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   avant-garde movies, motion graphics, and theory
 
 
on Digital Capitalism
 

My book The Critique of Digital Capitalism identifies how digital technology has captured contemporary society in a reification of capitalist priorities. The theory proposed in this book is the description of how digital capitalism as an ideologically invisible framework is realized in technology. These posts are excerpts from my on-going research:

  • CTheory articles on digital capitalism and media theory

  • from Hz Journal, no. 19, July 2014: "Critical Glitches and Glitch Art"

  • "Das exakte Leben" in Suddeutsche Zeitung,
    Thomas Steinfeld, September 8, 2016
     [.pdf]

  • Nothing Left to Steal, Dmitry Orlov, March 18, 2011

  • If you are looking for more on agnotology, digital capitalism or automated/immaterial labor, look at my published articles, posted in .pdf and with links to the magazines, under "articles" on MichaelBetancourt.com.


     



    for 'Excavating Transcendence'

    story © Michael Betancourt | published December 8, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    The Modernist desire for transcendence common to abstraction and abstract art generally is an attempt to escape from the physical repressions of industrial capitalism, a translation of the alienation of capitalist social valorization into a rejection and alienation from physicality. This erasure of the physical world from consideration becomes internalized as the aura of the digital's effacement of concern with physicality and matierial restrictions, giving these rejections an esoteric, theological significance as an appeal to and instantiation of an immaterial realm accessed through the digital computer.




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    Notes on 'The Fantasy of Equivalence'

    story © Michael Betancourt | published December 7, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    An erasure of ontological distinctions plays a crucial role in the commodification of human labor as an assumption of equivalence between not only differently skilled labor, but the products of that labor: that the variable quality of production does not figure into its valuations. This basis is innate to the question Karl Marx addresses at the start of his analysis, Why is labor represented by the value of its product (commodities), and labor time by the magnitude of that value?, which reveals equivalence as a foundational, even necessary part of the definition of capitalism. Although exchange value arises from social activity, it is at the same time dependent on the suspension of differenceequivalence reifies the commodity form as an abstraction apart from its materiality, a separation that recalls the aura of the digitalreturning digital capitalism to its origins in the industrial labor. Marxs analytic enshrines equivalence by setting aside distinctions between high and low quality, as well as between skilled and unskilled labor, in order to advance an abstraction of that productive process that depended on the assumption of the interchangeability of commodities, labor, and capital. His disregard for the material and qualitative differences between commodities mirrored the labor-intensive manufacturing processes of the period when he developed his critique: the concern with the productive capabilities of labor as a constraint on production provides a literal limit on quantity, valuation, and quality of the productive labor performed, for example, by the unskilled child labor employed in the factories Marx was considering. This issuechild laboris an implicit and unacknowledged component assumption for his analytic, one that simultaneously passes without comment in its construction but that guides the conclusions he derives.




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    Fake News and Agnotology

    story © Michael Betancourt | published December 6, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    The emergence of the fake news phenomenon in the United States during 2016 and 2017 demonstrates the political applications of agnotology, quite apart from its structural role in maintaining digital capitalism. In being used for obviously political ends, agnotology reveals its foundations in equivalence: a social relations and assumptions, whether between instances of type, qualitatively distinct actions, or in divergent forms of immaterial (intellectual) labor are symptoms of the expansive semiotic processes of digital capitalism.




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    Kritik des digitalen Kapitalismus

    story © Michael Betancourt | published November 12, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    The German translation of The Critique of Digital Capitalism is available for pre-order from the publisher, WBG Verlag!

    Die grten, erfolgreichsten und mchtigsten Unternehmen unserer Zeit sind lngst nicht mehr nur im klassischen produzierenden Gewerbe zu finden. Der atemberaubende Erfolg von Firmen wie Facebook oder Google beruht auf der Bereitstellung immaterieller Dienstleitungen, insbesondere aber auf der Sammlung von Daten.

    Mit seiner Kritik des digitalen Kapitalismus legt Michael Betancourt eine scharfe Analyse dieser neuen konomischen Verhltnisse vor und beleuchtet deren Eigenschaften und Probleme. Von der vermeintlichen Demokratisierung der Gesellschaft durch die freie Verfgbarkeit von Informationen ber die Illusion der kostenfreien, weil nicht physischen Herstellung digitaler Produkte bis zur Neudefinition des Verhltnisses materieller und immaterieller Gter: Betancourt setzt sich mit den Begleiterscheinungen der digitalen Wirtschaft auseinander, die schon lngst unser Leben bestimmen und prgen.






