Sunday, January 30, 2011


Ispy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era

Chapter 2: Three Dimensions of iCulture

So, this is an interesting chapter on the different aspects of surveillance and technology. His writing is entertaining, but most of what he says seems to be pretty common knowledge by now. Perhaps I am just more in tune with the technology community, but I wasn't really surprised by what he was talking about. The most important part of this discussion, I think, is his bit about the optimism of technology. In my own experience in Popular Culture, there tends to be a resistance against critical readings of technology. I wonder why this is? In political science, we were taught to be critical of everything...why is it that American Cultural Studies is more celebratory?

· iCommerce-

o He starts off with a story of Nike using an electric billboard in times square that allowed user to change an athletic shoe at will. You could text the sign with your design choices and the colors would change. Interestingly, this wasn’t complete freedom, you could only pick from a designated set of options.

o Also, on their website you are allowed to ‘create’ your own individual shoe – although if you try and put something like “Made in a sweatshop” on the side of your shoe, they will not allow you to do that.

§ Promise of individualization- being able to “make” your own goods

§ Promise of democratization- everyone has equal access to the brand with the ability to change things

§ Promise of interactivity – overcoming differentiation and abstraction associated with mass society

· iCulture

o Mass culture is changing – now it is no longer top down and nonparticipatory (kind of)

§ Interactivity promises that users can be creative

§ Postsecrets as an example (although the owner keeps all the rights to all the creative works that are sent in)

§ Interestingly – he points to a communication scholar (James Beniger) who explains that the original meaning of revolution meant to restore a previous form of government – so perhaps this revolution is simply one that will restore corporate powers.

§ Interactivity doesn’t always mean empowering.

· iMonitoring

o Forget-me-not panties – track your significant others and daughters with GPS panties that will tell you if they are involved in sexual activities.

§ This is a joke e-mail – but shows how monitoring is becoming more and more acceptable.

o We Google people to find out their secrets.

o Mutual monitoring – being aware that you are being monitored or actually wanting to be monitored (where is my significant other in a mall – use my cell phone GPS!)

o Biometrical monitoring becoming more prevalent – lie detectors on TV.

o Personal information is now going to always be online.

o Asymmetrical monitoring is dangerous because we are not aware of it happening.

· iPolitics – The politics of monitoring

o Software like having individuals monitor border cameras from their homes.

o Taking pictures of illicit people with your cell phones.

o Politicians catering their policy to specific demographics (this is not democracy)

o The politics of shopping is determined by where one spends their money. If people are broken down into niche markets, they have less power.

o He talks about how he is perceived as being too negative. He argues that “ contention is that they [technological optimism]can be realized only when we no longer depend on technology to sidestep political conflicts, educate the masses, and deliver on the democratic promise” (49).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grossberg Interview

Chapter 14

“Affect’s Future: Rediscovering the Virtual in the Actual” an interview with Lawrence Grossberg

Melissa Gregg describes Grossberg as being the “principle figure” in cultural studies to have emphasized affect and politics.

The following is from an interview with Lawrence Grossberg and the editors of this volume.

· Question – How does your story intersect with affect?

o With Raymond Williams “Structure of feeling” – Defining cultural studies in terms of how it feels to be alive.

o Grossberg believed it was more than just Althusserian ideology when dealing with what it feels like.

o He was influenced by Freud (through Deluze and Nietzsche) in understanding popular culture.

o Also, he left Birmingham before Althusser became influential.

o Heidegger was also important in talking about everyday life and the notion of experience.

o “The Nietzschean space, like the Deleuzian space, of affect, is an ontological space and the psychoanalytic space is an empirical space” (311).

· Deleuze?

o He read Deleuze and Guattari together – an anti-Kantian Philosophy

o He uses these theories in a toolbox rather than subscribing to any one theory

o He looked a three modes of machinic assemblages

§ Stratifying apparatuses

§ The material and the discurstive

§ Operating and organizing both content and expression, territorializing formations, and coding formations.

o Three ways to constituting a context

§ Conjunctural – context of overdetermination – the relations between all of the elements in a whole way of life

§ Structure of feeling

§ Ontological construction of a context

o He is interested in mapping out the contexts of cultural studies and affect

· Has affect overinvested in theory?

o The issue is that affect can be a magical term that anything can fit under.

o Affect can let you off the hook

· Are the planes (virtual/actual or consistency/organization) separable or do they persist alongside one another?

o The planes are the same thing. “So, I think that sometimes affect lets the actualization of those conditions” (315).

o Some of the affect theories revert to older models (media effects models)

· Are there inadequacies in the structure of feeling that you still see today?

o Raymond Williams was not a theorist and did not theorize his ideas enough.

o “So, I think that the notion of a gap between what can be remembered meaningful or knowable and what is nevertheless livable is a more interesting place to start” (318).

· Why are you so interested in studying young people?

o Young people are a major focus in the United States and they could become a political category.

o Williams is misread, he is not in the culture and society tradition. “Discourse and reality are on the same plane, so there is no separation of culture and society and I think Williams says that” (323).

o He is interested in convergence rather than separating out realities into different categories.

· How has otherness changed through affect?

o You don’t get rid of black people by getting rid of race.

o You get rid of racism and you reconstruct the ecology of belonging.

o Here he emphasizes the importance of thinking contextually through popular culture.

o He argues for a recontexualiztion of thinking about the popular as a site of struggle. How would Stuart Hall’s arguments work today in a modern context?

· Are you hopeful?

o He always sees hope because the world did not have to be this way.

o “Ethics transcends the intellectual enterprise” (332).

o Passion is incredibly important in cultural studies.