Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday 2pm Section

During Paige's lecture, I was particularly interested in how the impetus to freeware and open source functions as a critique of privatization but not of the politico-economic system or the drive to consume that is commensurate with it (read: capitalism). How can we understand this in the context of Jenkins statement that "consumption has become a collective process" (4)? Interestingly, what seems to be elided in this collective process of consumption is the individual, also known as what I had understood to be the very bedrock of liberal/capitalism as we know it. We seem to live in a culture of the me: of the i-phone/Google/car/computer/etc. Everything we use in the digital realm seems endlessly personalizable by the user. So much advertising seems to be aimed squarely at this 'individual', at constantly inviting construction of our identity through our consumption, but then what about this collective business?

Leaving aside the psychoanalytic challenge that I see at once protesting any collapse of theoretical concepts into a 'collective' with commensurate theoretical problems of subjectivity, agency and the unconscious involved in a translation of these concepts from the individual to group scale, how might we see the concept of the individual as always-already presupposing a collective? That is, can we really understand the individual/collective binary as a hard and fast distinction anyway? To what extent do these individualizing imperatives found in consumer advertising (e.g. "if you use [read: buy] X detergent, YOUR clothes will be super soft! [and hence YOU as an individual will be happier]) have always assumed a silent collective to which the individual is invited to participate (e.g. "if you use [read: buy] X detergent, YOUR clothes will be like EVERYONE ELSE'S clothes in that they will be super soft [and hence YOU as an individual will become part of a happy COLLECTIVE of X detergent-using people])?

Moreover, can we see how the dynamic of production, for artifacts like Wikipedia and Linux, Facebook and Myspace, can actually reinscribe this neo-liberal consumption/production as two sides of the same collective process? Does this suggest that the very binary of consumer/producer no longer functions in the same way and is thus always-already complicated just as individual/collective is?

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