Arts and Letters Daily

Blogging Hegemonies: Panopticism, Lacan, and Authoritative Commands

“Communicative Capitalism: A Change to the Symbolic”

“Communicative capitalism is that economic-ideological form wherein reflexivity captures creativity and resistance so as to enrich the few as it placates and diverts the many” (Dean 4).

What would you say if I proposed that the Internet was of  Bentham’s panoptic design? “Contemporary communications media capture their users in intensive and extensive networks of enjoyment, production, and surveillance… ‘communicative capitalism’” (Dean 4).

Or, what would you say, if I said it was not? “Words are no longer “subjectivized” insofar as they fail to induce the subject to stand by them. At any moment, visitors to cyberspace can simply “unhook” themselves. Since exit is an option with nearly no costs, subjects lose the incentive for their word to be their bond” (Dean 7). Within the internet, can we not argue that the carnivalesque is underway, as readers have no bind to what they read and are free to peruse and choose whichever path they wish when exploring the Internet? The tangibility of a physically ‘papered’ text commands authority, where as those words “published” online, or self-published within blogs do not, as anyone of any level of education on a topic can write whatever they please. Physically tangible texts, within paper, demand more screening and editing before publication. Literature appears to be becoming more editorial and informal as the public turns to technological media such as the Internet, Twitter, and GoogleNews for education on current events.  Are we self-governing through self-education on topics of our own choice?

Is there a guard tower censoring us on the web? Are you going to shut down my site if I say something controversial Dr. T.J. Eckleburg? Are you even paying attention to what I’m writing? Because site stats say you’re not. Are you wearing Harry Potter’s “invisible cloak”? Perhaps you’re in my Macbook; or tipped WordPress.com? With making sure that I couldn’t download plug-ins within the confines of the WordPress format, did you also pay Toni Schneider, WordPress CEO, at the most recent freemasons meeting beneath DIA to monitor what we write? Are we truly free to express ourselves in any way/shape/form? Are we being watched and our actions and interactions are being monitored, yet not blocked? Are the confines of censorship of “P.C.” or bordering on “controversial” material in reality different than those confines of the internet (are there confines?)? If videos like Two Girls One Cup can end up on the Internet, I honestly question the proposed Panopticism of this medium of communication. Never have I seen the rumored grotesque video, but from horrifying facial expressions during descriptions, I can only imagine that it is something needing attention of Dr. Eckleburg’s watchful eyes. “Blogs provide a clear example,” states Dean, “sometimes it’s difficult to tell when a blog or a post is ironic and when it’s sincere, when it’s funny or when it’s serious…The uncertainty, the potential for unexpected meanings, provides its own affective intensity. Images and affects may flow into the gaps left by the declining symbolic” (Dean 5). As she furthers on the next page of her text, Jodi Dean states that there exists an impossibility in totalizing a blog’s efficiency– it cannot anchor or pin down a meaning.

Is the Internet not a paradigmatic shift in the way that users/humans think in terms of subtle expressionism to “fight” against censorship? Has the Internet made our society, as a whole more creatively expressive? Is it doing this at all for you? Are you finding resources for what you find most interesting? Forcing us to think outside of traditional methods of thought? Are we standing in life as a cyclical force, and perhaps returning to a modernist movement of post-post-modernism? …A neo-modernism that parallels the 1920’s? The stock market crashes of 1929 and 2007 certainly point to something… perhaps this is a digital return (Nietzsche, anyone?) that is taking us back in a replay of our past life, only in LCD, pixelation, and Helvetica font.

