Exology of the City

comments 10
acceleration / becoming / exhaustion / labyrinth / metaphysics / ontology / potentiality

How to think the infinity of the city, where all is fire and shadow? How could we hope to see into its opaque and terrible darkness; or hope to enjoy a view unblinded by its brilliant light? A city explodes into a world; perhaps under the tension of this polar opposition — fragments under the weight of its multiplicity — becomes a cosmos, all streams of flowing light and immense structuring voids…

The dromology at the heart of the city is a politics of speed at once micro- and cosmopolitical — exposing the shocking noological paucity of the city, the blank and empty image of thought which powers urban modernity; it perhaps allows us to take stark measures of the stakes, to grasp the violence which had to be done to thought to permit this way of life. The “noology” of the city is, shockingly and even obscenely, the pious ontology of the void, at once theological and capitalistic — empty schemata, a form without shape, living without ideation.

Yet is it not the case that a city is always articulated twice? First, then, as dromological exercise (the delicate art of mass politics, or of constructing hyper-planes — the channeling of the immense and dangerous celerities of a motorized population into well-defined orbits); but then, secondly, as a critical exology (the secret and minor science of the Outside — the overcoming or subversion or schizophrenization of the channels through infinitely cautious experimentation with the activation of certain lines of flight.)

The city is one, but has always been said twice; it has always had this duplicity, Janus-faced, one side Psyche and the other Chronos; it has always concealed spiritual and natural forces which secretly animate it. The city is radical intimacy and absolute outside at once; a city unfolds planes of development, unleashes monumental organizational forces to contend with chaos. The chaos and fire of the city are in a way a reflection of the chaos of the absolute outside; the city is already both at once, its face (or both facialities) developing in reciprocal and recursive fashion with a radically external signal-sign system; its outside (or both outside and the middle between the inside and outside) organizing it via encrypted or at least indirect operations.

The two moments can also be expressed through the conceptual personae of the psychogeographer and the exologist (a parallel expression might invoke geosophy and schizoanalysis.) The city articulates itself once as a delimitation of adstrate movements (establishing means of information-exchange over leaky and broken channels, porous borderlines which demarcate territories); it is articulated a second time as expressing directly the violent upsurge of the substrate (the intrusion of global, cosmic or microscopic scales, uncanny and mobilizing signals from the Outside.) These two moments are in a way aspects of the same infinite movement; when placed into correlation they generate a dialogical infinity in which everything is mobilized, where new lines of development are generated, new planes of organization laid out and new concepts created.

How to articulate what cannot be made visible through network analysis, and also what cannot even be made audible through what it seems to me must take the place of the network in critical theory? When interconnections supersaturate an interiority, a certain dangerous threshold is reached in which the network begins to exhibit a kind of opacity and irreflectivity to a purely connectional analysis. Here it seems to me we may have to accede to some variation on sphere theory, or the critical theory of the interior (as elaborated by Sloterdijk in Spheres,) formal analytic of the inspiratory communities which have the potential to drive an inside to its absolute limit. That is, sphere theory indicates what a theory and practice of the outside might be, even if in relief or outline. Still another step must be taken: an exosophy, or exospherics.

The question is not what is outside or beyond the sphere; the sphere is in a sense all there “is”, this is the uncanny truth of noetics and autopoesis at once: spherical worlds fold in upon themselves without collapsing — infinite tension of the absolute limit of the inside, which could be to say of inspiration and humility, or love. What is needed is to follow the dynamic chronology of the community and the inspiratory/enunciatory assemblages that these temporal ruptures generate. From networks, to bubbles, to wormholes; from society, to psyche, to time. In a way all that is needed is the follow the infinite fold of the sphere through past its death, to catch a glimpse of the interstice between life and death, the infinite movements which condition life, the pure bodies of light which we are before we “are” these monstrous organisms.

The dynamic chronology of the infinite movements which compose a city, or the uncanny eternity of the city as event? Exology: the study of the absolute death of the idea-in-being, which is perhaps to say, the formal study of the birth of a city, but also “isomorphically” a life, a moment. Therefore exosophy can only begin by becoming, by remembering what lies beyond, by moving towards the radical outside of a city, a life, a moment.

