Archive for the ‘Neuroscience’ Category

So the terrain of struggle shifts with feedbacks to strategies. New orderings of the past, the emergence of digital memory — no more liberatory than prior regimes — enmeshed in networked control and capitalist capture (shift from visibility-discipline to neuro-modulation as value management). We affirm an exit from capitalist value that is both collective and involved in the intensive construction of abstract diagrams of political and psychic singularisations. Within and against neoliberal accumulation, its prosumers, and cults of individuality and spectacle, a constant circulation of bodies. Isn’t this why Proust returns, his style, his assemblage? Guattari links assemblages to style. To construct an experimentation in style that queers digital control to the threshold of exit from semiocapitalism (Berardi), pursuing diagrams for an anti-fascist life.

I think of my brother Saleh Asadi, who lives in Palestine-Israel. I think of his family and their relation to Gaza, to Hamas, to struggle and the histories of dispossession and murder. Will there be a shift in policy? By all indications Obama has affirmed zionism. Where will the new media awareness of the ongoing horrors of that death camp they have reduced Gaza to take the different movements for justice and equality? How will the boycott of Israel–economic? cultural?–effect these struggle in Palestine? What infrastructures of hacking can common resources affirming these struggles? Equality understood as sexual, gendered, raced, economic, and material. To turn then our attention to the world. What do we see? The rise of Isis has been decried in the LRB as the birth of a terrifying nation but it is being hailed as an exit from the west by some diasporic Muslims here in East London. We see the disporportionate death and destruction visited upon the people and lived space of Gaza.

This must stop? But how?

Published: April 14th, 2013
Words: 35,000 (approximate)
Language: British English

Alan Cornes has written an interesting book on the ethics, morality, and applicability of what he calls “interculturalism.” Although the definition of this last concept seems rather elusive to me, basically he is writing for a kind of liberal business person type, who does a lot of travelling, doesn’t want to offend foreign hosts, and wants to make killer business deals. But then the book also has another dimension (it doesn’t have many of this last, but two is good enough for me), which is his dabbling with mirror neurons leading to an argument around empathy. He writes:

Empathy is surely the one weapon in our human repertoire able to rid us of the curse of prejudice, racism, and xenophobia. Our evolutionary background makes it hard for us to identify with outsiders, we’re designed to hate our enemies, to ignore people we barely know, and to distrust those who look different from us. Even if we are cooperative team players within our own community we often become different people in our treatment of strangers. If only we could mentally structure the world around us in a way that works with this psychology instead of against it, perhaps we could begin to see people outside of our own groups, yes, even those on other continents, as a part of us, how much easier it would be to form worthwhile relations through empathy so that the process of reciprocity follows naturally thus enabling us to build on our humanity rather than fighting against it. -46

This is admirable stuff, and there is much to admire throughout the book: a commitment to an ethics of liberal care (alas I wish the author had considered a little bit more creatively the history of sympathy as a form of power); a sense of the importance of travel for business and human beings (there is a good sense throughout that wandering a bit from our comfort zones is an excellent way to develop a better “moral me”); a commitment to a kind of relativism of the subjective (finally it is the subject who decides what feels right and makes sense through the process of moral decision making). His redactive use of the mirror neuron research today notwithstanding, what Cornes seems to want through this invocation of all things neuro- is a sense of a kind of scientific clarity of the human condition. But does the mirror neuron system map on to empathy as a human virtue? What if we were to resist this anthropomorphism of the mirror neuron system? We would do well to draw back from the lure of hope, community, love, communion, imitation, and think rather of a machine of conjunction working in and through our neurology, that produces habitual perceptions (always a subtraction from what is), and a plan(e) of ecological potential repeatedly captured both in the habit itself and the capitalist value(s) it generates.

Let me explain a little bit what I have in mind here. Take this quote from Lazzarato’s The Making of Indebted Man toward a first approximation.

