Tag Archives: Big Brother

Shock news: Post-modernist says something interesting

George Orwell's 1984If communication is the key to knowledge work, then why do people communicate like this:

We present immaterial labour 2.0 as an ambivalent modality of both biopower and biopolitical production, and as an exemplar of the paradigm shift underway in our interface with popular culture, media, and information and communication technology.

I had to stop and translate it word for word. Let’s assume that ‘immaterial labour 2.0’ means something: let’s call it ‘working with web 2.0 tools’. Ok, I’ve translated jargon into other jargon, but I do at least understand the second lot. So:

We present working with web 2.0 tools as an ambivalent modality of both biopower and biopolitical production … etc

I’m going to assume that ‘ambivalent modality’ means ‘a form that’s hard to pin down’. It may not, but let’s go with that for now:

We present working with web 2.0 tools as a form of both biopower and biopolitical production that is hard to pin down… etc

But what is ‘biopower’? Or ‘biopolitical production’?  It’s no surprise that a quick google uncovers Foucault. Wikipedia, bless it, says this:

Biopower was a term originally coined by French philosopher Michel Foucault to refer to the practice of modern states and their regulation of their subjects through “an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations.”

Ok… leaving aside that it’s defined as the increase in techniques and not the techniques themselves, we now have:

We present working with web 2.0 tools as a form of both the explosion of techniques for controlling people and biopolitical production that is hard to pin down, and … etc

The first and simplest definition of ‘biopolitical’ in Wikipedia is ‘the style of government that regulates populations through biopower (the application and impact of political power on all aspects of human life)’.

So this gives us:

We present working with web 2.0 tools as a form of control and subjugation of people by governments and other bodies that is hard to pin down, and as an exemplar of the paradigm shift underway in our interface with popular culture, media, and information and communication technology.

Actually that’s interesting!. Web 2.0 tools aren’t nice and friendly; they are the very stuff of Orwellian supervision? Mmmm.  Much the conclusion of Wiki vs Word (my previous post): the main differences is the audit trail which is the very stuff of accountability.  But why use the word ‘exemplar’ when you could say ‘example’?

We present working with web 2.0 tools as a form of control that is hard to pin down, and as an example of the sea change in how we use popular culture, media, and information and communication technology and how they affect us.

In other words: Big Brother is LinkedIn

No kidding. This is moderately interesting, expecially in the context of the work-place.  It has also taken me 45  minutes to translate a single paragraph and, of course, other meanings can be constructed.

Am I going to read the whole thing? Maybe I will, now I know what it’s about. But why write like that? It’s off-putting and it hides stuff which, on this occasion at any rate, is really interesting.

Anyway, here it is, for what it’s worth:

Learning to Immaterial Labour 2.0: MySpace and Social Networks
Mark Coté and Jennifer Pybus

Learning to Immaterial Labour 2.0:
MySpace and Social Networks
Mark Coté and Jennifer Pybus

PS – I still have no idea what the verb ‘to immaterial’ means.

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Weep, you’re on Candid Camera

1984Closed circuit tv is everywhere these days. I remember realising some time in 2002 or so that if I wanted a knee-trembler in a side-lane in London then I should be prepared for security guards to watch and replay. These days of course it would be the entire bloody Internet.

But what, I want to know, is the thinking behind putting a CCTV in a crematorium? What actual events which have taken place in crematoria would have been the better for the presence of CCTV? I’ve led a very sheltered life; maybe CCTV tapes from crematoria are turning up in court cases and insanity pleadings and judicial reviews every day of the week. Maybe people do vastly inappropriate things there all the time and CCTV is just one flimsy strand in an endless, hopeless fight against it. Perhaps it is just naive of me to assume that it is a thoughtless and lazy intrusion done in the name of mindless security, and who cares that it objectifies individuals at the time of their greatest grief?

It feels like prurient voyeurism hypocritically masked as deep concern. I found it disturbing. It clicked into place with a comment from James Poniewozik in Time Magazine about Virginia Tech, Web 2.0 and the web-enabled way in which the shock and the grief of the killings and the killings themselves are being experienced, both by those who were there and by the rest of us.

Yet technology also conferred a shroud of privacy amid the spectacle. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith noted seeing students silently text-messaging before the Tuesday memorial service. “It feels like there is an undercurrent of information being passed that doesn’t reach to our level but is remaining within the Virginia Tech family,” he said.

Good. These are people who have been as traumatised as is possible in the West, barring rape and war. Give them their privacy, for goodness’ sake!

There are issues clanking around in my brain with regards all this. Words like respect, privacy, objectification, de-personalising, de-humanising are all bumping in to each other. I am shocked by Smith’s comment, and shocked that he isn’t.

