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This was posted yesterday at Cyborgology. It’s a basically a summary of a paper about how using Facebook may acclimate one to the idea that the “real” is a browseable archive. I’m torn between subscribing to the idea that interfaces can reconstitute users’ subjectivity in a preconscious way and the possibility that efforts to contain subjectivity make the walls of the container more palpable. It may be that we oscillate between these.

The Facebook subjectivity, the paper’s author argues, is less about being entrepreneurial with one’s personal brand and more about assuming a passive attitude toward experience in the name of it being made convenient to re-consume and circulate. With the digital archive as the repository of the real, consuming media becomes the only form of sensory experience that registers as real, and time spent looking away from screens becomes unreal, empty. It’s not that we archive compulsively stuff that happens to it, but that we are always inside an archive, letting its data categories frame experience as it happens.

My main qualm with this is something I see as a flaw in my own thinking: I am too ready to assume that appeals to convenience are irresistible, when that itself is a key plank of consumerist ideology. That is, a lot of ideological work goes into making convenience seem “naturally” appealing; part of that work is creating a climate in which its appeal is taken for granted theoretically.

I argue in my response that the automation and social deskilling that engineers try to build into social media may inspire and enable resistance as much as compliance. Still, that seems paradoxical to me. Are there conditions under which resistance be automated? Or must resistance register as effort, sacrifice. Isn’t that a convenient ideological notion for capitalism as well? 

#review: Facebook’s Archival Subject » Cyborgology

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