[iDC] How does social media educate? :: response to alan re desire

Ulises arsalaan1-idc at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 17 13:33:59 EST 2007


I apologize for taking such a long time to respond, but I wanted to add to what
you said about desire. I agree with you that the concept of desire (in Deleuzian
terms) can be a useful tool for tracing the 'leak points' within a prevailing
system of authority. Desire is thus closely tied to the  alternative design and
use of technologies, and not just in the sense that we 'want' a technology to be

Desire is social—it is an aggregating force that gathers all sorts of human and
non-human elements into a unified purpose: to give shape to the social. Desire
seeks to actualize what virtuality suggests, it seeks to make ‘real’ (actual)
new designs of the social hinted by the virtual Whole. It begins with the
realization that “We are no longer sure about what 'we' means” (Latour, 2005, p.
6): new technologies and new politics have altered previous formulas of what
constitutes the social. It then takes the form of an ardent need to ‘name’ this
new assemblage (how did this new ‘we’ come into being?), to trace the unfolding
of the virtual into actuals, and the enfolding of the actuals into new
understandings of the virtual. This in turns gives shape to a new generation of
politics and technologies that re-shuffles what ‘we’ means, and in this way
desire is recycled and perpetuated. Desire, according to Deleuze and Guattari,
is thus not a neurotic search for what we do not have—it is not a negative
expression of deficiency, but a positive expression of the power of assembly; it
is what allows an individual’s social needs to combine with others’ needs to
form new assemblages that can guarantee the preservation and continuation of the
individuals by enhancing their collective power.

<blockquote> “Desire does not begin from lack -- desiring what we do not have.
Desire begins from connection; life strives to preserve and enhance itself and
does so by connecting with other desires. These connections and productions
eventually form social wholes; when bodies connect with other bodies to enhance
their power they eventually form communities and societies. Power is, therefore,
not the repression of desire but the expansion of desire.” (Colebrook, 2002, p.
91) </blockquote>

But desire, as latent power, is also open to manipulation and appropriation. A
social order is the management of desire, its channeling into particular modes
and molds. Here again technology plays a central role, as it can encode desire,
set the parameters and regulations for its actualization: code is law (Lessig).
Our desires can be thwarted and substituted by technology, ‘grounded’ according
to somebody else’s agenda, even without our awareness.

<blockquote> “In the universe of Deleuze and Guattari, all social realty is
constituted by desire. Desire is not good or bad, just productive and dynamic.
It is fair to say that Deleuze and Guattari's desire is the principle of
transformative, constitutive action that Marx called "labor"—prior to its
appropriation within a structure of surplus-value extraction. Desire is
heterogeneous and mobile. Social order is built on its homogenization and
stabilization—the organization of the small, fluid, multiplicitous "molecular"
forms of desire into big, institutional "molar" macrostructures: "To code desire
is the business of the socius." This binding of desire is a
"territorialization"—a fixing in place, setting of boundaries. But desire is
"nomadic," always seeking lines of fight or flight, pursuing more objects,
connections, and relations than any society can allow. Consequently "there is no
social system that does not leak in all directions." (Dyer-Whiteford, 1999, p.
180) </blockquote>

Perhaps this would be a good way to talk about the 'liberating' as well as the
'repressive' tendencies of sociable web media. What desires does sociable web
media engender? How does sociable web media 'code' desire? What macrostructures
does it solidify and what lines of flight does it simultaneously facilitate?


Colebrook, C. (2002). Gilles Deleuze. London ; New York: Routledge.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network
theory. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

----- Original Message ----
From: Alan Clinton <reconstruction.submissions at gmail.com>
To: danah boyd <zephoria at zephoria.org>
Cc: IDC list <idc at bbs.thing.net>
Sent: Sunday, February 11, 2007 5:53:34 PM
Subject: Re: [iDC] How does social media educate?

