Capitalism Enjoys My Body: What is NewNew?
What is NewNew?
NewNew is described as a “human stock market.” I quote an article from the New York Times: “On the app, fans pay to vote in polls to control some of a creator’s day-to-day decisions. For example, a creator can use NewNew to post a poll asking which sweater they should wear today, or who they should hang out with and where they should go. […] [it is] like a real life choose-your-own-adventure game.”
Okay, so what is going on here?
Let us consider the status of the body in several discourses. The first discourse is the body reduced to its biology and secured in place by some sort of enduring government document, such as a birth certificate. And then there is the body of social constructionism, exemplified, in its penultimate form, in Queer theory and the work of Judith Butler. For Butler, sex is not equal to gender because the latter inscribes itself through ideological or performative cultural practices. Thus, there is the ‘biological facticity of the body’ on the one side, and, on the other side, there is gender as an ‘enduring illusion.’ The critical gesture is here to produce a disjuncture of sex and gender and to open up a zone of deciphering or interpreting the body as a symbolic construction (so as to liberate the body and allow it to be the anarchic wildness that it is).
In another discourse — the psychoanalytic one, if I may use that descriptor — there is the work of Alenka Zupancic, who argued that sex is an inherent stumbling block for cultural inscription. The disjuncture of sex and gender still exists but now it is precisely ‘sex,’ the ‘real’ of sex (and perhaps of the sexed body), which is what permits the very possibility of queering the body. In other words, it is the impossibility of sex, intrinsic to any individual, that gives rise to any number of anarchic interpretations, to cultural inscriptions as such. It is a subtle distinction but an important one because it exposes the zone of the ‘real,’ of the traumatic body, of the body as a site of resistance to inscription — and, finally, of the limitations to the paradigm of symbolic deciphering. The body is itself this navel of the dream of culture.
In some trans* perspectives, there is a challenge to the bifurcation of the body, and, implicit, a challenge to queer perspectives on identity. The body is no longer an obstacle, a barrier, and the key critical operation is no longer deciphering or interpreting the symbolic apparatus. There is rather something that can dig into the real of the body in order to invent gender, to give rise to the body not as a signifier in a queer operation but as a ‘sign’ (that is, a crystallization of jouissance). The body is an invention, not a cultural imposition or an obstacle.
But what about NewNew? What is the body here?
On the one hand, it does not seem to be a site of cultural inscription into which one unknowingly becomes indoctrinated. Neither does it seem to be the site of a trauma that one should come to terms with. It is a puppet of capital — this is the real ‘storming of the capital,’ since capitalism storms into the body. The performer chooses, apparently freely, to give up his/her/their body and its performances to the audience’s enjoyment. The performer should at all times appear to be enjoying this process. The performer is ultimately the instrument of the Other’s enjoyment. The performer is the one who sets the rules of what enjoyments the Other is permitted to inflict upon him against his will: “should I eat something very hot today?” Thus, the basic coordinates of the game are already mapped, and yet, nonetheless, the response is the only way that the subject/performer can tenuously establish a bond to the Other.
Gone are the days of ‘universal prohibitions,’ since the anchor of this discourse is precisely the fact that the game must always be repeated — otherwise the subject will be abandoned to the lonely world without the Other of capital.