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Amazon's Participation Agreement

This is Amazon’s “Participation Agreement.”

Strange that it is called a “Participation Agreement”—which is almost never the case.  More commonly they are called “terms of use” or “terms of service” (the shimmering between ‘use’, ‘service’ and ‘participation’ being of significance).  It should be familiar to everyone—we “agree” to them all the time.  They are also known as “clickwrap” or “browsewrap” contracts (in deference to “shrinkwrap” contracts from before the Internet, when opening a shrink-wrapped box of software was deemed assent to a contract).

These agreements are central to the current legal and practical domain of participation, specifically when IT, software, data, mobile devices are involved.  They are a different species of thing than a copyright license (or a labor contract) and they largely exist to limit liability.  But they signal a demand for a kind of corporate subjectivity that few of us have or want—emblematized by that feeling of resignation and bewilderment when faced with the necessity of agreeing to such a thing.  And yet, such “participation” is central to nearly every aspect of contemporary mediatic living.


Google N-Gram Image:

This is a Google N-Gram chart displaying the appearance of five important words.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Experience it with salty irony, not gritty cynicism.  I want to point out only one thing, which is that participation is clearly set to become more important than justice, democracy or equality, and if the fortunes of freedom continue to fall, its only competition will be responsibility

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Participant: Christopher Kelty
Institute for Society and Genetics | UCLA
Presentation: "Collective Kinds: Participation"