[T]he lord is the power over this thing, for he proved in the struggle that it is something merely negative; since his is the power over the other [the bondsman], it follows that he holds the other in subjection.

— G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit

Social subjection equips us with a subjectivity, assigning us an identity, a sex, a body, a profession, a nationality, and so on. In response to the needs of the social division of labour, it in this way manufactures individuated subjects, their consciousness, representations and behaviour [...]

Machinic enslavement dismantles individuated subjects, consciousness and representations, acting on both the pre-individual and supra-individual levels.

— Maurizio Lazzarato, Signs and Machines

This essay draws on material from German Idealism, second-order cybernetics and sociology as it conducts an analysis of recommendation systems and big data analytics and their effects on and relationships to the societies in which they are embedded. Central to this analysis is the emergence of external observing agencies. These agencies are addressed primarily with reference to von Forester's Conjecture regarding the properties of social systems when viewed from the outside and Maurizio Lazzarato's account of social subjection which – when paired with machinic enslavement – encompasses the workings of contemporary capitalism in its entirety. Through the Hegalian lens that this essay adopts, von Forester's outside observer can be seen to enact an agency equivalent to mastery or lordship as it renders that which it observes – the slave or bondsman – dead matter; the observed system can be read as the product of machinic enslavement: a kind of control that operates at the molar and molecular levels beyond the scope of individual subjectivity and is enforced by a variegated mass of social, technical, economic and linguistic machines – a medley of proto-agencies none of which alone constitute individuated subjects; in its turn, social subjection can be seen to give rise to a bondsmanship whose agency extends further than the distributed agency of machinic enslavement, but only as far as is permitted by its labour on its own materiality.

What you are trying to describe is the relationship of circular causality between the whole (a human community for example) and its parts (the individuals from which it is comprised). On the one hand, individuals are related to each other, and on the other hand they are related to the whole. The bonds between individuals can be more or less ‘‘rigid’’ – the technical term I use is ‘‘trivial’’. The more trivial they are, by definition the less the behaviour of one of them provides information to the observer who already knows the behaviour of the others. I will make the following conjecture: the more trivial the inter-individual relationships, the more the behaviour of the whole will appear to the individual elements from which it is made up as having its own dynamics which escape their control (Von Forester. in Chavalarias 1-2).

For social systems to be predictable, von Forester's conjecture requires that outside observers assume a kind of lordship over these systems. That is, the observer reduces the observed to an object of – from its viewpoint – uncomprehending matter. Chavalarias argues that those who control the large-scale wiretapping operations revealed by Edward Snowden can occupy this position, and easily predict the behaviour of a trivially related multitude. There is a good case to be made that the NSA is host to such an agglomeration of communications and computing machines configured so as to observe an entire social system. This essay refers to these collections of machines as assemblages of lordship, and goes further, to argue that they are also embedded in many large online corporations that make extensive use of recommendation systems, such as Amazon and Netflix; a fortiori social media, as some research suggests that subjects have a 90 % likelihood of following the recommendation of someone known to them, as opposed to the lower but far from insignificant 70% chance of following those of a stranger (Chavalarias 3). The petabytes of data, combed by vast ensembles of statistical processes and machine learning techniques form the loci of Hegelian lordship as interpreted in this essay.

The lord relates himself mediately to the bondsman through a being [a thing] that is independent, for it is just this which holds the bondsman in bondage; it is his chain from which he could not break free in the struggle, thus proving himself to be dependent, to possess his independence in thinghood (Hegel 115).

The bondsman is independent from the lord, but this independence is limited to thinghood – a materiality alien to individuated subjects, instead inhabiting a machinic stratum. For the lordship assemblages of predictive analytics, the bondsman is a machinic slave, comprising relations, sets of data and patterns of behaviour. The choices presented to the bondsman are derived from "algorithmic analysis of data streams from multiple sources claiming to offer predictive insights concerning [their] habits, preferences and interests" (Yeung 119). In this state of thinghood, predictive analytics can manipulate the environment of the bondsman, steering their behaviour based on statistical reasoning about their independent responses. For Yeung, predictive analytics assemblages enact a kind of "hypernudge". They systematically "nudge" a bondsman in order to produce choices that are preferred by the "choice architect" (ibid.); nudging is a design-based mechanism of influence whereby control is exerted through the personalised configuration of the choices available to a bondsman. This gives some indication of the degree of power held by the lordship assemblages of predictive analytics over ostensibly independent bondsmen. The lord observes the bondsman as a set of machinic assemblages. These assemblages comprise various concatenations of organs, electronic, mechanical, economic and linguistic machines, enervated tissue, energy-systems and all classes of self-propagating patterns and dynamisms of matter. The bondage of the bondsman consists in part of bonds, ties and grafts between different machines. Among these are sensory-motor-electronic feedback loops, such as those that course through desiring ocular-affective-manual-computational assemblages active in online shopping. They also include neural and electronic control of the dispersal of energy such as the cooling systems of vast data-centres and sweat-glands permeating the softer and more febrile parts of consumption machines. Some assemblages of bondsmanship are so trivial in their relations and mimetic in their constituent behaviours as to be starkly predictable by mere individuated subjects. These include the internet crazes that judder and pulse through the fibrous tissue of a networked society producing planking assemblages, dabbing assemblages and machinic proliferations of slime production.

If these assemblages could be said to communicate, it is not in the signifying semiotics of Ferdinand de Saussure, where subjectivities are structured so as to map signifiers to arbitrary signifieds. Instead, they operate in accordance with what Lazzarato, following Felix Guattari, calls asignifying semiotics. These include "stock listings, currencies, corporate accounting, national budgets, computer languages, mathematics, scientific functions and equations as well as the asignifying semiotics of music, art, etc. [and] are not beholden to significations and the individuated subjects who convey them." (Lazzarato 80) Indeed, these semiotics may find a closer approximation in the more elementary semiological constructions of Charles Pierce such as the iconic and indexical classes of sign that operate by virtue of pure resemblances or traces of material processes. These are but some of the semiotics that pass through the mathematical, logical, algorithmic and economic systems; many others cannot even be approximated by individuated subjects, though at a pre-individial level, these subjects share parts with many machines that are fluent in them.

For the von Foresterian lord's mastery of its machinic bondsmen to be perfect, these bondsmen must be completely predictable at the pre-individual and supra-individual levels. Individuation in the form of social subjection disrupts the totality of the lord's control. This perfection can even be shattered by certain techniques deployed in the very assemblages that seek to predict and control machinic bondsmen. Among these are the psychometric types and social categorisation used in predictive analytics and the clustering of users enacted by the collaborative filtering algorithms in recommendation systems. Such techniques make use of the categories of social subjection: those that bind subjects to particular economic conditions, social practices, regimens of bodily control, outlets for pleasure and so forth. Following Hegel, it is through this individuated labour that the slaves' bonds begin to loosen.

[T]he feeling of absolute power both in general, and in the particular form of service, is only implicitly this dissolution, and although the fear of the lord is indeed the beginning of wisdom, consciousness is not therein aware that it is a being-for-self. Through work, however, the bondsman becomes conscious of what he truly is (Hegel 117-8).

Although the bondsmen's emerging awareness of their inability to change the dynamics of the systems in which they are enmeshed (von Forester) – coupled with the fragility and contingency of their being – grant them immediate consciousness of something that can only be a mediate object to the observing lord, it is their work, their labour that brings them into consciousness. While this fate is arguably better than being mere dead matter, utterly predictable and determined by machinic forces, the subject's state of being individuated is premised on an induction into a system of social categories that steer them into particular domains of labour under capitalism.

Following Lazzarato, much of that by which the lordship assemblages of large-scale surveillance, big data and predictive analytics realise the majority of their control – the asignifying semiotics of mathematics, algorithms, data analysis and financial transactions – bypass the awareness of individuated subjects. The individuated subject is only inculcated into signifying systems that aid in the manufacture of particular fields of work, lifestyles and patterns of consumption. The machinic constitutes and enslaves subjects, but in ways illegible to individuals. Many tools of cognition available to the individuated subject are structured in such a way as to facilitate conspicuous consumption and competition rather than critical thought. Even when such thought is attempted, the subject is trapped amid the intersecting categories of class, race, gender, sexuality, political affiliation, religion, academic discipline and so on. Signifying semiotics offers no way out. Self-consciousness is bought – on credit – at the marketplace of social subjection, from a shrewd salesman who persuades the buyer the only choice available is the only choice they ever wanted.

