Theory of the Sovereign Media

"I cue you" DFM

In this age of media overproduction, information immunity is a question of life or death. When the defense mechanism fails and the consumer is overwhelmed by strange impressions, doom seems near. To call a halt to crippling indifference, a media diet is prescribed. The pressure exerted on the world citizen to continually adapt his own image of the world and put technological innovations into practice puts him into a permanent state of insecurity. The urge to create disappears, and we are merely able to react to the overwhelming array of choices. Data are then no longer stimuli to interest, but an inimical barrage constituting a physical threat. From exchange to effacement: communication is preying on naked existence. The innocence of the media is no more. A period of stagnation will follow the rampant growth of the 80s. This is being foreshadowed by the propagation of a mentality of moderation. It is being made clear to us from all sides that we must stop handling information and images carelessly. Henceforth, the media and data traffic, like other sectors of Western society, must submit in their presentation to the diktat of ecology. The environment is more than endangered plants and animals. It is a mentality which, with abstract concepts like "conservation" and "recycling", sees the constructed media sphere as a third or fourth nature. Watchfulness prevails against all possible needless pollution and senseless waste.
Aware media users find a "natural equilibrium" between receiving and transmitting information. After the euphoria of getting acquainted with the new technologies, they seek a balance between the immaterial environment, which evokes imaginary worlds, and the biographical one, where their own flesh lives. This balance is considered necessary to protect the pioneers in dataland (who are working at the "electronic frontier") from cold turkey. After the ecstacy of the emancipation phase we see a dissatisfaction in technoculture, and it may be seeking a destructive way out. High expectations all too easily end in great disappointment, which inspires hate for the machinery. Deleuze and Guattari would simply call it "antiproduction"; the sudden disgust that arises in those who have allowed themselves to be swept away in the stream of signs. Could this be the "drama of communication" (freely adapted from Alice Miller), that at the moment we only receive and are sending no signals back? Or vice versa: putting too much data into the world, without getting anything back for it? Among data workers a feeling of emptiness and senselessness is arising, which can only temporarily be compensated for by the introduction of yet more new hard and software.

The sovereign media insulate themselves against the hyperculture. They seek no connection; they disconnect. This is their point of departure we have a liftoff. They leave the media surface and orbit the multimedia network as satellites. These doityourselfers shut themselves up inside a selfbuilt monad, an "indivisible unit" of introverted technologies which, like a roomr without doors or windows, wishes to deny the existence of the world. This act is a denial of the maxim "I am connected, therefore I am". It conceals no longing for a return to nature. They do not criticize the baroque data environments or experience them as threats, but consider them material, to use as they please. They operate beyond clean and dirty, in the garbage system ruled by chaos pur sang.
Their carefree rummaging in the universal media archive is not a management strategy for jogging jammed creativity. These negative media refuse to be positively defined and are good for nothing. They demand no attention and constitute no enrichment of the existing media landscape. Once detached from every meaningful context, they switch over in fits and starts from one audiovideo collection to the next. The autonomously multiplying connections generate a sensory space, which is relaxing as well as nerveracking. This tangle can never be exploited as a trendsensitive genre again. All the data in the world alternately make up one lovely big amusement park and a fivestar survival trek in the paranoid category, where humor descends on awkward moments like an angel of salvation and lifts the program up out of the muck. Unlike the "antimedia", which are based on a radical critique of capitalist (art) production, the sovereign media have alienated themselves from the entire business of politics and the art scene. An advanced mutual disinterest hampers any interaction. They move in parallel worlds which do not interfere with each other. No antiinformation or criticism of politics or art is given in order to start up a dialogue with the authorities. Once sovereign, media are no longer attacked, but tolerated and, of course, ignored. But this lack of interest is not a result of disdain for the hobbyist amateur or political infantilism; it is the contemporary attitude towards any image or sound that is bestowed on the world anyway.

