Economy of Culture

Boris Groys’ On the New would’ve productively informed my essay on the how the media event of True Detective could be understood as part of the revaluation of cultural values.  We are reading it as part of our aesthetics reading group. Groys wants to present an understanding of innovation and by ‘innovation’ he does not mean the Silicon Valley destructive innovation sense. Innovative theories or innovative art are not described and justified on the basis of signification to reality or truth but whether they are culturally valuable. He is drawing on Nietzsche’s conception of the revaluation of value. Page 12 of On the New:

The economy of culture is, accordingly, not a description of culture as a representation of certain extra-cultural economic constraints. Rather, it is an attempt to grasp the logic of cultural development itself as an economic logic of the revaluation of values.

I am enjoying Groys’ non-market ‘economic’ interpretation of Nietzschean truth.  He develops an economic  conception of Nietzsche’s non-moral version of value without turning to Marxist conceptions of value that would position cultural value as a consequence of the social relation between capital and labour power.

In my True Detective essay I develop a notion of ‘meta’ so as to grapple with the epistemological displacement that occurs in the midst of a revaluation of values. I call this a ‘liminal epistemology’, which has been commodified as ‘discovery’ in contemporary ‘apps’ that assist users access various kinds of cultural texts (music, written texts, phatic/social media texts, etc). The media event of True Detective (as compared to the televisual text) is interesting as it dramatises the ‘detective work’ of this liminal epistemology itself. From the introduction of my True Detective essay:

If nothing else, True Detective clearly triggers meta-detective work by the audience. The show, its inter-textual references, and non-diegetic exegetical explanations of these references produced new edges of surprise and a new sense of expectation. For example, there is a folding of the crime fiction genre into existentialist horror and a topological transformation wrought upon both. Both genres frame a passage of discovery by the characters and audience. “Discovery” has become a buzzword in user-centred design to describe the design of platforms that assist users discover appropriate content, and this refers to the way users willingly embrace the delegated agency of “smart” interfaces. The liminal epistemology of discovery in meta-stable media assemblages pose answers to questions that haven’t yet been asked. The question isn’t simply asked of the characters of the show, but of the entire event itself as it repeated different elements of genres in different ways; in effect, the audience carries out meta-detective work.

The reason why I am excited about Groys’ work is that he has already isolated a similar problematic with regards to the revaluation of values. His focus so far is not animated by the same concerns as I am, but there is a similar problematic. I make it very clear that what I found the most interesting about the True Detective media event is that it is part of a broader constellation of cultural texts that are all, in different ways, working through this revaluation of values. From the introduction of my essay:

In the final section I develop meta in terms of what Sianne Ngai (2012) calls a minor aesthetic category, and in this case what characterises meta as a minor aesthetic category is the way any text, object or event that dramatises the suspension of cultural values. In Simondon’s terms, meta is an aesthetic category that refers to works that in some way repotentialise values that serve as the “preindividual norms” of value in a state of meta-stability ready to be potentialised in a multiplicity of ways (Combes 2013: 64). As I shall explore in detail, True Detective dramatises a conflict between systems of belief and cultural value through the figures of the two main characters, Rust and Marty. In this way, “meta” signals a threshold of value (or what Nietzsche (1968) calls “transvaluation”) more often associated with nihilism.

I look forward to reading the rest of On the New.

Doctor Who is made for Children and Simpletons

“It’s Doctor Who day!” so proclaimed Hugo award-nominated Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat on Twitter last night. I had already watched the five-part “Pond Life” webisode series through the BBC’s Youtube channel, like many other Doctor Who fans, in preparation of the new series. In Australia we were able to watch the first episode of the new Doctor Who series as soon as we woke up this morning thanks to the ABC making it available on their “catch-up TV” service iView. This is exactly what I did, with a coffee in one hand and my iPad in the other. That it coincided with Father’s Day meant my Facebook and Twitter streams were full of Whovian joy crossed over with accounts of fathers watching the show with their children.

And yet there were also the haters. They were in the minority of course, but one comment struck me in particular; the poster said that Doctor Who “is made for children and simpletons”. Obvious troll is obvious, but, still, the elitist platitudes rubbed me up the wrong way… Doctor Who wears its infantile pretensions on its cross-platform global-brand sleeve. To say it is made for children (and, hyperbolically, for simpletons) is to state the obvious. Doctor Who captures a certain kind of stupid that I want to suggest is desperately needed. Hence, this is a defence of Doctor Who by way of a defence of stupidity.

