Archive for the ‘India’ Category

reticulation 9.6 copy

Abstract: This essay aims to diagram the set of connectivities (or “system of relations”) developing in business outsourcing affective, communicative labor and the value-adding digital image in contemporary Hindi-Urdu cinema. What emerges is a resonant set of nested temporalities constituting a new media assemblage. Throughout, I draw on a set of analyses that has developed the notion of affective labor as a decisive break in the organization of value under capital. In this work by feminist political economists, postcolonial critics, and Marxist phenomenologists, affect becomes the substance of interaction and communication: distinct from “emotion,” affect is defined by its relational, bodily character, and cannot be reduced to an internalized feeling. In that regard, affect is considered pre-individual, operating in that moving strata of being and becoming where the subject and populations meet. Affect is both virtual and actual at once, it is an emergent, incipient space of mutation and potential as well as the site of modulation, control, and capitalist valorization. Theoretical frameworks that have brought together Marx, Freud, Foucault, and Deleuze have conceived of affective labor using terms such as desiring production, and more significantly, numerous feminist investigations, analyzing the potentials within what has been designated traditionally as women’s work, have grasped affective labor with terms such as kin work and caring labor [or “labor in the bodily mode”]. Through an analysis of No smoking (Kashyap, 2008) and Office Tigers (Mermin, 2006), I explore the singular emergence of affective labor in the South Asian context, in pervasive processes that are informatizing (rendering as/through data) various forms of life and work. I correlate the function of affective labor in both business outsourcing and digital media through analyses of two key modalities: the evolving functionality of information in the nonlinear, open system of computer technology; and the modulation of subjectivity in the capacities of attention and sensation of value creation.


This lecture is based on research conducted in Delhi-NCR and Mumbai on mobile phone cultures over the past nine months. This research has focused on changing patterns of use emerging from shifts in relations of power between government, network providers, content producers, value added companies, and communities of active users across urban and rural space. The wager of my research is that a new ecology of sensation is emerging through an evolving, globally distributed security apparatus. This apparatus has become centered on controlling populations as searchable digital information, while mutating the biopolitical project of maximizing productive capacity and minimizing risk.


1. What is a Media Assemblage?
2. Why is it particularly appropriate for diagramming Mobile phone networks?
3. Emergent properties, critical thresholds, and phase transitions of multiplicities
4. Types of connectivity: Security, interoperability, and standardization (ICON, TRAI regulations); pirated connections (ends up valorizing what you are stealing, non-standardized, on the margins of control); and the strategic refusal (Naxalite sabotage); pre-empting emergence: keep control but enable capitalist innovation and value creation
5. Intensive gradients of populations cannot be understood through linguistic categories, we need tools to be able to model intensive gradients of perception, meaning, rates of flow, density of connectivity…etc
6. This leads to a perspective where we take the body’s sensorimotor processes seriously as a mode of unmediated connectivity to media. UNMEDIATED. DIRECT. But with a history. Patterned but unpredictable, as virtual as it is actual, ecologies of sensation are evolving fields of sense, value, and force. So we can understand in this way the mobile phone as directly productive of sensation: in narrative: the mobile phone is a sensational technology (Dev.D), a dangerous device (A Wednesday), and passage into an intercalated timespace (the private bubble around the bodies of people in public places so common in Hindi cinema)…The mobile phone in cinema has become banal, a device assumed to be everyday for postcolonial modernity…VAS production: the creation of sensation through viral content and “necessary” services.
7. Art and Mobile Phones: The Creative deployment of the mobile: social viscosities project, GPS and mapping, the camera (Kainaz’s iPhone photography), the mobile dropping out of the pants video, use of the camera, text novels in Japan
a. Dialtones: A Telesymphony. There are a few different interactive mobile phone performance art pieces that I am aware of but this is by far the coolest of the bunch. Basically, when you come to see this show you (and your cell phone) actually become a part of the show. You register the phone number of your cell phone so that it gets linked with your seat. Then the show starts and it involves the ringing of your cell phone with new ringtones that have been added to it to make it more musical. Your phone and the phones around you are all ringing as part of this amazingly beautiful musical piece. It’s music but it’s made using mobile phones. It happened way back in 2001 but I still think it’s a magical piece to remember today.
b. Cell Phone Movies by Giselle Beigulman. This artist actually uses the mobile phone to create art by taking different models of cell phones and using the video recorder on them to record different scenes in movement whenever she is on buses or trains or in the car. These videos are then combined together to make cell phone movies of the subjects that she has taken video footage of. Learn more her
c. Phonetic Faces. This is another one of those interactive art pieces that utilizes mobile phones. In this case, the Phonetic Faces exhibit is set up (it’s been in various galleries around the world) and people at the exhibit can come add to the piece. They do so by calling a specific cell phone number which tells them how to choose images to collage together as part of the piece and then also allows them to upload their own picture for use in the collage. Essentially, this captures the visitors to the exhibit in images but also alters the piece through their contributions. That’s public art at its best and it has the cell phone at its core.
8. Social Viscosities: cuts both ways…. After a certain threshold of connectivity, the network (which includes but is not reducible to people’s use, no one part of the open, distributed system is decisive, what is decisive is the emergent properties that take hold with the nonlinear interaction of these components), the system takes on a kind of life, it becomes self-organizing after a gradient of probabilistic functionality, a gradient of connectivity…
a. Self-organizing networks doesn’t mean that this is utopic, without hierarchies of power, or resistant
b. Sensation gets us out of the dialectic of docility-agency.




