28 min read

Getting Noticed: On Platform Capitalism, Creator Economies and Web3

How is 'the creator economy' in any way different from 'the regular economy'?

// This is my first dispatch from 'Republic Of Bob'. Down on the plains today it's cool and overcast. The distant mountains and high dreaming clouds, set against a sky of brilliant azure, beckon me forth. I'm hungry, lost, and oddly hopeful.

Pasta: An only semi-coherent ramble about online visibility, the impossibility for new artists to be discovered online and "What on digital earth are people that don't already have millions of social media followers on social supposed to do" - shortly after joining ghost.org.

Ok.. but what damn audience? Standard Neoliberal internet ideology via ghost.org

From 2015 to 2023 I ran a crap wordpress.com site, and got so few views for 'my'™ art and philosophical commentary I became severely existentially-depressed. Admittedly I wasn't thinking about Art, just being desperate for friends and attention. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words, crafted several gigabytes of images and spent a load of health-damaging effort. "Build it and they will come"? Bollocks, more like.

The overall (Net) response was a mere handful of throwaway comments, spread out like butter over the years. It felt like living in a desert under exile with vanishingly few visitors. You stared at the fine red dust which regularly accumulated under your fingernails. In short, it was all one giant 'Meh'.

My Reddit Effect Moment: "Fascinating, Rambling, Deranged"

One day Reddit once picked up on my work; I got a 'good' review, I guess?

Fascinating, Rambling, Deranged: The Reddit Effect

This resulted in a grand total of 150 views - my site's peak. A whole 150; now we're cooking!

Peak Stats on Wordpress

At some point I articulated the feeling of my Peak Internet Blues: "Trying to create art online is like pissing into your own stale wind." (Excellent artist and indie gamedev Nathalie Lawhead expresses a similar sentiment.) A darkly laughable, cosmic-scale waste of time. But, as I said, I wasn't even really thinking about art, I was just lonely. Turns out I also had everything ass-backwards; it's not merely that we feel lonely online, but rather the Net itself is the very loneliness in our lives.

Hauntology comic scene: the internet nobody even missed?

I send out countless emails (well, dozens at least) to supposedly-fellow artists, writers, publishers - trying to get them to chat, collaborate - do anything other than vaguely shake their head in awkward social embarrassment at this oddball UK rando. They'd often say, "Hey I really like your um Blog Stuff", or "I appreciate your comments about my own super cool work" - but would then immediately end up silently shrugging their (suddenly lead-heavy) shoulders at any suggestion of working with me in any true capacity.

That is to say, if there wasn't any instant possibility for them to advance their own careers and-or Ego; when they realized I simply wasn't remotely famous or cool in any way - especially not as cool as they were. All too soon I'd be left to spin in the dark, silently howling gales of well-practiced digital indifference. Quietly dropped off the email contact radar faster than a Nigerian Prince.

I understood their reticence to engage with some not-internet-famous stranger. Mostly. Yet often as not there was an arrogant undercurrent at work: Why Should I Bother With You When It Doesn't Directly Benefit Me As A Supahot Capitalist Content Creator? Not that I wasn't also jealous of their talent and success; not that I wouldn't have given anything to be as rich and cool and famous - even if they weren't quite as amazing as they actually were. Or imagined.

What did stand out in our brief online interactions, was that these fellow human nobody-really artists were not only surprised at my reaching out at all, they somehow felt actively threatened by my presence. Like urban dwellers who freak out at the mere notion someone might ever knock on their door, say Hi in passing - let alone spontaneously arrive with a delicious and friendly Vegan pot roast. One could in fact argue the Net has successfully split people up (/further) into digital classes, amazingly petty synthetic distinctions about Who's In / On and Who's Out more important than ever. Here's several combined old posts about artistic collaboration:

(There were a few artists I spoke to that did give me more than the semi-polite time of day. One of which was the mighty Ray Ogar, whom I admire to this day. A great writer and creator of strange images. Check that guy out.)

Update: A Brief Chat With Glasgow Based Artist Ellie Harrison.

