Tag Archives: capitalism

Producing Consumers: A Follow Up to Robin James

Today’s post is a reply to Robin James’ post, which raises questions stemming from the observations made in Jodi Dean’s recent post on “What Comes After Real Subsumption?

 

Image c/o Aldor

Image c/o Aldor

This might be a tad “incompatible” with the existing discussion because while the discussion so far has focused mainly on a Marxist approach to a series of philosophical questions, I want to take an anarchist approach to an anthropological re-reading of the initial question: “what comes after real subsumption?” That is, I think some of the subsequent questions might be more answerable if we interrogate their anthropological facets. Particularly, I want to focus on what is considered feedstock for production and what is identified as the act of consumption which, by definition, must yield a waste that capitalists sort through in an effort to extract more surplus value. Pigs in shit as it were.  (more…)

Bro-gemony & dubstep production

[This is a very rough, thinking-as-I-write piece. It may jump around a lot. If I’ve left something underexplained, let me know!]

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Yesterday, Mike D’Errico posted a wonderfully provocative essay about brostep, the Military Entertainment Complex, and music/game tech to Sounding Out. I want to flesh out a few initial responses to his piece. I really, really like Mike’s attention to the interface between music and gaming technology and gender, but I think the post under-theorizes gender. The “bros” in brostep are doing the work of patriarchy, but I think they’re doing this work with tools and methods–that is, with “tech”–that complicates traditional notions of masculinity and traditional gender politics. In the end, I want to contrast the industrial Dad with the neoliberal/communicative Bro.

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New Year’s Spectacle

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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…)

Reach out and touch…: on audio social media

“Reach out and touch someone” is an old telephone ad slogan; even regular old telephony is a medium for social interaction.

Over on Vice Motherboard, Michael Byrne recently wrote about his desire for “an Instagram of sound.” He says

What I want is a place to hear things that people record in the spaces around them. This seems reasonable to me: An app with just one button to record and another to share. I’d have fewer “friends” than on Instagram, in the realm of sound, but there would surely be some. And some who use the app would be pushed to find better and more interesting sounds, and to appreciate those sounds in new and different ways.

There are already such apps–Audioboo is the one I use (there are plenty of others, as summarized here). Audioboo is a social network for sound-sharing; people follow me on Audioboo, but I’ve also linked my account to Twitter so I can also tweet sound clips and share with my twitter followers, just like I would with Instagram (if, that is, I used Instagram with any regularity). I wish it was as popular as Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine…but it’s not.

I don’t think this relative lack of popularity is primarily due to the fact that, as Byrne argues, we’re trained to use vision as our dominant sense. Certainly that’s part of it, but that’s not the only (and perhaps not even the primary) reason. I think sound recording is a different medium than both photography and even Vine’s short-attention-span videography, and that maybe this medium isn’t as well-suited as photography and videography are to the kinds of tasks we generally want to accomplish on social media. So, the controlling factor here is social media, not auditory or visual content–they’re just means to the end of social mediation.

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The Network of Things to Come

The Planned Headquarters of Apple Inc.

The Planned Headquarters of Apple Inc.

The year is 1959 and a very powerful modern art aficionado is sharing a limousine with Princess  Beatrix of the Netherlands. The man is supposed to be showing off the splendor of the capital of what was once —so optimistically— called New Amsterdam. His orchestrated car trip is not going quite as he had hoped and instead of zipping past “The Gut” and dwelling on the stately early 19th century mansions on Central and Clinton Avenues, Beatrix is devastated by the utter poverty that has come to define the very center of this capitol city now called Albany, New York. The art aficionado, unfortunately for him, cannot blame some far away disconnected bureaucrat or corrupt politician for what they are seeing because he is the governor of this powerful Empire State and he has done little to elevate the suffering of his subjects. He resolves, after that fateful car trip, to devote the same kind of passion he has for modern art to this seat of government. Governor Rockefeller will make this city into a piece of art worthy of his own collection. (more…)

