Jazz Thoughts

Practical listening

What is our first experience of listening? Does it not emerge from our first experiences of being heard? Mutuality thus drives not only self-formation, but both expression & perception: We learn to listen through being heard, including to listen to ourselves.[1] (And without ever being heard, we will surely die.[2]) Yet we likely remember none of this process, occurring as it did both prior to & as generator of consciousness. I ask the reader to keep this primal scene of listening [4], a scene that cannot possibly originate with our own listening, in mind for what follows: By the time we are listening, we have already posited & received social interaction & feedback.[6]

To what do I listen & why? Having emerged from the primal scene, listening exceeds hearing [7], while the interpellation of consciousness is still not reducible to the nexus between ear & sound [8,9]: Our first experience of listening does not distinguish hearing from sensation more generally.[10] Yet, listening has a special association with empirical observation [11], at least of the self [12], and moreover with sensory mediation [13] — consciousness of & beyond sensation. (This is our topic.) One might listen to nothing in particular, only to discover an object — or not.[14] One might learn (a) language.[15] However, in the murky constitution of the scene, let's recall not only that it begins without our consciousness, but that it involves the intimate attention of another: Even as we are constituted through listening, listening can never be fully conscious of itself.[16] (One might consider consciousness to be only a limited instance, or particular crystallization, of broader affective circulation.[17]) We do not know everything to which we listen, and we can never offer a final why.[18] The scene is always already too immersive & too immersed [19] for easy answers.

  1. One might recapture a feeling of rapture with pure sensation via various "sensory deprivation" apparatuses, for instance. (Canonical for the present remark are echo & anechoic chambers.) One might even continue to vocalize to oneself, for various reasons, as small children (& e.g. bats) do.

  2. For the purposes of this article, listening will refer specifically to the perception of sound, but also sometimes to the general process of perception. So for the current example, whereas hearing a newborn cry is the usual reference for e.g. feeding, mothers [3] need not literally be able to hear in order to perceive that need. My intention is to retain this tension, between the auditory more specifically & perception more generally, throughout the present article.

  3. I don't want to dwell on motherhood here, particularly since my experience of motherhood is only secondhand. Indeed, for that reason, my choice to emphasize this scene might be a dubious one. However, this is where we all start, even as some of us might later become mothers, and thus go on to have a more intimate relation to others' primal scenes.

  4. The notion of a "primal scene" originated (in classic psychoanalysis) specifically in reference to (childhood perceptions of) sex, but has already been generalized by e.g. literary theory to describe other prior experiences that infuse or overflow subsequent perception or expression. In this case, a primal scene of listening (to the extent that it can actually be identified) would potentially intertwine a primal scene of witnessing sexual activity (which is likely similarly indeterminate). Temporal priority, if one feels compelled to assign it, would be dependent (among other things) on where one figures birth itself [5] relative to these tropes. However, any reification of temporality within this context can be misleading: In a sense, the scene, no matter how one configures it (retrospectively), is always prior, but the (multiple?) prior scenes cannot be put into temporal relation (at least not by our subsequent consciousness).

  5. Considering perception prior to birth entangles us with another's perception even more thoroughly, thus underscoring the force of sociality & mutuality. (Considering birth as other than a strictly binary event, i.e. as the specific moment of individuation, has proven difficult for liberal governmentality due at least in part to its figuration of subjectivity per se. Problematizing consciousness always problematizes the liberal subject.) When might we be said to be listening? Who decides?

  6. Simply put, listening never came first. It is & was always a reversal, a component of the broad circulation of social hapticality. (Harney & Moten suggest that you develop "a feel for feeling others feeling you." Here, one might want to rephrase in terms of hearing....)

  7. In other words, listening requires hearing (i.e. sensation), but is not reducible to hearing. (Unless one wants to speak of listening in its guise as a more general process... in which case, it does not require hearing per se.)

  8. In other words, consciousness is also interpellated via mediation of other sorts of sensation. It is often said that vision is primary for the Western subject (i.e. it is ocularcentric). However, as "sound studies" has come to argue, one cannot really speak of interpellation via the eye alone, either. (As suggested already in [2], people who cannot see — or hear — have indeed been interpellated as Western subjects too.)

  9. If both the ear & sound are objects, then both listening & hearing are constituted as relations via their nexus, i.e. from the middle. (One can make similar statements about the eye & light, seeing, etc.) Consciousness then becomes about such relations.

  10. We are only subsequently taught to distinguish the senses. Hence, their separation must remain in tension for the present inquiry (as also suggested already by [2]).

  11. One might be urged to look carefully too, beyond merely seeing.... (One might also be asked to be consistent, to deny the fractures of the subject itself....)

  12. We are urged, for instance, to listen — specifically — to our own consciences. (We do & shall uncover many more ways to mediate selves via listening.)

  13. One might view sensory mediation as familiarizing. (From this perspective, the immediate is the unfamiliar, the unexpected. Where is the unfamiliar in our primal scene? It is always lurking.) In the sense of [9], mediation becomes a relation of consciousness.

  14. To listen is both a transitive & an intransitive verb. (In the present article, we will be particularly interested in moments when this duality is problematized — beginning already with the primal scene, where the object itself emerges.)

  15. To further note the obvious: Listening, at least in the general sense of processing perception, is necessary for learning language itself. It constitutes us ideologically as well.

  16. Elsewhere, particularly in Fortune is real, I discuss this "chasing the past" notion according to chains of meaning: We can trace & interrogate in various ways, but we can never stand at the beginning of the chain(s).

  17. So I engage, once again, with distributed subjectivity. (Of how much of our own affective interpellation are we aware at any particular moment? To what are we actually paying attention? To what are we prepared to pay attention?)

  18. Let us resist the various, sometimes subtle attempts to posit a "first cause," let alone a final cause, for listening.

  19. If (per [5]) we consider our origins in the (a) womb, the immersion is quite literal.

A. Attention economy

I hesitate to adopt the term "attention economy," because of both its wider associations [1], and its specific invocation of economy: The former are typically premised on automatic conceptions of the latter.[2] However, I want to consider an economy quite generally as a system [3] of circulation & allocation, in this case for attention.[4] Let's not assume that it "must" function in any particular way.

Whereas one might (ultimately) want to address the global economy, in principle, an attention economy can be traced relative to any body.[5] Regarding the human body, one might consider the allocation of attention across sense modalities [6], or according to subject-object duality [7]: We listen, whereas the object produces sound; we might close our eyes, so as e.g. to listen more intently.[8] Indeed, we ignore much, if not most, sensation as irrelevant: Such filters are learned, and so the attention economy of the body is (at least partly) constituted from outside.[9] (An analysis of any bodily economy needs to consider flows into & out of that body.) Such filters also suggest a surplus of sensation over perception: The sensed is rendered sensible according to (learned, symbolic [11]) mediation.[12] How & to what degree might we be able to choose where our attention is directed? Can we produce more?[13]

The notion of an attention economy arose in response to that of an information economy, the latter figured as a new arena for capitalist profit: One sells not goods, not services, but information. If information is no longer scarce [14], attention has become so in turn [15], and is increasingly commoditized: Perhaps commoditization of attention is most apparent in, say, an entertainment budget [17], but here we can think of attention itself as generally having value.[18,19] Such (scarce) attention is increasingly folded into allocation games by other consciousness.[20,21] One might then explore the quality of attention [22]: Does it erode amidst demands for quantity?[23] Again, to what are we prepared to pay attention? How much & what kind?

  1. There is even a Wikipedia page for "attention economy," where one can learn e.g. that the term has been "adopted by business strategists."

  2. Once again, I propose not to take the domain of classical economics seriously, at least not on its face: The entire discipline was developed as an apology (and not a very good one) for imperialism. (The resulting killing & destruction are quite serious, however.)

  3. Such a system might be "merely" emergent, i.e. not teleological. Specifically in this case, we should not assume that attention is always allocated consciously. Such a "system" names circulation & allocation as a whole, i.e. macroscopically, and without suggesting how they form or function. (Perhaps, rather than an economy, we could speak of the superset of all relations of attention, including relations among those relations, etc.)

  4. Attention can be figured as affective. I.e., affects are forms of attention.

  5. Perhaps it would be preferable to speak of attention ecologies, rather than economies. (The relevant concept of "body" can thus be quite general.)

  6. According to Marx via Sterne, the history of society is the history of the senses.

  7. Subject-object duality is traced fairly clearly by listening-hearing. Listening might then be figured as subjective withdrawal. In contrast, vision is still figured as objective. In other words, the eye goes to the object, whereas the object comes to the ear. (These contrasting "motions" serve to obscure the sometimes subtle nexus between subject & object, and especially the emergent relations of sensing & perceiving, by granting some relations a priori hegemony.)

  8. Lacking a similar mechanism for closing our ears has been figured as lending a greater immediacy or immanence to hearing. (Listening is thus figured as immersive, in keeping with the ecological evocation of [5].) E.g. Adorno has described the ear as correspondingly "less adaptable" than the eye, apparently as a concession to ocularcentric historical discourse.

  9. Learning to filter sensation can occur with different levels of consciousness, whether on our own part [10], or on the part of others. In other words, we might explicitly choose to learn to structure our perceptions, or such engagement might be partially conscious, or not conscious at all. Likewise, those creating objects of sensation — marketers & propagandists in particular, but also artists — might consciously attempt to reconfigure or circumvent our filters. Or sensations from elsewhere might impinge upon us with no particular intent, or an intent attenuated by having passed through various other bodies or systems, etc. (So do we listen for or with intent? When?)

  10. Per the primal scene, we are never really able to separate "our own part" anyway.

  11. My context is the regimes closely associated with modernism. (Different forms of mediation might be posited according to the anthropological literature.)

  12. In other words, sensation becomes familiar.

  13. Once again, I reference Stiegler's demand for participation in symbol creation. (The more general topic of demands for participation will be the subject of a later section.)

  14. One might praise or blame, depending on one's orientation of the moment, the internet for having rendered information non-scarce. (Internet thus becomes the ultimate model of media & mediation — at least for the trendy thinking of today.)

  15. This notion is credited to Herbert A. Simon, who noticed that information is so available & voluminous today [16] that the attention needed for consuming it has become the scarce component. One can then reasonably ask if indeed it is information being consumed (in the traditional economic sense), or if it is attention being consumed by information. We posit that both are produced (i.e. that there are relations of production in both domains).

  16. Whereas an increase in the quantity of information, if we want to call it "information," is obvious enough in the domains of marketing & propaganda, we have always been filtering sensation. Sensation has always exceeded attention in this sense. (Hence, whereas the "attention" concept is new for economics, it is not new for such philosophy as phenomenology, etc.)

  17. Let us not immediately normalize the notion of allocating resources in order to be "entertained" either, ubiquitous though it may be (at least in our "interior," pace [11]). Who is getting what? Who or what is being interpellated? (I.e., what is the entire ecology?)

  18. Despite the obvious value that capitalist (and various propaganda) enterprises place on consumer attention, consumers often appear to operate as if they place no value on their own attention. (For example, they show little or no resistance to increasingly ubiquitous marketing that demands their attention in more places & in more moments. Or if they do, they rarely demand explicit compensation in turn.)

  19. To say that attention has value is not to say that it is the only value. (I add this caution against a new fundamentalism: Economics has long been susceptible to essentialism of this sort, beginning with the concerns of [2].) Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that attention is implicated in concepts of value.

  20. How much explicit consideration does the average person put into deciding where their attention goes, versus how many resources are allocated by other entities toward the goal of capturing that attention? (Within the current conjuncture, it would appear that such an imbalance can be rectified only via regulatory mechanisms, which have been very slow to develop. The latter is true in large part because the liberal subject has been constructed so as to believe itself difficult or even impossible to manipulate.)

  21. Note that costs of information & attention can be (and increasingly have been) figured mathematically into game theory. Such costs can even be placed explicitly in tension by "moves calculated to win the game."

  22. Per [4], affective response is one way to consider quality of attention. In other words, what does the relation of attention (per the parenthetical remark of [3]) actually assemble in specific instances?

  23. The spectacle might be figured as the limit case for high-quantity, low-quality attention. (How does it relate to pervasive narrative under this limit? Does it actually need to make sense?)

