Decolonizing Tech

Further thoughts from Todd McComb...

The obvious prompt for this page is completing the Practical listening series with Section 10, Decolonizing technology in March 2020 (a couple of weeks before quarantine rules descended here, as it happens).

I'm also retiring the old bibliography from that series, the page for which also served as something of a chronology for my non-review writing. Presumably such a chronicle will now come to accompany this space. However, I'm also not intending more long productions, and so want to focus on shorter entries instead as more manageable in terms of exertion & time commitments.

I think I'll keep this introduction brief, though, and so get to some specific further thoughts....

(And to that implied new bibliography... a link added here subsequently for convenience.)

Todd M. McComb <mccomb@medieval.org>
12 September 2020

In considering this new project, and in particular, what prompts me to make an entry, I feel compelled to note that I come into it with no particular plan: I mean, the overall goal is to contribute some thoughts toward decolonizing tech — the meaning of which will emerge over the course of the discussion — but I'm not undertaking this series from an outline or sketched outcomes. (I do have a series of topics already noted for possible discussion, but no order, and I doubt that the first 20 entries here are going to end up matching my approximately 20 bullet points very closely. Things will change. I do intend to elaborate some specific notes from Decolonizing technology at some point, though....) In that sense, there's always "too much" material, but part of the intent here is to be able to respond to current topics. And I want to do that in a manageable format, both for myself & for readers. So I'm not intending to litter this page with citations or links either, but I'll often have a specific source as trigger for an entry.... (I suppose much of this paragraph is just to assuage my own ego, since I've carefully planned my prior theoretical writings, and will feel more exposed like this. Maybe that's an improvement, but there's consequently always going to be a sense of "But what about...?" remaining here. And an answer might not come soon.) And it'll probably take a while to get to some obvious questions too, since I do need to recall aspects of prior frameworks....

1
So to recap something of the analytic (or, reductively, rubric) that I elaborated in (the relatively elaborate) PL10, the sense of "decolonizing tech" here is deliberately ambiguous between the internals of "tech" as an industry, and a/the (hypothetical) use of technology in (broad) decolonizing projects per se (i.e. with "decolonizing" figured as an adjective applied to tech): In this, the latter is obviously the larger goal, or at least is directed toward that larger goal, but the former can have a role too. (Some say it accomplishes the more general goal directly, but that's liberal fantasy. A more diverse set of collaborators doesn't change the economic system by itself, although obviously it does blur the contours of exploitation, the boundaries between haves & have nots....) I've also elaborated a sort of three-headed analytic on ownership-control-authority: These topics have been treated somewhat differently in different texts, but in much of this specific space, they coincide in the corporate "persons" of the tech monopolies & their main driver, greed. (It's worth noting that greed can & is suspended for matters of ownership & control in the tech industry, though. Profit taking can come later....) I've also interrogated technology specifically around the body, whether as extending or disciplining the body (with the important caveat that extension can simultaneously yield discipline), and via various notions of speed: Under neoliberalism, hoarding per se comes to be about speed, about outpacing (i.e. about "discovery" per Basic Mechanics), not only outpacing "competitors" (& establishing monopolies, the corporate dream scenario, increasingly attainable per reduced regulation), but the law. And whereas I discussed the way that law (as a technology, mind you) tends to lag, an aspect of this intertwining that I failed to discuss was the violence of law per se (although I did name it as a colonizing technology).... As it happens, Judith Butler's new book The Force of Non-Violence only appeared as I was completing that essay, and I put off reading it until recently — thinking it might involve layers of minutia, as sometimes in Butler: But no, this is a rather clear rethinking of the meaning of non-violence, and should be accessible to a more general reader. (Despite the many citations, Butler explains the ideas she uses. Although, I'd already read almost everything cited, so maybe I'm in no position to judge that....) And part of that rethinking is to take up Walter Benjamin, and the basic thesis that law — as prohibition — inherently invokes violence. (The history of law per se is one of Benjamin's arguments.) When I wrote of the deliberate entanglement of the tech industry, then, of staying ahead of law (via speed), I wrote — in a sense — about conscious efforts to outpace such legal violence. And I've been in so many places so close to the tech industry for so many decades now, being involved at least peripherally in so many decisions, and then eventually coming increasingly to lose every important battle... until the current situation, with the for-profit sector having achieved not only ascendance, but impunity: So a domain in which commerce was actually explicitly forbidden(!) when I encountered it, has come to be the trashiest of neoliberal paradises.... (I'll come back to more specific aspects of my experience here at some point....) And in fact the neoliberal arguments involved should be linked directly to what Benjamin has to say on the violence of law, as the rhetoric was remarkably similar — but more specifically about the inability of regulatory bodies to understand (the internet or web) & so to act appropriately. (In the minds & rhetoric of greedy techies, of course, this was not a lament about needing better regulations, but rather an argument for why not to attempt it: Can't win, don't try, being a generalized update to Thatcher....) So people were very concerned about exactly this sort of legal violence, a brake on their (eventually profitable) ecstasy, but also long before there were big profits to protect.... And so another emphasis for Butler is on equality, something she claims is inherent to a truly non-violent society. (As I've articulated in so many ways over recent years, hierarchy & rupture are two sides of one coin, so I'll certainly agree, pace what "equality" can mean....) But Benjamin is coming from an anarchist perspective, and so what is anarchy in this context? (This is where the old internet arguments really go off the rails....) Anarchy is a situation where people don't have power over others. That's not to say only formal a priori power, but actual power in practice. (Rather, the latter is to be minimized.) Basically "anarchic" resistance to a centralized tech authority instead led to massive power for some: The "system" failed to correct for power imbalances that were developing — & for many of the players, this was quite intentional. (The people involved basically erected the Hobbesian proto-universe online, despite it never having existed before.... And they did it because it was always their dream world. The rest of the rhetoric was mainly about distraction, just as it is now.) Developing during the era of neoliberal dominance, then, the internet became the ultimate neoliberal wet dream, with its markets & optimizations & ultimately its ability to concentrate wealth ("more efficiently!") — & to bully (i.e. outside formal proscription). So let me turn back to earlier in this historical arc: As technological developments came to exceed legal contexts, they did bring their own de facto laws, their own ways of doing things. And as opposed to Butler, who never seems to move off of law as prohibition (as it's also figured by Benjamin), this is precisely where positive law enters the picture. (Note that Butler has explicitly bemoaned her own inability to discuss the body, and this is where a different such discussion also belonged. I will return to this topic as well, which for some, including Butler, is ultimately psychoanalytic....) There's also the sense of escapism that accompanied internet ecstasy for many, suggesting (again) the positive drives, a generalized sense of excess.... And what is or isn't violent, or relative to what context, seems easily to be spun by rhetoric — & has been for millennia (as interrogated in part by Butler) — such that prohibitions on "violence" (e.g. of protestors) can end up furthering oppression, i.e. systemic violence. (There's a sort of developing topology to these contemporary moments, to evoke Byung-Chul Han, whom Butler doesn't mention, although they do both operate at least partially under a Foucauldian umbrella....) And the virtual world seems to have been made for spin.... So what would "positive" law applied to tech, i.e. as avowal rather than prohibition, look like? Well, it'd look a lot more like religion (specifically, liturgy) — & does often appear that way, including in the mode of neoliberal greed, the presumptive superiority of "the market," etc. And I realize that any talk of religion tends to inflame techies, despite (or because of) how thoroughly religious they tend to act, so I'll need to come back to that thought.... In the meantime, note that basically all of these things are technologies: Indeed, the way that Butler figures & circumscribes non-violence per se, i.e. as suspending & interpolating concepts (e.g. grievability), positions it clearly as a sort of mediation (i.e. as inherently technological). And so I'll let Butler's book conclude my old bibliography, as I jumpstart this new project....

17 September 2020

2
I'm not anticipating that entries here will go on tracking bibliographic entries directly for much longer, but I do want to take up a few — perhaps tangential — thoughts from François Bonnet's After Death (which actually appeared in French in 2017, but in English only recently). Bonnet seeks not only to trace the historical contours of presentism, per e.g. last year's Concepts of contemporary history (which would have benefited from Bonnet's perspective), but especially to discuss its effects on the contemporary subject. (In this, his concern with individuation seems to follow Stiegler's, but the latter is not mentioned. The general issue there is the changing boundary or non-boundary between the individual subject & society... & the world in general.) And although the anesthetic (& so amnesiac) qualities of presentism do certainly concern the contemporary musical & artistic space, it's to notions of guaranteed safety that I want to turn next: Indeed, I've already positioned modernity per se as an exercise not only in (global) imperial hoarding, but as an attempt to eliminate risk or "fortune." (Rather, in concentrating the Earth's wealth for a few, modernity reallocated precarity. It should be emphasized, though, that various aspects of this hoarding project are still being praised, including that concentrations of "capital" provided a spur to technological development: Let's not embrace benevolence in assessing such a motivation, though, but rather the cynical business of remaining in control.... So much Western technology is still war technology.) The modern risk abatement project is then reconfigured in the postmodern (or nascent neoimperial) era, in Bonnet's terms, around a broad forgetting of death (i.e. of the historical & finite character of individual human life): Note, crucially, that this presentist forgetting is not the elimination of risk, but rather its forgetting, its reconfiguration into spectral form (i.e. as a vague "cloud," to throw out a current technological metaphor). Of course, such a situation is thrown into further relief by the new risk (& spectacle) of coronavirus. And response to that risk has been largely predictable within this frame: For one, poverty (as correlated or aligned with racism, sexism, etc.) is always a vector for increased exposure, but is so particularly in areas (including where I live) where medical care is rationed according to socioeconomic status. (Any sort of general epidemic is thus, fundamentally, a genocidal tool against the poor — at least in economically hierarchical societies. And coronavirus is certainly being deployed this way....) Following that logic, it's then upper middle class (i.e. the classic Western "bourgeoisie") fears that dictate policy & practice, fears portrayed as truly novel (& thus terrifying) by people who were already largely in denial regarding the risks in their lives (including to others due to their own actions...). The situation also brings condescension, reinforcing class lines & portraying the precarious as themselves dangerous: Another "state of exception" appears, such that fear brings calls for safety, with increasing fascist imposition on its heels (as various long-term fascist policy demands have now been imposed unilaterally & with little resistance), all part of a global race toward the right (a race buoyed by "technologies" such as centrism...). So what we see is a shock, an interruption to a particular regime of denial (& a new danger, but not a reconfiguration of precarity per se), an opportunity to implement more restrictive policies in general (not unlike the 9/11 terror attacks) — & then we'll see the regime of denial reconstitute itself: Many people already seem to be easing their safety concerns, despite no fundamental lessening of virus risk. (Part of this can be figured as a narrowing of uncertainty. Or simply as moving away from ultimately impractical hypercaution.) But that's also because coronavirus risk was never of a different order: It remains to be seen how the totals (& arguments over classification) turn out, but it looks to me now as though e.g. deaths in the US due to virus (& note that the US response has been figured as especially problematic) will be roughly 10% of projected 2020 deaths here (which, I should also note, were already being projected to rise...). The point? Most of the other risks have already been assimilated to regimes of denial. So another important point concerns numbers & calculation per se (as the foregoing already starts to suggest): We've been hearing — again, especially from the most bourgeois elements — that the value of life is incalculable, and hence that coronavirus risk should be figured as basically infinite against other life issues. And I want to highlight this anti-calculation sentiment — which is already fading, and was certainly never ubiquitous — within the very heart of the neoliberal calculation regime: Considering neoliberal apathy toward anything that can't be exchanged — the exchange of images online coming to exemplify this situation for Bonnet, such that calculation need not refer (explicitly) to price, but to data more generally... — such an interruption is critical (to e.g. postmodern conceptions of "event"), even as the regime continues to synchronize images of each of us for marketing & propaganda purposes. That we remain thoroughly calculated (even as notions of "the value of life is incalculable!" ring out now more than ever) is of course also evident within the Western health industry, particularly around concepts of "insurance," but also via medicalization per se.... And (the history of) "medical science" is joined at the hip to Western modernity, including in two basic ways: Modernity forged biologism around labor (itself a technology), i.e. increase population so as to increase production & increase accumulation. (Each additional labor unit, at least in principle, provided additional profit....) Thus, people who could not work needed to be repaired — not for themselves, but so that they could (or would) work again. Moreover, in its quest for concentrated accumulation (or stockpile), modernity generates many new health problems, whether from its labor regime directly, poisonous contaminations, harvesting necessities of life, etc. In other words, although "medical science" is hailed as a great achievement by modernity (even the greatest, in some circles), much is not only devoted to problems caused by modernity itself, but is still oriented according to paradigms of work directed toward wealth accumulation. (And the other major historical paradigm of Western medicine arises not from the labor regime, but from charlatanism aimed at the newly rich. That strand actually has the longer history.... Consequently, in the US anyway, both health & insurance are for-profit industries, the former retaining an incentive to keep people alive but sick....) These labor regime issues would be problematic enough, but returning to the overall topic here, a significant element of discontinuity between the modern & postmodern eras lies within the regime of biologism itself: Human labor is no longer to be maximized, but rather kept to more "manageable" proportions, with the remainder replaced by (different, more obedient) technology (presumably continuing to seek infinite production & profit... & so without much long-term sanity). Moreover, the neoliberal regime emphasizes human competition & even biological legacy... meaning that the specter of genocide (or at least necropolitics, i.e. "competing" on health) is increasingly everywhere. (Per the general analytic here, one must also look into situations of ownership & control, and we've seen the tech monopolies clearly augment both for themselves during this crisis, again as traditional middle class opposition falls quickly in line — i.e. around the "exception" & its cultivated fears. That US politicians might seek to regulate online media or sales now seems to be an even more remote possibility....) And then, although perhaps I've already involved too much at once, a final issue to raise in this entry is that of antisocial (or anti-human) sentiment masquerading as environmentalism: Condescension toward many people's "poor" virus safeguards already has various groups being figured as dangerous per se, and genocidal impulses (to reduce the population in general, and so to further concentrate wealth) will surely be proliferating in upcoming rhetoric, including around environmental concerns. (Tangentially, e.g. friendly virus warnings to "Stay inside!" don't actually make sense in any specific way — unless figured against such an us-them axis & global involution more generally, such "competition" still being the basic premise of neoliberalism....) Figuring the poor as "the problem" (including the global poor) is certainly nothing new, but I very much want to emphasize that a healthy ecology involves everyone & everything. That's a simple truth, at least until ramified, because a healthy ecology also involves death & change: Notions of static immortality are themselves illusory (as most everyone actually already knows, if they bother to remember) & even dangerous. While life is — ultimately, paradigmatically — dynamic & risky.

