But these technologies are designed to fit existing social and cultural ideas. They represent themselves as a sort of magical solution to social problems, but their magical effect depends on the way they lubricate way-finding within an existing neoliberal framework. Whatever the problem, there’s an app for that, one weird trick to solve the erectile dysfunctions of neoliberalism.
Where communities break down, the network substitutes. Where news is no longer trustworthy, citizen journalism can bring the news to you direct and unfiltered (that’s pure ideology). Where politicians are no longer trustworthy, online communities can hold them to account (that, too, is ideology; the platforms facilitate online punishment beatings of individuals who breach mores). If you’re depressed, you can get cognitive behavioural therapy through an app on your phone. If you’re poor or underemployed, you can bid for jobs on taskrabbit, or use your car to make money through Uber or spend a few hours working for Deliveroo. If you’ve got a room you’re not using, post it on airbnb. If you think you’re not valued enough in your life, you can bid for a share in an increasingly diffuse online celebrity (again, pure ideology — celebrities are notoriously miserable). In other words, it administers users on the basis of the radical extension of market relations, and commodification.
This is not a hegemonic practice. It doesn’t seek to persuade anyone of the virtues of markets and neoliberal behaviour. It simply builds it into your practical experience. It's the persuasion of reality-shaping: what I might call a sub-hegemonic practice, since it works on the infrastructures rather than through the ideological and political superstructures. This is what neoliberal administrations have been doing for the last few decades, but far less efficiently. Tech treats us as behaviourist experimental subjects, to be hooked and then manipulated in real time for the advertisers. Now they’re under pressure by politicians to use this power for social good, which is terrifying. And in the new smart cities such as the one Google is building in Toronto they will try just that. But it’s neatly congruent with the post-democratic, beyond-hegemonic practice of neoliberal capitalism. It is the ideal model of what Gilles Deleuze called the ‘control society’. No one tells you what to do, what to believe in, what’s right or wrong: on the new technologies, whether it’s gaming or platforms, you are just given a series of stimuli, a set of options within an acceptable bandwidth, and get on with it.
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