production of possibilities

I am writing the next lecture for the unit Consumer Culture to be delivered on Thursday and I have been thinking about Lazzarato’s event-based conception of consumption and the relation between consumers and worlds. I found these great store displays while doing the weekly shop yesterday that’ll hopefully allow me to discuss the aesthetics of consumption, less in terms of branding (that comes later in the course), but more in terms of the production of ‘worlds’.

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Lazzarato’s use of ‘world’ does not literally mean some sort of terraforming exercise, but more in the sense of territorialising exercise. The world is an event and it could be of a ‘large’ or ‘small’ extension. The above image captures mere fragments of sense (perspective on self-identity), that could be assembled into a lifestyle, an event of a larger extensive and intensive scale.

The constant process of the consumer market to inflect becoming through ‘choice’ relies on a singular habitus, which may involve multiple identities. In other words there is only a single order of difference, rather than a second order difference of difference; the virtual and the actual are in a near constant relation with differences manifest between virtual-actual relations over time (generational change) and location in the networks of capital distribution.

One of the implications of this world-building thesis is that the ‘grid’ of sense that frames the world in the processual character of perspective can change and mutate with the flux and fashions of consumer culture. Surely advertising, as a communicative apparatus of capture, best succeeds when it works to create new possibilities in the lives of consumers. Not material possibilities in some quasi-Marxist sense, such as entrepreneurial opportunity, but possibilities for what can happen in the world. (This is what Deleuze and Guattariu meant when they lamented in WiP? how advertising has taken over the production of concepts.)

What does all this mean? Think about how a new product comes on the scene. The product is advertised not simply according to capacities or qualities that the object has, but the advertisements serve as a discourse-based incorporeal infrastructure for a ‘world’ within which those qualities and capacities matter. The advertisements serve as quasi-cause for this ‘world’ as it reconfigures what matters, and consumers take note and begin working towards this mattering, then the world within which the consumer subject and commodity object exist does matter as such. The incorporeal (sense, event, world) has material effects, or rather the effect of the incorporeal is material in nature.

This is not simply about what matters in the world as some kind of social sensory filter; these material reconfigurations guide people in the world and show new potentialities for (consumer-based) action. Think of the new rage amongst tech-geek minded inviduals for sub-notebooks (ASUS Eeepc, etc.), they are not as capable as other computers according to the prior discourses and worlds within which computers mattered (not as fast, not as powerful, etc.); yet, they are bought because they can ‘do’ things that these other computers can’t do. So what? They are fulfilling a need in the market for ultra-portables and constant ‘switched-on’ net-based interface, surely? Yes, they are. But they are also educating and habitualising a new cohort of consumers of what is now possible in terms of the mobility and connectivity afforded by sub-notebooks. An actual world is produced that accelerates the tendency towards the ubiquity of mobility and connectivity…

I bring all this up because Negri and Hardt in Empire discuss how politics should be understood as the production of new possibilities. If this is so, then the advertising-based communicative apparatus of capture is currently the most efficient form of politics.