WEB 2.0: Reality Show (2009)
Cirkulacija 2 as a part of Netart Community Convention (NCC), from 24th to 29th November, 2009 uin Graz – at multimedia lab MedienKunstLabor in KunstHaus Graz. The topic of NCC is web 2.0 critical discourse (the mass phenomena of web logs and of social nets), and lets try to find some points for further thinking.
Circulation and WEB 2.0 – Reality Show
In the previous years I have touched some similar topics and presented some short critical views and usually attributed it to the so-called consume. Even so to write it now as Consume – and the critical approach as AntiConsume. Of course – in the sense of AntiChrist, but the negation came out to be inverted (AntiConsume=GOOD; AntiChrist=BAD) – so the thought went into direction – is the INVERTED maybe the PERVERTED?
As the title shows, my critical observation is on the level of today’s phenomenon – the reality show. Reality show – as I observe it – encompasses the following relations = definition: a make believe world of commodified consumer democracy without any relation to constructed time anymore – the history – the consumation of time and life – in real time. At the same time I don’t like too much the word phenomenon, because it usually means that there is something outside that one has to deal with seriously – analyzing it.
The web is of course just one of the metaphoric situations – a representation of some previously materialized relations – constructed human realities. As such it is part of the culture -. though one might rather call it the folklore.
The basic difference of “reality show” reality would be in perspective – who is observing who. The process of observation is amplified with media and the focus presented with media used to be in the direction from the side of many – to the side of few. This reality was verbalized some decades ago by Peter Handke, when he said that no-one is interested in the petty stories of ordinary people’s lives. This has changed over the years into what can be called reality show. Ordinary people observe ordinary people’s lives in a kind of narcissistic gaze into their own reflection in the mirror.
Returning to the internet, there are many many terabytes of the content. Slogans like “broadcast yourself” (youtube.com, flicker.com, myspace.com,…) are calling out to be filled up with any kind of content. At the same time there is a fierce battle going on to secure the privately owned content – the commercial private property – that is not supposed to become part of the freely available content. So the first differentiation here should be between contents: the “real” content and the “meta” content. One could also look into the real content and divide it into “fiction” content and (hm?) “civic” content. The first is for consumation of (leasure) time – it promotes individual passivity, the other is for individual education and collective (social) activation. But it is not so simple, because there are representations everywhere. In fact, it might be that there is nothing but representations! Still, one needs to construct the system of hierarchies. I will return to this later.
The “meta” content is a mere prolongation of the tv reality shows. TV democracy became internet democracy (remember Obama?). The consume democracy or consumed democracy or democracy of Consume? And of course: the Ruling of Consume. Consume as ideology. The structure can be made from inverted relations: the objects in the truth table can be holes. Inversion or perversion? One just has to adapt the definition of what is ideology. There is an observation point that sees the consume ideology as a free market economy and even as democracy. The common denominator (the signifier) that reveals the conformity / complementarity of both views is the unit of evaluation. It is money.
A critical gaze must unveil what is hidden away – behind a veil or behind a mirror. There are always both the veil and the mirror. The mirror because the narcissus must marvel at his own reflection – not to look at what is hidden behind. So: the representation. Most of theories use mechanisms of image, reflection, substitute, simulacrum, representation, etc… as principles to distinguish between the thing itself (the thing more “real”) and the it’s manifestation (the thing less “real”). It would seem that there are always two mechanisms at work: narcissism (the mirror) and the veil (seven veils). The first blocks the unveiling.
The hierarchy of “more real” and “less real” is for me the basis of any evaluation system and therefore also the basis of any ideology. It forms the system of truth. Any kind of system is a machine with predefined relations that we use without too much thought – in an instant. It is an instant mechanism. With such mechanism one doesn’t think – one knows. This is not an all-together positive thing, isn’t it?
But at least, with system that is known to be at work – like a known definition of ideology – one knows that the knowing comes from the specific system’s truth table. Without the ideology being identified, the knowing might be regarded to come from some mythical or even natural predefinitions of what is what. The more one returns into the cultural past – the less one is able to free himself from the bondages of automatic knowing.
Social networks on the net are often used for good reason, mostly as tools to create a common platform for more people to work on the topic and share. But meta social networks are the platforms for meta self-amplification – self promotion. They belong to the consume market of leasure time. Another offer in the line of identities consume market, where anyone can become one of the identities on the market – to present himself and “express” himself. A production of virtual identities, borrowing of predefined and served models of identity clothes, masks. So: if one is not for real (well – nothing is for real…), one can be for fun – in your leasure time.
Terabytes are garbage cans. Garbage cans are filled with human vanity, built on the idea of the virtually unlimited range (the electronic amplification) of access to the most far-away places on Earth, but usually localized within a nationally predefined network. Hundreds of net-friends are mostly consuming many hours of time and prohibiting the time being spent for more concrete preoccupations. Addiction is another relevant point. It seems that addiction is not limited to concrete (bodily) actions. A representation seems to be good enough. An idea – a potential of reality – is addictive.
To go further into consumation of leasure time: it seems that the leasure time industry is going into direction of becoming more and more virtual (as opposed to real or even material – concrete – like tourism). The distribution of virtual leasure time goods is simple. It is even filled constantly by the consumers themselves – the self-produced meta content – eliminating the need for the creative industry for this sector. Well, the platform has to be paid for.
I will touch now the popular topic of economic crisis. In the time of atomization (it is called individualization of society) of civic social structures (and the self-motivated collective actions of the pedestrians themselves) and replacement of it by state, international and/or corporation meta civic organizations, the only real moment of atomized person is to earn money to provide for the quality of leasure time consumation. Atomization however stops on the basic level of human partnership – the family. One should regard family as the most primitive of human organizations. A tribal organization is much more civilized and advanced as a human organization. One should therefore observe the vacuum that exists between the family level and any of the more advanced existing organizational models.
So, one point of freedom, and maybe decision, is to provide means for your leasure time. Does anyone enjoy the work? So – tuned with the economic crisis: the work is becoming a luxury, a commodity. In tune with the virtualizing of the reality of work comes the virtu-reality of the consumation of leasure time – a luxury not easy to afford. Therefore the need for lowering of the prices / the virtualization of leasure consumers goods.
Ok, I did go too much into trying to understand the phenomenon. Now to get out of it. Realities coexist and they can be localized (ideologically = ideolocalized…) – and protected – from within. Protected reservations. The existing truth systems do not help – they are all consumed. Marxism = consumed, psychoanalysis = consumed, structuralism = consumed… – all academic environment = consumed. New systems have to be invented. At the basic level – the individual – personal mythologies have to be invented. The civic initiatives between the family level and the professional level have to be re-invented and re-established. It is the solution of temporary autonomous zones of Peter Walker – Hakim Bey.
It is all about open source code and learning some appropriate programming language…