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Archive for the ‘The Empire of Mind’ Category

One of the the most significant changes left in the wake of Gutenbergs invention of the printing press and his revolutionizing of print literacy was its equalizing influence. The advent of the printing press was a crucial and causal event that has immense influence on the political indoctrinations that followed i.e DEMOCRACY!

It’s no wonder then when the comparable print revolution of our decade pays homage to it’s grandfather. The print press has also been commonly called ‘movable type’ and today, one of the most popular forms of blog writing software is called, appropriately enough, movable type. It is as if to say the modern day blogger has the same relation as the independent printer of the early modern period. A revolutionary relationship to knowledge and to structures of authority. Both blog and the printing press are opening the mean of production for information to a larger population and hence challenging the monopolies of the 4th estate know as media, and it’s control of out information.

The both of these modes of information engagement required its audience to be able to read. The act of reading, the silent solitary reader, is perhaps the perfect metaphor for modern subjectivity. Reading silently to yourself is a unique media practice for it required you to interact with the information in a more active way. With TV an Radio its easier for the consumer to morph into a receiver but with reading the individual controls the context in which he or she is consuming the information.

Reading empowers us. Reading messages of our kin empowers us. Responding to their messages empowers us. What the printing press and what blog have allowed for us ultimately is for the peoples own written community to evolve, and hence for discourse to have a greater body of opinions to draw from. All of this paves the way for a stronger democracy in which the peoples voice is herd and the media is working truly as the check and balance Edmund Burke intended for it to be when he referred to it as the 4th estate.

 

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And so are you! I wish this wasn’t the case. It would be nicer to be an Iron Man, but you know what, life doesn’t work like that.

In real life we don’t have time travel and great magnetic fields… (none that i know of)  instead we have capitalism. Capitalism is the context in which most of our ideas steam from. Capitalism is the nature of our contemporary time.

I’ve posted about power structures and their effect on us from a Marxist perspective but today I’m going to move on to examine them from the end of the enlightenment period.

Max Weber, a famous thinker from the end of enlightenment, took a different angle when determining the impact of capitalism. He didn’t see capitalism as just a mode of production but was more focused on how culture played a role. The culture he saw for us was one of instrumental rationalization.

Instrumental rationalization is concerned with the most efficient means to achieve an end.  Opposing this is substantial rationality, which is concerned with the consequences of the ends of an action.

It is through the culture of instrumental rationality that our society has cultivated the habit of hyper efficiency. How efficient something is, is now worth more to us then wether of not it’s meaningful.

Meaning is the root of value for Weber. Your products, or actions, values are derived from their meaning. Meaning is something that makes one course of action more appealing then another based its end, and hence it’s a thought process that requires substantial rationality.

So why don’t we have this substation rationality in our capitalist model? Well, Weber does accredits capitalism to having meaning and substantial rationality in the beginning.

In earlier eras we had clear sources of meaning and a clear end in sight; religion was our meaning and salvation was our end in sight. But then along came a new religious view, that of the protistans and with it came a new set of values, one in which people looked for signs of salvation.

This idea of being destined to salvation or damnation meant that Protestant’s were actively looking for signs of their salvation in their lives. A common sign of salvation was success.  This gave people an incentive to grow their business and achieve success. So initially, capitalism had some substantive rationality behind it, action driven by a value judgement.

Capitalism soon detached its self from the protestants driving force and this meant that the reason behind growing our businesses had left. Soon, the action of growing and ever progressing the businesses efficiency became the value.

The result, in Webers words, is AN IRON CAGE SOCIETY. A society in which we are so caught up in the structure of it that we fail to ask why and to what end we are doing it all for.

Efficiency has come to be an end in itself. This has led to increased bureaucratization in the name of this efficiency. A big structure with everyone doing one little part in it has become the norm. The employee only has control over the small aspects of the big picture and is consequently very limited in the change that they can make.

Rules and procedures seem to have taken on a life of their own and formed the bars of our iron cage.

This has led the modes of discourse to being limited by the institutions.

Bureaucratization has been a rational long term profile. It’s one that requires stability and produces stability. This stability is attractive to governments and turns ruling into a very technical process, not very conducive to change.

