Posts Tagged ‘difference’

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?


Banksy!

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: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/24/arabs-democracy-latin-america; 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, http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2997). “(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.

 

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Let’s look at another take on consumer behaviour. In “Understanding consumer behaviour,” David Jobber specifies further why perception is crucial for marketing (Jobber, Principles and Practice of Marketing [London: McGraw-Hill, 2010] 108-143). Jobber claims that an understanding of customers can be gained by answering the following questions (109):
1. Who is important in the buying decision?
2. How do they buy?
3. What are their choice criteria?
4. Where do they buy?
5. When do they buy?

These are the key dimensions of buyer behaviour according to Jobber. In an interesting, although unacknowledged, reprise of Bergson’s memory cone, Jobber notes that need recognition of consumers runs a dynamic spectrum from functional (the simple recognition of needing a commodity like replacing a broken TV) to emotional or psychological (buying a perfume or cologne). The decision making process goes through various stages, and it is important that these concepts are presented in the pop-out box, at least in this instance, as a temporally linear unfolding: need recognition/problem awareness → information search → evaluation of alternatives → purchase → post-purchase evaluation of decision. Memory and perception and their mobilization are key throughout. For instance, in the first stage need recognition will happen initially through “a review of relevant information from memory” (113). The aim of searching for information for a good marketer like Jobber is to build up the “awareness set—that is, the array of brands that may provide a solution to the problem” (113). Much like Grewal and Levy, Jobber expends a few choice words on “low-involvement situations.”

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We have seen that the world was an infinity of converging series, capable of being extended into each other, around unique points. Thus every individual, every individual monad expresses the same world in its totality although it only clearly expresses a part of this world, a series or even a finite sequence. The result is that another world appears when the obtained series diverge in the neighborhood of singularities. (Deleuze, The Fold 60)

The will to power: will does not want power. Power is “the one that wills in the will. Power is the genetic and differential element in the will. This is why the will is essentially creative” (85). Power is the elemental condition of mutation. So let’s say that power is a characteristic of a will, a set of affectivities, sensations (nonanthropomorphic concept of bodily events), or capacities of that will. In this sense creativity constitutes a kind of giving up of or on human will, and to enter hapharzardly upon a process of selecting connectivity and thus affirming the dice throw as chance, a will that has no space, only topology, that has no time, only becoming. Now what we know (that is, experimentally and experientially engage in a process of becoming), and can feel–but never with total coincidence–is that these capacities are themselves involved in a set of divergent and at times resonant processes, or multiplicities. The causal and differentiated patterns that form at various scales of these multiplicities will bring a quantum of chance. Now chance has no determinate quanta, it is the measure of fluctuating unpredictability in a given system. This intimation of chaos—entropy—has always been defined against equilibrium in an ideology which Deleuze calls the dialectic of ressentiment (even, or perhaps especially in the form of negentropy), that is an ideology whose will moves with a certain bitter heaviness—which is not at all a very enabling way to understand the power of affect. This is why will does not want power, power wills, power affects, its creativity is something genetic, in the sense of the why and wherefores of phase transitions. You see then that to grasp this notion of becoming through a will to power the concept of non-coinciding but resonant time scales is also necessary. What happens in the time-scale of bacterial strains, and the time scale of river erosion does not coincide totally, and yet they can embed themselves one in the other. What sense does movement make? What patterns is a given movement involved in? Determined and determining, the will to power has a multiplicious malleability to it.

Grant Road Station, Mumbai

There is something immeasurably sad in all this, but then sadness is no longer heavy (Philosophy should sadden, and trouble stupidity, says Deleuze). Here we escape the heaviness of movement in the dialectic or ressentiment, here thought and life dance with risk (chance as distributive difference). Woody Allen in Stardust Memories talks about the authenticity of death through all these forces of life that stream memories through what remains a monologue, especially for the women in his films. But why is it that we give finality, or a certain end, a type of ending the aura of the authentic? There are many kinds of endings? Death is a phase transition, that is all. The aura attaches through a hatred of life. Deleuze has some wonderful passages on the quality of hatred that burns in ressentiment, isn’t that too in Allen? And yet one cannot deny the wildly funny nature of Allen’s films. But these things are not incompatible, in Allen a style has fused them.

Returning: I am struck again and again at how central the notion of creativity is to Deleuze’s thought. Creativity is an affirmation of life, it is to take life and thought to the limit of what it is capable of doing.

The will to power is determined and determining, it is both cause and effect, it is quasi-causal. “The genetic element (power) determines the relation of force with force and qualifies related forces. As plastic element it simultaneously determines and is determined, simultaneously qualifies and is qualified. What the will to power wills is a particular relation of forces, a particular quality of forces. And also a particular quality of power: affirming or denying” (85).

Here we come back to the theme of the virtual as determined and determining that I marked earlier. It suggests that there is no virtual (will to power) without being actualized in particular relations of forces, particular emergent capacities (qualities that arise from the interactions of a multiplicity); but also that there is no actual without the genetic and differential element of the virtual. Read on: “All phenomena express relations of forces, qualities of force and power…”

Getting a hold of Foucault

What happens to the body in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (hereafter DP)? Let us specify what body we are speaking of here, because after all it is still such a vague term. The body of docility, but also the productive nexus between capitalism and discipline. The body of the norm, but also the body incited to a microphysics of activity and expression. So already we are speaking of at least two bodies in Foucault: that palimpsest in perpetual dissolution invoked in “Nietzsche Genealogy History,” and the more mundane body of habit, of exercise, of experimentation, and regulation. (I should mention in passing how surprised I was to find that Deleuze had organized a conference on Nietzsche–the only one he ever organized in his career–in the early 60s, and that Foucault had taken an active part in the proceedings; and that together they had been involved in the French publication of Nietzsche’s works–all this in Desert Islands. I suppose my surprise was that Foucault had such an early and long lasting engagement with Nietzsche–it always seemed to me that he became more Nietzschean after The Archaeology of Knowledge, but that is clearly mistaken. So then it is through the laughter of the Nietzschean aphorism–its specific intensities, as Deleuze reminds us–that I re-read these crucial sections of DP).

The first body, the body of discourse, the body that is produced by a power that “writes” it, has been the dominant figure of the body in cultural(ist) criticism for the past twenty years. It is the body of performativity, of the mark, piercing, and the tatoo, it is the queered body of drag and camp. It is the body of a curious productive repression, whose productivity takes only the form of a narrow linguistico-psychic expressivity. What does that mean exactly? The body is thought as something that means, that displaces meaning, that figures linguistic traces, and that dynamizes the psyche with its little traumas-turned-to-discourse (psychotherapy). But what of that other transformation, meaningless on a certain level, but nonetheless forceful and historically decisive, because irreversible: the transformation of the body of the soldier into a docile body through constant practice and the inculcation of the automatism of habit.

The classic representation of such automatism in industrial production is Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. The first few minutes of this classic is worth watching carefully.

The meanies of correct training

Read on: “The problem here is that Foucault straddles both conceptions of the body…”