Culture of New Capitalism

Richard Sennett addresses three challenges that he sees as the sociological aspects of the global capitalist workplace in developed countries. The first one, is how to manage short term relationships and how to adapt to a changing “life narrative.” Bennett suggests that people take pride in being good at something and need this to be happy. The second challenge is how to develop new skills as “reality’s demands shift.” This idea of learning to do many skills is short lived, one that has many skills Bennett feels are displaced with a loose narrative.  The third one is about surrendering, every one is replaceable. No one is entitled to his or her position at an organization. Pass services do not mean that an employee is entitled to their position.

While Bennett views the capacity to learn new skills as being economically valuable, his lack of appreciation for the role of the “expert” is troubling. In cross disciplinary collaborations, success isn’t necessary achieved by teams being comprise of many people who are all somewhat flexible in their skills. Often times, it is the various mastering of skills across members that benefit the group as a whole. The ability for everyone to think outside their own craft’s “box” is important, but the skills needed for many complex social problems often require years of study and work. It is unrealistic to think that the same level of progress can be achieved by someone or a group that has to constantly learn a new skill and will not have the time to fully comprehend. Our ability to learn is important to our life’s narratives, and Bennett makes an interesting argument that an individual’s personal identity is deeply affected by one’s inability or ability to achieve success. However, there has been a strong movement in the DIY front as the internet makes it incredibly easy to access instructions for learning basically any skill.

Furthermore, it seems unfair to generalize that people define their happiness by how well they do a job, we would argue that it’s more about what that job is. What collaboration needs is passionate people from different backgrounds who all have something to contribute to the whole, and are able to be flexible with learning the skills they need to accomplish their goal. The ability to move between different worlds is more important for the role of facilitator in collaborative groups or workplaces.

Do you agree or disagree?  Think about how you identify yourself based on your skills and skill level. Write down each skill you have, skill level, and level of happiness. Do you feel that these skills will be transferable to many different careers?


Joamir and Stephanie

Reading Response: Governing the Commons

Ostrom lays out three models for the ways in which groups govern themselves. The first is the “tragedy of the commons” as Garrett Hardin called it, which she defines as symbolic of “the degradation of the environment to be expected whenever many individuals use a scarce resource in common.” This tragedy is illustrated by a pasture on which many herders allow their animals to graze. It is in the best interest of each individual herder to have as many animals as he can but it is not in the collective interest for all herders because if everyone is maximizing their number of cattle then the pasture is being overgrazed. The only way to curtail this overgrazing is for each herder to control individual herd population thus limiting the gain one can make from that herd.

The second model is the prisoner’s dilemma game. I didn’t really think Ostrom’s explanation of the actual game was particularly clear having played the game before so I went to trusty old Wikipedia for this explanation:

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of speaking to or exchanging messages with the other. The police admit they don’t have enough evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They plan to sentence both to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the police offer each prisoner a Faustian bargain. Here’s how it goes:

– If A and B both confess the crime, each of them serves 2 years in prison
– If A confesses but B denies the crime, A will be set free whereas B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)

If A and B both deny the crime, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison

Because betraying your partner (by confessing) always rewards more than cooperating with them, all purely rational self-interested prisoners would betray the other, and so the only possible outcome for two purely rational prisoners is for them both to betray each other. The interesting part of this result is that pursuing individual reward logically leads both of the prisoners to betray, but they would get a better reward if they both cooperated.

I feel like that’s pretty straightforward but there are many ways to play this game that don’t necessarily need a literal prisoner as a character. The idea is that you have individuals who stand to do better working toward a collective interest than solely individual interests but rational humans are expected to act in their own best interest most of the time.

The third model is Mancur Olson’s logic of collective action, which basically says that it is assumed that individual members of groups will all work toward the commons goals but this assumption is not necessarily reflective of reality. If the fruits of the groups labor are publicly available then some members may choose to “free ride”, allowing the few to do the work on behalf of the many. Free riding also can water down the outcome, making it less successful than intended or perhaps even causing failure. What all three models have in common is the conflict between self interest and the collective good.

