‘Carnival of banality’

February 3, 2011

Liked this post The tedious ethic and the spirit of capitalism. It shows an iPad advert, with the iPad on a twitter page featuring the following tweets:

“The sun’s out but it’s raining! How is that even possible?

Just ate the best sandwich. Ever.

Can’t wait to see my sister tomorrow!

Ran 10km this morning

Which brings us to twitter. What is a normal, yet special, thing to be communicated via twitter? What is twitter for? It is in many ways a credit to the power of twitter that it isn’t for anything. No doubt it very occasionally offers a medium for essential information to be transmitted, maybe even averting emergencies, or catalysing them with political uprisings. But to say that twitter isn’t for anything is also to say that it offers us far more technical communicative capacity than we could possibly need. We are only able to say that water ‘isn’t for anything’, because we have more than we need; if we didn’t, it would be for drinking, cleaning and farming.

Capitalism depends on frustrated yearning to persist, as both Marx and Keynes recognised. Its gravest danger is that people get enough of something, or even too much. Enough leads to a demand short-fall; too much, and you have a crisis of over-production. Many people pine for more intimacy with their loved ones; many people pine for greater sexual gratification. Harnessing these sources of dissatisfaction provides capitalism with a route to its own survival, as Boltanski and Chiapello put it. But digital communication now suffers a problem of over-abundance, leaving capital with no means of explaining what, specifically, it is for, or why, specifically, it is desirable.

Look again at those messages. “The sun’s out but it’s raining! How is that even possible?”; “Just ate the best sandwich. Ever.”; “Can’t wait to see my sister tomorrow!”; “Ran 10km this morning”. To recognise quite how strange these are (in an advert), try to imagine an ISP using such tedious content to sell the internet just ten years ago. But someone has thought long and hard about these; this is what twitter and the iPad are deemed for. These were not thrown together, but probably analysed at some length. If anything they betray remarkable honesty regarding the networked age, that it has turned us into a society of communicative itch-scratchers. Yet if the desirability of an iPad lies in access to this carnival of banality, then Apple could have itself a serious problem in the long-run.

I do not understand twitter. I do not understand why the brand of sausages i buy requires a twitter account or who – who on earth!? – keeps track of it. But it does http://twitter.com/theblackfarmer and it contains such gems as ‘I’m talking to the youngsters at St. George’s Primary School in Battersea today.’ And ‘Catching up on some photography today.’ Why would anyone care what their sausage maker was doing with the day? Well, it seems 1215 currently ‘follow’ the Black Farmer. WHY???. What else do they do for fun.

But now the madness of crowds dictates that everyone, every company, each inanimate object in the world has to have a twitter account. Ask the PR company, they’ll tell you how vital it is. Creating a new Hemorrhoid cream? Better get twittering quick sharp and let the world know as thankful customers itch to tell you the wonders you’ve done them. And as a result, each day the carnival gets bigger and bigger, louder and louder….mmmm, sausages, they’re nice.

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2 Responses to “‘Carnival of banality’”

  1. Joycemate said

    It’s very good for staying up-to-date on reading, as people often link to intersting articles. I think the quality of my reading has gone up significantly since I started on Twitter.

  2. I like twitter a lot. I probably log into it more than anything else at the moment. Time is tight and by its very nature, you can dip into it and as Andy says be pointed in the direction of interesting things. When i saw the ipad advert I had a hunch that it may elicit a response on here. I wonder how happy Twitter were with the exposure? I think its strength is that it can be what you you want it to be. If you follow morons and morons follow you then you can have moronic converstions. If you’re Andy then you can follow Naom Chomsky you can like enrich youself, doyouknowwhatimean?
    Essentially though it’s a micro-blog and if you like blogs then you’ll like twitter.

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