Due by midnight Tuesday, November 3rd (300-350 words).
In her essay “Whatever Blogging,” Jodi Dean (2013:169) articulates the “new modes of community and new forms of personality anticipated by the dissolution of inscriptions of identity through citizenship, ethnicity, and other modern markers of belonging.” Choose at least two examples used by Dean to elaborate on this notion of “whatever being” and the form of communicativity that it points to.
I will start with the new forms of community as I look, and find that there is a vast amount of gentrification around where I was born and raised, and the new craze is “Brooklyn”. People have a need to belong, and when they are part of a new community and have called it home; although they have “no mileage” they will claim it as a representation of who they are, and for that matter that they have always been. Therefore the “whatever being” term is when people see “whatever” they belong to at the moment, as being the identity that they’ve formed on who they have become. It is funny to me when I see a person born and raised in the mid-west and come to move in a community like Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn; they now represent Bed-Stuy and are attending Brooklyn Nets games, wearing Brooklyn logoed clothing and opening restaurants and shops with the tag “Made in Brooklyn”, when they don’t know anything about its history, its stories or people who called the borough home for many years since birth. Therefore, “whatever” is wherever I am, or whatever I do that I represent, I am a part of its community and its following. The same holds true with it comes to internet blogging. I find that bloggers tend to focus on the less important things and form opinions on that of which are trending and have the audience’s attention, that makes for a less than meaningful discussion in order to feel like part of a discussion of a story and or being a part of a group who has an opinion, even if it’s not that important.
The essay “Whatever Blogging” by Jodi Dean discuses the forms of communicativity through the continued use of media, specifically blogging. She explains the notion that by participating in social media sites and engaging by posting, adding, and sharing we are not really formulating a sense of being. She speaks of “whatever being” as a term that describes those who attempt to connect online to anyone who will listen, however has an interaction that asserts a more of a “whatever” attitude. The word “whatever” expresses indifference and Dean believes that although it is not completely ignoring the situation or the words spoken, there is no real relevance for obligation felt for a response to be given. She explains the notion of “belonging” and the writers/bloggers attempt to connect through these social media channels.
Dean also discusses Buck-Morss view on the manipulation and influence of cinema to the masses. Dean looks at mass media as an influence however sees bloggers as “individuals who invite singular readers to consider what they have to offer” (175) Mass media unites people into beings, where bloggers do not. She believes that within social media there is this sense of no identity. It is a morphed, commitment –free, fragmented reality of one’s self. Dean does not see blogging as a space for connectivity that creates a sense of unity or a grander sense of belonging.
In her essay “Whatever Blogging,” Jodi Dean (2013:169) articulates the “new modes of community and new forms of personality anticipated by the dissolution of inscriptions of identity through citizenship, ethnicity, and other modern markers of belonging.” There are a few examples given by Dean that elaborate on her notion of the “whatever being” throughout the article. One prime example is the use of the word whatever. The word whatever in English and in the United States is used as a way of dismissing ones feelings and words spoken as seen in the article “I’m George W. Bush, leader of the free world. I want to bomb Iraq. And when the says, “no!” I say, “whatever!” Saddam has started to meet our demands. Yeah, Whatever.” In the current state of our society we feel confortable to shove aside even the direst of situations with simple puns and words as if to belittle them in order to diminish the affect of important current events. From small children, to adults, to those holding important positions within our nations capital, we have all accepted the evasive meaning of the word whatever “ it acknowledges communicativity through deflection of the communicative effort.” There are many words and phrases used in the English language mainly in the U.S that are used as a form of control for the masses. There are also many mainstream forms of consumption that have altered the advancement of certain minority groups within our society. As Dean explains in the article, one major way of controlling and selling dreams to the masses has been the cinemas and the movies and dreams that they have sold through imagery “Monumental stars, awesome production numbers (Busby Berkeley) and special effects (King Kong), and luxurious lifestyles captivated Depression-era audiences and attempted to channel their desire toward fantasies of consumption.” Hollywood has used the media to try and change the face and meaning of many different aspects of our culture. Using movies to in an attempt to brighten and make light of the struggle of the everyday person and worker. Media consumption has been in heavy use in our country to make certain individuals forget about important current events. Take for example our current problem with police brutality and gun control. Important current events currently thrown into the “whatever being” state of mind with downplayed words coming from the media. It is not only the news channels but also every other form of media thrown in the mix in an attempt to dilute a main agenda.
