Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> The Spectre of Particle Capitalism
Ricardo Dominguez on Mon, 7 Aug 2006 20:41:10 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> The Spectre of Particle Capitalism

The Spectre of Particle Capitalism
by Keith Sandborn

For *Particles of Interest: Tales from the Matter Markets*
By Diane Ludin and Ricardo Dominguez


A Transvergence Beta Project For:
ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge & the
Thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA2006) AUGUST
7-13, 2006

<<The Spectre of Particle Capitalism>>

Particle Capitalism is but the latest phase in the quantification
of the world, the historical motor of capitalism. Capital relies
on the notion of quantifiable exchange. Everything has its price:
wood, timber, electricity, human labor. But the abstraction of raw
materials, objects, elemental forces, and human activities onto
the same plane-making them comparable objects of exchange, i.e.
their commodification-assumes one thing, which Marx places in a
footnote-always the locus for rupture-of the introduction to Capital:
that Capitalism assumes the individual has an encyclopediac knowledge
of commodities, a self-evidently impossible condition.

This absurdity, this impossible contradiction in Marx?s time, the
mastery of all knowledge, even anecdotally and functionally via the
encyclopedia or the library, has reached new levels of alienation
and dysfunction in the individual experience of the dataworld as
it collapses onto itself. 125 channels of cable tv and nothing to
watch was only the prelude to the enumerable yet phenomenological
numberlessness of websites.

To make possible current conditions of exchange, all is reduced to
data and datafication becomes an end in itself. In the dataworld,
people are not merely objectified, as in slavery, or prostitution,
they are transduced and betrayed more directly into the common medium
of exchange: people are electricity are timber are wood are data.
And data in radically reductive binary machine only readable form.
This condition of alienation can only be compared with what Jakobson
identified as the pathological loss of language called the contiguity
disorder, where all discourse becomes a mere word heap. The syntax,
which keeps the circuits of exchange silently ?humming,? is-as it has
always been-hierarchical and imposed from above.

?Particle capitalism? is yet another attempted coup on the common
matrimony of the natural world: if the world has been more nearly
entirely mapped than ever before in its extent-GPS tells us where we
are wherever we are in the Cartesian grid of data capital-what remains
is possession of the world in depth, the non-linear mathematical depth
of physics (string theory), for example, and the subjective depth of
personal experience.

If this attempted deployment of science yet again in pursuit of power
is to be consciously thwarted it will come about only by the radical
subjectivity of those involved. If the basic building blocks of matter
cannot be grasped-even by the common agreement of those who make it
their constant occupation to attempt to actively position themselves
with respect to such entities-then perhaps it already exceeds the
grasp of particle capitalism. It has been argued that in the current
state of physics, mathematical models are being created without the
predictive, testable results traditionally associated with ?science.?
What sort of mutation in capital could come about as the notion of
quantifiability itself shifts?

But given this lack of consensus about radically complex models,
how is the agora of physics utterly different from the Wikipedia
where each can write and re-write the entries? Who has the time to
constantly re-write the fragmentary history of the world, or its
map: the answer is still-as it seems always to have been: those
with enough power, wealth, and leisure to have it done for them by
their scribal-or screenal-submissives. The Wikipedia is a kind of
hybrid of the 80s BBS and the Enlightenment Encyclopedia; it does
not function at the level of the control circuits of power in any of
the disciplines with which it intersects. It functions as a kind of
unintentional parody of the epic of the democratization of knowledge
and power at the heart of data capitalism: it is lively chatter even
more than collective labor, which is slavery. Physics, of course,
functions on a ?higher,? i.e. more rigorous level of discourse,
whether as an animated and open exchange of theories, or as a dead
ritual of exchange within a priestly hierarchy.

In one sense, the special nature of quantifiability within current
physical theory may not be important: the movement of the stock market
cannot be predicted both macroscopically and microscopically over
any useful length of time, yet this has not stopped the market from
continuing to ?function.? Nor has the dataworld stopped non-virtual
human immiseration from increasing worldwide: real prostitution has
shown aggressive development strategies in the former land of Lenin
and real slavery exists in various forms worldwide. Though a tax on
breathing remains currently unenforceable-the control of ?natural?
resources is still an epic of possession and power. Wars seem to be
fought for them: men, women, and children die real deaths for them,
though that is apparently only a physical drama representing the more
nihilistic ideological sport of the masters.

With particle capitalism-the attempt to commodify matter in its most
complex dimensions-that familiar and oft-sutured-over contradiction
between the politics of commodification and the limits of human
knowledge once again erupts. The question is: can capital force
matter-and its human interpreters-to conform to a logic of the
commodity, or will matter itself-and its human interpreters-force a
potentially fatal mutation in capital. Will the encounter between the
logic of ?advanced? science and the logic of ?advanced? capital yield
a result more familiar to art historians than historians of science or
economics, as the struggle among ?advanced? factions plays itself out.

For MORE: *Particles of Interest: Tales from the Matter Markets*

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net