B. Basic exchange?

I've posited that attention circulates & is allocated, so is it exchanged? Do we pay with it?[1] Is attention consumed or does it persist? One's attention might dissipate in flights of boredom, be intensified by attending itself [2], or circulate in less straightforward fashion. Although more challenging to trace, it is the latter that concerns us in an attention economy. We can note, for instance, that although there might be no conscious trace of our prior attention, we carry its effects in our current knowledge & interests.[3] Moreover, our attention may be transferred to another body [4,5], and so circulate beyond our own personal economy [6] — perhaps returning to us in another form, even to provoke more attention. If attention can dissipate, how is it produced? Much like familiarity, attention can arise from prior attention, but beyond any notion of "conservation of attention," it can also be produced otherwise: The unfamiliar might suddenly impinge upon us. If we pay with attention, gaining more might be figured as a gift [7], but we do have bodily limits.[8] Such limits suggest scarcity, but can also be figured simply as costs of attending itself.[9] Yet we might also be pleased by attending: Whether it is figured as harm or benefit has less to do with attending per se, than it does with the relation our attention invokes or ratifies.[10] If attention consumes information [11], is the information satisfying? In other words, was our attention wasted? Did it produce something else (that we wanted [12])? Or might we be content with merely allocating attention?[13]

If attention is exchanged, is there reciprocity?[14] Symmetric exchange suggests attention for attention [15], but such exchange does not nearly exhaust the circulation of attention. I've titled this section "basic exchange?" (with a question): What is basic exchange? For one, I don't want to invoke classical economic theories of exchange [16,17], but I also want to suggest that exchange of attention (or affect) underlies traditional forms of exchange.[18,19] By repeating the notion that attention is scarce, I've already invoked concepts of "supply," whereas attention itself figures demand.[20] Although competition for attention is sometimes fierce, the price of attention varies wildly — suggesting that it does not have a stable (or mature) market.[21] Moreover, liberal society posits property rights as paramount, so who owns attention? We might want to own our own (sic) attention, and that's certainly the liberal (subjective) impulse, but the reality could be rather different: Various entities [22] have clear stakes in "our" attention, which in some sense constitutes their market or domain.[23] As this brief summary suggests, classic economic notions don't readily apply, particularly around the production of attention.[24] What are its inputs?[25] We might receive attention for nothing [27], which according to essentialist theories suggests that it is valueless.[28] Such discussions already assume liberal subjectivity, and indeed consciousness of attention. How can we claim our unconscious attention, other than by rendering it conscious?[29] Indeed, what of intersubjective attention, which I'll suggest is the very basis of society? Is there, or should there be, universal exchange of attention?[30] What of its asymmetric circulation?[31,32]

Media theory [33], particularly concerning the internet, has forged the paradigms of the attention economy: Mass mediated technologies capture collective attention like never before [34], such that they've come to permeate perception itself. We perceive as we have learned to perceive, and increasingly, we are taught by mass media: We labor (immaterially [35]) in order to consume in the manners specified. Such labor has been figured in the realm of image [36], but even as theories continue to ratify ocularcentrism with their critiques [37], the question of circulation remains: Positing the image (however broadly conceived) as the "money" of the attention economy continues to prioritize the object of attention.[38] What constitutes primitive accumulation according to an "attention theory of value?" (Internet companies appear to be seeking an answer.[39]) If we pay with attention, can attention be owed?[40] Can it be stockpiled? If attention can be owed, is there attention debt? What is the nexus between image & debt?[41] Is "owed" attention inherently of lower quality? Again, what of subconscious attention?[42] What if attention itself is conceived as a medium of circulation?[43,44] What does attention mediate, if not consciousness...?

Finally, regarding our more specific topic, we might consider listening as a form of attention exchange. Note that at a basic level, such exchange is inherently asymmetric: Someone speaks, and someone listens.[45,46] (However, the underlying attention exchange might be figured as symmetric, sometimes [47], nonetheless.) Listening, in the sense of active listening, suggests reciprocity, i.e. that everyone will both be heard & know that they are heard. (In this way, listening enacts a specific sense of intersubjectivity.) However, such situations seem rare — reflecting the scarcity of attention more broadly. How often is attention actually exchanged during a listening event, i.e. is it more often unidirectional?[48] It has been suggested that the right to free listening (i.e. choosing how to allocate our attention) should parallel the right to free speech.[49] Would that simply normalize lack of attention? For whom? How might an attention economy enhance mutuality? Yet again, this discussion falls into prioritizing conscious attention, though: Somehow [50], we need to view unconscious exchange as primary, or at least more frequent.

  1. Traditional models of advertising on e.g television posit that we "pay" for the programs by viewing the ads, i.e. that we pay with attention. The internet increasingly problematizes such clear distinctions, illustrating that the traditional advertising model may never have been all that accurate. In other words, watching the ads was & is required, regardless of how it's justified to us — it's viewing "the content" that's optional. (Also, the programs themselves have always included a lot of propaganda. Consider as well that the biggest entities online don't even offer a "pay to remove ads" option: Revealing their internal valuation of our attention could be problematic by itself.)

  2. In What is familiar?, I discussed the way familiarity modulates attention, and how familiarizing can lead to more attention or to less attention.

  3. According to the traditional model of advertising, our interest in a product should outlive our attention to its ads.

  4. The classic joke of staring at nothing until various passers by join in illustrates pure sharing (or transference) of attention.

  5. Note that the circulation of attention overlaps the circulation of affects: Similar mechanisms apply. (It's not generally helpful to think only in terms of subsets, however.)

  6. When attention prompts us to spend money on products, that money circulates in turn, and can generate more attention.

  7. An attention economy must thus already encompass e.g. gift & counter-gift circuits. (If the gift instantiates an exchange of sensibility, it might be figured directly as carrying attention.)

  8. Per Spinoza, I don't intend to circumscribe bodily limits. Indeed, the notion of a limit to attention seems to be something of a truism in discussions of an attention economy. Are there really such limits? What are they? (I imagine that exploring such limits could become unpleasant, which is perhaps the main point.)

  9. Does attending involve exertion? One can easily imagine scenarios in which much effort is allocated to conscious attention. Unconscious attention might also be draining, even if we're otherwise unaware. However, attending might also be energizing. (Different reactions from different people to the same acts of attending have been one way to type personalities as introverted, extroverted, etc.)

  10. Discussion of attending, gifts etc. might also suggest a tribute economy. Whereas such an economy is typically considered to be primitive, to what extent have we actually moved beyond tribute as a significant form of social exchange? Arguably, media advertising has long functioned in this manner. (I might even suggest that many internet endeavors, for profit or otherwise, end up producing nothing more than vanity, i.e. attention or tribute as an end in itself.) How much of global exchange today can arguably be characterized as tribute? ("Austerity" is one marker of the new, or not so new, tribute.)

  11. As already noted, in the contemporary conjuncture, one might suggest instead that information consumes attention.

  12. "Who wants what?" remains a basic question for allocation. (It is sometimes answered by positing identical desires — for purposes of mathematical simplification, one might say.) Attention is a commodity for which desire might vary considerably, both between entities & at various moments.

  13. One might posit that the basic purpose of entertainment is mere attending, i.e. the consumption of attention. (Entertainment comes with various other effects, however.)

  14. Stiegler has suggested that breaking reciprocity — as I have argued elsewhere that capitalist modernism does — and thereby interrupting circulation, breaks the process of individuation. (The liberal subject is thus inherently defective? Stiegler seems not to want to abandon Euro-modernism, however.)

  15. The love relation might be the canonical symmetric exchange of attention. (Lovers might exchange asymmetrically in various ways, but attention per se is ideally symmetric.)

  16. For instance, last I looked, Wikipedia equates "exchange" to "market economy" (i.e. the entry for the former explicitly describes the latter). Whereas such an equation is obviously politically motivated (by neoliberal conceits, at least), specific notions of what constitutes exchange per se remain deeply linked to immersion in political economy generally.

  17. A further (economic) search for "basic exchange" yields "basic exchange rate" — the rate by which money quantities are exchanged between nation-states (or other entities with money-type currencies). Such basic exchange might be considered a highly specific form of attention exchange between larger bodies.

  18. By suggesting that attention "underlies" (or is basic), I do not mean to suggest that other sorts of analysis have become superfluous. Such an essentialist position is rarely, if ever, warranted. Simply put, different tracings or interrogations can yield different results, and might be more or less appropriate depending on situation.

  19. Thus, as already noted, whereas "attention economy" might be a newly articulated concept, it does not (at least entirely) involve a new set of relations.

  20. So might one say, per the attention economy, that the supply of demand is limited? (Such a conflation does seem to be an improvement on classical economics. But the limits to demand have long been understood, at least in a practical sense, by marketers, so it's not a new notion.)

  21. One response to noting an attention economy has been to attempt to create a "proper" economic market, so as to reinscribe market (viz. neoliberal) economics. (One proposal is to price "interruptions" per se, with an obvious eye toward spam, etc. Can I set my price for viewing spam at infinity? Somehow I doubt that: The very same economists would object that I am being unreasonable.) Whereas receiving some compensation for one's attention might be an improvement over the current situation, entrenching such "economic" principles in another domain raises obvious problems, not least of which is perpetuating the hegemony itself. (The latter is exactly what motivates people to make these proposals.)

  22. Although my main reference point is for-profit businesses & their marketing, states & other political entities claim some ownership of our attention as well: Is attention not the very basis of patriotism, for instance? Governmentality requires it, more broadly.

  23. I have yet to see (which doesn't mean it hasn't happened) legal action brought by one entity against another explicitly for "stealing" the attention of people whose attention it claims to own. Once this happens, and it will, the ownership of attention will begin a process of adjudication, and that process will surely recognize ownership other than that of the individual whose attention is under consideration. (Sadly, our justice system is rather predictable in many ways.)

  24. My point, of course, is not that we should force contemporary exchange into the modes of classical economics (per suggestions such as those of [21]), but rather that we should ask how processes actually function.

  25. Adorno relates the rise of "attention to detail" to industrialization.[26] In that sense, an input for the production of attention was capitalist demands per se — or rather, fear of starving, per the parenthesis of [8]. (Such a demand only seems to have escalated in the "service" & "information" economies. Does it become incoherent in an attention economy, though?)

  26. It might be more accurate to attribute both "attention to detail" & industrialization to Western encounters with other cultures. (In that sense, one can consider envy, a form of attention itself, to be an input for the production of such attention.) In particular, encounters with e.g. Indian & Peruvian cloth reconfigured the industry that is most canonically associated with early industrialization.

  27. Various entities are always interested in our attention, i.e. we already have their attention, even if we don't realize it.

  28. When it comes to the attention economy, is receiving something for nothing a good thing? (One would need to know more about the specific, resulting assemblage in order to answer this question.)

  29. Whereas we might want to be conscious of some of our unconscious (affective) relations, we surely do not want every aspect of bodily (& beyond) attention to be conscious. To use economic language, such a result would be highly inefficient. (How might one characterize "efficient" exchange of attention? Does it produce more attention, to infinity? Is it more efficient for attention to be exhausted? When & how?)

  30. If liberal governmentality is premised on universal exchange, the question of universal exchange must be asked of the attention economy as well. But does someone "giving" you attention mean that you must give them attention in return? (I suppose that stalkers do receive attention from their victims.) Again, what of the quality of attention? I hesitate to suggest that the attention economy breaks down over universal exchange, however, because attention does tend to bring reciprocal attention. The problem, so to speak, then resides in individual choice: Under what conditions is the exchange automatic? Who controls those conditions?

  31. For instance, one might consider circulation of attention starting from Marx's c-m-c & m-c-m forms of exchange. What else might be involved in the broad circulation of attention, besides money & commodities? (Emotion, for one.) What are some other stable patterns?

  32. In order to interrogate the broader circulation of attention, let me suggest considering what I (the writer) receive from the reader's attention. I'm not selling this piece, nor am I selling advertising. (Is someone else receiving advertising revenue via you reading this piece? That would be disappointing.) My hope, of course, is an immodest one: I'd like to receive a changed world. However, I imagine that you can think of some other ways in which the circulation of attention impinges back upon me in less radical fashion.

  33. I am hesitant to use a word to qualify "theory," at least in a sustained way, because such a qualification necessarily excludes. In other words, there is no reason to believe that these issues can be traced adequately within one domain of theory. They're promiscuous (as so many affective relations are).

  34. Given that capitalist arbitrage feeds on differences (as discussed elsewhere), we might figure mediation itself as an extractor of profit for capital. In other words, when any sort of difference comes together in some kind of relation, and that relation is in turn mediated, value is extracted. (Prior to extraction, values were "latent" in individual differences, i.e. not in relation. Thus mediation functions not only for extraction, but explicitly toward universalizing value. We might even consider mediation as forging a residue from exchange, i.e. the mediated component is not actually exchanged, despite being immersed in an exchange relation.)

  35. Notions of attention economy forge (or recognize) new domains of immaterial labor, although the latter had already encompassed e.g. sociality, gregariousness, etc. (The latter is the exchange form of immaterial labor according to Harney & Moten, although here we might figure it as a particular kind of mostly conscious attention exchange.)

  36. Jonathan Beller even defines a "cinematic mode of production," in close parallel with Marx. He believes that the circulation of images has come to exemplify circulation per se. We are then produced as subjects in this mode. (So images consume us?)

  37. Beller treats the image very specifically as the new medium (or object) of exchange, going so far as to suggest that film theory is the new critical theory. (I find the extremely specific nature of this suggestion to be incredible, although I certainly include aesthetic analysis as an important domain of theory, broadly conceived.)

  38. One might figure the "collector's item" as an object whose value resides entirely in attention. (Note that, as opposed to money, figured as the limit of abstract fungibility, the collector's item is figured as unique. Is such an observation a start toward answering the questions raised in [30]? What is the nexus of unique & universal, as forged by attention?)

