Tuesday, June 07, 2011

'Machines of Loving Grace' and our Unwitting Commodification

It has been a long time since I was as gripped by a documentary series as I am by this one that is running on the BBC right now. It is as thought-provoking and unsettling as it is well-made and even humorous. I have not yet completed this first episode, but I intend to follow it all the way through and highly recommend you join me. Hopefully it doesn't get taken offline. Here it is:

Adam Curtis's All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace:

One of the bits that struck me most from this first episode (besides the remarkable study with a group of people unwittingly playing Pong in a theatre at the 8.30 mark) was the point that the internet age has led many of us to commodify ourselves. Commodification is, simply put, the transformation of things that may not normally be regarded as goods or services into a commodity.

Seriously: watch this documentary. And let me know what you think.


Colin Toffelmire said...

Ya, the commodification point struck me as well. It's not a particularly new point in a way - the neo-Marxists have been banging that drum for a couple of decades - but the articulation of things that would be the equivalent of Facebook posts or blogs as an act of self-commodification made my eyebrows go up. I'm not quite done yet either, but it's well worth watching. I'd like to show this to some of my friends who are Ayn Rand fans (shudder) to see what they think about the connection between certain kinds of economics and certain kinds of philosophy. I'll be very interested to see what you think about the series as it goes forward.

Jon Coutts said...

Yeah I guess it is nothing new, but the tracing of it in such recent and relevant history is certainly giving me pause. I also think this series makes rather accessible what many people may not yet sat down to consider.

Brett Gitzel 英 明 said...

It may be nothing new, but it's very important for people to finally acknowledge it. Facebook is the prime example of self commodification.

I had heard of Ayn Rand before but I never knew what she was about. This is a very interesting show. I'm looking forward to the next episode.

I wrote a little something on "self marketing" in April if you want to take a look. It's meant more for humorous reasons, though there is a dash of serious in there as well.

I got inspired after reading a book called 'Flickering Pixels'.


There I go, commodifying myself again;)

Mama Bean said...

you posted this so long ago, and i've only just had the time to watch it. i was fascinated. didn't know anything about ayn rand, really, but a segment of my profession (chiropractic) is quite obsessed with her. it's weird. i don't have a strong knowledge base in economics so i didn't find much of this first episode challenging, just interesting (very interesting!) but the 2nd episode i've finding hits mental snags for me, because i have a background in (natural) science, and this episode is really challening some of the foundational things i took as fact. it's still fascinating, i can't wait to watch the next episode (i'm so glad they're all available online) i am getting a little frustrated with this is all being presented as something vaguely sinister and ineffectual - there is an overall pessimistic tone, like, look what evil technology has wrought, we're so deep into it, there's no escape. it's a little matrix-y like that, how far down the rabbit hole are we gonna go, here? and also, fascinating to see how some of these political and economic power struggles have been in place for soooooo long, started in the early parts of the last century, and yet some feel like they've only become hot button issues more recently (like, in my lifetime) and also, here we are so many decades into the internet age, most of us not really deeply analyzing its effect on the world. and what about those of us who've brought children into this world? how do we teach them to deal with it? wow, this comment is getting long. i'll probably just blog about it! (HA!)