Personal, not corporate, expression

I came across a video interview on Democracy Now with Brewster Kahle and Rick Prelinger—two of the great open content pioneers of the digital age—talking about digital preservation, the Google juggernaut, and the home movie archive. One of the things that struck me during the interview was Rick Prelinger’s distinction between personal and corporate expression.

And home movies are astonishing, because they’re, as you say, personal, not corporate, expression. They’re individuals witnessing history, not simply great events, but also history of everyday life. And we’re building a home movie collection at the Internet Archive for all of us to compare, understand, experience, to reuse, and for the use of scholars. And we hope that this will really change the way that people look at film, because film is not just movies that you go to and pay 10 bucks to see. Movies are also the way we look at each other.

It seems obvious that studio films, most TV, etc. are corporate expressions, but all too often they seem other than that—they seem to be stories that may happen to be corporate funded—but not necessarily corporate expressions. But is that the case? When these corporate expressions are contrasted with the often non-linear, non-narrative form of the personal expressions in home movies the idea of the culture industry as defining a predominant sense of a capital-driven expression seems obvious.

How much of my nostalgia for video games, hollywood films, and the toys of my youth might be understood as corporate expressions? What’s more, at what point are they personal? Where is the in-between space of this idea in which the corporate expression becomes a deeply personal one without being a kind of necessary zombification of one’s creative soul? Is the idea of corporate overdetermined in this case? Then again maybe the idea of personal is? These are by no means new questions, but I love how the idea of the corporate versus personal expression as a distinction drawn by Prelinger brings these questions into a sharp light for the digital age in which the ability to create and share our personal expressions has never been easier or more commonplace.

The idea of archiving the everyday is what turned me onto the digital in the first place—but more and more I’m finding archiving is just another side effect of the possibilities implicit within the moment.

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5 Responses to Personal, not corporate, expression

  1. That’s a tough one. There’s a slippery interzone between the corporate product and our pre-commodified thoughts.

    Perhaps our devotion to those moments is, at times, a kind of Situationist detournement. We latched huge sweeps of imagination onto toys too small to bear them, and created some kind of continuum beyond product continuity.

  2. Reverend says:


    Genius, I love that idea of detournement in this context—I would to think that an almost unholy devotion to these commodities does in many ways may the object far too insignificant in relationship to the emotion towards it. And how sick are you because it is this very idea of Situationalist detournement that I was fumbling around with and not knowing it. I am going to have to follow down this path further and see what this was all about. You rock Infocult!

  3. Things just keep coming back to the Sits.

  4. Brad Kozlek says:

    How does the fact that we are now creating our personal expressions to share far and wide change them? There is a new force shaping these expressions that in some ways may be similar to the forces that shape commercial expression.

    • Reverend says:


      That’s a good point, and I want to believe that the distinction here has everything to do with the personal rather than the “personal brand.” A distinction that gets at what you are saying, once you understand yourself has primarily a commodity, you might as well end it with a shot to the head.

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