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On Digital Capitalism

This site presents extracts from Michael Betancourt's current research and writing projects, with news about current happenings. A portfolio of finished, published writing is posted here.

If you are looking for more on agnotology, digital capitalism or automated/immaterial labor, look at The Digital which presents my inks to my most recent published articles and other research on the political economy of digital capitalism:

  • The Aura of the Digital  [.pdf]

  • The Valorization of the Author  [.pdf]

  • Immaterial Value and Scarcity in Digital Capitalism   [.pdf]

  • Automated Labor: The New Aesthetic and Immaterial Physicality   [.pdf]

  • Bitcoin   [.pdf]

  • The Demands of Agnotology::Surveillance   [.pdf]

  • or download the free ebook, Agnotology and Crisis in Digital Capitalism   [.pdf]

    More articles and translations into Spanish, Portuguese and Greek are posted on



    "Beyond Spatial Montage" part 6 of 6


    story ©  | November 30, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    Part 6 of a 6 Part series proposing an expanded theorization of spatial montage, excerpted from a current book project.


    The potential of on-screen structures that appear as displacement is at once a deeply under theorized, but at the same time over-determined. The same series of structures are shared by both the avant-garde and commercial media “worlds.” The failure of existing theorizations originates with those theories’ demand that the displaced structures of windowing be essentially critical, ignoring the alternative uses that are apparent within commercial media production. The uniformity of this morphology that allows both collage/montage-like juxtapositions and seamless constructions of realist continuity demonstrates the independence of these structure’s meaning from their formal organization: these on-screen structures function at a more basic level than that posed by the interpretations of narrative or the combinatory potentials of montage-like forms. Developing a conceptual map to accommodate this range of forms thus becomes a necessary prerequisite for any hermeneutic critical assessment.


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      "Beyond Spatial Montage" part 5 of 6

    story ©  | November 25, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    Part 5 of a 6 Part series proposing an expanded theorization of spatial montage, excerpted from a current book project.

    Time—Motion—Space Displacement

    Displacements of Time—Motion—Space are predicted by this taxonomy, but do not appear in the historical record. These are ‘single image’ works constructed around the fragmentation and reorganization of one shot (the long take) transformed into a multiple image composition that may not contain affective juxtapositions. The three variations of this displacement reflect affective priorities in the form that the resulting composites take within the larger morphology of Time—Motion—Space displacement. Both temporal and spatial elements are crucial to these visual structures; they differ from ‘spatial montage’ in the singular nature of the screen-image. There are three variants distinguished by their affective character: within the fundamentally continuous, singular image the shifts have a distinct valence that is more closely aligned with one of the three elements (Time, Motion and Space).



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      "Beyond Spatial Montage" part 4 of 6

    story ©  | November 20, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    Part 4 of a 6 Part series proposing an expanded theorization of spatial montage, excerpted from a current book project.

    Motion—Space Displacement (Mirroring)

    The most easily identified variety of Motion—Space displacement, a tessellated array of (typically) triangular images, is immediately recognizable as being kaleidoscopic. However, any mirroring, even a simple vertical ‘reflection’ on screen creating a symmetrical pattern would qualify as a Motion—Space displacement. These simple forms are the most common: mirroring is the earliest form of windowing to be developed since the visual structure happens continuously in ‘real time’ since it does not require the motion picture as technological support—as a result, the first examples of this displacement are pre-cinematic. They appear in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as developments in kineto-optical devices (both photography and the motion picture are also examples of these scientific concerns). While a simple ‘split screen’ (two images) would not be an example of this technique, if it were instead a mirroring of the frame (so long as it was not a superimposition of the frame flipped horizontally or vertically) it would qualify as the simplest variety of Motion—Space displacement. Complex versions with multiple reflections, often resembling a kaleidoscope, are more readily identified versions of this visual displacement.



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      "Beyond Spatial Montage" part 3 of 6

    story ©  | November 15, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    Part 3 of a 6 Part series proposing an expanded theorization of spatial montage, excerpted from a current book project.

    Time—Motion Displacement (Step Printing)

    Time—Motion displacement is part of the foundational history of motion pictures. This type of sequential photograph, the chronophotograph, invented by the French scientist Etienne-Jules Marey, is immediately recognizable as representing a temporal shift where an identical, multiple-yet-singular formal structure of displacement is created entirely within a singular full-frame image. This displacement achieves a distinct juxtaposition and fragmentation of time and motion that is different in character and degree from ‘spatial montage’—the spatial element extending across the screen, is incidental to the organization as it is motion that characterizes these repetitions. This displacement of the duration across the screen as the individual motion ‘echoes’ violates the continuous long take in precisely the same way that editing and other forms of montage do, but without breaching the integrity of the individual shot. Superimpositions produced with an optical printer (or using video/digital processing) can produce a visual displacement called “step printing” that transforms the chronophotograph into a motion picture.



