Join 3,413 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A certain nonchalance which conceals all artistry
June 25, 2011 5:44 PM   Subscribe

Love in the Age of Self Consciouness: Rob Horning argues authentic, risk-taking romantic love has been replaced, in the age of social networking, by peacocking aspiring to sprezzatura. "Modern identity, then, is born of the alienation of auto-surveillance, which makes the self seem a discrete thing we manipulate from behind the curtain of publicity."

From the excellent New Inquiry, which I learned about from this recent thread.
posted by Apropos of Something (56 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't get this thing about cities being impersonal. The only thing impersonal about cities are the people in them. Say Hello. If you are no longer your appearances, as this article implies (as if there was ever a period when you were equivalent to who you appeared to be), then what is the worry of looking like a fool. If anything, not being who you appear to be, but being some veiled figure off scene communicating solely via muppetry, and theatrics, then we should now be more personable and sincere than ever before. Why? Because now we've got the perfect alibi.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:57 PM on June 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


This essay is a great example of a trend that's been taking shape over the last decade or so, in which the allusiveness and citational apparatus of old-style intellectualism are adopted basically as a fancy camouflage for get-off-my-lawn arguments with literally zero intellectual content. The guy isn't saying anything. He's just throwing airy phrases around as a kind of signaling behavior: I can imitate Adorno, I'm a genuine intellectual! Arts and Letters Daily is a great repository for this kind of trash, which excels at making its readers feel educated without actually demanding any critical reflection and vindicates their belief that vaguely-defined modern culture just isn't good enough for them. It's disgusting. At this point I've come to prefer reading the sciencey technoutopians because at least they're making an honest attempt to stake out the territory of the future. Horning et al are just epigones of something long dead.
posted by nasreddin at 6:02 PM on June 25, 2011 [88 favorites]


I agree with TwelveTwo and disagree with Horning's assessment that urban spaces lack traditions or norms or cultural habits. The response to the quote you pulled is basically, to not act that way. Social networking is as much a facade as one makes it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:17 PM on June 25, 2011


She should stick with haiku.
posted by c13 at 6:26 PM on June 25, 2011


Instead our local practices are linked to globalized social relations through widely disseminated discourses and procedures, through generalized nonplaces and brands. We use ATMs; we eat at McDonald’s; we shop at supermarkets and H&M — the stores are more comforting and familiar than the people around us, who more often than not are indifferent strangers who signal their benevolence by studiously ignoring us.

I have never seen a chain restaurant at the top of any Urban Spoon list. I have never heard a friend exclaim on their social media account about how much they love a chain store. Is this what passes for fresh insight when you read the Huffington Post to understand people under 30?

Here's what my friends tell me to do through online messaging: have a good time, give to charity, and read interesting stuff. If your friends don't do this, I imagine the problem isn't social media. Climb out of your ivory tower every once in a while -- or even bother with the news -- and take a look around. You may be shocked to see people getting on with life using these new outlets in positive ways with a few drawbacks, just like everything else in the universe.
posted by notion at 6:30 PM on June 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


In the interest of saying something nice: it is presented in a very readable format.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:31 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think he's right about the urban aspects of it, but I did say something similar about the present time a while ago, and I think there are lot of people (particularly young people) who put much more effort into things than I care to, but all in the service of pretending that they don't. It's your basic vanity situation, but now that it's examined more closely on places like Facebook, people pretend they don't actually think/behave in that way.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:34 PM on June 25, 2011


I found that link/explanation of "sprezzatura" not very helpful and certainly not the word has come to mean today, which has a focus upon making a difficult thing appear as though done with ease.

"Coined by Baldassare Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier (1528): "[T]o avoid affectation in every way possible . . . and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain Sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it."

Examples and Observations:

"Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee."
(Muhammed Ali)"
posted by Postroad at 6:37 PM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sprezzatura ... Paradoxical in nature, with positive and negative connotations ... the emphasis was on effect, on convincing an audience or a viewer that impressive actions required little effort.