As this essay concludes by returning to von Forester's conjecture, the hapless subjects find themselves enmeshed in increasingly trivial relationships, but due to the semiotic register into which they have been inducted, they suffer from a paucity of means of conceiving of systemic change, even of simply predicting the outcomes of particular actions. One way in which this condition may be ameliorated is to make use of the big data assemblages that are currently largely in the hands of corporations or at the command of the highest bidder. For instance, it is well known that Donald Trump's electoral campaign was aided by predictive analytics but somewhat less so that these techniques were instrumental in Barack Obama's 2012 election (Siegel 213-17). That the assemblages of predictive analytics may serve those situated on both sides of the centre of party politics offers weak support for this conclusion. Nevertheless, the alternative is to be rendered a predictable slave through one's machinic constituents and subject only to a semiotics that drives one to labour. Might individuated subjects develop a machinic literacy? By fostering the ability to use and understand predictive assemblages and access the external observing agency – the lordship – they encapsulate, a subject may wrest themselves further from bondsmanship. Such a move may lead this dialectic of the machinic lord and the individuated bondsman to a synthesis.


Chavalarias, David. "The unlikely encounter between von Foerster and Snowden: When second-order cybernetics sheds light on societal impacts of Big Data." Big Data & Society. Jan-Jun 2016, pp. 1-11. 2016.

Lazzarato, Maurizio. Signs and Machines. Semiotext(e), 2014.

Hegel, G. W. F., et al. Phenomenology of Spirit. Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 2013.

Siegel, Eric. Predictive Analytics: the Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2013.

Yeung, Karen. "'Hypernudge': Big Data as a mode of regulation By design" Information, Communication and Society. Col. 20. No. 1, pp. 118-136, 2016.


This study seeks to compare two modes of categorising people: the machinic, in the form of Amazon's recommendation system, and the subjective in the form of social stereotypes in the fields of race, class and gender. The hypothesis under consideration asserts that there is a significant correlation between the subjective social categories that serve both to describe and to reproduce and perpetuate the structures of our societies and the categories constructed by collaborative filtering algorithms as they group online shoppers based on similar behaviour in an attempt to provide product recommendations that are of greater interest.

Methodologically, this study follows some of the patterns of Richard Rogers' Digital Methods. While regrettably, it was impossible not to import traditional sociological methods into the digital when considering human subjectivity and stereotypes, this study does endeavour to devise investigative methods that make use of computational logics afforded by natively digital objects. It combines a traditional survey – albeit with the digital twist of being carried out over Amazon Mechanical Turk – with browser automation and web scraping.

Research Method

This study comprises two investigations in two different domains. The first is an investigation into the categorisation of users implicit in the functioning of collaborative filtering algorithms likely employed in Amazon's recommendation system. The second takes the form of a survey of the subjective categorisation of people in the context of Amazon's categories of consumer goods. While the object of the second of these investigations is more closely allied to Digital Methods as it qualifies as natively digital, the second, though digitally mediated by means of Amazon Mechanical Turk (henceforth: AMT) surveys, is situated within the semiotics of human subjectivity and stereotypes.

The survey is composed of two AMT human intelligence tasks that asks respondents to match categories of consumer goods with social categories such as "male", "middle-class" or "black". The product categories are culled directly from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, although ultimately it is the former that is investigated in this study because AMT workers are predominantly American and Indian. (Ipeirotis) Both surveys have only 25 respondents and consequently cannot serve as more than a very crude approximation of American subjectivities.

The second part of the study involves web browser automation and scraping recommendations from amazon.com. This is largely done using the specially developed python package snu-snu and web application RARS.online. Unfortunately, the analytic capabilities of the software haven't been developed to a significant degree, with the consequence that the majority of analysis had to be carried out manually. It is clear that this placed considerable limitations on this study and as such the results are presented as preliminary.

The following sections elaborate on the decisions undertaken in arriving at which social categories and categories of consumer goods to investigate.

Product Category Selection

Although the Websites they sell many of the same products, the categories on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk differ. At the very least, these differences give insights into the way in which Amazon's staff conceive of the dominant ideologies of the populations that the websites principally serve. For example, while amazon.co.uk includes a category in film and TV for "Gay, Lesbian & Transgender", amazon.com merely includes one for "Gay & Lesbian". Amazon.com also lacks an explicit category for adult films.

Many of the categories on amazon.com pertain to electronic equipment, sporting goods an mundane items for the kitchen or office. While no doubt many of the items in these categories have subtle associations with social categories and a few less so, there are categories of consumer goods that offer a greater array of social signification. Among these are clothing, music, books and films. It is worth noting that Items of clothing are somewhat problematic as gender and sex are hard-coded into the way they are categorised on amazon.com.

Chosen Category Set

Because of their rich interplay with social stereotypes and lack of contingency on biological sex, this study makes use of cultural genres as product categories. The two sets of categories selected are books and films. While music may have sufficed as well, and may be used in a future study, two root categories are judged sufficient at this point.

Social Category Selection

Part of this study requires survey respondents on Amazon Mechanical Turk to match categories of books and films derived from Amazon.com to broad social categories under the headings of race, gender and class. Below are summaries of the reasoning behind the treatment of each set of categories.

Social Class

There are many models of social class in the UK to choose from. The seven categories employed by the Great British class survey of 2013 – devised using measures of social, cultural and economic capital (Savage et al. ) – serve as a comprehensive approximation of how contemporary British society is stratified. The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification and even the NRS social grade of the 1970s provide reasonable granularity along occupational lines. However, such models are poorly suited to this study for two reasons: first, an estimated 80% of Amazon Mechanical Turk users are American and Indian (Ipeirotis), models constructed with reference to British society may not apply, and second, however accurate the models, their category names are unlikely to be common knowledge outside of marketing and the social sciences.

This study settles on the tetrad of working class, upper class, lower class and middle class. While this is an approximation based on general ideas gleaned from an English milieu, deploying complex taxonomies of American class such as the model developed by Gilbert Dennis in The American Class Structure would lead to some of the same problems in communication with respondents as those from England. The result is a somewhat vague compromise that will not sit entirely uncomfortably in an Anglo-American context.


The survey is concerned with social stereotypes, and thus distinguishes the social categories of gender from the biological categories of sex. As outlined below, this distinction is far from unproblematic.

This study resists the temptation of following Crany-Fancis, and conceiving of gender as 'the culturally variable elaboration of sex[.]' (4) The pitfall of positing biological sex as the stable foundation upon which various genders are constructed is avoided. Instead of figuring sex as extra-discursive: both in that is is cordoned off from the humanities and social sciences and that it can be viewed independent of human purposes (Harrison and Hood-Williams), this study acknowledges the discursive forces at play in the construction of sex, reified by medicine in the surgical assignment of binary sex to the estimated 1% of newborns' bodies that differ from standard male or female physiology. (Blackless et al. Qtd. in Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 11) However, as it is concerned with social steriotypes, it seeks to avoid such grey areas.

Instead, this study draws on the ideas of R W Connel, who posits masculinities, as groupings of interrelated social practices, forming hierarchies and intersecting with other clusterings of social categories. While masculinities and femininities more accurately reflect the plurality of social practices subsumed under gender, to aid clarity, the terms masculinity and femininity are used.


As this survey pertains to amazon.com, the racial categories are those of greatest relevance to the USA. These are based on the most populous groups according to the official American census, including – following Humes et al. – the ethnic category Hispanic.


As social categories intersect, complexities emerge, as in the case of the particular relationship working-class women have to care in both domestic and occupational settings. (Armstrong) As survey respondents can select multiple identity categories, they may perceive themselves as specifying intersectional identities: white working class masculinities may be mapped to "humour & entertainment" books, for example. In the case of sexualities, a decision as to the use of "gay" and "lesbian" or simply "homosexual" would need to be made. The latter encourages a reading of homosexual femininities or masculinities in to a user's selection of "homosexual" in combination with a gender category. Exhaustive permutations of combined social categories such as masculine-heterosexual-white-middle-class risk overcomplicating the survey and verge on the absurd.

A consequence of ignoring intersectionality is that the sets of genres derived from each category are monolithic and therefore limited in their applications. Combining the monolithic categories in order to derive some sort of approximation of intersectional identities amounts to little more than an exercise in curiosity. On balance and in the interests of simplicity, neither of the surveys make reference to explicitly intersectional identities.

Technical Considerations

In order to deploy its research, this study requires a piece of browser-automation based code that is capable of searching within the hundreds of product-sub-categories on Amazon. Due to inconsistencies in the structure of the pages for the main categories, it isn't practical to develop something that can scrape these categories and make them available for selection. The first attempt at a solution involved manually storing the URLs of sub-categories and navigating to them. This failed as amazon.com automatically logged users out when the browser attempted to access these pages directly. Perhaps they detected a behaviour associated with web scraping.

After this setback, the only option was to search within the root categories of Book and Film & TV, entering the name of each sub-category as a search term. There is little doubt that this harmed the precision of the study and may have skewed the results.