I don’t know where these thoughts are leading me. As I looked directly into the eye of the CCTV camera in the crematorium, I realised once again that this is one of the things I find disturbing about living in the future.

Big Brother or Web 2.0?

I cannot decide if the “Recent Readers” widget to the left of the page is really cool or really intrusive.

It’s a vital debate which interests me – community vs individualism – openness vs privacy. I dislike openly pleading for comments (me! me! my blog! me!) but I am curious to know what the netgeist is on this one, so please comment away.

Beauty and the Beasts – Big Brother again I’m afraid

Hopefully this will be my last post on the Big Brother Bullying thing. I saw very little of the actual programme, but thanks to YouTube I’ve seen gory snippets and the eviction interviews.


In her exit interview, Shilpa struck me as being prudent, diplomatic and politic. She had no idea what the British public thought of the bullying, no idea how supportive it was of its local stars. Sure, she’d won, but at that point of course she had not seen the whispering that went on behind her back, so she did not know just how unpleasant Danielle, Jo and Jade had been about her. This is not to say that she was not telling the truth in her interview, but I doubt that she was telling the whole truth. She struck me as someone who was behaving with extreme caution based on very few cues. I find her grace, self-possession and poise to be admirable.


By far the most illuminating thing Jade said in any of the three interviews I found on YouTube was “I don’t know any (no?) other way to fight”. The only way she knows to express disagreement is by screaming foul-mouthed abuse. I find that both shocking and plausible. It makes me feel sorry for her, but crucially I am sorry for her for different reasons than she is sorry for herself. If she does want to grow up then her starting place is right there. It depends on whether her “advisers” have the maturity themselves to hear what she said in that interview, and find appropriate professionals to help her. (I did find myself wondering just how badly she had pissed her agent off, to make him or her recommend Celebrity Big Brother to her. You can see the stitch marks all over this).

One other thing which was interesting though was she said that she had no idea that she was a leader. She said that she could see it in the videos, but she had not seen it in herself. It is just possible that in the right hands that could be used as the positive point to start building some self-respect and adult responsibility.

You see, Jade reminds me of a three-year-old, in particular in her interview with an obviously uncomfortable Dermot O’Leary and in an interview with an invisible News of the World interviewer. She kept on wailing how sorry she was, but her subtext appeared to be “I’m sorry, please like me, I’m sorry, please like me, I’m sorry, please like me.” She seemed to be eaten by insecurity rather than guilt. Now I don’t recommend guilt as an emotion, but it is at least the first step on the road to remorse on to responsibility and adulthood. She has now checked into the Priory with “depression”. I am sorry, but acute unhappiness is not depression. I’ve been in both spaces. They are very different. She is in the “Mummy make it go away” phase which – to be honest – one should have grown out of by the age of 9. Again, this is not to say that she isn’t honestly desperately miserable right now, but she seems incapable of accepting that the situation is of her own creation.

Danielle and Jo

Danielle and Jo show the self-awareness of logs, I am afraid. Or maybe they have just marginally more self-control and self-respect than Jade, and are simply not wailing all over the red-tops. Danielle did do a very whiny interview in the Mirror, saying that Big Brother hadn’t shown her being nice to Shilpa, unfortunately this was only after she had been told to shape up in the Diary Room, and she seems completely unaware that being nice does not wipe out being nasty. Incidentally, if Teddy Sherringham did decide to end their relationship while she was in the house, then he most certainly should not have said so in public. It just makes him seem as shallow and nasty as the long-legged shit-smelling beauty herself.

Jo I find the most interesting. She denies that she has done anything wrong, which shows that she is herself standing up to the bullying of the press and the other meedja.

Both Danielle and Jo said “I giggled because I was nervous” – so someone briefed them well before those interviews. Most people with nervous giggles have no idea they are doing it.

Ach, it’s all nasty, shallow and unpleasant. But plaudits for Shilpa who “had the grace to hold herself when those about her crawled”, and hold herself in a way which neither Marilyn nor Diana ever managed, for that matter.

I wonder if she’s a gay icon yet.

Jade Goody to be interviewed by police

Police to talk to Goody over ‘Big Brother’ racism row
Hertfordshire police said yesterday that they are trying to interview Jade Goody about allegedly racist comments aimed at Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty during her stint in the Big Brother house. So far the 25-year-old has been unavailable for the inquiry … There was further bad news for Goody when she accused of “legitimising” bullying in schools ….
The Independent
Also the BBC

I said that Channel 4 was thinking in legal terms not ethical ones. As another example, the editor of the News of the World waited to resign until after the jail sentance was handed out to his journo. No point in doing the decent thing if you can get away without it, is there?

