It seems we’ve lost our heads — no need for a brain when we’ve got thumbs that type and swipe, seeking out knowledge from a glut of online information too expansive for any one mind to hold. And with the head has gone that stalwart of critical consciousness, the public intellectual. Instead, as media theorist McKenzie Wark terms it in is book of the same title, we have General Intellects — thinkers, who, when constellated, create a collective picture of our world.
No individuals and no minds, big data is the big opportunity to give up on storing information and instead knowing how to find it, and better yet, use it. General intellects are guides to this brave new world, helping us understand how to be and see our own bodies and societies under technological capitalism.
Wark leaps from Chantal Mouffe who proposes new means of gaming conflict in the political sphere, to Paul B. Preciado, whose work explores the ways bodies are produced by images and hormones and who calls for a vanguard that intervenes microscopically, to Sianne Ngai who considers a new series of aesthetic terms, offering a revised starting point for imagining ourselves and the world we might have in the twenty-first century.