I get it, it's Fonzie Fonzarelli.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:47 PM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


That which is supposed to make a lover know his love is sincere is subsequently made to serve as a dubious performance of sincerity. The lover must govern the representation of feelings that, if sincere, would be beyond governance, and at the same time, he must also recognize sincerity in feelings he know can be contrived and deployed strategically. How then can he ever know whether his feelings really are sincere if he must always stage-manage their expression?

I don't know if he's right about sprezzatura and social media, but I do know that the writing is insufferable.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 6:48 PM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have never heard a friend exclaim on their social media account about how much they love a chain store.

I guess your friends don't like to advertise their Ikea obsessions as much as mine do.
posted by aaronetc at 6:48 PM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


FREDRIK IS A GREAT PURCHASE. FRIENDS.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:52 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm pretty sure that people will continue to love one another, and they'll continue to seek each other out, and continue to forge bonds over shared experiences, and to find a renewed richness in the world due to those bonds. The media through which these connections happen will change, but the connections themselves will not.

We're clearly uncomfortable with these changes: look at the stigma associated with online dating (reduced these days, but still apparent), and the derision some people heap upon those who form meaningul relationships with 'strangers' in online games or forums. Despite all this, people still seek those same bonds, still seek the same companionship, and still find in one another the same contentment and love people have sought for centuries.

Articles like this seem more like a reflection on the author than on the world itself.
posted by twirlypen at 6:54 PM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nasreddin, I dunno if you read it, but Bookforum's Omnivore is like A&L Daily minus all the Grumpy Old Men stuff.
posted by smoke at 6:59 PM on June 25, 2011


The writing is painful. He's so painfully sure of himself, even though he's essentially saying NOTHING.

And, where does this idea that cities don't have traditions come from? Sure, Western culture, at least in North America, has become a bit of a monoculture (though, certainly, there are many regional traditions that are far from universal). But cities aren't exactly new. Even in North America we have cities with 200 years of history. Certainly, traditions have developed in our cities (and, definitely, they've long existed in Old World cities).

It's hard to even take the core of the argument seriously when the premise starts off flawed before he even gets to the point about love.
posted by asnider at 7:02 PM on June 25, 2011


Nasreddin, I dunno if you read it, but Bookforum's Omnivore is like A&L Daily minus all the Grumpy Old Men stuff.

I dunno, I was really impressed with Omnivore at first but I've since stopped reading it. It feels like too much work going through all the links in a post when at least half of them end up being some five-paragraph squib by an op-ed writer for the Texas A&M Young Republican.
posted by nasreddin at 7:06 PM on June 25, 2011


Longform and TrueReddit are still great, though. (Except, jeez, the Longform folks really need to cut down on the true crime stories.)
posted by nasreddin at 7:11 PM on June 25, 2011


Nasreddin, who are these sciencey technoutopians of whom you speak? They sound interesting.
posted by Coventry at 7:13 PM on June 25, 2011


Nasreddin, who are these sciencey technoutopians of whom you speak? They sound interesting.

I mean Clay Shirky and people like that.
posted by nasreddin at 7:18 PM on June 25, 2011


Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. "There is the blueprint," they say.
posted by Sailormom at 7:18 PM on June 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


This is mostly about the discrepancy between one's authentic self and The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (italicized because it is the name of a foundational sociology textbook by Ervin Goffman.) Sprezzatura or not: same thing. Read Judith Martin (Miss Manners). This is hardly breaking news.

Companies like Facebook promise us the ability to manage the intimacy and intensity of our ability to love, but the ability to manage it renders it suspect.


