Awesome project from NYT. Thanks for sharing!
Somewhat off topic comment:
People’s need to share and reveal all facets of their life on the internet fascinates me. I think a lot of it is that the behavior of (over)sharing is part of a cultural fascination and admiration of celebrity and status. We all want to fit in, connect and continue to present our stories (and end up cultivating an individual brand), and engage the spectacle.
The first phase of the domination of the economy over social life brought into the definition of all human realization the obvious degradation of being into having. The present phase of total occupation of social life by the accumulated results of the economy leads to a generalized sliding of having into appearing, from which all actual “having” must draw its immediate prestige and its ultimate function. At the same time all individual reality has become social reality directly dependent on social power and shaped by it. It is allowed to appear only to the extent that it is not. - Guy Debord
Yep! Thanks for this observation Andrea.
This is just one more aspect of “the spectacle”. It’s surprising how well this concept holds up more than 50 years later. In fact these days the spectacle is much more apparent in our daily lives than it was when Debord wrote about it in the 1960s. I have my students read Society of the Spectacle in several of my classes.
Anyone who hasn’t read Society of the Spectacle, Andrea posted this full text link above https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/debord/society.htm
It’s a very short book that really identifies one of our core cultural sicknesses, which can be summarized as ( from Wikipedia):
Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as "the decline of being into having , and having into merely appearing
The spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which “passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity”.
Unfortunately, even though Society of the Spectacle is wonderfully predictive of what has happened to society, it’s quite dense to read. But if you make it through it (and one or two other Situationist text), on almost a daily basis you’ll see things that they talked about in front of us today. For example, in today’s NY Times, an article on how the “rebellion fashion” 50 years ago at Woodstock is today highly commodified:
Woodstock Was the Birthplace of Festival Fashion: Once upon a time, it wasn’t a commercial opportunity, it was a statement of identity. The situationists called this process “recuperation”.
I think what’s changed in 50 years is that instead of most people being focused on passive consumption of the spectacle, we’ve all been conscripted as producers of it as well. Hence the need for oversharing on social media.
Yes, we’re all part producers. But what any one of us produces is relatively inconsequential. It’s the totally of what we all produce that plays a role. Even if I have thousands of followers, my tweets don’t mean much by themselves. But everyone’s tweets all together create something more consequential.
If you replace the word “tweet” with “personal data” in the above paragraph, it implies that my personal data is unimportant until it is aggregated and sliced and diced with the personal data of others. At that point it enters a realm over which we have little understanding and no control. Our personal information is then used to market back to us goods/services/politics. This is what Debords called commodification, or "the decline of being into having. And meanwhile, we’re constantly bombarded with the spectacle of constant outrageous statements and actions from our president.
If you replace the word “tweet” with “personal data” in the above paragraph, it implies that my personal data is unimportant until it is aggregated and sliced and diced with the personal data of others. At that point it enters a realm over which we have little understanding and no control. Our personal information is then used to market back to us goods/services/politics. This is what Debords called commodification, or "the decline of being into having . And meanwhile, we’re constantly bombarded with the spectacle of constant outrageous statements and actions from our president.
It’s true that it’s the massive amount of data that creates value for these companies. I think what I was referring to was more the fact that the president isn’t only one that is creating a spectacle on social media. We’re all complicit in broadcasting our personal lives and contributing to this massive spectacle that keeps us and our friends and social networks engaged on these platforms. The business of accumulating masses of data relies on this participation. Maybe that’s why this bit of situationist art has always appealed to me: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b9018449p/f1.highres
So yeah, maybe they nailed it.
You’re right; we all participate in creating part of the spectacle and keeping it going! I loved the graphic!!!