On 11/08/2023 Robert What wrote:

Dear Ellie
Hi. Thanks for your reply.
Was wondering if the Neoliberalist de-evolution of the web (into paywall fiefdoms, Twitter-esque hellsites, near-future Web3 crypto-bro speak etc.) had negatively affected your own work or approach to art? It seems much of the art you create, engage with and-or 'provoke' is community based - Real World based. (You actually get to shake hands and 'touch grass' as they say on-nets.)
Whereas, whatever it is I think I've been doing so far seems entirely Online, all the time. Perhaps this is why I've (so far) entirely failed to create anything whatsoever but networked indifference; one giant 'meh'. Total Digital Alienation seems my entire psychic online profile - and I'm sure the same goes for many who dare make this non-place (utopia) their primary 'home' and focus.
That is, my whole approach so far has been to assume I can somehow successfully 'make it' (make art? make money? intellectually engage with interesting cultural ideas?) if only I can 'make the Happy Internet Pixels dance in just the right way' and thereby somehow gain a foothold on the Web. I suspect am an idiot (the original ironic definition of course being 'someone who does not engage with their wider Community.) Perhaps my common situation is akin to "The Glasgow Effect" but never getting Offline for some reality, for real communal, collectivist art - the internet as an entire Glasgow of the mind..?
Anyhow. Just thinking out loud. L8ers

Ellie Harrison responded:

Hi Robert,
Thanks for your message and sorry for the delay replying.
Although I do spend a lot of time in front of my laptop (writing emails, and doing social media posts for the many projects/campaigns I'm involved in), my primary focus is definitely engaging with real people in the real world. And I would definitely recommend it if you want to avoid total digital alienation.
My 'The Glasgow Effect' project was all about forcing myself to engage with local people in the city where I live, and now - 7 years on - I'm still working on many of the projects I began that year. It was about trying to create a sense of belonging to a place, and carving out a meaningful existence there, but using my creative skills to effect social change, locally.
I hope that helps you to think about an find new ways of working.
Best of luck with it.

Gee, thanks. My philosophical response to this email is one of confusion, anger and frustration. It's not really to do with anything Ellie Harrison said. It's just that I can't help but regard such amazingly bland, sapless responses - of which I've received many over the years - as fit to bursting with Information Content Zero. That is, it feels as if Proper Artists are hell bent on unceasingly playing the Save Ass game; unconsciously terrified to say anything, lest they say anything at all. (As though this might affect their Internet-Social Share Price, or something; offend some influential Board Of Cultural Directors whose Damoclean sword they worth under.)

Did she take what I asked about 'Neoliberalist de-evolution of the web' to really mean I was merely interested in her use of email? What bearing does The Artist Ellie Harrison 'using her creative skills to effect social change, locally' have on those artists making a utopia (non place) of the Internet? Perhaps it was simply the case of my 'question' or thinking-out-loud style wasn't remotely clear enough. Perhaps (therefore) my responder was simply being polite in replying back with the most generic, boilerplate reply, copied and pasted direct from their manager's Artist's Statement.

I'm reminded of my time living in Germany (Kurtz: "Seems a thousand centuries ago".) I once asked a good friend of mine if the beautiful landscape we'd just witnessed at Sunset, had somehow made them think about The Future Of Humanity. The bullshit reply I got back made me fucking wince. I'm paraphrasing: "Um yeah, maybe if we, er, got together and stopped being so mean to each other then, er, we can survive.." Pathetic. They might as well not have bothered. I thought "Gee. Another vital contribution to All American philosophy."

It was though my friend was a sociopath, pseudo-desperately trying and instantly failing to half-pretend to bother responding 'as if they were remotely human', with an answer that 'gave the laziest, least possible scientifically detectable impression that the person responding wasn't really a soulless, mindless droid with a human skin.'

Of course, maybe the problem is simply me; A LACK OF EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATION. If I trained myself in Modern Artist Speech than fellow creatives would open up to me in a way that didn't seem entirely dismissive, arbitrary, calculated, casual, offhand, barely thought out - as though one is simply just another minor pebble on another's apple-white spiritual path to artistic fame, fortune and infinite self importance. (In short, the Neoliberal prerogative at work.)

Despite my laughably low sample rate, I'm secretly beginning to suspect there's no such thing as 'my fellow (/internet) artist. I'm starting to internalize Thatcher's sage advice that there are only atomized individual actors (Content Creators? Creator Economists?) with zero connections between them. I also feel that I've no voice under such a system. That, only if I acted like one of those clout chasing pricks on Social Media would anyone ever pay me attention / pay me what I imagine I'm worth (incidentially, that's $8B in modern Capitalist Artistic Business terms and not a cent more or less. Wouldn't want to appear greedy.)

