August 2007 will mark the launch date of Miro, before its official launch still called “Democracy Player.” Miro is a free, open-source internet TV and video player designed to facilitate the distribution and easy access to video files, shared TV programs, etc. It includes a guide of at this point already over 1500 channels, has HD capability and relies upon BitTorrent. You can already download version 0.9.8 here.
More interesting than the technological aspects of this player are to me the political implications. The player has been created by the Participatory Culture Foundation, an organization aiming to “enable and support non-corporate creativity and political engagement.” Funded by several private donors (since the PCF is a non-profit organization), the PCF seems to advocate democratic participation via the proliferation of knowledge exchange and the creation of independent intellectual communities. This project is supported by their video player, since, as their slogan states “open media matters.” I am convinced that it does. However, I am not entirely convinced that it primarily matters for democracy and the creation of progressive political communities. I am sure this kind of engagement does indeed create some form of politics. It certainly does. But just like the slogan of token liberation projects “raise your voice” never really guarantees that the voice that is finally heard is a progressive one, projects such as these create a different kind of democracy than the kind progressive political projects would like to see. Democracy does not always equal radical political transformation and a power structure based upon the decision of a popular majority (in other words, what is created here is not the Hardt and Negri, “total” brand of democracy). Apart from the progressive kind, we also have the kind of democracy that is really imperialism (I assume I do not have to spell this one out), as well as the kind of democracy that is really contemporary capitalism. Post-Fordist capitalism principally relies upon a decentralization of the production process, a “democratization” of creative projects and impulses (connected to what we call “immaterial/affective labor”) and the increasing integration of every fiber of the human subject (down to emotions and affects) into the production process. Hence what some call democratic particitation facilitated by e.g. Miro also serves the purposes of contemporary capitalism, which in a less democratic than increasingly totalitarian fashion implicates the human subject on every level singularly as a consumption/production machine. Hence, while I certainly agree that Miro will produce some form of democratic action (the form which we are told is now shaping elections), most of its effect will aid the creation and re-creation of a subject included in the production process of contemporary capitalism in increasingly totalitarian and alienating forms. However, this inclusion, maybe for the first time in history, can produce consent and thus exist hegemonically as never before, increasingly succeeding in removing its own contradictions from the center of the conditions of its production. Democracy is good. Miro is democracy. Miro is fun. Plug me in.
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