  39. Note that the "internet startup" does not typically prioritize profit. Rather, losing money, even over fairly long periods, is secondary to gaining market share, i.e. attention. Whereas such a business strategy can be (and often is) figured as an attempt to create a future monopoly situation (from which theoretically infinite profits can be extracted), its real (i.e. nonequilibrium) situation primarily seeks attention, often without any clear notion of how to exchange that attention for money. (Likewise, advertisers are willing to pay for attention, even when it's unclear, as it so often is on the internet, if they'll receive any revenue in return. The bigger risk isn't a lack of concrete return, but rather losing attention, which is a danger in every moment.)

  40. Some entities certainly do believe that we owe them attention: Government (per [22]) & parents (or families more broadly) are two examples. (The primal scene has long been figured as originating debt.)

  41. I contrast Beller's ideas on image with Lazzarato's ideas on debt. One way to interrogate these notions might be to consider deterritorialization more broadly: What are their inherent motions? How does each implicate time? Moreover, attention to debt is certainly enforced via circulation of images. (Harney & Moten explore this nexus via the concept of logistics, and especially the automated flow of commodities intended to provoke other flows, not just of money, but as we can see here, of attention. Their concept of logistical automation goes on to raise the automated worker, a notion surely already appealing to capital.) Debt is then not an interruption to circulation, but rather a provocation for more or different circulation, i.e. a modulator of attention.

  42. Subconscious attention, i.e. attention that does not pass through our conscious filters, is highly sought by marketers & propagandists. Whereas it might be "lower quality" in some sense, such an assessment is obviously situational.

  43. Note that considering attention itself as a medium turns media theory upside down, or one might say, inverts the object. (Such an inversion problematizes mediation along the lines of [34] — where "residue" suggests interpellated consciousness itself, according to a particular mode.)

  44. If we think of attention as a substitute for money, we obviously have a "production problem," or rather one of control, according to traditional notions of economy: We produce our own attention, and even if there are bodily limits, these are not easily circumscribed (per [8]). Although there are techniques to stimulate attention (and perhaps techniques to dissipate attention, although more typically to distract, i.e. to exchange attention to something for attention to something else), there is little in the way of control over how much attention circulates. Such a situation is unacceptable to traditional economic theories of value, but do note that there is far less control over the money supply in the postmodern era than such conservative notions have been able to digest. In other words, money is already a highly arbitrary medium.

  45. The speaker has traditionally been figured as the superior component of the listener-speaker dual. However, having a listener, knowing that one has a listener, i.e. directing attention toward the listener, introduces a dynamic component to the speech act itself. The notion of speech without listening, despite the almost overwhelming narcissism that one can all too easily observe today, remains an absurdity. (Somehow, such absurdity found its complement in the technological priority given the ear over the voice during industrialization, as observed by Sterne et al.)

  46. Note that, per Lacan, voice itself is the "other" to what is being said. (In that sense, the voice becomes not so much the locus of subjectivity, but the object of expression. Such an inversion traces to the primal scene.)

  47. Whereas a conversation with a loved one might easily involve similar (quantity & quality of) attention from both parties, even as one speaks & another listens, there are many other situations in which such an equivalence is impossible: A speaker on e.g. television, to which we attend, likely pays us no attention whatsoever. (Such a situation has sometimes been figured as marking the transition from an oral to an aural society.)

  48. Again (per [28]), we might want to ask about getting something for nothing. In the attention economy, when is that desirable, given that both attention & attending might be burdens?

  49. Perhaps freedom of listening is, indeed, necessary in order for freedom of speech to operate in any real sense. (However, the liberal subject is always lurking in such notions.)

  50. As an important part of its agenda (i.e. justifying imperialism), classical economics typically figures exchange as conscious, voluntary, etc. Hence, interrogating unconscious exchange falls rather far outside of traditional economic concerns. Of course, involuntary exchange already characterizes so many global interactions so much more accurately....

C. Attention deficit

Increased (economic) emphasis on attention [1] has been paralleled by the rise of attention deficit [2] as the characteristic disability [3,4] of our era. As a basic pharmacological response [5], such a parallel should be unsurprising [6]: Further demands for attention increasingly frame lapses (or deficits [7]) as failings [8], but also provoke resistance.[9] Disability generally interrogates subjectivity [10], particularly when favored modes of constructing or mediating that subjectivity are made unavailable. Deafness has a special relationship to our general topic [11], but so does blindness: If the liberal subject is constructed to be ocularcentric, different relations maintain in the absence of vision [12], including different relations to hearing. (These sensory differences are reflected in different object relations.[13]) Technology continues to be proposed as a means of assisting people with disabilities [14], and such technology can also be figured pharmacologically, specifically relative to attention: Is it the cure for, or the poison that produces attention deficit?[15] If people are forgetful, why not have devices to remember [16], etc.? Beyond addressing disability, if it does, such technology reconfigures sense modalities more generally [17], and changing sensory alignments (at least hypothetically) changes society. Does any of this produce more attention?

If people with attention deficit want more attention [18], what is attention? If it's a resource, a target, a faculty, & an ideal, and cannot by standardized [19], what does attention tell us about listening? Clearly, listening requires attention [20], so what of attention deficit? Is attention itself a specific type of distraction?[21] Does media synchronize us or desynchronize us?[22] Again, to what are we paying attention, and to what are we prepared to pay attention?[23,24] If basic exchange is primarily unconscious, how is it inflected by the paradigm of mastery that underlies medical conceptions of disability?[25] In other words, how might we notice a lapse in subconscious attention?[26] Particularly in subconscious situations, information about attention becomes increasingly asymmetric [27]: Even people lacking attentional disabilities are not generally in position to assess their own attending. The ubiquity of attention deficit, however, does indeed suggest that (capital's) demands for more attention have become incoherent.[28] Where do such demands turn?

  1. As discussed in the previous section, capital has demanded more attention, first for industrialization, and then for service & information, until we've reach something of a reflexive crisis for attention with the scarcity implied by the attention economy.

  2. It seems that practitioners increasingly consider hyperactivity to be a particular mode of attention deficit disorder, such that it becomes preferable to speak of ADD over ADHD, although some people still identify more with the ADHD label. In either case, there is a question of whether attention deficit (to the level of being a disorder, i.e. of having a tangible impact on one's life) is more common now, or simply more often diagnosed (or claimed). Either situation fits the described scenario, and indications are that such disorders are genuinely more common, although criteria & experimental methodologies have not necessarily reached consensus on that point. (As we'll implicitly suggest here, such a consensus might involve problematizing neoliberal demands for attention.)

  3. To qualify as a disability according to contemporary Western (medical) logic, attention deficit must have a qualifiably negative impact on one's ability to function. More tangibly, attentional issues can make people easy prey for con artists, both petty & institutional. If attention deficit can then be portrayed as a moral failing, as it so often is, such predators are able to shift attention away from themselves. Therefore, perhaps paradoxically, but actually according to the logic of extracting profit from differences, demands for increased attention have served to figure lapses of attention as sources of profit (for others).

  4. Autism is another condition that has become much more prominent (and likely common, pace concerns similar to those of [2]) in our era. Although it is not my focus here, related issues do apply: For instance people with autism report different kinds of sensory mediation & integration, as well as a different sense of object relations, and of course, intersubjectivity. Such differences likewise implicate the media environment.

  5. Pharmacology simultaneously names medicine & poison, suggesting both benefit & harm. (Pharmacology typically suggests the mode of inoculation, i.e. presumably small harm for presumably greater benefit. The relative weight of harm & benefit does not necessarily fit the inoculation model from the perspective of attention deficit sufferers, however.) So for instance, whereas someone with attentional issues might be under greater risk for some sorts of exploitation (per [3]), and various other kinds of social frustration, that same person is also insulated from some demands for (unpaid) immaterial labor & its corresponding, involuntary mediation of consciousness. (What if we were all to become simply oblivious to marketing?) One could similarly attribute attention disorders to "poisoning" by the media environment itself.

  6. I already discussed borderline personality as complementing hierarchy/rupture (in Hierarchy as rupture, Part IV), following Deleuze & Guattari's pairing of capitalism & schizophrenia. (Indeed, if alterity is a condition of the possibility of being, per Marshall Sahlins via Ochoa Gautier, contemporary conditions might not be identifiable in the absence of their characteristic accompanying pathologies.)

  7. Deficit suggests debt? The language suggests that people with the disability are not providing attention that is actually owed. (We might speak instead of someone being able to allocate attention as they themselves desire, a situation that becomes increasingly scarce for all of us.)

  8. Within the dominant, medical model of disability, it is difficult to talk about these situations as anything other than pathological, whereas we might prefer to speak according to respect for differences. (In other words, medicalization puts the problem entirely on "the identified patient," and not on the social relations with which they do or might have difficulty.)

  9. I do not mean to suggest that there is conscious resistance: Attentional issues arise from the primal scene, i.e. are propagated socially. (One might say that society thus resists itself by constructing new subjects who lack some of the prized quality of attention.)

  10. Harney & Moten ask, in a partial response to Marx, what if ability & need were in constant play? In other words, what if we don't make assumptions about abilities & needs? What is revealed, perhaps via absence?

  11. Deafness can also implicate speech, which is sometimes taken as definitional for the category of human. (An inarticulate scream — i.e. "voice" alone — is, after all, figured as nonhuman.) In any case, "listening" takes on a different meaning for the deaf, a meaning I won't attempt to articulate in any detail.

  12. That ocularcentrism might only be interrogated via disability, i.e. via failure to perceive as the dominant (ocularcentric) hierarchy commands, suggests a narrative of defeat. We might instead figure ocularcentrism itself, i.e. pathological preference for a particular sensory mode, to the point of damaging or arresting other sensory relations, as a disability. (Such a figuration conflicts with [3] precisely to the degree that the ocularcentric hierarchy defines functionality.)

  13. For instance, vision is figured as seeing "whole" objects, albeit at a distance. Sound is said to be more immediate, but without the tyranny of vision (so to speak), the wholeness of the sounding thing might take on a subjectivity — once again figured via distance. Language itself — which Spivak notes is inherently objectifying — can even be reconfigured in turn. (Our languages abound not only in subject-object reification, but in specific sensory metaphors.)

  14. Sterne argues that the proliferation of sound technology from the late nineteenth century, some of the most spectacular of which was originally conceived as a means for helping people who are deaf, had the paradoxical effect of causing people with good hearing to relate (via that technology & its associated concepts) more like people who are deaf. (Might we speak of normalizing deafness?) Disability thus figured the science & mechanics of hearing more broadly.

  15. Stiegler (following Derrida) might suggest that we need to find the right balance between medicine & poison.

  16. Studies already suggest that, even in people with no known pathologies, (external) memory aids worsen (internal) memory function. Hence the pharmacological tension is easily exhibited in this narrow case: If our memories are failing, we may supplement them technologically, which leads to more failure.

  17. One might even say that, canonically, technology is about reconfiguring the object, and hence object relations per [13]. (Technology even changes language.)

  18. Although we are conditioned to believe that people who are identified as disabled want to change themselves, per [8], in this case, people with attention deficit might want fewer demands on attention.

  19. The description of attention is taken from Dominic Pettman, whose book on distraction is mostly rather fluffy, in my opinion. (That attention "cannot be standardized" reflects its relational, affective quality, in my terms.)

  20. Perhaps we should also note the (technologically mediated) rise of background listening, and correspondingly, hybrid forms of attention, particularly among stay-at-home women in the post-WWII period. (So how much attention does listening really require? It depends: Listening to what? Listening for what?)

  21. Adorno suggests that distraction arises from the alienation of the commodity form (so hence, as a kind of attention). So must we overcome alienation in order to truly listen? Benjamin suggests that distraction might break one out of habitual thinking. (Benjamin hence seems to equate distraction with the unfamiliar, which does not fit the current paradigm of attention deficit.)

  22. The questions about synchronization & attention as a type of distraction also come from Pettman, who suggests that whereas media has been traditionally figured as synchronizing us — i.e., millions, if not billions, of people might watch the same television event simultaneously — contemporary media increasingly includes the possibility of desynchronizing us, i.e. of allowing us to watch any television program or listen to any music at any hour of the day, regardless of what others are doing.

  23. How does attention, or attention deficit vary with age? (We might not be able to distinguish clearly between age-related effects, and generational differences, at least at the macroscopic level.) How does it correlate to other standardized demographic categories? (There is much marketing research on this general topic, although possibly not regarding attention deficit per se.)

  24. Whether via basic scarcity or disability, attention deficit raises issues for the attunement prescribed in Morality as aporia. (Attunement is not generally quantifiable, however, so concepts of deficit do not apply directly. Of course, issues of quantifiability have not stopped people from talking about attention in those terms.)

  25. Paradigms of mastery are applied to hierarchize differences more generally, and have been particularly powerful in constructing concepts of normality, together with medicalization. (Simply put, then, is there a "normal" quantity of attention? What is it?)