'How To Get Started In The Creator Economy': a response

[..] some people write about cyberspace as though it were a 60′s utopia. in reality, this is not true
- Carmen Hermosillo - pandora’s vox: on community in cyberspace

So here I am now on Ghost.org - this apparently amazing, bleach-fresh smelling platform. (The name is oddly telling. To paraphrase Karl Heinrich Marx: A spectre is haunting the Internet - the spectre of Capitalism.) Yet riddle me this, dear fellow Researchers of all things Internet. How is 'the creator economy' in any way different from 'the regular economy' - from standard corporate 'Content Creator' rhetoric? One suspects we already know the answer. (I mean, is it not the actual case that Mark Sugarborg himself is a crude inhuman representation of his Metaverse avatar, rather than the other way around?) A quick rundown of the current buzzwords at play in this bizarre and depressing corporate space:

1. According to the Ghost Foundation that runs the platform I'm currently using, the internet has opened up a new world of economic possibilities for people around the globe.

Hmm. Surely it's far more the actual case that Economics itself continually opens up people for ever new exploitative possibilities by global Capitalism?

Ghost.org: paying people who are already well off.

Speaking of naked Capitalists, apparently content creators who publish with Ghost.org have earned over $12M. Sounds great, boss - can't wait for some of that to trickle down! Any day now.. Yeah, interesting how least one of the three shown in Ghost.org's example hype ad is a super toxic stoic peddler of 'Productivity' buzzword bullshit. He also slangs "Part-Time Youtuber Academy" courses for those who apparently want to take their viewership from Zero - "Just like wot I started from, honest" to Infinity - one of which is called the 'Part-Time YouTuber Accelerator' and costs a mere $4,995.

Your basic internet-toxic Neoliberal influncer cunt.

Christ, I hate these people with every fiber of my being. Youtuber Dareios IV calls such such Creator / Passion Economy style productivity gurus and grifters "A giantic, incestuous circle jerk."

2. The dubious analogy Ghost uses to explain The Creator Economy is that of the car. They state that, just as the car 'changed the world' (what, like the weather?) leading to 'countless adjacent businesses', today 'the Internet is the car'. And there's me still thinking it was a series of tubes..

Such analogies seems conveniently simplistic, naive, systematically a-historical and techno-romantic. They de-politicize, and naturalize what is entirely Man Made. It's also self-congratulatory, in the old 'gee-wow NASA spinoff tech!' sense. (Yet how exactly is one to correctly, socio-politically contextualize 'no doubt beneficial' historical, geopolitical, Military-Industrial-Scientific Complex developments such as solar cells or water purification, with the whitewashed knowledge that Nazi Rocket Scientists worked for NASA?)

So what that we™ got 50's Jetsons style drive-in movie theaters and drive-through burger joints? I bet the infinite underpaid car mechanics throughout time with bent backs and filthy hands, who've had to check the oil of some rich asshole's car haven't quite viewed such violent technological developments as auto-positive and inevitable. Welcome once again to the lost highway of the worldwide Capitalist West, where "It's good, because it exists."

According to Ghost, 'the creator economy represents the next phase in the internet’s possibilities.' Really? 'Cos honestly such country-simple techno-rhetoric smells as all-natural and mountain pine fresh as corporate manufactured Piss Blocks in the public toilet at the back of the global gas station.

3. According to Ghost, "Creators" are 'individuals who use internet tools and platforms to make new types of digital content.'

More like it's the tool of the Internet and it's platforms, which turn people themselves and their labor into new types of exploitable digital content. The grease lizards in charge get to define the very terms and digital realities they use without hesitation to screw us over. (Isn't it pretty much obvious by now the Net has made human existence more shit overall? "But Bob, what about cute cat pics and Bruce Lee gifs?" Ok, other than that. Gosh, I hope posting one doesn't mark 'my' super fresh ghost site / creator platform as hopelessly uncool or obsolete.)

Wow, remember gifs, you krazy kidz?

4. As Ghost sees it, "As the world of social media and online creation developed, creators found ways to make money through their work (aka monetization), which led to the term creator economy." Amen, boys and girls.

What the - it's that simple? How could we have not realized? The advertorial answers were staring us in our easily impressed faces! Everyone, get a nice yellow piss block lolly for waiting patently and agreeing uncritically like a Nodding Dog dashboard ornament in your peak oil car on the royal road to total eco-destruction while super rich pinkskins with forked tongues pat you on the head, mansplainin' to you their always nothing-but-tiresome vision about The Future Of X (whatever X happens to be that week.)