25 September 2020

3
I'd intended a bit of a break here, but not like this: It's not only that the virus response in this country has been a debacle on the macro scale (sailing past that 10% incremental mortality I'd noted earlier...), but that various corresponding adjustments in my personal life have left me feeling agitated, i.e. without much daily mental clarity. And mental clarity is sort of the point to discussions such as this, e.g. anticipating problems or countermeasures & trying to think ahead, rather than being reactive in a short-sighted way. (People with more resources can, of course, hire extensive staffs to plan for such circumstances. Disruptions thus provide a window of opportunity for people who are ready to implement their agendas. And creating paralysis within the general population is a strategy.) In other words, this sort of thinking is more important than ever during a crisis, & so I feel a need to try to muddle along here.... In fact, the circumstances remind me that "theory" is always in danger of reifying anyway: Clarity fades (perhaps almost imperceptibly) into reification, as various ideas take not only shape but assume power. And some people around me like to describe what I do as "philosophy" sometimes, but to be clear, I don't embrace that term (which I read as internal to imperialism, in a similar sense as "human" tends to reinvoke liberalism...): Indeed, philosophy is a technology — or even a "gimmick," in Sianne Ngai's terms, i.e. an "object" that's both too much & not enough. (And the latter is easy enough to observe, between the grandiosity involved in dictating formal possibilities & the lapses of practical applicability....) Instead, I look at tracings or untanglings, but that's not to say that any such activity isn't susceptible to issues of reification, i.e. basically any time a result is formalized. (Among other issues, this involves writing, or expression — presumably linguistic — per se. Ideas thus become words, i.e. static, and invoke issues of legibility, even of ontology....) Questions of avoiding reification while thinking, & especially while expressing thought, then become (at least for me) questions of segmentation & typology as well, i.e. of the (analytic) sense of exposition & organization: Such reification is technological reification, pace language as technology, with questions of reification further becoming questions of hypocrisy from any decolonizing perspective, as static "philosophy" comes (eventually, if not immediately) to enforce a status quo.... (Fascists thus love reification, in practice, i.e. the calcification of typological hierarchy & segmentation.) Moreover, such reification is constantly happening to any idea once articulated, that or its vanishing... but then, vanishing may simply be change & motion. (I want to recall the issue of exemplarity as well, itself a gimmick, i.e. too much & too little: In other words, examples become reified — i.e. made canonical — themselves, at which point they're no longer contingent as examples. Moreover, an example generally requires some kind of segmentation, if not a full-fledged typology....) In this sense, critique is always also consolidation (certainly pace Kant) — as is reaction. But what then of "reinventing the wheel" in every circumstance? Practicality — including pace the opening to this paragraph — is certainly an issue, but decolonizing also cannot be another kind of universalizing.... Instead, we're going to need ideas that are fluid & accommodate constant change.... Any specificity then becomes both strength & weakness, not only because it suggests a hardening of (possibly relevant) thought in motion, but also because of the general scene of the battle, with its layers of secrecy & leverage. (But then, I'm not any good at secrecy myself, even if I do try not to draw too clear a picture for the wrong people....) Emphatically though, these observations are not about defeatism: Rather, they're statements that fluid circumstances are our real circumstances! (It doesn't feel comfortable to me to be writing right now, but it shouldn't.) Something more rigorous (& pretty — or clear) is often useless in the face of real problems, and that goes for communication in general: Western epistemology focusing on "science" is one way of communicating ideas about the world, but does it (always, or even usually) work? Following Boaventura de Sousa Santos, ways of knowing must be evaluated for their practical outcomes (& I'd add, must never become exclusive). Ironically, in the Western arena, this describes marketing rather better, i.e. it's done according to measured "communication" outcomes. (Of course, this leads into various forces of technological enchantment/entrainment & capture....) We clearly need other stories, and we need other stories that work as communication — not that fit some abstract criterion of truth (which can be nothing but reification or distraction anyway). What has knowledge even become today? It's my specialty, I guess, but in the "prove it" world of neoliberalism (& science, mind you), knowledge is generally proven by using it to obtain wealth (as discussed more extensively in Concepts of contemporary authority) — and again as suggested amid the opening to this paragraph, wealth is increasingly required to gain knowledge.... (Such an observation then opens to the regime of calculation as noted in the previous entry, reification & technical specificity often serving to elide the entire ecological scene — or reduce it to numbers.) And so I'm reminded that "decolonization is not a metaphor," rather it's colonization per se that becomes fluid under neoliberalism, as private corporations escape their prior nation-state containers, and continue to implement neoimperial regimes of people with (highly asymmetric) power over others. (And that's increasingly accomplished via producing & hoarding knowledge....) Of course, these are the for-profit "owners" of contemporary technology, and their "property rights" continue to be enforced by the castrated inheritors of the nation-state administrations: These technology owners are also greatly expanding their power at the moment, largely without counter, as they increasingly control communication per se. (And note that ongoing quarantine provides them the perfect laboratory for mastering the body via the virtual as well, a tricky endeavor to be sure....) In any case, if the rest of the planet is to defeat these "property rights," & to produce laws that limit the amount of power anyone can have over anyone else, it'll still involve some kind of expression, a reification, a series of thoughts to which one can return, i.e. a history... in some sense, flowing somewhere. In that sense, response also becomes relational, i.e. a flowing from the middle — i.e. as technical insertion (i.e. mediation) per se, concepts flowing in an infinite hall of mirrors (or forging a relationscape, per Erin Manning).... (Untangling can then easily come to double relation per se, as a matter of perspective....) That's ultimately the technological fate & (analogic) character of theory, but there's also a pharmacology of theory: One might say that it's useful until it works too well, i.e. until it becomes too clear. (In the meantime, what's clear enough is to fight these unprecedented concentrations of power — often equated legally to property — in the field of media & communications....)

8 December 2020

4
The prior entry raises not only the ambition of "mastering the body via the virtual," but issues of my own (writing & theoretical) clarity. And at the risk of indulging too much autobiography — & at a risk level that I'll definitely be exceeding here at some point — I'd like to untangle the latter around an interrogation of presence: I haven't had so much a lack of ideas, and certainly not a dearth of affect (figured here as a sort of pre-idea), but exactly as already noted, a lack of clarity. The situation thus immediately underscores the collective nature of individuation & selfhood, meaning that "voice" is always collective in important ways. (A nonlinear & iterative process of semiosis, whether functioning unconsciously or consciously as education, forges our own modes of self-expression, in particular our sense of what needs to be expressed....) In other words, I need some sort of audience in order for (my) ideas to take concrete shape, and I've barely had a chance to speak with anyone for many months. Lacking such concrete interaction, I find that my thinking remains fuzzy, such that more effort is required in order to conjure a (necessary) context. Of course, many people are interacting more over the internet: Personally I've been trying to keep my internet use about the same, so I've been feeling a significant drought in my interactions — & also in the quality of my interactions even so. Such an observation is obvious enough, yet I heard e.g. significant buzz about doing away with in-person voting for the US election last year, and responded immediately wherever I could, namely that (further) removal (or sublimation) of "presence" per se from the political arena would be disastrous. I was roundly mocked around Silicon Valley ("shouting someone down" being a normal activity here) — but fortunately, Black Lives Matter decided that presence was actually important (& consequently the election outcome wasn't as disastrous as it could have been). So what then of technologies of presence, as I propose to call this developing set of means for interacting with others, generally via (digital) sound or video? I'm going to set aside issues of "privacy" for this entry, but do intend to return to that discussion soon (& privacy is a liberal or bourgeois concept, so not something I truly embrace, even if I do share overlapping concerns...). Instead, let me figure presence around notions of embodiment, and how one's "body" appears in social media: For one, there are greater choices in how to (re)present oneself. (No one knows you're a dog?) But those choices are largely internal to whatever technology of presence is being used, meaning not only that one might "be present" differently in different places (for better or worse...), but that one's presence is by permission of a tech company (i.e. a for-profit entity). So I also want to turn to a note from PL10 (& I'd suggested already here that I'd be revisiting some of these notes), No. 14 on the extension or even amelioration of embodiment: Is "bodily imprisonment" indeed mostly a feminist issue? A trans issue? What of the posthuman & its pharmacology more generally? (On the internet, no one knows you're a woman? Or it's actually becoming a privileged arena for pinkwashing & various pink collar jobs?) As the note asks then, what does a regime of virtual presence mean for reproduction & gender? (What e.g. of reproduction strictly internal to a virtual space? That could soon be meaningful....) Such questions lead immediately back to notions of ownership as already articulated, i.e. who "owns" one's virtual presence? Moreover, corporate ownership of our social interactions yields not only a sense of subjection — specifically in terms of the iterative process of semiosis, as noted above, yielding voice... — but of appropriation. And not only appropriation of profiles or definitions of "who we are," as framed as distinct & individually addressable (& surely as maps that quickly become more real for many than what they supposedly designate...), but as "presences" that can simply be switched off. So what then of political presence? Obviously it's completely vulnerable to the framing company or organization, and one can be "virtually disappeared" without any (even nominal) crime being committed. (Various non-people & duplicates can be virtually appeared as well....) There's no "public space" of internet presence, nowhere that someone can express themselves without (perhaps imminent) danger of exclusion. There's also increasingly little means to know who or what is or isn't fabricated (e.g. as multiple amplifications of a single opinion).... So now, while sliding into the alternately horrific & hopeful world of the posthuman (or at least, hopefully, of the post-imperial), what does human presence mean? Is someone without a "social media presence" even fully human, or fully political, today? (I'll have to dive into the pornographic at some point later too....) Are these images — in the very general sense — property? (Does property get a voice?) Once again notions of technological property quickly outrun the law.... And social media technology does become a weapon, civilizations largely being based upon (technological) weaponry, now as the new governmentality — & as a hierarchical force, a centripetal force, i.e. both as drawing people together & as establishing a small number of (corporate) decision makers in tiers over the rest of the world. In other words, despite (or because of...?) the many divisive projects online, internet spectacle becomes & remains a central attraction. And internet attention is not "policed" in the same way as it once was either, i.e. when a variety of interesting & open-ended conversations occurred in broad public forums, with noise & spectacle per se now having largely eliminated productive discussion & even clarity of thought: There becomes no real (governmental) reason to limit public information, or even discussion, which becomes practically impossible anyway amid the noise. And this frothing sort of speculative, virtual world continues to offer many more possibilities for technological mediation, whether of identity or otherwise: A sense of "magic" also tends to return (& must be noted as such), producing (or arising from) a ramified series of fictions, already asking per PL10 note No. 198, "... in what world does one live & on whose authority?" The question becomes concrete (via the virtual).... And the question suggests various (new?) slants on realism, whether e.g. of the right or left sorts, as well as concepts of (virtual) pessimism & notions framing imagination: Leftist realist art has thus long been critiqued for (effectively) limiting the latter, but fascist realism is at least as declaratory: The internet bully becomes the basic Hobbesian figure, working to synchronize domination while corporate employees execute their mechanical "moderation" policies (often around the bully, who already knows the game...). This is the real world, we are told! Now virtual.... It's also (inescapably) about who we are & what we become & on a daily (if not momentary) basis.... In any case, realism per se isn't the issue — although the power to declare the real is certainly an issue for fascists — but rather the need to trace relations within this situation, i.e. to determine how posts & identities function both online & outside the virtual frame. In other words, according to what (phenomenological?) field of presence (or perspective) is the political subject formed? Such interrogation, particularly amid proliferating technological mediation, is bottomless — but some sort of meaningful ownership of one's online presence is also an obvious component of decolonizing tech, i.e. of evading capture by or "within" tech media (escape per se perhaps being iterative...), but also of (crucially) continuing to trace a kind of (political) presence that can't simply be switched off. (Of course, that one's humanity might simply be switched off assumes that such a switch was ever read as "on" in the first place. Again though, online, how does anyone else really know?)

