Capitalists and Those Other Guys

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 by eadodge

Reading Between Page and Screen threatened to overwhelm me with a sense of how privileged the whole discussion of media archaeology can be, but then I got a little perspective. This threat occurred as I fiddled with my Windows Surface for the dozenth time to get the poem on my screen to an angle where I could read the top bit. Between my own frustrations with the technology I was using and the clever “POLE/PALE/PAWL/PEEL” word prism on one of the pages, I felt hyper-aware that the objects with which I was interacting were all part of a glaringly privileged vantage point.

In 24/7, Jonathan Crary identifies that the people “who cannot be integrated be into the new requirements of markets,” which is to say those who are unemployed, impoverished, or those living in developing countries, are condemned by capitalism (44). These individuals do not necessarily have the means to enjoy Between Page and Screen (the book website identifies these materials as a webcam and a browser). I’m not sure how these individuals would respond to the existence of the book as an exercise of modern technology, but I imagine them being affronted that time and resources are being spent toward enterprises like Between Page and Screen. But then again, I am in this Media Archaeology class, in this university – and I am writing this post on my gaming PC while sitting in a one bedroom apartment in Boulder. I am not in the most appropriate place to imagine their responses, one can accurately say.

With regards to the field media archaeology, while it has been accused of not being concerned with the wider politics of humankind, our class discussion on the 21st spoke about the ways in which the field is subtly rooted in human politics because the field is rooted in human culture. On the 21st as well, Prof. Emerson pointed to a passage from McLuhan’s book – about the inherent good or evil of an object – and we arrived at the idea that there are certain objects that are ideologically loaded, regardless of a user’s intent. I wonder the extent to which that is also true for media. Crary certainly does not seem too hopeful about media – entrenched as media is in the capitalist ventures of modernity, he claims that it deactivates its users (88). But even Crary ends his discussion in 24/7 with an appreciation of sleep and dreams, or more generally, private spaces less controlled by capitalism. In those spaces, Crary indicates, there is a glimmer of hope for the power dynamics established by capitalism to collapse (128). Whether capitalism at large is still in place or not, though, if one succeeds in divorcing technology/media from capitalism, then one is opening spaces for the thriving of what would usually become imagined technologies. If money was not the object – if raw consumption was not the object – then technologies/medias could be produced that are more varied and more representative of human curiosity and desire. In this regard, in the excavation of human reality and possibility, I personally find the field worthwhile and grounded, and that is a conclusion to which I need to come if I can to continue to study media archaeology.

Erin Dodge


Crary, Jonathan. 24/7. New York: Verso, 2013.


One comment on “Capitalists and Those Other Guys

  1. Lori Emerson says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful post, Erin! It’s interesting how digital technology in particular continues to give people pause and to provoke them to think about their privilege – I wonder why digital technology in particular as this effect, as access to books and libraries was and continues to be, in many parts of the world, dependent on a kind of privilege. I remember reading, within the last couple of years, that in some parts of Africa it can be easier to get access to a computer than access to books/libraries.

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