It would seem to me the exological thought could potentially introduce us to certain critically unarticulated dimensions of a few special disciplines and discourses. The exological is ecological insofar as the ecosphere is also a cryptosphere, a hall of mirrors and infinite labyrinth of secrets, light and darkness: and this duplicity, this infinite complexity, this fractality and fragmentarity is present in physical-ecological systems as well as economic, sociological, psychic, etc. Noology in particular must be seen as effectively ecological, and vice versa (the biosphere of Earth is a colossal, planetary-scale information system, endlessly reproducing itself as an unimaginably complex and inter-related system of systems); but it should also be viewed from the standpoint of a critical and affective exology (biosphere as substrate, as raw material for a new ethico-aesthetics of trans-biological forces; as an interstitial space permitting the birth of new zoe, which is perhaps to say, of a new cosmos.)

The Author

mostly noise and glare


  1. greetings from NooLab :))
    nicely written, touching important issues, though bit romantic, perhaps, isn’t it?
    A particular threat to your exology due to that is a hidden Hegelianism, which you should explicitly exclude, I think, and along all that stuff of “Welt-Geist”, Gaia, world state, etc from Hegel to Coubertin, Russel, Macy and the Frankfurt School with their engineering approach to the social.
    Yet what I do not understand is your reference to cybernetics, as cybernetics runs quite contrary to anything you express here, at least in this essay…

    • Thanks so much for the careful reading! The point about Hegel’s definitely complicated and I’m not sure I could address it quickly — but as far as cybernetics goes, the connection to the city (in my head, anyway!) is pretty straightforward — *cybernetikos* is a streersman, a helmsman for the state, one who keeps the duplicity of the city from fracturing it utterly. In passing, this might help illuminate/explicate what you identify as a potential (virtual?) Hegelianism in the piece here — the “dialogic” I’m invoking here is Platonic/Republican, the problem of keeping the city/the law stable, unified, stationary… In passing, I might to note there’s also a literary dimension to which I’m trying to point, somewhat vaguely, towards with all this — that is to say, it seems to me Dickens (and lately Mieville in “The City & The City”) are very clear about the “double-articulation” of the city, its “originary” suture, its simultaneous succession of oppositions, the infinite movements that escape the empty images of thought which do such violence to possibilities of life in the city (in particular under the rule of technocratic capital.) I hope this begins to address some of the concern — thanks so much for your response!

      • hi
        yes, many thanks for the reference to Mieville, I once heard about it but forgot to follow…
        Well, it could be serving even as a (not so metaphorical) description of the effects of Hegelianism, and even of the “soft” Idealism that we know from Platon. Double-articulation, simultaneous (succession of) oppositions, both so essential for the mere possibility of life (in general) are deeply incompatible with any kind of idealism. btw, you nicely distinguish “technocratic capital”, which draws a pleasant difference to the occupy nonsense. Any technocrat can be so only because he/she is an idealist, a belated 19th century guy…

  2. Pingback: Exology of the City:How to think the infinity of the city, where all is fire and shadow? | The Nomad | Scoop.it

  3. Exology: the study of the absolute death of the idea-in-being, which is perhaps to say, the formal study of the birth of a city, but also “isomorphically” a life, a moment.

    As I was reading your essay I almost thought I was reading J.G. Ballard as written by Reza Negarestani. Something like Cyclonpedia crossed planted with The Crystal World. The fragility of things… the spark at the edge of all actual occasions looking back over the trace movements of its death just before a final judgement upon all that it has been but will never be again as it emerges from the rubble of all cities into the flame where shadows rise from the immanent void.

    That last part on Noology seems very Luhmannian with his Theory of Society a double-vision of closure that produces novelty from the self-repetition of communication and affectivity in all systems and environments.

  4. mapsperhaps says

    to me this kind of thinking/writing (plus images)
    feels more accessible & generative
    in a diagrammatic map-like sense..

    ive always thought of this site, Taylor’s analysis and translations
    & Joe’s ‘esoteric’ writing
    in some sense like a metabolism, if you will, and definitely not ‘fragile’..
    w/ energy & structure
    dynamicat every scale of ‘reading’..
    a ‘dimension of transversality’..
    ‘consisting’ in not completely ‘collecting itself’, if you will..

    anyway, im grateful for you guys for making this information accessible
    to anyone,
    but most importantly its execution..

    • mapsperhaps says

      thank you!

      i was actually thinking about what is ‘spoken’
      today and ‘minor literature’,
      noise, parasites, etc.
      i keep coming back to the ‘deterritorializing sound.’.
      it might be silly but
      i guess im still stuck @ this…

      if a minor literatures’’ ‘sound’ is deterritorialized ‘absolutely, irrevocably’…
      is it unspeakable?..

      and then..
      how to say or articulate what cannot be spoken?

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