Posts Tagged ‘New Media’

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)].” http://reality.media.mit.edu/dataset.php

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Gilles Deleuze never to my knowledge wrote extensively on marketing, but he had some choice words for it in “Postscript on Societies of Control.” I quote them below. I lectured today, minutes ago actually, on Foucault’s panopticism and Deleuze’s modulated control to my first year marketing and communication course at QMUL. I tried to make the argument to them (about 200 very diverse, international students) that marketing is a historically specific form of power.

Control societies are taking over from disciplinary societies. “Control” is the name proposed by Burroughs to characterize the new monster, and Foucault sees it fast approaching. Paul Virilio too is constantly analyzing the ultrarapid forms of apparently free floating control that are taking over from the old disciplines at work within the time scales of closed systems. It’s not a question of amazing pharmaceutical products, nuclear technology, and genetic engineering, even though these will play their part in the new process. It’s not a question of asking whether the old or new system is harsher or more bearable, because there’s a conflict in each between the ways they free and enslave us. (Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control” 178).

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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

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Train to Virar

These photos seem to me to have come together quite by chance, but then they also emerged from patterns of behavior and forms of style, against the backdrop of flows of people, traffic, capital, information. In India today these patterns are emerging through a new ecology of sensation. But I make no claim for these photographs as “art.” And yet clearly the history of perspectivalism, the dominance of representationalism in the engagement with a living multiplicity is at stake for me in creating these images. There is an accretion of information some of which coheres, much of which does not, but each image has a certain duration at different scales of perception, a noncoinciding resonant unity, a unity-in-multiplicity is what I hope to continue through the photography (mutating affect, not representation). An ecology of sensation meeting its cliché: Bollywood meets graphic novels at the back of a rikshaw, Agra’s Mughal-era oriental(ized) stone work turning topological and dimensional (is it less or more racist? to what extent is the question relevant to what it does?), the ferris wheel on Juhu beach, the weighing machine at the local station. This time that I have been able to spend here in India thanks to a research grant from the Fulbright foundation, has allowed me to research the materiality of the ecology of sensation of mobile phones and experiment in forms of creatively engaging this ecology.

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According to Deleuze, Nietzsche’s favorite method is to consider a thing’s plurality of senses depending on the many forces that can take possession of it (N+P 143). Thus there are many types of religions depending on the forces dominant and minor in it. This method is particularly useful in considering media today. There are many forces that can take possession of various kinds of media, giving it a multiplicity of senses; many forces struggle for dominance, to lay claim to the sense of a given media. I am thinking right now specifically of the cellphone: what are the forces that have taken possession of mobile culture? These forces aim to change the direction of the media itself, more or less controlling or affecting its various processes (N+P 154).

Let’s recall a crucial dimension of Deleuze’s argument regarding sense, value, force taken from my last post: The dialectic misinterprets force (that which appropriates phenomena), affect (relational capacities, emergent properties), and becoming (phase transitions of nonlinear systems far from equilibrium). More, the dialectic, as Deleuze notes in his conclusion, is defined by three great ideas: 1. the idea of a power of the negative as a theoretical principle manifested in opposition and contradiction; 2. the idea of suffering and sadness have value, the valorization of the “sad passions”, as a practical principle manifested in splitting and tearing apart; 3. the idea of positivity as a theoretical and practical product of negation itself (195). What organizes these three great ideas? A false conception of difference, according to Deleuze, a conception of difference which substitutes the negation of the other for the affirmation of self (196); a negative, binary difference that is inextricably tied to representation, bad conscience, and ressentiment. Slave morality and dialectical difference are of a piece.

What would be the correct interpretation of force, affect and becoming? A diagram that would itself take thinking to its n-th power, reconnect and push thought to the fullest of what its affect can do, and thereby engage in unpredictable processes of becoming. In short, this leads to a new way of feeling or sensing through an intensive imbrication in ecologies of sensation; a new way of thinking, with “predicates other than divine ones; for the divine is still a way of preserving man and of preserving the essential characteristic of God, God as attribute” (163); and a new way of evaluating, “not an abstract transposition nor a dialectical reversal, but a change and reversal in the element from which the value of values derives, a ‘transvaluation’” (163).

Diagramming ecologies of sensation that lead to a transvaluation: the aim of media assemblage critique. For Indian mobile culture one key dimension is global consumerism—its vector is partly captured by the phrase “Global Access.”

Mobile phone store, Marathahalli, Bangaluru, Jan. 2010

Read on: “To accede to a global image one consumes certain objects…”

It was my first, and I hope not last, visit to ARCO, an international arts market. It was interesting, if only because of the anxiety of being a part of an institutional machinery for assigning an exchange value to what should have no fixed exchange or use value.

The discursive context fed into my project of trying to engage Negri, Deleuze, Bergson, and Massumi on value and affect.

This is what I said:

What is the relation of Value to Affect?
“Pagar mas o menos es una cuestion que cada uno debe sopesar. El valor del arte no esta vinculado al dinero, sino al amor que uno siente por una obra ya que su objectivo, lejos de ser especifico, es realzar la experiencia personal de quien la admira y cuyo futuro es imposible de prever.”

