The Sydney Autouni webpage is up.

I have been attending meetings in preparation for an event on the 13 August:


Sandy and I have been talking about addressing the question of the “increasing precariousness of student life and academic/student creative labour.” (I posted an email to the CSAA email list after some information from postgrads. I got a massive response of over 40 replies of mostly collegial and supportive emails with a few nasty conservative ones for fun.)

What is Autouni?

“The notion is to try to translate/transport some similar projects that have been taking place in other cities/countries around the world, such as University of Openness (London), Nomad University (Italy), Tangential University (France).”

At first I thought it was to be like a training centre for militant thought, but then I realised it was something more subtle. It shall be entirely separate from the normal university arrangements.

Does this make for an autonomous intellectual space?

That is the plan, but everything is experiment.

Piracy, Immaterial Labour, the Franchise Event

Jon has written an interesting post on the relation between piracy and digital production. It has sent me off thinking about another one of my back-burner papers on configuring popular culture purely in terms of the Deleuzian event as a way to circumvent neo-Platonic conceptions of media production (representation, etc) and the cultural economy of enthusiasm (a.k.a. fandom). It is based on the rough and raw paper I wrote last year while in Sweden on movie sequels. Christian and I discussed turning it into a joint paper when he was up from Melbourne but I think so far we might have been too busy to give it the time that it deserves. Perhaps this piracy angle could serve as a catalyst. Pirates are always exciting.


Anyway, I was interested in the period between movies in a film series (ie a film and its sequel). Instead of the film being a straightforward commodity I thought about it as an ‘event’ in the Deleuzian sense. The film itself is not an event, but is merely another actualisation of the pure event which subsists in the actualisation. Other examples of the event being actualised are in comics, tv shows, fast food franchise happy meal deals, interviews with people, computer games, books, and so on. I did not view the movie as being produced as much as the desire/enthusiasm of the audience being captured.

The blockbuster was born with Jaws in the sense that the movie-event was saturation marketed (actualised) across a number of media networks through advertising, but it is with Star Wars that the true event of popular culture emerges. Star Wars is a ‘total event’; it is not just a movie, but a range of toys, clothes, comics, books, computer games, and so on. What ‘Star Wars’ captures is the enthusiasm of fans for the Star Wars franchise.

Indeed, I just realised that the perfect term to describe what I am discussing is the ‘franchise event’ or maybe ‘cultural franchise event’. What is actualised in every example of ‘Star Wars’ is another dimension of the Star Wars ‘franchise event’. Awesome. Like a Macca’s franchise, ‘Star Wars’ is differentially repeated. All Macca’s are the same, but they are also different from each other. In both examples — Macca’s and Star Wars — the commodity exchanged is primarily the product of immaterial labour. Macca’s have had to diversify their product range to become properly post-Fordist. Instead of the mass-standard of Fordist mass consumption, Macca’s now have the standard-variation of post-Fordism. The second parallel is that both have a serial form. The Macca’s franchise contains a serial form of difference, while the cultural franchise event (think the Matrix franchise – game, movies, books, etc) has a serial form that does not involve the Fordist return of the same as per mass production, but the return of a standardised variation for the saturation of differentiated markets.

(Macca’s! Lunchtime. haha…)

I was interested in the period between movies (initial example and sequel) as it can serve as a clear example of the complex ways excitement is produced about a forthcoming film. I was interested in the temporality of the between film process in terms of anticipation and expectation. Both terms are used to describe a relation of futurity, however I located anticipation more in the body and affections and expectation in terms of a calculus of cultural logic that referenced and (re)produced a model-event.

What troubles any simple Fordist conception of mass-consumption is the labour of fans to produce fan-texts that ‘fit in’ a film franchise. Again the best example is Star Wars. I once read that George Lucas liked fans making fan-texts. So he should. Fan-texts are not commodoties but the product of consumption that is productive; the immaterial labour of the enthusiast. The fan-texts produce surplus value, but a surplus value baked into commodities produced by the ‘owners’ of the franchise (ie for Lucas’ actualisations of the Star Wars franchise). Fan-texts are another actualisation of the cultural franchise event.

In this sense, like the immaterial labour of computer game modders, fan-based actualisation of the cultural franchise event can be imagined as a form of piracy within post-Fordist economies. The difference is that it is not a commodity that is stolen through alternative circuits of exchange, but it is the immaterial labour of production that is stolen through alternative distributions of labour. Why shouldn’t people who work in the movie industry get pissed off when fans actualise the cultural franchise event through alternative means of production (primarily enabled through the democratisation of media technologies)? Lucas has been very smart to continue to feed the fans just enough ‘variation’ to fuel their enthusiasm… What is at stake is not a commodity that has surplus value ‘baked’ into it, but the limits of ownership over the cultural franchise event and, as Negri and Hardt say in Empire, the passage from the virtual to the actual.

What gets fans grumpy now is not the ‘return of the same’ that plagues Fordist modes of mass-production/consumption, but the forced ‘return of the variation’ that plagues post-Fordist production of the cultural franchise event. Again Star Wars is a classic example of this in two ways: The fact the three prequel films were made, but also the way they were made as the plots were obviously constructed to allow for maximum tie-in with other actualisations of the total cultural franchise event (games, meals, etc).