No they do not promise anything of the sort! (FindYourSoulMate.com or whatever it is these days, yeah, maybe.)
posted by kozad at 7:45 PM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is the same Rob Horning who wrote the accidental bricoleurs piece on n+1 and was linked on the blue previously. I like shopping for nice clothes so that article really clicked with me - I thought the parallels between fashion shopping and social media profiles as ways of editing together an identity from disparate and distant sources made a lot of sense, something that seems to have been obscured in this new article without the fashion angle. He also correctly identified the unease I have using facebook with the unease I have with choosing a nice outfit, the constant need to look or sound good because, hey, everyone else can do it and so can you! (I don't use facebook any more) They are moments when identity promises to be a matter of autonomous choices you make as an individual, rather than ways in which you respond to claims from your history, your context, your background. I mean people do both, but it's in the interest of corporations to legitimise and celebrate the identity made from purchasing the latest fashions, keyed to wild and exotic images of the self, than it is to celebrate the identity you make in sticking to a thankless job to pay the bills and support your family. Through the last thread, there was hand wringing (yours truly) and gnashing of teeth, but I think the best point was made by wuwei at the end

The problem is that the focus on practicing the "proper" kind of consumption. Screw that. Let's focus on how to be citizens and what we should be doing to directly remedy the dramatic economic inequalities and environmental destruction that threatens us all.

And I think a similar comment can be made about this article, which wants to argue for a proper presentation of the self, but ultimately misses the point. If people want to stake their claim to nonchalance by endlessly tweeting witty status updates fine, but there are more important things to be worried about than policing a vague notion of authentic individuality.
posted by doobiedoo at 7:46 PM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wuwei's comment also nails my criticism of the axe Horning is grinding here. There is just as much potential for Facebook, Twitter et al to be countercultural instead of consumer-cultural (see: Arab Spring). Facebook doesn't ask me to broadcast my purchases online every time I log in, though I might choose to do so. I could just as easily log in to find someone to barter the extra eggs from my backyard chickens, or ask anyone if they want to come pick all of these zucchinis I don't care for, or upload pictures of old clothes I don't want and tag everyone who I think they might fit in a note. If you want to use them that way, those same old social media can be bent to utterly anti-capitalist endeavours. Yet here we find another new media reactionary conflating many disparate trends, prepared to throw the baby out with the bathwater, a move which would be stupid and short-sighted if it were even possible, which it clearly is not.

Facebook is just currently amplifying consumerist trends which existed well before it did. It can easily amplify something else instead. It will amplify whatever you care to type into it. TL,DR: the medium is the message.
posted by mek at 8:24 PM on June 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's a big difference between the idea that self-reflexivity is the defining characteristic of modernity, and the idea that self-reflexivity did not exist before modernity. Prior to modernity, we had shared, fixed points of reference that we could use to found our identities. Not by naively identifying with them, but by self-reflexively adopting a certain posture towards them. Culture is (in part) a co-ordinate system rather than a terrain. Modernity establishes self-reflexivity as the reference point, right? The difference is that now it's emptied of content, or more precisely, it's content is always on the move. Facebook and social media allow us to monitor the way our identity is constantly reconfigured by these constant cultural upheavals, which lets us to adapt in real time - that's what's new.

Before social media, people "grew up" at some point, meaning that they realized that keeping up with the culture, being relevant, etc., was an exercise in futility, so they made some permanent choices about who they were. Social media holds out the promise that this can be postponed indefinitely, and assured by the speed at which you are continuously updated by everyone's feedback on the new-but-still-in-beta version of your self. That new version might be the announcement of a new relationship, which is just as easily dissolved by the click of button should that choice be rendered unfashionable by the next upheaval. The problem today is not that we find it difficult to be sincere because we are constantly stage-managing our interactions. In a way, it's the opposite. The problem most people face is how to avoid being sincere, how to ensure that your statements aren't taken as real beliefs or commitments even while maintaining an air of passionate exuberance about what you are temporarily "totally in love with".
posted by AlsoMike at 8:31 PM on June 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


Sprezzatura: 16th century Italian Renaissance hipster swagger.


/derail
posted by lewedswiver at 8:52 PM on June 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


U.S.A., by John Dos Passos.