5. Ghost sees The Creator Economy as 'the blanket term used to describe the new career and business landscape made possible by the internet.'

Far more likely it's just another filthy, sweatshop made Capitalist dog blanket, thrown over non-rich people's eyes to prevent them from fully describing what they see and now clearly understand as the ruinous blandscape of naked Careerism and the exploitation that is Business per se - which is not only 'made possible' by the Internet, but which the Internet directly represents (and can do nothing but enforce) in it's very structure, intent, and conceptual formation.

In reality, it's depressing, amazingly boring shit like The Creator Economy™ itself which enables rich advanced technological Whiteness to 'turn passion projects into sustainable incomes, reach narrowly defined niche audiences from around the globe and thus gain a greater degree of control over their creative and financial futures.'

Something lacking on the Internet for artist? Surely not!

Wild guess is, unless you're already one of the bright and beautiful and pre-chosen, you will most decidedly not get rich or famous or cool from The Economy - 'Creator' based or otherwise. To dream otherwise is to sell off your meager possessions and invest in a fascistic ape-based NFT in the deliberately vague hope you'll reap substantial to-the-moon ROI at some point in the bright shiny Web3 Crypto-future. 'The Line Goes Up'.. but funny how some lizards always end up more happy than others.

What I realize now (BLTN, I guess) is that art isn't really for oneself and one's own vanity, but a living expression of commonality and spiritual communality. I only registered my .com back in the day to secretly gain magic ego inflation points - 'farming for exposure dollars' and only made the lousy art I did, because I'd long been suffering from Terminal Existential Boredom and felt I had few other choices. (I admit it though, I just can't draw faces. I am a failed artist.)

The Oatmeal - Exposure Dollars
The Oatmeal - Attention Dollars

Now it's later in the day in my life, and things are getting tougher. The price of everything is increasing, rent in the UK grows ever higher (thanks, vampiric parasites!) and wages are stagnant. The Uber-fication of everything continues unabated. All by systematic design. Years of wasting precious time uploading half-assed mediocrity to my desert-nowhere site. My Moomins must of escaped the valley, thinking I was ever gonna get anything out of it all - other than carpel tunnel syndrome. I guess I only persisted blindly for so long, because I imagined one day Things Might Get Better and the whole Internet would eventually recognize my inherent sexy genius. (Dickhead.) Instead, I should have been thinking hard about the 'Scenius', as Brian Eno says.

Nobody in The Real World will employ me, because I don't have any qualifications that are Worth™ anything (aka a shitty degree in 'Sociomedia'.) I'm not really a philosopher, artist, writer - or anything else for that matter; I'm just bored and lonely and horny, and I like colors and shapes and texts and odd ideas n' stuff. What then remains?

A large folder stuffed full of badly photoshopped images - or in my case the lousy Gimp, as I could never afford Photoshop. An empty head full of artistically naff ideas. (For US readers unfamiliar with the term, 'naff' means unfashionable or unsophisticated. In the UK the word also has the connotation of something depressing and flimsy; pathetically useless. Unsubstantial things, built from bad materials.)

Yet like an idiot with no real options because they cost real money, I've decided to try again. As usual, the mighty spiritual punk presence of Henry Rollins informs me to hang in there, keep plugging away - mainly in and via Anger; immutable ancient Samurai resolve. As the amount of posts on my old, desert-like wordpress.com site grew ever fewer, the more time I spent revising my Bullshit Experimental European Post-Cyberpunk Novel-Of-Ideas thing. The more time I spent thinking about Web3 and the ongoing 'enshittification' of the Net. (This term arrives via the annoying-but-often-accurate journalist and author Cory Doctorow.) Now, slowly something at least potentially interesting is beginning to form and evolve of it's own accord. Which I guess is why I'm here today talking to.. er, hello? Anyone? (Queue ambient wind noise from a semi-arid high desert plain.)

- I never really gave up. I mean I did in a sense; I could have stayed with Wordpress, activated all my various donation plugins and my shitty Patreon site. But without already having a gazillion eyeballs following me, it was always all just a blue sky pipe dream. I simply wasn't born Rich, or with the manly Whiteness necessary to truly Make I.T. The web is deeply skewed to helping and promoting those who've already got the clams and social clout to help themselves to even more money and attention. (Youtube vlogger Pinely terms such a depressing and disturbing process the 'MrBeast-ification of the internet.') Go big - ie. start big and get bigger - or piss off back home, because nobody will notice you othewise. (But what if you've long made the Internet your home? What then?)