  26. We are (potentially) asked to attend to our own attending, which per earlier remarks, is not generally what we want. (That asking for more attention does not resolve attention deficit should be obvious enough.) That attention is figured in terms of lapses, however, already gives credence to the medicalized mastery noted in [25].

  27. Simply put, institutions can collect data about our attending, and therefore possess information that we do not. (And because of the general information surplus, we might not have the attention to consume such information, even if it were made available, and particularly not if it requires e.g. advanced data mining techniques.)

  28. Note that incoherent demands for attention still do not prevent lapses from being figured as moral failures. If one internalizes failure of this sort, one might come to feel a debt, among other possible pathologies. (And if capital can demand the impossible, then so can we.)

D. Aesthetic capture

So, if attention has become (pathologically [1]) scarce, how is it "optimized" [2] in turn by capital?[3] Let's consider two basic means: Quality of attention is modulated such that messages can be received with minimal attention, and/or such that attention brings a desire for more attending. In other words, either make one's point efficiently, or keep us watching [4], or both. Aesthetic capture is the modern paradigm for the latter, and we might figure the former via artistic technique as well.[5,6] Such capture typically [7] involves subconscious attention, and indeed the conscious component might be "the distraction" from that perspective [9,10]: Attention can be consumed, generated, & mediated across multiple interfaces simultaneously.[11] Attention is modulated so as to mediate consciousness itself [12], including subconscious production of ideals, etc.[13] Such affective circulation inflects economic circulation (in general [14]) in turn, such that circuits of attention are modulated by (symbolic) aesthetics as the supreme arena of control.[15] Since aesthetic consumption is figured as pleasurable, such control is often exerted during leisure [16], with the result that "artistic" messages modulate not only subsequent consumption, but perceptive capacity more generally.[17] In other words, a receptive position is itself constituted together with what it receives & circulates.[18] In yet other words, e.g. music captures our attention [19] while also modulating our response.[20]

The rise of aesthetics [21] provided a means of separating symbolic economy from e.g. political & libidinal economies, and so not only of positing "taste" as apolitical [22], but of mystifying symbolism per se.[23,24] Such "aesthetic capture" is thus originally directed not toward specific artistic experience, but toward the modernist paradigm in general, and especially its emphasis on specialization [26]: Art becomes a specific set of objects, and not just anything someone made.[27] The artist is, in turn, a specific sort of person.[28] And finally, the audience is constituted in a particular, passive way by the resulting assemblage: Rather than producing similarly, spectators have opinions, i.e. circulate attention per se. Such roles create new social rules & forms of expertise.[29] Moreover the separation of art, including (perhaps canonically [31]) from science, reflects the (imperialist) chasm of the nature-culture duality [32,33]: Whereas scientific rationalism demanded adherence, aesthetic credence was figured as entirely voluntary, with "taste" perhaps more akin to a leap of faith.[34] Such a leap was figured as without political intent, of course, and without (political) outcome: The Kantian gap is unbridgeable by such concepts as the beautiful & sublime.[35] Not only did it render morality aporetic, but a separate aesthetic domain provided the subsequent opportunity [36] to abstract a symbolic layer of control [37] from the circulation of attention.

Particular regimes of attention forge their own territories [38], and so regarding our topic, we can specifically consider aural territories: Such territories might be forged by sounds typically considered music, or those beyond the (consciously) audible spectrum [39]; they might attract or repel us, and often do so differentially.[40] Although the sounds might be quite conscious, we are not necessarily conscious of the territory [41], even as we react to it.[42] Such territories go on to mediate consciousness: We must be quiet in (some [43]) public spaces [45], i.e. respect their acoustic territories. Elsewhere, we might be expected to become loud.[46] In other words, sensory production, including music, signals power relations [47]: What is noise then? Who decides?[48] How does noise pollution [49] inflect intersubjectivity via the aural environment? In the present context, we might figure "noise" as consuming attention in unproductive ways, i.e. as distracting us from relations [50] we might prefer.[51] Such distraction might be figured in turn as inherent to the busy modern environment [52], and thus as contrasting with our "aesthetic" experience: We are taught to seek separation.[53,54] However, we are not merely captured by concepts of aesthetics, but by specific aesthetic experience [55], as conditioned by non-aesthetic (i.e. noisy) experience: Such conditioning, particularly in the absence of attention to power relations, widens the Kantian (aesthetic) gap.[56]

  1. As suggested in the previous section, pathologizing attentional issues — as deficit — is a social (or cultural) choice.

  2. Although I am reluctant to embrace such economic language, notions of optimization are directly relevant to the thinking of those controlling the major entities that seek to consume our attention. (One might also posit that it is precisely "optimization" that creates scarcity.)

  3. Of course, it is not only capital that can consider how to capture attention.... (I should probably also disclaim using "capital" as shorthand for an imprecisely constituted set of human actors.)

  4. In the present context, I should probably say "listening," but do want to evoke the (general media) image.

  5. One might consider such technique to range from simple craftsmanship, i.e. how to stack or stagger one's messages for maximum density, to formal artistic innovation. (Quality of attention is thus modulated by "quality" of message, which may be multifaceted. In other words, our modes of attending can be modified by attending itself.)

  6. Given the circulation of the attention economy, "efficiency" might mean that a listener is induced to tune in (again) later, possibly circulating attention elsewhere in the interim. So a distinction between efficiency (or intensity) of attending & quantity of attention (as a temporal interval, say) is not necessarily clear amid such circulation.

  7. There are surely cartographies of attention being mapped for purposes of marketing & propaganda.[8] I have already discussed, at least implicitly, typing attention according to affective relation, and other dimensions of such a map could be (and probably have been) developed. I do not want to dwell on typology, however.

  8. Whereas one can posit theories of attention all day, a practical assessment of how different attentional modes (if I may invoke a Spinozist conception here) correlate to outcomes is a far more daunting project. In considering any sort of cognitive mapping, practical marketing will need to know how messages are actually received, i.e. mediated by perception. Call this arena of knowledge "reception studies" — and consider the sort of data it requires.

  9. It no longer even seems notable that we are immersed in messages specifically designed to distract or manipulate us, if it ever was. (Let's not normalize this situation.)

  10. There are also ads in which the "capture" is in the subconscious domain, in order to induce us to pay conscious attention to a mundane, stated message. (For instance, there's an entire class of ads that flash on a woman's breasts or similar libidinal trigger, and then move on to different, presumably less exciting content in earnest.)

  11. Such interfaces might encompass different sensory modes, or different types (pace [7]) of consciousness. Bodily interfaces can be treated as sites for production per se. (Note that interfaces are not necessarily physically distinct: They are implied by differing external relations, such that we might have different affective interfaces for e.g. family & sandwiches, even when the same sensory modes are involved.)

  12. A simple example of "mediating consciousness" is making us decide we want to buy something.

  13. Whereas ideals tend to be posited as residing in the subconscious, aesthetic mediation of sensation is constantly inflecting any such ideals. (One might analogize this process to the way remembering rewrites memory.) In other words, ideals are not generally static, but rather take part in affective circulation. (For instance, even optimization of a libidinal trigger, such as the breasts mentioned in [10], yields a different image over time, whether in shape, angle of perspective, etc.) Indeed I would go so far as to say that even abstract classic ideals, such as the golden section, require constant mediation & circulation inflecting specific instances. (Since this does occur, one can only hypothesize its absence.)

  14. Stiegler names three layers of economy: political, symbolic, and libidinal. The present section concerns the second layer (symbolic) impinging on the first (political), including examples of the third (libidinal) impinging on the second.

  15. Collapsing politics, aesthetics & experience into a general assemblage of (attentional) circulation via propaganda is sometimes considered to be the signature innovation of Nazi Germany. However, many of the relevant techniques were actually developed already in USA, and of course this general system of control was then implemented aggressively in USA after the war. (In other words, WWII marks a decisive victory for attentional-aesthetic circuits as mechanisms of control. We still call that propaganda, but pretend it hasn't become the norm.)

  16. Pace the typological concerns of [7], "relaxing at home" figures a particularly susceptible state. (Stiegler thus views aesthetic leisure as the heart of politics.)

  17. Adorno noted decades ago that the predictable output of e.g. popular radio reduces capacity to think, thus making its audiences ideal targets for accompanying marketing messages. (So again, per [11], mediation of consciousness is most efficiently accomplished via multilayer messaging.)

  18. One might even figure listening itself, as receptivity, according to the libidinal economy already raised here: Listening is the receiving partner, so for populations that might find such a position objectionable, a different affective stance is produced simultaneously.

  19. We claim to understand that e.g. music captures our attention, yet we also seem to believe that we are in control, even of a high-tech, heavily researched, multimedia assault on our attentional interfaces, as originated by people whom we know to be, at a minimum, attempting to seduce us. (Or maybe we simply enjoy it all, in spite of ourselves.)

  20. If this statement remains unclear, consider the example of film music: Response to the music might not be conscious, although one can choose to specifically listen, but still (often) provides emotional conditioning for perceiving the events of the film.

  21. In Morality as aporia, I already discussed the function of aesthetics as a means of obscuring or abdicating morality during the modern (imperial) era.

  22. The notion of "good taste" begins to be discussed in the 1600s, i.e. still in the early modern period. At this juncture, such notions are embryonic forms of bourgeois purification. In other words, not only was material wealth already being mediated as the canonical measure of bourgeois social value, but the stage was being set for Enlightenment era figuration of aesthetics as an entirely separate domain. (One can thus have "good taste" while participating in mass murder for profit.)

  23. Of course, religion has been perhaps the canonical domain for mystifying symbols. Hence, one might consider aesthetics to have (at least partially, and by design) colonized religion — but minus morality.

  24. Mystifying symbolism also meant mystifying sex: Separating symbolic & libidinal economies seems to have been less consciously undertaken, but their reassembly began in earnest (at least at the macroscopic level) only with Freud. (The traditional, Catholic assemblage had already been problematized by the Reformation, which one might want to view through a sexual lens. Medieval European sexual iconography can be surprising to people immersed in subsequent, modernist regimes of libidinal circulation.[25])

  25. The contemporary libidinal economy prioritizes circulation itself — and with it, modulating attention — over sexual satisfaction, which must always be deferred.

  26. Note that perhaps the canonical modernist specialization is that between imperial conqueror & conquered — or alternately, ownership & labor.

  27. Once it became a separate class of objects, art was soon figured as impractical, and so in turn, not bound to any particular material content. In other words, art was to incorporate — and eventually revel in — abstraction. (This process might be figured as the erection of aesthetics as superior to art itself.)

  28. Note for instance that, in the wake of the Kantian gap, artists are increasingly figured as isolated social eccentrics, not as the guy down the street who e.g. has some good experience carving functional & appealing posts.

  29. The art critic, as originated in the Enlightenment era, retains a particular role today. However, to some degree, everyone is now being interpellated as a critic [30]: Opinions are constantly being solicited, not only in order to continue sculpting & validating passive spectators as such, but as specific mechanisms of capture: Saying we liked something suggests a commitment of further attention. (In other words, the urge to consistency commits us to further attention, if we once say we like something.)

  30. Interpellating everyone as a critic is basically the opposite of interpellating everyone as an artist — artists remain separated per [28]. (Such interpellation thus doubly enhances alienation.)

  31. Art & science remain two poles of thought, and are completely separate for many residents of the postmodern conjuncture. They were eventually reified according to the two hemispheres of the brain — and bilateral bodily symmetry figures dualism more generally, as I discussed Hierarchy as rupture, Part II — even as that reification is now being problematized, ironically because of new demands from capital for more creativity during this business conjuncture. (These poles remain the paradigm for disciplinary reification more generally.)

  32. Note that science figures nature as unfamiliar, i.e. as an object to be interrogated & explored. (Pace the urge to abstraction figured in [27], art has become ubiquitous & familiar — a commodity form itself.)

  33. For instance, the erection of "absolute music" as a superior form distanced it from the "natural" quality of orality & the voice. (So only "savages" have "natural" music? That is actually the opposite of what emerged from Enlightenment aesthetics. Or perhaps we might say that European styles of music were posited as supernatural, in a rather literal sense.)

  34. Aesthetic credence — or style — can be figured in Lacanian terms: The object "a" itself is styling, but not voluntary. In other words, this is another argument that we have little control over our "personal" tastes — in this case, because they are (de)posited by the other (in the primal scene).

  35. Beauty is figured as a form of (intellectual) alignment, whereas the sublime modulates feelings of fear around the uncanny (i.e. unappropriable) — the latter itself becoming a means of domestication. More generally, such concepts mediate circulation of attention: Kant specifically directs (symbolic) circulation away from political & libidinal circuits, allowing these to interface unconsciously. (In other words, political positions were confirmed by the resulting assemblage, despite its explicit denial of politics.)

  36. Although one might figure control as latent in the Kantian separation of aesthetics, at the time, the move was more to disarticulate power. Its rearticulation via aesthetic capture was consolidated only via twentieth century techniques of mass manipulation. (Although such a sequence might have been merely fortuitous, having previously extracted an aesthetic domain — a more abstract & arbitrary domain — from general circulation provided a ready, "external" territory from which to intensify social control. The success of this move is reflected in the relative complacency with which the public still regards it.)

