Monday, December 21, 2009


Technology suggests itself. Persistently. The mechanism of convenience is primary. Again and again technology intercedes. As Don DeLillo has it, technology is desire removed from the body. Apolitical, amoral: technology suggests the possibility for perfection, a mirror that allows us to touch other people's reflections.

Internet shopping. Like catalogue shopping in the nineteenth century, the internet presents a shopper with the idea of a product: dimensions, weight, color and cut. With the help of pictures, one assembles the product mentally, tries it on, flexes, slouches, matches it to the other things owned and physically present. A conjuring act, internet shopping, in theory, is a more precise conduit to goods than physical shopping. You have to know what you want. Anything that suggests itself on the internet is junk. Who follows the pop ups and the automatic ads that show up in the in-box? Desire is central, in a way that may exclude a good portion of the conomy. Does anyone have room in their heads for the million small goods that hung on hooks or sat by the register? Internet shopping is essentialism.

On the otherhand, one can see the converse of Marx's theory: the central anxiety of the capitalist system is the separation of worker from product, the separation of product from consumer then is producing a new anxiety. One can read the story of the second half of the twentieth century as the story of empirical dominion. Everything on hand, everything seen. The rational moderns are morphing into semi-metaphysicians. Demonstrable laws produce invisible systems. The object disappears and a faith in reason is called upon. The product is bought in good faith that it will be delivered and match the measurements. This is more than faith in the honesty of strangers, it explains the fascination with Nigerian scam artists, the blatant come-on one can trust is too good to be true. Who do we picture tending the line when we click submit? And what pirates do we imagine raiding that line?

That anxiety also explains in part the rise in handicrafts. The reemergence of craftsmen goods, local foods, the handmade all place us in closer contact with the roots of production, the origin. Aside from dispelling problems of waste it instills a sense of old fashioned trust. What's next a return to the handshake in lieu of contracts?