So the individual can become stuck in the bureaucratized control of life and the powerlessness that comes from working a job more concerned with efficiency then outcome. This life, void of value, is partially responsible for why depression is our number one illness. A nihilistic populous is the after math of a culture driven by instrumental rationality.

What we have in the internet is a domain where personal expression is free from structural constraints of the 20th century and liberated from institutionalized nature of dominate discourse. The internet is a place of possibility for the IRON CAGED employee to escape to on evenings and weekends.

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The way is power organized has typically been centralized in the hands of those who own the mode of production. This is not a new idea but rather an accepted one inspired by Marx.

Even in many of our homes this power relation is visible. The mother and father ‘own’ the means to acquire wealth and provide for their children and this reality adds weight to the influence they have over their children. Although now, as we enter the post-modern context, the roles, even as time honored as within a family, are changing.

Before traditional minded Confucian philosophy, an ideology which values familial devotion, learning, peace and justice, reigned as the norm in homes. Now however with an increase in technological advances, particularly in urban centers, the idea of an entirely collectivist society may seem utopic.

This pattern of fragmentation is being felt in the corporate sphere as well. The internet has changed the way ideas are exchanged and the way people communicate.

Where before ideas required face to face organization now we have this new networks where ideas nearly move freely on their own.

With the help the power that was once monopolized and centrilized in the hands of the few is now being challenged by those who dwelled in the background as, which digital medias aid, they are being thrust into the foreground.

The social engineering of our desires now has competition in our post-modern context.

If we view society as Mary Douglas does, in terms of a normative debate, then the role technology is playing can be liked to the JUST conductor. Allowing for the ‘music’ created from this normative debate that is society to contain the sounds and beats of the many along with the elite few. 

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Stuart Hall proposed the notion that when we are reading or interpreting a symbol there is a preferred meaning that we are often coaxed into taking from it. This idea is compelling for it sheds light on the agenda setting power of the capitalist model. It is within the realm of capitalist power that the preferred, dominate meaning is created.

It’s assumed and accepted that most people will conform to molding powers of society.

Conforming isn’t necessarily bad, we often do things because it’s custom or because it’s important in reinforcing symbols of our society. But when we do accept and follow along with complacence we are threatening our freedom. Even if mentally we reject these preferred meanings we are being fed, when we continue to participate, even if only because it’s intrinsic to our culture, the damage is still being done.

Damage is being done to our will.

Damage to our property, which is our identity as well as to our will to chose our truth.

A solution to this conundrum that capitalist model and our current culture has manufactured for us is to take a page our of the writings of Neitzsche.

Neitzsche wants us to affirm our lives, our identity, our freedom and our self property through activity.

Humility and complacence are not active traits for Neitzsche. They are actually dangerous traits for Freidrich Neitzsche because they are the products of simplistic slavish thought.

The “slave” or “herd morality” that Neitzsche wishes more would reject is characterized by values of submissiveness, sympathy, benevolence and humility.

When people adopt and act based on “slave morality” characteristics, as they do when conforming to preferred meanings, they are not fully affirming themselves. Their positive characteristics dependent on the serving someone else or being “nice” but ultimately on maintaining the status quo.

We should not go looking for someone to tell us what to do. We should be active in the willing of our own lives. We should seek for our lives in the end to be a piece of art filled with experiences and evidence of our wills.

A way to be active and willing in our lives, in keeping with Neitzsches philosophy, is to seek change. To never be a complacent, to avoid stale dull habits for that is THE DEATH OF OUR WILL and hence our identity… in his humble opinion.

So folks, knowing that when your are watching Extreme Makeover Home Addition the preferred meaning is an add for SEARS is not enough. Changing your behavior may be the more powerful and more beneficial to you.

 

 

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Because everyone else is taken. That was a common idiom thrown around by the parents and guardian figures in my neighborhood when I was a kid. Little did I know it would be something I would be struggling with for the rest of my life as all those guardians of my youth probably still were when they spoke it to me.

Identity is an idea philosophers have been toiling over for ages. Today though, I have only to type into my MacBooks toolbar dictionary ‘Identity’ to read that it is ‘the fact of being who or what a person is’ and that individuality is ‘the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind’.