29 January 2021

5
Whereas the previous entry suggests some (e.g. political) risks around losing presence, there's also growing (individual) risk in our society around being present (such risk, broadly speaking, also being a facet of the power of presence...), including via the increasing prevalence of surveillance — combined with private ownership & decision-making around using such information (e.g. to disqualify people from economic participation). Particularly around the tech industry, such concerns have often come to be figured as notions of "privacy" — a notion called to double duty after having already figured private ownership & private business. In other words, within our social framework, the privacy debate basically becomes about ownership. And a sense of ownership then (automatically?) comes with an inclination to exploit: The latter remains a given in most "privacy" debates, in that freedom from harassment is figured (only — or "practically") as about someone else's access to information, not about freedom per se from harassment & exploitation. (In principle, the latter are often already crimes! But are nonetheless widely accepted & allowed, or even encouraged....) Within this frame, then, people are basically demanding ownership of their "personal information" & ultimately the ability to engage in some sort of marketplace around that information, i.e. to sell themselves. (The alternative is apparently to have oneself stolen, and this happens frequently as well....) I.e. many people are demanding the same sorts of bourgeois or neoliberal rights as "private businesses" — becoming entrepreneurs of themselves, again as an ongoing aspect of the postmodern (neoimperial) condition.... Of course it's no wonder that such demands are framed within the horizons of liberalism, or that they're being subjected to the usual misinformation campaigns by profit seekers: That's our society & so what we really need is renewed figuration of the public, rather than multiplied retreats into privacy. Further, it's religion per se that defines (public) social values — as I once again (e.g. per PL9) insist upon a capacious definition: The notion that "we" are doing away with religion per se (especially as a circumscribed sort of "wrong belief"), when scientific rationalism is "merely" changing social values, is untenable: Anyone raised in a social structure will have been exposed to a variety of ideas about social belonging, and those sorts of "values" (while later able to be questioned...) do prove very durable. That is religion, plain & simple! .... Okay, so the different religions in our society (some surviving from prior eras, or else diverging differently from prior eras) have a different sense of values around privacy, including e.g. exactly what should be made public or private. (This is a very broad statement. E.g. neoliberal fundamentalists believe, in very coarse terms, that anything profitable should be private — & that things that aren't profitable shouldn't be done.) I might even suggest that one's religious beliefs then condition one's feelings around a hypothetical nexus of privacy & freedom (the freedom to exploit & to hoard privately coming to define that notion in many circles today...), and indeed that while religion does have a private component (& might even come to define the private per se, in many circumstances...), it's ultimately about a relation with other people. And different religious attitudes come to suggest different "echo chambers" in our society, such that views are amplified & reproduced accordingly.... (And one might go on to suggest even more of a nexus between surveillance & religion, i.e. raising questions of transparency around religion per se. But how transparent can anything ever really be to a small child? And they're always learning....) And then what is private expression, versus public expression, in terms of what one can really say? (In an internet world without "public places" there's surely more to be said....) So if we want people to have a sense that there's more to life & the world than what they can perceive, that it's bigger than themselves, that they ultimately need to learn to live together with various people & non-people, even those they might not understand.... We clearly need better communication on these & other important points (e.g. better stories), i.e. communication that actually works on a practical level. (Today that often means marketing-based.... And in terms of stories, I find it fascinating that the first several Star Trek franchises have basically no surveillance... to the point that they don't even know if someone is kidnapped from their own spaceship, these being essentially military vessels.... Perhaps it's silly to dwell on popular fiction, but someone with real media power made a point of portraying a technological future this way.) Particularly when it comes to deep-seated values & other religious notions, then, these are also matters of legibility (e.g. per PL8), especially questions of what is or should be legible to whom: That's basically a matter of education (including proliferating educational settings), such that (in some ways) I'm talking about "unconscious" education in figuring the religious.... And education has been a public function (including sometimes as specifically religious), but it's also increasingly under attack on that basis. There's thus a basic embedded question there of what's public, i.e. public knowledge, i.e. public legibility (& both in terms of what people are allowed to know & what people are required to know). (And already per PL10n67, Western legibility does always both require & posit e.g. segmentation & typology, technical alternatives coming to involve — reciprocal — mystification, with any spectrality generated being papered over — presumptively, anyway — by the same proliferation of surveillance technology....) Legibility then becomes a public question, a question of public, a figuration of worlds.... What should be legible & to whom? (The cost of omniscience will always remain unattainably high....) In some sense, this is a question of deriving meaning from information, some of which might otherwise go unnoticed.... So whether in public or private, what should people learn? (This is also a question of collective individuation, per the previous entry, and even of expression & voice....) Note that there's already some real "separation of powers" in place around that question, though, and a sense of "checks & balances" regarding what to learn ought to be respected: After all, not everyone needs to know everything for society to function well, and such "differential" is really much of our (postmodern) issue, particularly as (like much else) even larger asymmetries are being forged. (And as PL10n37 heralded "open listening" or a micropolitics around uncertainty, itself figured tentatively as a sort of religious value, so as to "disarm authoritarian listening," such hope only seems to have become more remote, at least regarding online communication, over the past year....) That there might be various layers of students & teachers is then inevitable — the situation itself coming to figure (at least partially) religion as I've defined it — but there's also a weaving of (these already existing...) "information asymmetries" (& e.g. their protocols of initiation, private, religious or otherwise) more broadly through society. So is this situation only a matter of (the mechanics of) eventually teaching everything, or is some information to be withheld entirely? Again, from whom? And back to near the beginning of this entry, who owns knowledge? Moreover, what is public knowledge? (And recall that regimes of denial largely function by obscuring self-knowledge, so the ramifications of collective individuation must be considered....) In other words, what are the boundaries or borders of knowledge? To whom or what are they permeable? (And is this a formal matter, or one of simple resonance or technique?) Of course, in our society, privacy itself becomes a (private) technology, e.g. something to be purchased.... (And a lengthier discussion of pornography will still have to wait, but such an allusion — & recall that porn was an early font for internet activity — does raise another intersection of religion & privacy, figuring a boundary often regarded as vague.... Like all surveillance in our society, porn also generates a kind of appropriation.) Privacy-as-product then allows one to purchase illegibility (from some perspectives) as a kind of freedom, basic freedom from exploitation receding into the distance.... (Per the general rubric here, one might posit that such a transaction requires subjecting one's body to relations of even greater speed. In other words, it's not a slowing or easing of relations, but an addition... and granted only by a more powerful institution & according to its own terms.) And so that privacy is basically a liberal-bourgeois notion is obvious enough, but it's probably also worth noting some early modern history (again) here: Early evocations of "free & public market" (eventually whittled down to "free market" during the long seventeenth century...) explicitly included the concept of all transactions being public, the novel proliferation of private transactions being precisely cause for alarm at the time.... (Now it's become almost unthinkable that businessmen, even such public figures as our noxious ex-president, should have all their deals made public....) And that "public market" meant a physical space might merely seem to be old-fashioned now, but where is our public space (as figurative market or otherwise) online today? Further to neoliberal terms, a private-public dual has even come to figure a basic cannibalization of the latter by the former, i.e. via the broad drive to "privatize," i.e. to liquidate & exhaust the public sphere: This is very much the context from which notions of "privacy" must be read! And in that context, "information businesses" are currently liquidating yet another public sphere, i.e. the space of people's everyday activities (& knowledge thereof), yielding broad (& privately administered, constructed according to techniques of marketing & propaganda...) typologies of who is told what. These typologies & associations should certainly be made public knowledge. (Does what your smartphone learn about you actually help you? Demand it! Not some formal "excuse" for being more trouble than anything....) And there need to be public places to discuss these issues. In other words, let's center the public in any discussion of privacy (which is instead often figured in the negative...), private hoarding (of anything) being a central issue today: What should the public know about itself, whether individually or collectively? (Note that e.g. "background checks" appear to be proliferating.... Note further such important "public knowledge" as who won a democratic election....) It seems that the public side of an increasingly imposed public-private dual is largely being made to disappear.... But that's also where democracy lives, i.e. in public discussions of public issues.

19 March 2021

6
And now I want to interrogate specific notions of "pornographic transparency" — beginning with some remarks from PL10 note No. 197: Han is someone who offers worthwhile analysis of the contemporary situation, but also relies upon an untheorized "pornographic transparency" trope. In particular, while concerns over strategy & secrecy need to be considered, and it's certainly the case that (political) notions of transparency have been (in line with the neoimperial regime & its ongoing) universalizing, such an analysis would benefit from considerations of legibility & perspective. And "legible to whom?" does become an increasingly significant question due to growing (information) asymmetries. In that sense, pornography becomes a spectacle, and so another kind of (increasing) obfuscation.... Han is correct that many urges toward "authenticity" ultimately become about marketing oneself, though, and that the emotionalization of commodities can bolster consumption, even that "values" come to be packaged & sold as products — & I certainly support his call for play (in contrast to more work). But while pornography might exemplify (in some sense) the basic neoliberal principle of making everything available for exploitation, is it actually transparent? Han's claim that the naked body is stripped of symbols — while sounding (naïvely) correct — is false: The porn industry encounters a body "covered" in symbolic markers. (And that the nude cannot engage in seduction seems a strange implication.... What Han is lamenting, of course, is abandonment of particular sorts of traditional — i.e. culturally derived — mating rituals, indeed seemingly those of hetero-patriarchy per se.) Yet the elimination or marginalization of ritual is surely underway, including as Han describes, both in terms of neoliberal (economic) transparency & according to a sea of "multiculturalism" that seems only to render daily life into a haze, i.e. as relatively unmarked by ritual events (& so into a perpetual present). If religion is ultimately about attention, then (& its resonance with others...), the religion of the (neoliberal) interior increasingly becomes consumerist distraction. Pornography is not only a distraction, though — & one should note how "mildly pornographic" images are suffused into a variety of marketing & propaganda, i.e. are not confined to explicit sex videos... — but a product, i.e. something itself commoditized. And porn is not transparent at all! Indeed it figures illusion, and is notoriously unsatisfying (as e.g. Adorno had already noted the profusion of sexual images as rendering the population both more aroused & less satisfied...), regardless of what its consumers might be seeking. (Jennifer Nash has figured such dissatisfaction around feelings of possession, i.e. to penetrate the inscrutable & impenetrable e.g. black woman & so finally to SEE her.... Except that, beyond the simply factual realm, where the consumer of porn will not be doing any penetrating, he doesn't ultimately really see anything more real. There is still only a body, the surface of a body.... While extreme closeups become completely unsatisfying, i.e. violate the conditioned scopic distance.) Likewise porn discussions are usually unsatisfying, at least for people who aren't wanting the erotic component, because all that's really happening is watching people perform sexual activities (assuming "traditional" pornography, that is...) — something we already know that people (somewhere) are often doing. And further to "transparency," becoming voyeur (i.e. consuming porn) implies an immediate sense of distance: One is watching (& unknown, at least until online forms of interactive porn...), not present, with the (asymmetric) non-presence conditioning & animating the experience. (A sense of closeness implied by intimate images is thus held in suspension by the format itself via its imposed distance, i.e. reinjecting an antisocial quality as well as entrenching the typical scopic orientation....) But what of participants, i.e. consent to being watched? Ubiquitous surveillance now means that various "pornographic" images (& sounds) are constantly being collected by technology companies, governments, etc. In that sense, one's personal life becomes transparent, and per the previous entry, one finds many discussions of "privacy" etc. So people are concerned with becoming pornography for others, perhaps, especially as such positions are usually abjected in Western society, but are also concerned with randomly (or not so randomly) encountering unwanted images themselves in various contexts. (And tricking someone into seeing something they "can't unsee" was once a popular internet game too, porn — & bargain hunting... — having been relatively early motivations for others to join us "academic researchers" online....) Both seem like legitimate concerns (including e.g. for children), and as usual, in this society can be figured around notions of ownership, i.e. of owning one's presence (per an earlier entry), and in turn around notions of porn as appropriation, i.e. of "having oneself stolen" per the previous entry: One might even conclude that porn figures some sort of boundary, as having oneself filmed under different conditions is widely (albeit not always) considered to be okay.... And considering the difficulties (e.g. per Zupancic) of defining sex per se, a definition for porn is not straightforward (as e.g. "a video of people having sex" is presumably not practically sufficient...). Indeed, I keep coming back to notions of perspective, legibility & consent — e.g. of "how to" sex videos seeming to have legitimate educational purposes, not to mention sexual depictions as artistic expression, etc.... One might then say that "appropriation" is a particular, non-consensual form of making legible (i.e. to some perspectives — often especially the privileged perspective of the transcendent, ocularcentric spectator). Various aspects of "sexual entertainment" are then summoned & arrayed in order to cultivate or enforce standard social hierarchies & their perceptual asymmetries, underlaid by basic commodifications of "sex" promising satisfaction without entanglement — & instead usually delivering further entanglement (in imagery) with little satisfaction. But this is all about contemporary porn's embeddedness within late capitalism, and very little about watching people have sex per se! (Satisfaction without entanglement is a capitalist slogan/lie in general, after all.) Yet discomfort around porn — such that Han can use it rather uncritically, i.e. as a stopping point for discussion — persists, and really beyond the notions of property & ownership that I've tried to indicate here. And I've already noted the way that concepts of religion have intertwined concepts of the private (by first defining concepts of the public), neoliberal religion basically being profitability per se (as buoyed by an imposed non-relation between traditional religion & "business") — this being where notions strictly separating "loving" sexual activity from (presumably profitable, for someone) sex work are usually located. However, feminists have long interrogated why so much sex work (& housework, etc.) is uncompensated, with notions of "sanctity" consequently coming to sound like anti-labor clichés. (I would never actually advocate for extending neoliberal economic relations, but given our immersion in them already, they could certainly be arrayed more equitably....) In that sense, the "reproductive domain" has still been held (at least partially) apart from the political-economic, but the context of Western society also suggests that suppression of women (& their power, economic & otherwise) was the actual target (of such reservation) — & not the opposite, as usually claimed. And that a naked woman walking casually down the street should instantly become a target for all manner of violence (especially a woman of color) is then an image that broadly underlies Western social hierarchy — as simply having "a good attitude" about one's body & sex will not stop many people in this society from reading abjection — & so from responding to abjection (prototypically) as the bully does, i.e. as a call for further abjection. (Any attempt to push against the status quo in this arena is then typically met by repressive responses following the usual lines of privilege... those changing only slowly. In that sense, pornography can thus make some things quite transparent, or rather legible: Per the de facto terms of our society, someone else might be owed something for a woman having bared her body! This is a powerful claim about property....) But some people, women included, are also able to weaponize their sexuality, i.e. to tap into a power that has generally been proscribed by liberal society (or else banished to a dangerous "other"): A sexual presence (& this is not synonymous with the unveiling of some body part...) can take on a sort of conspicuousness, i.e. according to the allure of porn (or even prior regimes of seduction...), or as something from which the innocent might require protection, i.e. modulation of attention in general (as such imagery comes to be used clinically in mainstream corporate marketing, i.e. as technology), thus figuring terms such as "obscenity." But what is actually read as obscene? (This is where one can see that the naked body is rich in symbols! And let me also specifically distinguish modesty from shame: They involve different interactions with power.) PL10 note No. 117 then goes on to suggest a "pharmacology of conspicuousness," further to bodily alienation (which can itself become conspicuous), and so posits an internal-development / external-imposition dual that probably conditions people's ongoing responses to their own sexual imagery as well (along with responses to technology more broadly): E.g. "youporn" & exhibitionism are thus increasingly popular, as widespread surveillance simultaneously concerns others for their own personal privacy. (One might characterize people who are "selling themselves" as taking control....) Moreover, the entire 24x7 nonstop consumer culture can be figured as increasingly pornographic (as does Han — & do note the insomniac qualities of porn), i.e. as the elimination of all barriers to exploitation, whether temporal, observational, etc... — such that all activity ultimately becomes a basis for profit (which, note, likewise requires "suspension" or a framework for calculation...), and of course according to asymmetric (i.e. hierarchical) terms. (And in the absence of ritual markers, people do come to reterritorialize e.g. on celebrities — including for their pornographic images, i.e. as suspended within another framework of social distance. So this is, once again, a world packed with symbols — if rather flimsy symbols.) And in a previous entry I asked what human presence might come to mean, and even e.g. whether someone without "media presence" can be considered fully human or political today. In other words, I asked about voice — and voice does figure much of the indeterminacy surrounding pornography today, i.e. whether it's exploiting or empowering.... (That depends on these other relations I've been tracing....) In any case, porn does not make a good trope for some kind of extreme over-transparency: Its making-legible is not only considerably more contingent than that, but raises aspects of pre-capitalist relations. Yet it does also raise a variety of (technological) questions around consent, ownership & perspective (not to mention religion, etc.)....

