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Howard

When you’re in Strategic Communication you cannot but admire Apple. The myth, the brand, the company seems to defy every rule in the book. The company is totally intransparent in its communication. It doesn’t do Corporate Social Responsibility. It innovates but at the same time stifles innovation by showering competitors with lawsuits. It squeezes suppliers in a way that IKEA couldn’t get away with. But everybody loves Apple.

Or could it be that we simply love our iPhones, iPads, iMacs and don’t want to know why expensive phones aren’t even more expensive?

Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist to whom I always turn for clever quotes, once wrote that the rules in the books exist for the genius to ridicule. That is certainly true for Apple, the late Steve Jobs and the Public Relations-book. Apple’s greatest invention might well be the milky-white-and-silver non-stick super-teflon brand coating. Neither dirt nor blood seems to stick with Apple.

But the recent riot in the factory of Foxconn (or Hon Hai) once again raises the question whether the apple is rotten under the shiny surface. Foxconn is the Chinese company that actually builds the new iPhone 5. On Monday, production in its 79,000-worker-megaplant in Taiyuan came to a halt. Wall Street held its breath. Production was resumed after riot police moved in and broke up the protest which is said to have comprised 2,000 workers. You can read about the event as it was reported here:

C’Net: Apple supplier Foxconn confirms worker riot at Taiyuan factory.

 

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Guest-post by Hagen Schölzel

Strange things are going on. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri mentioned in a Swedish weblog about Strategic Communication. And as a relevant theoretical reference, too. A remarkable development. And my name in the same piece of writing. This is too much honour. In particular, because the concept of interpassivity, which this entry refers to, is not my invention. But as I worked on it for a while, and as I got the invitation to write an article, I feel free to jot down some remarks.

So, what reminds Howard of interpassivity when reading Hardt and Negri? Let’s return to the last bold quotation from ‘Declaration’: ‘The mediatized is thus a subjectivity that is paradoxically neither active nor passive but rather constantly absorbed in attention.’

As we are neither active nor passive, the thought occurs that we may be interpassive. Obviously, we’re no longer interactive, because we are constantly attending to something instead of doing something!

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Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have been hailed as the authors of the Communist Manifesto for the 21st century. Others hold that this doesn’t constitute praise but pretty much amounts to damnation. Again, others maintain that Negri and Hardt’s writings amount to nothing but unsubstantiated, utopian nonsense.

Be that as it may. What’s interesting is Hardt and Negri’s analysis of what’s really going on in our brave new media world 2.0.

NOW IF YOU THINK THIS POST IS TOO LONG ALREADY YOU MIGHT BE AFFECTED.

In their latest work, “Declaration” (2012), the duo refers to Gilles Deleuze to point out the subtleties of repression in 21st century democracies.

“In previous eras it often appeared that in relation to the media political action was stifled primarily by the fact that people didn’t have sufficient access to information or the means to communicate and express their own views. Indeed today repressive governments attempt to limit access to websites, close down blogs and Facebook pages, attack journalists, and generally block access to information. (…)

We are more concerned, though, about the ways that today’s mediatized subjects suffer from the opposite problem, stifled by a surplus of information, communication, and expression. “The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves,” Gilles Deleuze explains, “but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people from expressing themselves, but rather, force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.”

Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio (2012-05-08). Declaration (pp. 14-15). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition. (my bold print)

“Is it possible”, Hardt and Negri ask (ibid.), “that in their voluntary communication and expression, in their blogging and web browsing and social media practices, people are contributing to instead of contesting repressive forces?

Hardt and Negri are concerned about the mediatized citizen: a figure far removed from the alienated worker of the industrial age, but nevertheless tricked into inaction.

“Whereas the consciousness of the alienated worker is separated or divided, the consciousness of the mediatized is subsumed or absorbed in the web. The consciousness of the mediatized is not really split but fragmented and dispersed. The media, furthermore, don’t really make you passive. In fact, they constantly call on you to participate, to choose what you like, to contribute your opinions, to narrate your life. The media are constantly responsive to your likes and dislikes, and in return you are constantly attentive. The mediatized is thus a subjectivity that is paradoxically neither active nor passive but rather constantly absorbed in attention.

Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio (2012-05-08). Declaration (p. 16). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition. (my bold print)

Which reminds of a colleague of mine, Hagen Schölzel, who recently attended a conference about “Interactive Metal Fatigue.” I should get him to write here about Interpassivity, one of his favourite topics. But first something else… Wait a minute. […] Now what did I want to do? I should resist, shouldn’t I?

And here is the reason why Bettina Wulff is suing Google RIGHT NOW. In case you wondered. The rumours have been around since 2006.

Autobiography out right now. Don’t buy it. You can borrow it from my mother later. Just savour the elegant execution of one of the oldest PR-tricks in the box. It makes my eyes water. It’s wonderful. It’s like a comeback of Engelbert Humperdinck.

Be aware that the tattoo divided the country. It’s a subtle form of defiance, too.

Germany’s Ex-First-Lady Bettina Wulff (38), a former PR professional, sues Google. The search engine’s auto-complete function suggests she has a racy past as a prostitute. If you enter her name, Google says you might want to try the following searches.

You can read more about the affair. Here are the links that come up when you do a Google Search.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/07/germanys-former-first-lady-sues-google-for-defamation-over-autocomplete-suggestions/

http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16230823,00.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19542938

Wait a minute. Have to try it for myself.

Can live with the results so far. Phew.