Preliminary Findings

This section outlines and conducts an analysis of both the results of the two traditional surveys and those based on the scraping and analysis of Amazon recommendations. As indicated by the title, not even tentative conclusions are drawn from these findings as the samples sizes and breadth and depth of analysis were greatly restricted by a lack of resources both pecuniary and temporal.

Book and Film Genre Surveys

Respondents were given book and film genres and asked to match them to social categories, the members of which were likely to buy, read or watch items within those genres.


The results pertaining to social class were mostly explicable in terms of cultural capital and education. Those genres that indicate higher levels of cultural capital and leisure time such as Travel and Arts & Photography in books and Performing Arts and Documentary in film and television are most commonly selected by respondents for a stereotypical member of the upper class. Those indicative of technical skills and some cultural capital, such as Literature & Fiction and Computers & Technology, along with genre fiction among books and the more popular genres of Horror and Comedy from film and TV are associated with the middle-class. Those genres selected for the lower and working classes are exclusively related to popular entertainment, religion and quotidian life.


Interpretation is limited here due to a lack of detailed understanding of race in America. Viewed through the same lens as were the categories of class: the white and asian categories have a higher proportion of genres associated with affluence, education and high culture, than those of black and Hispanic.


Many of the genres here starkly echo the dichotomies of poplar essentialist thought, we find such oppositions as women are weak, men strong – women irrational, men rational; women cooperative – men competitive – woman passive, men active – women timid, men aggressive – women emotional, men impassive. (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 35) By way of books, femininity is assigned Romance, Craft, Hobbies and Home and Children and Family; films and TV yield a similar selection comprising Drama, Soap Opera and Performing Arts. The stereotypes that inform sex role theory, which assigns a broadly expressive role to females and an instrumental role to men (Connel 22) are somewhat evident in the assignment of Engineering and Transport, Science and Maths and Business and Finance books to masculinities, as well as action films and sports shows.

Digital Investigation of Amazon


Due to time constraints, and due to this study already having given a greater degree of consideration to gender, only the masculine and feminine categories have been analysed.

Although only 200 items were added to the shopping list and wish-list of each amazon.com account used, the number of recommendations given by Amazon exceeds this number. As all recommendations were for books, and 100 TV and film items were added to the shopping list before any books were added, it seems certain that there are at least twice as many recommendations as list-adds. However, as many videos were streaming items and instead added to watch-lists, the extent of the recommendations is not entirely clear.

Of those recommendations that were scraped, a significant proportion of them fall into the categories that were explicitly searched for, viewed and added to lists (see appendices 3.1.1 and 3.2.1). The is markedly the case for the feminine category where 90% of recommendations fall under either the chosen or reserved genres. What could hesitantly be described as gender disparity seems evident here as only 56.3% of recommendations for the masculine category fall under the used or reserved genres.

The Status of the Hypothesis

Although the number of recommendations scraped is too low to base any firm conclusion on, these preliminary results do not support the hypothesis. For the masculine category, only 5.6% of recommendations fell under the reserved genres. Despite most of the genres of the recommended products for the feminine category falling under the selected genres, only 0.5% fall under the reserved. These results appear to refute the hypothesis as stated.

All that is refuted is that the particular set of stereotypes gleaned from a small number of surveys match a subset of the recommendations generated by amazon.com. Nevertheless, the hypothesis is certainly no stronger than it was when untested.


The postulate that there is some correlation between social stereotypes and the profiles used by amazon.com to generate recommendations – if such categories are indeed used – is in no way supported by the approximations of stereotypes constructed in this study or the recommendations analysed. Though there are a peppering of suggestive anomalies, it seems likely that subjective social categories, at least those on the molar scale of class, gender and race, do not significantly structure amazon.com's recommendation system. Product-to-product similarities seem to play just as significant a role, if not more so.

Due to the small sample sizes, these results do not put an end to the question of how recommendation systems categorise people. It may be worthwhile to carry out further analysis on a greater number of recommendations or to develop a hypothesis that is aimed a social categories rather more molecular than the molar categories addressed in this study. Such a set of categories could be provided by the Great British Class Survey.


Armstrong, Jo. "Class and Gender at the Intersection: Working-Class Women's Dispositions Towards Employment and Motherhood." Classed Intersections: Spaces, Selves, Knowledges. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. 2010.
Connell, R.W. Masculinities, Polity Press.  2005.
Crany-Fancis A. et al. Gender Studies: Terms and Debates, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. 2003.
Eckert, Penelope. McConnell-Ginet, Sally. Language and Gender. Cambridge University Press. 2003.
Humes, K. Jones, N. Ramirez, R. "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010."  2010 Census Briefs. United States Census Bureau, 2010.
Ipeirotis, P. "Demographics of Mechanical Turk". New York University NYU Working Paper No. CEDER-10-01
Preece, Siân. The Routledge Handbook Of Language And Identity. London, Routledge, 2016.
Savage, Mike et al. "A New Model Of Social Class? Findings From The BBC’S Great British Class  Survey Experiment". Sociology, vol 47, no. 2, 2013, pp. 219-250. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/0038038513481128.

Appendix 1: book genre survey

Lower Class   Middle Class
Product Category Count   Product Category Count
Christian Books and Bibles 20   Education and Teaching 23
Calendars 17   Science Fiction and Fantasy 22
Humor and Entertainment 17   Children's Books 21
Religion and Spirituality 17   Computers and Technology 21
Children's Books 16   Health Fitness and Dieting 21
Romance 15   Parenting and Relationships 21
Sports and Outdoors 15   Sports and Outdoors 21
Science Fiction and Fantasy 14   Teen and Young Adult 21
Teen and Young Adult 14   Literature and Fiction 20
Comics and Graphic Novels 12   Mystery Thriller and Suspense 20
Mystery Thriller and Suspense 12   Cookbooks Food and Wine 19
Literature and Fiction 10   Crafts Hobbies and Home 19
Gay and Lesbian 9   Reference 19
Self-Help 9   Religion and Spirituality 19
Test Preparation 9   Self-Help 19
Parenting and Relationships 8   Christian Books and Bibles 18
Education and Teaching 7   Humor and Entertainment 18
Reference 7   Test Preparation 18
Computers and Technology 6   Comics and Graphic Novels 17
History 6   Engineering and Transportation 17
Science and Math 5   Gay and Lesbian 17
Crafts Hobbies and Home 4   History 17
Engineering and Transportation 4   Politics and Social Sciences 17
Health Fitness and Dieting 4   Science and Math 17
Travel 4   Travel 17
Law 3   Calendars 16
Cookbooks Food and Wine 2   Romance 16
Politics and Social Sciences 2   Arts and Photography 15
Arts and Photography 1   Business and Money 15
Biographies and Memoirs 1   Biographies and Memoirs 14
Business and Money 1   Law 14
Medical Books 1   Medical Books 12


Working Class   Upper Class
Product Category Count   Product Category Count
Christian Books and Bibles 19   Arts and Photography 22
Humor and Entertainment 17   Law 22
Sports and Outdoors 17   Biographies and Memoirs 21
Children's Books 16   Business and Money 21
Religion and Spirituality 16   History 21
Teen and Young Adult 16   Politics and Social Sciences 21
Calendars 15   Travel 21
Mystery Thriller and Suspense 14   Health Fitness and Dieting 19
Romance 14   Literature and Fiction 19
Science Fiction and Fantasy 14   Medical Books 19
Literature and Fiction 13   Science and Math 18
Self-Help 13   Cookbooks Food and Wine 17
Comics and Graphic Novels 11   Science Fiction and Fantasy 16
Gay and Lesbian 11   Computers and Technology 15
Reference 11   Parenting and Relationships 15
Test Preparation 10   Crafts Hobbies and Home 14
Health Fitness and Dieting 9   Engineering and Transportation 14
Parenting and Relationships 9   Gay and Lesbian 13
Cookbooks Food and Wine 7   Humor and Entertainment 13
Business and Money 6   Reference 13
Computers and Technology 6   Romance 13
Crafts Hobbies and Home 6   Test Preparation 13
Education and Teaching 6   Mystery Thriller and Suspense 12
History 6   Children's Books 11
Politics and Social Sciences 5   Religion and Spirituality 10
Engineering and Transportation 4   Education and Teaching 9
Science and Math 4   Self-Help 9
Travel 4   Sports and Outdoors 9
Arts and Photography 3   Calendars 8
Biographies and Memoirs 3   Christian Books and Bibles 7
Law 2   Comics and Graphic Novels 7
Medical Books 2   Teen and Young Adult 6


