Monday, November 14, 2011


(snatched from a talk prepared for the Ubiquitous Computing seminar in Copenhagen)

The subject-object relation is a facet of the population-environment relation fundamental to the political economy of governmentality and the commodity form. Resistance takes many forms. Mystics undertake spiritual disciplines, and many artists undertake a kind of disciplined nostalgia, in search of a pre-subjective, pantheistic experience, innocent of the social and historical division of the human away from the world. Eco-critics look in the opposite direction: not to the past of amorphous unity with the world, but towards a post-objectal subjectivity, a post-objective accommodation with the world. There are already signs of such relations. Neo-liberalism takes as fundamental the ideally-informed consumer. Joseph Stieglitz has demonstrated the impossibility of such a figure. In its place, however, the universal, automated recommendations of information capitalism transfer that ideal of total information from the subject to the environment: the datasphere knows your needs and tastes, and how to satisfy them, far better than you ever will. We are moving away from the Freudian subject as we are from the Foucauldian self. Our land, tools, knowledge and increasingly our bodies are no longer our own, but aspects of the environment we inhabit, the relations with which are managed in a hybrid of governmentality and the commodity form we can call the database economy. We need therefore to consider how we are to manage the task that we still have before us, the incomplete project of becoming human.

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