Friday, October 16, 2009

New and Noteworthy (McCalmont on "Heroic Slavery," Steampunk Politics, Post-Medium Publishing)

In today's edition:

* Jonathan McCalmont's latest "Blasphemous Geometries" column over at Futurismic, in which he discusses the value system embedded in many of the best-known games in the first-person shooter, an additional comment about which he has posted on his personal blog, Ruthless Culture.

The heart of his argument is that in video games (as other observers, including Thomas Frank-who is cited in the piece-have pointed out about a great deal of other contemporary culture), we get an outrageous, even rebellious-seeming surface, underlain by the acceptance or even promotion of conservative or conformist values (from consumerism-as-the-essence-of-individualism to a Hobbesian world-view). As McCalmont rather elegantly puts it, these games present
man as little more than a beast: a blend of Hobbesian savage and PCP-fuelled homo economicus who can unleash unspeakable and unrepentant violence in service of his own desires, but who would never seek to question either the system he is a part of or his ultimate involvement in it.
* Over at (for which October 2009 is steampunk month), Vernian Process founder and Gilded Age Records cofounder Joshua Pfeiffer discusses differing treatments of the sociopolitical side of steampunk (which I think deserves as much attention as the sociopolitical side, and have devoted some time to myself).

* By way of M.C. de marco, Paul Graham's essay on "Post-Medium Publishing," which wrestles with a problem raised by, among others, Cory Doctorow-namely that (as he put it in "Happy Meal Toys Versus Copyright," downloadable as part of the Content collection available on his web site) an
"information economy" can't be based on selling information. Information technology makes copying information easier and easier. The more IT you have, the less control you have over the bits you send out into the world. It will never, ever, EVER get any harder to copy information from here on in. The information economy is about selling everything except information.
Which of course leaves us wondering-where do we go from here? As you might expect, Graham doesn't have any answers, but he does have some ideas about what an answer might look like.

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