Notes from
Valle Medina and Benjamin Reynolds

View work at PAL/AC/E


07/21/2009, by

Passive Consumerism to Counter-Intelligence

The explanation of the nature of speculation and the bogus decision-making that governs prices/values clearly forms a logical argument for rejecting such powers of subjectivity. The worst we can do is be passive consumers. If the system can form a presiding subjective ‘intelligence’, we have to form a ‘counter-intelligence’. The sellers may have (we can call it) ‘speculative powers’ but, lest we forget, we too, the consumers, have ‘purchasing powers’. Classically this term is meant similarly as ‘bang-for-your-buck’, but it also contains our basic right of what to buy, value for money is an added extra. To buy (without a counter-intelligence) is to agree and submit. If one is armed with such a ‘counter-intelligence’ they need not be told of destructive forces of Laissez-faire capitalism--the two go hand-in-hand. Harvey outlines that (2000, pp.76) ‘much of the extraordinary transformation of the earth’s surface these last two hundred years reflects precisely the putting into practice of the free market utopianism of process and its restless and perpetual reorganisations of spatial forms.’ Our decisions of what to buy, we can therefore extrapolate, directly influence these transformations and as we are a collective of consumers, changes to the decisions of what to buy will affect (but not necessarily reverse) these transformations powerfully--more so than what industry transforms. Perhaps it is this compliance to buying that is one of the great tragedies of the industrialised masses, that we have fallen to the fallacies of these speculations: we too have taken part in it all. If we imagine capitalism had never grown up, never gone global, it might give us an idea of an achievable future--one that accommodates nature also. The problem is that consumers have released it from its cage (governments have had a hand in too), and now slowly a ‘counter-intelligence’ (through a technological easing of communication) is not merely imposing a stricture, but putting it back where it came from. We are not alone using platforms like these to communicate ideas like this, and yet I don’t believe that a social-networking platform that truly encompasses the masses has been developed (in a generation or so we will begin to see the fruits of the internet). Just imagine the poor had ‘true’ access to on-line social platforms? It could be an amazing thing, but it might just mirror the injustices of the ‘real-world’. As with with what occurs with capitalism/crises, we must not suffer from a case of amnesia. When the internet is attainable from all corners of the globe we must be careful about how it is managed. It we must not reproduce what happened in the promising early days of the internet, as danah boyd (in Penelope, 2007) recalls, ‘the unbelievable frustration with me about the online world is that there is that 1990s utopian dream about how the internet was going to save us because on the internet no one would know you were a dog, race wouldn’t matter, class wouldn’t matter, you could talk to anyone around the world, we would get rid of all the language barriers, get rid of the cultural barriers, great,’ she says. ‘Well that’s not what happened. What happened is that we have projected the same segregated culture into the internet.’

Palace, 2009. Passive-Consumerism-Counter-Intelligence.
Palace, 2009. Passive-Consumerism-Counter-Intelligence.

I know this is a profound ideal to suggest the dismantling of Capitalism through the our future of far-reaching social platforms (albeit well articulated platforms), we can use these spaces (as we are doing now) to start to dissect and recalibrate our realities (you only have to see Ushahidi, a mobile phone-based [as mobile phones are still the most ubiquitious communication technology] service that maps reports from citizens regarding poignant political, social events ie. swine flu). Notate Bene The history of Capitalism is a history of crises. ‘Compulsive buyers’, ‘passive consumerism’, ‘Material Girl’, ‘retail therapy’ are some of the saddest terms we can utter. How can architecture fit into this?

Penelope, D., 2007. A space of her own. The Age. [Online] 4 August. Available at: [Accessed 27 May 2009].
Harvey, D., 2000. Possible Urban Worlds. Amersfoort: Twynstra Gudde Management Consultants

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