  37. I wrote "capture" in the title of this section, but aesthetic control today is generally far more detailed & ambitious than mere capture: Once captured, attention is engaged in modulating all aspects of perception & consciousness, including the nonlinear circulation of attention beyond the body.

  38. Per Deleuze & Guattari, motivated by ethology, the refrain itself forges a territory.

  39. Acoustic territories are often generated by characteristic sounds of distortion, i.e. noise, such as that emanating from a car with the stereo turned up loud. Such sounds are thus quite conscious, but still strain our hearing.

  40. In other words, aural territories are often designed to attract some people while repelling others. (Playing classical music in a convenience store is a classic example.)

  41. For instance, various tones might be sounded in architectural spaces in order to establish a certain ambience. Whereas the tones might be well within the audible range, we might not interact with them as we would music, or especially the voice. (Perhaps we don't even notice unless something else draws our attention to the sounds.)

  42. Of course, the Muzak company was a pioneer in creating acoustic environments for particular purposes, i.e. to elicit particular subconscious reactions. (This was already a "machinic turn" in musical sensibility.)

  43. Both concert halls & movie theaters were "silenced," for instance. Music — and I suppose theater — became specifically something that is presented to us, and with which we do not interact, except in carefully prescribed ways. (Dance might be among the least careful, but only in "appropriate" situations that have also been the subject of much social engineering during the twentieth century.[44]) Such presumptive silence had effects on intersubjectivity in turn, and bolstered the separation of an aesthetic domain: Such a domain becomes inscrutable precisely in its (spatial) separation.

  44. I've previously noted Henry Ford's detailed interest in scripting dances, and many of his ideas are still evident in the close scripting of e.g. high school dances today. Whereas dance venues present something of a contrast with music venues that demand quiet of their audiences, they generally do so only via extreme amplification, such that the music is always clearly audible — more than merely clearly audible — and that relies on twentieth century technology. Moreover, the basic fact that there are designated times & places for moving one's body in a less regimented manner only reinforces the spatial separation imposed on sound itself, and especially so if one is shamed into dancing only in socially sanctioned, trendy ways.

  45. Note that as public experiences started to resemble private experiences, radio brought the same material into the home, such that private experiences started to resemble public experiences. (Indeed, the constitution of "a public" for contemporary media can be linked to such mediation of public & private.)

  46. Perhaps the canonical venue within which noise is actively solicited today is the sporting event. However, let's not forget the political rally.

  47. One might describe a territory as a specific articulation of power relations. (This conception of acoustic territories largely derives from Attali.)

  48. The separation of "music" from "noise" — including as spatially articulated per [43] — is a powerful political filter: It affects our view of other world cultures, other generations within our culture, our neighbors and their precious "personal taste," etc. (For some, the "exclusiveness" of music is thus one of its charms.)

  49. Perhaps more than most people, I consider noise pollution to be a serious issue: Many things people do could be done so as to have less of an aural impact on other people, wildlife, etc. Much of the noise seems careless as a result — but let's not neglect to consider that it is often explicitly intended to constitute a territory.

  50. Whereas it is tempting to posit merely that noise distracts from aural relations specifically, sensory modalities are not as separate as such a description suggests, and aural overload inflects other relations as well. (So in other words, once again, we have an attentional assemblage that involves — perhaps differential — mediation across multiple interfaces. Such a situation can be constructed intentionally in order to modulate attention in particular ways, including so as to emphasize other sense modalities via noise. Such an emphasis has both similarities to & differences from the situation of sensory disabilities, although these might interact.)

  51. The issue of "noise" raises the issue of "freedom of listening" once again. (How might such a freedom inflect intersubjectivity, particularly per [48]?)

  52. The modern environment is "busy" in terms of both more people and more technological devices generating sound. (Some of the latter are quite powerful.) How does such a setting inflect intersubjectivity per se? It can certainly lead to annoyance....

  53. In other words, (deliberate?) proliferation of unpleasant sensory experience serves to create more contrast with "aesthetic" experience, thus emphasizing the separation of that domain. (Such a separation is problematized in turn by "unpleasant" contemporary art.) One can also figure the proliferation of noise as normalizing unpleasantness per se. However, perception of such a process is intertwined with that of proliferation of difference (per [48]) more generally. (Thus, general noisiness is conducive to scapegoating.)

  54. How many (e.g. young) people reflexively seek to forge their own aural territories wherever they go? What is the nexus of intersubjectivity in such a public context?

  55. Per [34], our specific preferences then reveal things about how we were constructed as subjects that might be otherwise inaccessible to us. In other words, our aesthetic choices can in turn be used as marketing data that might correlate with a broad range of preferences & susceptibilities. (Using contemporary internet techniques, such control can presumably be tuned much more finely than had been possible previously.)

  56. I have previously articulated the Kantian (Enlightenment) gap as between intent & outcome, and particularly as serving to disclaim the latter (i.e. politics) as an appropriate topic of discussion for "polite conversation." In this case, by emphasizing the gap, I mean the related separation (or segregation) of the aesthetic domain itself: The non-aesthetic is figured as so distant that e.g. our "personal taste" does not apply. In other words, we can't or shouldn't demand better. (Instead, per [29], what did we think of that sandwich?)

E. Bodily listening

As a presumptively intellectual response, the notion of separate aesthetic experience also serves to underscore mind-body dualism: What of bodily capture?[1] More specifically, what of sexual attraction & reproduction as aesthetic response?[3] Whereas positing sexual attraction to be "aesthetic" could further underscore mind-body separation [4], let us instead interrogate modern [5] libidinal economy in order to problematize that very separation: In keeping with modern economic priorities, sexual selection continues to be rationalized under e.g. neo-Darwinism [6]: That certain traits have indeed survived [7] is figured (retroactively) according to rational processes, so as to proscribe any role for aesthetic capture, or indeed arbitrary reproductive choice per se.[8] The notion of "beauty" was thus divorced from modernist reproductive logic [9], such that symbolic & libidinal economies could circulate separately. Our current interrogation, then, is not so much directed at separation itself [10], as it is at the way that these domains are subsequently reassembled [11,14]: Patriarchy is one way to name the resulting assemblage.[15] So we can ask, specifically, how patriarchy figures the body: Not only, how is the contemporary subject constructed, but how is the body constructed along with it?[18,19] Moreover, we can ask about other cultures (or regimes of affective circulation), and how they have been or might be assembled.[21]

As attention is modulated via affective circulation, and in turn mediates consciousness, it implicates the body [22] via sensation: Sensory modes are thus common starting points for interrogating bodily assemblages. As noted previously, such interrogations are often initiated due to disability [23], i.e. by a barrier to "normal" bodily assembly. Much has been made of hierarchies of vision [24] & hearing [25] under Euro-modernity, including here, so let me turn to assemblages of sound & sex more specifically: Whereas dance sometimes figures bodily articulation between sound & sex, we might also consider the public-private dual, and the territories both established & ruptured [27] by sound. Is sex itself private?[28] How does dance, whether in public or private, then figure intersubjective space? Even when it is individual, dance assembles the body into a larger ecology, typically involving music: Rhythm aligns bodies [29,30] temporally [31,32], including in technological assemblages.[33] Sexual selection [34] then involves bodily assemblage into a general regime of aesthetic & libidinal circulation.[35] (Such a regime can be figured in turn as political.) Such an assemblage might be remarkably varied, despite constant normative claims to the contrary.[37]

Whereas libidinal circulation might be figured as non-intellectual, it can also be inflected by circulation more generally: Bodily listening might not be conscious, but is still both modulated & mediated by attentional assemblage — this is immaterial labor that (paradoxically, i.e. by omission) reinscribes the body.[38] The body might thus be assembled, and so in turn controlled, via different economies or interfaces.[39,40] Moreover, whereas one can speak of intellectual or emotional violence [41], notions of violence typically focus on the physical body per se [42]: Violence is a straightforward form of attention that solicits attention in turn, and can be internalized so as to assemble affective modulation spanning planes of consciousness.[43] (Violence can be said to overflow deficit.[44]) In sum, despite favored modes of consciousness, the body is both assembled & modulated by attentional exchange, and quite literally so when we consider reproduction (broadly speaking [45]): Our bodies listen & respond to & via affective circulation in general, including subconsciously to & with violence.[46] However, none of the details of contemporary bodily assemblage were or are inevitable.

  1. What are modes of bodily attention itself, beyond sensory modes? Beyond sexual attraction, one might name hunger (for food), proprioception, temperature regulation, etc. (One can also figure much more abstract feelings in these terms, including aesthetic experience itself. Such modes only seem to proliferate.) So how might we produce more attention? Having enough to eat is one, very bodily, means.[2]

  2. The nexus between food & attention suggests interrogating the attention economy relative to the so-called obesity epidemic: Is increasing incidence of obesity a side effect of attempts to maximize attention, and/or is obesity itself a sign of scarce or divided attention? Do ample, i.e. much more than sufficient, food supplies suppress attention overall? (We might again speak of society resisting itself....)

  3. "Aesthetic capture" by a mate is indeed highly specific, or at least actions leading to reproduction are.

  4. In other words, one might read "aesthetic" control of reproductive choice as reinscribing superiority of mind over body. However, I don't want to assume that such symbolic circulation is inherently mental.

  5. Although it would surely be fascinating to explore, a further sketch of points of continuity & difference with the pre-modern libidinal economy (or proto-economy, one might say) is beyond the scope of the present discussion. (I do expect material from other writers to continue to appear on this topic, however.)

  6. I use neo-Darwinism to refer to the contemporary strand of social Darwinism that has been further rationalized according to the (fundamentalist) demands of neoliberalism. (It tends to delight in death.)

  7. There can be little that is more essentialist (or vain) than surveying the contemporary landscape for human traits & declaring those existing now to have been destined — and going on to posit a natural process (as itself derived from notions of contemporary survival), rather than a prior teleology per se, does not improve the situation of confirmation bias. What such a situation produces is always a rationalization for existing conditions. (Per [6], such a rationalization aligns with neoliberalism.)

  8. Elsewhere, such "arbitrary choices" might be described as fashionable, and neo-Darwinist models tend to figure arbitrariness as random noise — i.e. as "averaging out" of the result — rather than decisive trends. Such a belief in non-arbitrariness, so to speak, can only be described in (neo-)teleological terms. (In other words, contemporary mainstream chatter about evolution overlaps considerably with "creationism" in its essentialist prioritization of outcomes per se. The former even has its own version of eschatology.)

  9. As a possible point of continuity per [5], marriage & reproduction had long been separated from sexual attraction, at least for ambitious families. Hence, one might say that reproductive logic was already at least partially divorced from beauty prior to the modern era.

  10. Circulation is not actually separable, but can be put into tension, only to be reassembled according to particular situations.

  11. Stiegler, who writes in terms of symbolic & libidinal (& political) economies suggests that the organization & circulation of libidinal energy has become the main problem of capitalism.[12] One might say that the libidinal economy is constantly being deterritorialized & reterritorialized elsewhere. (Note that Deleuze & Guattari already figured the det-ret pair as characteristic of capitalist capture. I later figured it, in parallel, as the characteristic motion of comedy.)

  12. Stiegler also characterizes "the tendency of the libido to desexualize itself" as "primordial," and as the very constitution of desire.[13] (Hence the fetish is not a function of modern alienation?) Per [5], I believe that this point requires considerably more research.

  13. Stiegler discusses various ideas derived from studying human evolution together with Freud, particularly the symbolic & sensory reorientation implied by the upright stance in early hominids. He goes so far as to suggest that freeing the hands for separate work involved a clear technical rerouting of libidinal circulation, i.e. that technics is inherently sublimating. (Again, as intriguing as these prehistorical suggestions are, I hesitate to embrace any analysis that marks the contemporary conjuncture as an inevitable consequence of such events.)

  14. Hence, I might paraphrase Barthes: The lover is indeed in the crucible of meaning, i.e. at the nexus of formally disarticulated economic regimes.

  15. In other words, "patriarchy" names a particular articulation of political, symbolic & libidinal economies. (E.g. the gay or women's rights movements [16] can be placed in this context, i.e. as troubling such a specific alignment.) It should be clear that "patriarchy" invokes a particular libidinal framework, intertwined with social power per se. I am writing about its specifically modern configuration, but there have been various other patriarchal assemblages.

  16. Whereas the gay rights movement clearly problematizes (patriarchal) articulations of politics & libido, subsequent waves of feminism — and I'm thinking of the so-called "fifth wave" or "choice" feminism — don't necessarily problematize heteronormativity [17]: One might even figure the "desiring machine" (of Deleuze & Guattari) as the prototype of choice feminism, i.e. at the micro (or molecular) level. A common criticism of choice feminism questions its macroscopic (or molar) implications, and thus its potential for rearticulating the triple economic nexus. In other words, does such "choice" figure change, or is it always already conditioned? These questions have implications for the general topic of aesthetics of reproduction, specifically whether choice is indeed noise amid larger evolutionary processes. However, it becomes all too easy to project contemporary economic articulations into the past — to repeat this basic point yet again. We might instead ask, what exactly are contemporary choices assembling?