Yes he did morph into a conservative right-wing nut absolutely worth of membership in the Heritage whatever-it-is, but for a moment he said it all--"The young man walks, alone . . ."
posted by emhutchinson at 9:15 PM on June 25, 2011


Maybe the people who dislike this article are too far from the world it talks about but I found that it hit close to home. There's a shield of irony that's required on Facebook and in social situations that I've never quite mastered. The worst sin is to be earnest, to be unfiltered, to be genuine. You never know who might be reading or watching. I inwardly cringe everytime I post something too personal on FB because an object of my affection may be judging. I try and compose myself when I go out, because cities are small places.

The point of the article is that it used to be only a few who did this. Now we all do it.

lewedswiver, that's not a derail. That's part of the point of the article.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:38 PM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


mek: Wuwei's comment also nails my criticism of the axe Horning is grinding here. There is just as much potential for Facebook, Twitter et al to be countercultural instead of consumer-cultural

First, it's worth differentiating between Facebook and Twitter as tools, and social media as a social phenomenon, what kind of subjectivity is created when we recognize ourselves in the demand to participate.

Second, from my reading, most of the optimism about the revolutionary potential of social media depends on a 1950s-era Frankfurt School critique of mass society that characterizes modern subjectivity as static, passive, conformist, homogenized. Your examples of exchanging eggs and zucchinis seem to fit that model. I agree with Horning that this is old-fashioned and outdated.

Horning writes: "Neoliberal society is not consumer society. Neoliberalism doesn’t posit us all as passive, conformist consumers in thrall to mass culture and doomed to consume the surplus of mass-produced junk." Instead, it's active, entrepreneurial, creative, and innovative, even revolutionary. It's ironic that nasreddin wants to dismiss Horning because he seems like Adorno, a member of the Frankfurt School - while at the same time, his technoutopians tend to uncritically represent today's society as the monopoly capitalist society of the 50s in the vein of the Frankfurt School. Unlike Horning, they don't take into account the much more recent Foucaultian critique of neoliberal capitalism that breaks with the Frankfurt School and orthodox Marxist critique.

And that's being pretty charitable to the technoutopians. It's probably more accurate to say that they are neoliberals themselves and their use of the Frankfurt School critique is not so much uncritical as consciously obfuscating, designed to make them seem much more radical and progressive than they really are.

nasreddin: But do we risk being too hasty in dismissing get-off-my-lawnism? From Bourdieu's Logic of Practice:
The habitus – embodied history, internalized as a second nature and so forgotten as history – is the active presence of the whole past of which it is the product. As such, it is what gives practices their relative autonomy with respect to external determinations of the immediate present. This autonomy is that of the past, enacted and acting, which, functioning as accumulated capital, produces history on the basis of history and so ensures the permanence in change that makes the individual agent a world within the world.
Bourdieu is saying that it is precisely the stubborn refusal to flexibly adapt oneself to the requirements of the new logic of capital in the immediate present that opens up a minimal space of autonomy to see clear of its determining influences long enough to offer a critique.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:15 PM on June 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


AlsoMike, I think you've risen a level above Horning's post, from which I'll quote:
Instead our local practices are linked to globalized social relations through widely disseminated discourses and procedures, through generalized nonplaces and brands. We use ATMs; we eat at McDonald’s; we shop at supermarkets and H&M — the stores are more comforting and familiar than the people around us, who more often than not are indifferent strangers who signal their benevolence by studiously ignoring us.
Horning is just writing fiction in the guise of an essay, a description that might resonate with people but does not necessarily describe a real social phenomenon. If you want urban life to be about hipster indecisiveness and loss of belonging, then sure, go hog wild. There are thousands of novels about that you can read. But nothing Horning wrote actually prevents urban life from being more vibrant and more interesting than what he calls "organic" life. It's all a matter of whether you agree with him or not, which was precisely the problem with the Frankfurt School.

