Saturday, June 15, 2013

make yourself scarce

(further to the 'why he no longer gives away' post

The value of scarcity is that scarcity creates value.

That applies whether it's a limited edition print or a performance that only a certain number of people can get to attend.

It applies to the lifespan of an individual -  biological time being a limited resource.

But even when there is a potentially unlimited number of copies available -- a priced musical recording, or a book, etc, that goes into reprint - the scarcity-value is still created, it's just that it forms in relation to the scarcity of your economic resources, your spending power.

(People who don't  have those limits on their spending power quickly discover that value becomes voided -  viz, Citizen Kane / William Randolph Hearst, buying up all those treasures and art works and antiques from Europe, getting them shipped over in giant crates, never opening them up or enjoying them.

(A smaller version of that devaluation is what happens to people who get stuff for free through their occupation. e.g. book critics, music critics, any kind of critic, or deejays. In this case acquisition of cultural goods is uncoupled completely from financial considerations;  the problem then becomes the economy of time, of attention, of libidinal-cathectic investment).

Now there might be other ways of creating value, but simply removing an existing apparatus of value wholesale and hoping for the best, well it's not really worked out with music...


The other problem with the internet and digital-facilitated consumer conveniences (Tivo, Netflix, etc) needs a snappy or simply-understood term like "scarcity" but I'm struggling to come up with one...    it's to do with time not as quantity (how much is at your disposal) but to do with time as event... the flexibilisation of time...  I guess this is what academics are talking about when they go on about "just in time" work patterns?   Basically the freedom of watching programmes at your convenience is the leisure realm equivalent of this parcelling of time, breaking it down into smaller units (watch half a programme here, catch the rest another day) or alternately binging (watching an entire season in a 'run', like the series addicts satirised in that great Portlandia skit).

Here what's weakened is not value per se, but the kinds of intensification caused by synchronised collective focus.

There are still some shows like this - the latest episode of Mad Men, Game of Thrones - and in fact with these the sense of collective focus is enhanced by real-time tweeting, incredibly detailed  recaps and fan-critical scrutiny (aided by tools to exegesis like replayability, google etc)

(Still some records like this... Daft Punk, m b v, David Bowie, Vampire to a degree)

But increasingly new releases or new shows have to compete against the entropic pull of atemporality: the availability of deep catalogue and "fairly recent"  (six months to a year), the enticements of YouTube, the cheaply knocked out niche audience targeted archival-TV DVD, etc

This kind of converged shared focus and event-based punctuality could be called "synchronic value" or "collective value" - the sense of oneself as part of an audience, as existing in a Time or Era

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