becoming, Deleuze, guattari, horizon, machine

Abstract for DeleuzeConf

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Alexi K, Cognitive Polygraph (Woman Disrobing), 2013 (Pen & Ink)

This is the abstract for the paper I will be presenting at DeleuzeConf 2014, “Technoscience and Expressionism: On Deleuze and Computability”.

Deleuze, in his 1992 essay Postscript on Control Societies, describes technology as concretely expressing forms of social consistency. Technoscientific machines are collective assemblages “easily matched” with modes of consciousness and styles of composing realities.

A technological stratum relates to conceptual, referential or compositional capacities and tendencies. Yet technologies are neither causes nor effects of social transformations. Technologies do not engender new folds; rather societies continuously discover capabilities for specific machine components to be made use of or constructed, or to be related in new ways. Technologies at all scales, degrees of materiality and visibility are swept up and reshaped by abstract machines which dynamize new styles of thinking, feeling, living.

In Chaosmosis Guattari outlines the operation of the abstract machine which extracts singular possibilities from the components of technical and social machines. An abstract machine is installed transversally to every other machine component and stratum, capable of relating the heterogeneous levels of materiality, cognition, affection and sociality. The abstract machine effectuates, donates existence to components or withdraws it, assembling functional ensembles of virtual and constituted elements.

In contrast with structuralist theories which indicate signification and hence semiological microtechnologies as the vectors unifying expressive economies, Guattari differentiates protomachines (simple instruments or ‘least-structured pieces’) from the ensembles out of which effects and sense actually emerge. Even sophisticated machines such as robots (“which will soon be engendered by other robots”) are nothing without these complexes, machinic assemblages to which they belong.

Artificial intelligences and expert systems, despite all the negativity, totalization and servitude to which they are inevitably linked, do not simply subtract from human thinking: they also “relieve thought of inert schema”. Computer-aided forms of thinking are mutant, capable of relating to “other musics, other Universes of reference.”

Has an outdated mode of science-fiction overtaken speculation about the future? Opposite metaphysical and religious objections to increasingly-extreme technoscience, singularitarianism indicates the dramatic extent to which it is possible to internalize an indifferent love for oppressive machines, while accelerationists frame their centrist interventions under the curious aegis of remembering the future.

I would argue that beyond these intense positions the emergence of artificial general intelligence (machines decoding expression) is in turn expressive in Deleuze’s sense. Which consistencies do they effract, what new folds do they effectuate? Planetary culture is in the throes of becoming-computable, marked in part by an extremization of technoscience — on the one hand stripped of purity and degraded to mere invention; on the other newly devoted to reverse-engineering noetics and genetics (at the limit, to a bifurcated ‘transcendence’ of the biosphere and noosphere.) D+G’s machinic philosophy offers a critical alternative to singularitarian and accelerationist images of the future. Their emphasis on abstract machines illuminates the expressive potential of the virtual assemblages actualized in general purpose computing.

Nietzsche once asked after the meaning of science. Today this question points beyond the involution of the technical within globally-integrated capitalism. I will indicate in what way software may be considered a humanity or people-to-come.

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guattari

Post-media Piracy and the Common: Towards the Resingularization of Subjectivity

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In his meditations on the nature of integrated world capitalism, Guattari proposed an idea that has for the most part remained undeveloped despite its obvious connections with the major motivations behind his work. The notion is that of a post-media era. Perhaps such an age would be focused more specifically on the re-singularization of subjectivity rather than on the possibilities of tailoring massive marketing schemes for the reduction of subjectivity to its smallest common denominator and its largest aggregates. This essay attempts to provide an outline of one of the areas of struggle (along with a number of skirmishes) in this post-media era concerned with the sharing and dissemination of media through different means made possible by the internet. Its goal is to evaluate the strategies of capitalism (specifically concerning copyright laws) towards thinking about its looming crackdown of what is termed internet piracy. Rather than dealing explicitly with the moral or legal questions about the legitimacy of piracy in general—do we, for example, resent or applaud the (future) laws (or lack thereof) qua laws or because of their entanglement in the strategies and motivations of capitalism?—here it seems more appropriate to reflect on the means through which integrated world capitalism has endeavored to appropriate what it perceives as potential markets and their consolidation. This investigation will thus have to consider the legal campaigns underway at present to address this issue of internet piracy. This will give us an opportunity to then suggest why this attempt to eliminate internet piracy will ultimately fail and how users online have already formulated practices beforehand in order to navigate the future prospect of legal repercussions for the online trafficking of different multimedia.

It would be fruitful to begin by unpacking the notion of a post-media era. We could of course turn to Guattari[1] and attempt an analysis of his few texts on the issue, but I believe the profundity of the notion may have been on the horizon of his thought for good reason. This notion of post-media both predates and anticipates the somewhat fantastic moment when the internet in its fullest form not only became a concrete possibility, but also an everyday reality for the general public. Although not necessarily perceived at first, the introduction of the internet acted (like any other medium) in such a way that it inevitably affected the position, influence and importance of the other media existing at the time; but it also made possible the distribution of virtually any other medium, and so it therefore functioned as a catalyst for a deterritorialization of an almost unlimited number of media capable of digitization as such that would become evident after only a few years in its activity.