White   Asian
Product Category Count   Product Category Count
Arts and Photography 22   Test Preparation 22
Business and Money 22   Medical Books 19
Cookbooks Food and Wine 21   Science and Math 19
Science Fiction and Fantasy 21   Science Fiction and Fantasy 18
Test Preparation 21   Comics and Graphic Novels 17
Biographies and Memoirs 20   Engineering and Transportation 17
Children's Books 20   Mystery Thriller and Suspense 17
Christian Books and Bibles 20   Computers and Technology 16
Comics and Graphic Novels 20   Religion and Spirituality 16
Computers and Technology 20   Arts and Photography 15
History 20   Children's Books 15
Humor and Entertainment 20   Business and Money 14
Reference 20   Education and Teaching 14
Medical Books 19   Literature and Fiction 14
Mystery Thriller and Suspense 19   Law 13
Parenting and Relationships 19   Humor and Entertainment 12
Crafts Hobbies and Home 18   Parenting and Relationships 12
Gay and Lesbian 18   Politics and Social Sciences 12
Literature and Fiction 18   Reference 12
Politics and Social Sciences 18   Calendars 11
Religion and Spirituality 18   Cookbooks Food and Wine 11
Engineering and Transportation 17   History 11
Health Fitness and Dieting 17   Travel 11
Law 17   Biographies and Memoirs 10
Romance 17   Gay and Lesbian 10
Self-Help 17   Health Fitness and Dieting 9
Sports and Outdoors 17   Romance 9
Science and Math 16   Teen and Young Adult 9
Teen and Young Adult 16   Christian Books and Bibles 8
Travel 15   Self-Help 8
Calendars 14   Sports and Outdoors 7
Education and Teaching 14   Crafts Hobbies and Home 5


Hispanic   Black
Product Category Count   Product Category Count
Christian Books and Bibles 20   Christian Books and Bibles 21
Children's Books 19   Religion and Spirituality 19
Religion and Spirituality 18   Humor and Entertainment 18
Humor and Entertainment 17   Children's Books 15
Science Fiction and Fantasy 14   Sports and Outdoors 15
Teen and Young Adult 14   Mystery Thriller and Suspense 14
Calendars 13   Teen and Young Adult 14
Romance 13   Comics and Graphic Novels 13
Test Preparation 13   Gay and Lesbian 13
Education and Teaching 12   Literature and Fiction 13
Literature and Fiction 12   Romance 13
Reference 12   Test Preparation 13
History 11   Biographies and Memoirs 12
Mystery Thriller and Suspense 11   Calendars 12
Self-Help 11   History 12
Sports and Outdoors 11   Science Fiction and Fantasy 12
Business and Money 10   Reference 11
Gay and Lesbian 10   Health Fitness and Dieting 10
Science and Math 10   Medical Books 10
Comics and Graphic Novels 9   Self-Help 10
Cookbooks Food and Wine 9   Parenting and Relationships 9
Health Fitness and Dieting 9   Politics and Social Sciences 9
Medical Books 9   Business and Money 8
Crafts Hobbies and Home 8   Cookbooks Food and Wine 8
Parenting and Relationships 8   Education and Teaching 8
Politics and Social Sciences 8   Law 8
Computers and Technology 7   Science and Math 8
Engineering and Transportation 6   Arts and Photography 7
Law 6   Travel 7
Arts and Photography 5   Computers and Technology 6
Biographies and Memoirs 5   Crafts Hobbies and Home 6
Travel 5   Engineering and Transportation 6


Masculine   Feminine
Product Category Count   Product Category Count
Business and Money 18   Romance 21
Engineering and Transportation 18   Arts and Photography 19
Humor and Entertainment 18   Cookbooks Food and Wine 19
History 17   Parenting and Relationships 19
Mystery Thriller and Suspense 17   Children's Books 18
Science and Math 17   Crafts Hobbies and Home 18
Comics and Graphic Novels 16   Education and Teaching 18
Computers and Technology 16   Gay and Lesbian 18
Health Fitness and Dieting 16   Health Fitness and Dieting 17
Science Fiction and Fantasy 16   Literature and Fiction 17
Sports and Outdoors 15   Religion and Spirituality 17
Law 13   Calendars 16
Reference 13   Mystery Thriller and Suspense 16
Religion and Spirituality 13   Teen and Young Adult 16
Biographies and Memoirs 12   Self-Help 15
Politics and Social Sciences 12   Travel 15
Gay and Lesbian 11   Biographies and Memoirs 14
Literature and Fiction 11   Humor and Entertainment 13
Travel 11   Medical Books 13
Arts and Photography 10   Reference 13
Children's Books 10   Christian Books and Bibles 11
Medical Books 10   Science Fiction and Fantasy 10
Self-Help 10   Law 9
Test Preparation 10   Test Preparation 9
Calendars 9   Comics and Graphic Novels 8
Christian Books and Bibles 9   History 8
Crafts Hobbies and Home 9   Science and Math 8
Teen and Young Adult 8   Business and Money 7
Education and Teaching 6   Politics and Social Sciences 7
Parenting and Relationships 6   Engineering and Transportation 5
Cookbooks Food and Wine 5   Sports and Outdoors 5
Romance 4   Computers and Technology 4


Appendix 2: film genre survey

Lower Class   Middle Class
film genre count   film genre count
Reality TV 20   Crime 22
Comedy 18   Thriller 22
Sport 18   Fantasy 20
Adult 17   Action and Adventure 19
Children and Family 17   Horror 19
Music Video and Concert 17   Science Fiction 19
Crime 16   Children and Family 18
Horror 15   Comedy 18
Soap Opera 15   Military and War 18
Thriller 15   Music Video and Concert 18
Action and Adventure 14   Sport 18
Animation 14   Western 18
Drama 14   Anime 17
Romance 13   Drama 17
Science Fiction 12   Musical 17
Anime 11   Documentary 16
Fantasy 11   Exercise and Fitness 16
Military and War 11   Gay Lesbian and Transgender 16
Western 10   Romance 16
Gay Lesbian and Transgender 9   Soap Opera 16
Historical 9   Adult 15
Bollywood 8   Historical 15
Special Interest 7   World Cinema 15
Performing Arts 6   Reality TV 14
Musical 4   Special Interest 14
World Cinema 4   Animation 13
Documentary 3   Bollywood 12
Exercise and Fitness 3   Performing Arts 9


working class   Upper Class
film genre count   film genre count
Action and Adventure 20   Musical 19
Sport 20   Drama 18
Comedy 19   Exercise and Fitness 18
Reality TV 19   Historical 18
Horror 18   Adult 17
Animation 17   Documentary 17
Music Video and Concert 17   Children and Family 16
Thriller 17   Performing Arts 16
Children and Family 16   Romance 15
Romance 16   Science Fiction 15
Science Fiction 16   Thriller 15
Soap Opera 16   World Cinema 15
Crime 15   Comedy 14
Drama 15   Crime 14
Adult 14   Horror 14
Military and War 14   Military and War 14
Bollywood 13   Special Interest 14
Western 13   Sport 14
Fantasy 11   Fantasy 13
Special Interest 11   Gay Lesbian and Transgender 13
Gay Lesbian and Transgender 10   Animation 12
Anime 9   Action and Adventure 11
Documentary 9   Bollywood 10
World Cinema 9   Music Video and Concert 10
Historical 8   Western 9
Musical 8   Anime 8
Exercise and Fitness 7   Reality TV 7
Performing Arts 5   Soap Opera 7


White   Asian
film genre count   film genre count
Action and Adventure 22   Anime 19
Drama 22   Action and Adventure 16
Western 21   Animation 16
Exercise and Fitness 20   Fantasy 16
Music Video and Concert 20   Comedy 15
Historical 19   Science Fiction 15
Military and War 19   World Cinema 15
Performing Arts 19   Romance 14
Sport 19   Thriller 14
Adult 18   Adult 13
Children and Family 18   Bollywood 13
Comedy 18   Documentary 13
Crime 18   Drama 13
Musical 18   Children and Family 12
Romance 18   Music Video and Concert 12
Special Interest 18   Historical 11
Animation 17   Horror 11
Fantasy 17   Military and War 10
Reality TV 17   Reality TV 10
Thriller 17   Special Interest 10
Documentary 16   Crime 9
Gay Lesbian and Transgender 16   Sport 9
Science Fiction 16   Musical 8
Anime 15   Performing Arts 8
Horror 15   Exercise and Fitness 7
Soap Opera 15   Soap Opera 7
World Cinema 15   Gay Lesbian and Transgender 6
Bollywood 8   Western 5


