Saturday, April 18, 2015

Big Data As Spectacle: A Bonus Comment By Way of Our Missed Meeting Last Week

First being is degraded into having, then having is degraded into appearing, and now appearing is degraded into targeting....

We have arrived at the "targeting" phase of Spectacle. In the specifically digital-networked Spectacle since the turn of the millennium -- after which mass-mediation is no longer defined by broadcast and press publication -- what Debord called the Opium War of "enhanced survival" (his condensation of the Benjaminian War Machine in the Epilogue of "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility" with the Adornian "manufactured needs" of the Culture Industry chapter of Dialectic of Enlightenment) has given way to a panoptic profiling/targeted marketing harassment promising to confer both legibility and individuation for consumer subjection, an operation absolutely continuous with at once the Big Data profiling framing every subject for eventual legal prosecution and the biometric profiling tagging every subject for ongoing medical experimentation (digital networked bioremediation by Big Pharma) and/or eventual effective targeting by drone (the drone is synecdochic for the range of collateral damaging demanded by disaster capitalism).

Quite relevant to this telling of the tale is Naomi Klein's latter day elaboration of the Debordian account back in No Logo, in which an advertizing practice originating in the false individuation of mass-produced consumer goods via the brands they bear eventuated in the global/digital moment in the false individuation of mass-consumers via the brands they buy. As in Debord, the degrading of already degraded having into "appearing" seduces spectator-subjects through something a bit like Althusserian interpellation, offering up social legibility, usually by means of subcultural signaling of identifications and dis-identifications, through the citation -- via conspicuous consumption -- of already-available scripts and stage-settings (the grownup living room on the glossy cover of a furniture catalog, the rebellion of a concert t-shirt, the romance of over-expensive coffee, the reassuring daydreams of futurological projections and displacements).

There is a threat inhering in the Althusserian hail -- yes, a threat to rather than resource for hegemonic management -- should just enough hails ring out (hey, you, hey, You, hey, YOU!) the subject turning and turning and turning to meet the would-be authority might be left more dizzy than docile -- might even make the reflective turn of thought-made-act to which Arendt looked for a last miraculous hope of redemption from  tyranny. But is this threat recontained (or rendered more efficient, in case the threat was never more than delusive anyway) in the targeted hail of the networked-data profile? Can we resist the authoritarian hail of the profile that authors you for you? The Big Data Hail scans the iris and the gait and the buying history and the message trail and the credit rating at once to collapse the indetermination of multiple readings depriving you -- in a privation yielding a last vestige of privacy -- of the singular selfhood that becomes the target, knows enough more than you about you do to aggregate the into the heavy hand of the Spectacle, a knowing so authoritative the transferential brute-force alone at hand might re-write you in the image of the profitably congenial profile before you know enough to know it?

1 comment:

Yong Xiao said...

I believe it is crucial to have a recognition-mechanism on the power intervention that works on you(by prediction, recommendation, ). It is totally fine that if one find the "guess you might like this too" to be convenient and helpful, but one has to keep independent and skeptical when utilizing these short cut that serve to us in front our mouth. Be rebelling to anything even the thoughts you just wrote on your blog 10 minutes ago. Be Unpredictable, be bizzare, never be the same self.