As a member of the MFA DT community and occupant of the lab we lovingly call D12, I’ve seen a bit of the “tragedy of the unmanaged commons” and logic of collective action at play. At the start of last semester the lab was a complete wreck. People had left the remains of projects strewn all over the place. There were pieces on the windowsills, some labeled by their creators and others not. The whiteboard walls had gotten so dirty that the leavings of whatever people had written needed some elbow grease to get erased. Students regularly left meals in various states of completion on the tables as if this were a restaurant and someone would bus their table. What I didn’t understand was that it’s in everyone’s interest for this space to be pleasant and clean. Why wouldn’t everyone want to keep it orderly? The leaving of food on tables suggests that people expected to be cleaned up after. People just assumed that the powers that be would take care of everything. What’s become clear to me in my time here is that, at least in this program, everything is what we make of it. But it’s in your average busy DT student’s self-interest to keep her head down and make things. To fast-forward to the outcome of this, we organized a “Spring Cleaning” day that a lot of students took part in and the lab was cleaner than it had been since I’d laid eyes on it.

What working examples of models such as the tyranny of the commons, the prisoner’s dilemma, and the logic of collective action can you think of from your own experience with groups you are a part of? Did you find yourself agreeing with what Ostrom said or disagreeing? Are the collective good and self-interest opposed by definition or is there space to negotiate these seemingly divergent aims?

Reading response: A critique of social practice art

1. What is the role of art in social practice? And what kind of role or function could it play? Does art has this responsibility to participate in social practice?

An artist basically uses art to communicate his idea to a group or community of people. Once an artist’s idea is communicated, then it can be built upon by other social practitioners. As far as social practice is concerned, art can be used as a way to promote the practice. Like the example given in the article, the occupy movement used art in order to promote the movement. Similarly, there are various communities in Asia, where administrators destroyed and rebuilt entire villages for capitalistic motives, but they said it is for aesthetic concern. Those residents in the villages used to have strong social connection or belongingness toward their community, in order to not hurt those residents’ feelings (or, to create a nicer saying to the public), the administrators used the saying that the purpose is for pursuing higher common profit of citizens. The re-building is termed as social practice because it is being done for the people who live there by building architectural structures or art galleries. A lot of times, designers come up with possible solutions for social change and give it a form of art in order for their solutions to reach out and speak to the community they have been targeting. We have seen architects doing that while re-building different communities. For example, companies, architects and NGOs want to re-build the slums in Mumbai, all for different reasons but leading up to the same goal, some of the reasons are capitalistic yet some are not, but still stick on to the idea that it is to bring about a change in the lives of people who reside there.

2. Is art a tool, form, container, or an approach in social practice? What is the idea behind an artistic action?

Art is also totally dependent on how people use it. Rirkit Tirivanija’s 1992 artwork example, mentioned in the article; was about serving curry and rice to people visiting the exhibition; but why is it art? or even social practice? Serving curry is building an aesthetic relation to the art piece by involving people in the art itself. But what led to this artistic action? Was it just a way to have people participate in something the artist made and eventually only a means for the artist to promote themselves? Art becomes social practice when it is not only addressed to the community but also does something for the community.

3. If art has the function of carrying out social practice / idea, since usually the society / community has longer existence and history, how fundamental could this idea be? Would it be just a temporary thing?

How does an artist know if what they are building is going to live for a long time or just temporarily be a piece of art that is spoken or debated about by other people. As mentioned above, art is an idea communicated through the art piece to a community, but a community stays together for a long time, in that case how is it that art can continue to influence the community without being exhaustive? How do we know that an idea put across by an artist is something that is going to be relevant for generations in the community?

4. Is collaboration inherently anti-capitalist? If so, how so and why? If not, why not?

Collaboration is not entirely anti-capitalist, but at some point the monetary desires need to be set aside in order for the collaboration to work out. At some point however, it is going to be driven by capitalist motives. Put together a group of artists and social practitioners to come up with an idea for a space in the city; both would be working on the same goal, but in order to make the most of the space it is important for them to collaborate. A balance between monetary and social aspects should be maintained in order for the collaboration to work out well.

– Ritika & Mennie

Reading Response – “Tyranny of Structurelessness”

From my understanding, this reading is more than merely a description of how structurelessness took place from the past to modern times.The idea of “structurelessness” was created because of the women’s liberation movement. It is an extremely critical commentary that gives us a completely different insight of collaboration. It might be really normal for people to participate in a group and then spontaneously have a center of authority. As we always think of the typical type of leadership, the informal structure is continuously set. However, the fact that this “usual” matter which happens all the time in our daily lives can have an enormous impact to the group improvement and achievement. The lost of structure in fact gives several people in the group much more power but without a formal standard, which means they are not responsible for their actions nor can be taken over since there is no legitimate way.

Structurelessness was originated from the movement of feminism. It is easy to see the benefits of forming groups without formal regulations. Women at that period were more conservative in a way that most of the participants were given the power to talk but unable to. And even at the times that people were not being so sensitive about what might happen running a group without a structural organization in the future, there were still lots of boundaries for women to be part of the movement. There were also lots of different standards for women to get into the elite group of feminist organizations such as being not single or lesbian. It is obvious that even from the old time we can tell the only way being part of the elite group is to make yourself like them and pledge a sorority.

I really like how Jo Freeman describes this matter. She wants to clarify that informal structures and structureless groups are different. A structure group can have both formal structures and informal ones, but not for sturctureless groups. As a matter of fact, mentioned in the paper, informal structure is inevitable. It’s not bad but inevitable. But only unstructure groups are totally governed by it. I am really impressed by this description of how real it is that explains the problems we encounter while collaborating and how we should cope with them. There are also several useful guides stated on last pages of how we can form formal structures and engage more group members in a democratic fashion.

From my own experience, I like small groups more than large ones. After reading this paper, I started to understand why. Not only because I feel more comfortable being with friends, which is also not a good sign for task accomplishing, but also having the power of controlling things the way I want them to be. I have to admit that being as authority in a group but also irresponsible (no rules that make me an leader) like the author implied, is actually a very good feeling. It is a very great examination after reading this and looking back to my own communities and thinking whether there should be structure principles that make the group goal more achievable.

Therefore, here are my questions:

  1. Have you ever been in a less structure group? What were the factors that took place beside professional ones (such as friendships with other members) in the decision making process?
  2. If you have been in a less structure group, do you view yourself as an “STAR” or the ones who try to get into the elite group?
  3. What kind of situation do you think is better to form a less structure group?
  4. Which one do you prefer, structure or structureless group?


It was popular and successful in the 1970s, because the original purpose is to encourage participation and elicit personal insights. While the author pointed out two main reasons that structurelessness can’t be extended. The first one is that the “structureless” group was built to only prevent the formal structures, not the informal ones. The second reason is that any group of people will inevitable structure itself. For example, people can participate in its activities only when they know the rules.

Also the author talked about the nature of elitism. Elitism is one of the informal structures. The author clearly described the formal and informal structures. I think the interesting thing about elitism is how new people join the group and how they participate in it. Most of the groups are created according to people’s levels of skills. However the way to value people’s skills is complicated.


Reminder: Attend Theaster Gates Artists’ Lecture next Wed Sep 18th, 7:00 pm, 66 W12th St.

Info here.


Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries

September 18 – October 15, 2013

Forum: Wednesday, September 18, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, September 19, 10:00 am – 12:00 p.m.
Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, 55 W. 13th Street

Opening reception: Thursday, September 18, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m., Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, 66 Fifth Avenue

Artist Lecture and Prize Presentation: Wednesday September 18, 7:00 p.m., Tishman Auditorium, 66 W. 12th Street

Curated with support by Theaster Gates, recipient of the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, this exhibition and forum are the culmination of The New School’s engagement with the artist and his work. It offers a view into how the artist creates synergies within his work, and examines the complex ways of creating and maintaining an expanded studio practice rooted in institutional engagement, object making, and the production of space. The installation includes drawings, videos, and a rickshaw, inspired by visits to Haiti and Mexico, and related to Dorchester Projects, a space for artistic production on Chicago’s South Side.


Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument in the Bronx ends this Sunday

Information here from the Bright red and green website:

The decision to do the “Gramsci Monument” at Forest Houses was taken in common by Erik Farmer, the President of the Resident Association of Forest Houses and myself. It was him who invited me to do the “Gramsci Monument” at Forest Houses together with his neighbors in the spirit of co-existence and co-operation.


Location: Forest Houses, Bronx, NY
Gramsci Monument is located on the grounds of Forest Houses, off Tinton Avenue between 163rd and 165th Streets.

Subway: 2, 5 at Prospect Avenue
Head north on Prospect Avenue
Turn left onto 163rd Street
Pass Union Avenue
Turn right onto Tinton Avenue
Take first left onto pedestrian pathway leading into Forest Houses
Bright red and green info here.

