This article deals with articulations of digital accidents, focusing especially on how the computer virus has been signified as a problem for national security, international commerce and the individual user. However, at the same time as viruses have since the 1980s been constructed as malicious software threatening the very basics of the network society, they have been captured as part of the consumer capitalist system, exemplified e.g. in the rise of anti-virus industry. Thus, the article argues that capitalism itself is viral, functioning through a constant reshifting of its limits. Capitalism proceeds per se via these accidents and disruptions that it at the same time constructs as its enemies. In this sense, computer viruses and worms can be understood as the general accidents of digital capitalist culture.
As an analogy to a computer virus, consider a biological disease that is 100% infectious, spreads whenever animals communicate, kills all infected animals instantly at a given moment, and has no detectable side effects until that moment. If a delay of even one week were used between the introduction of the disease and its effect, it would be very likely to leave only a few remote villages alive, and would certainly wipe out the vast majority of modern society. If a computer virus of this type could spread throughout the computers of the world, it would likely stop most computer usage for a significant period of time, and wreak havoc on modern government, financial, business, and academic institutions. (Fred Cohen, 1984)
We feel that “The Virus” is the “stranger”, the “other”, in our machine, a sort of digital sans papier—uncontrollable diversity. Once Hollywood, like Empire, finished killing “Indians” and the “Soviet Russians”, the Hollywood propaganda machine had to build other anti-Empire monsters to keep alive the social imaginary of 2001: aliens, meteors, epidemic... so many monsters. Now the “virus” equals damage, it is easier to sell the idea of a “full spectrum” anti-virus product that would “kill them all”, with no distinctions. Instead, our work says that there are many types of viruses: good, evil, entertaining, boring, elegant, political, furious, beautiful, and very beautiful. ‘There are no good viruses’, anti-virus producers say. (Luca Lampo, net art group [epidemiC], 2002)
Computer worms and viruses are not just technical entities, bits of digital code - they also express central traits of information culture. In a world where production focuses more and more on information instead of goods, an information error registers as a break-up within the system. In capitalism, time is money and so too is information : a malicious piece of computer code seems to be an attack on the very basics of global order. The connection between information capitalism—a well-researched topic in itself—and
computer viruses has not, however, been sufficiently explicated. (leer más...)