5.06.2009

In Case You Missed Them...

Some amazing writing that I just came across:

American Stranger on Culture and Technology

Following on From

Mark K-Punk's article.

When I read writing of this calibre, I am glad the word "amateur" is prominent on the front page here, though I do feel some comfort knowing I am not way off (in terms of what I am thinking about, not how well I write!).

What I have been discussing with my roommate lately mirrors somewhat what is being said in the articles mentioned above, which is that, when we talk about computers taking over, about A.I., our imagination seems to go back to the movies, envisions legions of talking robots, computers with arms, things of this nature.  While technology still seems to lack the sort of conscious agency that would make it seem human, and therefore capable of disrupting our perch atop the food chain, perhaps we need to update our own systems, and understand that technology IS developing its own narrative and history, one in which it undermines the grip of traditional culture on our minds by constantly working to "improve" it.  I can't quite come up with a good analogy to describe this switch; perhaps the closest is an oversimplified reference to ye olde Marxian concept of base and superstructure.  In the same way that Marx saw politics, art, etc., as limited by, really the window dressing of, economic forces, technology is now slowly making itself the fundamental aspect of our cultural exchange, and perhaps only a serious address of technology in and of itself which understands this new role will allow us to find a way out of this predicament.  

There needs to be some sort of new language to discuss these issues, because the early battles in this fight, between us older holdovers from "the underground" and the pietists of this new flat and deracinated world, was a loss for our side, for the MP3 and the iPod have added yet another level of alienation to this world in the Marxian sense.  Whereas alienation used to (partially) refer to the strained or broken connection between the worker and product, and product and consumer, now there is no product, and the connection, broken, obscured, can never be realized.  It is the opposite of a spectre, as there is no haunting, just a positive nothingness.  

Artists are now the only people being asked to work for free. 

(And what is worse is that probably most of the people driving this technological innovation forward think, on some level, that they are helping. Which leads me to...)

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A quick idea to throw out there:
What those of us on the left need to get firmly implanted in our heads, no matter what happens, is that we are to liberals what the hard right is to conservatives and moderates. What we have in common with our backwards, racist half-cousins is simply our desire for ethical and moral solutions to problems.  That our imagined solutions are infinitely more just, if only because they are based on more seemingly-universal, and certainly accessible principles of morality as opposed to ones based on religion, is what saves us from being well, evil.  And yet, just as the hard right continually does its work here in America to get Republicans elected, only to see their policy goals ignored, we should expect the same thing.  The "enemy" is not extremism but complacency, that great mass of moderates, whether liberal or conservative, that see any attempt to claim that individual actions have social ramifications, that choosing A is also choosing not B, as being unnecessarily judgmental.

***
Which is why I want to say, to all of you TrakRatoMP"DJ"s downloading charts off of Weakport... I could give a fuck if you want to play shitty-sounding shit to the drunken masses but you are putting shops and distributors out of business and creating new monopolies that have fuck all to do with the independent culture you get your credibility from.  Fuck off. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you really do long for a return of the power of punk, why do you consider the downloaders and ableton DJs to be any worse than the distributors and shops who prop up the complacent, boring culture that you hate?

I only post this because by my reading of your last few posts, I would've thought that you'd consider distributors and independent music retailers at least as responsible for the levelling-out of the field and the disappearance of the underground as the listeners and artists, and I'm surprised to see you holding them up as an example of something worth supporting.

Aside from that, the royalties from Beatport are actually pretty good, much better than iTunes and the other big shops.

:-p said...

I tend to think that physical independent shops really do add something to the community that online shops do not. I really don't believe a culture can truly achieve anything except when it exists physically. It is also easier to forgive them a little more since they have already, at least in America, lost.

The last time I did the math, the percentage virtually any online shop would take of a sale was much higher than with physical media, and a physical record shop has, I would imagine, higher overhead per release carried than an online shop.

I think the flattening referred to seems more true in the world of indie than dance. I don't think of Neuton or WAS as being responsible for overwhelming the world with product as much as what has happened since online sales hit a certain level.