‘The older I get,’ said Daphne, ‘the more I think people get to look like other people. I never did when I was young but now I can hardly look at a face without thinking how much it looks like someone else.’
May 23, 2014 § Leave a comment
Like Apple a huge number of companies transform unwaged enthusiasm into micro-productivity that, in aggregate, can be folded into profit schemes but could never be paid for as actual wage labor. Valve’s Steam service is building an ecosystem of unwaged user productivity, selling games through its “Early Access” program, essentially allowing game developers to charge players to beta test their games in exchange for the flattering thrill of seeing something before it’s ready.
Coursera has traded on goodwill and charitable idealism to duck expensive overhead costs by using voluntarily donated space while transforming transcription services into student curriculum. Duolingo redirects the desire to learn a language into a business that sells low-cost translations to media companies wanting to syndicate stories into non-English-speaking markets. GitHub has inserted itself into the open source software community by creating a central repository of collaborative coding projects, while charging users to operate private repositories. Google , Facebook, Twitter , have all turned even the most basic acts of daily life into market research micro-labor, and the more personally intertwined we become with each the more productive we become for them.
To a large extent, work has always been a delusional gifting of time and energy to bosses in exchange for the abstract comforts of a purposeful identity in a superstructure of someone else’s making. This arrangement was always transitory, and now that the economies of scale have grown so large that the value of the end product can no longer support the labor necessary for its creation, we find ourselves still desiring of the identity we once derived from serving, a yearning that drives people into charitable forms of giving to for-profit companies while increasingly mistrusting one another. Individuals don’t need help because they’re lazy, uneducated, addicts, or criminals, but companies are always worth contributing to because they do great things for the collective. read more
FILM: Polly Hudson
February 20, 2014 § 1 Comment
Just as playing a lot of chess can prompt one to start seeing the world in terms of reciprocal moves, or long sessions of Photoshop can make one see reality as so many adjustable layers, cumulative Facebook use habituates users to view social reality as a “browseable archive” organized in terms of discrete yet infinitely connectable individual profiles. The “ontological assumptions about the informational character of the world” built into Facebook — the assumption that experience can be readily translated into sortable data with no meaningful loss of integrity — gradually become, Mitchell argues, the ontological assumptions of its users, producing what he calls “archival subjectivity.”
Part of this subjectivity is a preference for “convenience and automaticity” rather than “use or control”: that is, for Facebook users, what can easily be added to the archive seems more real than that which resists it. Having an automatically archived self promises ontological security, Mitchell suggests, to compensate for the “disposability of the digital world” and the erosion of traditional supports for stable identity. Also, since your identity is being built in Facebook as data without your active participation, it can be processed in various ways (laid out in a Timeline, say, or in a short clip about your year’s Facebook activity), allowing you to consume your own identity as a fascinating, perfectly targeted cultural good…
But it’s just as likely that users invert the “browsing” subjectivity rather than inhabit it unreflexively. The idea that we want sociality to be convenient and efficient is built into Facebook as a platform, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily have to inhabit that value system in using it. The idea that convenience is so irresistible that people’s yearnings are immediately and automatically reshaped in its image is itself part of capitalism’s ideology of individualism and “rational” maximization. Consumerism is anchored in the idea that people can be atomized and controlled by their desire for hyperpersonalized pleasures that other people only interfere with. But often pleasure is a matter of inconvenience, particularly when it involves social interaction. The inconvenience of other people, the circuitous routes we must take to communicate and establish shared bases for experience — these are inefficient but also so pleasurable that we often claim this pursuit of intimacy is the only “real” pleasure. Habituation to Facebook’s ontological assumptions, which reject such a view of intimacy, may have the effect of foregrounding the tension between the platforms value system and our own, rather than allowing Facebook to function hegemonically as a kind of “pre-understanding.” We can end up embracing simultaneously the browseable reality Facebook provides and the unbrowseable reality that it frames and valorizes despite itself. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Bart Ramakers