AB: In the 1970s you made very strong arguments for the democratic potential of the new phenomenon of cable tv (e.g. in your book Artculture, 1977), allowing smaller tv-stations to broadcast specialized and alternative information as compared to the typical information passed on by national networks. Are those arguments the same in favor of the WWW?
Actually, one commentator in the New York Times Magazine recently claimed, referring primarily to specialized tv-stations in the 1990s and to the world wide web, that "the more we have been wired together, the more we have been spun apart", because the ability for everyone to choose, create and inhabit her or his own "niches", may indeed diminish the "space" we have in common, the information and discussions that we all share in. This is the not so democratic aspect, one might say, of our freedom to choose and of individualized information.
Must there not still be certain "stations" or "channels" common to us all, where democracy and the development of our culture may be discussed? I sense that your web-sites "The World's First Collaborative Sentence" and "The World's First Collaborative Vision of Beauty" are attempts at setting up such collective spaces...

DD: I am an anarchist at heart and therefore overjoyed that we are finding ways to explore all of our personal and intellectual dimensions on the web. Not only do I not fear it. I do all I can to promote diversification and de-centralization. Both "The World's First Collaborative Sentence" and the MetaBody project--and, in a subtler sense, my evolving Terrible Beauty global narrative--are metaphors for anarchic joy. Their unique value is that they offer an infinitude of ideas, images, and sounds. The sentence has at least 150,000 meanings (my best estimate of the number of contributions at this moment). You are asked to speak, unperiod. You are not asked to join a chorus, comment on a specific issue, focus on assent or dissent, etc. What sets MetaBody apart, it seems to me, is that it is still the only place on the web where you can see the world's body in the full natural complexity of self-expression and presentation. Yes, there are plenty of porn sites filled with perfect bodies. There are chatlines where images of bodies, many imperfect, are exchanged. But this is the only place where your own "vision of beauty" is welcomed, without preconception or pressure.
I am glad you see that these two sites are nonetheless collective spaces. However, what you read and see there is virtually an anti-collective collective. This may be the ideal way in which a world of this kind can come together, a third way if you will. I don't say it's easy. In the 1960's what was once called "The New Left" tried to set up public leaderless meetings to formulate anti-war policy. The fact that it often failed--that often the meetings would be taken over by strong-minded dominant talkers--did not seem to me to destroy the beauty of the attempt. The quakers have been working out policies in this manner for several hundred years. What is required is a kind of reverence for alternative points of view as well as a new form of speaking, or rhetoric, in order that the new collectivity can co-manage the kind of lives we now can lead. Certainly the old ideal summed up in the phrase "mass medium" is no longer inspiring for most of us who inhabit this planet.

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AB: Is the world wide web a mass medium?

DD: The web is NOT a mass medium. Every day this is proven again. The sites and the products that "sell" (in the highest as well as the lowest sense) are inevitably interactive. They permit exquisite, free-wheeling choices or they go bankrupt. Almost nobody goes to the Web to be passively entertained or sold. We go to have it all our way, like lovers who enjoy indulging each other in rotation, so to speak.

AB: Since you brought up the issue of collectivity in the 1960s I am tempted to ask you to explain the similarities and differences between what today's web-users, each inhabiting their own private and anonymous space, as opposed to the collective involvement and the shared, interactive space of the 1960s happenings and political forums? What is the "anti-collective collective" that you refer to?

DD: The methodology of the Web makes the single soul quality of the user more explicit than in those 60's art events to which you refer. But the single soul was always in evidence there, too, if buried beneath the rhetoric of the time, which Kaprow and others both shared and indulged. It is absurd to refer to the Happening audiences as in any sense "mass" or "communal": they were filled with highly literate, highly intense, ego-virile people. They wanted to JOIN in a game or structure, but on their own terms.
On the demographic and historic level, the participation esthetic of the period was absolutely inevitable. It made a brilliant dovetail "lock" with its market, so to speak. I am told the pit beneath the stage in Shakespeare's time was filled with loud, noisy, illiterate citizens.Y´Mass TV in its halcyon period, the 50's, 60's, and 70's (before cable tv arrived, proving wrong MacLuhan's assumption that we all wanted to share the same image), played to a huge pit. But all during this century the rapid increase in literacy and travel has been turning the old collective into single souls. Had we been aware of this profound truth, the amazing growth of the Web, which hands that soul the keyboard he didnt have in the 60's, would not have shocked us.
The more complex and literate we become, the less anybody can predict what we will say, do, or create, as actors or as interactors. By anti-collective I mean a public that does not know how to act in mindless concert with anybody else. Its members insist on vocal representation. If they don't get it, if they are not handed a means of active expression as well as a vote, they won't defer to the majority. This is why it is inevitable that we will debate and conduct community and national affairs on something like the InterNet we now have...though it may be InterNet 3, in 2050 or so.

AB: Do you think the web is characterized by a new "rhetoric": people being able to make anonymous statements, or at least taking on several different identies, the privacy in which these statements may be uttered, the sense in which everyone is free to "speak" whenever and for how long he/she wishes to, in whatever tone and discourse, and in response to whatever other statement?

DD: Yes. But I must add that I have no idea how this rhetoric, that is to say, this manner of speaking, will evolve. I grew up under representational democracy. I vote to send someone to the legislature to "represent" me. He or she speaks in my behalf but on the basis of majoritarian agreement. What will it be like when the citizen speaks only for himself, yet takes into account all the other selves? "The World's First Collaborative Sentence" may be the beginning of such a rhetorical transformation, crude and primitive, but joyful.

AB: As regards the necessity of a reverence for alternative points of view that you spoke of earlier, I think your web-sites certainly establish a model for realizing this "utopia". Are the various people you have interviewed on the MetaBody web-site --- people with various kinds of "expertise" as regards the body (cognitive linguist George Lakoff, art historian Irving Sandler, the two women from Project Erotica) --- comparable, then, to the "strong-minded dominant talkers" that you refer to in your account of the 1960s political forums? People who open up,facilitate and throw new perspectives on the discussions? Is that how you see your own role in your projects, as a kind of "moderator" of the "anarchic joy" you were talking about before?

DD: Yes, to all of the above. But one day there will be millions of Lakoffs and Davises. Maybe they're already...out there.