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guattari, Meillassoux, Politics, speculation, utopia

Speculative Materialisms: Thinking the Absolute with Meillassoux and Guattari

          Quentin Meillassoux’s recent work After Finitude comes as a breath of fresh air for those who have been languishing under the dominant regimes of philosophy today.  Meillassoux claims to be able to resuscitate the “great outdoors” of pre-Critical Cartesian philosophy, one that would both forgo the correlationist impulses of the Kantian tradition as well as the necessity of an all-knowing, veracious God to legitimize the representational content of consciousness.  To access this “great outdoors,” Meillassoux forces us to activate a speculative materialism that would break with the necessitarian impulses of metaphysics. He calls his own path speculative because it claims to access an absolute (though not an absolute entity), and materialism because it claims that absolute reality is indifferent to thought, is an “entity without thought,” and can exist without thought, rendering the latter ontologically unnecessary (36). The paths of this new outlook are various, and Meillassoux does not claim to have formulated all the domains that are now opened.  It is for this reason that we feel a need to supplement Meillassoux’s emphasis on mathematics with an ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Among the numerous materialisms that have been developed in the 20th century, the cartographies developed by Félix Guattari (sometimes with the help of Gilles Deleuze) also merit the nomination of “speculative,” insofar as Guattari himself has also isolated an absolute, namely that of deterritorialization. In what follows, I intend to sketch out the way in which these two thinkers uniquely accent the positions that claims to be “speculative materialism” in order to better exemplify how Meillassoux’s groundwork can be applied outside its original problematic domain.

            The attempt to pair these two extravagantly different thinkers is not the result of sheer caprice, but unfolded due to the overlapping of a series of common concerns. Although they do not espouse the same conclusions, there is a shared impulse to refute the most intractable metaphysical dogmatisms, along with the fanaticism that develops through this refutation, ranging from abstract universals to abstract necessity. Indeed, the theoretical interaction between these two thinkers is required in order to unlock the dimensions of a speculative chaos upon which a speculative politics could unfold. Their conjunction leads beyond a hyper-Chaos to the immanent domain of hyper-utopias.

            One side of the problematic is to break the vicious circle of correlation. One of the ways in which Meillassoux describes correlationism relates to its attempt to disqualify the claim that subjectivity and objectivity can be considered apart from one another (5).  In fact, correlationism goes so far as to make the correlation unavoidable and asserts “anything that is totally a-subjective cannot be” (38). This side of the speculative thesis is also acknowledged by Guattari, who writes in L’Inconscient machinique: “Concepts must be folded onto reality, not the other way around” (155). In the same vein, for Meillassoux, “the materialism that chooses to follow the speculative path is thereby constrained to believe that it is possible to think a given reality by abstracting from the fact that we are thinking it” (After Finitude, 36). Given that language and consciousness are the two prime contributors to the persistence of the correlation, how do we escape from language, let alone take up a vantage point wherein subjectivity can be illuminated and discerned without having to become constitutive?

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desire, flux, globalism, guattari, machine, materialism, Politics

Guattari

 

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On Guattari. The first ecosopher has arisen — but how to read his writings? There is not a single answer, everyone disagrees. To read Guattari without Deleuze seems like violence to the polyphonous fury of their mutually-authored works; yet to read Deleuze and Guattari seems like according primacy to the philosopher, to the authority of philosophy over psychoanalysis — asserting the traditional prerogative of philosophy over science, with the usual absent-minded condescension, a perverse kind of triumphant naivete. Our new ecosopher shrinks into the background of the literary uproar he is unleashing.

 

The strange power of Guattari’s writings is such that his works are less collections than whirlwinds, less toolboxes than roaring vortexes one is apt to be drawn violently towards: to study Guattari is neither a coincidence nor an accident (for an English academic) but rather a symptom, even a political symptom. Perhaps simply an indication of the self-destructive desire inherent to global capitalism in which the dissemination  of essentially “anti-capitalist” literature is not simply allowed but in fact widely promoted — the faint glimmer of global Renaissance. But I think Guattari might remind us of something else.

 

Political struggle is more than a linguistic struggle, a struggle with texts and pure concepts. It is of course involved with these things, but even more than these signifying systems, political resistance connects with the a-signifying as well, an order of reality more primordial than human meaning, where the distinctions imposed upon reality by our signifying regimes are rendered irrelevant and secondary. Where the cosmos as a process of production becomes perceptible, where the inhuman asignifying order of reality emerges, we may perhaps catch a glimpse of the future dreamed by our first ecosopher.

 

To have to emphasize that the asignifying isn’t the insignificant, but the non-signifying, we realize that already, we have hit the white wall. Misunderstanding is a symptom both of the origin and the impossibility of meaning. The gap between us here is not simply an aspect of the mobile wall of obstacles Guattari has prepared for his students, but already of the even more intransigent obstacles of history, society, economy — in short, the entire political “problem” of desire. A history of desire is difficult yet not impossible, but it does not begin by asking what desire is, pretending some kind of perfect and external objective viewpoint.

