What does it mean to be Netpunk?

Punk is dead. Punk is a break. Punk is the deep underground raging nihilism that exists inside all of us. It is the voice of a sonic youth, screams of violent electric riffs tearing a hole in the spatio-temporal fabric of a robotic mechanical society. All black, polished metal, unafraid. To crush norms under the heel of one’s Doc martens, that’s what it means to escape all labels: punk, become who you are.

Alas, a requiem has arrived too early. Capitalism, that malevolent force of nature, has swallowed up yet another of its opponents, only to vomit it out again as a commoditized mockery of its former self. Doc Martens, boots that symbolized a working class blue collar working, now a luxury item quite ironically sold at a fraction of its former quality. Now punk is cool. Pay to win, Pay to be a poseur. Nothing is wrong in the wasteful transience of capitalism where we can buy our masks for any given price. Pay to be cool. Pay to be desired. Pay to play in the age old American tradition of perception management.

Cyberpunk is the latest victim of this serial killer’s spree. Once upon a time, its warning was taken seriously. Corporate megamachines digging their dirty bloody claws into every single aspect of the human being, where even mental health is now a profitable industry. Imagine that: your own misery and its antidote both being constructed by the same entity. Now, cyberpunk is hollow, for the New Jerusalem has already arrived. Take a look around you, at a world where music has lost its voice, where architecture has lost its ornament, where movies have lost their plot, where games have lost their mechanics. A more absurd reality ever envelops, and we praise it ever more absurdly . Cyberpunk, for all its intents and purposes, is dead. The computer has been captured, the brain modulated, the internet dying . We are now prisoners warped by mental race to the bottom, where all desire, opinion, means and ends both are constructed and sold by the Spider called Capitalism in the web of commodity. The more the fly struggles, the stronger the web envelops it.

Resistance is futile when the same system produces these means and ends. We see this happen to things like art and design, where the western social apparatus has envisioned a tool for social engineering and mediation and then has the gall to say that this is a social service in the task of serving the human race. Has no one thought of this as absurd? Has no one bothered questioning these facts? Yet we cannot turn to the children of our masters for help. Like Friere says, when you treat someone as less than human, you yourself become less than human. The task for us then becomes the task of construction. The construction of new ideas, of new methods, of new processes, techniques, formulations. Like Alchemists in the dark seeking the sacred light of the philosopher’s stone.

The network is our prison, but it is also our salvation. We sit at the fringes, us members of the global south. Here, lies a chance, an opportunity to escape and break free. Networks over hierarchies. Decentralization over centralization. Bottom up over Top Down. There has never been a better time in history to be a glitch in the system, but this glitch can never truly come from the mainstream. No, it has to be fringe. Esoteric. Barely registered. Experimental.

We must escape the western death spiral, infinite growth on a finite planet. Only We can. The answer is right below us, hidden in plain sight. Netpunks are the recursive Glitches that crash the system. Glitches are “errors “ defined by the mainstream, yet are the radically authentic anomalous “ breaks “ in the system that acts as a creative force in the world. Through a system of networked learning, where we each express our own creativity through our own innate “glitch”, the outcasts of a system can now defy its rules, a system which is flat, academic, broken and frankly really fucking lame.

Here are some key characteristics of what I think NetPunk can be:

1. Networks: In NetPunk, the entirety of society is hyper-connected through digital networks. The internet is seamlessly integrated into everyday life, and individuals are deeply reliant on it for communication, access to information, and even basic necessities. This allows individuals to be controlled beyond their immediate notice. Networks are the core of netpunk, its mantra.
2. Virtual Communities: NetPunk explores the concept of virtual communities and the blurring of boundaries between the physical and online worlds. People may form strong social connections and even find their sense of identity within digital spaces. The concepts of virality, communication and memetics may be of importance.
3. Data Dominance: The control and manipulation of data become central themes in NetPunk. Powerful entities, such as corporations or governments, may exploit personal data to exert influence over individuals or maintain dominance over society. Data is the language of capitalism, the power of its all-seeing eye.
4. Hacktivism and Cyber Warfare: NetPunk often showcases hacktivism, where hackers and activists use their digital skills to fight for social justice and against oppressive forces. The original meaning of “hack” was not to break into systems but to make cool things that solve real problems. The core of punk has always been DIY, yet now hacking, like how Mackenzie Wark defined it, allows us the ability to influence at scale through the distributive abilities of the internet.
5. Media: The use of immersive technologies such as short form video, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies is an important topic to tackle. How does media influence us, change us, manipulate us?
6. Post-truth: The tools and institutions that have long been used to separate fact from fiction are starting to break down, and conspiratorial narratives emerge in their wake. What is truth? What leads to someone accepting a belief is true? How does the internet encourage almost schizophrenic perceptions of truth?
7. Machine and Mind: Questions about the nature of consciousness, self-identity, and the potential for artificial intelligence to achieve sentience are central themes in NetPunk narrative. In the wake of machine intelligence, we must ask the question posed by Norbert Wiener once again: What is the human use of human beings? And what constitutes intelligence, consciousness and mind?
9. Digital Divide: The socio-economic impact of a networked society is explored, highlighting the digital divide between those who have access to advanced technologies and those who do not, resulting in disparities in opportunities and quality of life. Media have started to accelerate false narratives that propagate and benefit the views of majoritarian, mainstream narratives. How do we bypass the black holes of algorithmic feedback loops in order to give a voice to the voiceless?

Netpunk cannot be majoritarian. It has to come from the fringes. The oppressors cannot take up the task of liberation, only the oppressed can.

The network is our answer. But we must find it.

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