The Autonomy of Affect – Fashion as a Modern Virus

February 29, 2012

“…operations that might be argued to be endemic to late-capitalist, image- and information-based economics. Think of the image/expression-events in which we bathe. Think interruption. Think of the fast cuts of the video clip or the too-cool TV commercial. Think of the cuts from TV programming to commercials. Think of the cuts across programming and commercials achievable through zapping. Think of the distractedness of television viewing, the constant cuts from the screen to its immediate surroundings, to the viewing context where other actions are performed in fits and starts as attention flits. Think of the joyously incongruent juxtapositions of surfing the Internet. Think of our bombardment by commercial images off the screen, at every step in our daily rounds. Think of the imagistic operation of the consumer object as turnover times decrease as fast as styles can be recycled. Everywhere the cut, the suspense-incipience. Virtuality, perhaps?” (1)

In our daily lives there is a constant flow, bombardment of commercial ‘information’, it is off our computers, our smartphones, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards surrounding us, in speakers, on buses, in the underground – simply everywhere we go. It’s the driving forces which generate the fast paced world of consumerism and shopping, cutting quickly in between commercial ‘information’ increasing the inability to concentrate and stay centred, with a single piece of information or a single object, for longer periods of time. While showing you a universe of things you could have, how you could better yourself, or your home, places to go and objects to acquire, it intensifies the dissatisfaction with what you have and feeds the hunger for more, more, more.

The forever fast-feeding of new commercial ‘information’ nourishes the desire for all things new, at the same time as it decreases the turnover time for introducing new consumer objects, all the while decreasing the life span of desire for already acquired ones. Effectively, affect produces an economic effect, with fashion trends spreading like a virus, soon to be everywhere, just for the viral fashion to change its dna the very next day, in order to start a new infection.

“The ability of affect to produce an economic effect more swiftly and surely than economics itself means that affect is a real condition, an intrinsic variable of the late capitalistic system, as infrastructural as a factory. Actually, it is beyond infrastructural, it is everywhere, in effect. Its ability to come second hand, to switch domains and produce effects across them all, gives it a metafactorial ubiquity. It is beyond infrastructural. It is transversal.” (2)

– Sofie Andersson


1 – Brian Massumi, The Autonomy of Affect, in Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002, p.42.

2 – Ibid., p.45.




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