The independence and freedom that eutrepreneurism was supposed to bring to ‘labor” have in reality led to a greater and more intense dependence not only on institutions (business, the State, finance), but also on the self. This independence might ironically be considered the economy’s colonization of the Freudian superego, since the “ideal self” can no longer be limited to the role of custodian and guarantor of the “morals” and values of society. In addition and above all, it must be the custodian and guarantor of the individual’s productivity. We always come back to the coupling of economics and ethics, work and work on the self. The ferocious critique leveled in Anti-Oedipus against Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis can be read as anticipating the expansion of the “cure” and “analyst/analysand” transference to the management of the labor force in the corporation and to the population in society at large. The increase in psychologists’, sociologists’, and other “self-help” experts’ interventions, the creation of “coaching” for better-off workers and obligatory individual monitoring for the poor and unemployed, the explosion of “care of the self” techniques in society-these are symptoms of the new forms of individual government, which include, above all, the shaping of subjectivity. 94-5

Despite the controversy around Lazzarato and Marx and Deleuze, a debate well-worth having, since what is stake of course are the very categories of analysis and objects of antagonism/contradiction that continue to be of relevance to revolutionary Marxism–despite, I say this controversy, this understanding of the colonization of subjectivity under an infinite temporality of debt in algorithmic capital (Lazzarato doesn’t pay very close attention to the network technologies that provide the infrastructural and logistical support to neoliberalism)–the genealogy of this subjectivity forever in debt is, as Lazzarato notes, thoroughly Western capitalist and Christian. But that this very narrow notion of the subject is becoming global dominant–not through culture and ideology alone but through the ontology of insurance, extraction, logistics, and finance (see–this shaping of the subject through self-help books like Cornes, clothed as they all are now in some transparent neuro-sheen (odd how Damasio and Ramachandran function in this discourse)–this subject is the subject of neuromarketing and financialization. This is finally why the mirror neuron system is important to capitalist extraction: make immediately productive and value generating the subject’s creative encounter with the world.

What is the nature of a connection? I have been influenced by Franco Berardi (Bifo) recently. He points out that definitions have to be approached through multiple strategies because what is important is shocking thought by the reconstitution of a virtual field of sense and sensation. In other words, part of what is at stake in understanding marketing is the creation of new concepts commensurate with marketing’s specific ecology of media and perception, and new affects that work toward an untimely experience of marketing. What is an untimely experience of marketing?

Considering the untimely is why this module has become something of an extended meditation and experimentation on habits. Habit is both an achieved state and a process in itself. Habit, in short, is productive of intensive difference through its repetitions. This is not a difficult notion. But wait.

If differences are produced in processes of repetitive reconnection or refrains, ethics becomes in fact both a diagramming of refrains and a counter-actualization of the forms of habituated duration that are miring us in their spectacles. Bifo again:

The refrain is an obsessive ritual that is initiated in linguistic, sexual, social, productive, existential behaviour to allow the individual – the conscious organism in continuous variation – to find identification points, that is, to territorialize oneself and to represent oneself in relation to the world that surrounds it. The refrain is the modality of semiotization that allows an individual (a group, a people, a nation, a subculture) to receive and project the world according to reproducible and communicable formats. In order for the cosmic, social and molecular universe to be filtered through an individual perception, in order for it, we may thus say, to enter the mind, filters or models of semiotization must act, and these are models that Guattari called refrains.
The perception of time by a society, a culture or a person is also the model of a truly temporal refrain, that is, of particular rhythmic modulations that function as modules for accessing, awaiting and participating in cosmic temporal becoming. From this perspective, universal time appears to be no more than a hypothetical projection, a time of generalized equivalence, a ‘flattened’ capitalistic time; what is important are these partial modules of temporalization, operating in diverse domains (biological, ethological, socio-cultural, machinic, cosmic …) , and out of which complex refrains constitute highly relative existential synchronies. (Chaosmosis, 16)
What is the fundamental passage through which the anthropological transformation of modern capitalism is determined? This passage consists in the creation of refrains of temporal perception that invade and discipline all society: the refrain of factory work, the refrain of working hours, the refrain of the salary, the refrain of the production line. The postindustrial transition brings along with it the formation and imposition of new refrains: the refrain of electronic speed, the refrain of information overload, the refrain of digitalization. My feeling of personal identity is thus pulled in different directions. How can I maintain a relative sense of unicity, despite the diversity of components of subjectivation that pass through me? It’s a question of the refrain that fixes me in front of the screen, henceforth constituted as a projective existential node. My identity has become that of the speaker, the person who speaks from the television. (Chaosmosis, 16–17) In communication, obsessive and fixated types of nuclei are determined; certain refrains thicken and solidify, entering into resonance and producing effects of double bind. When the existential flow gets rigidly brought back to logical, mythological, ideological or psychic refrains, behaviour tends to become paranoid. For example, when the money refrain becomes the structuring element of all social and communicative life, this engenders behavioural paradoxes, paranoid anticipations, social double binds, and depression.

