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archives begin in 1996


NANO Interview

story © Michael Betancourt | published April 5, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


New American Notes Online is running "An Interview with Michael Betancourt" discussing the theory of digital capitalism.

Digital Capitalism talk on YouTube

story © Michael Betancourt | published September 30, 2014 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


Value and Use Value (a note)

story © Michael Betancourt | published September 22, 2014 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  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 productionthe rise of semiosis that is the primary technique of digital capitalismhas 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 Marxs own set of basic assumptions about the organization of labor. In these historical views value resides with labor already performedpreserved 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 consumers desire for the commodity, quite apart from its uses).

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Surveillance, Agnotology, Security

story © Michael Betancourt | published July 17, 2014 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


My article that I started writing in 2007, begun before we had good confirmation of the NSA surveillance programs, could only be finished because of what we now know: The Demands of Agnotology::Surveillance addresses the complex links between surveillance, agnotology, and security:

Surveillance is the logical antithesis of agnotology: it acts to produce certainty rather than uncertainty. 'Security' provides a far-reaching, nebulous justification for a range of actions, from expansions of surveillance (immaterial production) to war and imperialism (primitive accumulation). The periodic crashes of capitalism are a symptom of the overextension inherent in capitalism itself, however, moments of 'systemic failure' are not indicators that capitalism will implode; instead, what occurs is a retrenching that results in an expansion of capitalist processes into new domains.

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The Security Apparatus

story © Michael Betancourt | published April 24, 2014 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


Linkages between agnotology, hyperreality, and surveillance converge in the security apparatus: a paradigm of observation and control whose function is both immaterially productive (it enables the autonomous semiotic generation of value) and restrictive (it enables the mobilization of physical/immaterial force to defend this immaterial production). These productive-restrictive activities are distinct, yet mutually reinforcingthey form a dynamic cycle masked by the aura of the digitals stripping of physicality from conscious consideration. Without this distanciation of the physical, the productive-restrictive cycles would become apparent through their necessarily disenfranchising actions as human agency is usurped by automated processes and autonomous oversight. The security apparatus appears as an impartial, disinterested alternative to the variable contingency of human agency: its uniformly applied mechanical responses create an illusion of objectivity. This mechanical response is a crystalized ideology, an inflexible restriction iterated by the all-or-nothing logic of digital protocols that are incapable of ambiguity, plurality or contingency apparent in the right to read implemented as Digital Rights Management (DRM)either you have authorization or you do not. This authorization implicitly demands a continuous monitoring and maintenance where its authoritarian machinic surveillance, whether as immaterial production or socio-political control, serves to reify the security apparatus in the implementation of digital technology itself. DRM is the most visible prominence of this implicit, ubiquetous system that directly impacts the human readable form of digital objects, but this most apparent example is precisely an isolated surfacing of larger, dominant systems for control and observation that lie within the database that enables immaterial production.

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