“The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar.” (Montaigne)
Protocol. Perhaps one dimension of the aesthetic appeal of the mechanical is in the ‘purity’ of the interleaving of dynamisms — the quality of being a kind of ‘moving’ and even ‘living’ diagram that excites certain sensitivities. Each machine is already a manifold network of various configuration-spaces (involving significant mechanical, environmental, logical factors, etc.) — its singular and intricate behavior produced ‘simply’ by becoming activated and operated. I ask: how was it possible to lay out a common plane where signs and objects, code and data and things and people could all participate ‘democratically”?
Everything unfolds as though some master plan were pre-existent, as though the very organization of society, language and thought itself implicitly support a certain orientation, a certain set of virtual borderlines and existential territories establishing a kind of plane of consistency. The capitalist mode of production engenders the conditions for a radical destruction of the consistency of classical plans in place of a generalized decoding of flows; that is to say, flows of words, devices, actions, passions, people, all swept up into a decoded ‘polyvocity’, a collective elocution of a machinic assemblage complete with black holes and lines of flight, bursting with fractal islands of knowledge and complexity. The network illuminates.
At any rate we are not far from that pure diagrammatic force — that becoming war-machine which deterritorializes and sweeps up both signs and objects at once in an ever-broadening vortex. In particular a computer network, though composed of apparently ‘static’ devices, is radically mobile and creative in terms of this process of mobilizing a generalized decoding; capital decodes, but this decoding itself relies on the correspondence between the coded flows and the architecture of the network through which they are disseminated. The network is in a certain way the mode of production of capital itself. Everything occurs in such a way that we cannot really say which comes first, the thing or the sea of relations; the exchange or the objects and signs manipulated; the signal or the asignifying. There is no silence; there is always background noise threatening to overwhelm the whole process.
The sea is always there, a living and “electrical” sea whose deafening roar is always looming, even if we are able to forget it; always threatening to drown our voices into silence. There is no peace without certain noises that allow us to distinguish, not fall back into the background and the vortex of social and animal life. At any rate background noise should not be reduced to a pleasant hubbub or murmuring or the dusty old secrets of a forgotten sea god. A certain noise can transform the world in an instant. The sea is a network of relationships, an assemblage continuously in flux.
The roar of the sea hides certain curious and perhaps terrifying dimensions — beneath the noisy surfaces, in the (nearly) silent depths, the highest mountains are born and grown… But how to remember the noise of the sea at all and what it indicates when we are forever indoors with the murmuring of our machines?
Spectral. Spectrality may consist in the destruction of time — or perhaps just of our relationship to history, the world, life. Uprooted from the flow of events — this is perhaps what it means to ‘possess,’ to hide from the violent flow of time. Possession means to always be on guard against the future and one another, and even in a way against oneself.
What is history but the unfolding of new and obscure powers? –and perhaps there is one most curious of all: the power of becoming alien that has been growing in the profound depths of the human animal. What is this becoming-alien, to oneself and others and to the species and the world? A ghost does not even combat the world but simply abhors it — deigning only to ‘possess’ aspects of it as needed. The promise of modernity is perhaps this spectral vision of overcoming of the organs; that is to say, it is a glimpse of the actuality of ‘pure’ becoming, a ‘becoming’ independent of a substrate, a body of light — a half-remembered dream of a thought without an image.
Efforts to paper over the schisms of the overlapping and contradictory agendas of industrialization and colonization and globalization will continue to exacerbate the basic challenge facing us as a species (which is our immanent destiny, to have done with the organism/organs and the judgments of God.)
Becoming imperceptible perhaps relates to this glimpse of a body of pure light and our reaction to it — our turning-away from one another and from ourselves, our disappearance into ourselves and into the vortex of capital and technology. Our spectrality is perhaps a symptom of our terror at discovering what we are becoming. We are haunted by the future.