To work counter to our time, and so to work on our time, in the hopes of a time to come. That is, ethics would be a recomposition of a body’s habituated durations.

So in answering the question about the connections this course is making for you, define this course through your habits. What connections between information, neurology, matter, energy, perception, chemistry, habits, speeds, intensity, joy, desire, capital, discipline/control, and becomings do your habits make in its existential being. As should be clear from the syllabus (available here), the connections I am bringing together is a critique of capital in the Marxist tradition of revolutionary becoming, new untimely lifeworlds through radical practices of aesthetics, love, friendship, kinship, and community dwelling. In other words, the creation of untimely ecologies of sensation, that is ecologies that work counter to our time and thereby work on our time by reorganizing the set of refrains (habit) that lull us in blocs of dominant temporalities.

We are reading Kline No Logo, watching It Felt Like a Kiss, by Adam Curtis, reading Guy Debord, and reading Wark’s The Beach Beneath the Street, listening to Bifo on Mp3, we are taking photos, making videos, creating webpages, we dream of situations and apps that will disrupt the accumulation of data-in-marketing, we drink, smoke (too much, too much), but keep excerising. Trying to live a resonance that would be plastic enough to affirm a practice while also making that practice an affirmation of becoming. An ecology of sensation.

We are thinking information in terms of the untimely. As should be clear from all I have said, ethics for it to affirm becoming must work in the service of a time to come, not a time of freedom and equality, but a practice of assemblages of temporal blocs (a minute, a summer, an afternoon are singularities as Deleuze and Guattari remind us in What is Philosophy?).

Sundaram writes in the mode of the postmedia postcolonial critic. But it was Guattari, as Bifo notes, who saw the infinite potentiality of information society. This is not an affirmation of informational capital, it is not a capitulation to the desires of consumer society, it is not the production of spectacles. In some sense, it is merely a return to the virtual that is at stake. The virtual in so far as it is fully real, but not actualized (affects and tendencies are fully real, but their most important characteristic is that they remain ontologically tied to a phylum that is purely potential). Isn’t that why information, and more specifically practices that gradually diagram the ontological (the composition of multiplicities along gradients of intensity), informational dimensions of data, energy, attention, perception. Information can then be thought of as a cut into affect itself, a cut in time, both a measure (in order to be information very specific critical thresholds of noise must be exceeded) and intensive (or semio-chemical) flow.

Regardless, I return to the question of connections. What is marketing today? What are the refrains of marketing? Its habituations? Its attractions? The emergence of the brand that Kline writes about is rooted in a history of radical politics, from anti-colonial, feminist-socialist, to postcolonial movements against the grain of capitalist globalization, or integrated world capitalism. Over the weekend, thousands and thousands of people the world over participated in occupations of public and private space. This practice of occupation you know is very interesting. Dan Moshenberg tells the great joke, and Dan does this again and again, whenever he sees students at GWU sitting around together he asks them, Are you with the occupation?

Well are you?