Personally, thinking back to the cities and towns I've been to in the world, I think Horning is just describing bourgeois malaise, a phenomenon that has nothing to do with cities or Facebook, although reading about Renaissance parallels might be interesting.
posted by shii at 11:33 PM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, now things are getting tasty. *rubs hands* What I'm basically trying to say above, is that the rather overblown "phenomenon" of social media is really an epiphenomenon. The eggs, zucchinis, H&M catalogues, political unrest, racist birtherism, etc were already there, they simply have found another outlet in various new medias. The freshness of the medium allows it to escape, for now, the civility which governs our other discourses, and it is therefore a major locus of transgression, though it is rapidly colonized by various political interests (here, commercialized) but this trend is not due to any particular feature of the medium itself. I'll take Foucault for 400, Alex.
posted by mek at 11:38 PM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


How is this even anything new? I read Horning's article, and all I can think of is the kind of worry about social standing which was dominant in society and so well documented by Dickens and Austen during the 1800s. That we now have social media instead of the gossip vine to spread the information about who we are is only a change of technology, not a change of attitude. Instead of throwing parties where we try to convince others we have impeccable taste and perfect manners through the entertainment and decorations and food provided, we simply click a "like" button to try to spin the same illusion.

There's nothing new under the sun. Human nature is concerned with appearances, and people have tried to put forward the best possible version of themselves in order to achieve good standing or attract the right circle of friends or partners since long before Facebook.

Anyway, this article is a bit odd anyway. Georg Simmel's "The Metropolis And Mental Life" which is cited throughout, is a 1903 essay. [pdf link] The Consequences Of Modernity, also cited, is from 1991, well before the rise of the internet as we know it, let alone social media. And of course, that source book he draws from often from the Renaissance, that was published in 1508.

Even quoting Giddens isn't really that insightful. He's the fifth most cited author in the humanities.

Call me when Horning has something new and original to say which doesn't skip over 500 years of human history in order to make its points.
posted by hippybear at 12:43 AM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


And you know, now that I think about it a bit more... The fact that more of humanity has the spare time to theoretically engage in the supposed behavior that Horning puts forth... that's evidence of a major step forward out of subsistence living and serfdom that we've had as a dominant shape of life for most of human history. Granted, it's largely a first world phenomenon (just ask the Chinese peasant who has chosen to stay on his ancestral land rather than going to the city to look for a factory job), but it takes a certain amount of certainty and access to the products of technology before people can even begin to think about what version of themselves they put forward on social media as opposed to worrying about whether they have enough food stored to tide themselves and their family over from harvest to harvest.
posted by hippybear at 1:03 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Horning writes: "Neoliberal society is not consumer society. Neoliberalism doesn’t posit us all as passive, conformist consumers in thrall to mass culture and doomed to consume the surplus of mass-produced junk." Instead, it's active, entrepreneurial, creative, and innovative, even revolutionary. It's ironic that nasreddin wants to dismiss Horning because he seems like Adorno, a member of the Frankfurt School - while at the same time, his technoutopians tend to uncritically represent today's society as the monopoly capitalist society of the 50s in the vein of the Frankfurt School. Unlike Horning, they don't take into account the much more recent Foucaultian critique of neoliberal capitalism that breaks with the Frankfurt School and orthodox Marxist critique.


Ugh. Where did you get the idea that I "want people to dismiss Horning because he seems to like Adorno"? I want people to dismiss Horning because he's an empty suit and when you boil down his claim to what people actually experience when they live their romantic lives, it turns out to be a jumble of meaningless generalizations.

The "Foucauldian critique of neoliberal capitalism"? I don't know if you've been using the postmodernism generator or what, but this is probably the least accurate summary of Foucault I've ever seen. Foucault's critique may be a critique of liberalism-in the sense of a belief that constitutions, abstract rights, and so on are automatically more free and more productive of utopian outcomes. But neoliberalism, as long as we're still talking David Harvey here, is a product of the 1970s, a period Foucault wrote virtually nothing about.