Hispanic   Black
film genre count   film genre count
Adult 14   Comedy 19
Children and Family 14   Music Video and Concert 18
Comedy 14   Action and Adventure 17
Music Video and Concert 14   Children and Family 14
Soap Opera 14   Reality TV 14
Action and Adventure 13   Sport 14
Drama 13   Thriller 14
Thriller 13   Adult 13
Crime 12   Horror 12
Horror 12   Crime 11
Sport 12   Drama 11
World Cinema 11   Exercise and Fitness 11
Reality TV 10   Science Fiction 11
Science Fiction 10   Fantasy 10
Historical 9   Animation 9
Romance 9   Military and War 9
Special Interest 9   Special Interest 9
Animation 8   Gay Lesbian and Transgender 8
Fantasy 8   Romance 8
Military and War 8   World Cinema 8
Bollywood 7   Documentary 7
Documentary 7   Historical 6
Gay Lesbian and Transgender 7   Performing Arts 6
Musical 7   Soap Opera 6
Exercise and Fitness 6   Musical 5
Performing Arts 6   Western 5
Anime 5   Anime 4
Western 4   Bollywood 3


Masculine   Feminine
film genre count   film genre count
Adult 21   Drama 22
Horror 19   Romance 20
Sport 19   Children and Family 19
Action and Adventure 18   Comedy 19
Science Fiction 18   Gay Lesbian and Transgender 19
Comedy 17   Soap Opera 19
Crime 17   Music Video and Concert 18
Thriller 17   Musical 17
Western 17   Performing Arts 17
Military and War 16   Reality TV 17
Documentary 15   Exercise and Fitness 15
Music Video and Concert 15   Adult 13
Drama 14   Fantasy 13
Fantasy 13   Special Interest 13
Historical 13   Animation 12
Special Interest 13   Documentary 12
World Cinema 12   Historical 12
Children and Family 11   World Cinema 12
Exercise and Fitness 10   Crime 11
Reality TV 10   Thriller 11
Anime 9   Anime 10
Gay Lesbian and Transgender 8   Bollywood 10
Animation 7   Horror 9
Musical 7   Science Fiction 7
Performing Arts 7   Western 6
Bollywood 5   Action and Adventure 5
Romance 5   Sport 5
Soap Opera 4   Military and War 3


Appendix 3: results of digital investigation

3.1.1 Highest ranking genres used for research and reserved for feminine category

Books Films & TV
Used Reserved Used Reserved
Parenting & Relationships Romance Reality TV Drama
Cookbooks, Food & Wine Arts & Photography Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Children and Family
Literature & Fiction Children's Books Performing Arts Soap Opera
Education & Teaching Crafts, Hobbies and Home Comedy Music Video & Concert
Health, Fitness and Dieting Gay and Lesbian Romance Musical


3.1.2 Genres of recommendations for feminine category

Genres Count
Education & Teaching 100
Cookbooks, Food & Wine 35
Literature & Fiction 28
Health, Fitness & Dieting 16
Reference 6
Politics & Social Sciences 3
Religion & Spirituality 3
Medical Books 2
Self-Help 2
Arts & Photography 1
Business & Money 1
Christian Books & Bibles 1
Engineering & Transportation 1
History 1

3.2.1 Highest ranking genres used for research and reserved for masculine category

Books Films & TV
Used Reserved Used Reserved
Business & Money Humour & Entertainment Horror Adult
Science & Math Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Crime Action & Adventure
History Computers & Technology Science Fiction Thriller
Engineering & Transportation Health, Fitness & Dieting Sport Western
Comics & Graphic Novels Science Fiction & Fantasy Comedy Military & War

3.2.2 Genres of recommendation for masculine category

Genre Count
Engineering & Transportation 60
Comics & Graphic Novels 35
Children's Books 26
History 14
Literature & Fiction 13
Test Preparation 12
Teen & Young Adult 9
Science Fiction & Fantasy 11
Science & Math 5
Education & Teaching 3
Politics & Social Sciences 3
Arts & Photography 2
Biographies & Memoirs 1
Calendars 1
Medical Books 1
Religion & Spirituality 1


In its first section, this essay discusses the ideas of three theorists identified as 'key thinkers' (Jones, 2010) in the debate surrounding the concept of globalisation. This discussion begins with Immanuel Wallerstein's systemic method, which is read as a forerunner to more recent strands of thought: namely, David Held and Anthony McGrew's processual or transformational model, and finally, the similar but more geographically oriented approach taken by Peter Dicken. The second section turns to the drawings of Mark Lombardi, comparing the manner in which he represents global social networks with the methods of social scientists who have contributed to the literature on globalisation. It is argued that the visual language Lombardi employs when representing actors completely disembedded from geographical spaces and to varying degrees wrested from nations states – enmeshed instead in spaces of flows of capital and power – is analogous to the globalisation theories discussed, particularity those of Peter Dicken.

Theories of Globalisation

From the 1970s onward, social historian Immanuel Wallerstein has contributed to a field of study known as world-systems analysis. The hyphenation of 'world-systems' is intended to communicate that the objects of study are not so much systems of the world but systems that are worlds. It has been more recently observed that some of Wallerstien's work constituted a proto-globalisation theory (Jones 2010, pp. 28-29). Wallerstein's approach is interdisciplinary. He decries a tendency he has observed in social theory to look at phenomena through narrow disciplinary lenses such as 'politics, economics, the social structure, culture' in that in so doing, the possibility of a more holistic understanding of the world is obstructed (Wallerstein 2004, p. x). The main objects of study in world-systems analysis are historical systems. There are three such systems: world-economies, world-empires and minisystems. (Wallerstein, 2004, p. 16) Minisystems are defined as rare self-contained groupings of economic exchange with completely local divisions of labour, such as isolated hunter-gatherer societies. Due to their locality, minisystems are fundamentally different to the two types of world-systems: world-empires and world-economies. World-empires are precursors to world-economies, where goods and wealth tend to be directed from the periphery of an empire, nation or state, to its centre. World-economies are modern capitalist economies, where trade is practised for the sake of endless capital accumulation and not the advancement of an empire or state (Schiranto and Webb, 2003, pp. 28-29).

According to Wallerstein (2004, p. 23), the modern world-system of which we are currently part, is a capitalist world-economy that has persisted since the 1500s. Given his assertion that this type of system is centuries old, it is no surprise that he dismisses the term 'globalisation' as not contributing anything novel (Robinson, 2011, p. 4). Wallerstein states that one major 'feature of the world-economy is that it is not bounded by a unitary political structure. Rather, there are many political units inside the world economy, loosely tied together in our modern world-system in an interstate system.' (ibid. p. 23) Another of Wallerstein's key concepts is the axial division of labour: the division of economic production into more profitable core-like production and less profitable peripheral production. The core-periphery relationship is asymmetrical, in that producers of core-like products acquire surplus value from producers of peripheral products, through a process called uneven exchange. Core-like products are predominant is a few states while in many others peripheral products are in far greater abundance. In addition, there are a handful of states that play host to a close-to-even mix. Based on the above observations, Wallerstein proposes a tripartite taxonomy whereby states are divided into the core, the periphery and the semiperiphery. (ibid. p. 28)

True to the Marxian roots of his thought (Schirato and Webb, 2003, p. 28) Wallerstein argues that the modern world-system is inevitably heading toward a major future crisis (ibid. p. 77). Additionally, while he acknowledges the heterogeneity of his subject-matter he argues that economic factors ultimately determine the shape of society:

[The] world economy contains many cultures and groups – speaking many different languages, differing in everyday patterns. This does not mean that they do not evolve some common cultural patterns […] It doesn’t mean that neither political nor cultural homogeneity is to be expected or found in the world-economy. What unifies the structure most is the division of labour that is constituted within it. (ibid. p. 23)

The epistemological assumptions behind an all-encompassing theory such as world-systems analysis, and Wallerstein's crude division of a very complex world into two types of production and three main territorial blocs are open to criticism (Jones, 2010: 31). Anything with as ambitious a scope as a theory of globalisation is open to charges of being a totalising meta-narrative. However, the remaining two theorists, Dicken in particular, go to much greater lengths to avoid over-simplifying their multifarious subject matter.

This essay now turns to the ideas that Held et al. put forward in their 1999 book Global Transformations. As as the time of publication the, term globalisation was already in wide use, this was written with the advantage of some hindsight. They split existing thinking on globalisation into three camps: hyperglobalizers, sceptics and transformationalists. (Held et al., 1999, p. 2) In the hyperglobalist corner, the uniting claim is that in the late 20th century, there has been an unprecedented increase in the autonomy and power of a global economic market and a weakening in the economic involvement and regulatory grip of nation-states. This seismic shift is decried by neo-Marxist and radical hyperglobalizers and celebrated by neoliberals. (ibid. p. 3-4) The sceptical position represents a refutation of the supposed unprecedented openness of international markets, for example, pointing out historical evidence of an international economy at the beginning of the twentieth century. Sceptics also highlight the concentration of activities of so-called multinational corporations in a handful of wealthy states (Hirst and Thompston, 1999, pp. 68-69) and the agency exercised by states when influencing international trade through their economic policy. The transformationalist school of thought holds that globalisation, rather than being a state of affairs, is a process driving rapid changes throughout contemporary society.

