Labors of love: netporn, Web 2.0 and the meanings of amateurism

Paasonen, S., 2010. Labors of love: netporn, Web 2.0 and the meanings of amateurism. New Media & Society 12, 1297–1312. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444810362853

p.1297

Such transformations [in the production and consumption of pornography] are connected to shifts in the technologies of producing, distributing and consuming pornography.

pp.1297-1298

All this calls for a rethinking of pornography as a popular media genre and the ways in which its boundaries have become stretched – and perhaps even redrawn – with the introduction of digital media tools.

p.1298

In spite of the high visibility of online pornography and the importance of so-called adult content for the development of web economies and technologies, pornography has remained one of the more under-studied areas of internet research.

Netporn has been defined in terms of grassroot activities, gift economies and performative exchanges […]

p.1299

The conceptual division of netporn and porn on the net, as evoked in these discussions, can be seen as simultaneously esthetic (in the sense that netporn is seen to challenge the norms and conventions of mainstream commercial porn catering primarily to male heterosexual audiences), political (netporn is seen as queer and non-normative in its displays of sexual acts and desires), ethical (netporn is seen as detached from the potentially oppressive practices of the porn industry), economic (netporn is seen as resisting the commodity forms of commercial pornography) and technological (netporn is seen as separate from offline media production and distribution). In other words, netporn criticism focuses on forms of pornography seen as characteristic, specific or native to the internet, and explores the esthetic, technological, expressive and interactive possibilities of the medium.

My interests lie in how the conceptual divisions drawn between amateurs and professionals, the non-commercial and the commercial, the alternative and the mainstream, are played out in relation to definitions of netporn, alt porn, amateur pornography, Web 2.0 platforms and their participatory cultures. I argue that the conceptual separation of amateur pornographies and alternative porn esthetics from porn on the net (i.e. mainstream commercial online pornography) makes it difficult to consider them as forms of content production and immaterial labor central to the digital economy (Arvidsson, 2007).

p.1301

Alternative pornographies (i.e. netporn) have, from kink sites to subcultural pornographies, fed back to the imageries of commercial pornography (porn on the net) that they apparently subvert. If independent pornographies appropriate poses and elements from the so-called mainstream while abandoning or disregarding others, this is also the case vice versa.

On alt porn sites, users generate content, share subcultural knowledge, and form affective ties with the sites and their performers. As Attwood (2007: 445) argues, both users and performers become members of ‘a taste culture which functions to bind them together in relations of economic and cultural production and consumption which are also relations of community’. In other words, what is at stake is a form of affective engagement and immaterial labor.

p.1302

The division between amateurism and professionalism is a familiar one: whereas the professional is assumed to be technically skilled, the amateur supposedly operates simple versions of technical equipment, and even these with some degree of difficulty.

p.1303

Contrary to the glamour, glossiness and high production value of alt porn, realcore, as defined by Messina, stands for the low-fi (Attwood, 2007: 448) – and, indeed, for the real: ‘Realcore is all about the reality of what you see, the truth of these images. It’s about the desire to see someone doing something because they like to be seen. They’re filming it because you are part of the game as well. You’re the audience. They get horny because someone is getting horny over them’ (Messina in Dery, 2007: 24).

p.1304

Whatever the reason may be, there is a risk of approaching amateur pornography as expressions of desire or pleasure without accounting for how such moments of intimate production may be conditioned. Considering the practice of posting explicit photos and videos of ex-wives and girlfriends in online forums without their knowledge or permission (for which numerous sites are dedicated), consent may well be cast in an ambiguous light in acts of distribution.

Messina (2006) defines the late 1990s as the turning point for novel, amateur online pornographies: with digital cameras and online networks, people could publish their own images and join groups of like-minded individuals.

More or less affordable tools for the making of amateur porn have been available since the marketing of cameras to private households: still cameras since the late 19th century, 16mm cameras in the 1920s, 8mm the following decade and Super 8 since the 1960s (Slater, 1991; Zimmermann, 1995). Since film requires developing, these media involved the possibility of unwanted exposure. Polaroid cameras and portable video cameras (Sony Portapak in 1967, affordable amateur models in the 1980s), digital still and video cameras, without this drawback, have been more flexible.

