by McKenzie Wark
I N F O R M A T I O N
Information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains.
Information is immaterial, but never exists without a material support. Information may be transferred from one material support to other, but cannot be dematerialised—other than in the more occult of vectoralist ideologies. Information emerges as a concept when it achieves an abstract relation to materiality. This abstracting of information from any particular material support creates the very possibility of a vectoral society, and produces the new terrain of class conﬂict—the conﬂict between the vectoralist and hacker classes.
Information expresses the potential of potential. When unfettered, it releases the latent capacities of all things and people, objects and subjects. Information is the plane upon which objects and subjects come into existence as such. It is the plane upon which the potential for the existence of new objects and subjects may be posited. It is where virtuality comes to the surface.
The potential of potential that information expresses has its dangers. But its enslavement to the interests of the vectoral class poses greater dangers still. When information is free, it is free to act as a resource for the averting of its own dangerous potentials. When information is not free, then the class that owns or controls it turns its capacity toward its own interest and away from information’s own inherent virtuality.
Information exceeds communication. Deleuze: “We do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present.” Information is at once this resistance, and what it resists—its own dead form, communication. Information is both repetition and difference. Information is representation, in which difference is the limit to repetition. But information is also expression, in which difference exceeds repetition. The hack turns repetition into difference, representation into expression, communication into information. Property turns difference into repetition, freezing free production and distributing it as a representation. Property, as representation, fetters information.
The enabling conditions for freedom of information do not stop at the “free” market, no matter what the apologists for the vectoral class may say. Free information is not a product, but a condition of the effective allocation of resources. The multiplicity of public and gift economies, a plurality of forms—keeping open the property question—is what makes free information possible.
The commodification of information means the enslavement of the world to the interests of those whose margins depend on information’s scarcity, the vectoral class. The many potential benefits of free information are subordinated to the exclusive benefits in the margin. The infinite virtuality of the future is subordinated to the production and representation of futures that are repetitions of the same commodity form.
The subordination of information to the repetition of communication means the enslavement of its producers to the interests of its owners. It is the hacker class that taps the virtuality of information, but it is the vectoralist class that owns and controls the means of production of information on an industrial scale. Their interests lie in extracting as much margin as possible from information, in commodifying it to the nth degree. Information that exists solely as private property is no longer free, for it is chained to the repetition of the property form.
The interests of hackers are not always totally opposed to those of the vectoral class. There are compromises to be struck between the free flow of information and extracting a flow of revenue to fund its further development. But while information remains subordinated to ownership, it is not possible for its producers to freely calculate their interests, or to discover what the true freedom of information might potentially produce in the world. The stronger the hacker class alliance with the other producing classes, the less it has to answer the vectoralist imperative.
Information may want to be free, but it is not possible to know the limits or potentials of its freedom when the virtual is subordinated to this actual state of ownership and scarcity. Privatizing information and knowledge as commodified “content” distorts and deforms its free development, and prevents the very concept of its freedom from its own free development. “As our economy becomes increasingly dependent on information, our traditional system of property rights applied to information becomes a costly fetter on our development.” The subordination of hackers to the vectoralist interest means the enslavement not only of the whole of human potential, but also natural potential. While information is chained to the interests of its owners, it is not just hackers who may not know their interests, no class may know what it may become.
Information in itself is mere possibility. It requires an active capacity to become productive. But where knowledge is dominated by the education of the ruling classes, it produces the capacity to use information for the purposes of producing and consuming within the limits of the commodity. This produces a mounting desire for information that meets the apparent lack of meaning and purpose in life. The vectoralist class fills this need with communication that offers these desires a mere representation and objectification of possibility.
For everyone to become free to join in the virtuality of knowledge, information and the capacity to grasp it must be free also, so that all classes may have the potential to hack for themselves and their kind a new way of life. The condition for this liberation is the abolition of a class rule that imposes scarcity on knowledge, and indeed on virtuality itself.
Free information must be free in all its aspects—as a stock, as a flow, and as a vector. The stock of information is the raw material out of which history is abstracted. The flow of information is the raw material out of which the present is abstracted, a present that forms the horizon that the abstract line of an historical knowledge crosses, indicating a future in its sights. Neither stocks nor flows of information exist without vectors along which they may be actualized. Even so, it is not enough that these elements are brought together as a representation that may then be shared freely. The spatial and temporal axes of free information must do more than offer a representation of things, as a world apart. They must become the means of coordination of the expression of a movement capable of connecting the objective representation of things to the presentation of a subjective action.
Information, when it is truly free, is free not for the purpose of representing the world perfectly, but for expressing its difference from what is, and for expressing the cooperative force that transforms what is into what may be. The sign of a free world is not the liberty to consume information, or to produce it, nor even to implement its potential in private worlds of one’s choosing. The sign of a free world is the liberty for the collective transformation of the world through abstractions freely chosen and freely actualized.
excerpt from the book: A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark
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