As directed within this assignment, we are to analyze the sociology surrounding the Internet, Lacanian structures of objectivity, authenticity of sites visited, the confines of the Internet, and the drives behind particular sites that break the boundaries of basic html codex. Below I’ve listed three sites that I thought were rank-able in comparison to one another, as each site expresses a reservoir of depth in its own way.
1. Jonathan Jones On Art; 2. New York Art Beat; 3. Arts and Letters Daily

The hegemonic structure that situates blogs on the internet is perplexing, as hierarchy is driven by authority in both design and content. This authority, however, appears to be relatively subjective as trends change with current events and the seasons, and people are more inclined to visit certain sites upon different days of the week. In this sense, I would argue that “site stats” are relatable to the stock market, as the fluctuations in statistics of interests within the Internet varies from day to day. One day the DOW or S&P 500 will be up, and the next it will have crashed 4-30 points. If I am correct, purchasing trends that stimulate the economy affect the price range of certain stocks and the value of currency; thus, visits to certain websites, due to particular trends/desires/curiosities/current events, will fluctuate depending on the stasis of the global or national economies. Each weighed against one another, the above blogs were placed in comparison as a means to discover a pattern in the chaos of the internet and to see, just exactly, why people appear to favor one blog over another and visit it on a repeated regiment.

1. Jonathan Jones: On Art

Jonathan Jones’ blog is a sister publication to the Guardian, a liberal publication, based out of the UK, that stands as a news source internationally. This blog parallels the New York Times website, as the blogs for each section (such as Jones’ Art blog, that of Charlotte Higgins, and their “Culture Cuts” blog) all appear beneath an upper header that is far from overwhelmingly large. The aesthetically placed “guardian.co.uk” in the upper left corner of the page redirects viewers to the reputably sourced homepage of the Guardian site, acting as both a linkable site for further web exploration as well as a backing source that adds validity to Jones’ own words concerning art. When this blog is opened, the eyes are immediately drawn to the title “Jonathan Jones On Art” which both commands the reader’s attention to his photo, as the pink, yet delicate, capitalized font juxtaposes Jones’ photo. In his profile, he comes off as confident, yet approachable, and one can’t help but wonder what his voice in writing is and thus is inclined to read the first article. Within the title, “On Art” commands authority (notice that these words are the darkest in all of the title, stressing that this is a professional blog with the focus ON ART) with in Jones himself, stating that Mr. Jones is knowledgeable about a lot of things, and here, on this page, he will discuss his opinion on art and only art. There exist minimal advertisement areas within the page, and the font is readable and friendly in party-coloring, not overbearing, frightening, or solely black; I would argue that the multi-colored shoe fits, here, as part is based on the presence and absence of color. In terms of content, Jones’ blog is not merely a synchronic approach to looking at art, but a diachronic approach as well. The history of art is looked at from an analysis that is structured upon art being defined as all-encompassing of the fine arts, from music, to literature, to architecture, to drawing, to painting; and each of these encompasses both historical accounts as well as those of more recent times. His most recent posts include recordings of George Orwell and Joan Miro on the Spanish Civil War, the following discusses kitsch and whether or not Damien Hirst’s work is tasteless or not, and scrolling further down, a rendition of William Blake is spotlighted for appearing in a UK gallery. In organizing his widgets/plug-ins, Jones (or his creative/visual director) effectively aligns his “Top Posts” area, calendar, and links to the Guardian’s main page along the right side of the page; this situation of secondary areas commands that one’s attention be drawn first to the meat of the page that embodies his writing. The page is simplistic and white, with splashes of ROYGBIV along the the header, tabs, and article dividers, giving it an artistic yet minimalist touch.

2. New York Art Beat

New York Art Beat reminded me so much of Denver’s Own Illiterate Gallery and their blog. Based out of New York City, this blog highlights everything that is occurring in the NY Art Scene, as well as opinions, ratings, and information on where to find what you’re looking for. The Blog has a series of tabs at the top that with the grey and white color scheme, make the page look more than official, as if one is filing through the archives of New York’s art recent art culture; from each tab, one can research events and their venues and times. Also prominent is Art Beat’s desire to network and publicize; a like for RSS feed, as well as twitter updates sparkle upon the page in purple or teal font that stand in a mimicry to the blog’s color scheme. “NYABlog’s writers and video reporters deliver regular reviews, features and interviews to stimulate discussion about all sides of New York’s creative scene…” reads along the right-hand column, describing the site’s mission and staff. Beneath this are links to reviews, photos, and information on writers. I would argue that this blog stands in great competition with fellow art blogs, especially that of Illiterate. Running a website in New York City is a job in itself, and running one with multiple writers that are covering art galleries and showings across the Five boroughs is quite a feat. The blog features both literature and photo reviews on recent shows, thus creating a valuable source for anyone who wishes to further explore the labyrinth of galleries in the city that never sleeps.