Kevin Esch and Vicki Mayer (2007: 101) situate the rise of amateur porn in the ‘video revolution of the early 1980s, when millions of people bought their first home video camera and budding film-makers decided to make their own pornography’. Some of these products were distributed for others to watch (for example, through swap-and-buy services) and in the late 1980s the popularity of amateur porn even managed to damage the sales of commercial porn.

p.1305

While amateur porn was plentiful in the newsgroups of the 1980s, its distribution platforms have since undergone considerable transformation, as websites featuring amateur images and videos have burgeoned since the 2000s.

p.1308

As user-generated content is increasingly recognized as both an asset and comprising consumables of a kind, it has become crucial to consider exactly what kinds of consumables these may be and what kind of social circulation they enter. Amateurs making their own porn are not merely expressing themselves, as a neoliberal discourse might have it, but commodifying themselves in relation to pornography as a genre and an industry. All in all, the meanings of amateurism – these labors of love – require rethinking as a form of free labor that complicates understandings of mainstream commercial porn.

Amateurism feeds the codes of realness central to porn while showcasing different types of bodies and sexual relations. As immaterial labor, amateur pornography gives rise to images, videos and texts that are commodities inasmuch as they are gifts.

p.1309

I suggest that thinking about amateur and user production as forms of labor that feed the internet economy, online porn industry included, enables seeing different fields of activity as interconnected and interdependent.

All this necessitates moving beyond dualistic conceptualizations such as the commercial and the noncommercial, the mainstream and the alternative, the professional and the amateur, the online and the offline, as frameworks for making sense of pornography, contemporary media culture and their fundamental entanglements.

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Redundant Photographs: Cameras, Software and Human Obsolescence

Daniel Palmer, ‘Redundant Photographs: Cameras, Software and Human Obsolescence’, pp.47-65, in:

Rubenstein, D., Golding, J., Fisher, A., 2013. On the verge of photography: imaging beyond representation. Article Press, Birmingham, UK.

p.47

The history of photography is also a history of automation.

p.48

Needless to say, the primary aim of automation is to reduce human labour time (related to a secondary aim of removing human error). Indeed, certain kinds of cameras today – such as those designed to identify car number plates – need no regular human operator at all.

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The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object

Vilém Flusser. ‘The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object: An Essay on the Ontological Standing of Photographs’ Leonardo, 19:4, 329-332, 1986

p.329

The Latin term ‘objectum’ and its Greek equivalent ‘problema’ mean ‘thrown against’, which implies that there is something against which the object is thrown: a ‘subject’. As subjects, we face a universe of objects, of problems, which are somehow hurled against us. This opposition is dynamic. The objects approach the subject, they come from the future into the subject’s presence.

The shock between subject and object occurs over the abyss of alienation which separates the two. The present tendency is to relegate this shock from human subjects to automatic apparatus. Automatic cameras may serve as an example.

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The Affective Turn

Patricia T Clough, 2008. The Affective Turn: Political Economy, Biomedia and Bodies. Theory, Culture & Society 25, 1–22.

p.1

The turn to affect points instead to a dynamism immanent to bodily matter and matter generally – matter’s capacity for self-organization in being in-formational – which, I want to argue, may be the most provocative and enduring contribution of the affective turn.

pp.1-2

Yet, many of the critics and theorists who turned to affect often focused on the circuit from affect to emotion, ending up with subjectively felt states of emotion – a return to the subject as the subject of emotion. I want to turn attention instead to those critics and theorists who, indebted to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Baruch Spinoza and Henri Bergson, conceptualize affect as pre-individual bodily forces augmenting or diminishing a body’s capacity to act and who critically engage those technologies that are // making it possible to grasp and to manipulate the imperceptible dynamism of affect.

