Metastaticmedia[i] and Collective Production
Excerpt from Original Proposal
One thought is that one way of understanding the small resonance of the ARG[ii] (alternate reality game) is seeing it through Debord’s description of the spectacle as reflective of isolated individuals, the product of hyper-specialized labor, the ubiquity of images, and the embodiment of the productive means of contemporary society. I can see how Debord’s classification of the spectacle relates to the ARG, in that it uses many modes of production for media (it is “transmedia”), requires specialized labor because of this, often engages a spatially distributed audience, and are largely created as marketing tools to sell other products. However, there is some real tension here, for me, as well. Where Debord might see isolation and call the spectacle a one-way communication, Jenkins, Pierre Levy, and others see the ARG as a site of community-building, cooperative and individual interpretation, and a destabilization of the categories of producer and consumer (though this latter does fit with Debord and his notion of workers clocking out and being regarded as consumers).
A common method of critically examining media is to approach the study through the dichotomy of production and consumption. With the turn from pre-industrial, artisanal mode of media production, represented in textual production by the scribal system and in image production by the painter, to mechanized production and reproduction, represented in part by the printing press and the lithograph, the scale of this production and consumption grew exponentially. More recently, digital networked technology has also increased the sophistication of media production and, sometimes, increased the accessibility and speed of media distribution. Marxist media theorists from Walter Benjamin to Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer to Guy Debord have focused on the mass production and consumption of media and culture, a condition precipitated by the technologies of Fordism and industrial capitalism. In a very broad view, these approaches have largely considered production and consumption as functions of separate spheres of society: production is set by the bourgeoisie by means of the labor of the proletariat; those who have power produce, those who lack power consume. Thus, as Guy Debord argues in The Society of the Spectacle, this contemporary media, especially mass media, is “essentially one-way” (19, emphasis original).