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The Political Ontology of Platforms

These notes are for the fifth and final week of the CPGJ platform capitalism intensive reading group. One of the themes running through the readings over the five weeks has been the political valence of platforms and its relationship to our analysis of them. My own instinct is that valorising […]

Daniel Bell, Transgression and the Alt-Right

The important argument I took from Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies is that the ‘alt-right’ reflect transgression detaching from progressivism. The idea that an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct is inherently progressive ceases to be tenable when progressive movements have institutionalised laws, rules and codes that serve progressive ends. […]

The notion of a ‘playbook’

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself using the term ‘playbook’ in a number of contexts. It’s typically defined as “a book containing a sports team’s strategies and plays, especially in American football” but I’m not quite sure where I picked up the phrase from as someone who hasn’t […]

How Corbyn hacked the media

It’s conventional wisdom that Corbyn’s leadership campaign was the target of brutal coverage by the media. I was interested to learn in The Candidate, by Alex Nunns, that this wasn’t quite how the campaign itself saw the situation. Understanding why can help elucidate the surprise that was #Election2017. From loc […]

Managing ‘us’ to preserve the myth

In his Uberworked and Underpaid, Trebor Scholz draws out an important parallel between the platform capitalism of YouTube and the near universally praised Wikipedia: Unsurprisingly, YouTube hires countless consultants to better understand how to trigger the participation of the crowd. They wonder how they can get unpaid producers to create […]

The Politics of #MeetUp

This is interesting. I’m instinctively sceptical of it for a number of reasons but I’m very interested to see how it unfolds: Meetup has always served as an organizing platform for a wide range of political views, welcoming everyone from the Howard Deaniacs to the Tea Party. Meetup will always welcome people with […]

From the crowd-as-threat to crowd-as-resource 

From Uberworked and Underpaid, by Trebor Scholz, loc 685-704: “Users happily do for free what companies would otherwise have to pay employees to do,” says former Wired editor turned drone manufacturer, Chris Anderson. It’s a capitalist’s dream come true. “It’s not outsourcing, it’s crowdsourcing. Collectively, customers have virtually unlimited time […]

Social media and populism 

This excellent essay by Jan-Werner Müller in the London Review of Books raises an important issue about the forms of political mobilisation facilitated by social media:  Trump has called himself the Hemingway of the 140 characters. He has ‘the best words’. He loves Twitter, he says, because it’s like having […]

Airbnb and the Myth of ‘Us’

Reading this section in Brad Stone’s The Upstarts, it occurred to me this faith* displayed by the airbnb founders is an interesting example of what Nick Couldry describes as ‘the myth of us’. From loc 2171: EJ had also raised fundamental questions about the safety of users on its site […]

The “least resistant personality profile”

A really disturbing extract from Arlie Hochschild’s new book, Strangers In Their Own Land. On loc 1445 she shares the profile of the “least resistant personality” offered by a consultancy firm in 1984, hired to advise on locating waste-to-energy plants in areas likely to provoke little resistance from the local community: […]

Social Movements and Pseudo-Activity 

From Riots and Political Protest, by Simon Winlow, Steve Hall, Daniel Briggs and James Treadwell, pg 195: A great deal of contemporary radical politics is dominated by pseudo-activity: activity that covers up a deeper inactivity. Waving placards and moaning about the government are all well and good, but, if no […]