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Philosophy, Sexism, Emotion, Rationalism

Nina Power, ‘Philosophy, Sexism, Emotion, Rationalism’, pp.17-26, in:

Kolozova, K., Joy, E.A., 2016. After the “speculative turn”: Realism, philosophy and feminism. Punctum Books, Earth, Milky Way.

p.17

Philosophy, by virtue of being the most universal subject, the most generic art, cannot imagine that there is something which it cannot capture or has not always already captured, one way or another.

pp.17-18

I will ultimately agree with the Xenofeminist manifesto when it states that “[r]ationalism must itself be a feminism” and with the Gender Nihilist text when it argues that the subversion of gender is a dead-end. I want only to add // that what usually gets sidelined and undermined as “emotion,” and is frequently gendered as feminine or female, is also itself a rationalism, and that emotion and reason are in fact not mortal enemies, but rather inseparable branches of the collective experience of social and political life that Philosophy purports to address.

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After Life

Patricia MacCormack, ‘After Life’, pp.177-187, in:

MacCormack, P. (Ed.), 2014. The animal catalyst: towards ahuman theory. Bloomsbury Academic, London; New York.

p.177

For oppressive machines, the ahuman aberrant is required to isomorphically raise the status of the majoritarian, and the future hurtling posthuman’s future is only as a cog in that operation of ascension. Ecosophical and ecominoritarian elements of ahuman theories seek to alter this monodirectional system.

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The Animal Catalyst

Patricia MacCormack, ‘Introduction’, pp.1-12, in:

MacCormack, P. (Ed.), 2014. The animal catalyst: towards ahuman theory. Bloomsbury Academic, London; New York.

p.1

The animal conundrum begins with the ‘we’ that we are as human animals – so like nonhuman animals but so unlike, depending on which rhetoric benefits humans at any given time.

No longer seeking inclusion, no longer validating the phantasized attractiveness of majoritarian concerns, emphasizing interconnected affectivity, The Animal Catalyst understands the word ‘animal’ as nothing more than organic life, which is shared between myriad organisms, their expressions and affects, and nothing less than an absolute refusal of the word in all its incarnations (too often incantations): ‘human’.

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Deleuze and Machines: A Politics of Technology?

William Bogard, ‘Deleuze and Machines: A Politics of Technology?’, pp.15-31, in:

Poster, M., Savat, D. (Eds.), 2009. Deleuze and new technology, Deleuze connections. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

p.15

Deleuze is not so much interested in questioning technology, like Heidegger, as in articulating, along with Guattari, a problem about machines.

Deleuze and Guattari’s problematisations of machines lead them, by contrast, to a concept of a multiplicity without an essence – or better, with a ‘nomadic’ essence1 – a complex configuration of machinic and enunciative elements called an ‘assemblage’.

The problem of machines is not Heidegger’s question of technology: Is there a possible escape from Enframing? Can technology save the world before it annihilates it? For Deleuze, there is neither an essential ‘saving power’ nor a nihilism of machines. Safety and danger are matters of experimenting with assemblages, with their compositional forms.

It is not a question of an essence of technology, but of what Deleuze and Guattari call an abstract machine, a machine immanent in assemblages that both integrates them and opens them to an outside, to counterforces that break them down.

According to Deleuze and Guattari, assemblages have a dual form: a ‘form of content’, that is, a machinic form composed of variably fixed matters and energetic components; and a ‘form of expression’ or ‘enunciation’ consisting of statements and articulated functions.

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The real terror of Instagram

Crano, R., 2018. ‘The real terror of Instagram: Death and disindividuation in the social media scopic field’. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 135485651775036. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856517750364

p.2

Well beyond photography’s mere digitization, we now have recourse to nuanced notions of the live, networked, and algorithmic image. Such concepts, and the methodological ambits that emerge alongside them, situate contemporary photography, appropriately, within broader trends of and discourses on participatory culture, user-generated content, and ‘prosumption’.

What I would like to do here, in part, is to further contextualize this participatory turn – in culture generally and in photography specifically – alongside broader socioeconomic transformations and emergent techniques of capitalist subject-formation and exploitation.

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