“To pay more or to pay less [for a work of art] is a question that…is up to the individual to decide. The value of art has nothing to do with money, but with the emotive connection with an artwork. Its goal is to enhance the personal experience of the person admiring it, and therefore its future is impossible to predict.” (Marie Elena Angulo, qtd. in “Assigning Value to Art,” ABCDARCO, 2, Feb. 12, 2009)

The creation of market value today is immense and immeasurable but susceptible to control, discipline, modulation, and change. (Paraphrase of Antonio Negri in “Value and Affect” [1999])

IT IS FUNNY THAT AT AN ART FAIR EVERYTHING I HAVE READ AND HEARD IS ABOUT QUESTIONING IF ART CAN HAVE A VALUE AT ALL.

THERE SEEMS TO BE SOME PARTICULAR ANXIETY AMONG ARTISTS, CRITICS, AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC THAT ART BE BOTH A COMMODITY TO BE BOUGHT AND SOLD, AND BECAUSE IT CALLS FORTH A SUBJECTIVE RESPONSE IT BE BEYOND THE COMMODITY FORM.

AN OLD ANXIETY AT ARCO? MAYBE SOMEONE FROM THE AUDIENCE CAN FILL US IN DURING THE QUESTION/ANSWER?

IN ANY CASE, I WANT TO BEGIN WITH TWO TERMS THAT ARE NOT ONLY IMPORTANT FOR HOW WE THINK OF THE ETHICS OF ARCO, BUT CRUCIAL TO HOW WE UNDERSTAND THE LIFE OF CULTURAL PRODUCTION IN India TODAY.

THOSE TWO TERMS ARE VALUE AND AFFECT!

SLIDE 1:

WHAT IS VALUE?
BECAUSE VALUE TODAY IS DEFINED BY THE QUALITATIVE CHANGE IT BRINGS TO A PRODUCT LINE (as in value added services); or an identity (as in cultural value)—VALUE IS BASICALLY DEFINED AS OUTSIDE OF ANY MEASURE.
BUT DOES THAT MEAN THAT IT IS OUTSIDE OF CONTROL?
PEOPLE WORKING IN THE FIELD OF MARXIST CULTURAL ANALYSIS OR FOUCAULDIAN BIOPOLITICS SUCH AS ANTONIO NEGRI ANSWER CLEARLY NO, VALUE IS NOT BEYOND CONTROL.
IN FACT THE PRODUCTION OF VALUE IS A FORM A CONTROL.

How to define Affect?
In recent work by feminist political economists, postcolonial critics, and Marxist philosophers, affect is defined as the substance of interaction and communication: distinct from “emotion,” affect is defined by its relational character, not limited by an internalized feeling. In that regard, affect is considered pre-individual, operating in those strata of being where the subject and populations meet. Recalling Baruch Spinoza’s “ethics,” the production of affect is not conceivable otherwise than in terms of the production of a relational capacity: the capacity to affect and be affected.

“It is not right to say that the cinematographic image is in the present. What is in the present is what the image ‘represents’, but not the image itself, which, in cinema as in painting, is never to be confused with what it represents. The image itself is the system of the relationships between its elements, that is, a set of relationships of time from which the variable present only flows. “ Gilles Deleuze, Cinema Two: The Time Image

AFFECT IS A BODILY CAPACITY TO AFFECT AND BE AFFECTED. IT IS SUBJECTIVE (ABOUT YOUR HABITS), AND POPULATIONAL (HABITS DEVELOPED SOCIALLY AND BIOLOGICALLY).
PEOPLE INVOLVED IN AFFECT STUDIES HAVE FOREGROUNDED THE IMPORTANCE OF BREAK AWAY FROM THE MIND/BODY DUALISMS THAT HAVE CHARACTERIZED WESTERN THOUGHT FROM ITS INCEPTION.
AFFECT IS NOT ABOUT EMOTIVE RESPONSE; IT IS ABOUT CAPACITIES THAT EMERGE FROM THE INTERACTION OF MANY, MANY BUNDLED PROCESSES IN THE BODY, IN PERCEPTION, IN ATTENTION, IN MEMORY.
IN SHORT, AFFECT IS ABOUT RELATIONS OF TIME EMBODIED IN SENSORIMOTOR CIRCUITS. (THE PHILOSOPHICAL PREDECESSORS HERE ARE SPINOZA, NIETZSCHE, BERGSON, WHITEHEAD, MEARLEU-PONTY, DELEUZE, LUCRETIUS AND BHARATMUNI)
THIS IS HOW BERGSON DEFINES THE IMAGE: BETWEEN REPRESENTATION AND MATTER, IMAGES ARE SENSORIMOTOR CIRCUITS.

“… define attention as an adaptation of the body rather than of the mind and to see in this attitude of consciousness mainly the consciousness of an attitude.”
-Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory

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.

NOTES:


 

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?