July 24th, 2016

San Diego Comic Con

First, my friend J.'s rumor that Tower of Terror was going to be re-done as something else has turned out to be true:


I will be visiting a few months too early to experience it. Hopefully, I'll return sooner than a decade the next time I go after that.

Second: Oliver Stone on Pokemon Go! It's totalitarianism. Well, because I think calling something totalitarianism is a reflex for Stone.


I don't think you can summarize something that incoherent, but as near as I can tell, the logic mashup goes something like this:

Google is big, new and scary and growing super fast. Google does data mining. [Gap in logic.] Pokemon Go! is surveillance capitalism that loses money now but will make money later by following you everywhere and figuring out what you want and then manipulating your behavior through luring you. That is totalitarianism.

Let's contemplate the definition of totalitarianism:


So, basically, central control, gotta follow the rules, we don't give a shit what you think or want or whatever. In other words, if Pokemon Go! and surveillance capitalism work by figuring out what you want and then luring you with it, it would seem to be the exact _opposite_ of totalitarianism.

Let's have a quickie look at "surveillance capitalism" (perpetrator of this term was NOT on the panel, as near as I can tell, which is a pity, because that back-and-forth could have been entertaining):


Ironically, where google and most other people who are getting tagged with this derogatory term seem to think they are giving people what they want in a personalized/customized way, Zuboff and (possibly) others instead frame it this way:

"It is constituted by unexpected and often illegible mechanisms of extraction, commodification, and control that effectively exile persons from their own behavior while producing new markets of behavioral prediction and modification."

All I can say is, if your Self is so incoherent that someone giving you what you want causes you to feel disconnected from Who You Are, well, wow. I feel bad for you. That sounds painful. But that is not how it works when people give me what I want.

I do recognize that Pokemon Go! is causing people to get more exercise than they otherwise might have. This raises a bunch of questions about prioritization of basic needs that I find fascinating. But it does not make me think that anyone has been "exiled" from "their own behavior". It's more along the lines of turning the alphabet into a fun song and then singing it relentlessly with very high affect as a pre-literacy learning activity disguised as a Fun Game. Did the kiddo really WANT to learn the alphabet?

Does anyone fucking care? And how many of those kids, once grown up, feel exiled from their own behavior because they can now read?

Also, what _precisely_ is the difference between FiestaWare, Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia volumes, grocery store tokens, frequent flyer miles, Dorothy Sayers' fictional "whiffling" campaign, and Pokemon lures bought by businesses to draw in customers? I mean, other than, it's a virtual good instead of a physical good. No one went around saying that frequent flyer miles was totalitarianism. (You know, I haven't done a definitive search. Hmmm.)

ETA: Also, most of us _have_ actually figured out that you can say no to free stuff. We walk past free food on trays at the grocery store. We drive past free used furniture by the side of the road. We decline to use rewards cards. We tell the cashier that the next person in line can have those little stamps for loyal customers. We "opt out" of promotional emails and online coupons. We don't apply for every damn store card offered to us in exchange for some percentage off of today's bill. Etc. If the concern is that we are given free stuff to manipulate us because we can't say no to free, well, some people do have that problem and we probably should help them with that, but that's no reason to put a stop to the freebies more generally. If anyone has read the Zuboff article and can figure out how this is argued:

"Surveillance capitalism challenges democratic norms and departs in key ways from the centuries long evolution of market capitalism."

I'm curious to know, but not can't quite bring myself to read an entire article written in a style resembling that extract. I know a decent amount about the rise of political machines, and about the many and varied tricks used to attract custom. I don't see any "key way" in which either google or Pokemon Go! departs from "market capitalism".

ETA: Ugh. It is even worse than I thought. This really is right up there with that website I poked fun at for saying "scientists" in 1668 thought baker's yeast was a bad idea for health reasons. Look, if you want to create an argument, you really should not just take random other complaints, misunderstand them, and then patch them together. It isn't compelling. It is incoherent and annoying.