  17. I'll note, once again, not only that kink & BDSM can problematize heteronormativity — although it might also be configured so as to confirm it — but that these intertwined domains develop many techniques for reconfiguring (bodily) affective assemblages. In other words, one's response to sensation per se can be rerouted through libidinal economy, establishing or heightening other circuits. (BDSM might even interrogate concepts of consent.) Such configurations are certainly malleable, even as specific assemblages are constantly being normalized. (The former condition requires the latter response, if one is to maintain control.)

  18. Perhaps I should note the circularity explicitly: Patriarchy both figures the body & is figured by the body. (In other words, its formation involves nonlinear feedback.) How has it inflected reproductive choice in turn? What sort of perturbation might destabilize the resulting feedback relation?

  19. One might also ask, per concerns of [11], regarding artistic production [20] involving — for instance, via trace or rearticulation — the (bodily) space between deterritorialization & reterritorialization (or defunctionalization & refunctionalization, per Stiegler).

  20. Particularly in tracing nonequilibrium affective assembling (as opposed to assemblage, i.e. as already accomplished), we might want to refigure production as performance. (Harney & Moten describe how performance is itself reproduced, or is perhaps the conjunction of reproduction & disappearance. Such a nonequilibrium orientation, in my terms, refigures the essentializing — i.e. representational — concerns of neo-Darwinism per [8]. In other words, we can lose the trace of performance in representation.)

  21. Per Lerner, patriarchy can be located in history, and so includes nothing of the "eternal" or any other rationalization of its inevitability.

  22. One can posit the body as prior to sensation or consciousness, but per the primal scene, we discover them together. Hence, when I say "implicates the body," I posit attention as inherent to our bodily conceptions. (This might be most obvious in senses such as proprioception or kinesthesia, but is true generally: Bodily awareness is derived from & conditioned by socially mediated sensation.)

  23. Indeed, people with disabilities (and other differences) continue to demonstrate that different sensory assemblages are possible.

  24. For instance, the dominance of vision enacts the dominance of distance over proximity (or immanence, or presence), and so not only continues to figure transcendence, but becomes the dominant mode of mechanical sensory figuration via cinema. The privilege of vision is thus reinscribed by privilege in cultural production, but is perhaps not sufficiently modulated: In other words, visual attention is often assumed, not assembled. (Is this an opening in the domain of aesthetic control?)

  25. One might generalize sound as the result of any body vibrating in a suitable medium, and so as part of our own bodily performance (as opposed to light, which our bodies do not produce [26]), as embedded in a thick space (i.e. medium). One might then "feel" sound outside the auditory spectrum (or within it), and indeed sound does often exceed its figuration as merely auditory, whether in the (canonic?) attentional modulation of the siren, or on the dance floor.

  26. The human body does produce light in its technological assemblages. (In other words, we can turn lights on & off, and how do we do that, if not with our bodies?)

  27. One can figure radio, and eventually television etc., as rupturing the private territory of the home, as previously noted: Under contemporary technological regimes, private space has become more public as public space has become more private (via headphones, etc.).

  28. Obviously, sex with a partner, as the prototype of (reproductive, at least) sex, involves some (theoretical?) rupture of individual bodily territory. (Per [15], such bodily assemblage is sometimes already assumed according to differential territories.) Hence, coupling has long been figured as forging a new, double body, and thus reinscribing privacy. However, I must continue to question the historical character of this particular assemblage. To what extent has private sexual activity actually been a norm outside of regimes of Euro-modernity? And how or why?

  29. Erlmann notes that "rhythms process people." (I might say that rhythms assemble bodies.)

  30. Ikoniadou notes that rhythm "mocks the idea of distance as a void." (In other words, the "space" between beats connects, not separates.)

  31. Mach (via Erlmann) suggests that consciousness itself emerges from rhythmic delay or hiatus, i.e. syncope, thus moving beyond mind-body dualism. (Such a "move" is of the basic sort that prioritizes relation over object.)

  32. Rhythm also problematizes the notion that spatial relations are prior to temporal relations. (Note that whereas one can trace such a notion of priority to Greece & probably beyond, Christian concepts of creation institutionalized the secondary quality of time, including by positing that God remains outside time.)

  33. One might note the proliferation of "smartphones" & similar contemporary technology as problematizing the rhythmic alignment or interface between human bodies & technology.

  34. Whereas contemporary regimes certainly accommodate sexual selection outside of any explicit "dance" formation, one might still consider the temporal assemblage involved (since, minimally, people must be in the same location at the same time in order to have sex): Some sort of rhythmic alignment occurs, and "dance" is how we often figure bodily rhythmic alignment. (How might dance be figured in turn by internet virtuality? "Sex" with people who aren't physically present has a longer media history than that of the internet....)

  35. Per Virno, we might figure attention within the contemporary regime of aesthetic & libidinal circulation as virtuosic. (Hence sexual competition might be figured according to virtuosic assembly.[36])

  36. What is the locus of sexual disability according to an attentional focus, then? What are the consequences for trans-bodily assembly more generally? (The contemporary regime both produces & represses sexual dysfunction, in order to keep the modern libidinal economy circulating.) Is there a specific nexus with the image & virtuality per [34]?

  37. Of course, normative claims themselves emerge from & modulate affective circulation, and so intertwine bodily assemblage. (One might figure the constancy of such claims as an admission that they require constant repetition in order to be effective, i.e. that they are not "true" in any empirical sense, but must be enforced.)

  38. Generally, aesthetic capture has been posited in order to tame the mind, and so in turn to tame the body. (Even contemporary control thus relies, to some degree, on mind-body dualism.) However, these assemblages can be modulated in other ways, and e.g. libidinal circulation allows capture of the mind via the body (if we continue to view such a dual as relevant).

  39. Although there are characteristic domains of control, including aesthetic control as discussed, in principle, assemblages have the potential to circulate in multiple directions: They can be inverted, etc. (One should analyze the specific relations of any situation, even if some forms remain very common.)

  40. Note that the economies named here (attention, and from Stiegler, political, symbolic, & libidinal) are "named economies" only by virtue of attempts to posit or enforce their separation from general circulation. They do not exhaust circulation in any real sense.

  41. Emotional violence is, of course, quite real. (Per [1,10], it implicates the body, anyway, among other relations.)

  42. Levi-Strauss says that to give a name is the first violence (as one might also figure the separation invoked in [40]). One can figure representation itself as violent, and in parallel with the parenthetical note of [20], naming is then posited as constructing or consolidating privileged, i.e. representational access to an affective assemblage. (One might consider such divergent examples as knowing a strange dog's name, or initiation via baptism.) Such representation might then impede continued performance, by reifying a momentary image of nonequilibrium assembling. In other words, reification is itself a kind of violence, or rupture — but that is an old topic here.

  43. I can thus speak of a circulatory nexus between violence & the symbolic domain, i.e. an aesthetics of violence (that, in turn, impinges upon sexual reproduction). How else might such a nexus be constituted or articulated?

  44. Capitalist demands for more attention are typically accompanied by violence or threats of violence: Clearly, this has been figured as the ultimate cure for lack of attention, and so contemporary production is permeated by unconscious violence — in addition to its frequent, conscious violence. (Recall that I've already figured the presumptive separation of violence from the symbolic domain via the Kantian gap.)

  45. I intend reproduction both in the specific sense of physical, sexual reproduction, as well as the social reproduction of knowledge & affective circulation in general. (These kinds of reproduction need not be considered as distinct, as each depends upon the other.)

  46. So violence is one arena in which affective circulation needs to become conscious, and then dispersed — perhaps via some explicit ritual — in unharmful ways, i.e. in ways that do not perpetuate the general circulation of violence. (Such conscious dispersion thus undermines aesthetic control.)

F. Beyond the body

Affective circulation implicates the body in various assemblages, and according to various interfaces: It is not generally "the whole body" that enters into relations of assembly, and indeed affects may traverse interfaces "within one body" via external circuits. Bodily assemblage via attentional exchange [1] has thus already taken us both beyond & "beneath" the body: So what remains to be said about the larger attention economy?[2] For one, bodies are assembled into larger social assemblages [3], and those larger assemblages continue to change (thus changing bodily relations & bodies in turn): How does the increasing abstraction [4] of capitalist development impinge upon the social assembly of bodies, including into subjects? In particular, whereas "the posthuman" has been proposed as a gateway for moving beyond the limits of liberal subjectivity [5], is such deterritorialization of the subject actually in the interest of continued capitalist abstraction? After all, innovative bodily (technological) assemblages & organization of distributed subjectivity are supposedly (still?) "the next big things" for increasing profits.[6] The better we understand [8], then, the better we might inflect subsequent events.[9]

So what of the subject? My (seemingly endless) discussion of affective circulation, unconscious exchange, attention deficit, etc. might be read as excusing contemporary subjects from responsibility for their own actions. Per above, I do advocate doing one's best [10], but we must thoroughly interrogate the liberal narrative of subjective mastery.[12] We do have limits [13], including for attention: I have previously figured such subjective limits according to asymmetry of information, since some entities are much better situated to obtain & process information. (However, such entities also have their own priorities.[14]) So the contemporary subject is self-obsessed [17], yet without a coherent concept of itself or its own (supposed) mastery?[18] Such deficit is then projected as excess [19], and assembled to circulating economies [20] — particularly in the sphere of consumption, where the contemporary subject is (always already) constructed to express itself.[22] The situation can be depressing.[23] However I also previously suggested that such subjective assemblages can be modulated via artistic production [24]: If, for instance, music conjures the visual on stage & in films [25], what music lets us see ourselves? What noise wakes us up? (And so I return to the topic of listening....)

Bodies are not only assembled (as subjects) into larger social assemblages, but into smaller units as well: Particularly in the wake of internet investment [26], technological assemblage has been receiving considerable (theoretical) attention.[27,28] Such assemblage refigures subjectivity via performance of human together with object [29], and follows a trend of exteriorizing memory [30]: We counted on our fingers, then wrote [31], made recordings [32], and now commit it all to computer storage.[33] Are we alienating our own memories, exteriorizing imagination & human capacity itself? Whereas technological assemblages themselves are surely real (i.e. invoke an excess that might impinge upon us), what of the representation [34] underlying such exteriorization & storage?[35] What of human excess over representation?[36] Is such excess inherently fragmented by demands of the attention economy [37], and how might the posthuman reconfigure excess per se?[39] Finally, what are the consequences for the (future) primal scene of listening?

  1. For our current topic, we might think of listening itself as a basic kind of bodily assemblage: It implicates at least part of our sensory apparatus, part of our perceptual apparatus, together with some object of listening — which could be in our own bodies, but is more canonically something external. (Such a listening assemblage can occur simultaneous to various other assemblages implicating various other bodies & interfaces.)

  2. Of course, there is undoubtedly much more to be said about the (or an) attention economy, and I've indicated that specifically at a few points already. Hopefully this brief series of sketches or interrogations will prove helpful, at least for the minimal purpose of introducing the following essays, but perhaps more generally.

  3. As already suggested, let's not immediately think of "the whole body" as being assembled (as a unit) into social circuits. (Everything is implicated at some point, but affective circuits also relate the body partially & differentially.) One might think of such larger social assemblages as assemblages of bodily assemblages, etc.

  4. An extended discussion of "attention economy" should be sufficient indication of the drive to abstraction. However, let's not engage in a battle of abstraction per se: The goal is not to become more abstract than capital. Rather, the goal is to trace capital's abstraction, so as to understand the resulting assemblages. In turn, our goal might be to dismantle abstraction, so as to consider "real" (which I mean in the technical sense) situations. In other words, don't be fooled.

  5. Arguments against merely augmenting the liberal subject, and thus retaining its core, are quite persuasive, but the dangers of abandoning subject-centered concepts of "rights" (which have their corresponding problems as well) are also real. (In some sense, the question becomes how to transition from one sort of equilibrium to another.)

  6. Harney & Moten use the term "logistics," in a very general way, to indicate the increasingly automatic assembly of workers, technology, production, consumption, etc.[7] They eloquently express the notion that compelling automatic flows compels automatic profit. (And we know that, under capitalist logic, profits must always increase.) Dispensing with the subject thus seems like a tempting way to increase automatic flow.

  7. According to this logic, "the state" becomes an effect of some kinds of labor for Harney & Moten. (Braudel had long noted that modern states are assimilated to, if not effects of, the capitalist system. In other words, the often stated presumptive opposition does not exist, and hasn't existed since the global hegemony of capitalism was established. Apparently it still makes for good political rhetoric, though....)

