Posts Tagged ‘cell phones’

How does one engage an event?

The event has gone through torsions in this blog. But we shouldn’t confuse an event with a blog. What is happening as I write in Libya is an event that changes the contours of everything, but not for everyone in the same way, or for the same duration, or with the same speed. The event does not take the form of an equality of duration, but rather partakes of the excess of transvaluation.

Libya in flames, bombed out, but what of the becomings that have expressed something powerful but as yet unknown through this event (we hesitate to endorse Hardt and Negri’s hopes of the Arab revolts—see:; the comments are as interesting as the article. Hardt and Negri are assimilating the Arab protests to their own particular war machine, but something else is going on, beyond what they “hope” for). In thinking this through and in affirming our support of the revolts, we should remember not to confuse the two becomings that Deleuze differentiates, a revolutionary becoming and a radical deterritorialization, which can be suicidal (and often fascistic).

In thinking the politics of events as the massacres in Libya we want access to that which exceeds the actual event, the lives of the lives lost, through what processes were they brought to that moment? The machinic phylum, the body without organs, concrescence, ecologies of sensation allow us to pose the transvaluation in and mutation of a given event. In my work on Indian mobile networks and their ecology of sensation, what I have benefitted from thinking is the co-evolution of human capacities with technologies of perception. Part of what needs understanding concretely is the role the mobile has played in these uprisings, it would seem that facebook and the mobile have found a new form of political expression across the Arab world. But how long has this fire been burning, isn’t this, as James Baldwin said once, just the fire next time, isn’t the Arab uprising simply the heir of the last conflagration, the last murder, the last violation? Is the Arab uprising an example of what Hardt and Negri argue is a new form of horizontal organizing for social justice? This is a problem in Hardt and Negri’s analyses: theirs is a proleptic or anticipatory criticism where what emerges always already affirms the powers of the multitude, but they are dealing with people potentialized through both a noncognitive ingression of force and resonance of specifically habituated techno-perceptual assemblages, and a people whose aspirations are also replete with the forces of ressentiment and affirmation. And as always there is a desperate, violent, but most importantly active struggle over the interpretation of events: interpretation becomes directly ontological in such circumstances. So it should not surprise us when on the scale of human politics ressentiment becomes the reigning affective disposition of the new regime. But to make an affirmation of becoming is not to live in the hopes of Western criticism, seeking another aprioritized example (Derrida is very good when it comes to thinking the dialectic of the example—see the analysis of the Derrida-Lacan debate collected in the Purloined Poe) of a multitude, a movement, a becoming. To make an affirmation of becoming is to return thought each time to a political ontology of an infinity of attributes, infinitely variable, the process of concrescence going from potentiality to actual nexus, or assemblage. And it is absolutely not the case that such a political ontology is status quoist, compromised (what is not? But there are gradients…), and ineffectual in the “real” world. A political ontology worth its salt will attain the status of a diagram of becoming.

The fire next time could also be one of those highly improbable, but decisive events that has entered into popular discourse through Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan. But of course the highly improbable event has been foundational to poststructuralism, which has made many careers defining or engaging with events. Both Derrida and Deleuze had very different kinds of engagements with the revolutionary, critically intensive, symmetry breaking event of becoming. People confuse being a Deleuzian with thinking one is right about ontology or causality. There is nothing right about a diagram, it either works with complexity, compounding and correlating powers, or affects, or dies of its own decomposition.

Without making excuses for quick transitions, I think one way to contribute to a revolutionary becoming is by diagramming vectors of ingression. Ingression correlates directly with potentiality in A. N. Whitehead’s process philosophy, and it is worth quoting here at length (the virtual? I think a close study of the precise differences between Whitehead’s pure potentiality and Deleuze’s virtual is in order—see Tim Clark, A Whiteheadian Chaosmos: Process Philosophy from a Deleuzean Perspective, “(vi) That each entity in the universe of a given concrescence can, so far as its own nature is concerned, be implicated in that concrescence in one or other of many modes; but in fact it is implicated only in one mode: that the particular mode of implication is only rendered fully determinate by that concrescence, though it is conditioned by the correlate universe. This indetermination, rendered determinate in the real concrescence, is the meaning of ‘potentiality.’ It is a conditioned indetermination, and is therefore called a ‘real potentiality.’ (vii) That an eternal object can be described only in terms of its potentiality for ingression into the becoming of actual entities; and that its analysis only discloses other eternal objects. It is a pure potential. The term ‘ingression’ refers to the particular mode in which the potentiality of an eternal object is realized in a particular actual entity, contributing to the definiteness of that actual entity” (Process and Reality 23). One could quite easily loose it in what Whitehead later in the lectures calls the technical language of his project, but I think the sense of real potentiality as a certain movement is very much what Deleuze argues of Spinoza: real distinction is not numerical, but qualitative.



Let’s begin with some examples that will update aspects of Virilio’s argument in The Information Bomb.

1. “The Reality Mining Dataset: The Reality Mining project represents the largest mobile phone experiment ever attempted in academia. We are collecting an unprecedented amount of data on human behavior and group interactions that we plan on anonymizing and making available to the general academic community. By the end of the experiment, this dataset will contain over 500,000 hours (~60 years) of continuous data on daily human behavior. Already we have been approached by over a dozen of researchers in a wide range of fields (including epidemiology, sociology, physics, artificial intelligence, and organizational behavior) who are extremely eager to see how this unique data can answer questions from their own discipline. In an article on the Reality Mining project in December’s issue of New Scientist, prominent social network analyst and Harvard professor David Lazer was quoted saying that this research will “revolutionize the field of social network analysis [Beaver (2004)].”


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?

What is the relation between cell phone practice and perception? This is both a deeply cultural issue and a question of the body understood transculturally (but very much historically!). What would it mean to analyze cell phone practice, media pedagogies (institutions, and flow gradients), capitalizations, and value added schemes as a cultural and transcultural phenomenon at once?

Again, we are at the point of querying method (thanks Patricia): What are the objects here? At what scale of analysis do these objects relate or connect, at what scale is their connection lost or nonpertinent, what is the function, rate, intensity, feedback, distribution, and evolution of these connections? If these capacities-connections have individual and collective dimensions of change, how do we understand the political nature of such affects? This question also follows the understanding of the impact of a thought of virtuality on political practice. Directly on ethics.