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On New Year’s Eve the biggest fireworks display ever was launched off of the biggest tower in the world. Dubai’s fireworks show was, in terms less vulgar than the display itself, an undulating orgasm of global capital. The 500,000 fireworks mounted to Burj Khalifa Tower and the surrounding skyscrapers, were reportedly viewed live by over a million people on the ground and livestreamed to millions more around the world. I can’t find a price tag for the display (too gauche?) but given that your typical municipal fireworks display for proles can easily top six figures, lets just assume that you could measure the cost of this display in national GDPs. It was profane in the way Donald Trump’s continued existence is profane. The fireworks display was so huge —such an utterly perfect metaphor for capitalism itself— that no single person standing on the ground could witness the entire thing. It was a spectacle meant for camera lenses. more...

I just published a piece in a special issue of American Behavioral Scientist on the topic of Prosumption and the Prosumer. The article will likely be of interest to many of Cyborgology blog readers. In it, I consider the applicability of Marx’s two main critiques of capitalism—alienation and exploitation—to social media. Though Marx was describing the materialist paradigm of factory production, it is useful to see how far these concepts can be stretched to account for the immaterial paradigm of digital prosumption, because, even if we observe weaknesses in how the concepts graft on to social media, these observations become a starting point for new kinds of theorizing.

Additionally, I found it important to try to bring alienation into the conversation surrounding social media. Thus far, most Marxian analysis has focused solely on exploitation (many hyperbolically claiming that we have entered an era of hyper- or over-exploitation). I argue that exploitation has remained a constant between material and immaterial modes of production and that what is most remarkable is the fact that productivity occurs on social media with so little alienation.

You can access the article on the publisher’s site or as a .pdf here.

PJ Rey (@pjrey) is a sociologist at the University of Maryland working to describe how social media and other technology reflect and change our culture and the economy.