[iDC] A primer on the Attention (Centered) Economy

Sean Cubitt scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
Sat Oct 24 22:44:16 UTC 2009

Sent by mistake to john instead of the whole list yesterday.

Afterwards I bumped into this quote, sugesting it isn't just Marxists who
have a problem with individualist explanation of how the world works:

"there is no 'being' behind the doing, effecting, becoming: "the doer" is
merely a fiction added to the deed ­ the deed is everything" (Nietzsche,
genealogy of Morals, Golffing trans, Doubleday 1956, 178-9)


as Merleau-Ponty pointed out half a century ago in The World of Perception,
ŒThere is no way of living with others which takes away the burden of being
myself, which allows me not to have an opinion; there is no ³inner life²
which is not a first attempt to relate to another person. In this ambiguous
position . . . we can never know complete rest².Subjectivity is an
imposition, but it is one that we can neither wish away nor establish as
foundational. But it is an imposition, not a given, and it is not the centre
of the world but produced in a social relation. That relation includes
attention - we only exist in so far as we exist for others. But it includes
a great deal more, including relations of power, obligation, money, each of
which, like attention, is evidence of the founding incmpleteness of the I.
The thesis of reification says that the error is to mistake the imposition
of a specific mode of subjectivity in a specific type of social relation for
a unversal given. 

But to take your core point, John, about different POVs: social theories
will always emphasise sociality. As a media person, I'd say that mediation
comes first - the material media that connect us to one another including
bodily gestures AND money etc. It's a question of which comes first, the
node or the network. Some of us think the network comes first and creates
the nodes. 

The sadness you feel seeing a lot of people agreeing on some basic premises
is shared, I'm sure: we're all working for the breakthrough that will stop
that 'hopelessness' which started this discussion. My take on it -
elaborated in the draft paper I've put on Slideshare (cos my server was down
on my homepage): it is REALLY hard for people raise din critical (marxist)
theory to be cheerful, but there is an obligation (Gransci: pessimism of the
intellect, optimism of the will).

What brings change - real change, not just web 3.0 - is difference. The
current regime militates against difference: it is fundamentally
risk-averse, and premised on defending against change. Where then do we find
real difference? In the excluded of our politics, economics and mediations.
There are at least three major exclusions: migrants who lack the status of
citizens; technologies; and the natural world. Give them a 'political'
voice, pay them attention, as free and auttonomous agents, and we will see
real difference and real change. We know it will be real because we can't
imagine what 'giving Gaia a vote' might possibly mean


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