Day 209: The Bank of Common Knowledge

Read about this in a Bruce Sterling piece. This is interesting and theoretically screwy in so many ways. Interesting concept, which, however, will once again illustrate the many similarities, yet the final political/practical differences between Hardt and Negri and viral marketing strategies. Let’s just call it “deliberative democratic capitalism.” What really happens to knowledge and its political “use-value” on the individual level if it is increasingly applied, disseminated and stored in a way that, as Lyotard suggests “externalizes knowledge with respect to the knower?” The very concept of “urban survival” becomes re-defined along the lines of this increasingly totalitarian form of alienation (of the knower from knowledge), transforming the networks of knowledge often thought to contain the possibility for creating democratic networks (directed at action) into alienated, exteriorized networks of knowledge, purely functional as a means of viral distribution, not connected to concepts of use as much as primarily and maybe singularly to the logic of exchange and reproduction. Take a look:

http://openserver.cccb.org/bck/

P.S.: “exchange and gift economy”–hee, hee! Yeah, as noble a transaction as the interaction between the knowledge-gift receiving person and the Astroturfer!

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Day 161: Miro/Democracy Player

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.

Day 149: Revolution, Humanism, Universalisms–Good or Bad Totalities

Dear all,

there has been a very interesting discussion going on between Joanna and myself regarding revolution, humanism, the potential value of universalisms etc. You can find the discussion here: Day 140. I am sure there are some of you who might have valuable opinions to offer. Let me suggest several approaches:

a) the question of totality–there are several ways to talk about this (e.g. Zizek’s defense of Hegelianism, the reliance upon ideas such as “deliberative democracy” regarding, say, the 3rd generation Frankfurt School, neo-Habermassians, etc. [see e.g. Seyla Benhabib, or Iris Marion Young]–in this respect we could also look toward people like Jean Luc Nancy [esp. the “being singular plural” idea]–as well as Kantian liberalism as the basis for speculations regarding cosmopolitanism, hos(ti)pitality, human rights, tolerance and peace as represented by e.g. Derrida’s later writings)

b) the question of totality and universals as raised by Agamben’s recent work

c) the question of universals, esp. as represented by Badiou’s work on St. Paul (and obviously in Being and Event)

d) Deleuze and recent versions of Deleuzian rhizomatic models, schizo-analysis and ideas of de-territorialization, which are combined with Italian anarchism/operaismo and liberation theology to form a seperate idea of universals/totalities (de-territorialized and multiple, yet still “total” in their democratic nature)–obvious examples here: Hardt and Negri, or Virno

e) questioning the idea of/necessity for/alternatives to teleologies as such (in terms of devising a political program that avoids replicating previous paternalistic structures of order much like described by Fanon [a tendency within postcolonial situations])

f) completely non-academic and non-jargon-filled ideas that may be more helpful than any of the above suggested models.

Let’s try to continue this discussion–I agree with Joanna that this is a VERY important issue to discuss, especially regarding the frequent confusion of people who would like to partake in progressive political movements until the point at which they realize that the channels that are being offered to them have no answers, or that these channels have dangerously reactionary answers to our problems (in which case we need to be happy that at least some people are smart enough to realize the dangerous nature of such pseudo-answers [as you can tell, I am trying to avoid naming political organizations at this point–we can get into that later, but I fear that this might easily make this discussion digress into a People’s Front of Judaea vs. Judaean People’s Front pissing contest]).

Oh, I have also been tagged by anaj and need to come up with 8 random things about myself, as well as tag 8 other people (not sure which one’s more difficult)–I think I need a little more time for this.

Oh–and here is what I mean by PFJ vs. JPF:

P.S.: the “New Seven Wonders of the Worlds” were announced (number one, I believe, is the fact that Al Gore was able to organize a worldwide music-event but was unable to launch a decent presidential campaign). Get the list here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/TRAVEL/07/06/seven.wonders/index.html , or look up the campaign’s website here: http://www.new7wonders.com/. Not sure what the point of this was (except for making egomaniac Bernard Weber more famous and potentially boosting tourism). Maybe someone can explain it to me. Should there be an election for the “New New Seven Wonder of the World” I would already at this point like to nominate as one of the candidates the fact that people vote for shit like this but not for, say, the next president of the US, because, let me tell you, this is an occasion of great wonder to me.