In Jodi Dean’s essay “Whatever Blogging”, she discusses the term “whatever being” and how it points to a form that “acknowledges communicativity through the deflection of the communicative effort.” One example that she used to explain this is how the word “whatever” is similar to Herman Melville’s Bartleby’s response “I would prefer not to” when he was given a task or instruction to do. He recognized that a sender delivered a message to communicate, but when he said he would prefer not to, he brought the power back to himself and “asserted himself as what matters.” When someone says “whatever”, it sends that message that the receiver of the message was aware of communicative being. It serves as an utterance that neither affirms nor rejects.
Another example that she used is the word cloud. According to Dean, “Word clouds aren’t revolutionary. They are elements of communicative capitalism, elements that reinforce the collapse and meaning and argument and thus hinder argument and opposition.” Word clouds are similar to “whatever” in a way that when it is used as a response, it sends a message that the receiver of the message acknowledges that the word exists and that it has appeared. Just like “whatever”, word clouds do not take positions: meaning they do not accept nor reject. It is like the representation is there, but the meaning/understanding is lost.
Another way that “whatever being” is explained in this essay is through our “networked interactions of communicative capitalism” as we follow different trends (such as fashion, advices, etc), join groups in social media networks, create blogs, sign petitions, post our comments or opinions, etc. We then become the “whatever beings” as we take on and collect different identities without forming symbolic identities.
In “Whatever Blogging” Jodi Dean makes a case that the instruments of the web, particularly blogging and social media lead to a flattening of identity and a general collective apathy. It is not an emotional apathy she describes, but an apathy of effect. Investment in the fate of civilization or government accountability is reduced to participation in spaces that are both part of the whole and a product of it. The individual is subsumed as part of the mass, conforming to its structural norms regardless of their form of expression. The result is a world devoid of true individuality engaging instead in a sort of kabuki theater of individual expression. In being about whatever their authors wish, blogs in particular (and social media by extension) operate in a limbo of meaning everything and nothing all at once.
Dean parses the arguments of Giorgio Agamben and Dominic Pettman in describing “whatever being.” This state of transitive existence dismisses traditional markers of identity such as nationality, cultural group or political orientation in favor of personal exceptionalism. This exceptionalism, however, is inherently depersonalizing because it values being seen, heard, felt and remembered over being oneself. It concedes a sense of validation to the mass rather than discerning one’s value through internal processes. Even resistance falls into a dialectic of power reification when it happens online as all that is actually occurring is that a thing is being said, rather than that structures are changing.
From what I can infer, Dean is writing in 2009, approximately, as her descriptions of the use of Twitter sound fairly primitive and her descriptions of the blogosphere hearken back to a time that seems to have already passed. While she seems generally dismissive of authentic transgression on the web or through the web, she is writing before the Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter movements took shape as organized, but generally unexpected attacks on societal hierarchy and entrenched inequity. Information about these direct actions largely spread online in the social media and blogosphere and shifted conversations on issues of control. She is also writing before the revelations of Edward Snowden on the mass state surveillance campaign of the NSA, which made many users question the stewardship of their providers, portals and government in accessing and managing their personal information. The Snowden revelations served as a reminder that even in a mass world, the impressions of personalization are sufficient enough representations of people to establish their identity.
Dean also mentions, as many authors have, the merger of public and private life brought about by communicative capitalism. Consumption, participation and creativity are a unified state of being. The blogosphere is not a separate reality, she holds, but “instead [they] extend out from, amplify, and reflect on whatever aspect of whatever life” (2013:177). My sense, however, is that the distinctions between one’s public and private world have always been mostly imaginary, at least within the scope and lifespan of capitalism. Private life reproduced capitalism’s ethics, hierarchical relationships, and consumptive imperative just as much as public or professional life. They have always existed in a dialectical relationship with even resistance no more or less than a reinforcement of power or redistribution of access to the same systems of dominance from certain groups to others.