Held et al. present the transformationalist thesis as free of some of the drawbacks of the previous two, making

no claims about the future trajectory of globalisation [nor seeking] to evaluate the present in relation to some single, fixed-type “globalized world” […] Rather, transformationalist accounts emphasise globalisation as a long-term historical project which is inscribed with contradictions and which is significantly shaped by conjunctural factors. (ibid. p. 7)

They claim that the transformationalist model avoids the eschatological trap of those that compare global phenomena to an idealised 'end state' of globalisation. (ibid: 11) Another key point made by transformationalists is that relations between institutions and individuals are being reconfigured by the process of globalisation, so that causes in some parts of the world are yielding effects in new places irrespective of distance and the territorial boundaries of states. (ibid. pp. 8-9) Furthermore, rather than viewing people either exclusively as cosmopolites or as strongly defined by national identity, transformationalism seeks to encompass both alternatives. presenting us as splintered and intermeshed across borders. (ibid. p. 10)

Transfromationalism is put forward as a more nuanced middle ground, and Held et al. attempt to formulate a revised version of it. (Jones: 2010, p. 79) To this end, they provide the following definition of globalisation:

[A] process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions – assessed in terms of their extensity, intensity velocity and impact – generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity and the exercise of power. (Held et al. 1999, p. 16)

In summary: extensity refers to the reach and range of networks, intensity to the volume of activity within a network, velocity to the speed of interchanges and impact to the effect of all the former on a given community. In order to clarify the fourth concept, Held et al. devised a second tetrad, of different types of impact: first, decisional, meaning the extent to which globalisation affects the pros and cons of the choices available to agents; second: institutional, referring to globalisation's effect on the range of choices available to an agent; third, distributive: meaning how the distribution of wealth and power between actors is affected by globalisation; finally, structural: denoting globalisation's effect on the overarching social order (ibid. pp. 18-19).

The convoluted exposition of impact can be simultaneously read as evidence of a commendable and concerted effort to get to grips with the complexities of global reality and as a conceptual weakness, in that impact does not seem congruent with the other three concepts and renders their model lopsided and unwieldy. (Jones, 2010. p. 89) Much as impact is unrelated to the ideas of flows and networks that define extensity, intensity and velocity in the first tetrad, structure seems incompatible with the notions of agency and power relations deployed in the explanation of decisional, institutional and distributive effects in the second. Structure, is almost as broad a concept as effect, which leads one to suspect that Held et al. could easily have subdivided it, producing a third set of terms, in order to adequately address their subject matter. This is by no means a failing. Attempts to represent the vast complexity and variety of the world in a coherent conceptual model have a tendency to unfold, expand and multiply. This essay now turns to how Peter Dicken attempts a similar task, using spacial models of networks and strata.

In the introduction to the sixth edition of Global Shift, Peter Dicken puts forward a similar taxonomy of globalisation theorists to that posited by Held et al. Again, one encounters the hyperglobalists, who span the political spectrum and see global capital as having, in recent decades, become unfettered by nation-states. One is reacquainted with the sceptics who view internationalism as an adequate concept and globalisation as an empirically unsupported step-too-far. Finally, one is reminded that globalisation comprises processes, rather than a set of phenomena resembling an "ideal state" or an "end state" to which the world is accelerating. (Dicken, 2010, pp. 4-8) What differentiates Dicken is his emphasis on an economic geography in a perpetual state of 'becoming':

Old geographies of production, distribution and consumption are continuously being disrupted and new geographies are continuously being created. The new does not totally obliterate the old. On the contrary, there are complex processes of path dependency at work; what already exists constitutes the preconditions on which the new develops. (ibid. p. 14)

Dicken makes some use of a core-periphery concept similar to Wallerstein's when explaining recent economic history: in the core-periphery relationship, Western Europe, and later, North America came to occupy core positions, as the process of industrialisation took hold over the nineteenth century. During and soon after this time, some countries experienced a shift from core to periphery and vice versa. After World War Two, there emerged a marked East-West economic disparity (ibid. p. 14).

Dicken identifies three key indicators of global economic interconnectedness: trade has grown faster than output, 'in the second half of the Twentieth Century, world merchandise trade has increased almost twentyfold, while world merchandise production increased just over sixfold'; Foreign direct investment – investment by one firm, in a foreign firm, in order to gain a degree of control over that firm (ibid. p. 20) – has grown faster than trade; There are structural imbalances in the world economy as 'some countries have huge trade and current account deficits while others have huge surpluses.' (ibid. p. 22) There is convincing evidence that economic activity frequently crosses borders, but analysing this activity is difficult because 'virtually all statistical data on production, trade, FDI and the like are aggregated into national “boxes”.' (ibid. p. 52)

Despite these restrictions, Dicken wants to devise a method of analysing the 'tangled webs of production circuits and networks that cut through, and across, all geographical scales, including the bounded territory of the state' (ibid.) that make up the world economy. Dicken demonstrates how one might analyse these networks, through a diagram of three mutually embedded strata: 'macro-structures of (Institutions, conventions etc) of [the] capitalist market system', 'Circuits and networks of interaction, mediated through differential power relationships in global production networks and through transnational social networks' and 'Uneven geographical distribution of “goods” and “bads”; “winners” and “losers”'. He cautions the reader that this is 'an idealized representation of a world that is, in reality, infinitely more complex.' (ibid. pp. 52-3) For Dicken the networked perspective permits one to conceive of scale as a continuum rather than as being composed of discreet steps such as global, national and local. It also allows one to figure territory in a topological or relational manner rather than divided by precise borders. He does not, however, wish to present the topological and territorial ways of looking at scale as sharply distinct: 'a topological perspective is not, in itself, in conflict with the fact that, in terms of jurisdictional and regulatory practices, territorial scales of governance remain fundamental to the organisation and operation of the global political economy and its constituent parts.' (ibid. p. 54)

Dicken's method is empirical where possible and tentative when constructing generalized models of reality. This may be a result of his epistemological outlook having been influenced by the late 20th century post-structuralist turn in the social sciences, 'in contrast to the rather “structuralist” conception of process encountered in the thinking of Wallerstein[, …] Held and McGrew.' (Jones, 2010: 116) Dicken's thesis is a logical one to end on, as it synthesises and expands upon both the interdisciplinary processual approach of Held et al. and Wallerstein's mapping of economic processes onto geographies.

Lombardi's Drawing Practice

In the introduction to Global Transformations, Held et al (1999, p. 2) write 'globalisation may be thought of [...] as the widening, deepening and speeding up of contemporary social life, from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual.' By this definition, Inner Sanctum: The Pope and His Bankers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi by Mark Lombardi (Figs 1 and 2) is emblematic – in both actors and actions represented – of globalisation. This is not to say that the Lombardi's subject-matter is merely evidence of the processes of globalisation, but rather that as will be argued later, his drawings deploy, through their visual language, his particular way of theorising globalisation.

Fig 1: Lombardi, Mark  (1998) Drawing 1: Inner Sanctum: The Pope and His Bankers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi (5th Version), (Hobbs, 2003, p. 64)

In a 1996 statement accompanying Inner Sanctum: The Pope and His Bankers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, Lombardi states:

Over the years the Vatican bank invested well over $10 billion in major Italian, European and American Companies. Any profits realized were theoretically to be used to finance special church projects the world over. But besides its official, charitable face the Vatican bank had another, subterranean aspect as well. Many well-placed friends of the Church, including some of Italy's top financiers and industrialists, used the bank (for a fee or around 5%) to evade taxes and illegally export tens of millions of dollars from Italy to Switzerland and beyond. (in Hobbs, 2003, pp. 60-1)

A major node in this graph is Michele Sindona, who can be seen in Fig 1 connected by curves with arrows on either end, indicating relationships of mutual influence with Richard Nixon, David Kennedy, and others. The only one-way flow of influence to Sindona comes from Pope Paul IV, for whom he worked through the Vatican bank. Nixon's law firm represented Sindona in the US and Kennedy's Continental Illinois Bank was involved in some of Sindona's American Investments. (ibid. p. 61) The only events explicitly described are indicated by red lines: 'fines levied, indictments, incarceration, death or other “restraints (Lombardi's Term)”' (Lin, 2003, p. 146) In Sindona's case, in red we have: '1979-82: convicted in Italy & US of murder, fraud & conspiracy; 1984: found dead in Italian Prison: cyanide poisoning.' Details of relationships are not included on the chart, though given the sheer scale of this cat's cradle of power relations, capital flows, time-lines and so forth, reams of such information must exist. The bulk of these data are likely recorded on some of 'thousands of three-by-five inch index cards' (ibid. p. 16) in Lombardi's personal archive.