Nowdays when one considers the Internet and it's blindingly fast developments, there's a useful phrase one can use to describe it: "Huh. Just another aggressive display of technological Whiteness."

How We Got Here (Ie. Online)

It's an ongoing project of Republic Of Bob to uncover and unravel the twisted fibers of the web's historical roots. But for now, remember Second Life, and how now people are talking about it is the main proto-Meta model? The net's steady downward march toward Web3 generally might be following the exact same model:

Philip Rosedale, Second Life founder: They immediately brought the land from underneath all the things we had built and tore them all down to create their own vision of what they wanted the place to be. [..]
Narrator: The game's virtual economy, digital tokens called Linden dollars, that can be exchanged for US dollars, allows members to earn while playing the game. Some forged careers as virtual real estate barons."
- Wall Street Journal, Remember Second Life?

I'm not sure at all, but it isn't it precisely because Capitalist robber barons were able and actively encouraged to slice up Second Life and sell it on, that it eventually turned to shit? Or was the bit rot always there in its root code from the outset?

Sure, it certainly doesn't help that I'm without what's commonly considered Talent. Yet I'm also aware that calling yourself an Artiste in modern working class England means people still imagine you permanently sport black poloneck sweaters, a beret and casually puff Gauloises all day like some hyper-pretentious prancing nelly. Yet it's impossible to ignore the concrete structural limitations and ideological constraints surrounding, even informing one's Artwork - that is, Art Considered As Work. Art as unpaid labor. Art which the rich and pale-skinned still benefit from - one prime example being insidious, creepy shit like Patreon (and fanboys can quote me on this the next time they let smug twat Jack Conte squat on their faces):

An Art Tax On Artists: Patreon And It's Capitalist Ideology

To consider the ideology of Patreon, whose founding story (ie. 'something entirely made up') is neatly, mythologically presented as somehow remotely natural, clean, friendly and inherently benevolent. Here's a quote from poor old millionaire Jack Conte, sobbing tiny white manly tears about 'not being paid for his art' and therefore deciding to found Patreon - conveniently forgetting that, unlike him and his Stanford graduate business buddies if I had $10,000 dollars to start with I wouldn't fucking need Patreon, would I? Hipster gwat.

It cost over $10,000 to make that video
- Jack Conte / Capitalist antiart-parasite

To realize, acknowledge and understand the set of distinctly synthetic social circumstances and mis-relations which brought about Patreon, which (unlike Athena arising complete from the forehead of Zeus) appears a completely artificial state of affairs, AKA "I dislike and mistrust Jack Conte's smug hipster beard." No wonder these parasitic, Silicon start up middle-men types are always smiling. Luckily it's all about them artists though, right?

Jack Conte And His Butt-Kissing Fanboys

It's any wonder Jack can site down, what with the sheer volume of smoke unceasingly blown up his arts by brown-nosing minions and obsequious digital flatterers. The toady, unctuous, uncritical, boot licking, sycophantic worshiping doormats of random, rich white lizards who got to their (apparently exulted) position as 'Winners'™ through pretty much nothing but the sheer force of their own historical privilege and Cultural Capital. Simply through existing, Jack's constantly pissing on your head and telling you it's raining free Patreon dollars - directly into his wallet. Talk about a cult of internally normalized wage slavery.

Oh please Captain Conte, let me shine your designer shoes with the oil from my nose! Feel free to spread my ass checks even wider with this handmade artisan speculum so you can screw over real artists even harder with your unnecessary, parasitical white-man-in-the-middle Art Tax platform waaa! Nobody understands your Innately Altruistic-Millionaire Vision like we do!
- Typical Patreon fanboi (read: Investor - who isn't nearly as rich as Jack himself, but imagines they will be)

You heard right, you schmucks; Patreon is a fucking Art Tax, not the humble, plucky, go-getting savior of the artistic little-guy. You've not only been sold down the up-flowing Internet Fiefdom shit-river, but have been forced to hire the boat and paddles as well. How incredibly ideologically convenient it is that good old Benevolent Overlord Jack gets to hack off his slick cut in order to ensure that everyone else make their measly handfuls of change. It's exactly like that starched tosser Elon Musk and Paypal. The oh-so 'conveniently inconvenient' service that - from the outset - merely helps you help I.T serve itself. Fellow artists, Patreon is no goddamn friend of ours.

