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archives begin in 1996


Agnotology and the 'Free Market'

story © Michael Betancourt | published May 10, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


Capitalism itself is reified in the idealized free market as the necessary (and natural) order of the world in the conception of market competition as a variant of Darwinian natural selection (evolution); agnotology is the creation of uncertainty and ambivalent fact; it is a competitive tool incompatible with the idealized free market of capitalism.

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Immaterial Physicality and Marx

story © Michael Betancourt | published February 6, 2013 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


My new article "Automated Labor: The New Aesthetic and Immaterial Physicality" is now in print on CTheory.

This essay considers Karl Marx' short essay The Fragment on Machines and its relationship to digital automation. The new aesthetic described by James Bridle is a typical example of this new, automated labor beginning to impact the physical world and provides a reference point for the examination of The Fragment on Machines: Marx divided labor into three categories (means, material and living labor) that is in the process of being reorganized by digital automated systems (in both immaterial labor and physical production forms). This reorganization forces an underlying paradox in capitalism into focus, foregrounding the mismatch between a capitalist productive system and the consumer society required to maintain that system, a paradox that emerges precisely because exchange value emerges from the relationship between one commodity and anotherfrom the exchange of a commodity for the acquisition of another: human labor is the underlying commodity required by this entire system, a commodity rendered obsolete by digital automation; the new aesthetic provides physical examples of this transition-in-progress.

Automation in Evidence on The 'New Aesthetic'

story © Michael Betancourt | published September 3, 2012 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


This is a fragment of my new essay considering the automation and automated processes so clearly on view in the collected material of the new aesthetic, James Bridle's tumblr blog. Originally I hadn't planned to write about his project, but I recently reconsidered that plan as I realized there was overlap with my current thinking about automation:

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The Law of Automation

story © Michael Betancourt | published July 26, 2012 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


The Law of Automation is very simple:

Anything that can be automated, will be.
The results of this law are immediately obvious: every low skilled job that can readily be described by a limited set of algo-rules will be replaced by automation. The first stages are abundantly on view around us: how long before the iPhone's voice response system SIRI asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

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Autonomous Individuality vs. Social Organization

story © Michael Betancourt | published October 28, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


The idea that the government is an unmitigated evil has its origins in American society with the concept of the state of nature. Proposed by Henry David Thoreau, the ideological claims of this view of human nature reveal themselves as an idealized, pastoralone where society is responsible for everything that is wrong with culture, where individuals are seen as self-contained, self-sufficient and fully autonomous, corrupted only when they need to work together. It is a fantasy of independence, one where the very real social and cultural supports that make the cabin in the woods possible are systematically denied. To see the sociopathic tendencies of this ideology fully realized, one needs look no farther than Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

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