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The Spectre of Particle Capitalism

An Essay by Keith Sanborn

For *Particles of Interest: Tales from the Matter Markets*
By Diane Ludin and Ricardo Dominguez

A Transvergence Beta Project For:
ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge &
the Thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art
(ISEA2006) AUGUST 7-13, 2006

*The Spectre of Particle Capitalism*
By Dr. Keith Sanborn

Particle Capitalism is but the latest phase in the quantification of
the world, the historical motor of capitalism. Capital relies on the
notion of quantifiable exchange. Everything has its price: wood,
timber, electricity, human labor. But the abstraction of raw
materials, objects, elemental forces, and human activities onto the
same plane-making them comparable objects of exchange, i.e. their
commodification-assumes one thing, which Marx places in a
footnote-always the locus for rupture-of the introduction to Capital: that Capitalism assumes the individual has an encyclopediac knowledge of commodities, a self-evidently impossible condition.

This absurdity, this impossible contradiction in Marx’s time, the
mastery of all knowledge, even anecdotally and functionally via the
encyclopedia or the library, has reached new levels of alienation and
dysfunction in the individual experience of the dataworld as it
collapses onto itself. 125 channels of cable tv and nothing to watch
was only the prelude to the enumerable yet phenomenological
numberlessness of websites.

To make possible current conditions of exchange, all is reduced to
data and datafication becomes an end in itself. In the dataworld,
people are not merely objectified, as in slavery, or prostitution,
they are transduced and betrayed more directly into the common medium of exchange: people are electricity are timber are wood are data. And data in radically reductive binary machine only readable form. This condition of alienation can only be compared with what Jakobson identified as the pathological loss of language called the contiguity disorder, where all discourse becomes a mere word heap. The syntax, which keeps the circuits of exchange silently “humming,” is-as it has always been-hierarchical and imposed from above.

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