It seems that today’s cynics know the laws about everything but have values about nothing.


Right and wrong, black and white

Channel 4 seem to be happy to broadcast what they term “cultural” and “class-based” bullying. It seems they did almost nothing to stop Jade Goody and the other housemates bullying Shilpa Shetty. This suggests to me that the reason that they wouldn’t broadcast “overtly racist behaviour” is because racist actions are illegal. If they are basing their decisions on what is and is not illegal, then they are ignoring questions of morality, ethics and human decency. I wonder, did they take the advice of Lawyers or did they go to their Public Relations people? Did they take anyone’s advice at all?

So why IS bullying ok when racism isn’t?

Racism and BullyingBullying and racism overlap in a venn diagram: not all bullying is racist and not all racism is bullying. So far, so obvious.

There are legal structures around racism, of course; racially motivated attacks in the UK carry greater sentences than mere thuggery and you are legally protected from racist bias in the workplace.

Presumably racist acts are illegal because it is relatively simple to legislate against them. After all, it is the action which is legislated against, not the attitude. It is racial, (or sexual or homophobic) discrimination which is illegal, not racism, sexism and homophobia. In all conscience, it is hard enough to prove discrimination in a court of law or a tribunal.

Racism is a prejudice that cannot speak its name. No-one in their right mind is going to stand up and say “I am a racist” – witness Mel Gibson’s retraction of his anti-Semitism last year. People will however ascribe the most appalling bigotry and prejudice to “cultural differences” and get away with it. Call me naive, but I fail to see why prejudice based on “cultural differences” is morally any better than racism. It is not as socially unacceptable, and it is not legislated against, but it is – surely – just as bad morally. Channel 4 has used this get-out-of-jail-free card itself, and allowed Jade Goody and the other housemates to use it, thereby perpetuating the pernicious myth that it is ok to express prejudice based on another person’s culture “because that isn’t racist”.

I really have to conclude that Channel 4 is morally bankrupt. It seems to me that the only reason they stepped in at all is that racial harassment and racial discrimination are illegal. If they weren’t illegal, I suspect that they would not have stepped in.

It seems that they do not know the difference between right and wrong, only the difference between black and white.

“Cultural Differences”

Can anyone explain to me why bullying someone because of “cultural differences” is acceptable, but racist bullying is not?

(I have – of course – got thoughts of my own, but no time right now to marshall them into coherency, let alone write them up.
I know and you know that I will be posting them as soon as I can though.)

Big Brother and the W.I.

I went to the WI last night. I’m not sure what the equivalent of the WI is in other cultures. I go because I like to belong to an organisation which slow-handclapped Tony Blair and one where middle aged women get naked for charity. The point about the Womens’ Institute, I guess, is that an organisation based on the solid virtues of rural life, feminine handicrafts and baking is an unlikely hotbed of such subversive activism. The other reasons are that I finally feel old enough, it is a pleasant way of meeting local people, and I like and respect middle aged and elderly rural women.

WI meetings are surprisingly formal. They start when the secretary reads the minutes of the previous meeting, and then there is a lot of business such as announcements about wine-tasting trips to local vineyards, pub quizzes and afternoon teas at other WIs. This all takes half an hour or so, maybe a little bit more. Then there is the entertainment for the evening. An Improving Talk. Last month we had a talk and a demonstration of stained glass making. This month the talk was entitled something like “musical memories”.

I found it boring, amusing, pleasant and rather sweet in more or less equal quantities. The speaker looked like Fester Addams, but had a palindromic wig which looked the same from the front and the back, and I spent a lot of the evening worrying that it would tip forward over his nose. He was in his 60s I’d have guessed, and he played us big band records from the turn of the previous century to the mid 1940s. Some of them were real toe-tappers, but of course we sat decorously, our hands in our laps. There was a soft murmur of talk through the records. It was an evening of gentle innocence. He struck me as a good man.

After the talk we ate cakes, drank tea and gossip, and I offered my help at the village gala next month, and then I made my escape. Virtuous womanhood can only go so far. When I got home, I settled down to watch Big Brother. I know that it is trite to draw a comparison between the honesty of our good-hearted and unpolished speaker and the cynical manipulations of Endemol who select shallow and vulnerable people, provoke them to mean-spiritedness and violence, place them in moral and ethical dilemmas, and prompt them into degrading themselves for money. It may be a trite comparison, but it is one I am going to draw nonetheless.

Every aspect of our life is full of actual or metaphorical E-numbers. We no longer like the honest and almost naive taste of reality, and instead prefer Reality TV.