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The World Computer, Derivative Conditions of Racial Capitalism

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

 

The Message is Murder…

ICA Miami welcomed media theorist and scholar Jonathan Beller to the Knight Foundation Art + Research Center for a free public lecture titled, “From the World Computer to Post-Capitalist Economic Media?” This lecture was presented in conjunction with the Fall 2020 semester, “Recodings and Renewals.”

From Beller: “The colonization of expressivity and semiotics by capital converts nearly everything we can say or do into value for media platforms cybernetically interfaced with our brains. From the art world to social media, qualitative values (even those of protest and dissent) are stripped of their content and converted into capital that is accumulated hierarchically and that reinforces regimes of property founded on dispossession and genocide. Deterritorialized factories (that is media companies) convert the horizontal expression of values into the hierarchical accumulation of value such that, as has been said, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. This talk tries to change that dynamic by proposing that cryptocurrency should be understood as the historical emergence of a new medium. If crypto is like photography in 1845 or cinema in 1898, we need to wonder what can anti-racist, feminist, socialist, and communist movements do with it?”

Jonathan Beller is a Professor of Humanities and Media Studies and co-founder of the Graduate Program in Media Studies at Pratt Institute. His books include The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle (Dartmouth UP, 2006); Acquiring Eyes: Philippine Visuality, Nationalist Struggle, and the World-Media System (Ateneo de Manila UP, 2006); The Message is Murder: Substrates of Computational Capital (Pluto Press, 2017) and The World Computer: Derivative Conditions of Racial Capitalism (Duke UP, 2021). He is a member of the Social Text editorial collective. [https://icamiami.org/seminar/jonathan-beller/]

Read:

The World Computer

Derivative Conditions of Racial Capitalism

Published: February 2021

“In The World Computer, Jonathan Beller charts the lineage and lineaments of ‘computational racial capital.’ In the code-based mode of capitalist production now consolidating itself with hegemonic reach, the image replaces the commodity as the fundamental value form, and as it does the meaning of labor mutates. Racism, Beller argues, is not just an incidental effect of ambient bias contaminating this new machinery of extraction. It is written into its DNA. The World Computer is a passionate analysis of how the phase-shift of contemporary capitalism we are currently experiencing carries forward from its colonial past a coefficient of exploitation that intensifies apace with capital’s exponentially increasing powers of abstraction. Beller’s provocative genealogy of contemporary capitalism is an essential contribution to understanding the evolving economy as a formation of power, in symbiosis with systemic racism.”

 

— Brian Massumi, author of 99 Theses on the Revaluation of Value: A Postcapitalist Manifesto

Duke University Press: “In The World Computer Jonathan Beller forcefully demonstrates that the history of commodification generates information itself. Out of the omnipresent calculus imposed by commodification, information emerges historically as a new money form. Investigating its subsequent financialization of daily life and colonization of semiotics, Beller situates the development of myriad systems for quantifying the value of people, objects, and affects as endemic to racial capitalism and computation. Built on oppression and genocide, capital and its technical result as computation manifest as racial formations, as do the machines and software of social mediation that feed racial capitalism and run on social difference. Algorithms, derived from for-profit management strategies, conscript all forms of expression—language, image, music, communication—into the calculus of capital such that even protest may turn a profit. Computational media function for the purpose of extraction rather than ameliorating global crises, and financialize every expressive act, converting each utterance into a wager. Repairing this ecology of exploitation, Beller contends, requires decolonizing information and money, and the scripting of futures wagered by the cultural legacies and claims of those in struggle.”

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