The limit of enthusiasm’s capture is ‘play’. Kids playing with toys and replicating scenes from the movie or, indeed, imagining their own ‘scenes’ are the purest form of the immaterial labour of the enthusiast. There is no object produced as the labour is perfectly virtuosic; yet, the cultural franchise event is differentially repeated through the imagination of the child (or adult!!). Hurrah!

Circulation and Lazzarato’s Chainworkers

If you have spoken to me recently about Virno and Lazzarato’s respective conceptions of post-fordist labour then you would know that I have been relatively surprised by the lack of attention to questions of circulation in economies organised around post-fordist modes of production.

EDIT: I realised I didn’t link to the lecture/talk given by Lazzarato forwarded on to me by Brett (here, it will ask for secure connection bollocks, not sure why). Plus I am referencing an aborted blog post on the London bombings and circulation. I decided not to post it, because I am not a political pundit, but there are some things that need to be extracted on the topic of ‘circulation’.

I have been chasing up what Marx says about circulation and distribution in his works. I have a fair way to go yet, but it is possible to lay the groundworks of a critique of Marx with the relatively simple observation the Marx is interested in the circulation of capital in circuits of exchange and the distribution of something like ‘access’ to the means of production between the workers and the owners. (‘Access’ is not the right word, but I do not have my books here to come up with a better definition.) Firstly, Marx locates circulation not within production or consumption but within the circuits of exchange. Secondly, distribution is not so much an on going process, but a representation of a particular state of affairs that defines the relationship between workers and owners at a moment of production. This is all very interesting, but I want to literally go against this flow and trace the reverse circulation and the reverse distribution. So within the circuits of exchange it is not capital I am interested in, but commodities and service-based labour. Within distribution it is not access to the mode of production, but the distribution of labour across the ‘networked’ mode of production (or ‘distributed production line’ of producers->suppliers->assemblers). Also production and consumption cease to be rigid categories describing ‘points’ or moments of transformation and exchange respectively, and become continual distributed practices without any clearly defined ‘moment’ within circulation.

What is interesting is that Lazzarato gives an example of the ‘chainworker’ who combines with the ‘brainworker’:

This is an Italian website and we will talk about this more, later but it has this wonderful saying, ‘Chain and brainworkers unite’.
Brainworkers are the creative workers and chain workers are workers working in distribution, like department stores, supermarkets, and fast food chains. It’s no longer the chain of production that is referred to in the Latin language, no longer the assembly line; it’s become a chain of distribution.

Chain has two important resonances here: Chain stores of the franchise variety and a link in a chain. Chain stores are a classic example of the ways immaterial and material labour combine. In the example of a fast food establishment, the commodities sold already are imbued as ‘image-commodities’ (spectacle); think of the Quarter Pounder. The burger itself is nothing special and yet if we remember Pulp Fiction one of the more memorable scenes involves the Julius character talking about the ‘French’ Quarter Pounder known as the Royale with Cheese. The material artefact is nominally the same and yet the difference comes from the ‘image’ of the burger as a Quarter Pounder/Royale with Cheese.

The burger itself is constructed the same in each country according to an ‘assembling line’ model in the kitchen area where each worker has a specialised task. The ‘assembly line’ of post-fordism is not the same as the ‘production line’. The assembly line involves the input of already produced commodities to be assembled into another commodity form. The assembly does not involve the transformation of ‘nature’ into a commodity ala the labour of production, but involves the assemblage is heterogeneous elements (bun, vegetable, meat, sauce) into another commodity form. The bun, meat, vegetable, and sauce are delivered to the kitchen area ready for assembly. In Bergsonian terms ‘assembly’ is ‘translation’, while production is ‘transformation’. The interface between assembly and exchange is the immaterial labourer in the form of the counter worker.

Walking Like a Duck

Watching the Ashes with Clif at his joint we started discussing the walk between the changeroom and the pitch for batsmen who have just got out. The space between the changeroom and the pitch is an interesting space. The changeroom is literally a ‘standing reserve’ of batsmen. The pitch is literally the field of action. What sparked my interest was the nature of the walk; in particular whether or not batsmen remove their helmet. 

I was thinking it would make for an excellent paper for exploring public performances of affect. If you are ashamed or annoyed do you remove your helmet? If you are pleased with your innings, then how do you walk? How do you carry your bat? Where do you look?

The space in between the pitch and the changeroom — the space of the walk — is extraordinarily intense. It is a highly polarised field between poles of action/potentiality and readiness/stasis/depotentiality.

Ricardo Lagos Dateline Interview

Caught the interview with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos on Dateline last night (click the link and find the interview, cannot link directly to interview). As interviewer George Negus said in the introduction “Lagos is a rare beast – a socialist who’s survived and prospered in a post Cold War world that’s been moving inexorably to the ideological right.” I found this little exchange between Negus and Lagos to be inspirational:

GEORGE NEGUS: Tell me about being a socialist in an era in history where people tell us ideology is dead. Do you feel like an ideological dinosaur, a blast?

RICARDO LAGOS: No, not at all no, not at all. Let me tell you this. 300 years ago to be socialist probably was meant to make a division of land because land was the source of wealth. 150 years ago the owner of the means of production and factory, so socialists would say let’s replace that. In today’s world, knowledge is the only important thing and therefore to be socialist today is how, are you going to address the issue that every kid has access to similar education no matter how much money the father or mother has.

To me it says that all this talk about immaterial labour is not so far from the mark.

It was also interesting how Lagos danced around the issue of saying John Howard was wrong to send Australian troops to Iraq.