At Savage Minds, Adam Fish and John Carter McKnight have an extended essay arguing–convincingly, I think–that the elaboration of online life and social networking is extending capitalism to altogether new areas of private life.
As kids growing up in Nancy Reagan’s “just say no” 80s we endured a lot of propaganda regarding drugs. One was the myth of the “gateway drug.” We were told that drugs like marijuana with few medically provable harms were highly dangerous because they were gateways to harder more evil drugs. Gateway drugs are like linkbait, hooks that bring unwitting subjects from a one innocuous practice to one more pernicious.
Morozov claims that social media is a gateway drug for the financial sector to hook us on a new range of products and services, while increasing its control over our lives. We hear that the dark insides of our mouths, fridges, rubbish bins, and cars will be scrutinized by networked and image-recognizing surveillance cameras. Videos will be algorithmically analyzed producing “data portfolios” which will be automatically used (for a fee) by third parties to adjudicate our credit worthiness, employability, and romantic fitness. As longtime admirers of Morozov’s guts and wit we’ve been pleased to see him begin (finally) to use the name and identify the problem head-on—neoliberal capitalism galvanized by ubiquitously networked humans.
In making this argument, Morozov brings together two academic terms and says that they are co-constituting: mediatization and financialization. Mediatization claims that social practices are increasingly linked to media performance. We do it for the camera. Presidential elections, of course, are a key example of mediatization, in which every utterance, campaign stop, handshake, and tweet is delicately engineered towards manipulating the 24-hour news cycle. Mediatization assumes a new level of embeddedness in encounters with persistent, searchable, archivable, user-generated social media, a process we call social mediatization. The “social” qualifies the “mediatization” by identifying a new phase in which information is not broadcast from corporations or politicians to a passive audience, but generated and shared constantly among people, businesses, and governments.
Financialization works much like social mediatization: both identify the ways that foreign logics (financial or mediated) find their way into once-private and domestic spheres. Classic examples of financialization include online banking at home, stock investing as a hobby, and other forms of money management which were once “work” but are now billed as necessary and mature forms of personal responsibility and risk management for the middle classes.
Basically, late capitalism. The authors end their article by sharing Evgeny Morozov’s vision of an “all too likely future of trying to level up our gamified toothbrushes to lower our dental insurance premiums.”
At Antipope, Charlie Stross wonders why we need to work so long when productivity and per capita wealth have skyrocketed.
At the Broadside Blog, Caitlin Kelly describes a week in her life as a writer.
The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that ancient Population III stars could, in theory, have rocky planets.
The Dragon’s Tales warns that the Japanese economy is about to tank.
Joe. My. God. notes that young conservative Ben Shapiro is now boycotting Mozilla after Brandon Eich’s departure.
Savage Minds has an essay by anthropologist Elizabeth Chin suggesting that Lamilly, a new anatomically-correct doll, won’t take off because issues with beauty are much more deeply embedded in the culture than the designers believe.
The Signal examines the proliferation of E-mail storage formats.
The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler doesn’t like the pressure applied to Brandon Eich.
Window on Eurasia has two posts warning that Crimea’s annexation to Russia will destabilize the Russian Federation, one arguing that ethnic minorities and their republics will be put in a state of flux, the other arguing that Russian nationalists will be upset by the concession of so many rights to Crimean Tatars.
io9 links to an online version of a 1984 text game, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
After disproving the existence of Tyche, Centauri Dreams meditates on the rich data provided on the interstellar neighbourhood by the WISE infrared telescope.
The Dragon’s Tales maps the distribution of Russian and Ukrainian military forces.
Eastern Approaches visits the western Ukrainian village of Chervone, a community dependent on remittances from guest workers that finds itself getting along increasingly well with Poland and Poles. (Russia and Russians, not so much.)
Joe. My. God. notes that seven billionaires on Forbes’ famed list are openly gay.
Language Log has issues with the reported sensitivity of the new test for Alzheimer’s.
Marginal Revolution follows up on Edward Hugh’s suggestion that all Abenomics in Japan has been doing is boosting the Japanese trade deficit.
Livejournal’s pollotencheggmaps the demographics of Ukraine. Despite a significant recent improvements, the west and cities in the center of the country are the only ones avoiding population shrinkage.
Savage Minds features a post from anthropologist Robin Bernstein talking about how she likes grant writing.
Strange Maps notes a Dutch doctoral thesis arguing that the portolan charts of the early modern period are much too good to have been done in the medieval period. Are they legacies of Greco-Roman civilization?
Towleroad notes the testimony of a gay singer-songwriter Justin Utley before a state committee in Utah as to the persecution he has experienced on account of his sexual orientation.
Transit Toronto’s Robert McKenzie notes the expansion of parking at the Pickering GO station.
Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell complaints that his Firefox is crashing repeatedly and with frequency aren’t things I’ve experienced yet, fortunately.
Beyond the Numbers suggests that talk of an African demographic dividend may be overstated, in that the young cohorts need–among other things–education.
Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram talks about the ethics of open versus closed borders, suggesting that the latter is only acceptable if there actually are other ways to help.
The Dragon’s Gaze notes exoplanet WTS-2 b, a hot Jupiter set to spiral into its orange dwarf sun in 40 milion years.
The Dragon’s Tales notes that the ancestors of the Americas’ indigenous populations apparently hung out in Beringia for ten thousand years before moving south, observes that Moldovans now have visa-less travel rights to the European Union, and comments on the still unknown composition of Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos.
At A Fistful of Euros, Edward Hugh argues that Abenomics in Japan is turning out to be a huge, expensive, mess.
Language Hat observes that many Soviets learned Polish in order to partake in the freer and more cosmopolitan literature of Poland.
I was pleased to come across, at Savage Minds, Ståle Wig’s two-part interview (1, 2) with anthropologist and doctor Paul Farmer. Known for his commitment to public health in Haiti, Farmer is someone I’ve liked for a while, as my 2006 review of his book AIDS and Accusation suggests. Unsurprisingly, Farmer’s anthropology is very socially engaged.
SW: I get a sense from what you are saying here that social science has been too concerned these last few decades with deconstruction, or destructive critique.
PF: Well, I feel that academia can contribute very constructively through critique and understanding, and partly does so already. For example, a lot of people in NGOs, aid and development work are unable to do social analysis. And that is hurtful to them; because they are not aware of what they are doing can hurt beneficiaries, or doesn’t help them. So I think there is a big role for the weaving together practical policy and social analysis. It has to be an accurate analysis though. Let’s say you write a book about an institution and you don’t do ethnographic work – you wouldn’t do that as an anthropologist.
But I think it comes down to a division of labor. And if there is enough division of labor, people who do critical academic work can perform a valuable service to people living in poverty. But the answer to the question of “what is to be done” is not always to write a new book.
The people living in poverty are my core constituency. And I have never, in 30 years of engagement, had a patient ask me to write another book. But I write them anyway, so that I can think more clearly. I can’t think clearly without reading a lot of other people’s work and writing. Some people I am told can do that, and I believe it, but not me. But no-one’s ever said to me, “Dr. Paul, we really wish you would stop seeing us as patients and building hospitals, and work more on a book about social theory.” That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it, if I had more time. I think I would actually enjoy writing a whole book about a concept like structural violence. But I can’t do that, because I don’t have enough time. But if other people do that, and enjoy it, and I’m cheering them on.
Eastern Approaches notes the ongoing protests in Bosnia and the Hungarian purchase of a Russian nuclear reactor for its energy needs.
Far Outliers first notes the fragile stability of the Mexican republic at the beginning of the 20th century under Profirio Diaz then remarks on the failed Wilsonian reset of Mexican-American relations.
Hogtown Commons, newly added to the blogroll, comments on the exceptional diversity of Toronto.
Language Log’s Victor Mair notes confusion with Chinese-language script on Singaporean food products.
Marginal Revolution observes that the United Arab Emirates plans to deliver some governmental services via drones. Shades of Amazon.
Peter Rukavina celebrates the fact that the Charlottetown Guardian‘s archives to 1960 are now online.
Guest posting at Savage Minds, Sienna R. Craig writes about unreliable narrators in anthropology. How can we count on things in a complex world?
Supernova Condensates comments on the discovery of SMSS J031300.36-670839.3, so far the oldest star known to exist (and only 6000 light years away!).
Towleroad notes a Fox News contributor’s complaints that gays have ruined sports for him.
The Volokh Conspiracy notes that people can now adopt the children of their same-sex partners.
BlogTO links to an interesting app-enabled map showing where people run in Toronto (or, at least, where people run in Toronto using apps to chronicle their routes).
The Dragon’s Gaze notes a paper examining the role of dust in protoplanetary disks.
Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis wonders why the Circassians, displaced a century and a half ago from the Caucasian territory where Russia is no holding the Olympics, haven’t gotten any media coverage of their cause.
Language Hat comments upon a video recording of a student’s recital of Cantonese poetry that has gone viral.
Language Log’s Victor Mair wonders what official status Cantonese has in Hong Kong, facing challenges from Putonghua as well as from a writing system that doesn’t record the city’s main spoken language.
The casual racism faced by players of college sports in the United States is discussed at Lawyers, Guns and Money.
Marginal Revolution argues that emerging markets facing economic issues should look at their own domestic scenes and not blame global turbulence.
At Personal Reflections, Jim Belshaw writing about his Australian region of New England makes the point that local histories should also include their global origins.
The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that the New York accent is mostly dead.
At Savage Minds, Jane Eva Baxter talks about the ways in which prehistoric artifacts–like the ancient footprints recently discovered in Britain–are used, and misused, in ways that reflect our biases. (Seeing groups of footprints as product of family migrations, for instance.)
Supernova Condensate marvels at the superb imaging of Luhman 16B.
Window on Eurasia notes one man’s arguments that authentic federalism would suit Ukraine well.
Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes in passing how Siberia changed from being exciting frontier to grim prison-camp in the popular imagination.