Actually, I usually find "neoliberalism" is a term that's introduced most often in the leftist version of the get-off-my-lawn rant, and, once again, serves as a signaling device that shows that the author is a Serious Intellectual Concerned With Social Issues. With the possible exception of Harvey himself, I've yet to see its use produce any real enlightening effects in the context of an argument. It does, however, enable the kind of posturing at work in Horning's n+1 piece, where we are encouraged to alternately feel guilty and feel bad at being manipulated by the system through a deft and very common rhetorical trick that goes something like this:

1) First, you recapitulate Harvey and talk about mobility, capital flows, flexible production, blah blah blah.
2) Then you talk about some ideas that have been associated with the increasing abstraction and flexibility of capitalism in the last few decades.
3) GUESS WHAT, THING-YOU-ENJOY IS NEOLIBERAL BECAUSE OF 1) or 2)!
4) You should feel bad! You are now a willing accomplice to sweatshops! Neoliberalism is totally a unified, coherent concept that exists out there in the world! Participating in one aspect of neoliberalism is the same as embracing it completely! You are a slave to the Man!
5) Avoid mentioning that the only way not to participate in neoliberalism is to live in a cabin in Montana.
[ usually assumed: 6) Uh, the only solution, is, like, revolution, man! I'm not gonna do any clear-sighted analysis of the actual conditions and circumstances under which revolutions take place, but I got a hard-on for the Weathermen so you'll have to settle for a vague gesture. ]

Sometimes 3-5 are replaced with something like this:
3) I am a member of a privileged class of educated people, namely, academics. If you disagree with my blatantly self-serving claims on behalf of my occupational group and cognitive viewpoint, YOU ARE A NEOLIBERAL TOOL OF THE MAN! For only a dollar a day, YOU CAN DO YOUR PART TO STOP NEOLIBERALISM! Please send a check to my address.
4) Never mention the role your occupational group plays in the economic phenomena you're bemoaning.
posted by nasreddin at 1:22 AM on June 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


I inwardly cringe everytime I post something too personal on FB because an object of my affection may be judging.

And you should! Lots of people might be judging. That person you know who "overshares" on facebook is always one of the more embarrassing things to behold.

The point, however, is that one should maintain a certain level of awareness of what your social media interactions are, in the same way that you make sure not to get drunk at the office Christmas party. We make those sorts of etiquette decisions every day, regardless of whether Facebook exists or not.
posted by deanc at 5:08 AM on June 26, 2011


Chris Rock did this better.
posted by sciurus at 5:37 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The entire piece seems to rest on the cockamamie premise that romantic love is or at one time was "authentic," "genuine," "true," and "sincere," with no artifice, posturing, or socially constructed elements.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:41 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


FelliniBlank, I'm not sure that's true? To me, the piece seems to rest on the premise that in certain elite social circles, "authentic" emotions were spurned in favor of social conventions, and that today's social networking encourages its users to do the same. All the time and everywhere. I don't think that's cockamamie, although the fact that the word "cockamamie" is used so infrequently is, itself, cockamamie.

I'm not really getting the hate here. Horning thinks that the spread of social networking is giving rise to more widespread, constant management of identity; not that identity management is a newfangled thing, but the scale of it is.

I get that this may not be mindblowing. But I'm curious as to why it engenders such (what I read as) rage.
posted by davidjmcgee at 8:42 AM on June 26, 2011


authentic, risk-taking romantic love

Anytime anyone prattles on about "authentic" anything, you know they are full of shit. Where is he getting the definition of what is real or not real? Its all made up.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


We no longer count on a community to provide the context in which we can be recognized; we can be anywhere and continue to act like ourselves. Whereas the horizons of local familiarity once limited what we could imagine for ourselves, modern life has situated us in broader “abstract systems” — standardized ways of doing things and ubiquitous cultural reference points, universally recognized procedures and authorities.
...
Individuals are free to ascribe personal reasons for routines that were once “simply what is done.” We come to believe that we can control who we are to a far greater extent, so we try to master the social processes that shape us, dictating their outcome by administering carefully what we feed into them.


