BLACK HOLES IN THE ELECTRONIC GALAXIES: Metaphor for Resistance in the Information Society?

Authors:  Barry Vacker and Agreen Wang

Chapter in:

Click on cover to view in Amazon.Paul M.A. Baker, Jarice Hanson, and Jeremy Hunsinger, The Unconnected: Social Justice, Participation and Engagement in the information Society (Peter Lang 2013).

Read/download the paper: Black Holes


Are there a existential parallels between Plato’s Cave, WikiLeaks, black holes, and numerous dystopian films? Yes. These parallels suggest a paradoxical and metaphorical reversal in the nature of representation and resistance. Media theorist Manuel Castells used the term “black holes” to describe the conditions of “social exclusion that can be marginalized” within the global and capitalist information systems, so much that those people excluded could “disappear” in the system. Drawing from Marshal McLuhan, Jean Baudrillard, Stephen Hawking, and filmmakers, this paper will juxtapose Castells’ theory with a different model of black holes and media. The information society is a network of “electronic galaxies” within an expanding media universe, always aglow, seemingly destined for total representation, total surveillance, and total simulation — such that the trajectory of the enlightenment project may have begun a strange reversal, where representation and resistance now require disconnection and disappearance. As illustrated in the battle between the U.S. government and WikiLeaks, it seems that future autonomy, authenticity, privacy, and resistance will realized in the effecting of personal vanishing points, the encrypted points of non-representation, the black holes in the electronic galaxies.


The ideas of this paper have been perfectly illustrated by the 2013 revelations that the National Security Agency is surveilling and archiving all electronic transmissions in in the United States and perhaps the entire world, using the data gathered by telecommunications companies and internet firms. But this is not merely a U.S. problem, it is a global problem generating radically dystopian conditions for the future of human civilization.

The key concepts of this paper were first presented at the 2003 Global Fusion conference at the University of Texas in Austin, where the paper were utterly ignored by other panelists from the Left, who were busily denouncing the Bush administration and unwilling to appreciate the radical conditions facing real resistance, if such resistance is possible. Meanwhile, the surveillance has only increased in scope and scale. Since 2003, I have been busy teaching full-time at Temple University and working on other publishing and film projects, while looking for the open-minded editor and publisher for this paper. Fortunately, I found that editor in Jarice Hanson and publisher in Peter Lang Publishing. Unfortunately, it has take three years for book to be completed and produced (due to factors beyond Jarice's control). I plan on publishing an update in the near future.


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