Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Core Post 5

Core Post 5: Post TV

From this week’s readings, I was particular interested in Prof. McPherson’s “Reload: Liveness, Mobility, and the Web.” Prof. McPherson draws a parallel from Jane Feuer’s observation of Television as having an essential element of liveness (or the illusion of liveness) that also remains a central feature of the Web. Prof. McPherson states that this notion of liveness while navigating the Web, structure “a feeling that our own desire drives the movement,” (202) offering a sensation she calls volitional mobility. Volitional mobility is the sensation a web surfer experiences as he/she navigates the web as if they have the ability to control/customize their virtual journey. It gives the user a deceptive facade and a fabricated sensation of feeling in control. Prof. McPherson specifically points out how search engines are “powerful programs which promote the illusion that one is actively surfing the Web” (206). She goes on to say “Of course, when you use a search engine, you’re not really moving through the Web, but through fairly limited databases. […] Rather, you remain within a contained database, usually cataloguing less than thirty to forty percent of the Web as a whole” (206). The user/surfer believes that there is autonomy within their expression of individuality and choice of content, but in reality, it furthers to “privilege commercial sites” (206).

Because of this, both cultural homogeneity and corporate interests are kept alive through a unifying global network. The Web enforces a global cultural homogeneity through users’ communication with each other in cyberspace. We (or at least I) believe that there is a sense of agency when searching things online, but in actuality, the same websites and formats like Google, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. are predetermined by commercial interests. And many of the sites that aren’t commercial or capitalized on are either difficult to find or hidden within the deep web – a part of the Web where the content cannot be discovered by conventional search engines. In an era where vanity, self-obsession, and having a sense of individualism seem to pervade social media, the Web (at least the surface Web) provides a space for dominant organizations and corporate institutions to reinforce common homogeneous inclinations of desire. These uniform desires could be veiled underneath an ostensibly individual niche market. For example, with the rise of internet subcultures/internet subculture style (such as cyberpunk, vaporwave, seapunk, health goth, normcore, etc), corporate institutions may not be appropriating, but they are certainly capitalizing and benefiting on these so-called individual styles. Take the internet subculture ‘health goth’ for instance, whose ‘dark’ fashion aesthetic includes wearing sportswear like Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc. These global and unifying internet subcultures are ultimately furthering the interests and the continuation of a neo-Fordist capitalism.

9 comments:

  1. Christal, I love your post and the comment on the search engine!! It is what we are experiencing every day. aThe Web seems to create an absolute fair space for all its viewers, while in fact, the "deep web" and "surface Web" differentiate the power structure. The term "Volitional Mobility" somehow reminds me of the web bubble theory, which indicates that each web user forms a search bubble gradually through their web- surfing experience. And each bubble is designed for each, and we are fed by the information in our comfit zone. While the cooperation has the power on building the bubble, we the consumers are receiving the messages that they are selling.

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    1. Yitong, I am really interested in the 'web bubble' theory (and Christal, thanks for this interesting post! The deep web is such an interesting and kind of terrifying aspect of the Web, especially when you consider its scope, and the ways that it is used both for 'criminal' activity - firearm and drug sales - and 'confidential' activity such as military intelligence, blurring the lines between the two). Do you think that the web bubble is more constrictive than whatever pre-Internet bubbles people might have experienced, watching the TV they wanted to watch and interacting with members of their community from their own social class? I worry sometimes that Web theory invokes a kind of utopian past in which the limitations of geography or the limitations of network broadcasting would have somehow exposed people to viewpoints and lifestyles outside their own, when I'm not really sure that that was the case.

