The Rise of
    Kineformative Enterprises

Time and value in a world made by digital Fordism are much more than the old elements of market exchange merely being put in motion--they are now "on speed." The current situation in the global information economoy is quite unusual whether one labels it "McWorld," "time-space compression," or "fast capitalism."1 As Paul Virilio suggests, the tenor of technics today increasingly is one of "chrono-politics" in which the larger sense of temporal chronologies, spatial geographies, and moral axiologies shared by many human beings is being reshaped by speed. While Virilio's overall project is not without faults, his analysis of speed is useful for reassessing digital Fordism. In this globalized "chronopolis," speed rules over so many more aspects of everyday life that it seems to induce a "dromocratic revolution."2 While they are global in their scope and impact, the disparate effects of digital Fordism's dromocratic upon any single locality are not yet entirely understood.

Consequently, the site has launched a critical reevaluation of digital Fordism. Its socio-technics are generating a new cultural kinematics in which time and value, or at least conventional understandings of these elements, are being reshaped by technological, social, and economic motion as such. Once this recognition is made, one can disclose how power now is coevolving with speed in the rushing ephemeralities of global flows. "Since movement creates the event," as Virilio argues, "the real is kinedramatic."3 An astute appreciation of digital Fordism as a kinedramatic system suggests that global production and consumption are flowing very rapidly, and often quite destructively, through many turbulent new structures, which might be regarded as "kineformations." These virtual organizations, in turn, serve as an unstable, but nonetheless cohesive, set of social institutions that constitute an important operational basis of the New Economy as well as the New World Order.4

The kineformations of digital Fordism exist as just-in-time assemblies; their communities, uniformities, collectivities happen in flight as unstable but coherent serializations of subjectivity in the objects of work and leisure. Just-in-time unities often are occluded otherwise-in-space as purely local phenomena or essentially stable tendencies. New values, in turn, emerge just in time. Without too much irony, Shell Oil claims that getting there "at the speed of life" is what most now value, while "moving at the speed of business," according to United Parcel Service, articulates the valorizing pay-off of speed itself for many businesses. As speed acquires value for its own sake, slow folks are separated from the fast class, steady savers slip away from fast money, and slow growth falls behind fast pay-outs. Speed rules that fellow traveling in time may soon eclipse common residence in space as a key nexus of personal and social identity. The volatilization of once solid nation-states by global trade, media, traffic, and data flows also is compressing many once traditional sedentary cultures to suit today's more flexible, shape-shifting ephemeralities. The protections once afforded to the weak, poor, and less educated in hard-shelled welfare states in the era of analogue Fordism, in turn, are being lost in the dust. Neoliberal political economy is pushing many more states to accept the unpredictabilities of such new transnational kineformations in the reproduction of everyday collective life as what is "normal" for both individuals and society. Hence, efforts to preserve the national prosperity and stability of most hitherto autonomous nations also is becoming quite difficult.5

In this world, Virilio's theoretical project is very significant. His analysis of speed returns to "the philosophical question of the splitting of viewpoint, the sharing of perception of the environment between the animate (the living subject) and the inanimate (the object, the seeing machine)," which leads, in turn, to value (con)fusions between "the factual (or operational, if you prefer) and the virtual; the ascendancy of the 'reality effect' over a reality principle already largely contested elsewhere."6 Such splitting of sight also paradoxically can split sites, creating parallel reality effects for those experiencing new kineformative times and spaces, like the flows of globalization, which run beyond, behind, between or beneath the fixed social locations ordinarily accepted as "normal" geophysical/ethnocultural space by most living subjects.

As digital Fordism's time and space distorting capabilities show, motorization and computerization--by accelerating physical bodies and virtualizing mental perceptions--are generating their own hyperchronic and hypertopic properties, which transpose many human activities "from the actual to the virtual."7 Images of the real spaces of objects, data about the real properties of subjects, and telemetry on the real time behaviors of objects interacting with subjects now (dis)place/(re)place actual observables in perception with virtual nonobservables. Their reality effects, at the same time, upon a machinic time-line in factory production can become more significant than the actual events experienced by any other living subjects left out of the kineformative chronologies generated in parts arrivals, data streams or image flows in digital Fordist plants. Digitalization often destroys duration, or that temporal and somatic space needed for human volition and analysis which falls between the act perceived and the act interpreted, as human physical processes are displaced by the fuzzy logic of telematic timelines on digital datascapes.

Hypermotorization in actual space as well as hypermediatization in virtual space put reality effects of transnational exchange for most people on speed. Speed perverts "the illusory order of normal perception, the order of arrival of information. What could have seemed simultaneous is diversified and decomposes....it is this intervention that destroys the world as we know it."8 Speed, then, recreates the world as humans have not known it, because kineformative effects now "are preparing the way for the automation of perceptions, for the innovation of artificial vision, delegating the analysis of objective reality to a machine."9 These diverse dimensions of experience must be explored further to understand how time and value are reworked in the fast capitalist world being remade by digital Fordism and other technoscientific kineformations.

