Sunday, 9 August 2009

Recycling Centre for Digital Waste, or how to stop worrying, and love spam, porn and viruses

I am still waiting to see the actual physical Spam Book that should be in print now. We are planning a launch event I believe for the 23rd of September in London, at Goldsmiths College. More on that later – now I am just anxious to see the actual book. Meanwhile, I wrote a very short Afterword for my friend Juri Nummelin’s new collection of Spam – a collection of spam poetry again. I like his way of applying some classic avant-garde art methodologies to current digital culture -- in a way, taking "spam texts" etc. "seriously", i.e. treating them as interesting pieces of living literature in themselves. Btw. after this text, I wanted to add my new favourite spam mail that I received today. Its only a variation of an old theme, but hilarious, I find.

Here’s the text, anyway:

Waste is the truth about our culture. Garbage, waste, all the residue from our daily chores is a reminder of a future-to-come that is constantly present in predictions about the impending eco-crisis and pollution of the living environment beyond repair. Waste is not only a passive negation of what is useful, but is itself a produced part of our culture, a continuous reminder of the libidinal urges of consumer culture. It’s the living dead, the zombie, that haunts the brains and bodies of consumers. Just like we produce goods, we produce waste.
In a parallel manner, all the waste that we call spam (e-)mail is the truth about network culture. It’s the hyperbolic development of the desires, perversions, and fantasmas that connect our brains to consumer cultural mechanisms. The continuous hints of your insufficient penis size or inability to perform in bed, the promises of gigantic richness, incredible deals in software or pharmaceuticals, all that is only a tickling of that cerebral state that capitalism has been preparing for decades. It’s part of the trend identified by the Italian philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato. Contemporary capitalism is decreasingly interested in producing concrete goods and products. It focuses more and more in a Leibnizian creation of worlds, in which consumerism can flourish. Capitalism produces worlds and desires. Our network world is the world of spam and excess. This book by Juri Nummelin is also a glimpse to the circulation of desires and perversions of this network culture of capitalism.
We all receive spam e-mails and other waste, so the idea of collecting, archiving and even publishing that excess is an act not entirely without absurd connotations. It continues the Dadaist and Surrealist interest in archiving the accidentalities of modern culture. Such acts of archiving the surreal of everyday culture are valuable in exposing the contingencies of any archival logic. So is Nummelin an archivist of garbage and waste? Or is he working as the recycling centre for digi-waste? Perhaps. But at the same time Nummelin is the Dadaist of network culture who has an extreme interest in the poetic in the banal, in such acts of communication (yes, we should call those software enabled non-human acts of mass spamming communication in this era of the posthuman) which approach the degree zero of language, in the found objects of digital culture, which hide in their everyday guise a very avant-garde aura.
Spam mail, viruses and all that we have learned to hate and despise in digital culture is a reminder of the fact that most of everyday Internet traffic is far from “useful” or “nice”. Most of the global info-wonder is built on spam, porn and in general to the darker sides of our libido. This is also why so much of spam email seems to be coming from the Others of our culture: Africa, Russia, outside the so-called organized society. Spam email is the travel literature of contemporary culture to the heart of darkness to have a date with Kurtz; of course, the only one we meet there is the pulsating core of our own consumer society. Spam emails, if you actually read them, maintain several such fantasies that are a combination of the sexualized Other and from universes not too far from Philip K. Dick's novels.
And spam, porn, and viruses are far from useless nuisances. With them, we have seen the development of a gigantic subsection of digital industries, namely security. From security software to various trainings, we are being taught to be responsible Net-users by underlining the grave dangers of spam for our sanitized, clean digi-future. For years, there has been talk of the necessity of a new closed Internet. Corporations would be guaranteed a frictionless world of communication and flow of information, but would leave the so-called average people in their miserable worlds of porn and spam. Weirdly enough, it resonates with such science fiction scenarios where most of humanity has been left after the apocalypse to sink in a world of dirt and lowly libidinal drives.
In the midst of the gloomy future scenarios and production of fear, such poetic recycling is however more than welcome. They are the modern surrealist techniques of tackling with the absurdities and layers beyond meaning of communication; the accidental, the haphazard, the unconscious that can be revealed through artistic methodologies. Media theorists such as Alex Galloway and Eugene Thacker have written about such dream sides of software, and there is a growing body of net art that is more interested in the dark sides of network culture than its polished progress stories. Through such methods we learn of another kind of a message: don’t be afraid to embrace your spam! They tell you the truth about the processes of interpellation that try to hail you as the proper capitalist subject! Love your spam as you love your emails from friends!

And then, the email from Sergeant David Bruce:


No label []
Sgt David Bruce sent it to me on Aug 9, 2009, 3:39 AMShow details
Dear Sir/Madam

My name is (staff Sgt.) David Bruce i am an American soldier, serving in the Military with
army's 3rd infantry division.

i have a very desperate need for Assistance and have summed up courage to contact you.
I found your contact through internet serching and I am seeking your kind Assistance to
move the sum of Five million United States dollars (us$5,000,000) to you, as far as I can
be assured that my share will be safe in your care Until i complete my service here.

Source of money: some money in US currencies were discovered in barrels at a Farmhouse
near one of saddam’s old palaces in tikrit-iraq during a rescue operation, and it was
agreed by staff Sgt Kenneth buff and i that some part of this money be shared Between
both of us before informing anybody about it sinceboth of us saw the money first.

This was quite an illegal thing to do, but i tell you what! no compensation can make up
For the risk we have taken with our lives in this hell hole, of which my brother in-law
Was killed by a road side bomb last time.

The above figure was given to me as my share, and to conceal this kind of money become a
Problem for me but with the help of a British contact working here and with his office
Enjoying some immunity, i was able to get the package out to a safe location entirely Out
of trouble spot.

he does not know the real contents of the package, and he believes that it belongs to a
British American medical doctor who died in a raid here in Iraq, And before giving up,
trusted me to hand over the package to his family in country.

I have now found a very secured way of getting the package out of Iraq to you at home For
you to pick up, and i will discuss this with you when i am sure that you are willing To
assist me and that my money will be well secured in your hand.

I want you to tell me How much you will take from this money for the assistance you will
give to me.

One Passionate appeal i will make to you is not to discuss this matter with anybody,if you
have any reasons to reject this offer, please and please destroy this message as any
Leakage of this information will be too bad for the u.s. soldier's here in Iraq.

I do Not know how long we will remain here; month of May was the deadliest month for us to
be out Here. Totally, we lost 127 men and i have been shot,wounded and survived two
suicide Bomb attacks by the special grace of god.

This and other reasons i will mention later Has prompted me to reach out for help.I
honestly want this matter to be resolved immediately, please contact meas soon as Possible
with my private e-mail address which is my only way of communication (e-mail:

May god bless you and your family"
From David Bruce.


  1. Thanks, Jussi, for the afterword. Still waiting for comments on the manuscript - sent it out already.

  2. Really great ideas. I like every example. Just might have to try these... So cute! Thank you!
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