This video is a montage of the images with their digital “originals.” I think the video helps defetishize the images, that is it makes the compositing processes a little more palpable. Changing the level of detail changes the sharpness of the color transitions. The processes involved in perception traversing these gradients is what I have been insisting we understand politically, economically, technologically, bodily. At once and altogether. An ecology of sensation, where ecology is understood as a system far from equilibrium involved in creative resonance with other forces, ecologies, material and informational flows.

Arriving trains, Chembur Station

Santa Cruz


Sensation and its ecologies get us beyond the pleasure-agency / consumption-docility binary that characterizes radical political thought today. This is simply because sensation is not the synthesis of the dialectic, it is not involved ontologically in dialectics at all. Sensation involves the creative mixing of the virtual and the actual. Deleuze writes, “sensation has no [objective and subjective] sides at all; it is both things, indissolubly; it is being-in-the-world, as the phenomenologists say: at the same time I become in sensation and something arrives through sensation, one through the other, one in the other” (Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation 27; qtd. in Elena del Rio, “Alchemies of Thought in Godard’s Cinema: Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty,” SubStance, Vol. 34, No. 3, Issue 108: French Cinema Studies 1920s to the Present (2005), pp. 62-78, 62). Sensation emerges in gradients of intensity, movement, density, synaesthesia, passing through critical thresholds of becoming, complexly mixing in self-differentiating affective processes across value, sense, and force. As bodies and technologies assemble across delivery platforms emergent properties and co-evolutionary trajectories partly actualize virtual futures, repetitively, stochastically. Sensation also gets us out of the morality of the pleasure-agency / consumption-docility binary, a morality of ressentiment and a practice of “good vs. bad” representation. What we need to affirm in media studies and critical theory today is not the pious memory of the subaltern, but the processes (cultural, institutional, economic, subjective) that have been rendered as products in analyses that seek to bring the subaltern to voice. Dispense with subaltern pieties, return to movement, consider its diagram of change, its variable dimensions, its ecology of becoming. If we attend to the function of a bodily event, if we consider such events in the act of exceeding their actualization, we come to consider the politics of the virtual and the becoming of sensation (I owe this point to a conversation sociologist Shilpa Phadke and I had on a feminist response to lingerie ads in Mumbai, India).

We need therefore to pose clearly what method would allow living the chance of a becoming away from the binary between docility and resistance. What Ned Rossiter and Brett Neilson’s article (“Precarity as a Political Concept, or, Fordism as Exception,” Theory Culture Society 2008; 25; 51) helped bring out for me was the set of problems in which one locates one’s practice. For me this set is best analyzed as they suggest in their article as the “movement of movements.” Someone very wise it was who said “Follow the Movements!” Rossiter and Neilson’s frame of reference includes such names as Agamben, Foucault, Schmidt, Spivak, Mouffe, Berlant, Hardt and Negri, and Lazzarato. This is their abstract:

In 2003, the concept of precarity emerged as the central organizing platform for a series of social struggles that would spread across the space of Europe. Four years later, almost as suddenly as the precarity movement appeared, so it would enter into crisis. To understand precarity as a political concept it is necessary to go beyond economistic approaches that see social conditions as determined by the mode of production. Such a move requires us to see Fordism as exception and precarity as the norm. The political concept and practice of translation enables us to frame the precarity of creative labour in a broader historical and geographical perspective, shedding light on its contestation and relation to the concept of the common. Our interest is in the potential for novel forms of connection, subjectivization and political organization. Such processes of translation are themselves inherently precarious, transborder undertakings.


Nul Bazaar for Urbz Mashup:

Edward Talkies, Dhobi Talab, Kalbadevi, Mumbai:

Be Like Water / Edward Talkies (Kalbadevi, Mumbai)

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?