East Contemporary

transmediale: Jonathan Beller “Derivative Living”

Berlin, Feb 2, 2018, https://transmediale.de/

Matteo Pasquinelli moderated the discussion / keynote lecture of Jonathan Beller.

I value Beller for his work on the cinematic mode of production: the thesis, that media “consumers” are actually not consumers at all but cognitive workers creating value through the allocation of their quantifiable attention.

In his talk, Beller built on this, now already over a decade old thesis, by reframing it within the contemporary media landscape.

He did not obscure his leftist/communist sympathies, and I felt he conducted a honest and deep intellectual confrontation with the concerned topics. A number of voices from the audience expressed skepticism over his hope in connection with blockchain technology, but he stood his ground. His answers helped to further clarify what was maybe lost in the frantic speed of his information-heavy presentation not completely free of academic jargon, but still digestible for me.

Toxic media: Anything that is mediated, any mediated expression is a priori commodified and subject to a capitalist hegemony. This process was always there, digitization sped it up and increased the level/depth of detail being quantified. There is no escape.

Toxic Finance: Finance is directly linked with the quantification and commodification mechanisms of media. There is no escape, and worse, the world of finance is largely impenetrable to outsiders.

Toxic Information: I missed this point but I guess something more of the similar: No escape or opposition the capitalist hegemony (Guy Debord: Spectacle) is possible.

Programmable Economies / Platform communism: But! Beller sees hope! He sees an opportunity in blockchain technology. More precisely: a short window of opportunity. More precisely: Blockchain could be used to establish alternatives to existing exchange mechanisms defined by communities at their own terms instead of being imposed and governed by a ruling hegemony as is the case with money today. He built on a media analogy with revolutionary cinema in Latin America that was able to create a momentum for the movement, before it was subsumed by the capitalist Hollywood hegemony.

Only time will tell if he was right. But one cannot but applaud Beller’s intellectual capacity in formulating and expressing complex ideas rooted in media theory yet reaching far beyond.

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