3 May 2021

7
Having been at this project for a while — & of course it's something of a "further thoughts" project anyway... — the results do come to seem rather rambling. (As already noted, circumstances haven't contributed to the greatest writing clarity either.) At some point, I should probably pull out some "main points" to emphasize in more compact fashion, but for now I do want to continue something of a "brainstorming" mode & in turn the usual tangents-filled style in order to trace some of the (many) implications.... In particular, I've been able to find relatively little "conceptual" discussion of law from a "critical" perspective, i.e. how law works (in our society in general, not just how it fails some groups...), how it's functioned other times & places, how it's instituted.... In short, how do we change to different sorts of laws & what should that be like? And regarding this issue, I want to return to an orientation on anarchy, not figured as a dearth of law, but rather as a general(ized) limit on individual power. (In other words, there would be laws — & differences between people — but tendencies to render such differences into a hierarchical society would be formally retarded. And I'll set the question of "enforcement" aside for the moment.) But then (as discussed here already) notions of "anarchy" have been used online in order to bring the tech empires enormous power, as indeed "technology" becomes a means to outpace law per se, i.e. so as to operate according to scenarios without established limits or conventions. Such hierarchization has then derived — in part — from information asymmetry per se, i.e. basic notions of what is legible to whom. (Such asymmetry is growing rapidly.) And then law per se is then typically asymmetric, i.e. as a state function that might involve some layer of political consensus, but is often simply imposed on other groups. (In that sense, historical notions of "freedom" always seem to reference the figure of the slave, i.e. the lessening of particular asymmetries, but not in reference to any kind of underlying equality. Rhetorical "freedom" in our society is then further figured specifically as the freedom to exploit, not as freedom from exploitation, and so as hypothetical entry into a potentially exploitative position!) Legibility issues are not new, however, and so hierarchies deriving from law (always) involve differential treatment. Differential legibility also forges arenas for profit, such that e.g. according to contemporary (techie) "privacy" rhetoric, one might even buy it directly. In any case, further to Paragraph 5, anarchy thwarts broad legibility, i.e. the "God's eye" perspective, and so rests more upon molecular interactions & habits. So I want to take up some thoughts from PL10 Note 170, in particular notions of positive law: PL10n161 had already noted that, under liberalism, law is generally figured in the negative, i.e. as prohibition (anything else being, in principle, OK). And Paragraph 1 had already asked "What would avowal rather than prohibition look like?" Notions of avowal (or affirmation) & prohibition then forge & figure the body as well: One might call this an ethic, in very broad terms, i.e. as a way of living (in which e.g. bodily extension already becomes a sort of bodily discipline...) — & of course, formal law will lag any such established habit. (Again, the tech empires have capitalized on this situation, with e.g. Facebook already able to forge & channel broad social interactions according to their own fascist, profit-seeking discipline. Such a forge is both world-making & increasingly an engine of human individuation. In other words, this is all happening irreversibly & fast. And it's happening in the general realm of positivity & affirmation!) Call it all "de facto" law perhaps (or simply habit), and realize that it's being established now by private companies according to their own personal goals. Per the previous Paragraphs, then, the situation leaves many people questioning our own legibility, i.e. around e.g. (political) presence or surveillance, as there's little protection versus exploitation. (And "virtual" profits of this sort have been fully convertible to wealth in general, such that they can lay claim to — & dominate — real resources. Such a situation suggests erecting barriers to fungibility, to which neoliberalism is fully opposed....) Supposedly there's "no alternative" & these things just happen, because it's "human nature" or whatever. No, it's just greedy people (consistently) getting their way. So what would "anarchic government" be like, specifically as a technology for limiting power imbalances? For one, law needs greater flexibility: It should be viewed as a living entity (i.e. contrary to notions of eternity or universality...), in order to limit exploitation in any particular moment, and it needs to be "enforced" by community standards, i.e. real (social) belief in the law (i.e. as liturgy). Regarding its historical structure, then, one might think of law as a sort of memory, i.e. needing constant reinterpretation (& suffering hazards of e.g. exemplarity...). And then one might figure e.g. traditional concepts such as karma as a kind of accountability — although let me be clear, that I don't envision passivity: People need to speak up for any sort of "molecular" law to function (& let's recall that "law" per se is fundamentally erected against the bully — i.e. as the many against the one). In any case, we can't tolerate some kind of "external" law-as-command. Communities need their own law-liturgies (in which they actually believe...), even as the global world requires cooperation as well. There is already a variety of "molecular" law existing (within neoimperial, top-down "molar" systems...), though, e.g. communities on which external laws are (partially) imposed & differentially enforced, even entire regimes of "extra-legal" violence (e.g. around "drugs"), such that states can come to collude with the worst exploiters. E.g. Veena Das then suggests that various de facto laws occupy various interstices (or in a sense I've previously invoked here, logistic dimensions...), even that technologies of law incorporate various fictions. Establishing "grass roots" law-liturgies then becomes about finding a voice (reciprocal to finding an audience...) — & in the physical world, can bring bodily violence, while in the virtual world can simply (& quite legally) mean being "disappeared" (but without bodily violence?). How do we move to some kind of "positive" scheme then? (Particularly when so many people these days are opposed to any sort of justice?) How do we stay ahead of the bullies & (financial) exploiters? It seems that a sort of hypothetical, "predictive" law would only be gamed, assuming the exploiters know its algorithms... and I've said that knowing the law is essential. (Is it, though, in all its details? I do reject e.g. revenge, categorically....) But those remarks still seem to proceed from notions of mastery, so what of distributed social law of which no one is really master? I envision some kind of open-ended scenario, I suppose, but it requires (mostly, as there will always be some sociopaths...) a real desire to do the right thing, i.e. a strong religious orientation toward a community (of which many are increasingly unsure anyway...). Per PL10 Note 194, I've also (tentatively) suggested a sort of "machinic undoing," i.e. disautomation (& "unharnessing" of biology, becoming illegible...) & (imposed) slowness. In other words, if tech empires are outrunning the law, how about limiting their speeds? (Indeed I'd already suggested in PL10n160 that any relevant technology policy entails a politics of speed....) There are conceptual issues here: What is the "base" speed, so to speak? Ecologies include many.... But we could probably peg "human" activity to human speeds, the basic idea being to allow time for reflection & the generation of meaning (& appropriate social disposition). The main issue for me isn't so much multiple temporalities, though, as various could be tracked, but the evolutionary context of human activity, i.e. our basic biological embedding. (E.g. we cannot make a "law" to limit the speed of biological pathogens.) However, speed is also something of a proxy for energy use, and so for environmental damage in general, meaning that a slowing could be the only way (regardless). And counter to accelerationism (called out as inherently universalizing, e.g. by Yuk Hui), slowness does seemingly preserve an opening for various temporal & spatial intersections, i.e. for an ecological pluriverse of human (& non-human) differences. What are we in such a hurry to do anyway? (This is not a rhetorical question: We already know that the answer is profit.)

20 July 2021

8
There're a couple of specific notes that I still want to elaborate from PL10, starting here directly from number 45 (before presumably wrapping up those plans in the following entry...). And although who controls "technologies of preparation or reflection" is certainly significant to the technology sector (pace e.g. the previous entry), and thus involves a contest of speed around allowing the relevant time (to digest), I actually want to consider the parenthetical remark there in more detail: A polarity of use between appropriation & expropriation is clear enough (pace, especially, a double meaning for "loss"), but Agamben's characterization of landscape as "exemplary" of the inappropriable requires further comment: Indeed, I want to consider this remark in parallel with (Agamben's) other remarks e.g. dismissing perspectives of the colonized as simply inversions of the dominant paradigms already under examination (& often examined quite fruitfully by Agamben, at least for my understanding of Western thought...), i.e. as adding nothing new. Pace Bhabha's classic treatment (& more recently e.g. Mbembe...), he's also clearly wrong. And so I already noted that changing perceptions or perspectives change (the) "landscape" as well, but I also want to note explicitly the (obvious) notion that indigeneity (& so indigenous persons, as well as their ecological situation...) has not only been figured as "landscape" for centuries, landscape itself has figured precisely something long appropriated under imperial (& now neoimperial...) conditions! So this observation suggests another sort of foreground-background equivocation, but more than that: "Polarity" or duality per se is simply inadequate to render the various relational shades of connection between people & things. We are not really separate. And this notion of indigenous as landscape resonates with me on the internet as well, specifically for having been within the bubble of the early internet & its proscriptions against commerce, forging the sorts of "resources" that were... eventually appropriated by commercial entities toward their own profits. (Those entities might not have always seized the "content" per se — & indeed they've created an entire rhetoric & tension around the notion of "content provider" — but they did seize both potential revenues & the culture itself. In the latter case, one might then say that they completely reworked the habit of online use by subjugating the "landscape" & thus forged a new regime of affirmative law online... now pressing neoliberal values into every niche of daily life. And needless to reiterate, this happens at & via speed.) In that sense, I was already primed for Harney & Moten's "undercommons" concept, which in another sense, affirms that landscape is rich in (changeable) relations, suggesting a kind of generalized logistic flow (as typically & lamentably optimized for profit, especially now online...). Before the commercial explosion, the online situation — which, again, was admittedly within a bubble of privilege! — was also characterized as anarchic (including per issues raised in prior entries...), and that mostly provided cover for the "polarity of use" to generate a kind of privatization (as paradoxical, or neoliberal, expropriation). Concepts of "online property" thus exist, more or less from the start, in a layered form — at least when it comes to "content" — i.e. via how & where that content is embedded (or discovered, per specifically modern rhetoric). In effect, various forms of content (those without their own legal teams...) were rendered into landscape, while the "framing organization" became the capitalist actor. So new modes of ownership were also being forged, and those have involved varieties of appropriation more or less from the start (i.e. since even early non-profit internet activity might have involved copying other material, framed then as for the public good...), including (at first) the "acceptance" of creative people who didn't fit the established norms of corporate US decorum. (Individual, sometimes eccentric, caretakers then yielded to institutionalization — as less specialized skills became required.) And that sort of feeling for collectivity, indeed reminiscent of undercommons idea(l)s (& even, e.g. per Tsing, longstanding Asian modes of logistic "post"modernity...), did forge its own sort of "positive law," although that's largely been incorporated into neoliberal financial logics (which were, alas, never very far removed...). The old internet had a sort of ritual quality too, and if (pace Han) ritual is community without communication, we're now much more toward the opposite pole of communication without community. Is the individual human even the subject of knowledge online? Or is it collective data profiles...? But let's not yield immediately to the nostalgia of (liberal) individualism in response! What of segmentation & legibility? The undercommons questions (the merits of) both, Harney & Moten now touting incompleteness (& Mbembe raising transversal motion as "traditional" demand!).... Moreover, doesn't Western (modern, imperial) thought (implicitly) posit individuation as reciprocal to property ownership per se? If (e.g. per Bey) blackness is (definitionally, pace modern racism) lawless, i.e. exposes law (as a practical matter) as a conspiracy of history, then — pace the previous entry — there're also matters of voice (to consider), i.e. within molecular interstices (long accompanying Euro-modernity, pace analyses from both Asia & Africa...), voice per se figuring expression versus exploitation. But in this thinking, voice only derives from property, itself the core concept of liberalism, such that (per Harney & Moten again), intellectual interiority per se becomes a property of the owning mind, making (as they say) "the mind-body problem" redundant, "the body" already having been relegated to logistic organization in service of the mind (as mirroring or generating the pyramid of colonial, now neocolonial, empire in general). In the terms opening this Paragraph, then, the (Westernized) body is finally rendered into landscape — i.e. as fully exploitable. (And for Bey, whiteness is thus rendered as a kind of property, undoing property relations serving to unravel whiteness....) And in that sense, there's no historical subject of law (at least as justice...) to which to turn: To reprise the end of Postmodern Aesthetics, we will need to forge & develop (& situate) new forms of (virtual) life (to continue the phrase from Wittgenstein...), then, new reckonings of additivity & thresholds, trans-motion across (formerly pyramidal) hierarchies (& blurring of entities...) — as well as modes of ephemerality (since, per e.g. Mbembe recently, putting the infinite into perceptible form requires constant redoing...). Indeed, we are already forging a kind of ritual of change online.... So what is multiplicity online? How might one refuse individuation? Or embrace the kenotic? What, then, of collective voice around/as collective property? (To return to Agamben, where is the garden online? And by whom is it tended?) And we certainly do need to refuse the hierarchical law of property, of putting everything into its own proper bucket (even figured as the digital per se...?), of "order" per se — including within "our" selves. Indeed we must refuse rigidity broadly, including around who & what we are, in order to forge new (& liveable) relations. (But then, such flexibility will bring great danger as well. As danger is now our condition, again, as always.)