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      "Beyond Spatial Montage" part 2 of 6

    story ©  | November 10, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    Part 2 of a 6 Part series proposing an expanded theorization of spatial montage, excerpted from a current book project.

    ​The technologies of compositing and image combination directly contribute to the development of juxtaposed imagery. While the production of composite imagery is evident in the history of motion pictures since the first Trik films were made in the 1890s, the relative rarity of these images—even within the Trik film—remained relatively constant due to the difficulties of their production. The greatly reduced costs, coupled with relative ease of production with digital video has made the integration of live action, animation and graphic design via compositing a common feature of motion graphics and commercials even though it remains relatively unusual in narrative production.

    ​The distinction between different potentials within the range of these forms is a function of the on-screen affect of the materials combined. For narratives with live actors and edited sequences of shots, these potentials have a more limited application. The apparent division and fragmentation of the screen into smaller, discrete units in narrative works remains unusual even as similar forms appear more frequently in the commercials and title sequences accompanying these realist fictions.



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      "Beyond Spatial Montage" part 1 of 6

    story ©  | November 4, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    Part 1 of a 6 Part series proposing an expanded theorization of spatial montage, excerpted from a current book project.


    Links Between Time, Motion, and Space

    ​The typical cinematic image (either in long take or montage form) appears in the absence of additional constraints: the ‘pure’ form of Motion is the long take (undisplaced movement contained by the long take); montage/editing are each a ‘pure’ form of Temporal displacement, apparent through the ruptures created by the cut; the ‘pure’ form of Spatial displacement lies with the use of multiple projection—a use that forms a range lying between apparently discrete screens and the composite screen produced by aligning the edges of one projector with another as in cinemascope or Able Gance’s Napoleon. Distinguishing between time, motion, and space in a theoretically precise manner allows for a more robust theorization of windowing: the distinction between one dimension and another is instantly apparent in the affect resulting from watching the motion picture itself. Each of these dimensions can be readily distinguished from the others through our encounter with it on screen: the affect it has determines its location within this taxonomy.



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      Signal Culture Cookbook is now Available

    story ©  | October 27, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    The Signal Culture Cookbook is now available!

    Initial information about the Cookbook can be found here and the e-book can be ordered here in exchange for a $25 contribution (of which $20 is tax deductible). You’ll notice on the same page links for purchase of the Experimental Television Center Early Media Instruments 8 DVD set. People may also click a tab to make a donation without receiving anything in return.

    I have a short article in this book, so I encourage everyone to buy many copies!



      Value and Use Value (a note)

    story ©  | September 22, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    A transformation in the nature of currency reflects underlying shifts in the nature of value production: the dominance of semiotic production has produced a shift in the function of currency from its historical foundation in preserving past labor (value) to being a lien against future production (a debt that acts to set labor in motion). This change in the nature of production—the rise of semiosis that is the primary technique of digital capitalism—has come to dominate value and the organization of labor, with the concomitant effect on the nature of currency. The shift this change entails is a rupture with both classically conceived value and Karl Marx’s own set of basic assumptions about the organization of labor. In these historical views value resides with labor already performed—preserved in the commodities thus generated, and whose value is linked to the use value that the commodity has. This construction brings human wants, needs and desires into the framework of valorization both directly (through the functional role of the commodity) and indirectly (through the consumer’s desire for the commodity, quite apart from its uses).

    The Digital


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      OtherZine Issue 27: FRAME LINES is Out!

    story ©  | September 14, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    OtherZine 27 is now out!. I have an article in this issue, Motion Pictures- An Expanded Framework, that is a discussion of "formal" approaches to motion pictures.



      Artists' Television Access Fund Raising Campaign

    story ©  | August 27, 2014 | permalink | Google TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon MySpace   Print

    In September Artists' Television Access in San Francisco celebrates its 30th birthday!

    They are currently having a fund-raising campaign: ATA needs a new projector and some improvements. They have launched an Indiegogo campaign to reach their goal of $15,000. This will help them with long term sustainability in terms of facilities and technology. They have a challenge grant from the San Francisco’s Voluntary Arts Contribution Fund (VACF) but it requires they raise matching funds to get it.

    You can donate here.



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