So then what is identity today because surely a definitions on a blog within quotations doesn’t tell us much. Well, today, according to Dr.Strangelove’s The Empire of the Mind, is a ‘hyper consumption age’. This hyper consumption is the product of a shaper of our current world even more powerful then our beloved internet, the capitalist system.

Since the capitalist system is present and so incessant our identity has no choice but to grown within its boundaries. Dr. Strangelove makes the point that identity, within these boundaries, is destabilizing and something under stress.

Identity is breaking down and to replace it capitalism is trying to sell us our identity.

But this idea that capitalism is killing out identity is not new. Marx famously saw economic, capitalist, life as the chief force of alienation in our lives.

For Marx believe what made humans individuals was the result of what we did with our labour and in our capitalist model the workers labour is being commodified and the laborer is being alienated from it.

Basically Marx see capitalism as alienating in many ways. First it is alienating us from the product we are making with our labour. Then from our jobs… the medium of our labour. It is alienating us from our human essence for we are not creating our identity in a visible way we can keep rather we are using out labour as a mean to a wage. Finally all this alienating leave us alienated from each other because we are reduced to acquisitive beings reduced to buying our identity with the money from our wages. When your identity is bought all other humans with income become our competition in finding ourselves and so individuality become a race, and maybe a futile one when the goods we are buying to manufacture our identity are mass produced.

Without individuality, without identity, we risk loosing true diversity in our society. This actually puts our society at risk of becoming a homogenous public. Such a public is dangerous for, in it, democracy would no longer function effectively but rather could become a people ruled by the tyranny of the majority.

Damn capitalism. Damn Marx…too bad Lenin had to go ruin your neat realization with a totalitarian dictator.

BUT! Now we have the internet and a lot of what we are doing on the internet is identity based. We are still basing our identity on what we like or what we claim more so then what we create but with the help of the internet not all of it is material to the same degree.

PLUS with the internet being this new medium for finding and embracing an identity further it steals some wind from the sails of the advertisers and leaves them with a fragmented audience (HAHA!) Anyways the internet is great BLOG BLOG BLOG… just using my labour now to create for me:)

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Once upon a time the internet came along. With it came many opinions of what its future and legacy will be. At the forefront of the debate surrounding the power of the internet emerged a dichotomy of ideas. One side saw the internet as a utopia, a realm of perfect freedom and a democratization. The other adopted a Dystopian ideal where the internet will be used as a tool for perfect surveillance and control. Now, neither has happened, but the fear of the later is still present. The view is that with the normalization of the internet it will soon grow to mirror the same high level of centralization present in other media realms e.i radio.

But SMILE because it hasn’t happened yet!

Why would it suck if it did?

Well, because the internet is used mostly as a social tool, as a place for expression and response. Hence, if it were to be subjected to higher levels of control we would be loosing this group conversation. For, group conversation has often been seen by those in power as a threat, and the elimination of threat is the intention of surveillance and control.

So! Where am I going with all this? Nowhere really, I just felt like stating where we are and what we have to lose in the hopes that people in western democracies don’t take our internet freedom for granted. So we don’t take our online group conversation for granted…even if they are concerned primarily with useless memes.

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In the first chapter of The Empire of Mind, this idea of the constraints on thought is introduced. The constraints are manifested in dominant symbols which have the power to establish limits to thought. These constraints should sound threatening for it is believed by some that humans evolve using culture to pass on messages and bring up the next generation.

This being said, I posted the video at the top of this post to function as a beacon of hope. It is a video and hence cultural/art centric product that does not appear to show the sings of censored or constrained thought.

By contrast, it incorporates many symbols found in the niche levels of amateur culture. The use of base level graphics, and amateur style editing, are still catering to and conveying an established thought but one that is counter to the dominate. The dialogue is very chat inspired and the characters are obviously ironic in their opposition to the “shiny” and “sexy” characters of most music videos.

The power found in the “thought” direction of this video, directed by Eric Wareheim of the Surreal sketch comedy series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, is in its counter-culture identify. It is providing an alternative thought narrative for people to consume; tapering the power of the dominate solicited thought… mildly.

Hence, having alternatives to the dominate can be comforting to those who don’t see constrained thought as creating worthy culture to pass down messages to our next generation.

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