As usual, the world has been turned on its head and the assholes are in charge. According to the self-fulfilling microverse of Patreon, artists are no longer simply artists, but suppresses gag reflex 'Artistic Entrepreneurs'. Blurrrg! Now that's some honest-to-dog hypercorporate Bullshit Bingo right there. It's like some new age version of the Thatcherite-era, Gordon-Gekko groupthink. Such ill-considered, wrong-headed views are beyond contempt. Do the math; Patreon needs artists and their creative life blood a shit ton more than artists need it. Or web systems like it.

My Patreon Page (Still Not Live)

And so now what's Patreon worth nowadays? A couple of billion? Amazing what such naked altruism can do for one's own profit margins, isn't it Jackieboy? Remember kids, it's all about helping the artist. GTFOH. Fuck Jack Conte and his slimey ilk.

Sickening: How Patreon Became a $4B Start-Up

An Email To Author William Deresiewicz

In 2021,Robert What wrote:

> Dear Mr. Deresiewicz

> Hello! I'm a skint, UK based philosopher, artist and writer - dropping by to say your book "The Death Of The Artist" sounds cool. I've not read it yet but I intend to.

> I've written an article entitled The Capitalist Ideology Of Patreon, and would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

> Basically: I need to get paid while doing art - 'Art As Work' - but am ideologically mistrustful of parasitical, self-inserted platforms like Patreon, which I view as an Art Tax. What can one really do as a struggling artist? (Likewise, what are my immediate collective political-artistic responsibilities, and priorities?)

> I hope you are doing well. Stay safe.

> Most Sincerely, Robert What

> Hi Robert

> I enjoy the venom, and I hate Silicon Valley and all its platforms and founders with a passion deeply sincere, but my feeling, having written the book, is that in a capitalist society, some engagement with the market is a necessary evil. In the case of Patreon, it really does seem to be a net good for a lot of artists, whatever Jack's interests and oleaginous rhetoric. It serves a function that wasn't otherwise being served, and many of the younger artists I spoke with benefited from it. I hate that it has to exist at all, but I can't say that I hate that it exists. Put it this way: I hate Google and Facebook and Amazon, and I use them as little as I have to, but I do use them.

> -Bill

> Dear Bill

> Wow I'm surprised and disappointed to hear you precisely mirror and express what Mark Fisher called 'Capitalist Realism', and what Slavoj Zizek terms 'fetishistic disavowal' - which is the internalized form of commodity fetishism. It takes the form of 'I know very well, but' (or as you put it, 'I hate that it has to exist at all, but.')

> To use a common example. One understands that Amazon is truly awful and Jeff Bezos one straight up evil, greedy ass mother.. but one continues using Amazon (ie. is in service to I.T) simply because it's 'convenient'. Yeah, sure is convenient for Jeoff's disgusting bank balance..

> That one has taken on the very notion of Capitalism internally, successfully been subsumed within its ideological functioning and operations, to the extent that one readily accepts its false premises and promises - mainly that it's The Only Game In Town. One does this however, through one's inner moral or troubled thoughts, but through one's daily actions. After all, it's not just what one thinks, but how one acts. The relationships one makes. And it's this mental schism and consumerist Realpolitik style bullshit 'pragmatism' which allows us to successfully ignore our ongoing complicity in violent, repressive ethical 'compromises' under Capitalism. One can continue to indulge in it, because one feels absolved from the guilt that arrives from falsely feeling powerless at an apparent lack of alternatives. That nothing can possibly change for the better, because everything's changing so fast one simply hasn't the opportunity to jump off the train of Global Capital currently heading over the cliff. So one might as well enjoy the ride, right? Shit, why not help stoke the comforting fires of our own planetary destruction while we're at it?

- Mr. Deresiewicz has not yet replied to my cast iron political rhetoric.

But then, Amazon doesn't even tell you you're powerless does it? Like an endlessly fruitful cornucopia - of cosmically useless, Earth destroying plastic shit - it 'offers' you the story (the goddam lie) that the only real (pseudo) 'choice' is simply to Shut Up And Shop. The irrationality of the System is built in with every click of that Purchase button. Screw that white noise.

