Media Theory for the 21st Century

March 14, 2008

Spime and Shop Dropping

Filed under: Discussion — zachblas @ 12:27 am

i just realized i completely forgot to post this.

Sterling’s notion of a Spime Wrangler began to make me think about a politicized aesthetics of Spime. Sterling points out that Spime is a set of relations and those relations are constituted through the action of naming. Naming here is the generation of pattern. I can’t help but recall Kittler’s statement that aesthetics is pattern recognition. Thus, recognizing the naming pattern of Spime gives one access to the re-configuration, re-naming, re-manufacturing of its relations.

I began to question what types of activities could be considered Spime Wrangling. What actions, groups, events are altering pattern (naming) to produce a different aesthetics of identity? Based on my own work, the first thing that came to mind is shop dropping. Defined by the New York Times succinctly as “surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out,” shop dropping appears to be one way of crafting a politics out of Spime. The Shop Dropper is not only concerned with the re-crafting of an object, even though this is part of the process. The Shop Dropper is primarily focused on re-contextualizing (re-naming, disidentifying) the spheres of circulation that the identities connected to the object move throughout. Understood this way, shop dropping causes newly imagined patterns to generate. Flows and circulations of the Spime become re-directed.

For example, a classic shop dropping event was carried out by The Barbie Liberation Organization (Yes Men) in 1989, where voice mechanisms of GI Joe action figures and Barbie dolls were switched with each other and placed back on store shelves. Here, the relations, patterns, and identities of these toys shift out of their originally deployed context. Importantly though, the barcode stays the same. Sterling points to the barcode as a major Spime ingredient. Thus, while new content-based patterns and affective patterns emerge through engagements with these hacked products, informatic patterns remain the same. But it is the stasis of the informatic pattern that allows for new relations (Spime) to circulate. On the other hand, Troy’s presentation on the group that crafted tools to re-design barcodes (I can’t remember their name) does just the opposite. Here, barcodes—the ultimate identifying code of pattern generation in capitalism—get re-formatted to generate new narratives of circulation, privilege, and access. Perhaps the Spime Wrangler of the bar code causes more pattern hacks informatically, but both the Barbie Liberation Organization and bar code manipulators cause pattern disruption and mutation through different acts of naming, promising new aestheticized experiences for those that encounter and recognize these new patterns in highly regulated, traditional environments. Like Spime itself, Spime Wrangling begins before the object (product), re-routes and physically demarcates itself upon the object, and continues through networks of affect and information far beyond any remaining physical instantiation of the object.

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