“Popular interpretations of epidemics throughout history often make appeals to the supernatural: the plague is a sign of divine retribution (for the colonized), a sign of divine providence (for the colonizer), a harbinger of the apocalypse, a punishment of the hubris of humanity, even mystified in modern times as the “revenge of nature.” Such representations are not limited to biological epidemics; in the network society, they are also found in informational – biological hybrids: the “metro phage,” the “gray goo” problem of nanotech, the “infocalypse,” and so on. Such narratives and representations can be seen as attempts to recentralize the question of sovereignty in networks. But in this case, sovereignty is scaled up to the level of the divine or demonic, an agency that may be identified but remains unknowable and decidedly nonhuman.”
I knew purgatory would end with either the complete, utter death of my website or the redemption of it by this divine agency. ‘Google as god’ isn’t a particularly revolutionary sentiment, but over what does this authority rule? In this case, where my domain (and likely thousands more) was infiltrated by code redirecting viewers with spam, Google manages what Bataille calls an economy of waste, excess, expenditure. The subjects to adhere to Google’s moral code of conduct aren’t individuals like me — they are the viruses themselves. The divine watches over the junk. Or, as Galloway and Thacker put it, “an excess of of signification, a signification without sense, precisely the noise that signifies nothing — except its own networked generativity.”
So I’m back.