Archive for February, 2014

Neverland Part Two

February 20, 2014

With the previous post (Neverland 2-19-14) Frontline’s Generation Like was looked at through some of the writing of Stanley Cavell. Within the quoted work (The Claim Of Reason) Cavell sometimes refers to society as “our lived skepticism” (our skepticism as to the existence of others). Slavoj Zizek’s philosophical investigations of individuals, collectives and culture are much more reliant on the social. Zizek writes from a “continental“ perspective integrating Marx, Lacan and Freud as well as popular culture and Christianity into his writing. The Parallax View (2006, considered his magnum opus) appears a good quarter of a century after Cavell’s The Claim Of Reason. Unlike Cavell’s lived world, the nascent social media considered by Frontline’s documentary was up and running, though barely (Facebook 2004, YouTube 2005, Twitter 2006). The Parallax View devotes quite a bit of space to the Wachowski brothers’ The Matrix, that period’s Hunger Games. On page 313 he writes:
“[T]he ultimate strength of the film, however, is nonetheless to be located at a different level. Its unique impact is due not so much to its central thesis (what we experience as reality is an artificial virtual reality generated by the “Matrix,” the mega-computer directly attached to all our minds) as to its central image of the millions of human beings leading a claustrophobic life in water-filled cradles, kept alive in order to generate energy (electricity) for the Matrix. So when (some of the) people “awaken” from their immersion in Matrix-controlled virtual reality, this awakening is not an opening into the wide space of external reality, but first the horrible realization of this enclosure, where each of us is in effect merely a fetuslike organism, immersed in the amniotic fluid… This utter passivity is the foreclosed fantasy that sustains our conscious experience as active, self-positing subjects – it is the ultimate perverse fantasy, the notion that we are ultimately instruments of the Other’s (Matrix’s) jouissance, sucked out of our life-substance like batteries.

This brings us to the central libidinal enigma: why does the Matrix need human energy? A solution purely in terms of energy is, of course, meaningless: the Matrix could have easily have found another, more reliable source of energy which would have not demanded the extremely complex arrangement of a virtual reality coordinated for million of human units. The only consistent answer is: the Matrix feeds on human jouissance – so here we are back to the fundamental Lacanian thesis that the big Other itself, far from being an anonymous machine, needs a constant influx of jouissance. This is the correct insight of The Matrix: the juxtaposition of the two aspects of perversion – on the one hand, the reduction of reality to a virtual domain regulated by arbitrary rules that can be suspended; on the other, the concealed truth of this freedom, the reduction of the subject to an utterly instrumentalized passivity.”

Compare this with some of what we find in the transcript of Douglas Rushkoff’s Generation Like (Rushkoff is the correspondent as well as one of the writers and producers):

“SETH GODIN, Author, Blogger: Why on earth would someone spend all those hours to make a YouTube video of them doing something absolutely stupid and insane? They’re only going to get a check for $3 for doing it.”
“DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: In other words, instead of selling the product to the audience, the idea is to get the audience to sell the product for them. They want to make the interactions seem open and transparent, but all that transparency takes a lot of planning.
DIMITRY IOFFE, CEO, TVGLA: It’s all about trying to figure out this pipeline of connected pieces that are going to continue that audience to be essentially your best marketer because that’s the hope.”
“BRIAN WONG, Kiip founder: There are nuances on how you present things that create different psychological responses. We don’t even call ourselves ads to consumers. Terminology we use is “rewards” and “moments,” and there’s really no mention of “ads” or even “media.” As we go out and we experience the world, the things that make the most impact on us are the ones that come up serendipitously. So that’s the psychological principle we’re offering.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Serendipity by design.”
“CEILI LYNCH: You get, like, 10 sparks or 15 sparks for sharing something or making something on Tumblr, whatever, Twitter, Facebook. So that’s basically what they use to, like, show how many— you know, how much stuff you’ve shared. This is basically how I find out, like, news about The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, like, casting information, you know, like, who’s on what magazine cover, like, stuff like that.
CEILI LYNCH: It’s a lot of work to, like, do all of this. It’s— like, it takes a lot of time to, like, retweet everything, to like everything. So I was liking and sharing all these posts for, like, four to five hours. My hands were so tired after! It makes me feel like a worker, but it’s all worth it in the end because I get more sparks.”
“JANE BUCKINGHAM, President, Trendera: Your consumer is your marketer, and I think that’s a real shift because it used to be a one-way conversation of the marketer to the consumer, and now the consumer is doing as much as the marketer is in getting the message across. There is this unique moment where they are wanting to be as much a part of the process as a company will let them be.”
“ACTOR: [“Hunger Games”] You really want to know how to stay alive? You get people to like you.”
“CEILI LYNCH: They have to, like, do things in order to get people to like them.

TYLER OAKLEY: [on video] Push the Like button now.”


February 19, 2014

“[I] may be wishing to convey that you just do not know who or what I am. Far, accordingly, from wishing, or sensing a need, to define criteria with which we would be mutually attuned, I wish, or sense a need, to convey how perfectly, originally, I satisfy the criteria. We could say of my condition, or you could say it, that I had made myself morally incomprehensible, as Kierkegaard in effect says of Abraham. (There is the modern man for you: knife in hand, full of readiness to sacrifice, but in the absence of God, and of Isaac, and hence of an angel in the wings.) (The slave and the outcast have been made morally invisible.)
One in this condition does not feel unknown for the reason that the fact of his or her sentience is taken to be unknown. Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and be known to have it, and others not? Expertise cannot be required to know of this life, but then what appreciation is wanted, what sentiment or sensibility would be fine enough to vibrate to one’s originality? Human beings do not naturally desire isolation and incomprehension, but union or reunion, call it community. It is in faithfulness to that desire that one declares oneself unknown. (And of course the faithfulness, the desire, and the declaration may all be based on illusion. The conceptual connection, however, would remain as real as ever.) The wish to be extraordinary, exceptional, unique, thus reveals the wish to be ordinary, everyday. (One does not, after all, wish to become a monster, even though the realization of one’s wish for uniqueness would make one a monster.)”
(The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy by Stanley Cavell, 1979 Pg. 462-463)

Cavell’s insight, written pre the age of social media and just post the age of free love, becomes acutely perceptive in light of Frontline’s recent critique of social media, “Generation Like” (2-18-14). The paradoxical relationship of the need to be exceptional and unique in order to be “liked” and belong, to be part of an “online community”, could not have been anticipated, or elaborated better. “(And of course the faithfulness, the desire, and the declaration may all be based on illusion. The conceptual connection, however, would remain as real as ever.)” Generation Like reveals the “illusion” appropriated by capitalist marketing (for profit everything avails itself to appropriation). What more can be said of this moral incomprehensibility? (There is the adolescent, holding video recorder in hand at arm’s length, full of readiness to cash in as the new Michael Jackson, but in the absence of the blinding lights of a vast stage, and an adulating hoard of grasping ticket holders, and hence of a Bubbles waiting in Neverland welcoming the royal pretender home.)