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Communication Colonized

Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966)

Translated by Reuben Keehan

IN 1965, a new technique for matching up prospective spouses was developed in the United States. The tastes and aspirations of each individual are exhaustively defined by their responses to seventy questions, then a computer determines their maximum compatibility, representing it on a punch card. According to Le Monde (25-11-65):

As the years go by, tendencies as unavoidable as they are irreversible develop and begin assert themselves: a computer's job is to be good at everything... They've been introduced into education, taking on the role of tutors. They participate in the development of elaborate "strategies," both military and commercial. As perfect performers in constant demand, they are expected to bear fruit... Each and every soul in search of another fills out a form describing what they are and to what they aspire. Their offers and wishes are then transformed by a perforator into a series of holes, judiciously arranged on a card. One could go so far as to say that with the state of the market, the discovery of what satisfies the one's desires lies but a systematic investigation away; all the better, of course, if the market is larger... The experience, as it happens, is not expensive: a mere three dollars. In less than three months, more than 7000 students from colleges and universities in New England entrusted their personal prospects and leisure time to a computer... Is it not true that there are computers which, working "in real time," can follow the development of events progressively? Why not extend the idea to optimizing matchmaking?

The society that has realized the optimum of separation between humans and their activity and between humans themselves unilaterally distributes images of their own world back to them as information monopolized by economic and State power. To reach a new stage of submission and equivalence to the machinery of progress, this society dreams of going beyond its fabrication of information as substitute for the deprivation of reality; it experiments with the positive fabrication of the reality of individual existence as the carrying out of existing information. Individuals must agree to recognize themselves — and, in a romantic relationship, each other — according to the inevitability of a supposedly free and objective code. But the programmers have themselves been programmed. The criteria of the questionnaires they create for matchmaking are the very social criteria that create separation everywhere. If one seeks another only to discover in this relationship the representation of their own reality, the condom of electronic computation guarantees the reciprocal discovery of the same lie.

The systematic expropriation of intersubjective communication, the colonization of everyday life by authoritarian mediation, does not necessarily have to be the product of technological development. On the contrary, this autonomization of social potential makes it necessary for all possible techniques to be deferred to the specific outcome of a self-regulated existence. In the last ten years, all over the world, radio transmitters and receivers once permitted open dialogue at any wavelength have been silenced by absolute judicial control. Those who use them, selected on the basis of this very obligation to be silent, do not have the right to exchange messages concerning their technique, or meteorological conditions, or even an SOS for survival. The technology of basic communication is evidently forbidden on account of its possible wealth of subversive uses.