3. Arts and Letters Daily
Arts and Letters Daily is a blog that visually mimics Bookslut’s blog. With rose-pink coloration and a header-image of an archaic, or perhaps Roman, woman sitting in front of an oversized book, this site first reads as one that would encompass hundreds of years of literature, theory, opinion, and arts. Surrounding our diaphanous beauty, the words of “philosophy, language, aesthetics, trends, breakthroughs, ideas, criticism, culture, history, music, art, disputes, gossip”. What are you looking for that WOULDN’T be here? Sports maybe? Stocks? For some reason I feel that your reader who is searching about sports writing would immediately hit “the dreaded back button” upon first viewing this feminized site of pinks and reds, literature and gossip. In comparison to the previously reviewed sites of NYArtBeat and Jones On Art, this website reads as outdated (though most likely not started no earlier than 2005). It’s absolutely insane how fast internet features become outdated, but proves that the “Facebook Generation” is one that will be guaranteed jobs if they know how to maneuver HTML and SQL coding, as that, as well as undeafening creativity, is what appears to keep the internet medium running. Despite its below-average appearance, Arts and Letters Daily offers some great literature and hilarious material that hopefully does not get overlooked due to its dull format. The site is broken down into four vertical columns, and is almost devoid of advertisement, which to be honest, gives it brownie points in my book. Within the left-hand column, A&LDaily has listed its categories and means of subscription plain and simple in a 13-point list that includes a contact for advertising. I can’t help but wonder, if they’d made it so blatant that they are willing to accept advertising, why has no one accepted this offer? If I stumbled upon the site today, hundreds of viewers have to have done so as well, right? What is wrong with the site that nobody is interested in posting advertisements? Beneath the site’s page listings, a section entitled “Nota Bene” (such sweet and concise word choice) is placed second, and includes the most popular topics of the day. Today’s read as “#JamesFrancoFacts” (notice the hash-tag. these ladies know what’s going on in digital-communication world and popular culture world, good job!) and “The Real Ginsberg”, “Tyra Banks at Harvard”, “Prison Economics”, and more of the like. As you can see, the site offers a wide spectrum of topics that all tie back into the literary world. The columns that follow read as “Articles of Notes”, “New Books”, and “Essays and Opinion”, allowing readers a glimpse of what has recently been published. Despite the lacking visual aid, this site definitely has an appeal; one of which, I would argue, could be noted as a “kid sister” site to the established high-brow New Yorker. Each article is written with eloquent thoughtfulness, giving an “ahem” in its direction of personal authority that captivates and lures readers in by being damn good with words.