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    2. Hey, Emma. I am glad you are interested in the "web bubble" theory as well. In term of the restriction that web bubble created, I do think that the internet creates a smaller bubble than the pre-internet age. If you think of the Facebook as an example, once one choose to follow certain people and once the internet personify each person, the content that we are reviewing are highly personalized. The ads that pops out will be our interest that we have searched before. Unlike the newspaper or a TV channel that one have no control on, internet make it possible to create a true personal bubble that distinguish one from another. The older media is certainly creating a bubble as well, but it is a large bubble that hold numerous people with the same interest. While, nowadays, each of us lives in the individual bubble in the internet. Meanwhile, Internet covers the fact that it personalize each viewer, and give a fake illusion that it is a fair and open space. As human beings, we haven;t change much because we like to follow our interest, and the past is not a utopia because we have bubbles back then. But the Internet is making the bubble smaller and more personal. So I think the web bubble is something specific in the Internet era.

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  2. Interesting dichotomy that you point out between the “deep” and the “surface” Web. I think your observation about corporate interest and the hidden hegemonies that structure Web experience is really insightful. The perception of freedom to surf the web as individual, autonomous agents actually makes me think about a new, cyber-oligarchy in which the illusion of freedom is the real opium of the masses. This hints at an older model of thinking about mass media in the Adorno/Horkheimerian “culture industry” model. Although the Web pretends to be democratic, we are all still interpellated subjects and ultimately also nodes for data collection for corporate and policing interests.

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    1. I agree that "we are all still interpellated subjects" no matter how democratic the Web seems to be. This week’s readings remind me of the idea of "modern totalitarianism” discussed by Zizek (http://www.openculture.com/2015/04/slavoj-zizek-calls-political-correctness-a-form-of-modern-totalitarianism.html). Modern totalitarianism is not “I don’t care what you think, just do it” (which is traditional authoritarianism); but “I know better than you what you really want”. Netflix’s suggestions as well as the Web’s contents are all likely to be embodiment of this "friendly totalitarianism”, which seemingly gives you many choices but they are actually not choices, but interpellations. The unequal power relations between the screen and the viewer is disguised as “for your own good”, so as to make the subjects obey "at their own will". In this “for your own good” totalitarian formula, capitalism disguises corporate interest as individual interest; in other words, corporate desire is internalized as consumers’ real desire. How do we know our desire is really our desire? Whose desire is placed in our body?

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  3. Christal, thank you for your post! I totally agree with you said that social media is inundated with “vanity, self-obsession, and having a sense of individualism.” To be honest, I don’t think it is a problem, and I believe that, for many people, showing the individualism is one of the methods to social with others. For those people who would like to use social media for showing off, social media seem like cosmetics, which can make up the fact and cover the defect. We can repel them, but we have to admit that they created economic benefit.

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  4. Hi Christal! I was interested in your idea that "uniform desires could be veiled underneath an ostensibly individual niche market" -- i.e. the ways in which hegemonic interests and values are disguised through specialized subculture. I certainly think this is true in contemporary culture (isn't the Internet one big subculture?), especially with expanding fashion conglomerates like NastyGAL, Modcloth, and even Urban Outfitters (their more mainstream older sister) creating successful brands around traditionally fringe aesthetics (boho, vintage, grunge, goth and disco -- for the indie girl or the retrosavvy). As these 'cool girl' companies appropriate the language and address of their target market, they in turn interpellate their subjects to not only buy their wares but participate in company culture. With the rise of social media, fans of fringe fashion inadvertently become ambassadors for a brand which markets their identity more prominently than ever before, continuing the "neo Fordist feedback loop."

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  5. Hi Christal! I was interested in your idea that "uniform desires could be veiled underneath an ostensibly individual niche market" -- i.e. the ways in which hegemonic interests and values are disguised through specialized subculture. I certainly think this is true in contemporary culture (isn't the Internet one big subculture?), especially with expanding fashion conglomerates like NastyGAL, Modcloth, and even Urban Outfitters (their more mainstream older sister) creating successful brands around traditionally fringe aesthetics (boho, vintage, grunge, goth and disco -- for the indie girl or the retrosavvy). As these 'cool girl' companies appropriate the language and address of their target market, they in turn interpellate their subjects to not only buy their wares but participate in company culture. With the rise of social media, fans of fringe fashion inadvertently become ambassadors for a brand which markets their identity more prominently than ever before, continuing the "neo Fordist feedback loop."

    ReplyDelete