3rd Ward’s Make and Take Pop-Up happening at Chelsea Market

3rd Ward’s “Make ‘N’ Take” Pop-Up is in full effect!

Hey everybody! We’re still holding it down in Chelsea Market getting ready for another awesome Drink ‘N’ Draw tonight at 7:30. We’ve also got skateboards you can make yourself and roll away on at 5pm & 6pm tonight, stop by to register for the workshop! The Make ‘N’ Take lathes are still spinning, so stop by Chelsea Market and Make Something!

3rd Ward’s “Make ‘N’ Take” Pop-Up schedule can be found here.

Reading Response – “CAE’s Observations on Collective Cultural Action”

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) makes a case for thought-out collaboration in an artistic, cultural, political, and social economy in which demand for the individual currently prevails.

CAE states that art schools and institutions prioritize – and in most cases, only offer – education for the individual artist. Collaborative practice is not the preferred ideological imperative in place of individual practice. This kind of education promotes the cultivation of many different skills in one person as per market demand. For example, in the current market, “a single artist must be able to produce in a given medium, write well enough for publication, be verbally articulate, have a reasonable amount of knowledge of numerous disciplines, be a capable public speaker, a career administrator, and possess the proper diplomatic skills to navigate through a variety of cultural sub-populations.” CAE relents that the need for this maximization of skills is because of the “excessive population of cultural producers” so if an individual’s focus is on specialization in a specific medium, his or her opportunities diminish.  But as most artists and producers are unable to become capable of all of those requirements on their own, CAE makes a case for maximizing their opportunities by collaboration with those who possess different skills. This results in a deviation from specialization and the ability to work in a wide variety of cultural spaces.

CAE emphasize the importance of organization and structure of a group in accordance with the size of the group. If the group becomes too large then there is risk of individuals being unable to participate in each task and different subgroups emerge, stepping towards a power hierarchy and a diminished democratic process. Under these conditions, individuals may find themselves underrepresented within the whole group.

For its own projects, CAE uses the idea of a “floating hierarchy.” The member with the most experience with a particular project becomes the leader for that particular project and while others are allowed to pitch in their ideas, the leader makes the final decisions. In CAE’s opinion, as long as everyone is satisfied with the work and with the rate at which the work is progressing, there isn’t a necessity for rigid equality within the production process. CAE does not recommend this process for large groups (more than eight people) because in large groups “members must be able to interact in a direct face-to-face manner so everyone is sure that they have been heard as a person.”

Do you agree with CAE’s suggestions for group hierarchy (or lack thereof) based on group size? Do you have any personal experiences working within groups, no matter the size, where you felt you were unable to fully participate because of  certain group dynamics/hierarchy? If so, what do you think could have been done differently to fix the issue of underrepresentation?

Would you prefer individual specialization in all areas (if you believe that to be a likely option) or to work collaboratively within a group where different individuals specialize in different areas (like CAE)? Which method would provide for the best production rate? For most personal satisfaction?

Reading Responses for CAE’s Observations on Collective Cultural Action

CAE mentions several reasons to collaborate creatively; including diversifying technical and media related skills. Media projects continue to get more complex. Much like the previous era of making films, which might have involved different people for writing, acting, camera, sound, and editing; newer media projects might involve different people for audio, video, graphics, interaction or game design and back end coding.

Question: What experiences have you had creating projects large enough to diversify creatively and technically, and what was the result? When does “collaborate with me” mean “do the technical/skilled labor I am ignorant about for free” and when does collaboration fuse the skills and ideas of all collaborators? Would you consider doing your thesis project collaboratively, sharing ideas and labor? Why or why not?

CAE writes that “Members must be able to interact in a direct face-to-face manner, so everyone is sure that they have been heard as a person (and not as an anonymous or marginalized voice).”

Question: What is your opinion on this? Have you had experiences which have supported or contradicted this?


While reading this piece, I was reminded of something Chinese philosopher Mozi wrote in a piece about “indulgence in excess.” He  writes excess renders certain groups of people invisible and creates hierarchies based on social markers like class. And he warns that indulging in excess contradicts any sincere call for change by reinforcing power dynamics. Mozi believes that this indulgence hurts collectives and produces inequities (Book 1, Section 6).

