Sunday, November 30, 2008


In an era when the face-to-face is typically articulated institutionally (family, workplace), the situation exists for the most part as mediated. So that the situation which confronts us is spectacle. Thus the first ethical imperative is to enter a relation with the media of mediation. Not to identify with, or to treat as transparent, but to confront.

Hence the critical nature of image ethics: there is no 'first' in First Philosophy when everything is always already mediated.

Express Yourself!

"Express yourself! Output some data!'
(Galloway and Thacker, The Exploit, p.41)

Individuality is *more* important in the prosumer than the consumer, where the family was the cogent unit. Individuality – supported by the art-school ideology of creativity considered as self-expression – is the source of data (biometrics, profiles) withoiut which systems like Adsense, Amazon recommendations, Ebay trust registers, iTunes Genius would not function. Consumer discipline has become far heavier in the new form of prosumer discipline, and both less and more like factory discipline. Less, because it has recruited playfulness, once the mark of leisure, as an engine of capitalist expansion; more, because the medium of expression is if anything even more alien, more of a black box, most of all to the 'net generation' who understand nothing as a result of the removal of content generation from any requirement to understand how the internet works. Their familiarity with applications masks their ignorance of what they are made of, how they work, ad who owns and governs them. Shouting for net freedom today is no longer 'free as in free speech', but free as in market (with a little free beer to oil the wheels)

"the digital image is . . ."

To say "the digital image is . . ."is to misunderstand both image and digital. An Image, in some sense, always is not. To the extent that it is an image *of*, it denotes an absence; to the extent that it imagines, it images something non-existent. 'Digital' meanwhile denotes – in relation to images – that they are not themselves, nor representations, but expressions of a numerical matrix. Randomy generated or products of scientific instrumentation (and thence realist), the 'digital' of digital imaging denotes an act of expression which can always be expressed otherwise. Because of the colour gamut and resolution of the host machine; because it can be expressed in different codecs or file types; because it is capable of labelling and bitrot and so unique; while also because it can be willfully or accidentally altered in detail or in whole. These unstable states and their blending – as when we make an idealised portrait or a caricature, or when we alter the convolution algorithms for a satellite observation – have no self-identity. As non-identical, they do not have being: they become.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Those excluded from the new economy are left to rot, or to make their perilous ways to the immiserated service industries – catering, cleaning and sex – of wealthy cities. The alternative to the commodification of knowlege is to be deprived of it.

The database economy leaves in the gutter those who do not choose to shop in its malls

double jointed

the invisible hand of the market has just proved itself capable of slitting its own wrist.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Precarity (2)

The assumption of precarity on the part of the newly precarious knowledge-worker middle class is expressed, inter alia, as incommensurable or incompossible claims on attention and labour-power. Previously this might have been ansewered (say since the Keynesian 1930s) by the option to manufacture identity through consumption, but now through self-mediation (Web 2.0). (It's notable that consumerism and self-mediation both arise on the shoulders of economic crises).

The innocence thesis – that today the good does not beckon, and that we distinguish only evil and innocence – and hartley's thesis of pedocracy (television especially as the rule that everything should be suitable for children, and audiences should hence see themselves as childlike) are responses to the problem that we neither have a shared or even personal system of ethics, and that we feel decreasingly capable of action, ethical or otherwise. But these reflections are distinctly Eurocentric. Two other mechanisms begin to present themselves as options for the manufacture of selves in the postcolony: a) beating the coloniser at their own game (CLR James on cricket in the West Indies; the current success of Indian art fiction) b) the resort to tradition in Hindutva or post-Suharto Indonesia. The generation of communities round football teams, the persistence of white racism, indicate that these options are only closed to the middle class of Europe, for whom they appear atavistic.

Listening to Donald Preziosi

In tracing a history of the museum, Preziosi in a talk in Melbourne last week spoke of museums 'ostensifying their own mediations', and made a useful distinction between human being and its expression. In more recent years – which he mentioned only briefly – the museum's task has become more specifically archival in the sense that it has as a key function the creation of metadata about its objects. The expression of human being, likewise, is no longer exclusively through the ostentation of things (clothes, watches, phones . . .) but our constitution as data. It is striking that this continuation of the trajectory of dematerialisation extends the commodification Preziosi identified in the ironic juxtaposition of shared fascination with the Great Exhibition on the part of both Queen Victoria and karl marx. In our age, the dematerialisation Marx witnessed in commodity fetishism no longer masquerades in 'the fantastical guise of objects' but as pure data. This dematerialisation is then even more powerfully placed to usurp the position of the immaterial.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


To paraphrase Arendt (Responsibility and Judgement, 111), the greatest evil is committed by no-one. Today the Good has vanished and we live in the era when evil is opposed only by innocence. But innocence is only the alibi of of a systemic evil for which no-one takes responsibility, of which no-one is agent. Each of us 'needs' a car, 'has no alternative', respects the 'rights' of shareholders. At every level the alibi persists, while millions die – innocently. Only if they protest, with arms, against their deaths, do they lose their innocence and become either victims or evil. Innocence is so deeply ensconced – from the paedocracy of television (Hartley) to the construction of paedophilia as the ultimate evil – that we are come to the idiot moment where all of us claim to be either children or villains. For the children among us there is only wide-eyed surprise at the results of our inaction – for lack of action and action without consequence is the prerogative of infants – while the handful of genuine villains confront their own despair, as did Saul. A world in which we must be either nietzschean aristocrats or Eichmanns is not a world