Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We are all Slumlords

"If we choose to pry culture away from capitalism while the rest of life is still capitalistic, culture will become a slum." -Jaron Lanier, You Are Not A Gadget

We are witnessing the slumitization of culture, but Lanier, though he makes the vital observation, misses the cause, because, of course, he is a techno-capitalist. He argues that the structures of web design that have become embedded (as web 2.0) are the problem, and that a different web culture/design would save us from such de-capitalisation of culture. He argues again and again that such design (in particular its emphasis on free hive mind culture) is arbitrary, not inevitable. Fair enough, but we cannot refight the battles freedom has already lost. (The regret/nostalgia based desire to refight old battles reflects the inherent conservative bent within leftist thought). Lanier sees how intellectual tech savy leftists can so easily be coopted into a philosophy of repressive culture slumitization, but fails to understand that this slumitization in fact benefits techno-capitalism (because he believes that capitalism is basically benevolent), that capitalist society has been attempting to turn culture into a slum for 50 (if not 150) years, that culture was politically irrelevant well before the dot com bubble.

Of course, what Lanier wants is just the reestablishment of a capitalistic cultural middle class, the destruction of which the internet has certainly hastened. But true revolutionary art or culture may only become viable once middle class cultural production has been destroyed. The question is, are we in the techno-repressionary endgame (Skynet) or are we headed for 365 Tunisias?

Art is dead, but Lanier makes an excellent argument for protecting its corpse.

"Digital Maoism doesn't reject all hierarchy. Instead, it overwhelmingly rewards the one preferred hierarchy of digital metaness, in which a mashup is more important than the sources who are mashed. If you have seized a very high niche in the aggregation of human expression- in the way that Google has with search, for example- then you can become super powerful..."Meta" equals power in the cloud." -79

No comments:

Post a Comment