 

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guattari, machine, machinic unconscious, ontology, Politics

The Transformation of Psychoanalysis

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From the back cover of Guattari’s L’Inconscient machinique (1979):

The transformation of psychoanalysis into an essential component of the social order does not justify the renunciation of every analysis of the unconscious; no more than the deadends of revolutionary movements imply the generalized desertion of politics.

Finishing with the tyranny of the cogito, accepting that material, biological, social assemblages are capable of “engineering” (machiner) their own kind and creating heterogenous complex universes: such are the conditions which would make it possible to understand how the most intimate desire can communicate with the social field.

In order to give the reader a little bit more of a taste, I have excerpted from pages 180-182.

No logical or topological category, no axiomatic can subsume all the different types of machinic consistency. Because abstract machines are non-decomposable on an intensional plane, they cannot be inserted into an extensional class. Since no abstract machine can rise above history or be the “subject” of history and machinic multiplicities traverse the strata of different “provisionally dominant” realities on a diachronic and synchronic plane at the same time, it cannot be said of the general movement of their line of deterritorialization that it demonstrates a universal and homogenous tendency, for it is interrupted at every level by reterritorializations upon which microcosmic generations of deterritorialization are grafted once again. The cartography of abstract machinisms makes history by dismantling dominant realities and significations: they constitute the navel, the point of emergence and creationism of the machinic phylum.

            Here again we find the problematic of the alternative between subject-groups/subjugated groups which can never be taken as an absolute opposition. The relations of alienation between fields of competence always suppose a certain margin which pragmatics has to locate and exploit: in other words, within any situation whatsoever, a diagrammatic politics can always be “calculated,” which refuses any idea of fatalism, whichever name it may take on: divine, historical, economic, structural, hereditary, or syntagmatic, a politics which thus implies, in the first place, an active refusal of any conception of the unconscious as a genetic stage or structural destiny. A group requires an ongoing localization of the investments of desire capable of thwarting bureaucratic reifications, leaderships, etc. “Working on” the group’s map would consist in proceeding to the new uses and transformations of the group’s body without organs. One could only do his or her part in such a pragmatics: it can do nothing but challenge every status of the hegemony of linguistics, psychoanalysis, social psychology, and the entirety of the human, social, juridical, economic sciences, etc…Studying the unconscious, for example in the case of Little Hans, would consist in establishing, by taking account of the entirety of his semiotic productions, in which tree or rhizome type his libido has come to invest. At such a moment, it is a question of how the neighbors’ branch is trimmed, following which maneuvers the Oedipal tree is reduced, what roles Professor Freud’s branch and his activity of detteritorialization have played, why the libido has been constrained to find shelter in the semiotization of a becoming horse, etc…Thus phobia would no longer be considered as a psychopathological result, but as the libidinal pragmatics of a child who has not been able to find other micropolitical solutions so as to escape from the familialist and psychoanalytic transformations.

 

 

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capitalism and schizophrenia, Deleuze, guattari

New wikipage devoted to Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Today I’ve just found out that an entire wikipage has been devoted to the works of Deleuze and Guattari here. The site is still in construction, but they have already amassed at least several dozens definition “attempts” (since these are left open for others to add/change, etc.). What I found so interesting about the page was the ability to join the site and add your own bit of commentary, engaging in an intriguing chorus of scholars and voices.  I believe they have also begun reading groups on Deleuze and Guattari, so that is something else to look forward to. I intend on adding a lot of material to the site, especially in order to really engage with some of Guattari’s theoretical developments in L’Inconscient machinique.  I’ve already begun on his Proust section in the book, and so I’m eager to finish and start talking about it with everyone! (75 pages left, and counting).

So go join in and add your bit of knowledge to this incredible project!

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animal, art, becoming, flesh, freud, guattari, human, lacan, machine, ontology, space, territory

It Means Becoming Human

But he [Lacan] did not realize the consequences of his rupture with Freudian determinism, and didn’t appropriately situate “desiring machines” — whose theory he had iniated — within incorporeal fields of virtuality. This object-subject of desire, like strange attractors in chaos theory, serves as an anchorage point with a phase space (here, a universe of reference) without ever being identical to itself, in permanent flight on a fractal line. In this respect it is not only fractal geometry that must be invoked, but fractal ontology. It is the being itself which transforms, buds, and transfigures itself. The objects of art and desire are apprehended within the existential Territories which are at the same time the body proper, the self, the maternal body, lived space, refrains of the mother tongue, familiar faces, family lore, ethnicity… No existential approach has priority over another. Thus it’s not a question of a causal infrastructure and of a superstructure representative of the psyche, or of a world separated from sublimation. The flesh of sensation and the material of the sublime are inextricably interwoven. Relationship to the other does not proceed through identification with a preexisting icon, inherent to each individual. The image is carried by a becoming other, ramified in becoming animal, becoming plant, becoming machine and, on occasion, becoming human.

Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis

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