Monday 16 October 2017

#283 Mental Capitalism part 2

This follows part 1.

Having outlined his four assertions to describe a new phase of the capitalist economy, one in which attention is the primary currency, Franck's Mental Capitalism paper goes into detail on what he sees as the privatisation of the public's 'experience-space'. I think he could be bolder here and call it the privatisation of experience.

Franck's paper is somewhat ahead of its time. In 2005, there was no Youtube and no Twitter. We might therefore excuse his next few paragraphs, which talk of billboards and television. However, his theory is spot on. He identifies the increasing availability and usage of measures of audience engagement as the means by which attention has become commoditised, while acknowledging that such measures came about through the technological development of an infastructure capable of broadcasting and capturing attention with increased sophistication.

Franck goes on to talk about the increasing reliance of celebrities and politicians on the media, an observation so familiar to all that it needs little explanation. He then takes four premises of capitalism and admits that for his observations to carry any real weight, those premises would have to ring true similarly for mental capitalism. Here's my interpretation of the ways in which he proposes to test that:

1) Attention would need to be produced or captured not just for its use value, eg. broadcasting important announcements but for its exchange value, eg. the price of buying a thousand Twitter followers.

2) There'd be an increased level of "creative destruction", a term coined by the economist Schumpeter to describe innovation through the replacement of inefficient processes with more efficient ones. eg. Facebook evolving countless times since its inception. The popularity of older features such as 'poke's effectively being destroyed, along with the introduction of newer ones like the option to 'love' a post.

3) production relations getting varnished with ideology and beautification to hide their true commercial nature. The largest tech companies will say that they want to connect people or provide access to information but is that their real aim?

4) exploitation and social conflict. There would need to be an increase in mental health issues and a revolt against narcissism.

Having listed his criteria, Franck proceeds to discuss the extent to which the world meets it. For test 1), he observes how relativists view scientific fact as more of an exchangeable commodity than a representation of reality. For test 2), he tries to use the scientific community's dealings in rationality as an example of creative destruction. He compares it to industrial capitalism and admits that the scientific community operates without drawing as much criticism. For test 3), he simply argues that the attention of the masses is a huge factor in determining what we come to regard as true and untrue. For test 4), he suggests that fringe groups fly controversial flags in protest, to get attention they could not otherwise receive.

The economist closes by writing that celebrity is not new but is today backed by a greater volume of attention than ever before and now impacts a greater number of people to a greater extent. Individuals become wrapped up in micro-cults surrounding their own personality (eg. blogs...). Such behaviour is narcissistic in nature but demand and supply in this area are both increasing. For the time being, the trends continue.

My thoughts are that yes, some of our attention is becoming commoditised, to a far greater extent than Franck realised at the time he wrote this, which adds an almost prophetic quality to his words. I think he could have made reference to different types of mental capitalism. I think his claim that attention has become more important than money is too bold. It might be observable in certain situations but Franck could do more to define what those are, unless I've missed that. I read it quite quickly. Overall though, it seemed a reasonable enough attempt to coin the term mental capitalism. I could do some further research to look for other people's reactions to the paper and comments on it.


Running on empty said...

I think this

Individuals become wrapped up in micro-cults surrounding their own personality (eg. bloggers...). Such behaviour is narcissistic in nature but demand and supply in this area are both increasing.

is an over generalisation. Blogs can be about anything.

Profound Familiarity said...

If I had written

Individuals can learn about space exploration using many sources, eg. books

would that be an over generalisation? Books can be about anything too.

I think the reason you don't like the paragraph is because you've seen the words 'blogger' (something you are) and 'narcissist' (something that you probably wouldn't want to be) close together and that makes you uncomfortable because of the associative way in which the mind works.

On a separate note, I've changed it to 'blogs' just because I realised when looking at it again that it's the blog itself I'm referring to not the blogger.

Running on empty said...

No, it's because blogs can b about a topic like gardening or car engines and say nothing whatsoever about the author.

Profound Familiarity said...

Do you think I should have written "some blogs" instead of just "blogs"?

Running on empty said...

I dunno, you're a better writer, lol.

Profound Familiarity said...

Ha, you have an army of followers! I have two!

Profound Familiarity said...

Dear Santa

This year please bring me another person who reads my blog. I know I haven't always been that good but let's face it you ain't exactly Mother Theresa yourself. That's right matey, I know who ate seven of our tree chocolates last year. There was a trail of wrappers leading to the chimney. I covered for you man. So make it happen, or I'll report you quicker than you can say "breaking and entering".

Yours festively,


Running on empty said...

Don't go to war with an army of 6, mate, unless u got nukes.

Running on empty said...

We can always write another joint post, across the blogs. This week there's lots of news for inspiration.

Profound Familiarity said...

That's kind of you.

I don't really read much news.

Running on empty said...

I get fed some US news on my device , a customisable service, and have an ABC app that I look at once a day.

Kathy said...

Look up keywords for blog searches....if there is such a thing. If not, there should be. Include them.
Some US News. Forbes moved Trump down 62 places. That makes me feel good today...

Profound Familiarity said...

Hey Kathy :)

Keywords... you mean like "London blog", "UK personal blog" or "Personal weekly blog"?

Fizzfan said...

Mental capitalism? Isn’t it just about cashing in on people’s thoughts? There’s always going to be a dark side to that!

I don’t like some of the trends because it seems I’m being observed and don’t like the idea of companies having some kind of profile on me based on my product choices. Is that dangerous or helpful? It makes me uneasy but I don’t know why. Probably has connotations of being stalked.

Santa’s a muppet. He’s only interested in kids......Think what the Internet community would make of him if he was internet savvy?!

Profound Familiarity said...

Yes I think it is about cashing in on people's thoughts.

People sometimes like to feel as though they are free to make choices. Maybe you feel uncomfortable because if companies have a profile on you, they'll try to influence the choices you make.

Yes that man has it coming to him.