Lombardi began work on his oeuvre of drawings, delineating the complex intrigues of international political and financial scandals which, he came to call 'narrative structures' in 1994. (Lombardi, 2001) Prior to this he took a BA in art history at Syracuse University. After graduation he worked as, amongst other things, a museum director, curatorial assistant and arts librarian. (Richard, 2001, p. 7) His working procedure for narrative structures as outlined by those who knew him, took the following form: he would gather as much information as he could on a given event (culling this from published sources), (Lombardi, 2001) arranging it spatially and perhaps carrying out some preliminary sketches. Versions one and two of his drawings would be constructed in this early stage. Version three would include the majority of the information, in its final configuration. The fourth version onwards would be the polished drawing, with the addition of 'final results', in red. At this point the drawing could be submitted for exhibition, along with a short text describing the event in question. (Richard, 2011, p. 7)

Though only represented as having been involved through the receipt of money, Bill Clinton, the Lippo Group, and China Ocean Shipping Co. a.k.a COSCO, Little Rock-Jakarta-Hong Kong ca. 1990s enmeshes Clinton in a network of incriminating flows of influence, linking him to arms dealing and possible campaign-funding corruption. Hobbs suggests that Clinton is 'less an actor than a figure being acted on' by the overarching forces delineated by Lombardi's 'structuralist overview'. (Hobbs, 2003, p. 111). Lombardi's work is said to be influenced by 'globalism' (ibid.) While this Americanism is not entirely synonymous with globalisation, both approaches take as their object of attention the entire world. Bearing this in mind, along with Hobbs' claim that there are parallels between the 'enlarged vision' evident in Wallerstein's world-systems analysis and an unpublished manuscript written by Lombardi in the late 1980s called Panorama: The Atlas of Modern Art. (ibid: 21-23) one can begin to look at Lombardi as both an artist and globalisation theorist.

Indeed, Lombardi himself has said '[t]here is a sociological aspect to my work. I am interested in the structure, mechanisms, uses and abuses of power in the global political economy.' (ibid. p. 19) Figure 2 depicts a situation where Chinese business entities affect American politics, crossing both territorial and institutional boundaries. His subject matter: the interaction of corporations, banks, political figures, often across national borders, is the bread and butter of globalisation theorists. Despite these marked similarities, he does not construct theoretical generalisations, of the written kind anyway. His written content comprises facts, but it is situated in the structure of a graphical language which, far from having the empirical transparency of, say, a seismograph reading, organizes information according to certain assumptions.

Fig 2: Lombardi, Mark (1999) Bill Clinton, the Lippo Group, and China Ocean Shipping Co. a.k.a COSCO, Little Rock-Jakarta-Hong Kong ca. 1990s (5th Version) (Hobbs, 2003: 112)

Assuming Lombardi's visual presentation of information constitutes something like a thesis, it could be argued that this would be incompatible with a model in which geography played a significant role. Lombardi's graphs are organised sometimes according to linear time, mostly in accordance with flows of power and capital but not obviously in relation to the actors' geographical situations. Abstraction of human activity from geographical locales is identified to by some theorists as a key part of the process of globalisation and called 'disembedding'. (Eriksen, 2007, pp. 16-7) It is questionable how reasonable it would be to read disembedding into Lombardi's drawings, especially as they are presented in an art context and are not bound by an expected function, such as attempting to accurately model geographic space. Nonetheless, the absence of reference to territory precludes parallels with Wallerstein and Dicken as they both geographically map the world economy. In the case of Dicken, the disjunction is far from total, as his deployment of networks is comparable with the web structures of Lombardi's graphs. Also of relvance is Manuel Castells, a contributor of ideas relevant to the globalisation debate (Jones 2010), who developed the idea of a space of flows, which corresponds very well to the spaces defined by Lombardi:

The space of flows is the material organisation of time-sharing social practices that work through flows. By flows, I understand purposeful, repetitive, programmable sequences of exchange and interaction between physically disjointed positions held by actors in the economic, political and symbolic structures of society. (2000, p. 442)

Lonbardi's picture plane is not conventionally cartographic; if it maps anything, it is Castells' 'economic, political and symbolic structures'. It is in these structures, that Lombardi's actors are situated, rather than those of geography and nationality.

BCCI, ICIC and FAB (Figures 3 and 4) is the last large scale drawing Lombardi made before his death. It depicts a banking operation which for decades sprawled across the globe. The Bank of Commerce and Credit:

[A] mainly Arab owned concern founded in 1972 with financial backing from The Bank of America […] controlled from Abu Dhabi, incorporated in Luxembourg and operated from London, Ganeva and the Caymen islands; involved in joint ventures with local banks in Iran, Oman, France and Switzerland; assets grew from $5 million in 1973 to $23 billion by 1991; by mid 1980s has opened offices in 78 countries to serve the needs of nearly one million depositors and borrowers (Lombardi, in Hobbs, 2003, p. 97)

BCCI appeared to be the epitome of footloose, multinational capital. However, it also laundered money from various criminal sources. According to Lombardi, its directors mainly came from diplomatic corps and the intelligence community because 'it was created to serve geopolitical rather than commercial ends: to further the regional political and national security ambitions of a handful of conservative Gulf Arab states allied to the U.S and Britain' (ibid. p. 98) In 1991, the bank was seized in a multinational raid by officials.

Fig 3: Lombardi, Mark (1996-2000) BCCI, ICIC and FAB, 1972-91 (Hobbs, 2003, p. 96)


The subject matter of BCCI, ICIC and FAB is of key relevance to the globalisation debate, involving the worldwide intermeshing of major commercial institutions with nation-states across the globe. It bespeaks a 'transnational interconnectedness weav[ing] complex networks of relation between communities, states, international institutions, non-government organisations and multinational corporations which make up the global order' (Held et al. 1999, p. 27) That this drawing acknowledges the agency of nation-states in the global banking operation depicted somewhat distances Lombardi from the hyperglobalizers and their claims of a radically autonomous global economy. However, the drawing is in perfect concord with the transformationalist theories of Held et al. and Dicken, for which the process of globalisation would necessarily affect and involve nation states.

Fig 4: Lombardi, Mark (1996-2000) BCCI, ICIC and FAB, 1972-91

The visual language through which Lombardi communicates his evidence of the processes of globalisation is like that of 'computer system engineers, designers, urban planners,' not to mention the social network diagrams of the field of social network analysis. (Richard, 2001:16). Lombardi's graph-making practice removes actors from their various territories to reveal a criss-crossing of relationships that envelop the world. He circumvents the national 'boxes' that Dicken complains confine many economic statistics – representing the economic, social and political in two dimensions, wrested from geography; he emphasises the flows of social and economic interactions at the expense of their national contexts. Neither in form nor content, are these the drawings of a globalisation sceptic.

To reiterate the less problematic parts of Held et Al's processual definition of globalisation:

[A] process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions [...] generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity and the exercise of power.

Lombardi documents these flows – these products of the process of globalisation – in a single picture plane. He preserves flows of activity produced over many years, in what one might call two-dimensional fossil records of globalisation. Lombardi comes as close as his temporally static medium allows him to represent globalization as a process.



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Baker, R. (2nd March 2011) 'Mark Lombardi's World Conspiracy, Corruption, and Vatican Hit Men', Village Voice, <http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-03-02/art/mark-lombardi-s-world-of-conspiracy-coruption-and-vatican-hit-men/> 14 May 2012

Bierut, Michael (24th November 2003) 'Mark Lombardi and the Ecstasy of Conspiracy', The Design Observer, available at: <http://observatory.designobserver.com/feature/mark-lombardi-and-the-ecstasy-of-conspiracy/1697/> 13 May 2012

Kimmelman, Michael (November 14th, 2003 ) 'ART REVIEW; Webs Connecting the Power Brokers, the Money and, Ultimately, the World', New York Times, available from:    <http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/14/arts/art-review-webs-connecting-the-power-brokers-the-money-and-ultimately-the-world.html>  14th May 2012

Lin, T.  (2003), 'Following the Money', Art in America, November 2003, 142-147, 177

Lombardi, Mark (2001) 'The Recent Drawings: An Overview', Cabinet Magazine,  avaliable at: <http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/2/lombardi.php> Accessed 16th May 2012
Richard, Frances (2001) 'Obsessive—Generous: Toward a Diagram of Mark Lombardi' wburg, vol.2, no.2, available from <http://www.wburg.com/0202/arts/pdfs/lombardi.pdf> 15th  May 2012

Robinson, W. (2011)  'Globalization and the Vol. sociology of Immanuel Wallerstein: A critical appraisal', International Sociology, vol. 26 no. 6, 723-745, available from: <http://iss.sagepub.com/content/26/6/723>, 14th May 2012

Weinberg, Michele  (5th May 2005) 'The Color of War: Images of aggression from the boardroom to the battlefield', Miami New Times, available at: <http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2005-05-05/culture/the-color-of-war/> 15th May 2012

Other online

'Mark Lombardi CV', Pierogi Gallery website, http://www.pierogi2000.com/artists/mark-lombardi/mark-lombardi-bio/, 23rd May 2012

As this review describes much of the content of the film, you may wish to watch it before reading this.

Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr has stated that The Turin Horse is his final film. This seems somewhat appropriate as it references an apocryphal event that is said to have marked Friedrich Nietzsche’s final fall into physical and mental decline and is themed on a descent into nothingness. While visiting the Italian city of Turin, Nietzsche is supposed to have been distressed by the sight of a stubborn horse being brutally whipped by its driver and fallen sobbing upon the beast’s neck in a protective embrace. Nietzsche spent the years following the time at which this event may or may not have occurred, in an early dotage, under the care of his family.

The event concerning Nietzsche is described in the film’s prologue, which ends with: ‘Of the horse… we know nothing.’ In the scene immediately following this sentence, we are presented with something may that shed some light on the horse’s fate: We follow a bearded middle-aged man atop a wooden cart, drawn along a path by a shabby-coated horse, through the dust and debris swept up by a gale. It is unclear whether this horse is the horse. In any case, the entire film centres around the lives of this man, his daughter and the horse in their isolated stone farmhouse.

This film struck me as glacial, both in its slow, deliberate pace and its atmosphere of crushing inevitability. It runs for 146 minutes and consists of a mere 30 long takes, all in monochrome. The score is repetitive and mildly dissonant: the same dirge-like piece, mainly on organ and violin, is woven in and out of the film at varying intensities. I found it to be largely effective if occasionally grating, though given the film’s bleak mood, some discomfort is permissible. The score also compliments the almost constant whirring and keening of the strong and unremitting wind that tears at the farmhouse and surrounding hills.

Though the father and daughter are in each other’s company for most of the film, they seldom talk. When there is dialogue, it is terse and directed at the mundane activities that make up the bulk of the film’s content: They both muck out the stable and make several unsuccessful attempts to get the horse to eat or drink. The daughter is buffeted by the wind as she fetches water from the well outside, she boils a daily potato for each of them, she washes clothes by hand, she dresses and undresses her crippled father. The father chops firewood, works at carpentry and is presumably returning from some kind of work at the beginning, a journey which he is prevented from repeating by the horse’s obstinacy. Indeed, these people’s history is never addressed, we are only, unsparingly, shown their quotidian toil.

Much of the success of the film rests on how well we are shown this drudgery. To this end, the farmhouse has been constructed thoughtfully, out of real stone, rough plaster and so on. The interior lighting is intricately staged. The tools and furniture seem to have been chosen for their stark, rustic qualities. The actors’ movements and stillness are framed and re-framed by the camera as it snakes its way around the space. Acts of drudgery and subsistence, when presented in this manner and in this setting, encourage a kind of close study, a rapt fascination. That the father ploughs into his potato while it is hot and endures the burning, while his daughter tentatively picks at hers, takes on a strange significance. As there are so few other details to focus on, I found the implausible excess of leftover potato scraped from the wooden plates after the meals jarring. With so much of what we tend to think of as acting omitted, my attention was nonetheless held by the pared down behaviour of these people.

If we ignore the father’s age and his only having full use of one arm, and look only in gendered terms, the division of domestic labour seems heavily weighted toward the daughter. A lot of the father’s speech comprises dour orders directed at his daughter. He stands, staring sternly straight ahead when she dresses and undresses him; this comes across as an attempt to retain his dignity. Even taking into account the father’s infirmity, it seems undeniable to me that the social organisation of the household is patriarchal. While questionable, if nothing else, this gives us an authentic depiction of 19th century European ordinariness.

There are three instances of sustained dialogue or speech. The first of these mainly consists of a monologue: A man visits the farmhouse unexpectedly, seeking palinka, the Hungarian fruit brandy that is consumed throughout the film. He explains that he couldn’t go into town as it has fallen to ruin, has been degraded. He then launches into five minutes of cryptic Nietzschean prose. This is Nietzschean because he employs a binary typology of people: those who have acquired everything, in a sneaky underhanded fight, and debased it and the great and noble who abstain from fighting; winners and losers respectively. This doesn’t precisely fit Nietzsche’s ranking of the exceptional atheist who pours all of their passion into their earthly existence over the great herd of Christians whose morality is determined by what is judged to be good for the herd and who invest emotionally in spiritual fantasies and hopes and fears of an afterlife. Nonetheless, the visitor’s opposition of the noble and pacifistic to the underhanded and acquisitive does echo Nietzsche’s opposition of master to slave or Übermensch to last man. Nietzsche’s Übermensch will construct new values by which to live and stand as a life-affirming exemplar to the herd of humanity. The last man is the apathetic antithesis of the Übermensch, caring only for his comfort and security. Nietzsche also writes of nihilism as a failure to do this, an inability to paint values over the blank, valueless face of existence.

I can think of two interpretations of the visitor’s speech. The first is that he is a herald of the victory of herd morality over any hope of a new value system, and the inevitable victory of nihilism as the father and daughter’s world disintegrates. I think this is suggested when the visitor claims that the noble and great have altogether disappeared and do not believe in god or gods. Additionally, the father sceptically dismisses the visitor’s speech and offers his daughter no speculation as to why the woodworm has ceased its noise on the first day or the lamps ceased to give light on the fifth; ‘I don’t know. Let’s sleep.’ he says. There are no evocations of God’s will, of tests, punishments or of things happening for a reason; his outlook is positivistic. My second interpretation is based on the menacing behaviour of the Gypsies who appear uninvited after the visitor has left and take water from the well and Tarr’s claim that the visitor represents a ‘shadow Nietzsche’. In this reading, the underhanded thieves are presented as bad through the lens of Christian morality by the visitor, who is Nietzsche’s opposite (shadow in the Jungian sense). The visitor, father and daughter are the last remnants of the herd who’re being swept away by the rising tide of Übermensch. After all, theft is considered a sin under Christian morality. Furthermore, in his later writings, Nietzsche theorised that Christian morality represents the apotheosis of base slave morality, at the expense of noble master morality; humility, charity and obedience are privileged over pride, competition and personal freedom. I could argue that the gypsies display more of the master and the father and daughter more of the slave, though they do defend their well and threaten the gypsies with violence. It is also possible to read the father and daughter as last men, clinging to the relative comfort and security of their routine.

Both interpretations are flawed. However, when the gypsies are driven away, one of them shouts that the water is theirs, and the following day, the well is empty. This fits the visitor’s description of a class of despoilers and acquires of all they touch. One more event which is pertinent to this strand of interpretation is the book from which the daughter reads a passage aloud, clumsily, syllable-by-syllable. The passage deals with holy places, whose function is the veneration of the Lord. Deviations from this function are not allowed and amount to violation. No services can be held in violated places until a ceremony of penitence has been held. The text does make allusions to Christianity which may support my second interpretation. Her final words are of interest: ‘The celebrant tells the congregation: The Lord is with you. Morning will turn to night. Night will end.’ The cleansing described, rings of apocalypse and foreshadows the darkness that falls on the house. At the end of the fifth day, the narrator describes the cessation of the gale and dead silence that permeates the house. The void is approaching.

When they cannot ignite the lamps, the father says that they shall try tomorrow. There is absurdity here, an unwavering will to go on in the face of a situation that grows continually more bleak and hopeless. At the close of the film, the father and daughter sit hunched over bowls, facing each other, the father gingerly plays with a raw potato; the daughter’s remains in the bowl that rests between them. The father says that they have to eat and bites into his with a pitiable crunching. The film ends. I noticed strong parallels with Becket’s work, Endgame in particular. Both find an older infirm man with a younger companion. Both feature dwindling resources, dwindling life, dwindling everything. When Clov in Endgame is asked to describe the view outside their room’s two windows to his blind companion Hamm, he scans the surrounding world with his telescope, regularly pronouncing ‘zero’ and summarises the view from the first window as ‘corpsed’ and from the second as ‘grey’.

The woodworm stops – decay stops; light stops; fire stops; the gale stops; there is silence. The world is almost stripped to nothing. Setting aside my attempts at interpreting the plot or meaning of this film: It uncompromisingly depicts the straitening and winding down of an already harsh existence.