Encyclopaedic public, WikiLeaks, Multitude, Interface


Session Title:

  • Art and Activism in Digital Age

Presentation Title:

  • Encyclopaedic public, WikiLeaks, Multitude, Interface




  • Read as diversely as the reemergence of 80s hacker culture (Sterling 2010), as a revolt against the attention economy and growing lack of investigative journalism (Lovink and Riemens 2010), as both the follow up on the 90s promise of internet democracy and as precursor to a new kind of cyberterrorism etc. etc., WikiLeaks seems to have been throughly examined in almost any light other than its stated purpose of enlightenment and questioned about anything, but its intended focus on creating a new interface for the public. This paper proposal aims to examine WikiLeaks in the light of both.

    One often tends to forget that there are two sets of enlightenment thought emerging out of the 18th century. Two ways of distributing knowledge, two sets of organising data, two projects for the education of man, two notions of the public sphere, publicity etc., two sets and not one.
    The one of these two, is the one that is easy to remember. The one born out of an increased engagement with rationality and a project of unity-seeking mediations and dialectics. From Kant, over Hegel, Habermas and Luhmann, this project is of continued relevance. The point is here not that every part can magically fit, be translated into or be represented by the whole, but rather that there in the attempt to make these translations and representations manifest, is a clear primacy of the whole over the part. This primacy is the inheritance of the first project of enlightenment.

    Now, the second project emerging out of the enlightenment is a project of the opposite. A project resting not on processes of mediations and dialectics, but on the irreducible significance of the singular parts. As such, in effect: the multitude. A project where the individual particles holds a primacy over the whole, where abstraction from the singular article to the whole exists only in the means of a register, and where the acceptance of non-integratable elements, omissions, uncertainties and fractions are a primary condition. WikiLeaks marks a return of this second project.