Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Deleuze & Dividuals

Goodbye individuals, hello dividuals. This is the new language of control, according to Deleuze. Instead of seeing people as value, it's actually the data produced by individuals that becomes valuable in today's capitalist society. Capitalism today is for a higher-order production - it no longer follows the typical factory model. Instead, the new model of capitalism is wrapped up in marketing. Marketing has become the driving force of consumption today and the actual products have taken the backseat. And what makes marketing even more effective? The fact that an extensive amount of individuals' information is collected through data and available for analysis.

The article "Spinoza and Us" explains that the body is defined by relations of motion and rest and development... It's a little confusing, but essentially, this description reminds me that networked individuals are most valuable today - not static individuals. Facebook doesn't care about Erica Olmstead. Facebook cares about what items Erica Olmstead likes, who she's friends with, what links she posts on her wall, which public figures she follows, and so on. The value is continuously changing, Erica's network is expanding, and data miners are loving it.

The ideas presented in Haggerty and Ericson's article, "The Surveillant Assemblage" were easier to follow. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari, the authors explore the abstraction of human bodies into data flows, or "data doubles". In this way, everything that we do (that can be traced through data) is reassembled into some meaningful way - clearly, for the purpose of making a profit. This idea is similar to what I mentioned above from Deleuze's articles, but the argument is more clear to me. In the surveillant assemblage, people are commodified; their data flows are closely monitored and used by companies for the purpose of making profit. Similar to how Arvidsson discussed branding of life and programmed individuals, the surveillant assemblage allows for the manufacturing of desires. The surveillant assemblage makes it easier to market specifically to individuals as so much of their information is available.

But, without the interactions between the human body and technology, there could be no data double, or cyborg, and our bodies wouldn't be nearly as valuable; our flows could not be traced, analyzed, commodified. The surveillant assemblage relies on machines to make and record observations, increasing fragmentation of the human body and our identities. The surveillant assemblage does not result from any single technology; rather, it is the culmination of technological capabilities that enhance the monitoring of information in all walks of life...

Here's a good question that the article brings up: should individuals receive compensation for the sale of personal information? Well it seems like they should since they're gaining so much value from individuals! Instead of compensation in dollars, however, companies are a bit wiser (more manipulative) in their method of compensation. Often times, companies offer an incentive to giving up your information. For example, if you fill out a survey you will get a coupon. Or, if you click on a certain link, you'll get the chance of winning something. Similar methods involve contests that involve participation, but only one "winner" is actually compensated. A less subtle way of compensation is the benefit of using a website, such as Facebook. Users agree to the terms, in exchange to be able to socialize and communicate online. Evidently, all of these examples do not involve direct payments; instead, users/consumers are offered something to make them feel like giving up their information is "worth it". This is an exquisite guise for the marketing companies...all they have to do is make people feel like its more convenient to give away their information than not.


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