2 November 2021

9
Topologies of violence (pace Han) have become considerably more intricate versus the old center-periphery days of empire, with (what I call) spatial involution placing extremes of wealth & poverty in ever-closer geographical association, but the topology becomes increasingly intimate as well via online connections & the push (especially via smartphones) to inject capitalist relations into every (virtual) moment: The structure of violence in our society (& so globally...) then (pace an earlier paragraph here) begins to project a pharmacology of presence as well, as oneself & the bully aren't "really" present together... but might nonetheless encounter each other more than ever. And the "bully" isn't only some aggressive individual (perhaps working in concert...), but increasingly entire (for-profit & international) institutions, who work to achieve massive (e.g. information) asymmetries over entire populations, and thus (distributed but) hierarchical topologies. (And as noted, such a system doesn't really fit the spherical globe, which requires a more transverse embedding, but then, that would involve accumulating less lasting power....) Such "asymmetries" have also been revisited here (in recent paragraphs) around pornography & law, the latter crucially (i.e. strategically) involving speed, and so a temporal sort of violence. Indeed, the public is particularly ill-suited to countering rapidity per se, as per the prior paragraph, the body comes to be forged as a kind of landscape (for exploitation), its segmentations already prearranged online. There's habit involved to anything of the body, an ethic, and even a liturgy... as I've tried to draw out in this space. And these are not matters of prohibition alone, or even discipline (although the latter might be thought as positive discipline... as cultivating habit), but of avowals (i.e. as liturgical) as well: The interactive, online world is ideal for this sort of formation, then, i.e. induces activities forging habits (which do not take hold as readily in a more passive setting...). Habits toward "production" run deep too: In my experience teaching preschool, all children have an urge to contribute, and although that is beaten (not only metaphorically...) out of many, it might e.g. be re-engaged via senses of play.... (So I completely reject the idea that humanity is too lazy to support itself without being forced, although we do have many jaded & otherwise broken people these days....) In other words, the online world aims to capture & project a sense of self-discipline, although that fades rather easily into a need simply to "obey" the technology. And e.g. per PL10 Note 86, such activity ramifies typologies of labor: As that note already indicates, then, there's a pharmacology of specialization (& that's on both the side of labor & of management...), and even a sense (pace Harney & Moten) that e.g. "professional" comes to define minimal (not aspirational, or even adequate...) standards. (And I've since figured "accentuating corporeality" more in terms of a pharmacology of presence, but hopefully that doesn't come to neglect the body....) Anyway, a typology of labor (at least of this sort) already posits segmentation — itself a kind of technology, as noted within the note — such that one can observe the labor-side pharmacology in e.g. guilds, i.e. restrictions on entry into skill acquisition yielding (labor) power, but also yielding a kind of definitional identity, i.e. into castes or senses of restriction. This sort of disciplinarity then comes to forge a history, i.e. takes on weight (also pharmacologically) from the past. In contrast, the online world has created more "generic" jobs, i.e. jobs requiring little training or investment (on the worker side...), such that labor competes with itself to the maximum extent — & these jobs are then evaluated by consumer ratings or comments, i.e. the generic worker is then re-individuated externally. (These jobs also emphasize economic quittance, i.e. the lack of ongoing relations or obligations. One performs a single task for a particular fee, with no formal embroilment.) And as noted (i.e. in Paragraph 4), the variability of online presence allows e.g. a kind of gender blindness (to broach one major, historical typology of labor...), yet also seems to allow for a new kind of "pinkwashing" as "care work" is supposed to be done for free (i.e. along with one's nominal job). And perhaps it doesn't need saying, but "free" is an extreme (but not unusual) form of lower pay for women's work! (One might interrogate e.g. "business" justification for high profit, namely risk, and how that's figured "men's work" as well.... Of course, what such rhetoric seems to valorize is gambling per se...! Despite that modernity has largely taken aim against chance or fortune....) What we find, then, is that the "freedom" of women to take "men's jobs" has led to the further devaluation of "women's jobs" & care work in particular. But as e.g. Federici argues so forcefully, domestic work/social reproduction can never be eliminated! Indeed, this might generally figure human attention to each other, and as opposed to attention to media & technology, such attention only seems to be getting poorer: Notions of Ballardism & "spinal catastrophism" only reemphasize for me that the human body & hands evolved together with using them to maintain the human body! (In other words, people have e.g. back problems because it's no longer normal for their families, broadly speaking, to maintain their bodies on a daily basis.) We've consequently marginalized quite a bit of "bodily intelligence," as such labor is basically being appropriated toward other purposes. And the "replacement" we have is the modern medical industry, i.e. another highly specialized branch of the contemporary (& growing...) typology of labor. The for-profit medical industry then does rather little to restore proper biofeedback to the body (& recall e.g. stories of how junk food researchers attempt to confuse the body's feedback, so we'll eat more...), instead focusing on the opposite: The medical industry is mostly concerned with making us feel less, e.g. via anesthetics, and in bringing our (renewed?) numbness back to work promptly. In other words, "healthy" is healthy enough to work, and we don't actually want anyone feeling anything else very clearly! (This situation already heralds the denial regime....) Bodily discipline is also increasingly figured via sports (i.e. war-proxy & "useless" "men's work," now being hailed for women...), including notions of health: One can be regularly injured, but patched back up, and get right back out to the same dangerous activity! (Both the refigurement of war & the maintenance of "tribal" aggressions with neighbors — & so belonging per se — also illuminate "sports" as a primary colonizing technology. Leagues basically contextualize such interactions within & in service to the pyramidal, imperial system.) Sports also continues to refigure labor time, e.g. via tension to produce immediately or to fit into specific media slots. And there's an ongoing perversion of comedy underway as well, not only via the classic punch up/down distinction, but via genrefication per se: I.e. genre boundaries are used to curtail transverse motion, the unbounded quality of comedy figuring its power. And with "directness" becoming increasingly impossible politically, fiction & acting continue to function as significant communication pathways (as they've already been in various repressive situations...), more slippery formats (as here...) becoming harder simply to deny or invert. The growing rigidity of labor typology thus supports social denial more broadly, particularly when enforced asymmetrically (as we come to know less of what others are doing...). And the "generic" quality of new internet jobs (encompassing e.g. delivery...) does increasingly involve a preexisting box to which one must conform (i.e. such that labor activities are even more strongly pre-segmented & typed). There's thus a sort of epistemological violence encroaching here as well, not only in terms of (e.g. scientific) probing being potentially destructive (i.e. physically), but in terms of "fitting" oneself to a crude or manipulative survey & into a particular box. (How we relate to ourselves is thus set aside, or reconfigured, while becoming typed. We must change our lives, as the saying goes — in increasingly many places!) And this sort of sculpting not only animates the rapidly expanding (both anesthetic & angry!) denial regime per se, but within a situation of constantly rising noise: In other words, people's fears are intentionally inflamed, sending more & more people into a sort of anti-social bunker mode.... But then, per the (de)colonial orientation here, this is hardly new: It might be new that imperial "interiors" are forced to deal with these situations (i.e. via involution), but e.g. Africa (e.g. recently per Mbembe) & Asia (e.g. per Tsing) have been dealing with a sort of logistic undercommons (pace the Western empires...) for centuries. For Mbembe, such a situation defines modernity per se. So where does this lead? How might selflessness & dispossesion become positive figurations for society again, i.e. as something other than generating revenue streams to be captured by billionaires? How might we topple such wasteful & ill-fitting hierarchies? Where is the garden, tended by whom?

20 November 2021

10
In Paragraph 2, I'd suggested that (often flawed) notions of pandemic risk were interrupting the basic regime of denial in this country, but the latter regime is clearly being reconstituted at this point, now incorporating coronavirus exposure: Denial thus resumes its broad, structuring function in Western society, ascending in part via spatial involution (e.g. per the previous entry): Under postmodern globalism, contradictions are now closer in space, denial often being directed generally at asymmetry per se. (Also per the previous entry, an anesthetic approach to health always already figures a kind of denial regime.) Denial becomes a sort of "portable" structure, propagating across topics & subjects, i.e. becomes a significant contemporary technology. (There's thus little truth in politics. Instead of real debating of the issues, there're slogans & various disingenuous attempts to short circuit discussion.) And such technology generally operates as a blend of the obvious & the fallacious, producing a sort of "productive" fiction that inverts particular facts. Direct inversion (i.e. "up is down") is then the most basic format for denial, its portability tied to its relatively simple structure. The result forges a sort of noise machine (i.e. "free speech"), where truth isn't formally suppressed, but is nonetheless obscured. (Social denial is then supported by labor typology, i.e. "sculpting" selves according to role, perhaps intentionally inflaming fears, etc.) Anger intertwines noise. "Bunker mode" — the refusal (the impossibility...) of rational interaction — results. Any attempt at communication, especially via the sorts of simple statements necessary to penetrate an anger-addled mind, are then assimilated — immediately — to binary positions, i.e. placed in buckets according to a strict prior segmentation. That sort of intellectual rigidity is then the "natural" response to noise & anger. And within such a territory, the basic contradictions underlying "bucket" positions come to define oneself: Beyond a category for self-placement, denial tends to drive to the core of our selves as well, becoming obscured once fully planted there. (For instance, as a small child, I was told that I didn't have the injuries that I knew I had. I was also untreated. Eventually I believed that I was fine, that I'd always been fine... only to have to address the health consequences 50 years later, when I had no choice but to lift the veil of denial. That a "scientist" such as myself could have been in denial about such intimate matters for decades is something I still ponder on a daily basis. There were a variety of effects. More on this at some point....) So denial becomes a technology, both portable around society & within selves. One might consequently feel that one is "chasing" a message in an attempt to communicate in public, especially about critical political issues, constant inversions & negations (of any statement) figuring broad rhetorical distraction. Rhetoric per se is about misdirection, then, about evoking a sort of circuit through other ideas, perhaps to avoid a mental block, but as often as not, to derail. (One might even figure rhetoric via a sort of exosomatization, per Ross following Stiegler, as a general "circuit through the outside" engaging e.g. exteriorized memory, but also as opening & figuring noetic potentials of choice. Rhetoric thus inflects individuation itself through external ideas, i.e. reinvents consciousness.) There's a sort of play. And then when it comes to intertwining confusion & conflict, i.e. maintaining a kind of social paralysis (in which e.g. bullies can increasingly operate without oversight...), there're increasingly many figurations of tradition: Concepts of contemporary history (as already referenced in Paragraph 2) had already noted the sort of overdetermined rhetoric parsing historical legacies, including via a torrent of (potential) futures that are (in principle) being figured constantly by e.g. financial markets, but rhetoric around "traditions" also seems increasingly to yield a choice of pasts. Partly that's a matter of perspective, including from differing people, but there's also a fundamental rhetorical assertion — even (or especially?) in the US — that "tradition" evokes bullying & strongly contoured wealth hierarchy. And this is completely against North American tradition! We practically invented "checks & balances" & the basic notion that no one should dominate. Now we seem to want to forge a new aristocracy of wealth. Of course, there've been various figurations of indigenous North American idea(l)s over the years, and that's partly contingent on early encounters — e.g. with Puritans & figurations of shame. (Sexual denial & repression entered North America this way, and were subsequently introduced, intentionally, into various other societies....) Early encounters thus suggest a kind of "immunization" against future encounters, i.e. subsequently encountered ideas being assimilated immediately to a preexisting dynamic, i.e. contingently. Such an immunology (pace Sloterdijk) then comes to define how a society regards itself as distinct from another (or something else entirely...), i.e. as "individuated" or possessing different idea(l)s — in turn yielding immunization against various "competing" ideas. Social immunization involves propagation as well, then, i.e. intergenerational propagation, and beyond direct instruction, ideas & beliefs are often propagated implicitly. (A sort of social liturgy might well be implied, but it's certainly not explicit, or at least not explicit around all foundational ideas.) Even repressed ideas, i.e. trauma, are then propagated, perhaps in a sort of "hocketing" effect via collective unconscious, i.e. not necessarily "sticking" to the individuals most logically involved. (E.g. Freud attempts a far more tenuous tale in Moses and Monotheism, occurring over thousands of years, versus the mere hundreds of North American imperialist intervention.... Freud was, of course, also a key figure in interrogating sexual denialism more broadly.) Such propagation doesn't necessarily rely on biological families either, as various earlier societies have organized & prioritized social relations differently (i.e. as affine resonances beyond filial hierarchy, e.g. per PL7). And in some sense, such a difference maintained for imperialists as well, their businesses & families perhaps being in different parts of the world (since e.g. the Crusades...). In The Dawn of Everything (from here, DOE, more later...), Graeber & Wengrow then explore such long-term propagation & differentiation via notions of schismogenesis (pace Bateson), as basically the driving dynamic for social segmentation & immunology: Define your group against some other group. The "negative image" involved in such a response obviously invokes a strong binary, and one can thus perceive an increasingly schismogenetic component (even) within society today, consciously cultivated. Invoking Stiegler again, then, one might figure collective individuation as a sort of schismogenesis, perhaps involving multiple parallels — but such a group-against-group definition does require a degree of parity. (Which is why right-wingers tend to define their ideas only against white "liberals" today, and not just anyone....) However, basic (e.g. information) asymmetry is growing exponentially today, particularly via exosomatization, such that one should begin to expect further nonlinear effects. In some sense, this phenomenon traces the breakdown of transactional equivalence (i.e. quittance per se), i.e. neoliberal assertion of exact parity & parallel between parties to a transaction. (I.e. "It was your choice!") And such notions of nominal equivalence lock conflict into particular patterns, but the right also seeks explicitly to cultivate irreversibility (e.g. as nonlinearity, or folding...), i.e. in order to lock supposedly-fair transactions into history per se. Notions of "quittance" then become critical to "environmental economics" as well (not to mention intergenerational wealth disparity...), in that one's effects persist after a transaction: This situation in turn figures the basic imperialist denial of historical impact (i.e. of impoverishing their targets). And moreover, economic asymmetry is the basic driver of (anti-environmental) overconsumption. Exploitation is consequently figured as rational, i.e. via rationalization per se (perhaps via exosomatic rhetoric...) as hinge between desire & action. Insatiable hoarding of wealth is then conditioned (asymmetrically) further via such denial as an affective & intellectual closing. However, discovering any real political solution will require affective openness, and so denial per se (especially as an increasingly robust technology...) is a fundamental problem. And it's a fundamental problem buried quite deeply within many of us (& so able to be "activated" by clever propaganda & rhetoric...) — its only possible (but perhaps also quite difficult) remedy being truth.

