Returning to the issue of human subjectivity, we cannot ignore how dramatic the impact has been of the connecting up of capital- ism and computer technologies on its creation and integrity, a state of affairs Franco Berardi calls semiocapitalism.42 Berardi asks what consequences will ensue from the attempts made by our minds (and the entire sensory nervous system) to adapt to the ever increasing volume of hybrid communication taking place on the man-machine interface, in which complex interper- sonal communication (what Berardi calls conjunction) is being replaced by a simpler variant, i.e. connection. While conjunction includes reciprocity, does not always run smoothly and must take into account the other party’s position (we might even say that to a certain extent conjunction involves becoming the other in order that communication be successful), connection is more algorithmic (machinic) in nature: communication is subject to the criteria of speed and expediency and is accompanied by processes of standardisation. What I have outlined here in technical language as two competing and differently prioritised means of communication have, according to Berardi, far-reach- ing implications for the sensibility43 and psychological alignment of the population. He claims that various neuroses, states of depression and symptoms generally regarded as pathological are visible signs of this shift, though this transformation is in essence being undergone by the human population as a whole.
The transition to a 24/7 world took place in the final decade of the last century when, with the collapse of the eastern bloc, the last bastion of an ideologically driven orientation on the future disappeared. Dreams of other, better tomorrows were replaced by the era of post-history and a suspension of the horizon/s of expectation. The presentist mode of post-history is characterised by relative contentment predicated upon the circle of work and consumption. Problems only arise when the bubble in which we are enclosed begins to shrink and we realise that, not only are we living in a state of timelessness, but that we have not been left any of our ‘own time’, i.e. time that has not already been colonised in advance, that has not already been incorporated into market calculations. This observation is by no means new. It is a variation on the well known critique of the spectacle by Guy Debord. Debord formulated his thesis on the separation of subjects from the active production of their own life, pub- lished in The Society of the Spectacle in 1967, on the basis of an analysis of Fordist, industrial modernity. Since then the situation has changed in many respect. Nevertheless, the fact that the subject is now not a spectacle ‘squeezed’ into the passive position of consumer, but is an active (co) producer, changes nothing regarding the separation from his own time: indeed, if anything, this separation is even greater.
According to Goffman, not only an actor or a performance artist, but every individual; a policeman, a hotel stuff, a violinist, a Vogue model; is trying to persuade others to believe in their character. To do this they need to deliver a performance, by which he means “all the activity of an individual which occurs during a period…before a set of observers and which has some influence on the observers” 5. This metaphor of social life as a theater is broadly understood as “conceptual framework for interaction analysis”. 6 It describes conditions of producing reality within social exchange. It covers setting of a whole situation, a place (theatre stage, or for example a hotel), actors (not only theater actors as mentioned above) and their audience (which is possibly also in a role). Based on this, Goffman argued the theatre metaphor is what social life is like, performativity is made possible through the framing of the social scene.
Automation of production made human labor needless and transformed it into occupation. Work leads to an end product, however occupation is an activity that doesn’t intend an end, rather a service or engagement. Everybody is nowadays constantly occupied and unable to distinguish between performance and life or working hours and free time; it is all mixed up together. Flexible working hours, overused especially in arts and design, signal that immaterial labor became Lütticken’s general performance. Time was made into currency, where quality is emphasized over quantity. I, as a designer, not only design things, but I often visit or take part at various design‑ related events, exhibition openings, symposiums, and talks and I don’t perceive it as leisure time, that’s my investment into potential future projects, future clients and collaborations. Being social is part of my self‑ presenting performance, it’s part of my occupation.