[iDC] the false Aufhebung of social media [was: Social Production and the Labor Theory of Value]

geoff cox gcox at plymouth.ac.uk
Sun Nov 1 12:10:39 UTC 2009

hi all
Trebor has asked me to introduce myself too, as I will be coming to the 
conference and at last I take the opportunity, if only briefly.
I would like to further stress Armin's first point, in that behind the 
interfaces of social media lie socio-technical structures that are at 
odds with the surface claims. Indeed, all clients are subject to the 
'control' of a server which is intrinsic to web architecture. As for my 
presentation, I take this to be an exemplification of new forms of 
control over labour and subjectivity, and an indication of how 
subsumption operates (so in this sense it's a pretty conventional 
reworking of Marx through post-autonomia etc). I'm keen to draw 
attention to various artist projects to stress the point, and remain 
unapologetic in mentioning Marx.
best wishes

geoff cox
university of plymouth 
transart institute
arnolfini (contemporary arts organisation)

Armin Medosch wrote:
> hi all
> I would just like two add a couple of points with relation to 'social
> production' which maybe shift the discussion on to slightly different
> terrain, away from the labor theory of value. 
> In media theory much has been made of the one-sided and centralised
> broadcast structure of television and radio. the topology of the
> broadcast system, centralised, one-to-many, one-way, has been compared
> unfavourable to the net, which is a many-to-many structure, but also
> one-to-many and many-to-one, it is, in terms of a topology, a highly
> distributed or mesh network. So the net has been hailed as finally
> making good on the promise of participatory media usage. What so called
> social media do is to re-introduce a centralised structure through the
> backdoor. While the communication of the users is 'participatory' and
> many-to-many, and so on and so forth, this is organised via a
> centralised platform, venture capital funded, corporately owned. Thus,
> while social media bear the promise of making good on the emancipatory
> power of networked communication, in fact they re-introduce the
> producer-consumer divide on another layer, that of host/user. they
> perform a false aufhebung of the broadcast paradigm. Therefore I think
> the term prosumer is misleading and not very useful. while the users do
> produce something, there is nothing 'pro' as in professional in it. 
> This leads to a second point. The conflict between labour and capital
> has played itself out via mechanization and rationalization, scientific
> management and its refinement, such as the scientific management of
> office work, the proletarisation of wrongly called 'white collar work',
> the replacement of human labour by machines in both the factory and the
> office, etc. What this entailed was an extraction of knowledge from the
> skilled artisan, the craftsman, the high level clerk, the analyst, etc.,
> and its formalisation into an automated process, whereby this
> abstraction decidedly shifts the balance of power towards management.
> Now what happened with the transition from Web 1.0 to 2.0 is a very
> similar process. Remember the static homepage in html? You needed to be
> able to code a bit, actually for many non-geeks it was probably the
> first satisfactory coding experience ever. You needed to set the links
> yourself and check the backlinks. Now a lot of that is being done by
> automated systems. The linking knowledge of freely acting networked
> subjects has been turned into a system that suggests who you link with
> and that established many relationships involuntarily. It is usually
> more work getting rid of this than to have it done for you. Therefore
> Web 2.0 in many ways is actually a dumbing down of people, a deskilling
> similar to what has happened in industry over the past 200 years. 
> Wanted to stay short and precise, but need to add, social media is a
> misnomer. What social media would be are systems that are collectively
> owned and maintained by their users, that are built and developed
> according to their needs and not according to the needs of advertisers
> and sinister powers who are syphoning off the knowledge generated about
> social relationships in secret data mining and social network analysis
> processes. 
> So there is a solution, one which I continue to advocate: lets get back
> to creating our own systems, lets use free and open source software for
> server infrastructures and lets socialise via a decentralised landscape
> of smaller and bigger hubs that are independently organised, rather than
> feeding the machine ...
> Did anybody notice, have not mentioned Marx a single time. Love reading
> Marx but agree with Brian we need to come to our own conclusions in our
> own times, maybe informed by some of the key methodological decisions
> that Marx made but not by any mechanical application of them
> best
> armin

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