Saturday, 13 December 2014

How to read Mythologies

The Mythologies 

There are three concerns in the mythologies; language, culture, & ideology. The concern with language derives from Saussure. Culture from Levi-Strauss. Ideology from Marx. Each of the mythologies takes as its focus an aspect of culture (wine, film, travel guides, etc, etc). Each considers the language of that aspect of culture (object or concept) and how it communicates with us (how it structures how we read it, how it positions us, it's rhetoric). Each shows the ideological systems at work in this specific language of culture. Each mythology expresses this triangular relation of culture-language-ideology [Levi-Strauss-Sassure-Marx]. 

Typically the textual structure of each mythology follows the culture-language-ideology pattern (wine, the rhetoric of wine, the ideology of wine) which could almost be paraphrased as 'artefact x positions us in way y because ideology z'. 

Myth Today

The concern of Myth Today is the lesson of all the Mythologies. It tries to answer the question 'what do all these individual mythologies add up to'. Barthes' answer is rather remarkable - and it is worth reading Myth Today carefully more than once for this reason - myth is the language of capital itself

Myth Today could be seen as an attempt to outline the grammar of this language of capital. The culture-language-ideology triplet could be seen as the syntax of this meta-language of myth. The mythologies themselves are so many figures of speech within it. The specific aspects of culture discussed are its nouns. The rhetorics of culture illuminated in each mythology are the verbs of this meta-language. Culture, language, ideology are its registers...


It is worth remembering that this meta-language of capital has only one object, you the reader, and only one tense, the infinite present, because when it speaks it intends to weave us into a world that we are to understand we cannot change because it has always been this way and always will.  

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Moral Panic & Folk Devils: Labour Party & NHS

The Labour Party have been gifted a great weapon by the Tory privatisation of the NHS. A demonising gun to make the Tories 'The NHS profiteers'. 
The Labour Party could end right here, right now, the Tory Party as a possible governing party by constructing them as a folk devil. A folk devil that could never be trusted with even a single finger of power over the fate of the NHS
A moral panic about NHS privatisation (rather than NHS institutions as is now the case) would stygmatise the Tories forever. 
It would be a simple task for the Labour Party to make a stand on the NHS & to promise an end to 'marketisation'. Especially as the end of neoliberalism in 2008 makes this kind of financialisation prohibitively expensive anyway. 
Such a strategy comes with a ready made thing to apologise for [which Labour often seem to believe is necessary]: i.e. continuing the 'marketisation' programme of Margret Thatcher. Which can now be presented as a terrible error that the Labour Party volubly own up to. Allowing, of course, all problems & scandals in the NHS of the period 97-2010 to be blamed on Thatcher & Blair's mistaken belief that Thatcher's 'marketisation' was both reasonable & kind [Blair just couldn't imagine that the Thatcher reforms were designed to be so harmful... is the line to take]. 
The Labour Party would need to commit to undoing all the ‘marketisation' efforts since Thatcher but that would not be a hardship given how much additional cost they have placed on the NHS (& with the Cameron-Clegg privatisation this increase in total cost will only be seriously exacerbated). It would have the additional benefit of marking a very clear division between the Labour Party and the Tories (whether in Blue or Yellow ties) which would help to overcome some of the ‘they're all the same’ discourse they electorate are trapped in.
The essential point for the Labour Party to convey is that no one could believe that the Tories, especially when in a minority government, would actually be so barbaric as to privatise the NHS & set the UK on course for the brutal horrors of the USA's medical capitalism. How could a typical person in the UK even begin to imagine that? The people responsible for such a barbarity would display such a monstrous inhumanity that they could hardly be considered people at all [which of course they are not they 'are lower than vermin']. Yet no human would want to think of others in this way & in this mis-recognition of Tories as people by us lies their terrible power to do harm. 
The NHS & the health of everyone in the UK, everyone, is imperilled by the anti-NHS Tories. This should be the clear & simple message of the Labour Party because not even Cameron could Flashman his way out off that.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

'over-information'

Virilio, Strategy of Deception, p48

The flood of information that we experience due to the global multiplication of media is a system of disinformation that means we know less the more there is. 

This is not simply a matter of the 'flack' Herman & Chomsky once diagnosed because this system of disinformation is strategic rather than tactical (ie not applied to only one site - news media - but to the whole field of struggle). 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Gramsci on why Facebook is following MySpace into desuetude ...