We need to develop real alternatives to Capitalistic Alternatives. As for the dreadful term 'necessary evil', that just means "It's necessary for me to continue being evil, because I profit mightily from it." Irrational modes of non-thinking which begin "In a Capitalist society, we all have to make compromises." It's only Capitalist because the wankers that own absolutely everything are immune to genuine change, and hold billions of minds in the strong ideological grip of '100% Genuine All Natural & Innate Capitalism, Honest!'

A better world for all is not only possible, it's essential for our survival as Artists, and as one species amongst many. You know what they say - if greasy shit like "Patreon" is the answer, you must be asking the wrong goddamn question. Just stating the obvious here. It's long been a drab little Public Secret - but the point is to change. (Beneath the slimy cobblestones of Capitalist crowdfunding, the cool artistic beach?) All that mythic, 'humble founding fathers' shite makes me puke. Or the infinite Art Labor which AI companies now casually hoover up, digital robber baron locusts laughably claiming that "Look, every artist gets their influence from other artists, dahlink.." You bare faced liars.

Apologies. I'm getting off a track I wasn't even on. Next I'll probably start ranting about Neoliberalism and Thatcherite-era social atomization / anomie, which says there's no such thing as a community of artists or collectivist art, there are only Content Creators in a Content Economy, digital self-pimps shamelessly slanging their little $4.99/month subscription asses - instead of rolling up their collective sleeves to reveal their Bruce Lee baseball-bat forearms, raising the black flag and slitting the lizard throats of digital platforms which see them as nothing but vaguely artful polystyrene packing peanuts. (Or systematically underpaid pasta cooks.)

BTW I hate paywalls, as does everyone who isn't directly befitting off of them. Paywalls are part of a wider trend; the ever-finer slicing of the internet pie into hyper-corporatized fiefdoms. The privatization of a (/mythic?) digital commonality and public (cyber)space. The total Balkanization of - or into - Internet epistemology, to paraphrase Terence McKenna. Or maybe we were just tugging ourselves off all along by imagining any of this Net shit was ever in any way 'free'. (Why else call it a net?)

Futuristic oil rig, high waves
Cover for Islands In The Net, Bruce Sterling (1988)

Post Update: "Filming Pasta Content"

On a friend's LinkedIn feed this morning (Elvischrist, LinkedIn is corporatizing death) I happened to catch a desperate little video about some young, intrepid videographic entrepreneurs. According to their plucky boilerplate blurb, they're 'a creative digital media specialist providing creative solutions to companies and audiences all over the UK', who strive to 'change the game' and always 'provide creative and engaging products to our customers that grow business, social media presence and drive sales.' At some point, one of the lads actually says the phrase "We're shooting a load of pasta content today for our client."

Good grief. 'Shooting pasta content'.

Is this how far we've managed to crawl as a species - about a foot from the goddamn digital swamp? The blurb beneath the video just made me want to crawl back in bed to sob, and wait till I.T. was all over:

The excitement continues as we take you on a journey through our vlogs. This week's shoots are jam-packed with action, featuring the making of delicious pasta dishes, a visit to a prestigious university, and an exhilarating day filming racehorses in training. Get ready to experience the thrill of the behind-the-scenes action and join us for another exciting vlog! But that's not all! We have even more exciting content coming your way, so stay tuned for future vlogs filled with adventure, fun, and behind-the-scenes action. You won't want to miss out on what we have in store for you!
- Pasta Content Creators

All they were doing was Shooting Pasta Content against an audio backdrop of super generic royalty-free drum n' bass, not saving the goddamn planet ffs. The video had two whole miserable views - and one of those must of been the camera operator's mother, silently and slowly shaking her head for the future. But all that isn't the point.

It really does seem there exists a completely separate, entirely closed universe where Pasta Content is king (yeah - a stone footed Ozymandias, staring out over the endless digital dunes.) Content which only concerns and references itself and the needs of its 'clients'. The real plastic people behind the camera. Content which is never really about actual humans with real concerns and dreams, or the utterly unenviable, soul destroying work-a-day grind of their daily existence under Global Hyperreal Ludocapitalist Spectacle (as I term it.)

Sure, the lads are young and friendly and healthy and their teeth are nice and even and their Content sure is super korporate friendly, their wilful overuse of the virtual jog dial to initiate visual slow-mo cliches on generic stock footage of whatever lukewarm beige diarrhea their client needs flogging to potential investors is certainly slick and 'well produced'.. but my question is, where exactly does that leave everyone else that's not them?

