By ann summers
In the US, the public library is one of the many spaces used by the homeless as shelter especially in cold or inclement weather and there is a contradiction of trying to both accommodate that public and the need to eradicate homelessness in the entire public sphere, regardless of regional war, national border or environmental circumstance, of which the current migrant/refugee crisis is an example of how can we (not) work together in the capitalists’ knowledge economy. Is there a global networked economy of media violence without negotiable borders that is not, “fracturing itself from within so as to produce parallax splits between irreconcilable layers and tiers of existence.”
For many in such marginalized populations, homelessness is a mind of state rather than a state of mind. All too often media is the means to escape a material reality by substitutability rather than seeing such technology as a complement even if it is ideologically suspect.
Considered here are two examples of virtuality and capital in two boxes, both of a kind of basic material that we encounter everyday as packaging for storage or transport which gets transformed into either ad hoc shelter or as a cardboard media device holder transformed into the inversion of the pinhole camera and a carrying device for entertainment devices worn as Virtual Reality (VR) goggles or glasses. Acknowledged as the base activity upon which all this occurs is an entire globalized, proletarian economy to produce the technologies that also create the deskilling, unemployment, and exploitation of those forced onto the streets and where the struggles of race, class, and gender constantly reproduce themselves.
We encounter the first as the virtual non-existence of the homeless, ubiquitous yet daunting in the urban landscape, normally found in the basic shipping package for large appliances, as shelters for the homeless or the permanent cardboard box “There are thought to be at least 800 long-term rough sleepers in London alone.” Ultimately the difference between these and the Japanese airport capsule hotel are the property rights and subsequent commodity prices.
The second is a another portable virtuality, found in an advanced 3-D virtual reality landscape, an accessory for a new smart phone use and alienating in a way that shares a virtual family resemblance in terms of isolation of species-being from certain material realities and relations.
Both are kinds of material estrangement whose consciousness examines itself as exterior and interior annihilation and is represented at different ends of capital consumption – one a loss, one an excess – both disciplined bodies representative of capital crisis, shock, and evasion.
There is the tangibility of fitness and availability for labor and yet disemployed for the homeless, and for the VR box user the tangibility of sensations imagined in a dynamic digital landscape, mentally ambulatory yet still fixed in a real GPS location.
Goggles without lenses but with blinders – the ultimate inversion of reality in its observable erasure. In the case of virtual reality goggles, it is technological fetishism without a viable commodity form still to be socially networked completely – a variation of various utopian ideas like Second Life or an MMORPG, but as yet not fully enabled economies although bitcoin maintains that imagined promise of accumulating fictional capital no different than the state lottery or your 30 year mortgage to your goggle’s Google Bank.
Both boxes represent the commodity consumption of labor but provide no real operative work, but are they either/both epiphenomenal activities – homelessness and VR play. Both ideological cardboard boxes, packaged for class consumption. Sheltering in place during a terror attack or killing zombies trying to consume your (post-apocalypse) shelter.
For example, other than the applicability of flying drones in the real world and engaging panoptical, socially networked fantasy, is cognitive labor of the type in VR games wasted when one creates a camera obscura in one’s mind. The labor and capital within VR environments like Second Life, mediated by technology, evolve into virtual economies with real world material consequences as if global financial markets in the age of high speed trading will at one moment converge.
Every global financial crisis has been this shock of converging financial markets as fictional/virtual capital internationally fragmenting material realities. The Camera Obscura as real space and as ideological metaphor is at once a monocular image with Euclidian geometry, yet in the Internet age, the competitiveness of binocular rivalry (the anomoly or optical illusion that occurs between one’s cognitively paired monocular realities) makes the possible failure of economies occur in a zone/dimension of a non-visible parallax view.
The marginalized homeless, whether local or migratory as in the current refugee crisis and their cast shadows exploited by predatory forces are symptomatic of an entire complex of dialectic contradictions in how nations and classes should conduct themselves. A generation of hipsters on VR programs siumming in their coffeeshops, goggled in networked behavior while being pickpocketed by actual street people, should consider the historical and materialist consequences of such fantasies since it’s more about neo-liberalism than Neo of the Matrix movie trilogy.
Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process. Karl Marx. The German Ideology. 1845 Part I: Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook A. Idealism and Materialism
“….in the sixth Thesis on Feuerbach (1845), Marx criticizes the traditional conception of “human nature” as “species” which incarnates itself in each individual, on behalf of a conception of human nature as formed by the totality of “social relations”. Thus, the whole of human nature is not understood, as in classical idealist philosophy, as permanent and universal: the species-being is always determined in a specific social and historical formation, with some aspects being biological”
In tearing away from man the object of his production…estranged labor tears from him his species life, his real species objectivity, and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him. Similarly, in degrading spontaneous activity, free activity, to a means, estranged labor makes man’s species life a means to his physical existence. Marx 1844 Manuscripts, pp. 74-6.
Cardboard aims at developing accessible virtual reality (VR) tools to allow everyone to enjoy VR in a simple, fun, and natural way. The Cardboard SDKs for Android and Unity enable you to quickly start creating VR apps or adapt your existing application for VR….The Cardboard SDK for Android lets you build apps that display 3D scenes with binocular rendering, track and react to head movements, and interact with apps through magnet input.
Samsung’s Gear VR brings virtual reality to mobile. Google Cardboard brings mobile virtual reality to the masses. It’s not the most impressive piece of hardware, as it’s made entirely out of cardboard. Sure, it looks a little goofy. But cobble it together from a smartphone and a pizza box ( no, seriously) and you’ve got a tantalizing taste of what the technology has to offer.
One can surmise that lack of affordable housing is a basic cause of homelessness. However, in conjunction with this source of vagrancy, other conditions in the United States have precipitated homelessness, including deindustrialization, deinstitutionalization, and welfare state reorganization. According to Wolch et al. (1988), these events played a chief role in the development of vagrancy. The authors elucidated that the economic consequences of deindustrialization impacted homelessness due to the decline in the manufacturing sectors, especially in the snowbelt cities of the North-east. The process of deindustrialization was compounded with economic recessions and fluctuations in the U.S. currency that resulted in job losses and weakening of union membership. According to the authors, “these factors raised unemployment levels and created the highest rate of official poverty since the early 1960s. [And], by 1982, 15 percent (34.4 million) of the nation’s population was living below the poverty line” (Wolch et al., 1988, p.446).
Deinstitutionalization of the mentally-ill in the United States created the release of a large group of mentally-disabled individuals who lacked residence upon discharge from mental institutions. Being that the government’s provisions of community-based programs and community-based shelters were inadequate to meet the demand of this special population, many released persons ended up on the periphery of poverty—seeking shelters in the most deprived neighborhoods and on the streets. Additionally, the decrease in federal expenditure on welfare budgets during the 1980s, specifically under the Reagan administration, caused many persons who were previously dependent on welfare and social services to seep deeper into poverty (Wolch et al., 1988)…
…capitalism is distinguished not by privilege but instead by individuality of property ownership and that those who create the conditions of the oppressed group express this power in the form of laws that function to serve the bourgeoisie’s interests (Marx, 2004, p.129).
Virtual property is a label that can refer to any resource that is controlled by the powers-that-be, including virtual objects, avatars, or user accounts. The following characteristics may be found in virtual resources in mimicry of tangible property. Note however that it is possible for virtual resources to lack one or more of these characteristics, and they should be interpreted with reasonable flexibility.
Rivalry: Possession of a resource is limited to one person or a small number of persons within the virtual world’s game mechanics.
Persistence: Virtual resources persist across user sessions. In some cases, the resource exists for public view even when its owner is not logged into the virtual world.
Interconnectivity: Resources may affect or be affected by other people and other objects. The value of a resource varies according to a person’s ability to use it for creating or experiencing some effect.
Secondary markets: Virtual resources may be created, traded, bought, and sold. Real-world assets (typically money) may be at stake.
Value added by users: Users may enhance the value of virtual resources by customizing and improving upon the resource.
The existence of these conditions create an economic system with properties similar to those seen in contemporary economies. Therefore, economic theory can often be used to study these virtual worlds…
In these virtual economies, the value of in-game resources is frequently tied to the in-game power they confer upon the owner. This power allows the user, usually, to acquire more rare and valuable items. In this regard, in-game resources are not just tradable objects but can play the role of capital.
Players also acquire human capital as they become more powerful. Powerful guilds often recruit powerful players so that certain players can acquire better items which can only be acquired by the cooperation among many players…
A game’s synthetic economy often results in interaction with a “real” economy; characters, currency, and items may be sold and bought on online auction websites or purchased from standalone webshops. Since January 2007 users are no longer allowed to sell virtual goods of online games on eBay due to the ambiguous legal status of real world trading