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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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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Identity and Individuation: Some Feminist Reflections

Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Identity and Individuation: Some Feminist Reflections’, pp.37-56, in:

De Boever, A., Simondon, G. (Eds.), 2013. Gilbert Simondon: being and technology. Edinburgh Univ. Press, Edinburgh.

p.37

There are, for Gilbert Simondon, many kinds of individualities, many kinds of subject, many kinds of object, but all share the processes of individuation, which may serve equally to explain the coming into being and the existence of beings of all kinds, material, organic, human, cosmic.

In providing models for understanding how things, including living things, are brought into existence as cohesive individuals, Simondon opens up new ways of understanding identity, transformation and creation – all central ingredients in a radical reconceptualization of thought.

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Black Circuit: Code for the Numbers to Come

Amy Ireland, ‘Black Circuit: Code for the Numbers to Come’, E-flux Journal #80 (March 2017). [http://www.e-flux.com/journal/80/100016/black-circuit-code-for-the-numbers-to-come%5D

We are used to calls to resist the total integration of our world into the machinations of the spectacle, to throw off the alienated state that capitalism has bequeathed to us and return to more authentic processes, often marked as an original human symbiosis with nature. But Plant—as a shrewd reader of post-spectacle theory—makes a deeper point. Woman as she is constructed by Man—and in order to be considered “normal” in Freud’s analyses—is continuous with the spectacle. Her capacity to act is entirely confined to modalities of simulation. She has never been party to authentic being, in fact it is her negating function that underwrites the entire fantasy of return to an origin. Because she is continuous with it, she is imperceptible within it.

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I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess

Jasbir Puar, ‘‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Intersectionality, Assemblage, and Affective Politics’, 2001. [http://eipcp.net/transversal/0811/puar/en]

Intersectionality and assemblage are not analogous in terms of content, intent, nor utility, but they have at times been produced as somehow incompatible or even oppositional. While, as analytics, they may not be reconcilable they need not be oppositional, but rather frictional.

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(Un)dressing the interface

Brahnam, S., Karanikas, M., Weaver, M., 2011. (Un)dressing the interface: Exposing the foundational HCI metaphor “computer is woman.” Interacting with Computers 23, 401–412. doi:10.1016/j.intcom.2011.03.008

p.401

This focus on dialogue—interaction with a ‘‘second person’’ interface—has eroded the boundaries separating human beings from machines, calling into question the uniqueness of human intelligence and the sacredness of human personality and identity.

What both metaphors fail to acknowledge is that computers are not simply tools or personas. They are complex. In our interaction with them, they define who we are.

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Metaphor and Materiality

Judy Wajcman, ‘Metaphor and Materiality’, pp.102-130, in:
Wajcman, J., 2004. TechnoFeminism. Polity, Cambridge ; Malden, MA.

p.102

Technology is an intimate presence in our lives and increasingly defines who we are and how we live. Just as the typewriter and the automobile were icons of freedom for women in the discourse of modernity that presaged first-wave feminism, so cyberspace and cyborgs have become ubiquitous postmodern symbols for feminism today.

Women’s lives have changed irrevocably during the twentieth century, rendering traditional sex roles increasingly untenable.

Testo Junkie

Beatriz Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics – Journal #44 April 2013 – e-flux [WWW Document], n.d. URL http://www.e-flux.com/journal/44/60141/testo-junkie-sex-drugs-and-biopolitics/ (accessed 1.2.17).

The changes within neoliberalism that we are witnessing are characterized not only by the transformation of “gender,” “sex,” “sexuality,” “sexual identity,” and “pleasure” into objects of the political management of living, but also by the fact that this management itself is carried out through the new dynamics of advanced techno-capitalism, global media, and biotechnologies.

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The Cyborg Solution

Judy Wajcman, ‘The Cyborg Solution’, pp.78-101, in:
Wajcman, J., 2004. TechnoFeminism. Polity, Cambridge ; Malden, MA.
p.79
Feminists were among the first to make the links between reproductive technologies, genetic engineering and eugenics.
[…] the focus of much of the early analysis by radical feminists was a determination to reclaim motherhood as the foundation of women’s identity. Implicit in this view is a concept of reproduction as a natural process, inherent in women alone, and a theory of technology as patriarchal, enabling the male exploitation of women and nature.
Like ecological feminists, radical feminists celebrated the identification of women with nature and saw women as having a special responsibility to ensure the integrity of human and natural life on earth.

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The Technology of Gender

Teresa de Lauretis, ‘The Technology of Gender’, pp.1-30, in:

De Lauretis, T., 1987. Technologies of gender: essays on theory, film, and fiction, Theories of representation and difference. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
p.1
In the feminist writings and cultural practices of the 1960s and 1970s, the notion of gender as sexual difference was central to the critique of representation, the rereading of cultural images and narratives, the questioning of theories of subjectivity and textuality, of reading, writing, and spectatorship.

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