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  • Branding, Selfbranding, Making: The Neototalitarian Relation Between Spectacle and Prosumers in the Age of Cognitive Capitalism

    Nello Barile

    Chapter from the book: Briziarelli M. & Armano E. 2017. The Spectacle 2.0: Reading Debord in the Context of Digital Capitalism.


    This paper analyses the process of consumer’s cognitive exploitation in which the consumer is at the same time the centre of the universe peopled by global brands and the victim of a sort of identity burglary. This process became visible during the 1990s with a revolutionary approach of companies to communication and advertising (Klein, 2000), but it became even stronger recently with the emergence of a new digital economy based on the centrality of UGC (Users Generated Contents) and with the blurring of boundaries between virtuality and reality (Jurgenson 2011). Everything started with the fetishization of consumer’s experiential field (Barile 2009), of his emotional capital (Illouz 2007) and also of other abstract categories such as the ‘social’ (Lovink, 2011) or the amateur’s creativity (Keen 2007). Adopting the same democratic rhetoric, the system was able to implement a full cognitive exploitation of users (Formenti 2011). The paper describes the evolution from the hegemony of global brands through self-branding logic – based on the transformation of emotions in a competitive resource (Barile, 2012) – to the actual productive and participative emancipation of the makers (Gauntlett 2011). Notwithstanding this ‘linear’ evolution, the aims of makers could be turned into a new form of exploitation in which production is externalized into the consumption, and the cognitive hegemony of global brands that is empowered by a hyper-sophisticated storytelling.

    Barile, Nello. 2009. Brand new world. Il consumo delle marche come forma di rappresentazione del mondo. Milano: Lupetti.
    Barile, Nello. 2012. ‘The Age of Personal Web TVs. A Cultural Analysis of the Convergence between Web 2.0, Branding and Everyday Life’. In A. Abruzzese et al. eds, The New Television Ecosystem. Berlin: Peter Lang.
    Formenti, Carlo. 2011. Felici e sfruttati. Capitalismo digitale ed eclissi del lavoro. Milano: Egea.Gauntlett, David. 2011. Making is Connecting, The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge: Polity Press.
    Illouz, Eva. 2007. Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Oxford: Polity Press
    Keen, Andrew. 2007. The Cult of the Amateur: How Blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the Rest of Today’s User-Generated Media are Destroying our Economy, our Culture, and our Values. New York: Doubleday.
    Klein, Naomi. 2000. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. Toronto: Knopf.
    Jurgenson, Nathan. 2011. ‘Digital dualism and the fallacy of web objectivity’, in http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/09/13/digital-dualism-and-thefallacy- of-web-objectivity
    Lovink, Geert. 2011. Networks Without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media. Cambridge: Polity.

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    Barile, N. 2017. Branding, Selfbranding, Making: The Neototalitarian Relation Between Spectacle and Prosumers in the Age of Cognitive Capitalism. In: Briziarelli M. & Armano E (eds.), The Spectacle 2.0. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book11.i

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    Published on Dec. 12, 2017