The Rise of Friendsgiving

#Friendsgiving on Instagram

#Friendsgiving on Instagram

Airports suck. They suck the worst on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving: some nearly a sixth of all Americans travel for the holiday and most of them are taking to the sky to get to leave their homes and go “back home” to some dining room that’s larger than their own. Every airport is full of government-groped travelers anxious over the possibility of missing their flight to a Thanksgiving table. For the 20-30 year-old set, Thanksgiving out of town usually means a paycheck’s worth of plane ticket plus a couple days of missed work or precious class time needed for a final exam. For many more, the prospect of taking an extended weekend is completely out of the question because most of us work in retail. As my friend Lisa wrote on her Facebook yesterday: “To fellow retail employees this holiday: Godspeed, we can do this.” Thanksgiving isn’t a time to relax, its a time to either gear up for a 12-hour work day or spend as little as money as possible to make up for the remarkable food bill you just racked up. To leave town on Black Friday’s Eve is near-impossible, and so many millennials plan for a Friendsgiving: the thoroughly post-modern holiday that celebrates a  paradoxical mixture of just getting by, the excesses of late-capitalism, and the infinitely negotiable non-familial ties that make up young peoples’ lives.

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The Myth of Virtual Currency

File this one under “what is at stake” when we talk about the digital dualist critique. Bitcoin, the Internet’s favorite way to buy pot and donate to Ron Paul, hit an all-time high this week of around $900 to one Bitcoin (BTC). The news coverage of Bitcoin and the burgeoning array of crypto-currencies (according to the Wall Street Journal there’s also litecoin, bbqcoin, peercoin, namecoin, and feathercoin) has largely focused on the unstable valuation of the currencies and all of the terrible things people could do with their untraceable Internet money. What hasn’t been investigated however, is the idea that crypto-currencies are somehow inherently more “virtual” and thereby less susceptible to centralized control the way US dollars, Euros, or Dave & Buster’s Powercards are. Both assumptions are wrong and are undergirded by the digital dualist fallacy(more…)

The Apple Event

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Confession: I watched the Apple event yesterday, and I’ve watched at least part of every product announcement for the last several years. Apple announcements are the opposite of a guilty pleasure; they are a burden that I take on with pride.  They are insipid and represent everything that is wrong with Silicon Valley and yet I feel obliged to watch them because they let me stare deeply into this heaving morass of Cronenbergian lust for technology. It always feels like we’re one year away from Phil Schiller offing himself with an iGun after screaming “LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!” When I watch Silicon Valley spread out on the Moscone Center stage I feel prideful (to a fault perhaps) that these events just seem so… transparent. They’re so easy to read and so easy to critique they amount to social science target practice. (more…)

Time Is’t Money, It’s Value

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___Danny Howard, a DJ on BBC Radio 1, has a weekly feature called “Push The Tempo.” Here, he takes several remixes of the same song and puts them in order of increasing tempo (BPM). It sounds like you’re listening to one song or mix that gradually speeds up. Or rather, the song “develops” (in the traditional musicological sense of elaborating a basic theme and becoming more complex) by progressing toward a temporal telos (ancient Greek for goal/end)–instead of dialectically achieving “Absolute Spirit,” these mixes sound like they’re ratcheting up to something like absolute speed. In this way, the mix’s aesthetic is a bit too literally “accelerationist” (the actual speeding up of the songs performs, aesthetically, the moves that accelerationist ideology idealizes, politically). Effectively, the mix is also a tour of various subgenres of EDM, house, & techno. Insofar as each of these subgenres has a rather narrowly-drawn range of standard tempi, the only way to dramatically increase the tempo of the overall mix is to begin with a relatively slower genre (sometimes even sub-120 BPM)  and work up to something jungle-y or gabber-y that conventionally approaches 200+ BPM.

 

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Burning Man is the New Capitalism

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My Facebook feed, which had nearly gone dormant for the past week, is once again teaming with life; this means that somewhere, in a nondescript plot of desert, 50,000+ souls are packing tents, scrubbing dust from their hair, and beginning an exhausted journey home from their annual pilgrimage to the Burning Man festival. After last year’s impulsive decision to fund the the trip on student loan debt, I find myself once again relegated to the social media sidelines by financial constraints. One benefit of watching this year’s event unfold at a distance is that it has given me time and space to reflect on my experiences with Burning Man 2012. (more…)