I think that, to clarify what I take from Armin's discussion is that we need to ask questions about how we participate in media culture.  We need to question the relationships between such terminologies as "studying" a culture/media phenomenon, "buying into" it, participating in it, or "using" it.  Armin's reminder of how "social media" was coopted by big corporations from hacker cultures reminds me of how (much more successfully than academics and even social activists) corporations have understood (or intuited) the lessons of the Situationist International in their ability to engage in detournement of existing practices, technologies, and ideas.  We need to ask why this is so and, in our own practices, studies, and pedagogies, see what we can detour from the entities that have made quite creative (if reactionary) uses of theft.  Part of this inquiry, of course, has to take a psychonalytic dimension not only theoretically but in practice.  Corporations, rather than arguing
 the virtues or vices of narcissism, fantasy, and dream logic, have recognized their power and made effective use of a human psychology which is far more deviant and eclectic than anything found in traditional hermeneutics.


With this broader approach, I don't see any real contradiction between Armin and Danah as long as we recognize that concepts like social media and their more or less popular instantiations need not be static in nature.  In other words, we neither accept or reject Youtube or MySpace or the like, but recognize their existence and influence as well as their more deleterious effects.  But we also study them to see a) how successful they have been in monopolizing social and personal "desire" b) what we can learn about desire from them  c) and what we can steal from them either in terms of rhetoric, interface structure, or ideas to promote a truly social media rather than what is now, as both Trebor and Armin note, a largely superficial and commodified social instantiation.


Key to this, as educators and media practitioners, is never to forget that desire is what motivates people, whatever their age--to deny this is to ensure our irrelevance.  Pure critique and pure acceptance, of course, both cede desire to corporations.  What we need is to produce mediated desire in the service of whatever revolutions will help make a more just, creative, and free distribution of world cultures.


Alan Clinton


On 2/11/07, danah boyd <zephoria at zephoria.org> wrote:
On Feb 11, 2007, at 2:38 AM, Armin Medosch wrote:

> first of all, when I follow, loosely, I must admit, this debate here

> about social media an interview comes to my mind which I recently did
> with a young hacker. he said, haveing looked at myspace et al, he came
> to the conclusion that whoever called those environments 'social' must

> have a very different idea from his about what is 'social'.
> so why do eminent scholars and digital media experts on this list buy
> into the social media hype? is it because big capital and mainstream

> media has developed a couple of years ago the notion of web 2.0?
> and now
> we are forced to believe that those things are important? how
> important
> are they really?

What are you talking about?  How on earth would the practices that

have emerged on MySpace not be considered social?  There's no doubt
that there's also a commercial component to these systems, but to say
that there's no social component to them is preposterous.  Every day

millions of teenagers login to hang out with their friends, converse,
show off, validate one another, and otherwise go about a slew of
social practices.  Every day, i talk to teenagers who tell me about
all of the different social interactions that get played out across

multiple media - mobiles, IM, MySpace, etc.   I would concede that
the artifact itself is not inherently social, but as an environment,
it is designed to and successfully supports social interaction.

And you ask how important these systems are?  Have you spent time

with American teenagers lately?  Or musicians?  (Or LA scenesters,
but that's a different story...)  MySpace has radically altered the
social dynamics and information flow amongst these groups (and
between bands and fans).  And this is just MySpace.  There are

hundreds of these sites that have changed the lives of all different
relevant social groups.  Who cares if the industry and media has
hyped it and is creating all sorts of funny terms that have become
naturalized into the vocabulary of those invested in the systems?

The fact of the matter is that these systems are playing a
significant role in society today and it's critical to pay attention
to them for exactly that reason.  It seems idiotic to me to only pay
attention to the systems that i theoretically value.  This is like

saying that pop culture and "low-brow" art should not be studied
because the only thing of value is that which has "high-brow"
cultural capital.  MySpace is mainstream, like it or not, and thus i

think it's *extremely* important.


- - - - - - - - - - d a n a h ( d o t ) o r g - - - - - - - - - -
"taken out of context i must seem so strange"

musings :: 

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