     

    a note on 'The Fantasy of Equivalence'

    story © Michael Betancourt | published July 9, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    The capitalist conception as labor value being wholy dependent on the amount of time required for production, described by Karl Marx as a foundational principle of his critique, depends on an assumption of equivalence between not only differently skilled labor, but on the products of that labor. This fantasy authorizes the valorization of intellectual labor and production regardless of its validity within the database: the precession of agnotology around this apparent relativism depends on the same beliefs in equivalence, a reification of abstract principle as instrumentality. Marxs analytic reveals this fallacy precisely in setting aside the issues of distinction between labor in order to advance an abstraction of that productive processhis disregard for the material differences between skilled an unskilled labor mirrored the labor-intensive productive processes of the period when he developed his critique: the concern with the productive capabilties of unskilled labor as a constraint on production provides a literal limit on the production work performed, for example, by child labor.






     

    The Paradox of Agency - New Article!

    story © Michael Betancourt | published December 5, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    CTheory has posted my new article, "The Paradox of Agency," that describes the new alienation we all live within: created by automation, this alienation masquerades as a liberating force enabling fluid forms of identity/action/being in the digital society, but if and only if we accept the limited range of constraints generated by the digital systems builders. A new, contemporary alienation originates from within this affective surplus of agency created by digital systems. Any action or behavior not contained by this structural preconception is designated as invalidrendered impossible through a technology that transforms the social restrictions into instrumentalities that cannot be questioned. The limits of this freedom are immediately apparent in the situation of gig workers (such as on-demand labor) whose work is managed by autonomous systems. The separation of action from result by the aura of the digital reveals this alienation in the paradoxical dispersal of efficacy and immediacy of control.






     

    Agnotology wins (as always)

    story © Michael Betancourt | published November 9, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    The problem posed by a dominant regime of agnotology is that it makes challenges to established patterns of thought difficult if not impossible: the affect of agnotology, perversely, is a reinforcement of certainty since it undermines alternatives that could challenge those ideas; thus, it leads to an unwillingness to compromise, and an inflexibility of thoughtboth essential features of how digital capitalism is an ideological construction capable of governing what would otherwise appear as incompatible, mutually exclusive groups.






     

    The New Alienation of Digital Capitalism

    story © Michael Betancourt | published August 19, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    Historically, alienation has been understood as a disassociation of an individual from their agency. It is a well-theorized result of industrial production and the assembly-line in particular, but is common to historical capitalism generally. In digital capitalism, a new type of alienation has arisen not based in disassociations of agency. This contemporary alienation originated with an apparent surplussage of agency created by digital systems. The new alienation resides not in a loss of agency, but in the insignificance of that agency. The aura of the digitals separation of action from result reveals a this alienation in the paradoxical dispersal of efficacy and immediacy of control. Introducing a seemingly unbounded agency, it creates an alienation utterly distinct from that of historical capitalism. This changed alienation masquerades as fantasies of empowerment and autonomy associated with digital technologies.




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    Alienation and Autonomous Machineries

    story © Michael Betancourt | published April 2, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    By considering how machine labor as an extension of human action--as the mechanical amplification of human labor--becomes the digital, the machine does not augment but supplant. This removal of the human intermediary whose importance "Taylorism" (aka "scientific management," proposed in The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911) removes from production (assembly-line labor is instrumental, not intelligent) is part of a continuous trajectory from tasks organized around repetitive action (itself an organization that implies semiotic disassembly and standardization) into the automation of actions in digital automation where computers leave only a limited role for humans. Taylors approach elides the individuals expertise in performing their work, replacing it with decisions made by management--in the process eliminating their agency. This transformation renders human labor an appendage to the production process, necessary but incidental to the activity being performedactions that are prescribed and fully delimited in advance of the work being done. It transforms the labor into an unintelligent rendering of managerial agency as the thinking required in production is no longer the domain of labor. For Taylors analysis the human decision is the problem to be removed from the production process, just as human labor (in the form of wages) is the expense that must be minimized to maintain profitability.




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    Keiser Report, Episodes 894 & 895 on Digital Capitalism

    story © Michael Betancourt | published March 31, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



    Digital Capitalism

    Max Keiser interviews me about my book The Critique of Digital Capitalism in the Keiser Report, Episodes 894 and 895:




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