Sovereign media are equipped with their own starters and do not need to push off from any possible predecessors or other media. They are different from the post'68 concept of alternative media and from the autonomous "inside" media of the 80s. The alternative media work on the principle of "antipublicity" and mirror the mainstream media, which they feel needs to be corrected and supplemented. This strategy aims to make the individual aware of his behavior as well as his opinion. This process will ultimately be seen in a changed public opinion. These little media have no general claims but work with a positive variant of the cancer model, which assumes that in the long term everyone, whether indirectly or through the big media, will become informed about the problem being broached. They presuppose a tight network stretched around and through society, so that in the end the activism of a few will unleash a chain reaction by many. Until that time, they direct themselves at a relatively small group, in the certainty that their info will not stay stuck in a ghetto or start feeding back in the form of internal debates. This "megaphone model" aims in particular at liberalleft opinion leaders, who have no time to accumulate information or invent arguments and get politically motivated specialists to do this thankless work. Movements in the 60s and 70s gave themes like feminism, the third world and the environment a great range this way. Professionalization and market conformism in those circles, however, have caused peopler to switch to the "real" media. The laboratories where information and argumentation get tested are currently an inseparable part of the media manufacturing process, now that their movements have become just as virtual as the media they figure in.
At the end of the 70s, radicals who had gotten tired of waiting for the other's change of consciousness founded the socalled "inside media". At precisely the moment that the official media started emancipating themselves and terms like "press" and "public opinion" vanished from the scene, a group of activists gave up the belief in their deaf fellow citizens and got to work themselves. Although to unknowing outsiders they seemed a continuation of the alternative media activity, they let go of the cancer model and, like the official media, went gliding. The mirror of the alternative media was crushed. It had become pointless to keep appealing to public responsibility; they needed to look for a different imaginary quantity to concentrate on: "the movement".
Although they were only locally available, they had no concern for the regional restriction which the ascending local media impose upon themselves. They no longer wanted to be alternative city papers. In form as well as content they became transnational, like their global peers. They wanted nothing to do with growth. Their brilliant dilettancy turned out to be not a childhood illness, but an essential component. As a leftover product of vanished radical movements, which flare up every now and then, their continuity and unchangingness remain breathtaking to this day. It cannot be reduced to their dogma. They turn away from the short media time and create their own spacetime continuum.

The sovereign media are the cream of all the missionary work performed in the media galaxy. They have cut all surviving imaginary ties with truth, reality and representation. They no longer concentrate on the wishes of a specific target group, as the "inside" media still do. They have emancipated themselves from any potential audience, and thus they do not approach their audience as a moldable market segment, but offer it the "royal space" the other deserves. Their goal and legitimacy lie not outside the media, but in practicable "total decontrol". Their apparently narcissistic behavior bears witness to their being sure of themselves, which is not broadcast. The signal is there; you only have to pick it up. Sovereign media invite us to hop right onto the media bus. They have a secret pact with noise, the father of all information. And time is not a problem there is room for the extended version as well as the sampled quotation. This is only possible through the grace of noprofile. Without being otherwise secretive about their own existence, the sovereigns remain unnoticed, since they stay in the blind spot that the bright media radiation creates in the eye. And that's the reason they need not be noticed as an avantgarde trend and expected to provide art with a new impetus. The reason sovereign media are difficult to distinguish as a separate category is because the shape in which they appear can never shine in its full lustre. The program producers don't show themselves; we see only their masks, in the formats familiar to us. Every successful experiment that can possibly be pointed to as an artistic or political statement is immediately exposed tor contamination. The mixers inherently do not provoke, but infect chance passersby with corrupted banalities which present themselves in all their friendly triviality. An inextricable tangle of meaning and irony makes it impossible for the experienced media reader to make sense of this.
The atmosphere inside the sealed cabin conflicts with the ideology of networking. As a central coordination machine, the computer subjects all old media to the digital regime. The sovereign media, conversely, make their own kind of connections, which are untranslatable into one universal code. Hightech is put to the test and turned inside out. But this trip to the interior of the machine does not result in a total multimedia art work. Disbelief in the total engagement of the senses and technically perfect representation is too great for that. The required energy is simply generated by shortcircuits, confusion of tongues, atmospheric disturbances and clashing cultures. Only when computerdriven networks begin to break their own connections, and scare off their potential users, will it be time for the sovereigns to log in.