We all like to stand on the corpses of giants; it
makes us seem taller, but one should note, that
it makes the footing mushy. A superficial
attachment of the historical limits of the
situationists to a particular set of technologies
or their social configurations is very old and
very tired news, nor is it particularly accurate.
The same condition of pseudo-agency, which the
situationists described as "the spectacle"-once
again: not a collection of images but a
relationship among people mediated by images-can
be seen to reign in the inter-passivity of the
internet. What once reigned in the corridors of
domestic architecture devoted to worshipping
television, now reigns on the screens of laptops
in Starbuckstm worldwide. The commodity form
still reigns, but it reigns as information. Its
masters may have become more shadowy, but they
exist. What's the difference between banks of
films, tapes, and servers?
Youtube has, in fact, become yet another
parasitic distribution medium for the materials
of the spectacle, the way tv became a
distribution medium for cinema; Youtube is now a
distribution medium for tv.
There is "revolutionary" potential in the "new
media"--it should never be referred to without
quotation marks-, lest it be "naturalized" i.e.
"reified"--remains. It was there in the "old
media," but not in its dna, in its social use. It
was just more difficult of access. And if you
made something, the community of individuals who
would see it, would likely be small as your work
would get lost amidst the noise of the
While there is interest in the fact that your
postage stamp sized video may be seen by hundreds
of thousands, it will still be accompanied by the
ads in which google or youtube embeds your
material; like those "embedded" "journalists,"
who became "infected" by the spirit of the
"mission." You remain part of the spectacle of
pseudo-agency, just the way you did when you
bought the star commodities advertised on tv. The
difference is the more direct appeal to
narcissism, in order to seduce you into producing
the visual trappings proper to selling
products--think of the cost saving to industry.
The labor of commercial making has simply been
displaced on to the "users" of Youtube, keeping
in its familiar place the relationship between
those who think they are consuming and those who
are actually consuming them. We are again the
authors of our own slavery.
The search engines which make it possible for
others to find your work on Youtube are simply
the latest attempt of the basic motors of
capitalism to observe the myth Marx refers to in
a footnote to the beginning of Kapital: capital
is predicated on the myth that buyers have an
encyclopediac knowledge of commodities. Of course
there is potential for subversion. The way google
bombing can work, or browser sit-ins, or the way
the do-it-yourself car ads were subverted for
statements about the damage done to the
environment, but the dream of being famous for 15
minutes--is it still that long, Andy?--is just
another phantasm of the unconscious of capital.
Plus ça change...
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