Horning seems to be arguing not just that we should be culturally aware when outside of my our communities, but that we should more fundamentally change (our presentation of) ourselves based on the norms of the people around us. In other words, not just that the self is influenced and partly created by the culture that we grow up in (of course), but that one is (or should be) in fact be a different person in different contexts (most people I know would describe such a person as fake). He laments what he sees as a trend toward standardization of culture worldwide since it limits this context-dependent being (or at least performance).

Horning ignores the class aspects of that standardized world culture, which is arguably the same as standardized European royalty culture in the Renaissance. That is, the economic/political elite have had a non-location-based shared culture since long before modern times. It so happens that a larger proportion of people in countries that are now first world are participating in that elite culture now.

He engages in some serious romanticizing of the innocent peasants / noble savages / whatever patronizing term you prefer of days gone by:

Spontaneity in that world was an unstudied responsiveness, the ability to fully inhabit one’s emotional responses within the relative security of small, sheltered world.

And he seems to be a proponent of the myth that lack of self-awareness and communication is somehow more loving:

Is it possible to monitor and deploy one’s feelings and still actually feel them?

Horning pulls out some quotes but doesn't seem to quite get his own inadvertent point that shared experience is the basis of community (as well as loving relationships), and that:

Shared experience is no longer local phenomenon but something that happens in virtual communities

He also ignores his own words here:

Social media becomes the site where autonomy struggles with anonymity, where social recognition struggles to remain uncommodifed

when arriving at his conclusion, and laments commodification of social interactions in the rest of his concluding paragraph, without any discussion of economics and the manner in which the economic systems we live under might influence the cultural structures with live under.

This is some sloppy cultural criticism, in a poorly written essay.
posted by eviemath at 9:06 AM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


(That second-to-last sentence should read, "the cultural structures we live under.")
posted by eviemath at 9:11 AM on June 26, 2011


. The sorts of cosmopolitan problems once reserved for Renaissance aristocrats now afflict nearly all of us. Like Castiglione’s courtiers, we are obliged to imagine that we can perfect ourselves in accordance with a social ideal generated in the abstract.

We? Nearly all of us? Really? Did this dude actually ask anyone? Do survey research. There's nothing more bankrupt and non-factually based than anything that tries to tell us who "we" are based on works of literature.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:14 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's nothing more bankrupt and non-factually based than anything that tries to tell us who "we" are based on works of literature.

What about things that try to tell us who "we" are based on Neolithic foraging practices?
posted by escabeche at 9:42 AM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it is more that who "we" are is not a factual matter.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:14 AM on June 26, 2011


An aside, but eugh god those Omnivore posts are worse than the try-hard link-everything noob posts you get around here. I've never been a fan of over-linked writing, but even then there's a right way to do it, which is to treat the link as footnote or optional commentary.

Suck, as ever, showed the way here; showed the web how to write, frankly.
posted by bonaldi at 11:09 AM on June 26, 2011


I think it is more that who "we" are is not a factual matter.


Facebookers are the ones we have been facebooking to....
posted by dongolier at 11:54 AM on June 26, 2011


nasreddin: But neoliberalism, as long as we're still talking David Harvey here, is a product of the 1970s, a period Foucault wrote virtually nothing about.

I'm referring to a series of lectures Foucault gave in '78 published as The Birth of Biopolitics. Despite the name, neoliberalism is the main topic, and he does use the term, apparently much earlier than David Harvey does. This was only published in English in 2008, so maybe people are still unaware of it.

I don't really know what to say about the rest of your comment. As I've said, the technoutopian view of the Internet that you apparently favor depends on the Frankfurt School critique of consumerist society, particularly Marcuse. If you don't think anything is wrong with modern society, what's the appeal of technoutopianism? And yet you try to discredit Horning by reframing his critique as snobbery and pushing Metafilter's buttons about criticizing other people's life choices. All to ensure that you don't feel guilty?

