Digital Alienation 3

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[Digital Alienation part 3]

Speed Toxicity = Losing our Senses

Digitalisation is inseparable from the humanly noxious effects of speed. Human senses are inherently slow. Via digitalisation, the increasing speed of capitalist ‘just-in-time’ production, speculation, accumulation, turnover, throughput, consumption now determines the turbo-charged sensory and mental texture of everyone’s everyday life. There is the physical and mental speed of hyper-urban living (now the experience of half of humanity), the technology- and capital-induced work and life speed-up and ‘multitasking’, the loss of slow, body-grounded presence and the sensory here and now… As we now also increasingly ‘multitask’, ‘multiscreen’ and live ‘just in time’ like capitalist production itself, are we now perhaps in the process of literally and figuratively ‘losing our senses’, as well as our ‘common sense’, or can we still find some way of slowing down and returning to them? Among all the outer and inner busyness and noise that tends to make all life into an undifferentiated blur, the speedy sameness of incessant pseudo-novelty that never satisfies, can we still find the slowness and silence that allows us to breathe, notice the exquisite fine differences of non-virtual reality, come back into contact with our body and older, deeper selves (Thomas Merton: ‘Silence is the strength of our interior life. Silence enters into the very core of our moral being, so that if we have no silence we have no morality.’)

Real Abstraction

Everything in late ‘financialised’ casino capitalism is becoming ever more like its driving principle, money: a ‘concrete abstraction’ from qualities and human values and nature (money, the commodity and capital in Marx’ radical analysis are real-world, i.e. non-mental, abstractions from the qualitative, sensuous ‘use value’ of things and relationships, and any kind of wage labour, as just another quantifiable and disposable market commodity, is thus ‘abstract work’). The late industrial spectacle, total market society, reductionist science and digitalisation are just differing aspects of this one historical process of real abstraction set in train by the invention of money and the ‘great inversion’ to market-driven societies in the capitalism of the industrial revolution.

The Information Fetish

Digital information is what knowledge has become under late capitalism. The commodity of digital ‘information’, binary, crude and unambiguous, is the tradable exchange-value form of the qualitative and analog use-value called ‘knowledge’. It has the same relation to mere training as knowledge has to real education. Like money or capital, information promises its owner power, control, prestige, wealth. Like money and all commodities, information is a ‘fetish’, an abstraction from the richness of use-value, from the unmeasurable, beautiful and ethical qualities of knowledge. In late capitalism’s ‘post-industrial’ economy digital information can thus become the new ‘oil’, the key commodity and industry, just as oil, cars, chemicals and culture industry were for 20th century capitalism, steel and electricity were for monopoly capitalism, iron, coal and textiles were for early liberal capitalism. The evolution of Western culture can be traced as a movement from pre-modern (mainly oral) wisdom through modern (mainly print) knowledge to post-modern (mainly digital) information. As with any natural or human object that capitalism has reduced to a quantitatively defined economic ‘resource’ by violently abstracting from its specific qualities, crude data are collected, bought, broken down, analysed and refined into ‘information’, a commodity that can be further bought and sold and used to make profits or to manipulate and control people.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on October 11, 2014.

7 Responses to “Digital Alienation 3”

  1. Sat and chatted, discussed, talked, with Jason Chaplin today in Carlton after work from about 6pm to 12 midnight (actually 11.50!). From Takis Fotopoulos and Parecon to digitalisation, general state of things, to music and politics and politics and music to free improvisation to Zappa and more Zappa, reciting lyrics, melodies, to our musical backgrounds, to my performance anxiety and fears, to teaching and being taught, jazz and it’s hierarchies, anecdotes, music in general, art in general and it’s hierarchies, to laughing and laughing some more, to problems with Inclusive Democracy and Eco-socialism and localism, back to Zappa, Derek Bailey, Ben Watson, free improvising and the wonderful way free improvising can be always with you, never separated by the conventions of the world-now you are playing, now you aren’t you are just practicing or jamming. Solo improvising is always right there in front of you if you want it. Just play. Bang the table and make a fart noise.

    Yep, six hours of chat. Watched the whole of Lygon street open up and then close down. Jason didn’t notice so much as he was facing the other way. Only stopped because I noticed Jason shivering as he was only in a t shirt and it was getting cold.

    I dig that sort of shit. We had two coffees each and didn’t move from the outside table we first sat down at.

    Don’t get much of a chance to do that sort of thing, and most people I know just wouldn’t do it.

    Agree with all you say Peter or at least understand where you are coming from. But capitalism warps everything. Everything gets homogenised, with the life sucked out of it. Turned to dust, then just reconstituted and fed back straight at ya because it’s cheaper and quicker to produce. The CHEESE Zappa talks of. But he fed it back differently. Situating Stravinsky’s Petrushka right smack bang in the middle of Status Back Baby, a cheesey little ditty about high school. Where does Zappa get his ideas-the TelePrompTer! The Slime. The rotten box. Packard Goose. All media is compromised by capitalism’s modus operandi, which is really just that of those who benefit from it more than others.

    Nah, I do prefer to talk, outside or in, into the night singing Zappa melodies with someone else who kmows. ’em, noticing the section in Suzy Creamchees where it goes, 1234,12345,123456 and then in the much later What’s New In Baltimore where it goes, 123,1234,12345! Nothing better.

    • It’s hard for us now to conceive of just how rude Frank was for his time, like I remember thinking “whoa, if my mom ever hears this shit about mudsharks she will freak…” Concert halls filled with people having no idea what he might do next, and loving that expectation…The world desperately misses him and Hunter S Thompson.

      As for the blog, Peter, you nailed the bit about speed, abstraction and alienation. Please continue.

      • Muchas gracias, amigo, shall do. Jugglin other writing stuff at the moment.

      • Ben Watson makes an interesting point regarding Frank’s art or “rudeness” (as a synonym for his art), that went far beyond the odd expletive or two.

        “Like Adorno (whose inspirational, oppositional ideas were betrayed by his political position on campus in 1968), Zappa’s art requires commentary that will reveal a political unconscious at odds with his explicit pronouncements. The paradox is that his materialism continually deconstructs the ‘individual’ into its component impulses, revealing these as socially reproduced and unfree, and destroying the idea of the autonomous individual on which his petit-bourgeois politics is founded.”

    • Ya ole subversive, you, sittin around Lygon with Jason for six hours of chat, talk about bloody revolutionary activity, fuck yer demos, this is where the Slow Chat in Real Time revolution begins. And greetings to Jason. Six hours, four coffees, reckon the owner of the cafe might also deserve to be taken up into the anarchist hall of fame for anti-capitalist activity in the line of everyday pressure for speed of turnover. An IOPS award maybe? Yeah, the Zapp, don’t we all love him, will have to check out those beats in Suzy Creamcheese and What’s New in Baltimore. Musical education for me, wouldn’t have a clue. ‘Zen mind, beginner’s mind’. Da da da dum.

      • Ha! Perhaps you’re right about the owner of the establishment. Didn’t think about it. We both forgot to eat! Jason ordered something as I left, at twelve.

  2. I suspect I am “protected” somewhat from increasing speed and digitilization due to my rural, seasonal location and lifestyle. So this “uneven development” is a factor. (rural-ness has its own reactionary issues!)

    Culture is unable to keep up with modernity, to assess and process the changes. By the time a discourse is articulated, everyone’s attention has been diverted to the next spectacle.

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