Vectoralism: Content Isn’t King
Reminiscent of rentier capitalism or, even worse, absolute technocratic monarchism, we are increasingly finding that our interactions are mediated by platform economies, or what McKenzie Wark refers to as the vectoralist class37. I’ve adopted this term because it redefines the terms of the game. It seems that society is no longer operating according to capitalist rules, but something worse, and even more extractive. Vectoralism tracks the space of possibility. It annihilates the familiar concepts of ownership and property which capitalism is predicated upon. To retrieve or access a good or service for a reasonable price it is now temporarily leased as a service; vectors of access are monopolized by those that operate the infrastructure, protocols, and applications by which we have historically interacted and transacted in an unsurveiled peer-to-peer marketplace. By driving a wedge in between our social interactions to mediate our economies and social lives these private entities are able to learn intimate knowledge about us and siphon off a rentier tax from our labor, property, and interactions without any of the risk or responsibility to the commons. Contemporary power works as an environmental form of pre-emption; it is perpetually produced, monitored, refactored, and presupposed.
Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has infamously said that “software is eating the world”38 and unfortunately it seems to be hungry to replace democracy’s checks and balances with something that runs more efficiently. Vectoralists envision governance models where citizenship is relegated to the status of a user. Using computer networks this vision aims to circumvent nation-states granting of rights and supplant them with privileges and permissions managed by remote administration. In addition to physical walls, their prototypes are augmented with paywalls to access sites, services, and goods by embedding software and sensors into everything. The platform operates as the proxy layer through which all transactions are coordinated. Typically obscured under the auspices of ‘sharing’ and ‘convenience’ the actual subtext signifies the end of ownership.
︎ Refer to Appendix A3 for ancillary musical, historical, and technical details
[Zuckerberg Family: How to Train Your Dragon, 2018. Image Credit: Facebook]
Allow me to position this in the neo-feudal aesthetic framework of the compositions written for Of Strings and Kings. The task of the class of lords & scribes (managers, programmers) is to cultivate, legitimize, and reify the knowledge systems of the kingdom (company, platform). These scribes take direction from the monarchic technocrats (CEOs) presiding over the kingdom and its wealth (data, software, infrastructure, capital) from which the serfs (users, netizens) temporarily lease from the fiefdom. The court jesters’ and minstrels’ (the creative class) role is to entertain the kingdom’s inhabitants and hypostatize absolute power through aesthetics (streaming content, marketing, branding, PR).
37 "The Vectoralist Class - e-flux journal 56th Venice Biennale." http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/the-vectoralist-class/
38 "Why Software Is Eating the World – Andreessen Horowitz" https://a16z.com/2011/08/20/why-software-is-eating-the-world/