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Re: <nettime> Will your insurance company subsidize your quantified self
James Barrett on Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:44:46 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Will your insurance company subsidize your quantified self?

Dear Alexander, 

I have enjoyed hearing you speak on this topic numerous times and
there is one thing I have long wanted to ask regarding the idea that:

"those who use The Internet to their own advantage and who strengthen
their power by successfully creating social networks within which they
pursue their social intelligence and trained social skills"

What I wonder is how does this become quantifiable and meaningful? By
your logic, Justin Bieber (51 million followers on Twitter) and Lady
Gaga (41.3 million) are the most powerful people on the planet. Is
this what you believe?

I question this logic. I believe power is not held, it is either
resisted or complied with:

"Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of
multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power.
Each society has its regime of truth, its ?general politics? of truth:
that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function
as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish
true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the
techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth;
the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true?"
(Foucault, in Rabinow 1991).

In this sense the so-called 'netocrats' are not the agents of power,
but are its instruments, its police. Celebrities online are authored
by millions of people contributing to their personae via a propagated
interest realized materially, in this case in a fan-based production
composed of images, text and audio. The acceptance of these figures
as meaningful and important does not bestow power to anyone. It locks
people, (including the celebrities themselves) into webs of trivia and
brand-based marketing.

Alongside the misrecognition of frequency for agency, Power has
always operated in networks. The Medici could not have been the most
powerful family in Tuscany without a network of communication, media
and bureaucracy that was based on 'Truth' to support and exercise that

With a massive media system now in place globally we are not seeing
a revolution in the network. In fact I would argue that your logic
follows a similar path to Yochai Benkler, in The Wealth of Networks:

"Benkler tends to overstate the novelty of social production. Firms,
for example, have long employed internal markets; delegated decision
rights throughout the organization; formed themselves into networks,
clusters, and alliances; and otherwise taken advantage of openness and
collaboration. Many different organizational forms proliferate within
the matrix of private-property rights. Peer production is not new;
rather, the relevant question concerns the magnitude of the changes."
- http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?a=721

I would go on to argue it is the small, the unknown, the rare, secret
and the enclosed where power is more likely to be realized in terms of
autonomy that can lead to more definite social change and new ideas.

Finally in a slightly more paranoid observation, I do not believe
the most powerful organizations and people on earth are on
Twitter and Facebook. Those that use social media and have
roles in powerful organizations, for example the World Economic
Forum, (which actually has no policy and decision making powers
but does include major stakeholders) are not the superstars of
social media. I support this idea with the attached graphic
from the last WEF in Davos that shows the tweeting was pitiful
- 12 278 in total and most of them coming from the USA (from
/social). The smokescreen of truth in the form of mass attention to
something that says very little and does not share Power with anyone.

Critique remains all we have.


James Barrett
PhD Candidate/Adjunct
Department of Language Studies/HUMlab
Ume? University


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