What's the buzz, tell me what's a-happening

by Rob Horning

16 February 2010

 

I have a post up at Generation Bubble that’s inspired by the launch of Google Buzz. It’s about the ways in which online media companies are always devising ways to accelerate and automate the processes of our “sharing” because what we share is marketable information to them. This is the dek, which sums it up pretty pithily: “Postmodern alienation has given way to computer-age integration as social media like Facebook and Google Buzz encourage us reduce, reuse and recycle the trappings of identity.” I draw heavily on an article in Eurozine by Kazys Varnelis about the transition from postmodern to post-postmodern society or what he calls the networked society. The gist of his essay is that the postmodern strategy of having open-ended fluid identities to defeat the establishment’s desire to dominate by rendering us homogeneous and thus easier to control with the same methods is no longer operational. The networked society turns fluid identity to account, supplies it with a place within the logic of capital. We don’t escape through “free play”—instead, that play is a new source of exploitable labor. (Metafilter has a useful bunch of links on this issue as well. I particularly liked this: “The Googles and Facebooks do not want that [sharing] to be a choice, they want it imposed as a cultural standard — hence the age-baiting and mockery of ‘hypocrites’ who want to retain privacy: Big Brother isn’t just watching you anymore, he’s shaming you! He’s calling you out! Lol. This explains Zuckerborg’s edict that privacy is no longer a ‘social norm.’ “)

If you want to read more of my wrangling on that subject—how the modes of subsumption of labor under capital have changed with technology, you can check out these notes I’m making on labor sociologist Stanley Aronowitz’s The Politics of Identity over at the Marginal Utility annex.

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