Day 38: Capitalism 3.0

labor.jpg

***EDIT: quickly in response to skunk’s comment and the “fun with Emerson” idea. Here some R.W. I think everyone should be able to quote at random occasions:

“I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting for men. It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and twilight woods which no day illustrates, suggesting a vast and undeveloped nature which men have not recognized. They present the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all have.”

Yes, the unconscious is productive indeed and nothing yields more productive force for the accumulation of capital than the undeveloped twilight woods of our minds. Let us then surrender our brains to the owls, let’s follow Emerson’s advice and escape the productive agency of misguided hooting and live forever freely in ignorance. Strange logic? Yes/no. Thus here the beginning of the strand on affective labor: ***

As promised, here a brief introductory post on the concept of immaterial labor. I do not have tons of time, so I figured I would keep posting details on the issue (which is rather complex) over the next few days and we can discuss them as we go along. This is something that is very interesting to me and in my dissertation I am trying to formulate an account of the precise effects this change in the economic and social organization of capitalism has had/is having on cultural production.

A VERY broad intro into the subject: the concept of immaterial labor is mostly associated with the economic writings of Maurizio Lazzarato, which have recently been picked up and further developed by people such as Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Paulo Virno, or Antonella Corsani. Most of the discussions surrounding this topic are primarily carried out in the Italian and French context, but there are also a few German economists who have begun to write about this. The general argument is that we have transitioned into what could be called the third stage of capitalism (the first two being mercantile and industrial in nature). Lazzarato claims that it is not sufficient to talk about “post-industrial” capitalism. Instead we must also examine this on the level of subjectivity–in other words on the level on which the subject is included in the production process. Lazzarato’s assertion is that we have entered a stage of capitalist accumulation in which the immaterial labor processes are almost more important than the material ones–this precisely has been taken up by Hardt in his formulation of “affective labor,” or by Corsani in her analysis of what she calls “cognitive capitalism.” The realization that the main productive forces are internalized, what D&G would call the desiring machines, as well as the understanding of affect as the primary force behind the positive dissemination of information must the include the necessity to articulate precisely the ways in which the individual subject is (often unconsciously) involved in a production process that is assumed to exist in an exteriorized relation to the subject. Hence here the link to Baudrillard’s assertion that we have indeed passed the age that can be analyzed from a Foucauldian angle, as discipline and surveillance do not serve the purpose of rigorous categorization any more. Instead what we find is the internalization of labor processes and the abolition of centrally regulating structures in the attempt to create a decentralized, anarchic and semi-autonomous production process that should precisely not be perceived as production, but as an exercise in democracy, freedom and rhizomatically liberating information exchange.

Here a short section from Lazzarato that introduces the general concept. Let me kow what you think and we can begin a basic discussion of the implications of this. I will then continue to add more detailed info and theoretical arguments as we go along.

An initial synthesis of these results – framed in terms of an attempt to define the technical and subjective-political composition of the working class – can be expressed in the concept of immaterial labor, which is defined as the labor that produces the informational and cultural concent of the commodity. The concept of immaterial labor refers to two different aspects of labor. On the one hand, as regards the “informational content” of the commodity, it refers directly to the changes taking place in workers’ labor processes in big companies in the industrial and tertiary sectors, where the skills involved in direct labor arc increasingly skills involving cybernetics and computer control (and horizontal and vertical communi­cation). On che other hand, as regards the activity that produces the “cultural con­tent” of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that arc not normally recognized as “work” – in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion. Once the privileged domain of the bour­geoisie and its children, these activities have since the end of the 1970s become thedomain of what we have come to define as “mass intellectuality.” The profound changes in these strategic sectors have radically modified not only the composition, management, and regulation of the workforce – the organization of production – but also, and more deeply, the role and function of intellectuals and their activities within society.