Rave-Altering Context

Katherine Hayles Chapter Contesting for the Body of Information: The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics in her book How We Became Post-Humans argues against the theory that “humans and machines are brothers under the skin.” She chronicles the arguments made during the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, which question the belief that the human conscious, a body of information, can exist similarly if not precisely in the same way, as it could in a computer.

She outlines the work of British researcher, Donald MacKay, who purposed a theory, which purposed the inextricability or at least connectedness of information to meaning. He first suggested that in addition to “selective information” (purposed by Shannon and bavelas), which is determined by selecting message elements from a set, there must also be “structural information.” This structural information is a metacommunication, which implies how to interpret a message and inevitably invites semantic consideration. Hayles explains that such structural information derives from observing changes in the mind of the receiver and thus concluding, “subjectivity…is precisely what enables information and meaning to be connected” (56).

This idea of structural information, measured by subjectivity is something seemingly questioned within the rituals of the rave space. In large part, the experience at a rave is one that attempts to disorient and disassemble the self, to question what is known: what is received in what context. In a way the rave space is a rapid demonstration of MacKay’s concepts at work. I recognize this correlation as it is demonstrated by the rave experience.

MacKay’s ideas seem to resonate in the way ravers allow their physical self to be absorbed by the stimulants that bombard them—lights, music, people, substances—and with the constant sensual changes, experience constant change of context. Thus, what was internalized and understood in one minute may have a completely different meaning in the next. At a number of larger rave events, particularly those that have grown into exceptionally produced parties, there are often spaces divided into different rooms with different experiences. You enter one room where you hear violent dubstep drops, watch fire dancers, and are thrown around amidst rage-filled mosh pits until you walk through a doorway into another room where you hear a minimal techno dj set and the lights are blue and purple and everyone dancing somewhat in unison; until you walk through another doorway, which leads outside where the air is cold and there is no music but the roar of people talking over each other. You drop a tab of acid outside and retrace your steps through the space. Every room and every thing you saw is different than it was the first time around. It looks different, smells different, sounds, feels, and tastes different; and yet it is what it was before just internalized in a different “context” and thus means something completely different.


Hayles, Katherine M. “Contesting for the Body of Information: The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics .” How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago.: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 50-83. Print.


~ by jh2716 on October 16, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s