BOOK: (White) Imaginary Futures

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.


I have almost finished reading the outstanding work Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to The Global Village (London: Pluto Press, 2007) by white Marxist male, Richard Barbrook. IMHO, the work makes for a veritable tour de force and is essential reading for those interested in decolonizing computing vis-a-vis understanding how (white) visions of the future repeatedly – or rather ‘algorithmically‘ – inform and inflect the present, not to mention for Barbrook’s useful, yet highly Eurocentric, account of the Cold War origins of computers, ICTs (information and communication technologies) and the Net. (For a brief discussion of the ‘algorithmic’ nature of White Supremacy / Racism, interested readers are invited to check out the following extended abstract by Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University: “Transhumanism and/as Whiteness“.)

Interested readers can download a copy (PDF format) of the book here.

A highly useful overview of the book was presented by Barbrook at Warwick University in 2011 and is available for viewing on YouTube:

One of the most interesting sequences of slides appearing towards the end of the presentation is the following:The Futures.JPG

From a Counter-Racist / decolonial perspective, I am immediately led to ask who is this we that Barbrook is inviting to invent new futures? I should also like to suggest that for non-white VoRs (Victims of Racism / White Supremacy), the wording of the first slide (on the left) should be replaced with the following:

Those who do not remember the [White Supremacist / Racist] future [that shapes the White Supremacist / Racist present] are condemned to [have the White Supremacist / Racist future] repeated [on them]


LINKS: Cybernetic Racism (White Supremacy)

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

One ongoing research interest of mine relates to how the globally operating system of White Supremacy (Racism) is refining / adapting itself in the so-called “Information Age”. (Interested readers are invited to check out the following earlier blog posts: COMMENT: The Subtlety of Cybernetic Racism, Race: The Difference That Makes a Difference, Racism (White Supremacy) and The Philosophy of Information, Towards a Critical Race Theory of Information and COMMENT: Monitoring Color Monitors.)

In this connection, I should like to share the following links with interested readers, the first three of which might be regarded as somewhat ‘conspiracy-theoretical’ (sic) in tone:

Here is a brief description of this text:

Techgnosis uncovers the hidden mystical and religious impulses that animate our contemporary obsessions with media and technology. It is a wild ride, chock full of curious characters, esoteric information and visionary insights. The book tells the story of the alchemical origins of electricity, the occult dimension of computer games, and the Zen of cybernetics. It reminds us of the irrational, even dreamlike underside of our supposedly rational machines.

Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village by Richard Barbrook

Here is a short description of the latter work:

Imaginary Futures traces the emergence of the computer era in the context of desperately competing ideologies, economics, and empires … Richard Barbrook argues that, at the height of the Cold War, the Americans invented a truly revolutionary tool: the Internet. Yet, for all of its libertarian potential, hi-tech science soon became a tool of geopolitical dominance. The rest of the world was expected to follow America’s path into the networked future. Today, we’re still told that the Net is creating the information society. Barbrook shows how we can reclaim its revolutionary purpose: how the DIY ethic of the internet can help people shape information technologies in their own interest and reinvent their own, improved visions of the future.

I am interested in reading these works, particularly the latter two, from a Counter-Racist / decolonial perspective, with a view to revealing (possible) Eurocentrism (Racism / White Supremacy) embedded both in the historical events that took place and the accounts of them by the white male authors of these works, viz. Erik Davis and Richard Barbrook, respectively.

In this connection, I should also like to invite interested viewers to check out the three-part documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace by white male Adam Curtis.


COMMENT: The Non-White Thing

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.


This evening, I’m off to watch The Thing (2011), a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), itself a remake, or rather, a re-interpretation of Howard Hawk’s The Thing From Another World (1951) which was, in turn, inspired by the novel/short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr. (1928).

I’ve watched the 1951 and 1982 versions of the film a number of times, but it is only relatively recently that I have begun to think about the book/film from a counter-Racist perspective.

The Thing belongs to that genre of science-fiction film/literature exploring aliens passing themselves off as humans, one of the best other examples of which is Invasion of The Body Snatchers.

In the 1956 version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, the inhabitants of a small town are gradually replaced by aliens. Since the aliens reproduce the external form of their victims, there is no easy way to tell human from alien. Released during the Cold War, this version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers (and it has been remade at least twice)can be read, alternatively/paradoxically, as a metaphor both for the dangers of Communism and/or for the tyranny of anti-Communist McCarthyism.

The Thing similarly explores the problem of distinguishing between humans and aliens passing themselves off as humans with the added twist that the aliens in The Thing are capable of shape-shifting, that is, adaptively re-inventing themselves, on-the-fly.

From a counter-Racist perspective, both films can be understood as addressing White Supremacist (Racist) anxieties concerning identification/verification of who is, and who is not, ‘white’. By replacing ‘humans’ with White people and ‘aliens’ [=The Other] with non-White people, the exploration of the ‘problem’ of aliens passing themselves off as humans in both films translates/decodes to the historical and contemporary (biometric) concern with non-White people passing themselves off as White. The Thing, with its incorporation of a shape-shifting motif, points to additional White Supremacist (Racist) anxieties about non-White people transforming themselves in various ways so as to pass as White; in this connection, the “bleach, nip and tuck” figure of the confused non-white person known as the late Michael Jackson looms large. (With respect to the historical issue, I refer interested readers to the essay “You’re Next!”: Postwar Hegemony Besieged in Invasion of The Body Snatchers by Katrina Mann.)

In short, from a counter-Racist perspective, The Thing is about ‘Their’ White anxiety/fear of ‘Us’ non-White ‘Things’, about our ability to look like them, move among them, overwhelm them. In this connection, I should again like to refer interested readers to Aliens R Us: The Other in Science Fiction Cinema by Ziauddin Sardar and Sean Cubitt (Pluto Press: 2002).

We who are non-White can sometimes pass as White; hence, the FUNCTIONAL White Supremacist (Racist) need for REFINEMENT of ‘Tests’ (including the new regime of biometric technologies) to MAINTAIN, EXPAND and REFINE the permeable boundaries of ‘Whiteness’.

To paraphrase the hip-hop group Public Enemy, it’s all about the fear of a black planet.