Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 7#3/4 Adilkno, Bilwet 1 Jan 1994

The Art of Being Informed

about the Data Dandy

I do not believe in progress, but I believe in the stagnation of human stupidity – I admire Japanese chairs because they have not been made to sit upon

Oscar Wilde

The data dandy collects information to show off and not to transmit. He is extremely well, too well or even exaggeratedly well informed. Specific questions always receive unwanted answers. He always comes up with something else. The phenotype of the data dandy is as feared as his historical predecessor, whose podium was the salon and the street. The elegant extravagance with which the most detailed data are displayed shocks the practical media user. He makes fun of the gauged consumption and the carefully measured dosage of common news and amusement and is not worried by an excess or overload of specialized knowledge. No constructive motivation can be discerned in his carefully collected information portfolio. He goes to the greatest effort to appear as arbitrary as possible. One wonders: Why did that data-head want to know all that? His zapping is not the product of boredom, but of a superior unwillingness to keep abreast of current affairs and the latest facts.

The screen is the mirror before which he makes his toilet. The button/unbutton of textile dandyism has found its successor in the channel surfing of on/off decadence. Wrapped in the finest facts and the most senseless gadgets, he deregulates the time economy of the information=money managers. He spends most of his computer time on the luxurious decoration of his harddisk and creation of refined circuits among thousands of heterogeneous software trinkets. As a piece of jewelry, the Powerbook is the pride of many a salon digitalist. He derides with actuality, hype and fashion: for just a second, an 'I' appears that is its own anchorman.

In the era of multi-medial mass information, one can no longer see the difference between uni- and multiformity. Neither broad overview nor illuminating detail can relieve the mental confusion. Against this background, the data dandy shows what everyone already knows, namely, that information may be omnipresent, but it is not readily available. Certain facts wear very well and one must develop a fine nose for them. Unlike the data collector, the data dandy is concerned not with the obsession of the complete file, but with the accumulation of as many immaterial ornaments as possible. While the otaku is withdrawn inside of himself and will never cross the boundaries of his solitary cultivations, it is precisely the most extraverted news groups that the data dandy searches out to launch his unproductive contributions. What the data dandy skims off in order to present elsewhere would be only of latent importance, if the presentation were not so indiscrete. His freakish wit distracts attention from the daily items. His bon mots have an ingenuity duration of 30 seconds, after which they disappear from the screen as suddenly as they came. Our data dandy is a broker in gigo-goods. With the understanding that your garbage is his make-up, and his substance your fluid.

The Net is for the electronic dandy what the metropolitan street was for the historical dandy. Strolling along the data boulevards cannot be prohibited and ultimately jams the avenue over its entire width. The all-too-civilized conversation during a rendez-vous turns up a few misplaced and objectionable data, but never results in dissidence. Willfully wrong navigation and elegant joy-riding within another's electro-environment has admiration, envy and confusion as its goal and consciously heads for stylized incomprehension. The test of the beauty of one's virtual appearance is the moral indignation and laughter of the plugged-in civilians. It is a natural quality of the carpet knight to enjoy the shock of the artificial. That is why he feels so at home in cyberspace, too, with all of its attributes. The eau de cologne and pink stockings have been replaced by precious Intel; delicate datagloves and ruby-encrusted butterfly goggles and sensors are attached to his brows and nostrils. Away with the crude nasa aesthetics of cybernauts. We're well beyond the pioneer stage. Now it's all about the grace of the medial gesture.

The anonymous mass in the streets was the playing field of the Passagen dandy; the logged-in Net users are the field of the data dandy. He sees himself forced to use the other users as the anonymous mass, as the amorphous normality of which he forms the sharply outlined deviation. But the Rule of the Net is that everyone is always exclusively busy with the étalage du moi. The d-dandy is never more than simply one of the many crazies in the variability carnival of the information world. He will thus never present himself as the n-th retro-identity, remnant of one of the twentieth century fashions, because he only can play with the rules of the net as non-identity itself. What does exclusivity mean in the era of differentiation? The dandy is not interested in ever-more-secret passwords for gaining entry in ever-more-exclusive data salons, he needs virtual plazas for his tragic appearance. Data dandyism emerges from aversion to exile to a sub-culture of one's own. The great enemies of the dandy are the camp and the cult, which hide themselves away, instead of manifesting themselves. The dandy, on the contrary, repeatedly launches a contentless Timeless Common Denominator in which all specializations claim to recognize themselves and thus succeeds in attracting a remarkably big grey mass with which to stage his spectacles. He creates a fake publicness and tests conventions (arbitrary examples of strong tcds with a high vagueness coefficient are No Dwelling, No Coronation, cyberpunk, illegal science, tactical television, the airplane crash in the Bijlmer). The data dandy surfs along on the waves of such tcds, and it is them he must have to thrive.

The only thing in the Net that displays the characteristics of a mass is the information itself: as soon as some small, new field of knowledge has been found, it splits and branches out so that an infinite amount of information can flow in. If the data dandy wants to appear as a real gestalt, it can only happen in the form of dandy data. These are queer: while the normals' hetero-informative data aim for qualification, association and reproduction, fanning out and thus causing further disintegration, the homo-informative data of the dandy are eccentric, but not special. Homodata don't associate with others and are caught in themselves. Like the tcds, they attract roughly similar info's and achieve a carefree concentration in the information field, where the show can start. There is an encounter or a confrontation with the System, but no productive moment, no cause or effect. Dandy data are purely situational, parasitic par excellence. What remains is the tall story, the fuel of the entire media and the hope of theory.

translation jim boekbinder