Downside to On-Demand Culture

story © Michael Betancourt, March 10, 2011 all rights reserved.


Again, a fragment:

The on-demand delivery of media via streaming downloads is the digital analogue to the shift from inventory to production as needed. This appeared first in publishing with the development of digital presses and the ability to economically produce just one copy of a publication, eliminating the need to actually stock books in physical form. As this model of production spreads, expect ever greater dislocations of traditional production, but also expect the loss of the “store” where one can actually browse and inspect manufactured products prior to purchase.

The idea of "on-demand" culture and its close relative, just-in-time manufacturing, is not simply the displacement of physical production into a netherland of continuous partial employment (everyone is a “temp” a “part-time contract worker”) but the dissipation of the standing reserve. The concept of “store” is not just a place were products are displayed and sold, but where they are kept awaiting future need.

At the same time, the loss of the ability to actually inspect and engage the physical object itself means that our engagement with the material world around us will become by degrees every more immaterialist and more dependent on the fragile webs of transport, materials production and the machineries that automate the assembly of these various resources into the final thing. What we lose is also the ability to have the random act of discovery that is connected to the physical; the chance encounter of a sewing matching and an umbrella so dear to Surrealism becomes less likely. Instead we can expect the expansion of what is already so evident: the randomness of awareness, the tendency to only be able to locate those products and ideas that have a significant value-interest to corporations engaged in valorization of unpaid human labor and action.

Admittedly, a pessimistic outlook, but one that is not caught up within the aura of the digital.

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  March 10, 2011  all rights reserved.

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