Finally, Dean’s critique of the word cloud seems to be a bit of a straw man argument. The word cloud is not meant to imply or speculate on meaning. It is, as she says, simply a descriptive tool to visualize word choice. It seems its utility will be principally as a linguistics dataset rather than a way of divining what matters. I don’t think this quite meets the definition of the whatever being Dean is decrying and almost weakens or overextends her argument, particularly as a conclusion.
In Jodi Dean’s essay, “Whatever Blogging,” she speaks about “new modes of community and new forms of personality anticipated by the dissolution of inscriptions of identity through citizenship, ethnicity, and other modern markers of belonging.” The idea of “whatever being” is described by Pettman as “an enactment of existence without qualities, or at least qualities so interchangeable and obvious that they erase all identity” (169).
To grasp it better, the term “whatever” that is commonly used in our culture, is one that is used to avoid confrontation. An example of this being the pop-punk song called “Whatever” made by Liam Lynch. He uses a George W. Bush impersonation and yells out lyrics: “I’m George W. Bush, leader of the free world. I want to bomb Iraq. And when the world says, “no!” I say, “whatever!” Saddam has started to meet our demands. Yeah, whatever”(170). This shows how the word “whatever” can be seen as a resistance and refusal to accept what has been told. Not only does it show a refusal but it also makes it difficult for another to fully understand the message that is given. This term gives very little awareness as to what the message is sending out, making it difficult for us to make something of it.
Another example that helps to show this sense of “whatever being” is mass media. It’s the fact that today we are communicating with friends and strangers; however what we post is unique to us. Although what we post is different from others, other users have the ability to find us and in a way, consume what they want from our profile. If they don’t like what they see, they move on from it. They resist looking further because they don’t like what they see or can’t relate to it. Bloggers and regular people that post on social media sites do not have to conform to a set way of running their profile or belong to a certain category.
The word, “whatever,” in its popular use as a response today, denotes no preference or commitment to what has been stated. It does not quite ignore the statement since it acknowledges that it has been heard. But there is no gesture to attend to the message, so it remains unaddressed, undermining the sender’s position. Jodi Dean compares the utterance, “whatever,” to the famous response of Bartleby in Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener.” When asked by his employer to perform tasks, Bartleby would say, “I prefer not to.” His answer has often been seen as the resistance of capital control. Yet by refusing to refuse, he has acknowledged the request and stated his preference – he prefers not to comply with the request. He has preferences and they matter to him. In contrast, Dean states, “The term ‘whatever’ asserts no preference. It neither affirms nor rejects. And it doesn’t expose the subject as a desiring subject to whom something matters.” (170) Dean describes “whatever beings” as those who communicate for the sake of communication, without worrying too much about what they are saying. She speaks of their sense of “belonging” but not to anything in particular. The act of belonging is what is important, not to what one belongs to. The blogger’s purpose is to connect to someone, anyone, everyone. And while often trivial, there is bound to be someone who is interested in whatever the blogger is saying. As Dean says,” Every aspect of the ordinary and everyday matters to someone –for like a second (175).
Dean elaborates on the ways that mass media communicates with society in highlighting Susan Buck-Morss’s Dreamworld and Catastrophe. In it Buck-Morss points out how easy it is to manipulate the masses through cinema. During the Depression, Hollywood and the Soviet cinema presented film in starkly different ways. Both affirmed the culture that they wanted to preserve while denying their reality. Hollywood presented huge spectacles depicting luxurious lifestyles that “captivated Depression-era audiences and attempted to channel their desire toward fantasies of consumption.” (173). Soviet films idealized production and glorified collective projects. Both spoke to their own masses with their own messages. Blogs, on the other hand, do not address the masses and do not bring people together. Contrarily, Dean says, “[blogs] not only do not create such a space for a mass body but dissolve any sense of it.” (175)
November 3, 2015
In the chapter titled “Whatever Blogging” Jodi Dean explores the new forms of personality that have emerged through our participation in blogging. She states that the essence of this new form of personality erases all qualities, or “qualities so interchangeable and obvious that they erase all identity” (p.129). However, she emphasizes that “whatever being” is not to be confused for indifference, but that it’s rather an active effort to not prioritize which set one belongs to. She writes, “What matters is belonging, not that to which one belongs” (p.130). In this way, the “whatever being” rather than agreeing or resisting a label, is merely acknowledging communication.