For me, the rage and desperate attempts at suppressing this line of thinking only confirms its relevancy to the present situation.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:18 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That new version might be the announcement of a new relationship, which is just as easily dissolved by the click of button should that choice be rendered unfashionable by the next upheaval. The problem today is not that we find it difficult to be sincere because we are constantly stage-managing our interactions. In a way, it's the opposite. The problem most people face is how to avoid being sincere, how to ensure that your statements aren't taken as real beliefs or commitments even while maintaining an air of passionate exuberance about what you are temporarily "totally in love with".
Where do you get the idea that this is what people actually do, except insofar as it's considered gauche to "overshare" on your facebook/twitter feed, in the same way you shouldn't talk about your digestion problems at a dinner party.
posted by deanc at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2011


And you should! Lots of people might be judging. That person you know who "overshares" on facebook is always one of the more embarrassing things to behold.

Why? Why is that sort of thing 'embarrassing'?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, Lovecraft in Brooklyn, they might be enjoying themselves.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:28 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, the rage and desperate attempts at suppressing this line of thinking only confirms its relevancy to the present situation.

Ah yes, the old "if they disagree with me, I must be right." As I recall, you've used that one before. Still not all that compelling.
posted by nasreddin at 11:43 PM on June 26, 2011


I'm referring to a series of lectures Foucault gave in '78 published as The Birth of Biopolitics. Despite the name, neoliberalism is the main topic, and he does use the term, apparently much earlier than David Harvey does. This was only published in English in 2008, so maybe people are still unaware of it.

Also, I'm sorry, but could there be anything more pretentious than gesturing vaguely at a "Foucauldian critique of neoliberal capitalism" while actually referring to a specific argument in a fairly noncanonical book? At the very least it's a bit uncharitable to your readers.
posted by nasreddin at 11:50 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, that was unnecessarily nasty.)
posted by nasreddin at 12:36 AM on June 27, 2011


LOL. Is that more pretentious than trying to show off your own intelligence by claiming to see the lack of substance behind other people's supposed intellectual pretensions? You want to call me out as a bullshit artist, accuse me of sounding like a postmodernism generator and then get mad because it turns out I'm not as stupid as you thought, and I should have included citations to stop you from embarrassing yourself? I could have hung your "Foucault expert" posturing around your neck if I wanted to, but I let it go because I'm civil, and for my trouble you want to come back with more insults? Do you even know when you've been beaten?
posted by AlsoMike at 11:52 AM on June 27, 2011


Can't you two take this to a medium that actually supports such a depth of dialogue. This medium renders everything flippant. Go get a beer together, or engage in a publication war, or just exchange emails for a few months. Seriously. There is no way through here to there. You two are just going to continue with the absolute minimum of evidence, and misread one another until the corn withers. Once you two finish then you can polish the debate and post it on the web. We'll read it. I promise.

Something about the internet makes every comment read as a Parthian shot.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:29 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


LOL. Is that more pretentious than trying to show off your own intelligence by claiming to see the lack of substance behind other people's supposed intellectual pretensions? You want to call me out as a bullshit artist, accuse me of sounding like a postmodernism generator and then get mad because it turns out I'm not as stupid as you thought, and I should have included citations to stop you from embarrassing yourself? I could have hung your "Foucault expert" posturing around your neck if I wanted to, but I let it go because I'm civil, and for my trouble you want to come back with more insults? Do you even know when you've been beaten?

I think your rage and desperate attempts at suppressing my line of thinking only confirm its relevancy to the present situation.
posted by nasreddin at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2011


I'm referring to a series of lectures Foucault gave in '78 published as The Birth of Biopolitics. Despite the name, neoliberalism is the main topic, and he does use the term, apparently much earlier than David Harvey does. This was only published in English in 2008, so maybe people are still unaware of it.

Ah, academic hipsterism....
posted by vckeating at 3:20 AM on June 29, 2011


« Older Germany’s season of angst: why a prosperous nation...  |  "'The dog lives in the present... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments