Digital Savageries: A “Shark Womb” Model of Entropic Auto-Cannibalism in Minor Online Media Ecologies
May 14, 2019
The technological revolution, as every media theorist from McLuhan to Mumford to Grant, has come to invoke profound changes to human subjectivity itself. As Baudrillard said, it is not the loss of meaning (perhaps the loss of proper and life-affirming meaning) that has caused the inner malaise brought about by modernity. Rather Baudrillard saw the opposite is true, in hyper reality, and in hypermodernity, we are bathed in and suffer a glut of “too much meaning”. We swim in media, information, digital escapisms, social interactions across the globe. The term “internet time” has been the breaking apart and total deterritorialization of time itself in relation to subjectivity. Everyone is now “connected”, and thus globalization coupled with digital technology has brought the world not only spatially closer, but temporally closer as well. The world never sleeps, the digital western-globalized empire went further than the Brits; the sun never set on the British empire, and now, time itself never goes to sleep in the global digital mega-machine.
This this sense of awareness about the stretching and deconstruction of time in the digital age (one could write hundreds of essays and books on the subject) the persona, the character-mask of whole groups and peoples on the internet has changed as well. No longer do E-people live in the solitary, the life of secluded mastery and devotion to one talent, one pursuit, but rather a digital multiplicity of functions is needed to keep one’s head above the digital waters. We no longer have merely painters, poets, writers, journalists, thinkers, etc. we murdered them all, and in the ashes of the wake reigns one multiplicity, one singularity in fact. Atop the heap of talent-bodies stands the multi-function output machine known as the CONTENT creator. The content creator is not just a “Youtuber” or a “writer”, but an editor, a self-help guru, a grifter, a CONTENT minded twitter E-brand spitting out a multitude of various content-output flows in various forms, be it videos, podcasts, memes, tweets, articles, even IRL performances of varying abstraction. From the grant collapsing of art and media genres, the CONTENT creator stands as a poly-morphic entity. However, what happens when digitalization leads to E-tribes, cybernetic ingroup-outgroup dynamics, obscure and underground motley crews inhabiting a certain brand, or a certain region of social media based on roughly associated interests? What happens when these groups dissolve? When do shared digital spaces transform into “Mean Girls”? but furthermore, when does the mean girls dynamic of shared digital niches turn into free-for-all “Red Rooms”?
We have all witnessed it on the fringes of aesthetic and political discourse, both left and right, a phenomenon that is much older than the internet itself. A reality that has increased and reified, having its contradictions heightened by social media and a constant access to both an audience and instant archival capabilities. Information is transformed, but never fully destroyed, therefore anything can fuel this cycle. Slights over comment sections, DM groups and emails, private messages that contain backstabbing and infighting, can be readily accessible at any time. E-Drama is there for the world to see, but specifically, this phenomenon follows a repetitive cycle: A group of shared interests gets together, the group then experiences external and internal pressures, infighting becomes inevitable, and suddenly entropy takes hold. The original mission is lost, chaos and random breakdowns of order come about, and then the ensuing drama acts as fuel to an inferno of orgiastic backstabbing.
any political dissident can recognize this phenomenon, but really this downward spiral becomes present in any organization or enigmatic union, any group, art collective, fanbase, even work environment. Especially existing on the fringes of the managed-vacancy and stasis of globalized liberal society, the “under ground” has always been susceptible to this type of systems-collapse. Herein lies what I like to think of as another cave-allegory, rather a watery mirth, an anti-platonic, entropic entity, a model for dark, hidden operations of people on the absolute obscure fringes. Where the platonic cave evokes a metaphor that is revelatory, one that provokes a way of thinking about the recalling (and creation) of metaphysical Knowledge, this model of cavernous darkness is merely explanatory. It explains how knowledge and wisdom is destroyed, rather than recalled or created. This model may seem off-putting at first, strange even, but bare with me…. enter the Shark Womb Model of online group-dynamics and dissolution.
Life in The Blinding Depths.
The origins of this model come from a discussion with a very close friend of mine. We both are quite fascinated with how fringe online groups operate, and ultimately how they come to destroy each other from within, thus validating all their political enemies in the process. This was on the heels of the whole “internet blood sports” genre of YouTube content imploding, which is a pertinent example I will get into. I mentioned seeing this once on some shark documentary, and my friend said it was such a biting (literally) and succinct explanation of online E-group dynamics that I simply must turn it into an article.