One example that Dean uses to elaborate on this idea is cinema and how the effects of it in national identities compare to the identities formed by networked communications. She argues that cinema steered the attention, and location of spectators in efforts to produce a collective mind. “The unity of the screen produces out of the disunity of persons a singular audience that can see and recognize itself as a collective” (p.132). The production of a common culture was its purpose. Contrastingly, she argues that networked communications “do not provide broadly shared symbolic identities from which we see ourselves” (p.134) thus what they produce through its multiplicity are subjects that view themselves as particularities.
Another example that Dean uses to illustrate the notion of “whatever being” is the turbulent state of contemporary networked communications. Through multiple subjects sharing their location, their moods, and pictures continuously, what is trending is constantly changing at a very fast pace. This then produces a stance of “I don’t have to settle on any one direction or theme. I can live in the momentary” (p. 134). In this way, blogs are not a platform for the creation of a mass identity but rather displaces mass identity and allows the subject to remain in what Dean calls “a kind of permanent indecision or postponement, a lack of commitment” that neither attacks nor resists.
Hybrid Assignment 8
In Jodi Dean’s essay she elaborates on the notion of “whatever being” as a new form of personality which is described as an individual without a sense of belonging towards a specific category. The term “whatever being” was formed from the word “whatever” which is an extremely common word used today among Americans. The word “whatever” is said as a response to express indifference, such as not willing to accept nor refuse. From my understanding of Dean’s essay, she expands this concept and the form of communicativity by explaining the comparison of the different ways digital media plays a role in our experiences
Dean uses an example from the response of Herman Melville’s Bartleby, (which I have previously read for a different class) when the scrivener calmly responds “I’d rather not” when the lawyer asks him to complete a task. The lawyer is so startled by his response that he doesn’t know how to react to the scrivener’s response. According to Dean, “whatever” resembles the response of the scrivener. Although “I’d rather not” is an unacceptable answer from a worker to a “boss”, the lawyer does not let the scrivener go and tries to get answers to his strange behaviors. That itself could have been a good reason for the lawyer to let him go, however he does not. Bartleby continues to answer saying “I would prefer not to”, but the lawyer wishes that Bartleby would tell him anything. According to Dean, “His answer affirms the intelligibility of the request even as it challenges the normative expectations informing it.” Bartleby is a subject with preferences, and these preferences must be attended to.
The essay by Jodi Dean, “Whatever Blogging” explains how we interpret the term “whatever” in society. “Whatever” it is often assumed as a sign of indifference. It is assumed or interpreted from one’s point of view. On the other hand, As Jodi explores how “new modes of community and new forms of personality anticipated by the dissolution of inscriptions of identity through citizenship, ethnicity, and other modern markers of belonging”, could be that it refers the “whatever being” as the information that turns into “ communicative capitalism”. As an example, Jodi states that “ Communicative capitalism facilitates and incites these attempts, employing ever-innovative upgrades to ensure not just the attempts continue but that they accelerate”(180), meaning that they are the main commodities being exchanged. On the other hand, another point that Jodi exposes in her essay is when she says that same way in which blogs serves as a way to informs us it is a way of communicative capitalism. This is referring to the same way that Buck-Mors argues about the imaginary space that cinemas are supposed to create. Jodi states that “ blogs- standing in for the networked information and entertainment media of communicative capitalism- not only do not create such a space for a mass but dissolve any sense it”. We are often caught up with the idea that we are only sharing with close acquaintances and friends or others, who share similar interests. We tend to share, like, and try to access blogs that interest ones desire. Obviously, things have evolved ever since, attention was once centered on mass media radio, cinema where messages were delivered through this sources, but now focus is mainly exposed to social media, it is here where the “whatever being” is centered at.