Compressing time's duration in machinic systems of acceleration revalorizes time saving rather than saving through time. Going faster equals getting better; accelerating becomes improving; quickening cashes out as value adding. Time no longer remains a solar day's durational passage. Time is marked by machinic operations, transmission events, or transport engagements in machine-time, system-time, travel-time, production-time, payoff-time, and reception-time. Value, then, flows out of compressing more time and labor out of production, while impressing more energy and information into work. "And as time was accumulated and put by," Mumford notes, "it was reinvested, like money capital, in new forms of exploitation.... Time, in short, was a commodity in the sense that money had become a commodity.... Time divorced from mechanical operations, was treated as a heinous waste."10

Embedding time and value this deeply in the lifeworld of so many national systems, however, captures them both dangerously in operational bands with very narrow degrees of freedom. Shifting currency markets, secular consumption trends, or slippery civic arrangements all lead to lost time and value. Globalization struggles to work around the specificities of national locality, while at the same time gaining the flexibilities of transnational generality. Transnationalized kineformations generate their own intra-firm economies of time and value, hollowing themselves out to maintain adequate profitability at fairly low levels of capacity utilization by in/out-sourcing anything from anywhere to sell to anybody. The time horizon is the firm's daily production deadlines, and the value standards of its quarterly reports guide the enterprises' survival. Rationalization advances further with every downsizing, value-adding, or restructuring maneuver by transnational capitalism. Digital Fordism must expand, because, as William Greider notes, in to succeed,

firms must become globalized, not American or German or Japanese, but flexible hydras with feet planted in many different markets, making so-called world products that are adaptable across different cultures. Multinational are already from nation to nation, continent to continent, maximizing profit by continually adjusting the sources of output to capitalize on the numerous shifting variables: demand, price, currency values, politics. To function on the global plane, managers must be prepared to sacrifice parts of the enterprise, even the home base, at least temporarily, to protect themselves against the transient tides that undermine profit margins.11

Sacrificing home base, however, often means forsaking its grounded values and leaving its time zones to accelerate along the "real time" lines of capital's transnational valorizing flight. Marginal profits made in seconds, as calculated in cross-national currency matrices, now rezone time economies and value expectations. This is global time: the transnational rush of financial, monetary, and capital telemetry on the bottom of 24x7 TV news channels or front and center in major market intranet monitors.12 The kineformation is kinedramatic, and kinedramas control events as they make financial times and set monetary values.

Robert Reich captures the kineformative qualities of capital in contradictions between nominal nationality and actual transnationality in the corporate world. Old territorialized containments of national, high-volume enterprise with the values of top-down control and time sense centralized executive ownership are being displaced by new telemetrical webs of transnational, high-value enterprises unified by their rapid reactions to problem-solving, problem-identifying, solution-creating, solution-brokering challenges. In this mode of valorization, efficient capital becomes new type of kineformation whose variable informational and industrial geometries operate,

...in many places around the globe other than the United States. As the world shrinks through efficiencies in telecommunications and transportation, such groups in one nation are able to combine their skills with those of people located in other nations in order to provide the greatest value to customers located almost anywhere. The threads of the global web are computer, facsimile machines, satellites, high-resolution monitors, and modems--all of them linking designers, engineers, contractors, licensees, and dealers worldwide.13

Transnational kineformations completely bypass nominal nationality and territorial spatiality, centering their own kinedramatic movements of capital, labor, technology, and goods within their own "real time" interactions. In 1990, for example, "more than half of America's exports and imports, by value, were simply the transfers of such goods and services within global corporations."14 This fact suggests much of America's, and many other nations', GNP is simply the gross corporate product of transnational kineformations operating inside the increasingly irrelevant national borders that are used to account anachronistically for gross national products.

Within the global webs of capitalist kineformations, value arises from continuously improving the rate and scope of any firm's quick, flexible, and thorough response to market forces as FoMoCo's new digital designs illustrate. Using just-in-time outsourcing techniques, as Reich notes, goods and services "can be produced efficiently in many different locations, to be combined in all sorts of ways to serve customer needs in many places. Intellectual and financial capital can come from anywhere, and be added instantly."15 Within global webs of commerce, "products are international composites,"16 and so too, then, are values and time frames. By the same token, producers/consumers/accumulators/exchangers are only internationalized compositors, moving in loosely shared channels of mobilization at common rates of speed in the same time-frames. International trade less often produces finished products and now more frequently forms fast capitalist kinedramatic happenings, like "specialized problem-solving (research, product design, fabrication), problem-identifying (marketing, advertising, custom consulting) and brokerage (financing, searching, contracting) services, as well as routine components and services, all of which are combined to create value."17 Echoing the effects of "real time," capitalist kineformations supress space, distance, and complexity, which once were the organizational norm in top-down, pyramidal corporate behemoths, in a machinic (con)fusion of near and far, here and there, center and periphery within "an enterprise web.... There is no 'inside' or 'outside' the corporation, but only different distances from its strategic center."18

Footnotes



Produced and Hosted by the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture      Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, Virginia Tech. All rights reserved. The physical campus is in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. For more information, please contact the Center at cddc@vt.edu