I really enjoyed the interview with McKensie Wark that Lori e-mailed us last week. I was particularly taken with Wark’s description of Facebook as a company whose wealth is based on a surplus of information, rather than resources. It’s hard to deny both Wark and Deleuze’s contention that we are living in a post-production capitalist world. “Capital” is no longer a mass of things to be exchanged for other things, but a hoard/horde of information that can be mobilized for a variety of purposes beyond profit. Certainly we do see information used for profit with companies like Google or Facebook who use targeted advertising, but we can see far more sinister applications with the NSA and the FBI. This article of a falsely accused man in 2004 brings home the danger of too much information (http://boingboing.net/2014/02/09/a-reason-to-hang-him-mass.html).
Too much information, especially if concentrated in a single agency, can be shaped to form any narrative that agency thinks it sees or desires to see. I feel like this ties back to Deleuze’s statement that rather than the individual/mass dichotomy present in a disciplinary society, our current model of social control renders us as ‘dividuals’. When Facebook mobilizes our own data in order to feed us content we want to see (whether ads or which of our “friends'” updates it thinks we want) it is fashioning us into beings who exist merely as receivers of content. The interactions we are taught to want are ones that reinforce the identity which we are receiving. As Wark notes, even play is within the context of commerce thanks to the fusion of social networking and gaming. My beloved SNES, I’m sad to say, is just a prehistoric version of this same dynamic. Thus, as our identities become self-serving we can no longer be viewed as a ‘mass’ or a ‘crowd’ as was the case in the disciplinary society of our past.
Where does this leave us with regards to resistance? Neither Wark nor Deleuze say. Examples like Anonymous and Occupy spring to mind, but aside from a few scattered victories, these movements have largely been crushed or mitigated. One avenue worth discussing is that of the end of the password, and the end of content gating in general. For Deleuze, the password is emblematic of the society of control. It can permit and reject access to information (the new capital) based on the criteria of the elite. On the web we imagine that passwords protect us, but as anyone who has been hacked or spied on can attest to (none of us I hope), the password is nothing more than an illusion of safety sold to us by the entities which are least troubled by it. Perhaps an internet where security is done away with absolutely could function as a way forward? Certainly Wikileaks and the Snowden leaks have shown the benefits of complete openness in limited cases.