In his discussions of 'Americanism and Fordism' [the specific regime of factory labour that dominated the early to mid C20th in the USA and Europe] Gramsci made the following observation:

It is an obvious reflection that so-called high wages are a transitory form of remuneration. Adaptation to the new methods of production and work cannot take place simply through social compulsion. ... If the situation were "normal", the apparatus of coercion needed to obtain the desired result would involve more than just high wages. Coercion has therefore to be ingeniously combined with persuasion and consent. This effect can be achieved, in forms proper to the society in question, by higher remuneration such as to permit a particular living standard which can maintain and restore the strength that has been worn down by the new form of toil. But no sooner have the new methods of work and production been generalised and diffused, the new type of worker been created universally and the apparatus of material production further perfected, no sooner has this happened than the excessive "turnover" has automatically to be restricted by widespread unemployment, and high wages disappear.
Gramsci, High-Wages, from ‘Americanism and Fordism’, in Selections From the Prison Notebooks, (p310)

The point of which is to show that the 'high-wages' which were a part of this form of capitalism were a necessary part of a coercive regime required to make Fordism work.  Working on the automated (moving conveyor belt type) assembly line that was central to fordist factory production was so unpleasant that no one was prepared to do it at the perviously standard wage and so 'higher wages' had to be paid to make the whole system work.  Gramsci's point is that these 'high-wages' are not a good thing as they are merely one part of a system for manufacturing consent to worse (ever more dehumanising) conditions of labour.  High wages are the lash that spurs the worker on ever faster.

What then has this got to do with the web's world of social networks?


The post-fordist 'immaterial labour' (the leisure and consumption as work that Adorno, Marcuse, Biffo, Marazzi and many others showed was developing in the aftermath of the second world war and especially under neoliberalism [1970-2008]) also operated to create a new type of worker (literally you & I) enmeshed in a new apparatus of immaterial production (this, literally this which you are looking at now) which is engaged in the same process of excessive turnover in the immaterial as Ford's original was in the material. Just as the 'high wages' disappeared when the tactical deployment of capital that required them moved on so the products of immaterial production also disappear. 

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, this, the whole of the web, all permit a new type of renumeration (often passing under the label 'free') based on the use of services (media) - mainly communicative - that are themselves essential to the new methods of production and work that these services themselves represent. We are ingeniously persuaded to consent because the whole apparatus is given to us for 'nothing' as part of our participation on the web. However, this (literally this that you are looking at right now) is just one more tactical deployment of capital and when the strategic needs of capital move on this tactical deployment will disappear just as ford's high wages disappeared. 

It is not that 'popularity' or 'fashion' has something to do with web services rising and falling but the movements of users and of profits and of the phantasies of capital we call 'share prices' that leads to these web services thriving or disappearing. MySpace's use of music, musical preferences and phatic interaction was outmanoeuvred by Facebooks use of a wider range of raw social interaction that encompassed what MySpace could do and Facebook in turn will be outmanoeuvred (by Google, by Apple, by someone else...) and it too will suffer the problems of excessive turnover that MySpace faced at the moment of its outmanoeuvring. The immaterial labour that went into MySpace was wasted, the immaterial labour going into Facebook will be wasted, as this is waste, because our universal adaptation to the new mode of production results in over production. 

It is a good thing that email is old enough and simple enough to survive the forthcoming destruction of immaterial value that will be the result of the the restriction of excessive immaterial turnover as it will be useful to still at least be able to use the net to communicate.

Foundations of Media Studies

Media studies can be boiled down to four books to read. 

Chomsky & Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Barthes, Mythologies

Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Horkheimer & Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment  

These are not necessarily easy to read and they only provide the foundation of understanding in the field but that foundation is invaluable. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Approaches to Audience

Three Audience Approaches:
1 - How does the text work on the audience (what does the text do to the audience)?
2- How does the Audience use the Text (what does the audience do with the text)?
3 - In what ways is the Audience involved in or in the production of the text (what does the audience contribute to the text)?

Some associated theories:

1 - How does the text work on the audience (what does the text do to the audience)?
1a - Mode of Address; Audience Positioning; Interpellation
1b - [Denotation/Connotation] Mythology
1c - Encoding [from Encoding/Decoding]
1d - (Hegemony)

1e - Culture Industry
1f - Spectacle
1g - Control Society

2- How does the Audience use the Text (what does the audience do with the text)?
2a - Decoding [from Encoding/Decoding]
2b - Uses & Gratifications
2c - Directions for Living
2d - Making is Connecting
2e - Bricolage
2f - Everyday Life - de Certeau
2g - Everyday Life - Fiske
2h - [S/Z]
2i - "`Distinction" etc.
2j - Symbolic Violence

3 - In what ways is the Audience involved in or in the production of the text (what does the audience contribute to the text)?
3a - Participation
3b - Co-Production
3c - [Culture Industry etc]
3d - [S/Z]

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

ways of seeing Ways Of Seeing

John Berger's Ways of Seeing is actually very difficult to see given it was first screened 40 years ago [but then that is exactly what capital is for]. Below are the embeds of the first episode on youtube & the whole can be found (in black and white) at ubu.

Privacy?

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