  8. I don't want to be dogmatic on the value of understanding: Whereas I'm obviously taking that tack here, in writing this series etc., I can easily be persuaded that a flat refusal to understand capitalist logic is — at least sometimes — a viable option for resistance. (There's nothing quite like a mass of immovable bodies.) Moreover, through the basic motion of familiarity, understanding does have a tendency to assemble one into the object (of study): Not only might such motion suggest Stockholm syndrome, but there's another basic reality: Mastery of capitalist logic (combined with opportunity, of course) opens the possibility of profiting under the neoliberal system. That's what many people who study this material intend to do, or do indeed go on to do.

  9. By using "inflect," I intend to suggest micro-resistance, i.e. that every (molecular) interaction be "bent" (or swerved) at least a little toward a better world. (Being in position to affect broad decision-making more directly brings with it both the prospect of direct macroscopic change, as well as the dangers inherent to such a position & such "molar" action. Of course, macro & micro might not always be so clearly distinguishable, even if they generally figure different styles of attention.) An "event" is then when & where such micro-resistance suddenly yields a macroscopic change.

  10. I don't want to circumscribe what "one's best" is — and responsibility narratives are usually problematic anyway [11] — but my intent here is also not to suggest that readers become discouraged. Being discouraged will not help anything (and indeed capitalist hierarchy cultivates discouragement).

  11. After all, "personal responsibility" is one of the common tropes of contemporary neoliberalism: We are all the entrepreneurs of our own lives. (How does such a trope work in a logistical domain of distributed subjectivity? Can we even know for what we're supposed to be personally responsible?)

  12. Morality as aporia can be considered to be a particular interrogation of illusions of subjective mastery.

  13. Pace Spinoza, writing these articles is one concrete way to experience limits. (What is to be included & what is to be excluded?)

  14. Whereas one might not call it a priority, an obsession with quantity [15] has e.g. prioritized the discrete over the continuum. (In other words, such entities are always making cuts, including disarticulating the subject itself, in the interest of calculation.) Similarly, a preference for (calculable) linear models has rendered many institutions of governmentality unable to analyze the basic multiplicity of rhythm, turbulence, chaos.[16] Moreover, they are inherently entangled with their own limits, such that relevant adjustments might be impossible according to their own internal logic. (So we increasingly hear fundamentalists insist that the world is indeed simple.)

  15. Stiegler suggests that as technologies of control push to make the incalculable calculable, they make knowledge itself insipid. In other words, the contemporary obsession for quantity & calculation is not always conducive to worthwhile knowledge. (In my terms, this phenomenon might be figured as part of the modern attempt to overcome Fortune.) Such obsession is then drawn to the discrete for practical reasons.

  16. Laruelle suggests that a "principle of sufficient chaosmos" generally operates in modern regimes: Fiction then exceeds truth as generic chaos? Laruelle considers truth to have the consistency of fiction — if consistency were to exist. Following Simondon, Stiegler considers the relation between fiction & reality to be transductive. (In other words, knowledge is derived from our ability to fabricate models of knowledge.)

  17. In section B, I asked, "What is the nexus of unique & universal forged by attention?" (Laruelle might figure this via the generic.) In other words, how is the subject assembled into the social? So if the liberal subject is self-obsessed, what are some other ways to be (constructed)?

  18. Multiple bodily interfaces, not to mention multiple "named economies," underscore the fragmented character of contemporary attention, and in turn, of the contemporary episteme. (In other words, to the extent that the liberal subject or the modern episteme were ever coherent, increasing attentional demands continue to fragment them. However, if anything, demands for mastery are intensified under the neoliberal regime as well.)

  19. Stiegler calls projection of lack (here, deficit) as excess, "exclamation" — a kind of Lacanian "acting out." He discusses exclamation by way of modes of repetition: Such ideas might be assimilated to concepts of rhythm & articulation elsewhere. (So might we posit a Lacanian sense of rhythm?) One can then figure exclamation as forging a territory — with "lack" as a kind of constituent contradiction. So the contemporary subject is motivated to retrench around its own contradiction? (This sounds like the terms of much contemporary Western politics, doesn't it?)

  20. Deficit or lack projected as excess can be assembled to any of the economies mentioned thus far: For attentional economy, lack can become hyper-focus. Such projection has long been canonical for libidinal economy, but we see it increasingly in political economy, as people lash out over their own powerlessness. Symbolic economy increasingly provides us e.g. with a series of "celebrities" [21] so as to cultivate the vanity & disposability of symbols themselves.

  21. The notion that "you too can be a star" might be the simplest form of symbolic exploitation forged by the contemporary culture industry. (This sort of projection has become more pervasive than ever via reality television, etc.) However, perhaps one can also glimpse a yearning for other regimes of Fortune, where the wheel really does turn....

  22. That the contemporary subject tends to express itself via excess consumption scarcely needs noting. (Here we find bare self-obsession cultivated by marketing.)

  23. Sometimes the notion that "ignorance is bliss" does indeed seem to apply. (One might ponder that notion relative to the attention economy in general....)

  24. Following [16], one might consider thought itself (at least potentially) as art, and even as art-fiction. In other words, thought can take on the form (e.g. consistency) of art-fiction — a notion I've embraced, including here, since long before I read anything by Laruelle. (Perhaps the reader perceives this.) Whereas such an approach may seem eccentric, it can be figured not only as an attempt to modulate aesthetic control within its own domain, but to reincorporate that domain into general circulation. (Here, such an attempt is accompanied by explicit traces of the attempt, although not as thoroughly as in some of my other production.)

  25. The use of music to indicate some magical arrival, for instance, places the (supposed?) ontological priority of vision into tension. Levi-Strauss, via Ochoa Gautier, says that music becomes the myth of western cosmology — does it even figure the transcendental subject per se?

  26. I mean "investment" in the broad sense of Investments & Relations, i.e. encompassing literal capitalist investment, personal (attentional?) investment, social investment, etc. The internet is thus implicated in a wide variety of contemporary assemblages.

  27. Stiegler calls for a "general organology" to encompass the bodily (i.e. physical organs), symbolic (e.g. thought & art), and social domains: These domains are assembled in various ways by various technological artifacts (which are artistic production according to earlier notions), etc. I can also mention Donna Haraway & the cyborg here, among numerous other examples.

  28. Attention to technological assemblage creates new assemblages, in a cascade. (So consider the concerns & possibilities of [9].)

  29. Technological — and other bodily — assemblages might also include other living creatures: The seeing eye dog names a particular sort of technological assemblage (which is more than a dog), for instance. (Of course, technology also assembles human to human, human to plant, etc.) Moreover, as many critical theorists discuss, incorporating objects into the human is not a new phenomenon: The human itself might even be figured as inherently technological, i.e. as always already incorporating objects.

  30. Exteriorization of memory was already problematized (pharmacologically) when discussing attention deficit. In part via affective circulation, the social itself can be figured as a retentional apparatus (to use Stiegler's term). So how might exteriorizing technology further refigure social retention?

  31. Note that our phonetic writing suggest an oral-centrism. Per Derrida, phonemes thus mark presence (perhaps by its absence): Is the face of the sign the face of god? Was the genericity of the alphabet a turn toward anonymity? Did it inaugurate the arbitrary circulation of signs, and so in turn lead directly to money? (Signs thus become increasingly alienated, leading Stiegler to demand explicit participation in constructing the symbolic domain.)

  32. Sterne suggests that not only was the sound recording received as storing time, it embalmed the dead. (Are we still fascinated by listening to the dead?)

  33. Per the "logistics" remarks of [6], one might also consider simultaneous interest in e.g object-oriented philosophy & cognitive neuroscience in the wake of the increasing dominance of internet media. Are various domains of thought assimilating us to a digital & increasingly automated world? (Such observations intensify the sense of "investment" named in [26], which surely exceeds internet media per se.)

  34. Must we all work at representing ourselves, i.e. at making our expression coherent with the exterior, digital assemblage? (Such immaterial labor echoes that of democratic participation.) Representation itself thus assembles us according to the attention it requires — i.e. it multiplies relations.

  35. Although (perhaps) a relatively minor example in the broader social scene of representation, the quality of acoustic reality was, and to some degree continues to be, a major issue for sound recording & reproduction. It has even figured orality itself, in turn, as such representation has been assembled into & mediates reality. (In other words, people start to speak according to what they hear in recordings.) So how is a politics of voice mediated by recorded representation, i.e. where do we find ourselves in the resulting assemblage of media & representation?

  36. In the present terms, how might we hear our own excess (including per [20]), particularly amid so much mediation? (The real per se is sometimes figured as excess. Indeed, exceeding limits of representation might suggest a Spinozist response to [13].)

  37. Capitalist drives toward abstraction (per the concerns of [4]), together with developing internet technology, continue to forge new (virtual) domains of attention. (The question for technology companies has then been how to reassemble those attentional domains to regimes of circulation that in turn allow the extraction of monetary revenue, i.e. how to exploit such attention. This is & continues to be, to some extent, a commensurability issue, in broad economic terms.[38]) Virtualization thus further fragments the attention economy, and per [18], knowledge itself. (In other words, attention economies proliferate.)

  38. Grossberg notes that incommensurable values are characteristic of the contemporary conjuncture, and that those values tend to engender their own forms of fundamentalism. (This process can be figured in terms of territories, much as in [19].) We might instead wonder whether virtual economies need to be commensurable, why & in what sense. (This might be a question of pharmacology.)

  39. In other words, if the posthuman assembles the human into a domain exceeding the prior category of human, what are the consequences of & for such (traditional, modernist) moves as representation, mediation, and now virtualization? (Does the posthuman accommodate virtual humans? What about virtual attention?)

1. Listening as technology

Listening not only constitutes subjects, but performs human with object: It enacts a technological assemblage, indeed a series of overlapping & intersecting assemblages that continue to modulate & mediate consciousness.[1] Such technological assemblages are not limited to those devices we might label "technology" today [2], but include any performance of human with object [3], e.g. our attending to anything that makes a sound.[4] Listening names not only a technological assemblage [5], but a specific technology of self [6]: We learn via listening, but we're also forged (unconsciously) via listening, going back to the primal scene.[7] Listening, whether conscious or otherwise, forges & mediates the familiar itself: Listening, including as sensory metaphor more broadly, figures (scientific) empiricism per se [8], even as it imbricates knowledge of self & other.[9] If sound has a special relation to affect [10], we might even define music as the sonic organization of affect.[11] Music then names particular (technological) assembling of or with sound.[12]

Listening evokes specific contemporary technological objects (i.e. headphones, smartphones, networks, etc.), and so does music (e.g. musical instruments, written scores, recording & playback devices, etc.). Creation of sound is increasingly mediated & modulated by reproduction of previous sound, perhaps evoking the primal scene: To what extent does our sonic production impinge on our situations [13] or environments, and to what extent does it derive from them?[14] How might the body be figured as technology in turn, particularly as itself mediated by listening & objects of sonic (re)production? How might bodily ability be assembled differently, not only (perhaps) to mediate disability [15], but to refigure the familiar per se?[16] What is the nexus of creation & reproduction in such an assembly of listening?[17] Does sound generate us or situate us?[18] We are increasingly embedded in an increasingly complex sonic environment [19], such that the primal scene might be said to extend indefinitely [20]: We remain immersed within affective circulation. Circuits of sensation, thought, & desire are never really separable, yet the presumptive separation of such domains [21] figures human excess [22] as itself fragmented, as residue of duality or rupture.[23] How, then, might we know ourselves, let alone make ourselves?

So, to what do I listen & why? If one does not accept an equilibrium, or already-forged concept of self [24], then one is constantly being remade by sensory & affective assemblages. Although they emerge only from the (murky) primal scene, we make conscious (sensory) choices, and these in turn inflect subsequent assemblages, conscious & otherwise: Via nonequilibrium, nonlinear circulation, small choices do not necessarily remain small.[25] Indeed, private (listening) choices may have public consequences via affective circulation, and so we should interrogate the tone of listening: Might listening involve straining to hear [26], curiosity, anxiety? What of listening for truth (empirical or otherwise), listening intently, approaching the edge of meaning, the edge of self? Less dramatically, how might simply listening to a song on "the radio," perhaps at a supermarket or in a bar, impinge upon these more earnest desires? What of unpleasant noise, or for that matter music we might wish never to hear again, for whatever reason? Is listening passive?[27] Is to listen, to grant attention, already a form of response? To what extent are our responses forced?[28] How is passivity figured via so-called background listening? (How is conscious choice to listen inflected or mediated according to attention economy?[29]) These are technological questions, performing & assembling human & object: How do we continue to make ourselves? To what extent can or do we choose, including to what we listen? How do we make the most of what we hear, whether via inclusion or exclusion or some other set of processes?[30] These are everyday questions. Let's consider some possibilities [31]: What is being assembled in any particular situation, and what specific relations are involved? The questions of this paragraph have very different answers in different situations [32], and attention (i.e. listening [33]) to or for specific relations can open the possibility of modulating (technological) assemblages in turn.

  1. Note, for instance, that listening technologies need not operate in the same temporality. In other words, whereas one might listen to two things at once that do indeed occupy the same or similar acoustic space, one's listening might be (and probably is) staged in time, such that a relation of assembly is maintained across various (temporal, i.e. rhythmic) gaps: One might still be "listening" to a message that is not being actively sounded in the present moment, or is being sounded only intermittently.

