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Re: <nettime> C(APITAL|OMMUN)ISM (i|ha)s (ARRIV|FINISH)ED
Newmedia on Sat, 26 May 2012 00:23:40 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> C(APITAL|OMMUN)ISM (i|ha)s (ARRIV|FINISH)ED


Jon:
 
Thanks for trying to wrestle with all this.  While the analysis being  
discussed has been available for 50+ years, it has only rarely been considered  
as applicable to current events.  The developments of the past 10+ years  
and, in particular, the current economic "crisis" compels us to at least try 
to  apply this approach to see if it yields fruitful understanding of our  
predicament.
 
The points that I have been making could be summarized as --
 
1) The nature of the *economy* is shaped by the behaviors and attitudes of  
the people who live in that economy.  We all make the world what it  is.
2) These behaviors and attitudes are, in turn, "formed" by technological  
environment in which these people live.  The world makes all of us what we  
are.
3) We are now in the midst of a *radical* shift in this technological  
environment -- from a mass-media (i.e. broadcast/one-way) "analog" economy to a  
*digital* (i.e. talk-back/two-way) economy.
4) Accordingly, we should expect to see changes in behavior and attitudes  
-- not completely or overnight but widely evident -- that are reflected in  
changes in the corresponding economy.
5) Economic analysis that isn't robust enough to account for these changes  
will likely fail to produce much insight and is more likely to reinforce 
earlier  "biases" and add to our confusion.
 
What has long been called "consumerism" (and is sometimes called  
"late-stage capitalism" or "software communism") is a description of the  *effects* 
of mass-media as a technological environment.  This phenomenon,  where 
advertising is used to induce a "commidification of desires" in  the population, 
has been particularly acute since the advent of television in  the 1950s. The 
term "eyeballs" is often used to describe the "target" in this  form of 
economy.  People are said to be "programmed" to behave in  particular ways in 
this economic regime.
 
What has been called "new media" (i.e. a term that I "coined" circa 1989)  
operates in a radically different fashion from mass-media.  It encourages  
"interactivity" and could be said to be composed of "eyeballs that talk  
back."  Many have noticed these functional/technological differences  but 
elaborating the expected differences in behaviors and attitudes and the  
anticipated impact on the economy has not yet been widely discussed.  An  example of 
the literature about these changed behaviors and attitudes is the  1999 
"Cluetrain Manifesto."
 
Much as aspects of older technological environments persisted as television 
 became dominant, including books, radio, movies, newspapers etc -- albeit  
substantially altered to "participate" in the television era -- all of 
these  previous behaviors and attitudes also linger, sometimes nostalgically and 
with  strong commitments, making any contemporary economy decidedly  
"mixed."  
 
Accordingly, today the situation is a "compound" of various technological  
environments.  In particular, while many people have a sense that the  
Internet "changed everything," they are still hard-pressed to identify or  
verbalize what has changed in their own behaviors and attitudes.  Clearly  
differences in personal circumstances and cultural/national milieus further  
complicate the matter.
 
Nonetheless, analysis of the (political-)economy that ignore these changes  
in behaviors and attitudes will likely miss much of what is going on.   
While applying frameworks that were proposed 100 (say Weber) or 200 (say Marx)  
or 300 (say Mandeville) years ago can be interesting and even gratifying, 
unless  they were explicit about the economic effects of technological 
environments,  they will themselves need to be examined in the light of what we 
have  subsequently learned.
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY


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