13 April 2022

11
And far from being opposed, denial actually intertwines "values" — thus figuring religion, one might go on to observe — such that now I want to turn to a related ethic of care: Practical listening had already figured attention economy (as a sort of care), but also as fungible (i.e. mostly as profitable care), whereas now I want to orient further on the everyday (i.e. per Section 5). And the everyday is conditioned by (technologies of) hegemony, power & control, i.e. via weaving denial with care: Any interrogation of social norms or situations — of truth per se — then comes to confront realities of intergenerational propagation (per the previous entry), i.e. ideology. "Collective individuation" (pace Stiegler) thus follows an arc similar to that of "artistic" influence, including via ethnographic (& other) modes of rhetorical confusion, such that influence is rarely strictly filiated. (Intergenerational influence can involve various shifts in perspective through the years....) In that sense, technologies of care not only intertwine denial, but combine to produce a sort of immunology (or in internal-social terms, liturgy), incorporating historical trauma (again, perhaps in confused form...) into its nexus of denial & care. (Resulting "identities" are then subject to manipulation via — frequently exosomatic — rhetoric around care.) But what of this care, particularly pace the "garden" references from prior paragraphs here? Exploitation per se might even be figured as a kind of care, i.e. as "rational" care, but let's consider its less fungible modes, i.e. ongoing care or open-ended "investments." E.g. food production is a temporal mode of care (& potentially of exploitation), often requiring ongoing attention — in a sense, perhaps, paralleling a temporal art such as music. And certainly paralleling notions of generational influence. But care (& attention) is also being refigured "artistically" (usually per hegemony) according to various modes (or genres), two I'm continuing to interrogate being sports & comedy: One might observe that while the former (including pace Paragraph 9) involves a kind of bodily care, the latter registers a sort of "misalignment" in care. Such a "situation" then requires a sort of autotheory, i.e. forms of auto- or self-care, i.e. in order to locate oneself within ensuing fields of (social) tension, including as conditioned by (self-)denial & proliferating figurations of non-care. (One's self-perception thus already entails a nonlinear ecology. And "autotheory" has also been figured as basically feminist, i.e. as an aspect of situating per se....) Any sort of thinking-change then must confront this immunological nexus of care (& denial), not only according to notions of symmetry & beauty, but according to necessarily asymmetric embeddings, e.g. eating food. (Social mirroring generally proceeds according to relations of parity, but an ecology involves various spatial & temporal scales.) And "change" has been the focus here, including via a sort of critical medievalism, i.e. in order to frame modernity (temporally) as object of study, deriving a (retrospective) regime of care from decolonial aesthetics.... Moreover, especially pace DOE (as introduced in the previous Paragraph), how might such a nexus of care figure "freedom?" (One might figure first according to topologies of violence, and the basic distinction between freedom to exploit & freedom from exploitation....) Besides various limitations on power (as explored in DOE), premodern societies reflect greater attention to the body per se, i.e. individual bodily care (v. as landscape, pace Paragraph 8), but not necessarily individual voice: One finds a different sort of segmentation, such that e.g. racism comes to make sense only (as "system") according to modern imperialism, perhaps ramifying later according to indigenous autotheory.... Such a dynamic then reflects the transactional orientation of modernity-imperialism, i.e. versus traditional ecology & niche proliferation. (Segmentation is regularized according to the modern, profit-seeking typology.) And notions of quittance underlie this modern, transactional orientation, including via notions of irreversibility, but also (purportedly) by eliminating "tensions" of ongoing care. (And while modernity sees itself as emphasizing production, not without reason, it's also been operated in "foraging" mode at various points, i.e. by seizing goods — including environmental "goods" — of others. And the contemporary era continues to embed a significant degree of foraging as well, although differentially between populations, but also originating from within some very different social tiers.... "Care" can also come to be distinguishable from disdain only by perspective. After all, the Western history of "private property" is founded on the right to destroy....) Quittance thus figures the modern drive to move on to the next transaction, rather than to linger in an ongoing (perhaps tensional, "uncool") relation of care, but also serves to obscure real costs: While "economics" has largely been about rhetorical manipulation (i.e. in service of imperial hoarding), it would also be possible to figure such costs more accurately — but of course (obscuring &) externalizing costs is the central generator of profits. (One might also interrogate financialization per se according to its non-local orientation, basically figuring postimperial predation from that perspective....) As is, market prices end up with little relation to full or actual costs. And social reproduction is of course largely ignored, i.e. left to the individual worker to manage (i.e. as externality). However, social reproduction generally figures the temporalities of care (pace multiple ecological scales...), i.e. cultivation (including of the body...) per its embedding. Reproduction also encompasses far more than sex, but sex per se (including today as spectacle...) continues to interrogate quittance (v. ongoing care) as well, including via commercial prohibition. And sexual selection is thus very much a target of hegemony: Wealth is a primary vector (& contemporary theme for authority more generally...), but I've also continued to figure sports & comedy as a sort of warp & woof of contemporary (at least Western) social fabric (& its governmentality), the first directed toward a clear goal, the second transverse. (One might even regard comedy as a sort of suspension of care, but ultimately as interrogating & modulating care indirectly, i.e. transversally.) The resulting fabric might then be said to enmesh & figure (together) denial & care, including in close contact, e.g. via the simultaneous bodily glorification-denial of professional athletics. (Music might also be figured as diagonal through this fabric, or as another dimension, increasingly repetitive itself as commercial product....) Of course, reproduction figures filiation as well — & "family" propaganda is louder than ever (e.g. as motivation for unpaid labor) — simultaneously ramifying race. And then sports, especially via team affiliations, modulate attention & caring over time — indeed, there appears to be little "quittance" for sports fans! (They tend to remain very invested, including through adversity.) After all, games figure winning per se — including sexually. And while games do have an explicit goal, much manipulation around hegemony occurs at a subconscious level, i.e. incorporating denial: The goals & values involved aren't necessarily avowed (& "unconsidered" religion is always its most pernicious form...), slinking off into (non-)tradition per se.... But then care work continues to be undervalued in general, including per feminist norms (including of empowerment...), i.e. to be figured as an externality, if at all — often remaining (hierarchically) implicit, rather than being articulated specifically on its own. (One might also interrogate care work according to notions of undercommons. There's always e.g. a sense of operating, by necessity, under conditions of non-ownership. And today, probably some further sense of caring "in spite of....") Moreover, care work tends to figure basic (e.g. social) asymmetries, not only in terms of asymmetries in care between different people or groups, but according to frequently non-reciprocal relations of care itself: So once again, a figuration of Earth as garden, i.e. of human responsibility.... But human responsibility, in general, is also segmented (rhetorically) into various notions of difference, i.e. aligned schismogenetically & according to differing productions of cultural groups. (Such schismogenesis always includes a negative component, and so from an internal perspective, figures a social immunology — or liturgy.) So asymmetries of care penetrate the individual as well, e.g. denial also animating lapses in self-care.... (Of course, avowal of a hopeless situation, i.e. giving up, can also lead to various other negative behaviors....) One might consequently interrogate shifting topologies of care.... But what we clearly need are functional technologies of care, i.e. so as to overcome reductive, transactional figurations of attention (as economic). We need that attention, that care, toward what is actually important — & in an ongoing way. Indeed, in that sense, there's certainly no world labor surplus (as care per se needs to exceed production).

10 May 2022

12
"Liberal" continues to be a central term in US political debates — & much of this discussion will apply elsewhere, but the usage here also has its unique trajectory — particularly since its comingling (as epithet) with "leftist" under neoliberal fundamentalist (i.e. Reagan Revolution) rhetoric. (And note that rhetorical association of Democrats with communists was so explosive at the time that corporate media flipped its political reporting colors to compensate, yielding the now standard red for Republicans, the turn to populism from that corner likely remaining impossible without such a "color" change....) In that sense, "liberal" actually becomes an epithet for economic conservatism, pace neoliberal innovations, i.e. the traditional bourgeois philosophy of capitalism (with its slogan "laissez faire"), historically justifying itself according to prior social values: Liberal imperialism thus posited notions of "progress" & a general "civilizing mission" for itself, claiming its system would (eventually) improve everyone's lives.... Thus there's a universalizing component to liberalism (& its derivatives), a basic homogenizing of situations around the globe, including opening them to capitalist business enterprise. (This has long been a sort of deterritorialization — or one might say smoothing.) And such a universalizing attitude (as well as notions of "progress") are central to Marxism as well. But in that sense, liberals & their ideological successors have (usually by force) imposed their attitudes & situational conditions around the globe, continuing to push (for greater exploitation) today along the arc of neoliberalism, together with anti-federal resistance to boundaries (at least for capital). As capitalism, this generally involves privatizing, i.e. seizing resources for oneself, supported by official violence when needed (& then deriving concerns such as "privacy..."). Property relations that were originally derived (practically) from conditions of imperial exploitation (i.e. on foreign soil), thus turn to a rhetoric of progress (having already used a similar logic e.g. to justify slavery...). So in that sense, a "liberal" is only unacceptable to a neoliberal for not having gone far enough (in embracing economics over politics), i.e. in clinging to prior ideals (or at least rhetoric) of social value (which for the bourgeoisie, ironically include a lingering sense of human equality). That's why various commentators have come to describe neoliberalism as a sort of fundamentalism, i.e. as seeking to collapse all values into (fungible) money & quantification per se.... But then, via a peculiar trajectory of schismogenesis (at least in the US), aggressive neoliberal innovation in the economic realm was wedded politically to "conservative" social values: The key to understanding "liberal" as an active political term today, then, is to understand not only how prior (liberal economic) policy became too restrictive for endless (now globalized) demands to increase profits, but how the history of liberalism & its practical associations could be played rhetorically according to local resentments. In this, the neo-conservative movement (i.e. the wedding of extreme economic deregulation to a fantastical view of a nonexistent prehistory) is playing not only upon the "relative leftism" of US Democrats (i.e. of a group proffering a "safety net" within actually-existing rich-get-richer capitalism), but upon the universalizing history of liberalism per se. This registers in the social domain — often ignoring, of course, the growing economic exploitation (which is couched in simplistic logics) — precisely because liberalism was always imposed upon the rest of the world, i.e. didn't originate there. (And this proceeded in two stages for the US, the otherwise paradigmatic liberal nation, its colonial existence having maintained for around a century & a half, forging a preliminary fusion prior to establishing its independence through violence, and then quickly submitting much of the remainder of North America, likewise through violence.) In other words, although the frequent conflation of liberal with leftist (at least since Reagan) has been a rhetorical lie (& one that recent Democrats have sometimes even encouraged...), the notion that "liberals" have imposed their views on others is historically grounded. Indeed, I'll suggest that in parts of this country where indigenous biology continues to be most present, there also continues to be tremendous resentment. (And I'll emphasize that processes of schismogenesis may have twisted this genetic-political chain into various affine shapes, but the basic geographic contour is clear, even if the resentment is vague.) Turning to Stiegler's views on entropy & locality then, one can readily observe that not only does global smoothing efface local relations in terms of lowering energy efficiency & increasing planetary entropy, but in terms of psychic entropy as well: In both cases, we need (around the world!) local solutions to local problems, rather than a new imperialism imposing the next round of canned solutions from above. (And there is simply no escaping this fact politically. Unfortunately, matters of climate urgency also intervene in the patience that'd ordinarily be preferred....) However, what "conservative" (i.e. neoliberal) rhetoric offers instead is more aggressive rich-get-richer policies, including further opening of localities to globalized economic exploitation, while embracing a supposed social conservatism: But as DOE documents so well, not only did these sorts of Hobbesian (& Smithian) situations never really exist, but the US is in fact (pre)historical home to some of the most non-hierarchical human relations on the planet, consciously constructed to prevent anyone from dominating others. That's our history! (And with a lot of queer people too....) Instead, Republicans offer a new aristocracy, now based purely on economic hoarding (& so inherited wealth, etc.), but also something the US very explicitly (& seemingly epochally...) rebelled against not even 250 years ago! (And not only that, but they're leveraging the resentful attitudes of crypto-indigenous people, by which I mean "white people" with substantial indigenous biology but very little explicit culture, convincing them that a new sort of Old World feudalism is the only viable social organization that has ever existed! This assault on historical truth deeply offends me every day....) In other words, the trajectory of ideas matters, and even if a locality derives a very similar solution to another, it can still become "theirs," but it does need to feel as if it comes from them. (In a very basic sense, this is a matter of authority. Per liberal epistemology, it might even be considered a sort of scientific laboratory — but always local, each time.) And in that sense, although I simply can't describe people who've generally (schismogenetically...) come to despise conservation as "conservative," the notion that they're conserving their own power isn't so wrong. (For Stiegler, this becomes a matter of countering symbolic misery.) Unfortunately, the result has been demagoguery — especially as localities themselves become increasingly fantasmic around fabricated & illusory (pre)histories.... So liberal-as-epithet becomes a form of complaint, sublimated registering of historical relations, of having been subjugated, now feeling/being instead the bully in turn... i.e. feeling a wound, easily turning to lashing out when poked. (Schismogenesis relative to the dominant — if never by numbers! — liberal ideology then functions, especially with increasing media sophistication, to collapse what should be a varied local response into a unified anti-position, i.e. no limits on the rich! In that sense then, boundaries, i.e. defining localities per se, can be figured purely as loci for profit extraction. It's thus axiomatic under right-wing populism that e.g. labor not be allowed to cross borders.) Such a reemphasis on hierarchy & authority — via falsely claimed history — is then also reflected in increasing "family" rhetoric, and that goes for "classic" liberal messaging as well (despite e.g. superficially differing statements around patriarchy): Family is clearly becoming an overloaded construct, but also involves social constriction (pace e.g. the posited universal family of Christianity — a religion, by the way, that doesn't claim the world to be unchanging, indeed crucially so in its tale of the second coming...), i.e. a way for inherited wealth to forge an aristocracy, or simply the only option that someone has for material or therapeutic support. (In that sense, "family" can sometimes be seen to fuse with ongoing pan-liberal notions of "property," i.e. specifically as a sort of exclusion. And the more exclusive, the better?) Hence there's a refiguring of human responsibility underway, but also seemingly against the way such responsibility was figured by traditional Christianity — i.e. the religion supposedly defining "social conservatism" in the US context.... (This does come with a lot of other misleading noise about responsibility too.) There's also the broad contour of general reactions by conquered populations to relations of external authority (or occupation) that I've come to hear in this country as well (per e.g. a Sicilian paradigm): Law in general becomes someone else's law, replaced now by someone else's ghosts, even a yearning for a sort of transcendental position that was foreign to this continent, a king... whose historical role has (sometimes) been as the people's champion against the ordinary aristocracy. And yet more dualities. But the "melting pot" of the US (in contrast to the mestizaje of Mexico) became a rhetorical melting pot of various peoples (although mostly European) only meaningfully from the Old World, New World culture being increasingly suppressed (as e.g. the FDR administration was still innovating cultural genocide during my parents' early lives...), even though again (pace DOE), it's from the New that we've all learned our notion of "freedom." (And I feel the basic need to emphasize that it's "the moderns" who've proven, and thoroughly, that they don't know how to live on this planet! So it's completely unacceptable for them to be directing any further process, just in terms of track record.... Moreover, historical notions of quittance need to be interrogated more thoroughly according to a pharmacological approach, the renewed neoliberal emphasis on fungibility & quittance being clearly in the service of hierarchical exploitation as well....) And of course notions of "freedom" not only figure the word "liberal" (& variants), but continue to be an explicit rallying cry for (especially) the (crypto-indigenous) right — figured here, pace the previous entry (& per DOE) as freedom to exploit: There's then the liberal sense of "self" (as exploiter), shored up to some degree by neoliberal consumerism, but changing little in structure in the past few decades (but with more warning signs...), so buoyed by corporate marketing & propaganda, itself an increasingly fraught actor on the stage of "freedom...." Such an unwinding of collective individuation (again pace Stiegler) is then at stake in "local solutions to local problems," i.e. itself (potentially) an individuating nexus developing around practical art-as-work v. cog-like implementation of top-down ideas. (Part of the post-truth haze is also very simply about an unwillingness to discuss political goals explicitly. But easing notions of universality will also mean easing the modern quest for certainty, i.e. accepting constant nonequilibrium.... After all, at equilibrium, entropy can only increase — life itself indeed being a direct affront to entropy!) Any machinic unwinding then, if it's to limit the power anyone can have over anyone else, cannot involve concentrating institutional power either, particularly according to the current methods & concerns of technocracy, concentrated power per se (contra Hobbes) as ultimate target for elimination (rather, minimization or easing). But there's also a paradoxical democratization of knowledge underway, i.e. an overturning of ("scientific") epistemology & "expert culture" in general, i.e. where the propaganda-infused opinions of the public (supposedly) make (democratic) policy: The basic instrumentality of modern scientific epistemology, i.e. of reliably manipulating (physical) reality, thus turns toward a new-old instrumentality of declaring reality (i.e. in the "royal" mode), and so forcing those farther down the social hierarchy to bear the consequences. (The practical effect, as intended, is elevating wealth over knowledge per se as principle of authority. And ever steeper information asymmetries are generally leveraged for profit extractions too, as well as for other negotiations....) Registering a reduced quality of life then only makes many USAians angrier, anger & agitation fusing with further propaganda to support more extreme versions of the same disastrous approaches.... So in other words, the rhetorical-political use of "liberal" (as epithet) in this country sutures a couple of lies (i.e. about relation to current political rivals & about history) to a fundamental issue around decolonizing, further serving to obfuscate the latter, i.e. the need to make legible & so to embrace local (e.g. "locavore") solutions over modern-imperial fungibility & imposed universality.

