Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Collective identity and the coming festivalization of culture

Interesting bit from Bill Wasik's Wired article about technology and riots:

To Stott, members of a crowd are never really “on their own.” Based on a set of ideas that he and other social psychologists call ESIM (Elaborated Social Identity Model), Stott believes crowds form what are essentially shared identities, which evolve as the situation changes. We might see a crowd doing something that appears to us to be just mindless violence, but to those in the throng, the actions make perfect sense.

By contrast, Stott sees crowds as the opposite of ruleless, and crowd violence as the opposite of senseless: What seems like anarchic behavior is in fact governed by a shared self-conception and thus a shared set of grievances. Stott’s response to the riots has been unpopular with many of his countrymen. Unlike Zimbardo, who would respond—and indeed has responded over the years—to incidents of group misbehavior by speaking darkly of moral breakdown, Stott brings the focus back to the long history of societal slights, usually by police, that primed so many young people to riot in the first place.

Fits in with the idea that collective subjectivity is real but was systematically surpresed by top-down media in the 20th century. Protocols of neoliberalism and post-Fordism has necessitated the loosening of those strictures to capitalize on cooperation and Virnoesque virtuosity and immaterial labor and so on, but along with that loosening comes the potential formation of these spontaneous rogue mob subjectivities that avenge the ongoing exploitation. Seems to me this in turn will lead to an increased festivalization of culture, with programmed carnivals designed to form these collectives in controlled space-times and vent their anti-establishment energies.

It’s about being part of a group that has long felt invisible (no radio, no TV) despite the existence of enormous numbers. One might call this the emergence of mega-undergrounds, groups of people for whom the rise of Facebook and Twitter has laid bare the disconnect between their real scale and the puny extent to which the dominant culture recognizes them. For these groups, suddenly coalescing into a crowd feels like stepping out from the shadows, like forcing society to respect the numbers that they now know themselves to command.

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