Warship at the Alter of Convergence Culture was the seminar (sic) in my Computers as Culture class last night. I think that's pretty clever given the readings ranged from Henry Jenkins to Lawrence Lessig (a serendipitously translated title!). With such a richness on offer it's a shame that the entire class discussion dissolved into either a discussion of the latest technology/phone/program (technological determinism?) or the latest meme/show/clip/viral (participatory culture!).
Kathy Cleland tried valliantly to point out that we were discussing access to culture rather than participation, and we were enmasse rather lacking in our contributions to culture! The majority of a class of digital cultures masters students thought that voting buttons and editing wikipedia counted as participatory culture. That American Idol and Big Brother were examples of how big media was influenced by little people.
The Back Dorm Boys were the pinup poster of the seminar, with one glancing notice of the iTunes advertising running underneath the clip and much pride in the place the boys achieved getting contracts, manager and fans. The number of fans you have is the new gauge of power in China. Arguably everywhere else in the world too unless you have a lot of guns.
The control society described by Deleuze sees artists and consumers both feted and fettered. It's "the progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination... Can we already grasp the rough outlines of the coming forms, capable of threatening the joys of marketing? Many young people strangely boast of being "motivated"; they re-request apprenticeships and permanent training. It's up to them to discover what they're being made to serve, just as their elders discovered, not without difficulty, the telos of the disciplines. The coils of a serpent are even more complex that the burrows of a molehill."
Deleuze's "Postscript on the Societies of Control"(L'Autre Journal,1990) follows on from Foucault's description of the discipline society of the 18/19th century and the industrial revolution. Groups, closed, contained, hierarchies, one is always a beginner, learner, prisoner.
The control society is networked, dispersed, cybernetic. Feedback loops allow access to all areas randomly 'policed' and controlled. Deleuze described using a swipe card to enter and leave all buildings of the future including home and car. The doors and locks are not the barriers. The invisible program/software/code is.
Our culture of participation is a gigantic control mechanism that we are always opting into. We don't want to miss out on the rewards reaped by a feted few.
Geoffrey Hansen makes his living escaping from the most extreme bondage. He is not chained by links. He is an exception.