23 August 2022

13
So after the previous, almost ecstatic offering (bordering again on autobiography — or the perverse identifications of colonialism...), during which I didn't turn (at least not explicitly via links) to my prior work, I want to take a moment to recap some thoughts on presence: The topic had already been the impetus for Paragraph 4 here, after I'd raised the prospect of "mastering the body via the virtual" the previous month, and so I dutifully coined "technologies of presence" as a developing set of means for interacting (e.g. via the internet) at a distance.... I'd also already noted that I'd basically been mocked for raising "presence" as a political issue, a very basic political issue about society & togetherness (& indeed ownership of oneself), and then went on (in a couple of subsequent paragraphs) to interrogate some prominent risks around being present. And I kept expecting more discussion of these issues elsewhere, e.g. seeking academic monographs on the topic. I was generally disappointed, though: So now it's time to attempt more urgently to articulate a politics of presence — over the next few paragraphs here. I'm consequently taking a bit of a "break" in this entry to summarize, reframe, and (re-)introduce: Religious inclinations had basically introduced the notion of presence to this space (& I not-so-humbly suggest that that entire discussion is more interesting than people seem to think it is...), largely as an artistic interrogation, but only in the middle of its final paragraph: There's then a single note [PL9n140] concerning presence, specifically around a notion of "presence economy" (from Steyerl) promising unmediated (artistic) communication, and I'd asked: What is this presence & what is its liturgy (i.e. its public ritual of social binding)? But Steyerl is also emphasizing a bringing to presence (via artistic relation), and not the (subconscious) latency of presence per se.... And then in the final section of Postmodern Aesthetics, I called for forging a different sort of contemporary presence (i.e. around new worlds...), with the bullet points calling further for "a general accounting for presence" & moreover noting that "presence & legibility remain ongoing interactions & involve (ontological) negotiations themselves." (However, Decolonizing technology didn't return explicitly to this topic, even if it alluded to it often via the noun-verb "present....") In that sense, presence can & has been figured always as co-presence, further as (background) figuration of collective individuation. "Presence with..." can then suggest the notion of foreground-background inversion, i.e. perspectives modulating legibility (& attention) per se. There's thus (also) a sort of spectrality to presence, concealment (perhaps) versus expression.... (In that sense, per Paragraph 8, presence can become appropriable in a similar way as landscape, suggesting a polarity-duality that nonetheless remains inadequate to this topic, specifically in evocations of co-presence, but that can also resonate in such a perspectival notion as undercommons — & indeed in the general hapticality, versus ocularcentrism, of everyday life. One might interrogate such a landscape via senses of the familiar too, of course, gestural irruptions presencing....) Virtuality then promises an augmentation of presence, i.e. an embrace of the non-local. Or does it involve more the dilution of presence per se, i.e. as inherently local? One might take a specifically phenomenal approach to such a question, especially via object relations, such that virtuality comes to involve a layering of presence, i.e. adding object relations. ("Dilution" per se might then be figured via attention economy....) But pace Stiegler & the prior entry, "locality" is critical to respecting (& restraining) entropy relations, i.e. as basic (haptic) orientation only seeming to be undermined by virtual layering (presumptively from elsewhere): Can virtual orientations possibly be layered so as to reduce entropy generation? Can more mean less? (I don't believe this to be impossible, but it must be considered very carefully....) Of course, various technologies of presence have long existed, i.e. allowing communication at a distance, e.g. acousmatic music out of sight or a circulating royal decree.... Religion & liturgy might even be said to revel in virtuality, and likewise promise an augmentation of presence. (And so one might speak also of liturgical technologies, including as basically technologies of presence....) But what of layering? Multiple co-presences? (A vague multiplicity does make sense to the subconscious mind....) Also the layering of figurations: Today's virtual wants already to tell us what it means, before we ever perceive it. (And in that sense, e.g. notions of immediacy & alienation are also constructed.) There're also the increasingly developing negative (technological) expectations, i.e. the sense that online space is likely to be hostile in one or more ways (including by being saturated with untruth). For Berlant then — who offers perhaps the most similar sweep to what I'm about to articulate here, although via very different style & means... — such a sense enfolds a "nonsovereign relationality" as "sensual ordinary of the world" (not unlike Stiegler's "symbolic misery..."), such that (sometimes overbearing) presence (including of oneself) must be made endurable. (One might thus suggest yet another nexus between technologies of self & governmentality....) Such affective contours & orientations then figure a nexus of consciousness & presence as well... i.e. figure a sort of (collective) consistency to the subject itself, perhaps (or rather, prospectively). And Paragraph 11 had already figured (& reprised) music — via care — as a sort of diagonal through an everyday sports-comedy social fabric of sexual presence, so I intend further to disarticulate that nexus of (especially American) presence in the next few entries, beginning with interrogation of the ongoing centrality of sexuality to human (political) presence.... In that sense, as patriarchy renders women as figures of "sex" per se, notions of embeddedness (e.g. pace PA here) come to suggest a specifically feminine presence as well, perhaps figuring (some notions of) authority (pace CA), but also as fantastical "mother nature" etc. (This is also the repressed authority of patriarchal modernity.) So virtuality can only multiply embeddedness, or to align my language more with (still trendy!) quantum physics, "entanglements" (which suggest a somewhat different, but certainly relational, valence...). That's mostly been about generating more noise (e.g. so as to dodge responsibilities, as usual).

28 November 2022

14
And then, not to undertake a full discussion (or even a full recap...) of thoughts on sex, or sexual presence, but to locate its ongoing centrality, particularly for increased hierarchical (i.e. fascist) control: Psychoanalytic theory has centered sexual drives & their repression in human behavior, such that sexual desire comes (subconsciously) to figure the (vague) "other" in general, and thus co-presence per se. (And advertisers have indeed seized upon Freud's work since WWII, continuing to innovate....) The explosion of pornography on the internet then intensifies the basic engine of titillation-without-satisfaction (turning toward frustrated masturbation, perhaps...), i.e. brings a further sort of cleavage into sexual experience, i.e. the simultaneous closeness of images & distance of an actual human body. (Per Paragraph 6, technological voyeurism also raises new questions of ownership, e.g. of "stealing" sex.... There's also the ongoing, basic removal of senses of ritual from social interactions — & not ritual per se, but senses of it.) So psychoanalysis interrogates the field of sexual tensions in which we live, and that field is now taking on more (virtual) layers. And while various practices of psychoanalysis seem only to underscore heteronormativity (i.e. sexual conformity per se), early Freudian practice actually emphasizes the "open" quality of sexual desire (& hence of sexual expression). Virtualization of sex can even be read as another sort of queering, i.e. as changing the (presumptive) structure of satisfaction — to the extent that satisfaction is ever actually involved (i.e. at least as horizon). Hence e.g. queer theory continues to ask "What is sex?" In some sense then, physical sexual mechanics per se are only artifacts of fields of desire, and pace Paragraph 11, sexual desire & so sexual selection become targets of hegemony, such that everyday interweaving of denial & care produce a sort of hegemonic sexual immunology. (The modern nexus of titillation had already avoided talking about sex & the body — i.e. as repressed "nature.") And the immune system is an apt metaphor, not only because of constant talk of (medical) infection, but because of increasing "silo"-ing of the public by the contemporary neoliberal (tending toward fascism...) moment: Actual sexual satisfaction has little to do with keeping populations under control today, the goal being more to maintain tensions while sublimating desire. The figure of the "incel" (the straight "involuntary" celibate male — who then decides to hate women) becomes the exemplary citizen for the new right-wing order, suppression (amid steepening hierarchy...) yielding antisocial violence, and (crucially) not against the patriarchs seeking to eliminate sexual satisfaction from the exploited classes, but against women & the abject in general. Sexual repression thus figures specifically a bully mentality, i.e. "downward" flow of violence.... (Gender difference also continues to drive a sort of schismogenesis for the right: It's another way to divide. Note, however, that the current attitude toward sexual satisfaction among the demos differs markedly from that of the previous, specifically "modern" drive to increase the species, i.e. as biologism-labor.) Further, augmented surveillance technologies suggest the "opportunity" to monitor (& so to proscribe) everyday sexuality like never before, and under patriarchy, women are obviously the primary target: Concepts of contemporary authority had already noted sexuality as a kind of authority (which, under patriarchy, is located with women — i.e. as something to be taken back), i.e. yielding a sort of control, usually observed today more in the realm of celebrity (i.e. personal charisma & beauty), but also continuing to figure the family per se as a kind of joint territory (of sexual authority). Our patriarchal society also refuses to allow a straight conversion of sexual attractiveness into wealth (unless e.g. one is being paid to look sexy in an ad for something else...), but then "good sex" also continues to be figured more in the realm of images than by comparing actual haptic sensations.... As a form of authority then, contemporary sex is seen to figure "winning" & so is highly conditioned by ocularcentric, i.e. distance-based notions of sexual attractiveness. Of course, such a detour through expectations & social-acclaim-as-proxy-for-enjoyment only underscores (psychoanalytically) that sexual satisfaction always already involves (psychic) ambivalence, even an element of impossibility.... "Pleasure is never obvious" in the first place, and so the contemporary right seeks to exploit that disjuncture: Queer theory has even noted a generalized hatred of sex, linking it structurally both to self-hatred & to hatred of democracy. (It's even remarked that all panic is actually sex panic, and some have posited that the fight-or-flight reflex should really be figured as a fight-flight-fuck response....) The open quality of sex (following the lack of negation in the unconscious...) as noted, is then the primary driver not only of everyone's internal "hatred" of sex, but of specifically fascist hatred of sex: Sex crosses all boundaries. (Pace my earlier remarks on borderline personality [HR], e.g. Berardi now fears a sort of general sexual autism arising.... This is the limit case of silo-ing.) E.g. PL10 had already noted that sex continues to posit & provoke a sort of anti-technology (or anti-typology), and such a tendency does sound alarms for both the (hierarchical) coherence of the (liberal) self & for neoliberal governance. Basically it's the transverse, border-crossing qualities of sexual desire that make it a problem for fascist rigidity. (And again pace [CA], unlike violence, sex need not invoke hierarchy. However, sexual violence is also common, i.e. so as regularly to reassert hierarchy....) Homologies between sex & capitalism then follow easily, not only around "screwing someone" (as both can also certainly involve deterritorialization...), but more specifically in terms of quittance, i.e. in opposition to (ongoing) care. And as sex per se is located (typologically) with women, that's also been figured (at least by feminists) as (responsibility for) "reproduction" more broadly, i.e. as social reproduction (or technologies of care...), or even as the reproduction of the Earth in general. (And moving beyond humanity, even more asymmetric than gender is eating itself... the point being that a simplistic sense of egalitarian satisfaction never actually applies to living, or not for long. Typologies are, in some ways, unavoidable.) It's also come to revolve substantially around clothing (as technology, but more specifically as grammatization of presence...), again interrogated & contested e.g. by queering.... (Of course, "fashion" has long embedded a basic hatred for the feminine form: It's exploiting another sort of cleavage in sexual desire, conjuring the unfeminine-unreal hence hyper-feminine woman....) "Family" is of course (increasingly!) the basic scene (or territory or locus...) of social reproduction & its negotiations, but also figures another kind of (hierarchical, reified) silo, i.e. according to notions of following an orderly (biologistic) tree-like grammar. (And silo-ing is about having no messy messages from elsewhere: One's views should always be confirmed.) Such a grammar has also been figured by religion, "morality" (contra theology, pace PL9) figuring liturgical control, religion (as social binding) always already as the scene of sexual & reproductive contestation. (And under neoliberalism, sexual "binding" comes to involve hoarding sex as well.) Yet we're also experiencing a changing of the public-private nexus, particularly around virtuality, and hence of the scene of (public) religion. (And sexual expression has indeed been its own liturgy, at least in other times & places....) Moreover, despite that the commodification of sex still resists direct commercial transactions (of other than images...), pornography does figure a spectacle of images, such that it reveals further the structure of the commodity itself, i.e. as addiction (pace e.g. Jameson): A changing (contemporary, beyond simply the pandemic...) presence of death, as noted by increasingly many commentators, also follows in the wake of this sort of narcotic field of tension (including as extension of the basic modern suppression of Fortune... & into the sexual eugenics that continues to haunt the contemporary moment [CA]). Law is then a kind of articulation of presence (& its own ritual...), i.e. the articulation of a state of fact (pace Stiegler — & maybe also the presence of articulation...), linked itself (historically) to religion (as social binding): Universalizing (i.e. imperial) law then mixes with a more transient close-to-the-body (i.e. prior to the new surveillance regime...) sense of law that lingers beneath neoliberal (becoming fascist, hinging on "quantity...") hegemony (& still beneath imperial patriarchy per se), the movements of persons coming to enact their own anti-typological (i.e. sexual) field, i.e. forging another nexus of body-law (especially involving sexual panic). In other words, the messy anti-typological movement of persons raises further fears of an increasingly messy & anti-typological sex (which, in turn, leverage inherent hatred of sex-self-democracy). And to be clear, this situation is not fully addressable via "sex positivity" — even as sexual activity does involve unique potential to de-silo. There's (always) still (unresolvable) tension, i.e. a (sexually multiple & open...) field of presence.

