Mules of Semiotic Capitalism

From the NYT:

“I don’t see other graffiti writers as my competition anymore,” B.N.E. said. “Now I’m going up against the Tommy Hilfigers, Starbucks, Pepsi. You have these billion-dollar companies, and I’ve got to look at their logos every day. Why can’t I put mine up?”

I like to describe Facebook particularly, out of the dearth of social media, as "Acquaintance Spam". Sure, they're people you know--but the feed gives you want more information that you'd ever really want, from people you are socially required to "friend". And my Facebook account (set up ages ago, used primarily as a White Pages) has a funny way of forgetting my email settings, and re-signing me up for notifications. Kind of like AT&T.

So if we are encouraged, socially, to promote ourselves, or to sign up for mailing lists of social advertising, why shouldn't some one desire to be their own brand?

And if you are really designing a brand, you want to do it right. None of this trashy, reality TV, Tia Tequila crap. Start over fresh. Clean lines, contrast. A recognizable, pronounceable acronym. Helvetica Neue. (That's actually his font.) Start local with the street teams, go global, make it viral. In a media culture, you are what you see.

Oh, and hide who you truly are. This is the first step of corporate, non-accountability. If you really want to do guerrila marketing, act like guerrilas. Face masks, omnipresent, anonymous media threats disseminated through your network. Anybody got a problem? Refer them to a spokesperson. Until, of course, Fortune wants an interview.

My only question is this: if this is capitalist marketing nostalgia/mimicking, then where is the surplus value? Where is the profit, derived from the gap between the production cost and the consumption expenditure? If
this is marketing, where/what is the market?

As a good Marxist-Freudian, I'd probably feed you the line about expenditures of the unconscious capital of dreams, and taking surplus off the relations of the production of desire. Yes, yes. We've all read Capitalism and Schizophrenia, to the n-th plateau and back. (You haven't? What are you doing here? Go! Now!)

But maybe this is a flawed iteration of the (now) eternal logic of capitalist production. Maybe, just maybe, there is no profit. Sure, Mssr. BNE gets his own art show, but he could have defaced corporation logos and made a buck without slapping stickers everywhere. What does the brand sell? Who makes what the brand sells? Who buys what the brand sells? Nothing, nobody, and everybody. In the case of Facebook, Facebook scraps off a buck on advertising, just like selling space on the side of a truck, driving nowhere, delivering nothing, using (almost) no fuel. But what was I tempted to buy when I saw that Susie B. from way back when suggested I reconnect with Jimmy H.? I don't know. I was annoyed, but that was it. Was I just... tempted to be... social? Is that a product? Who made it? How do you use it? There are no answers to these questions.

Maybe capitalism has spawned off non-breeding children. These mules of capitalism look like capitalism, act like capitalism, talk like capitalism, but make nothing. Except, that is, more of themselves. Social capital doesn't exist. It is a hand feeding itself. If you're making money off of social capital, you're actually making money off of real capital, while the social just looks on. The mule may pull a load, but what is it as a species? What is it's species-consciousness? Its poch is a bastard; it is a species with an endless generation of one iteration.

Symbols may pull products, but this is only symbols, doing nothing but symboling. All over the place, with each other, replicating, but only ever to the zeroth power, to the infinite extent of n+0. It's an echo, it's a shockwave, it's a whirlpool. It's like trying to map the surface of the ocean. It's the fractalized image of the depth of cultural noise. It's the ambient electro-magnetic sound of the universe, emanating from our own heads and then back again, the simultaneous transmitter and receiver of the static, programming itself into a feedback loop entity of semiotic reality. It's the meaning of $700 billion dollars in the context of the dollar menu.

I'm not about to try and predict the future of capitalism with any certainty (at least not in THIS blog post). But it seems to me pretty obvious that if monetary capitalism was ever to go into decline, if the GDP was ever to flip into steady negatives, and our surplus value was to shrink... (I mean, it can't just go on for ever, can it? Even in a debt-centered, inflationary system?) ...if this ever was to happen, the social, symbolic side of capitalism would continue to grow, as long as there are the machines to do it, that is, the people to consume and produce haphazard, metastasized semiotics. Media may need investment, but the investment in meaning is you and me. It doesn't even need a return to survive. I can keep writing and writing, pasting my name all over the surface of the world, and I have no margins to meet, and no investors to please. You could do the same, and maybe we would read each other's work, or maybe not.

Once the mule is possible, there's no beginning and end. The extent of meaning, it's borders, are negligable if nobody is measuring. There is no compulsion to reproduce and evolve--any re-creation will happen spontaneously, as another instance pops up. There is no linear hierarchy, no temporality, only the fact of existence in expression. Filation becomes mere praxis. There's no piety in praxis. There's only interest or ignorance, and it doesn't matter which. The aesthetics of the rust belt will determine decaying infrastructure's own future use. People will move into libraries, and homes will become archives. All works, all lists, thoughts, and all records will be simultaneously incomplete/complete.

You could ask a mule what it's on earth for... and you could ask a word (or three letters) the same question. Rhetorical questions might as well be the new cold fusion.

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