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 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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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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Beyond Machines (but Still within the Phenomenology of Gestures)

Vilém Flusser, “Beyond Machines (but Still within the Phenomenology of Gestures)”, pp.10-18, in:
Flusser, V., 2014. Gestures. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
p.10
During its first phase (antiquity and the Middle Ages), history emphasizes the way the world should be; that is, people work to realize a value—ethical, political, religious, practical, in short, “in good faith.”
During its second phase (modernity), it emphasizes the discovery of being in the world; that is, people work epistemologically, scientifically, experimentally, and theoretically, in short, “without faith.”

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Artifacts and Attachment

Peter-Paul Verbeek, ‘Artifacts and Attachment: A Post-Script Philosophy of Mediation’, pp.125-146, in:
Harbers, H. (Ed.), 2005. Inside the politics of technology: agency and normativity in the co-production of technology and society. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.

p.125

Within Technology Studies, the predominant vocabulary for understanding the role of artifacts in society is offered by actor-network theory. Bruno Latour, one of its major representatives, maintains that the social sciences’ exclusive focus on humans should be abandoned.

The so-called “principle of symmetry” is the most notable feature of Latour’s approach, entailing that humans and nonhuman entities should be studied symmetrically.

p.126

It will appear that Latour’s vocabulary is helpful in answering this question, but that it needs to be augmented in order to do full justice to the role of things in people’s everyday lives. I shall develop this augmentation by reinterpreting phenomenology, and by elaborating it literally into a post-script philosophy of technical mediation.

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Insects’ Meals

Michel Serres, ‘Insects’ Meals’, pp.91-93, in:
Serres, M., Schehr, L.R., 1982. The parasite. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

p.91

The ant does not have as its dinner guest a flute-player or a folk-singer, whose voices constantly fill space. Thus, the ant excludes the parasite.

The dismissal of the para­site does not cost a thing. Chasing out the hare, on the contrary, costs the master, that is to say, results in servitude; it is dearly bought.

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Work

Michel Serres, ‘Work’, pp.86-90, in:
Serres, M., Schehr, L.R., 1982. The parasite. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

p.86

What is work? Undoubtedly, it is a struggle against noise. If we allowed things to happen without intervening, stables would fill up with manure, the fox would eat the chickens, and the phylloxera would cross the seas to dry out the vine leaves. The channel is filled with mud.

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The Body and the Archive

Allan Sekula, ‘The Body and the Archive’, pp.3-64, in:
October, Vol. 39 (Winter, 1986). MIT Press.

p.3

The sheer range and volume of photographic practice offers ample evidence of the paradoxical status of photography within bourgeois culture. The simultaneous threat and promise of the new medium was recognized at a very early date, even before the daguerreotype process had proliferated.

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Fingers

Vilém Flusser, ‘Fingers’, pp.57-63, in:
Flusser, V., Zielinski, S., Baitello, N., Novaes, R.M., 2013 [1979]. Natural:mind. Univocal, Minneapolis, MN.

p.57

I am sitting on a chair. The chair is a product of Western civilization and if it were to be analysed it would reveal the history of the West.

The juxtaposition “chair – desk” is a characteristic structure of particular situations of my culture.

p.58

This is a slight paleo-technological writing instrument (a product of the beginning of the 20th century). The machine has keys inscribed with letters of the Latin alphabet.

My fingers hit the keys in a particular order. This order is therefore determined by the specific order of such a language.

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