30 November 2022

15
Continuing to focus on presence, now moving toward the heart of the broader project here, music sculpts phenomenological time, i.e. as projection of (sonic) presence. Music might further be said to figure temporal legibility — although PL8 connects only via such notions as "touching" qualities (so as to facilitate their interrogation), treating presence per se silently (or rather, as liminal spectrality...) — & so figures attention or even embeddedness-entanglement as well. (One might even conjure the subconscious here, pace the introductions of Paragraph 13, itself also formatted as a language... but beneath language, perhaps, or as a partial reflection of practical language per se.) Musical presence thus comes to figure (situational) affectivity in general. Moreover, PL9 introduces presence as an answer to the broad (practical) question "For what might one listen?" — & so music already as interrogation of presence (pace even a notion of "presence economy" — & a tracing of liturgical relation [PL9n140]). The nexus between music & religion then figures e.g. (originally) the acousmatic, i.e. sound unseen (i.e. as only partially present...) — as well as traces (at least historical) sexual sublimation. In a sense, acousmatics then figures "presence" per se, particularly as the voice itself (as emanating from inside the body...) remains similarly (at least in some sense) obscured. Postmodern Aesthetics thus raises a "contemporary pharmacology of music" (in Section 3A), e.g. notions of weapon versus palliative, as well as implicated sexual tendencies.... And then PL10 continued to note musical ubiquity amid cultural hegemony (e.g. tonality as technology [PL10n156]), even raising issues around "ownership" of time (as "performative togetherness," i.e. liturgy) — as well as, as a sort of musical-social immunology (pace Paragraph 11). So these preliminary investigations of presence come to revolve around the body, but also (sometimes) present music as central to a more general phenomenological inquiry (as the development of recorded music did apparently spur that very field...), including via the "avant garde" & technological novelty. (I consequently wrote a Thirty years on the web essay recently, reflecting in part on such a becoming-multimedia....) And the body does figure a kind of presence by itself, but also via its embeddings, i.e. its rhythms (including its labor): Musically, rhythmic motion can then figure an alternation, i.e. sound versus silence or stillness per se — the latter raising a sort of presence itself. The nexus of music & bodily rhythm then figures dance (as "music embraces bodily relation" [WF]), itself enacting a pharmacology of sublimation, including broad figurations of sexual activity: Notions of "making beautiful music together" date to a previous era, but popular music continues to project a strong sexual vibe (largely becoming "about" a sexual presence... which is evoked in sound, but also portrayed via (virtual) physical presence), to the point that one might even ask (by way of evaluating, i.e. aesthetically): Did the music lead to sex? (E.g. I recently read that "jazz is sex." The remark is surely racialized, yet there's also a real sense of freedom & boundary crossing....) Of course, music does figure sublimation as well — and the "excess" of sex (always) comes to exceed rhythm per se, i.e. forges a kind of nexus with generalized (becoming) speed.... (And whose notion of "success" does the question address anyway? Titillation alone is the marketing goal....) Such investigations often figure more conscious senses of music, but notions of ambience — & so "ambient music" — also figure embeddedness more broadly (& so rely on the attraction of familiarity in this domain, versus e.g. jokes or competitions, where novelty is usually required for satisfactory entertainment...). As noted then, music — as technology — is ubiquitous today, and regardless of the situation (work, shopping, accompanying other sorts of imagery...), typically projects support for the hegemonic. (So one can speak directly of mining historical sediments, pace Koselleck. Or pace Hartog, of media per se becoming presentist, thus yielding a thickening of the present [CH].) Such thickening also implies an increasing politics of speed, i.e. intensified textures of presence. Such intensities also lead into silo-ing (pace Paragraph 14), both intentionally (from above) & as panic reaction, and so involve a basic contemporary reconfiguration of co-presence. (One might even figure a sort of alternative "promiscuity" of musical taste, i.e. averse-transverse to fascist typological genre, i.e. the latter urge to destroy whatever one doesn't understand....) So ubiquitous (ambient) music also refigures the nexus between private & public space, i.e. the indoor & outdoor of sound (paralleling, perhaps, indoor & outdoor sex?), or the liturgical per se. It also figures the spectator, i.e. as non-creator, "soundtracks" as basic public (affective) synchronization, whether in the theater, at a sporting event, the mall, etc. (This was already virtualization....) Ubiquitous media presence also forges conflicts in/over public space, i.e. when various private spaces collide, figuring noise.... However, "noise" also raises a basic pharmacology: Does "dissonance" spur change? Or does constant noise make cooperation impossible (thus buoying a "might makes right" approach)? Today's fascists are obviously confident that, at least past a threshold, the second condition will prevail. (Hating noise thus becomes much like hating democracy, so in turn, much like hating sex....) Of course, life itself does have its consonances & dissonances, such that (at least some) noise is inevitable (as are the "excesses" of democracy...), but there're still questions of attention & focus (i.e. of how one responds to trolling...). Collective individuation hangs in the balance, though, something I might even figure (rather idiosyncratically) according to horizontal (individual) or vertical (collective) issues of musical tuning & consonance per se (reflecting also that musical groups involve non-unitary modes of being [PL7n103]), not unlike familiarity (& so inertia) presenting its own pharmacology (pace e.g. [PL10n116]). So if we must bring other worlds to presence, or forge different sorts of presences, music is indeed useful for presenting (& tracing, per [PA/3B]...), but note e.g. that there's no (overall) soundtrack to the internet (versus the situated non-virtual). There're instead (a few) technologies of hoarding ([PL10n115]), themselves binding "stockpiles" (as technical reifications, pace modernity) — or one might say monopolies (or even "familiarities" per se). There're also proliferating urges toward mastery, i.e. reprises for the modern (security) fantasy ([RF]), including sexually. But then, there's definitely no perfect music (although there's always, potentially, new music, i.e. movement forward, the next tracing of relation...). I suppose that's unsatisfying.

7 December 2022

16
Turning further now to "articulate a politics of presence" after a year-end break (& so with some loss of continuity from Paragraph 13), technologies of presence (fundamentally) yield technologies of governmentality, including via sexual sublimation. It's thus surprising that such a ubiquitous contemporary (governmental) technique as "sports" receives so little theoretical attention from the left. I've consequently returned to the topic repeatedly, particularly as sports presents perhaps the most dynamic scene of public bonding — i.e. liturgy — in contemporary American life. (Of course, many people do also try to avoid it.) Sports are thus a significant & ascending vector for collective individuation in general, especially as (neoliberal...) technologies of competition. And they are "personal" (at least for the participants) in the sense that winners & losers are identified individually (i.e. contra what can be the more transverse-collective motions of comedy...). But not nearly everyone participates directly, so focusing on the straight-ahead (persistently goal oriented, stratifying...) aspect of sports implies various (virtual) layers of presence in turn, such that sports can present more broadly as a sort of reality theater. (And note that "reality television" often does take on the character of sports, i.e. with specific rules, winners & losers.) Indeed the theatricality of sports — including e.g. its sense of tragedy, or even comedy — is ultimately the major selling point among spectators, such that attention to sports also yields to a generalized scene of celebrity (& charisma), sports (& comedy) simply becoming different, but increasingly overlapping, performance venues or stages. Virtualization of experience is increasing as well then, meaning quasi-ubiquitous attention to celebrity etc., yielding strongly contoured everyday personality sculpting.... And such contours have seemed especially potent in the Americas, which didn't appear to know theater quite in the hoary Greek sense, but did connect a sense of the sacred to ritual reenactments, including competition in ball games. (There's thus already a history of ritual signification alongside any notion of "entertainment" per se. However, due to lack of study elsewhere, I'm unclear on these historical dynamics for the world more generally....) So virtuality has long presented its own play of truth, including in the play of children (& animals). Yet this notion of "brother-in-law competition" does permeate American anthropology, e.g. as broached in Affine resonance, already as modulation of violence per se. (But now sports are being used in the West to cultivate violence in women....) Pace the current context then, I also noted there the increasingly minor difference between a public security & a sporting bet ([PL7n78]), suggesting even that "the need to gamble produced sports" ([PL7n79]) & that "spectator sports are basically pornographic" ([PL7n75]). Meanwhile, What is familiar? had already interrogated the notion of sports as bodily bonding (pace sex, heteronormativity...), the "artificiality of the sports world" being presented as an economist's dream laboratory, including its nexus with public performance & spectacle.... But there was almost nothing there on dance (& not really until Chapter IV), although it's implicated by "music embraces bodily relation" — pace notions of Fordism, which are then raised (again, but not by name, in PL10n151) around repetitive motion (& injury), e.g. versus creative expression (& related goals of bodily health). I then presented some more substantial thoughts — also oriented on governmentality — in Intersections of art & control, noting new forms of celebrity & the increasing aestheticization of violence (including via inescapable yet fake competitions — surely a neoliberal masturbatory fantasy), passive spectatorship & (tribal) sexual selection moreover figuring an ambivalent work-play dual. (Such a dual does continue to figure notions of use. And sports continues to underscore that economic compensation only rarely corresponds with usefulness, at least in any basic sense.) It's also noted there that sports even tends to forge its own body of law, such that the truisms of sports can emerge further into contouring everyday life (& so collective individuation), especially via their "leagues" (i.e. governing bodies, usually hierarchical...), themselves a "primary colonizing technology" (pace Paragraph 9, which also broaches the marginalization of bodily intelligence, pace "topologies of violence" & deprecated care work...). Sports thus reconfigures labor-time (& e.g. is ambivalent toward individual health), and not only notions of "winning" per se (pace Paragraph 11), but quittance as well: Sports fandom might well demand more loyalty than most personal relations (including suggesting proxies for quasi-imperial conquest, even feudalism). Indeed sports relationality is quite broad, perhaps extending into (& ramifying) even the artistic, and certainly into "memorabilia," a booming industry for hoarders. I've also felt a special nexus with sports journalism, not just in the sense that most political topics wind their way through sports (somehow anyway, often with no clarity...), but since the games themselves — the basic objects of inquiry — are already open to public scrutiny (unlike e.g. business dealings). There's thus an available sense of evaluating journalists (or journalism per se), pace of course the commercialism... such that "American" games are now prototypically games for money (as is music, but not quite yet sex...). Fandom reinforces a sort of "silo" as well (pace sexual silo-ing), increasingly often involving less sportsmanship than e.g. between the participants themselves, totemic (& now "brand") associations taking on broad meaning (such that brands themselves might be criticized for their specific imagery...). Sports analytics also continue to forge the "economist's dream," with winning-oriented "salary cap" spending dutifully yielding a supposedly ideal mix of stratospheric superstar compensation with minimum wages filling out most roster slots.... Competition is definitely about allocation there too (& outcomes & calculation per se) — but about sex as well: Notions of "sexual winning" also extend beyond participants, i.e. virtualize themselves (e.g. through fandom — but also purely through gambling), now ramified by various online & virtualizing "gaming (i.e. sporting) platforms." (These also forge a somewhat different virtual nexus between spectator-user & creator-performer.... Note that it's also quite possible to injure oneself at the computer.... And that this kind of virtualization presents new & different forms of silo-ing, particularly by removing physical bonding between competitors....) So sports permeates more milieus, including via refiguring economic platforms, i.e. becomes increasingly spectral (to go along with spectacular...). Contextualizing this activity, i.e. framing "winning" (& bullying), i.e. as e.g. leagues again, then explicitly reasserts governmental technology (& usually mining for profits...) along new virtual planes & layers. It's usually worth asking then: "Who is actually creating what?" (I mean, at a basic level, there's nothing wrong with finding out who runs faster, etc.: Beneath the hegemonic leagues & institutions lies ordinary human curiosity & behavior.... Rather, it's specifically the valuation that's become increasing externalized, i.e. as wedded to the governmental per se.) And so what really is present?

3 February 2023

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