A very revolting, yet curious happening occurs in the birthing of Tiger Sharks (read this article here). Embryonic Tiger Sharks swim about in-utero, are totally blind, yet can sense one another. What happens then is the stuff of death metal brutality: Tiger Shark embryos cannibalize each other while swimming in the womb, and the biggest ends up making preliminary attacks on its siblings, thus a free-for-all of frenzied, blind cannibalize happens till there is only one remaining Shark baby left to swim out of the womb. This Shark embryo will then feast on a pink gelatinous stream of uterine fluid, along with other eggs and the carcasses of attacked embryo sharks. Marine biologists have concluded that this brutal form of cannibalistic eugenics is to ensure that only one shark-mates spawn can live to maturity, thus destroying the competing spawn of other male Tiger Sharks that have copulated with the female at the same time (watch this video of it, if you have the stomach).
Does this grotesque and brutal example ring analogously true to a great deal of time spent interacting with and participating in groups on the internet? One can easily apply this model to any latent, germ-like, molecular grouping that has gained any modicum of mainstream attention within the last ten years. GamerGate seems to be the archetypal watershed for such a model; all of the major E-celebrities that have spawned out of its murky depths, when the funds dried up, the media attention withered, the collective motivation and fight tapered away into morose apathy etc. Suddenly the knives were drawn, and factions, drama, and a climb to the top of the ruins ensued. Again with “Internet blood sports”: every major figure ended up cancelling themselves, stabbed each other in the back, and banked on the ensuing drama to keep the super-chat funds, Patreon dollars, and views (which translates into dopamine hits) flowing.
Uncover the long road to modest fame for any brand/E-personality, and quickly one find’s the bodies that lay under the floorboards. The shark-womb phenomenon is a complex eco-eugenic-reverberation factor, one that takes place in direct response to various pressures and externalized forces that affects the entirety of the group-apparatus. It tends towards equilibrium; it fluctuates in ebbs and flows of back-stabbing intensities that share a direct-causal relation to the increased entropy of external and internal pressure. In other words, the shark-womb eugenic model of free-for-all combat is a force that weeds out the weak and tends towards a kind of horrific stabilization. It is brought about by entropy, entropy caused by either a convergence of added attention to the group from the outside, or from a buzzing of intensities within the group, thus immaterial and in some cases even material resources are put under strain. Once the dominant group member stands atop the pile of bodies, haven gas-lit, double-crossed, Doxed, or have used other insidious methods in committing to a war of mutual attrition with the other members in times of entropic crisis, he or she can then “break on through to the other side”. The post-GamerGate “skeptics” are a good example of this. Having lost steam and direction, Sargon committed to plucking everyone else off the ladder to achieving (negative) mainstream attention, even try to (but failing) to become an actual politician after all challenges were crushed by the force of his supposed internet Clout. Things are not working very well for him, and in all honesty, one could draw an observable predictive maxim that things usually never work well for E-celebs post-shark womb.
Finally, the shark-womb model has the potential to generate several observable characteristics and predictions one can place upon internet groups within that precarious germination-stage, or rather Lacanian “mirror stage” of self-awareness. When members of the digital collective become aware of the potential for mainstream success, and simultaneously within that same moment of “Mirror-gaze” awareness, the attention is leaving them before it fully arrived, things accelerate. The orgiastic mutual violence occurs when each member clamors to be the face, the quintessence of the group, the representative of an obscure and niche internet community to the greater world, even attempting to bank on this status towards somewhat of a career or livelihood. On a philosophic level, there are groups of mutuals, without a face, or made if individual faces that form a multiplicity (such as Negri’s concept of “the multitude”), and of course there is a complication in this. But really, the shark-womb model is most applicable to such groups where having a face becomes a near-necessity of operation and diffusion into the greater audience’s bloodstream. Each combatant fights with the might of a pre-birth, pre-Clout, the face of horrendous violence before you are born, a becoming-murderer in-utero, swimming towards the deletion of one’s previous multiple-self into a unitary-self, a self-singular brand. Through the trial by violence, the gladiatorial sport of mutual-recognition from the outside, one lucky survivor is jettisoned, dilation into social-being, Amniotic fluid-aphexia for those “little people” the E-celeb left behind in ruins and eviscerated exsanguina. Their life-energy feasted upon by the germinal fetal E-brand in waiting.