Book review: “Proud to be Flesh” – Mute Magazine Anthology of cultural politics after the net

On: September 19, 2010
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About Sander Jansma
I am a MA. New Media student and part of the class of 2010. During my bachelor in Communication & Multimedia Design at the University of Rotterdam I started my own webdesign company and got acquainted with alot of things internet has to offer! Now, 3 years later and a BA in my pocket I not only want to know the practical side of the internet, but also the theoretical side. My interests are the great web, design, development, social psychology, technology, marketing, communication and mobile.


Proud to be Flesh Cover

Proud to be Flesh is an Anthology of Mute Magazine, and consists of a large amount of articles from the magazine’s archives dating from 1994 till 2009.

The magazine Mute started 15 years ago and was founded by Simon Worthington and Pauline van Mourik Broekman. It was originally a newspaper-esque print about political and cultural trends, and was later mutated into a website. Its slogan, “Proud to be Flesh”, “fired another salvo at the Cartesian/Gibsonian fantasy of ‘jacking into’ cyberspace and leaving the ‘meat’ behind.” (p: 16) The reason they chose this slogan can probably be combined with their choice to publish the anthology in bookform (and give it its fleshy cover): they remind us that behind everything digital and new media, there will always be real humans.

The content of the book consists of nine main chapters, each chapter containing around ten articles, which are chronologically ordered to give some sense in how Mute treated the specific themes over time.

These chapters are:

  1. Direct Democracy and its Demons:Web 1.0 to Web 2.0
  2. Net Art to Conceptual Art and Back
  3. I, Cyborg: Reinventing the Human
  4. Of Commoners and Criminals
  5. Organising Horizontally
  6. Assuming the Position: Art and/Against Business
  7. Under the Net – the City and the Camp
  8. Reality Check: Class and Immaterial Labour
  9. The Open Work

Topics that follow from these chapters include creative commons, cyborg-culture, class (struggles), web 1.0 ,web 2.0, economy and online art and is all written in a appealing and readable way. During the entire book Mute maintains a critical perspective and articles feature essay’s, interviews and raportages.

One of the downsides of the anthology is that the great amount of information can lead to an information-overload, especially when trying to read it in one ride. Also, while there are alot of references to other articles in the book, not every article is directly linked to the chapter’s subject or to other articles , which sometimes took away the reading-flow. To overcome this, the authors have put in a short introduction before each chapter, giving the following articles the relevant contexts.

Also, don’t read this book when you’re a big Wired fan. It’s references to Wired were usually very negative, for example: Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron write about the Californian Ideology, “a fatalistic vision of the natural and inevitable triumph of the high-tech free market – a vision which is blind to racism, poverty and environmental degradation” (p:27). This is one of many, but this does show Mute‘s critical point of view and skeptic character.

All in all a must read for people that want to have a good overview on the developments in culture, art and politics in the last 15 years and for people interested in mute magazine.

Full details:

Proud to be Flesh: A mute magazine anthology of cultural politics after the net

Edited by: Josephine Berry Slater, Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Michael Corris, Benedict Seymour, Anthony Iles and Simon Worthington.

Published by Mute Publishing in association with Autonomedia

Publishing date: October 2009

ISBN: 978-1-906496-28-9

572 pages, 78 colour illustrations, 229mm x 152 mm

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