Memory, Sensation, Duration in Contemporary Media Assemblages in India

Posted: February 6, 2009 in India, New Media, Time, Value
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I am attempting to think through the implications for media assmeblage analysis of the connection that Bergson makes between the body and duration. This is an excerpt from an article I recently wrote. It may appear in South Asian Culture and History.

The main point here for the purposes of this paper, is that Office Tiger presents itself as a corporation that provides measurable value-added services to Western firms, but these quantities are abstractions from the streams of immeasurable and immense values of immaterial and affective labor. This is the labor that inhabits, enables and exceeds the boundaries between home and office, between merit and privilege, between men and women, and between work time and leisure time. It is this space of creativity in between times that Office Tiger attempts to control as its own domain. Indeed, it is the value of temporality itself (starting work on-time, the duration of the work day, the intensification of labor-time through multi-tasking: Aneesh’s “time zone warp,” Deleuze’s Untimely plane of immanence from which the variable present only flows) that is most under attack and occupation by the pedagogies of Office Tiger.

It will be no surprise that this transvaluation of value is central to the actual connectivity between work and information technology, established through an algorithm-based governance structure that Aneesh terms “algocratic.” As Upadhya remarks in her review of Aneesh’s study, the algocratic mode of hegemony depends on technology, especially information technology, which structures work routines and workplace behaviour: in the post-industrial economy many work tasks are now performed through computers and the symbolic manipulation of code, giving rise to new systems of control, based on the coding process. “The algocratic mode has enabled new global flows of information labour as well as control over geographically dispersed workers through constant online access and monitoring, as seen in the model of geographically and temporally ‘distributed development’ followed by Indian software outsourcing companies.” Indeed, the digitization of information and its circulation in real time across the globe is the single most important catalyst for this transvaluation of value. For his part, Hardt notes that one “novel aspect of the computer is that it can continually modify its own operation through its use. Even the most rudimentary forms of artificial intelligence allow the computer to expand and perfect operation based on interaction with its user and environment.”

It is the value-added to specific cinematic clichés by information technology that brings me to a consideration of contemporary Bollywood cinema. I have argued in Untimely Bollywood that contemporary Hindi-Urdu cinema is undergoing a definite phase transition, and that by diagramming the set of durations (or vibratory fields) assembled through the various processes constituting cinema—time embodied in form—we could begin to write a nonlinear history of South Asian media. Giorgos Artopoulos and Eduardo Condorcet note that in Bernard Cache’s analysis of the assemblage entered into by a kite, a method for diagramming “inflections on surfaces of varied curvature” becomes available to thought and practice. “In doing so, he describes the evolution of a form, and its shaping force in time. With the use of advanced geometries, time can be embodied in form—form—for example the kite—is the ‘site’ for the calculation of multiple forces. Digitally-generated environments to be inhabited by a ‘player’ raise the issue of human presence in the space-less environment of the computer” (214). Cinema as inflections moving, embodied in time, in form, and always doubled by the Untimely: this would alas, be too metaphorical, and hence useless, for an effective diagram. But let us progressively differentiate this metaphor, and show the set of intensive entities constituting it.

One way to consider duration ontologically is to follow the relations it enters into. Deleuze suggested that there are definite properties of duration. “Pulsed time and non-pulsed time are completely musical, but they are something else as well. The question would be to know what makes up this non-pulsed time. This kind of floating time that more or less corresponds to what Proust called “a bit of pure time.” The most obvious, the most immediate feature of…non-pulsed time is duration, time freed from measure, be it a regular or irregular, simple or complex measure. Non-pulsed time puts us first and foremost in the presence of a multiplicity of heterochronous, qualitative, non-coincident, non-communicating durations. The problem therefore is clear: how will these heterochronous, heterogeneous, multiple, non-coincident durations join together…” Durations do not (necessarily) communicate, but they do join together. What I have been calling a non-coinciding resonant unity is this “joining together” of duration yielding a media assemblage with emergent properties. Through embedded or transversal time-scales, a non-pulsed time mobilizes self-organization, morphogenesis and a virtual plane. Following Deleuze’s suggestion for a biological understanding of temporal cycles, Delanda puts the problem thus:

Thinking about the temporality involved in individuation processes as embodying the parallel operation of many different sequential processes throws new light on the question of the emergence of novelty. If embryological processes followed a strictly sequential order, that is, if a unique linear sequence of events defined the production of an organism, then any novel structures would be constrained to be added at the end of the sequence….On the contrary, if embryonic development occurs in parallel, if bundles of relatively independent processes occur simultaneously, then new designs may arise from disengaging bundles, or more precisely, from altering the duration of one process relative to another, or the relative timing of the start or end of a process. This evolutionary design strategy is known as heterochrony…”

If heterochrony is the necessary condition of affective capacities, then sexuality (praxis) finds its non-coinciding incipience here as an ecology of sensation, in folded bundles of parallel processes, that disengage, feedback, and mutate. It is this heterochronous duration that marks both the immensity of affective labor, and its susceptibility to control. It also limns an edge of chaos in the phase transition of contemporary Bollywood.