We live in a world in which stupidities attempt to impinge on our mental and spiritual well-being at every turn. Indeed, I used to think of plenty of things were stupid (and still do to a certain extent): elite sport, organised religion, liberal democratic politics, pretty much everything that someone else is doing. A normative appreciation of stupidity, firstly, locates the stupid in someone else, and secondly, works to trace this stupid as the outcome of some kind of failure; a failure of thought, a failure of imagination, a failure of agency and so on.

The greatest stupid is produced by those who think they are a success. This is a kind of existential stupidity that provides security and purpose. Success as an Australian means policing borders. Success as a savvy businessperson means embodying the will of the market. Success as a moral subject means becoming an evangelist of law and order. Conservatism here is not a political category; the politics is just an expression of the ‘claptrap’ (political speech triggering audience clapping on demand) experienced as a collective pat on the back.

None of this is new. To realise this stupidity as an inescapable milieu is pretty much the only quality that is shared by all post-Boomer generations. Some resist through attempts at withdrawal, but this is insufficient. Like the coffee in a forgotten stove-top espresso machine, strategic apathy percolates into a ‘bitter’ generational cynicism. This ‘burnt’ cynic attempts to ward off being swept up in stupidities, but as a result produces their own. The cynicism of youth valorises the stupid of noseless faces.

The performative knowingness of the cynic is balanced with the performative naivety of the existentially enfranchised. This is more about the earnestness of those who transcend the collective stupidities of the individual and rather than choosing success, they choose the struggle. They are working to transcend the conditions of existence that forever turns inward back to the individualising ‘us’: the individual, the family, the nation. The stupid of the struggle is a failure to realise that resistance is futile; worse, it becomes a resource for the ‘winners’, like two cogs turning against each other.

Three forms of ideal stupidity; actual stupid is a combination of the three. If everything is stupid, how can anything or anyone escape or resist or succeed? Embrace your stupidities. In ancient Greece, Socrates called stupidity ‘ignorance’ and wisdom was the recognition of the way ignorance was an inherent character of humanity. Socrates did not live in our world, however. The possibility of ‘wisdom’ is to smuggle stupidity in through the backdoor under the aegis of philosophy. Although, Socrates was definitely on to something. Kant argued for a higher ‘pure’ rationality that transcends stupidity, but he did not recognise the conditions of rationality as being his own stupidity: the unthought of thought that haunts the modernist project. The stupid is the inescapable outside of thought that conditions the possibility of thought. Kant is the Batman of thought. “Why so serious?”

The fourth response is to follow Socrates, but turn Kant into the Joker, and go ‘meta’ to recognise the limits of the other three kinds of stupidity. The antidote to aggrandised Socratic beard-stoking, while at the same time pursuing an unforgiving self-awareness, is through play. To play is to suspend seriousness in a way that is often utterly serious. Is it a surprise then, that practices of ‘meta’ in the form of play characterise much of the activity found on social networks? “Best cat video.” Or imagining politicians as anthropomorphised animals? This is stupid, without a doubt, but it is obviously so. Almost anything that exists in the online economy of memes is an exchange of stupid. This is an invitation to a playful stupidity that is utterly serious.

Hence, it is a mistake to imagine the audience for Doctor Who as children when it renders explicit its process of infantilising the audience. Using the tropes of popular family-oriented science fiction television, Doctor Who incorporates this outside of thought into an hour or so of accessible television. Doctor Who is a suspension of seriousness that is utterly serious; a playful ‘meta’ of serious television and culture more generally. It is an invitation to become aware of our own stupidities.

Post originally appeared at Limited News.

Temporality of mystery…?

“Time becomes, in effect, palpable and visible; the chronotope makes narrative events concrete, makes them take on flesh, cause blood to flow in their veins.” — Bakhtin, DI, p 250

The techniques by which script writers maintain interest in a serial television show all involve producing a spectacular architecture that distributes bodies in space and time. The space is in front of each viewer’s respective television and the time is every broadcast of the relevant show. This seems to be obvious. Clearly, people who make TV shows want people to watch the TV shows. I am suggesting something a little less obvious than, well, the obvious.

JJ Abrams is guest editor of the latest issue of Wired magazine and his editorial is entitled The Magic of Mystery. Think of the ‘mystery’ less as a simple plot device produced by a singular journey of discovery (or not) towards the truth and more as a device, a machine, for producing relations of futurity between diferent orders of time.