What I found most interesting within this study was the level of authenticity and authority that was portrayed within each site, as each had its own style. Within the former, I thought that Jonathan Jones and Arts and Letters Daily held the most authentic sites worth visiting. Though a reservoir of absolute depth into the city’s most exclusive galleries, NY Art Beat seemed less compelling than the other two blogs, as it, to me, reminded me of something that accompanies any cultural sector of America. Don’t get me wrong, the information provided was great- coherently and eloquently written with an obviously extensive amount of time invested into each article. Arts and Letters Daily, I would argue, had the most resilient and authentic approach to media, as the articles, though perhaps sourced from elsewhere, stand as a compilation that flow well together and appeal, in my opinion, to a female reader interested in a variety of things that range from high-brow Harvard Review topics to the happenings of James Franco. When looking at authoritative commands, I stand to argue, as stated above, that visual appeal plays a large role. Jonathan Jones’ blog undoubtedly commands the highest authority in the analysis, as it is a.) attached to the Guardian, b.) solely him writing, and c.) he is beyond knowledgeable about a wide variety of art styles, trends, media, eras, and genres. The authoritative commands of each of these blogs, though perhaps lacking, stand as a definitive difference as compared to the authority commanded in face-to-face conversations of reality. Dean quotes theorist Steven Johnson’s theory of authority within her book, stating, “The difference between lecture and dinner table enables the analogy with the circuit board and the assumption of homeostasis. Johnson connects primary inputs to official speakers and secondary inputs to an audience” (Dean 16). There exists no projection within the internet of the primary input upon the secondary input, as the secondaries cannot read tonality. There exist only a sea of millions of primary inputs. I would argue that within this mass of primary inputs, there exists a hierarchy that is based on authority and authenticity. One must prove why their blog is great, as it stands aside millions of others just like it. There stands a competition with the Self to forge oneself with the Projected Self of the Internet to create something brilliant.

Jodi Dean: “Blog Theory”

Ordinarily one would think that in users perusing the internet they are the subject viewing the object that appears on the screen, however I stand to argue that this is not true. Within creating a certain page, such as this one you are reading right now, bloggers or Internet artists are creating a means to lure you in with a certain appeal, thus, they are watching you in the way that you lead yourself through their websites. How do they know? It’s traceable on site statistic pages. As stated above, certain topics of discussion will cause a reader to re-visit the site. I would argue that part of being a blogger is figuring out a way to get viewers/readers to eat out of the palm of your hand. Because really, isn’t the intent within blogging to have readers connect with your thoughts and keep visiting your site out of pleasure of agreeing with what you have to say, or feeling that you are a reputable, or at least worth-while, source?

Within Dean’s text, she discusses Lacan and his theory of the functions of the gaze, as directed through cyberspace and Zizek’s communicative capitalism. “Generally speaking,” Dean quotes Lacan, “the relation between the gaze and what one wishes to see involves a lure. The subject is not presented as other than he is, and what one shows him is not what he wishes to see” (56). She furthers that the term “gaze” refers to an unsettling feeling of an excess disturving one’s sight, not to a specific thing that one imagines. I find Dean’s regard to objectivity more than applicable to the theory of Lacan, as, to most people, the Internet is a disorienting medium and perhaps we often see what isn’t really there and present something that we don’t always realize. “Our disclosures are surveilled, archived, remembered, in ways that exceed our ability to manage or control. On the other hand, this is the source of their immense attraction, what lures us in, what incites us to practices of revelation and display. [Then] the media that incite us to create and express, to offer our thoughts, feelings, and opinions…deliver us up to others for purposes of their own” (Dean 56). Is the internet a subconscious means of exploiting ourselves?  For example: I wrote a piece earlier on Fashion Week 2011 and my primary focus of the article was resiliency of Japanese design within the international sphere. Upon tracking site statistics, I noticed that my blog had been pegged as a top hit for those individuals searching “Jason Wu 2011” or “Richard Chai” in the WordPress database– something that I did not intend to do. It’s fascinating the way in which words can be manipulated, especially words that weren’t your primary argument. Such writing really makes one stop and think to edit what they write, check sources, grammar, and photos, as others are relying on their original piece– a piece, that in my experience, was not intended for any certain person to read, merely something that I found interesting and had “blogged” about as a means to collect my thoughts.

Source: Jodi Dean’s Blog Theory. 2010.

Within Dean’s book, the quoted “Zizek” is theorist Slavoj Žižek (Slovenian, b.1949) is a Marxist, Hegelian, and Lacanian theorist who has thoroughly studied ‘the word’ and its relation to cyberspace.

2010 Catfish: A prime example of how one woman redirects the Lacanian Gaze.

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