"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 9, 2011

Social Currency

I'm sick of the nattering about so-called revolutionary social media. I hope this video helps illustrate why:

AmEx has managed to do what it does best - capitalize on the relations in a society organized to capture labor and turn it into profit, for companies such as AmEx. Using the supposedly revolutionary new means of "horizontal" and democratic interaction - you know, the ballyhooed fountainheads of not only the Arab Spring, but resurgent progressive politics -  AmEx has, with less than a minute of video, done us all a tremendous service. It has shown twitter, social media and the internet for what they are: means of capitalized exchange.

It's ad men have shown us the naked operation of spectacular forms of control, assimilation and integration.

In a hierarchical, monetized society, there is no democracy, no consent, no free exchange. Any interaction which occurs within the confines of an owned system of exchange belongs to that system, in the same manner in which licensed software belongs to its producer, and text messages remain the property of the phone company.

In our communities, horizontal interactions occur only within hierarchies. There are no social currencies which are not also capitalized ones, owned by fiat or fiction in the name of real chains of command. Capitalist exchange colonizes everything it can, whenever possible, however it can afford to do so.

Social media, in our society, do not develop in a democratic haven safe or secure from corporate predation and influence. Social media are the creation of hierarchically organized bands of expropriators. They are direct and immediate colonizations of human exchange. Every tweet is an advertisement, every update a commodification, every blog post an offer to sell.


Richard said...

great post

technology developed by capital tends, of course, to serve the interests of capital

but, one shouldn't be too deterministic, as there is always a tension between the purposes behind the development of a particular technological innovation and the forms of resistance to which people put it to use

or, to put it differently, all manifestations of capitalism carry within them the potential for resistance to it, this is, in effect, what dialectical analysis, for all of its strengths and weaknesses, attempts to discern

oddly enough, this is why I tend to be suspicious of some utopian proposals regarding things like education, for example, because I sometimes think that absent an experience of an oppressive system, you can't proceed to create a compassionate, humanistic alternative

I guess you could say that there is a thread of Maoism in my thinking, filtered through the cinema of Fassbinder

Jack Crow said...


I took an all or nothing approach in order to deliberately outline what seems to be ignored by the triumphalist credo of technology=progress=liberation.

But, you are on the money: tools can have their uses altered.

Justin's "walking the dog" illustrates, in the same way, how mental tools (techniques) can be altered as well, to change relations and outcomes...

...I don't know what I think about education. My experiences were too limited and too personal to allow me to develop an expansive or forgiving view of managed edification. My contempt for sponsored academia should be fairly obvious, at this point, but I'm not convinced that this commends me.

Randal Graves said...

Dammit, all this selling I'm doing and I was a poor as I was before I started blogging. #fuckinghell

We are all AmEx now.

W. Kasper said...

"a thread of Maoism in my thinking, filtered through the cinema of Fassbinder"

- Sounds like one hell of a party. Twitter it!

dr-gonzo said...

Totally agreed Crow. The google is very explicit with their class system:

I had access to a personally unprecedented amount of privileges, but was not entitled to the ski trips, DisneyLand adventures, stock options, and holiday cash bonuses from their team of temporary Santa Clauses. Thousands of people with red badges (such as me, my team, and most other contractors) worked amongst thousands of people with white badges (as Full-time Googlers). Interns are given green badges. However, a fourth class exists at Google that involves strictly data-entry labor, or more appropriately, the labor of digitizing. These workers are identifiable by their yellow badges, and they go by the team name ScanOps. They scan books, page by page, for Google Book Search. The workers wearing yellow badges are not allowed any of the privileges that I was allowed – ride the Google bikes, take the Google luxury limo shuttles home, eat free gourmet Google meals, attend Authors@Google talks and receive free, signed copies of the author’s books, or set foot anywhere else on campus except for the building they work in. They also are not given backpacks, mobile devices, thumb drives, or any chance for social interaction with any other Google employees. Most Google employees don’t know about the yellow badge class. Their building, 3.14159~, was next to mine, and I used to see them leave everyday at precisely 2:15 PM, like a bell just rang, telling the workers to leave the factory. Their shift starts at 4 am.

As servile and passive as the author seems, they still fired him. Why? He took an interest in something good google citizens know to ignore.

Richard said...

dr-gonzo: thanks for the link, it's a very compelling story, and I recommend that others read it in its entirety

as for describing the author, I think that "naive" is more apt

Jack Crow said...

Yeah, thanks for that link, Dr. G. Enlightening.

dr-gonzo said...

Naive, sure. Maybe I was being a little harsh. The fact that this guy even took an interest in the google class dynamics means he is several steps ahead of his fellow merit class technocrats in being an actual human.

Peter Ward said...

J.R. Boyd begs to differ:

Like, look at this blog man. It's like anarchism sprouting in the midst of consumerism...or some shit.

Jack Crow said...

Perhaps, but every posting on blegher promotes the market penetration of blegher.