Yeah, they're busy-bee 'making it big' in the infinite Capitalist universe of Terminally Boring corporate smoke and mirrors, but.. where's the goddamn soul, where's the genuine spontaneous artistry and Big Science (as opposed to the stock Artfulness needed to get by in such a horrible little industry)? What if people don't need Pasta Content or Maximized Platform Engagement Metrics but something honest, strange and beautiful that isn't merely about Super Rich Stupid-Evil White Cunts Making Bank? (Excuse my French; put it down to impassioned Cockney street politics. "MEW: Mile End Wallop" forever.)

When exactly did everything On-Nets mutate and devolve into Pasta Content? Or is i.t merely Pasta Content all the way down - right into the dark bloody plastic data roots of the Web? Yes, obviously it is. The very structure of the Internet as we (rich undead white middle classes) love to imagine we think we know it, is just virulent Digital Colonialism. Just another way that super violent Whiteness clawed it's cheerless way across the face of a planet. Exactly like the interplanetary pizza-faced Space Capitalists in John Carpenter's un-rewound American VHS sci-pulp classic They Live in '88.

Where "Republic Of Bob" Might Come In

The 'creator economy' is just a euphemism for neoliberalism, for 'human capital' taking itself to market. Creators are there to make selling yourself in a piecemeal way seem redeemable, relatable. They put an optimistic spin on the idea that 'thanks to platforms, everything is for sale.'
- Adriana R.

It's obvious that at this point something positive has to be (continued to be) done to idly monkey wrench the limitless, nakedly Pasta Content based ambitions of the Crypto(-fascist) Web3 techbro crowd / cabal right in their evil Space Capitalist nuts. To laugh them right out of our existence; to prove they were always the least among us. To proudly piss take all their korporate Bullshit Bingo buzzwordiness back into obsolescence.

At this early Pre-Alpha stage of development I'm not sure, but perhaps imaginative public notions like Republic Of Bob could engage with what fellow researcher Slavoj Zizek talks about when he discusses the Lacanian 'symbolic fictions' that hold cultural processes together, ideologically. (To expand the 'horizon of possibilities' when it comes to imagining the Net we could have - if only we pulled the greedy claws of the shitlords off it.) It could help make conscious and politically actualize the depressing, atomizing process of Neoliberalism as it relates to Art As Work. How being online as an artist could be made far less digitally shitty, if we rearrange our entire current thinking about art/life - far from aggressively individualist 'Pasta Content' fragments to casual, playful, inherently non-official re-engagement with community, with collectivist action.

Of course, such (heavily korporatized) Let's Get Together For A Hug rhetoric is precisely the false problem to which Web3 advocates and 'brand ambassadors' (ie. greasy evil pimp-shill cultists) are slanging as Another (Self) Convenient Solution: "With cool shit like DAOs, we can finally, finally get together online in a sea of hot digital Pasta Content filled enjoyment!" No more Capitalist alienation, hooray? No. Back to the buzzcut-and-pocket-protector ARPANET, techn0-wh1teboy, we plainly see where you're coming from.

It's my political hope that Republic Of Bob is a cool-weird nonspace of the collective imagination, where unlike-minded oddballs come together in a spirit of artistic endeavor, free sharing and serious Near Future Retro 80s R&D. (More on this later.) The tiny failure of my not-very-good art was only really a failure to understand the true scale and heavily circumscribed structure of digitally atomizing neoliberal alienation which held me under the illusion that art was merely about Me, Me Me as an 'entrepreneurial' (ie. Screw Everyone Else I'm Out To Get Mine), Thatcherite-era style Creator of Raw Pasta Content. That's for the birds.

Thing is of course, (to further strain a metaphor) the 'pasta' always arrives on end of our naked lunch fork fully 'cooked' - already fully politically contextualized by the synthetic capitalist blandscape which owns the entire goddamn kitchen in the first place. Is there no escaping this dirty-dollar lined temple of the mental? To this end, future Researchers can henceforth hail this poem as a useful summation and evocation of the mysterious, semi-arid high-plains desert vibe of #ROB:

My name is Ossie Ardiles, king of kings:
Look on my Republic, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
- Ossie Ardiles, famous Argentine midfielder

Update: My Analytics (September 2023)

Sweet F.A.