Post-Media Lab : OutReSourcing

By Post-Media Lab, 10 May 2012
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: an interim-statement chalked out by the PML, produced for the colaboration with the reSource platform + the event 'reSource 001: “Trial Crack”'


In less than two decades, digital networks have moved from providing a macro-background environment to pervading and augmenting our lives at an increasingly micrological level. As our world is plugged into an ever growing media matrix, we know from direct experience that the pace of change is feverish, the scope infinite and the effects in need of constant reckoning. The Post-Media Lab takes up the concept of ‘post-media’ –originated by Felix Guattari – as an inherently critical notion adequate to the media strategies of scenes, movements and collectives – rather than the individualities and normativities produced by commercial media. Post-media operators are those who use media to construct and intensify social agencies, help develop new forms of relation and generate counter-meanings.

With regards to outSourcing and given this starting point, we see important questions arising in relation to the following issues:

(1) The pronouncements of early web and new media enthusiasts were laden with the dreams and language of (re)forging community on the digital frontier. These days, though, we tend to hear more about ‘community managers’ and ‘herding’ than virtual communities, cybersalons or digital cities. Where communities of the ’90s often owned their own networks, today’s social media platforms own the infrastructure and, by extension, the communities which inhabit them. Nevertheless, within the current post-media age the idea of the 'self-organising network' has reshaped politics and notions of agency in models of the environment, cognitive science, warfare, government, grassroots activism and even service provision. The network paradigm, beyond its technological sense, coincides with economic, social and epistemological shifts. The promulgation and critique of networked organising, circulated on the web and in activist circles, has certainly impacted our ideas of good or effective social organisation.

But in times of professional commercial ‘community managing’, the skimming off and valorisation of social bonds and the increased governance of networks (as for example seen around the ‘Arab Spring’ or London’s ‘Blackberry Riots’) it is more clear than ever that it is essential for emergent organisations to move beyond the aporias of the network. This is especially true as post-colonial and other critical cultures emphasise, out of their contextual experiences and against all media utopianism, the potential of networks to exclude. On the other hand, we see some tendencies for productive outSourcing as, for example, initiatives bringing connectivity back to critical net-related movements in Egypt or Syria – not to mention informational outlets of critical media culture like IndyMedia, Wikileaks, or the Tactical Technology Collective and others. Given this constellation, it can be asked what a critical, non-exclusive form of outSourcing means.

(2) outSourcing was always about increased efficiency and a redivision of labour in times of networked media logistics – most often under the paradigm of economic optimisation and an organisational fragmentation of agents, understood and used as pure resources. This has reached a new quality and intensity in the current stage of biopolitical, networked capitalism. As capitalism moves beyond the stage of ‘formal subsumption’ into that of ‘real subsumption’, capitalism is no longer content to encompass existing forms of production into the production of value, but must convert and transform all of life (production and reproduction) into capitalist forms, finding ways to extract value across all of social activity. In the process countless new forms of structuration and commodification are developed. With the utilisation of the general intellect, everybody has become a resource within cognitive capitalism, and therefore, our forms of relating, caring and of expression, of communicating and collaborating, are enclosed and templated. Networked media has played a determining though by no means exclusive role in such a transformation.
It is a real challenge, in this context, to explore practical and theoretical ways to collectively (re)appropriate our own sociality, creativity, collaborative impulses and ‘free labour’ in the era of real subsumption. This is not a question of nostalgically maintaining an autonomously understood ‘civil society’ or ‘counter culture’ – forms of political struggle, expression and sociality are themselves defined by the (always changing) conditions in which they arise. Against this background, the question of how to create strategic reSources that can work against the subsumption of social (re-)production remains a burning one.