Eddies within eddies, without a trace. The great challenge of Deleuze’s notion of hearing the inaudible is to open the body’s perception to resonating durations in a continuous multiplicity. This is not easy, but there is an intuition necessary to it.



In a review of Virtual Migrations: The Programming of Globalization, Carol Upadhya highlights A. Aneesh’s description of two contrasting systems of Indian software labour deployment—bodyshopping and virtual migration. “Although there is some ethnographic description of the transnational experiences of Indian software workers that place them in an unsettled, interstitial space, the experiences of offshore software workers remain unaddressed. Instead, he focuses on the systems of control that have emerged to govern dispersed IT labour. He argues that virtual software labour migration is characterised by spatial integration (in which work is delinked from the work site) and temporal integration (in which workers in different time zones are linked together), and that this has led to the emergence of a new ‘governance scheme’ and organisational structures. The former are labelled as ‘algocratic’ or in accordance with the rule of algorithm, as distinct from the earlier governance schemes of bureaucratic and panoptical dominance” (Carol Upadhya, Review of Virtual Migrations, in Contributions to Indian Sociology, 42:2, 2008, 344-347, 345).  Upadhya expresses some skepticism of the extension of code to various forms of globalization in India, noting, “I am suspicious of the extension of the metaphors of ‘code’ and ‘programming’ to such a wide range of phenomena and processes: while he is attempting to provide a fresh formulation to describe these forms, the excessive use of these terms may appear more clever than insightful” (346). In what sense is code not a metaphor? Here we would insist that code is the very ontology of social relatedness, the form of value itself, in such IT labor. Negri defines immaterial labor and explicates its implications thus: “Today we face a tendency towards the hegemony of immaterial work (intellectual, scientific, cognitive, relational, communicative, affective, etc.) increasingly characterizing both the mode of production and processes of valorization. It goes without saying that this form of work is entirely subordinate to new modes of accumulation and exploitation. We can no longer interpret these according to the time employed in production. Cognitive work is not measurable in those terms; it is even characterized by its immensurability, its excess. A productive relation links cognitive work to the time of life. It is nourished by life as much as it modifies it in return, and its products are those of freedom and imagination. This creativity is precisely the excess that characterizes it” (Antonio Negri, The Porcelain Workshop, Noura Wedell, trans., [Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2008] 20).

Aneesh, Virtual Migration 2.

Upadhya 345.

“Rather than the politicization of real abstraction that Virno gleans from the supposed collapse of labor qua measure, Cillario sees the current figure of real abstraction as centering on the proliferation and production of new procedures, of codes of production, of transmissible ‘hows’ rather than measurable ‘whats’. The organizational codifications of the processes in which incommensurate use values are produced becomes central, but the locus of abstraction becomes not labor per se, or commodity-exchange, but the role of cognition within the laboring process. Even if procedures themselves are then subjected to the standards of exchange (i.e., they in turn become products), their centrality to a capitalism that more and more takes the figure of ‘flexible accumulation’ marks a mutation in the character of real abstraction. As Cillario writes, ‘‘The incessant impetus aimed at the change in the methods and procedures of laboring activities is the generative nucleus of the abstractive process of knowledge’’ (1990, 168 /9). The centrality of procedures also means that, in a way that is not necessarily pregnant with emancipatory possibilities, reflexivity is at the heart of contemporary capitalism. That is, it is not just the abstraction of capital’s forms, but its colonization of cognition, that is crucial to an understanding of the present. ‘‘The concept of abstraction which is adequate to the phase in which knowledge becomes capital stems from the reflexive character of the process of social labor’’ (Cillario 1990, 168; 1996, 52)” (Toscano, Alberto, “The Open Secret of Real Abstraction,” Rethinking Marxism, 20:2 (2008), 273—287).

Hardt 94.

Stuart Kauffman’s elegant definition of a phase transition is useful to recall here. In At Home in the Universe, he writes that “when a large enough number of reactions are catalyzed in a chemical reaction system, a vast web of catalyzed reactions will suddenly crystallize. Such a web, it turns out, is almost certainly autocatalytic—almost certainly self-sustaining, alive” (58); “The ratio of possible reactions to polymers is so vast that eventually a giant catalyzed component and autocatalytic sets emerge. Given almost any way in which nature might determine which chemicals catalyze which reactions, a critical molecular diversity is reached at which the number or red catalyzed reactions passes a phase transition and a vast web of chemicals crystallizes in the system. This vast web is, it turns out, almost always collectively autocatalytic” (65).

Gilles Deleuze, “Making Inaudible Forces Audible,” in Two Regimes of Madness, Amy Hodges and Mike Taormina, trans. (New York: Semiotexte, 2006) 156-160, 157.

Delanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, Ch. 2, 110?


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