The televisual essayist and social documentarian and Adam Curtis has just slipped out another fascinating series on BBC2. If the first episode ‘Love and Power’ is anything to go by, it’s going to be a great ride. Curtis has a knack of weaving together the big picture of history with the personal struggles of those who made it. To aid him he also infuses some subtle popular music cues, such as Kraftwerk, on the soundtrack.
It is fashionable to suggest that cyberspace is some island of the blessed where people are free to indulge their individuality. This is not true. I have seen many people spill out their emotions – their guts – online, and I did so my self until I began to see that I had commodified myself.
Commodification means that you turn something into a product that has a money value. In the nineteenth century, commodities were made in factories by workers, who were mostly exploited, but I created my interior thoughts as commodities for the corporations that owned the board that I was posting to, like Compuserve or AOL. That commodity was then sold on to other consumer entities as entertainment.
Cyberspace is a black hole. It absorbs energy and personality and then re-presents it as an emotional spectacle. It is done by businesses that commodify human interaction and emotion, and we are getting lost in the spectacle.