Skipping ahead […] lessens the experience. Diminishes the joy. Makes the accomplishment that much duller.

Perhaps that’s why mystery, now more than ever, has special meaning. Because it’s the anomaly, the glaring affirmation that the Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside. Mystery demands that you stop and consider—or, at the very least, slow down and discover. It’s a challenge to get there yourself, on its terms, not yours.

Besides sounding like a student of Paul Virilio, my interest is that Abrams defines the value of taking the time to be swept up in mystery as a form of challenge ‘on its terms, not yours.’ What he gets grumpy about in the article is the culture of ‘spoilers’ that has emerged in the context of globalised poular culture and the easy communicatability of the internet. Abrams is of course smart enough to realise that this culture of spoilers presents its own challenges. It is not an issue with the loss of challenges, and correlative waning of affect, but the loss of control over the challenges posed by the Abrams magical mystery tour and the capacity to cultivate the affects of interest and excitement in an audience.
Spoilers short circuit the chronotope of the serialised spectacle. Spoilers get people from in front of their televisions to in front of their computers. They get them downloading the latest episode of their favourite TV show and not waiting to be told when to watch it with a bunch of advertisements.
In Deleuzian parlance the chronotope is a type of abstract machine for crystalised time. It gives the incorporeal events of narrative fiction their materiality. It is not a thing, however, nor is it contained in a book; rather, it is a relation actualised in the dynamic of its affective resonance. When the blood pumps it really pumps, people get excited, they are incited to act, to be.
I am very interested in this question of temporality. I need to figure out someway to do some further work on it. I think it is what I really want to do. This is both exciting and terrifying.

OMG I AM 5 METRES FROM SYLAR!!!!!1111

So I went to the Star Trek World Premiere this evening at the Sydney Opera House. Yeah, I am pretty awesome. So was the flick… SO WAS BEING 5M FROM SYLAR!!!

STEAL MY POWERS SYLAR, PUHLEEEEEZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

It all started last week when I caught wind of the tickets going on sale the very minute they went on sale (9am Monday) as I was checking my regular enthusiast forums in the morning at work.

I promptly ordered two tickets, which weren’t cheap at $100 a pop. I just as quickly texted my brother in Perth to tell him he had to get time off work and fly over to Sydney to attend the world premiere of the new Star Trek movie.

By midday the tickets were sold out according to others on the forum.

My brother communicated a few days later that he had indeed got some time off work and would be heading to Sydney.

We only discovered yesterday that it was ‘Cocktail’ dress. I have some cool suits. None of which are suitable. I thought fuck it, I am going as a cool mofo in skinny black jeans, black zip front hoodie, white short sleeve and skinny black tie. See, BLACK TIE! The crowning glory of this little outfit were my eletric blue trimmed hi-top Nike Zooms for some scene kid(ult) I-refuse-to-accept-your-bourgeois-adultness-and-will-rebel-with-rabid-niche-consumption consumption.

It was always going to be a mission to make it from my work in Silverwater to the Opera House in the city. I made the decision not to drive and it was something of a pleasant experience. (Didn’t rain.) Except heading from work to the Opera House I imagine was not dissimilar to the nerves one feels when studious and waiting for an exam result… if you submit to such divisive modes of population segmentation.

Anyway, I made it to Circular Quay station at like 6:44pm and the movie was meant to start by 7pm. I rang my borther and said, Go. GO on (in) without me… All dramatic like.

But there was no need cause I made it from the station to inside the Opera House in like 6 minutes… Just as they were serving last drinks. So I scored a beer, which I drank perched against one of those high standing-at tables. I observed those around me. And took this photo of my bro:
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And this banner sign:
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And then entered the concert hall!

OOooooooh exciting!!!!

Our seats were down and at the front and I thought I had epic failed… EPIC TICKET FAIL!!! Super craptastic seats of the sort that would kill the romance of any date by giving you a crook in your neck. We waited and waited and waited…

And then the lights got dark.

And some dude came out and said some stuff.

And we noticed a group of people standing near where this dude had come from, only a few metres from where we were seated. And then we realised that the group of people standing only a few metres away were movie stars…

LIKE SYLAR!!! …SYLAR WAS ONLY 5M AWAY!!!

OMG

SYLAR!!

And then we watched the movie. It was good.