Collective building, at the different scales described by CAE, all share a need not only for establishing trust, but also a process for self-reflection– a time to check your indulgences.  I can give an example. I was recently working on developing a public program with a small arts group where I was the only person of color/woman on the team. There were moments during our planning meetings where maybe I didn’t speak up as much because of fear and, reciprocally, the three other men felt like they had to be more vocal to be heard (sometimes even silencing each other). I had to express how the way we were communicating with one another wasn’t adding to our overall growth as a group or our planning efforts. We collectively arrived to a decision to become more self-aware as means of building trust.  For us, this process of self-reflection included sharing readings around privilege, acknowledging how much each member was talking during meetings, and making pizza together (“convivial relationships beyond the production process are necessary”). And maybe understanding excess and indulgence happens best at a cellular level because there is more opportunity for face to face interaction, but I think acknowledgement of self and others is key to working together.

Consequently, there has always been a drive toward finding a social principle that would allow likeminded people or cells to organize into larger groups. Currently, the dominant principle is “community.” CAE sees this development as very unfortunate. The idea of community is without doubt the liberal equivalent of the conservative notion of “family values” – neither exists in contemporary culture, and both are grounded in political fantasy.

By far, one of my favorite moments in the piece. While I also choose to shy away from the word “community,” I don’t completely agree with CAE’s reasons for tearing it down. I think the word is void of meaning when you use it to describe a group of people as a monolithic organization (ie. “the gay community,” “the black community,” etc). But I think people operate in multiple communities simultaneously and that a group of people can value an individual’s dissimilarity in the same way that similarity brings them together. Almost immediately, Afropunk comes to mind. Afropunk is part music festival, part zine fair, and part marketplace. This annual summer event draws crowds of folks who feel like they operate outside of what is widely accepted to be “black culture” (whatever that means) in hopes of expanding definitions of blackness. The festival has a range of attendees that identify in a multitude of ways, but all share the affinity of race. This festival provides a platform for truly different people to commune, cross lines, and celebrate their differences. Calling a community like Afropunk a “minority” just seems like giving the original issues around the term “community” a new face.

Also, I wish CAE detailed their understanding of coalition building. I didn’t really understand how a social subsystem lacks social solidarity. Moreover, I wish CAE defined what counts as “conflicting” when social subsystems are supposed to put aside “any conflicting differences” as a step towards building coalitions and alliances.

A friend once beautifully related the process of alliance building to rehearsing in an orchestra. First, the different sections– strings, brass, etc.– rehearse on their own to strengthen their sounds. Once the different sections feel confident to share, the entire ensemble comes together to rehearse together. I think different social subsystems need this time to “rehearse” because it allows for self-definition, so you are not muted out by the other instruments. So many thoughts on this.


Some questions I’m left with:

How does a collective anticipate reaching critical mass?

How have collectives turned down new members? Is that cool?

How can cellular collectives create formulas for new collectives to initiate?

How does a social subsystem lack social solidarity with other groups?

What are examples of conflicting differences between social subsystems?

What does it mean to be an ally?

“Indulgence in Excess.” Chinese Text Project. W. P. Mei, 10 Sep 2013. Web. <>.


Reading Response – “Making Cutting Edge Animation on a DIY Homestead”

For me, the most interesting thing is that there is a strong contrast on what they are doing. They are making a very technology-based, virtual, digital animation. At the same time they are creating a unique community that allow themselves get more chance to explore to the nature. I quite interested in the idea entertainment and education medium, it is a promising technology that is under developing. We already realize it through telephone apps. For example, when we go to MOMA, we can download the museum  app, and get a lot of information of the art piece we are looking at. It is a good media to allow people to interact with the object and environment.

I do not think that commitment to sustainable ecology can successfully intersect with commercial industry and market economies in a short time. Commercial industry and market economies are quite profit-driven, sustainable ecology need advanced technology support which will gain much more cost. Just like we all know that plastic is harmful to the environment, but markets can not stop manufacture plastic bottle and costumers can not stop buy plastic bottle beverage.

Encyclopedia Pictura is extended to 18 people, do you think is it easy for them to get more people involved or not? I would think about the social meaning of the sustainable village, do you think the project really can be sustainable or not? How can people benefit from it? It can only benefit a small group of people or it can affect a large area.

I also want to introduce some fashion designers, they collaborate with different people from background , combined fashion together with technology.
They are Hussein Chalayan, iris van herpen, and issey miyake.