  2. Our technology label comes to imply novelty, such that "technology" suggests some previously unknown kind of assemblage. One outcome of the increasing drive toward new technology (in this sense) — or the drive toward ever-increasing profits from which it originates — is that earlier modes of technological assembly become obscured. (In other words, we don't need electronics in order to be assembled into something by listening to it.)

  3. Per Stiegler, following Heidegger, objects are always technical, but become normalized (or familiar, one might say) as "things." So in other words (as in [1]), we speak of listening to things.

  4. Listening & sound might themselves be figurative — while still assembling a real relation.

  5. Listening might enact technological assemblage itself, or mark a relation already assembled. (More assemblages might also be forged in the consideration of assemblages; these might differ in affective stance, etc., etc.)

  6. And so the present article is a second alternate to the Technologies of the Self section of What is familiar?.

  7. I thus remind the reader of the opening to the present article, a scene to which we return, after a considerable tangent discussing attention economy.

  8. Per Derrida, one might say that the idea of science only makes sense after a particular relation to the sign is established, and listening figures that relation — usually as external. (Such a relation is sometimes named by hermeneutics.) Erlmann notes that the early modern sign merges with the particular, i.e. as an object for individual investigation & manipulation. (Hermeneutics did not necessarily imply such particularity, but rather reflected such universalizing notions as the Platonic ideal.)

  9. In other words, listening is a relation between self & other — one that also forges self. (Per Nancy, referring back to Descartes, self indicates the referral function under sonic resonance. Indeed, for Nancy, listening is the reality of access to self, thus bridging inside-outside.)

  10. There is no question that sound has a special relation to affect, in the sense that any bodily interface will have a special relation to affect. However, the relation of listening & sound might be figured as more intimate: For instance, not only does film continue to use sound to modulate affect, illustrating its practical value, but musicians have cataloged sonic affects for centuries. (Biagio Marini's Opus 1 is exemplary in this regard.)

  11. One can generalize or abstract thoughts on the organization of affect, and for instance (per [5]), chance compositions by John Cage might be said to trace particular affective assemblages. (Perhaps one finds identity residing in such a trace.)

  12. One should also consider the possibility of (musical) assembly (only) by the listener.

  13. My own situation is perhaps already clear: I'm a middle-aged man living in California in 2016, having been immersed in the post-WWII marketing regime my entire life. I have three adult children, but am (obviously) not a mother — and there seems little question that I've taken more of a male view of subject formation. Likewise, despite some points of tension, I've also been able to present myself as generally acceptable (in terms of e.g. how I look & speak) to the dominant culture in public places. Although I try to listen — per our general topic — and am widely regarded as eccentric (at a minimum), my choices & articulations remain strongly conditioned by my own experience of "world interior." My goal has been to acknowledge these limits, rather than attempt to hide them, while still attempting to consider other views & situations. However, it also becomes extremely apparent sometimes, even to me, that my discussions are interior to particular milieus (and that further, tangential disclaimers would not actually add content, since I have nothing else to share). So please accept these thoughts as anything but the last word on the topics or issues raised, particularly as I begin this second part of a second appendix.

  14. One might say that the production of tone simultaneously orients & forges us, in perhaps a further figuration of echolocation: We hear ourselves being heard, if only by space itself. (Such mutual constitution with our setting might also figure e.g. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, albeit outside of the sonic domain per se.)

  15. With a modest generalization, one might posit that the medical model of disability views mediation (of difference per se) as a necessity. If we were to consider differential ability instead (& as general paradigm), we might ask about the possibilities that such different capacities open for differential assemblages, whether involving sound or otherwise.

  16. Can (intense?) listening defamiliarize the body, for instance? (Under what relations was our bodily familiarity forged? Please linger on that question for a moment.)

  17. Stiegler suggests that artistic production (as technique) closes the (noetic) circuit of the self. In other words, following Marx, he suggests that we need to create in order to fully constitute — or reproduce — ourselves. (Hence Stiegler demands participation in the symbolic domain.)

  18. Salomé Voegelin suggests that sound generates rather than situates: One might thus resist concepts of equilibrium, whether of the self or the object world (which per [3,16] is always being familiarized, reified we might say, into things). Sound is constantly new, so constantly newly assembling. (Even a recording generates new physical sound, if we play it.)

  19. The complexity — or we might say, in a sense, noisiness — of the contemporary sonic environment derives from both a general (and largely unconsidered) proliferation of sound making devices, as well as conscious attempts to engage & manipulate us via sound.

  20. For instance, businesses pipe in "white noise" in order to stimulate productivity from office workers. Is this not an evocation of the primal scene?

  21. The separation of domains, and ultimately the gap between (supposed) intent & outcome is typically figured via rationalization — itself institutionalized since the so-called Enlightenment, as I continue to repeat (perhaps unnecessarily).

  22. Simply put, one may figure human (or bodily, or posthuman) capacity as in excess of any particular subjective reification or representation (whether of "self" or some other affective assemblage).

  23. For instance, human attention is now considered to be such a scarce commodity that one can reasonably speculate on the (continued) development of virtual attention. (Although the notion of virtual attention may seem mundane, such as in e.g. the ordinary monitoring of technological function, we can now posit virtual attention as inducing economic flows, and with them, profits: Such flows might well seem wasteful to some other regime.)

  24. Per Heidegger, via Erlmann, music provides a technology for being outside oneself — and perhaps outside of time. (So the self is not always already-forged.)

  25. Hence I can speak of micro-resistance — and the molecular suddenly irrupting into the molar (as event).

  26. Nancy suggests that the French word for listening ("écoute") originally derived from eavesdropping or espionage, and so presumptively involves straining & secrecy. (This is different from the English word.) We will also consider more open & public listening, however, amid the general perception of sound.

  27. Whereas it might be tempting to declare that whoever or whatever is producing sound is taking an active role, and that whoever is listening is taking a passive role, such a distinction is culturally derived. Listening itself might already be figured as active perception, versus "mere" hearing, and we might even be able to choose our location (or "channel"), and so much about our sonic stimulus. Producing sound might also be figured as involuntary, such as wind blowing through branches. Moreover, as relation, listening figures the active assembly of objects (including ourselves) from the middle, however we designate those objects: Indeed, relation itself can be said to generate (or precipitate) objects — which is another way to figure [14].

  28. The domain of sound is notorious for not granting the option to turn away or close one's eyes/ears.

  29. Attention economy thus figures a particular sort of mediated circulation. How might we go on to mediate or modulate attention economy in turn via our choices (perhaps according to [25])?

  30. Inclusion & exclusion are rather crude (binary) ways to deal with aural stimulus, after all. How might we refigure it, whether for ourselves or for others, beyond simply choosing to attend or not (when we have the choice, that is, per [28])?

  31. The reader might find the upcoming discussion of possibilities, and so in turn situational answers (if only by implication), far too truncated or otherwise limited: I won't be listing every relation, or every component of every assemblage in every situation — not even close. (Whereas I haven't been pursuing such a level of detail here, I do want to emphasize that various details might in principle be pursued, with no clear stopping point. The smallest of everyday encounters involves a wide variety of possible relations, and these can sometimes be reconfigured, spontaneously or otherwise.)

  32. In other words, as a technology, listening can be configured in a variety of ways, via a variety of assemblages & relations. (There is no final answer to how it is or must be.)

  33. So our attempts to trace or interrogate, i.e. listen to listening, will forge other relations & assemblages (per [5]), recursively. (Such recursion might eventually figure a limit, per the concerns of [31], but whereas e.g. "traces of traces" will yield diminishing returns after a point, one could continue nonetheless. Indeed, one might need to pursue the unfamiliar through various layers of mediation, if one is to do more than recapitulate normality.)

2. Listening as moral practice

Although one can continue pondering direct access to the subconscious [1], I will focus on conscious choice in the following sections [2]: How is a choice to listen inflected or mediated by attention economy, or how might it inflect attention economy in turn?[3] How might we influence or interrogate affective circulation more generally via such choice, what is our ability, and in turn, what is our responsibility? I had already figured similar choice via morality [4], which requires listening [5]: In order to make good choices, at least relative to the other, we must know something of the other. Yet, such knowledge is, at best, imperfect [6]: We are confronted with aporia, for which I previously suggested attunement & improvisation. Whereas I've already figured attention as more than merely conscious (i.e. according to an attention economy), attunement might be said to emphasize feeling one's setting more generally, so as to perceive a "big picture" that doesn't yield so easily to deficit [7]: I don't want to reify such a distinction, but obviously "attune" brings harmonious, musical implications.[9] One might also be attuned to oneself, i.e. to one's body: However, whether by separating a libidinal economy, or proliferating bodily assemblages, the contemporary regime takes us away from such attunement as well.[10] (Instead, we're tuned to consume.) So we might be seeking attunement both internally & externally, pace the limitations of those notions.[13]

Before going on to focus on choice again, let me consider other regimes of moral listening: Harmonious, musical implications have been a significant component of many sacred regimes & practices [14], and indeed the notion that what one hears might generally condition, or even dictate, one's (moral) choices is far from new. What is new, perhaps, is that we are saturated in media that does not urge us to make good choices.[15] Yet, we are still saturated — even more saturated, even as the messages conflict.[16] Hence, notions of noncompliance arise [17], particularly regarding the propaganda of the liberal regime itself: Although one might imagine that listening to authority could itself be moral, such is not our contemporary situation.[18] (Under a hypothetical, benevolent broadcasting authority, moral practice might consist "merely" of aligning our other acts with our listening.[19]) Indeed, issues of authority underscore the aporia of listening itself, whether to listen, how to respond, etc. [20]: Regimes functionalize aporia, though, whether via transcendental gestures beyond the self, or simply by encouraging defeatism. In the former case, excess itself [21] might be figured as joy in any knowledge of the other [22], such that even radical alterity can be embraced in a regime of moral choice — although limits to human knowledge are more often framed as demands for obedience via humility. (So how else might a regime tell us that knowing the other will at least be difficult, might be impossible, but is still worth trying?[23])

Whereas there are various limits to knowledge, and so in turn moral (or "good") choice, we nonetheless make choices, and we can make them more consciously via listening: On an everyday basis, such a situation can be called practice, and practice is figured as the opposite of speculation or theory.[25] Hence, my interrogation of contemporary listening (choice) & its possibilities is figured via practice, because rather than speculate or theorize [26], we want to know what to do, what to choose, i.e. how to affect the world.[27] Practice might also be (defined as) activity through which theory is realized, or habitual doing, and indeed social activity or activism is sometimes figured (according to Marxist thought) via the specific variant term, praxis. Such an emphasis on habitual, everyday activity raises the significance of "small" choices: Our practical morality might find us, yet again, in the domain of micro-resistance, swerving, improvising.... One can even speak of practical morality as itself a technology: It assembles us together with more than ourselves — in various possible ways.[28]

So how does one actually listen? There are professional, practical regimes of listening, emphasizing such notions as empathy & active engagement, for instance. (A profession is a kind of practice.[29]) There are e.g. mediation [30] & psychoanalysis.[31] There is also marketing — and the "marketing revolution" came via listening [36] — or e.g. composing music so as to impart a message.[37] Is the client or customer or subject to be heard, or to be managed? Which of these actually figures empathy?[39] Is empathy simply a style for affective assembly of interfaces for manipulation (or mediation [40])? In a reenactment of the Kantian gap, one might also be advised to listen for intents rather than outcomes. When it comes to practice, however, outcome versus intent does not pose an actual choice: We care about outcomes, all outcomes.[41] Listening thus becomes "active" in the context of specific moral practices & outcomes. One might even say that practice activates listening, so how do we practice listening?

  1. Other entities will surely continue to make conscious & direct (and often, successful) attempts to manipulate us subconsciously.

  2. Pace my earlier comments on my "interior" situation, I'm largely assuming some sort of subject position from which to engage these questions. (How does such a position impinge upon others in turn? Perhaps a different style of subject will emerge....)

  3. In section A, I already asked "How & to what degree might we be able to choose where our attention goes?" Now I ask what that attention might inflect.

  4. Morality as aporia is the companion to the present piece. (Some impingements, per [2], were already figured there as deficits.)

  5. In Morality as aporia, listening was already posited as "a sensory metaphor for moral operations more generally." (One can also articulate to allocation games: Who wants what? One must listen for an answer — if only to deny one's "opponent" by "winning.")

  6. It becomes tempting to suggest that knowing the other is impossible, and thus should be disregarded. However, whereas aporia does indeed (correctly) suggest "impossible," one must make the attempt — such that failure is better than disregard, and could lead to improvement. (Such is the process of familiarizing, which might never end. Dare I invoke Zeno here?)

  7. Yielding easily, at least in my situation, would involve working toward neoliberal values, higher profits, etc.: These "default" positions are very available, whereas to do otherwise, one must fight various simplifications [8], and likely laziness itself. (Yet, non-laziness is always already figured as working to make the rich richer.) I am figured in turn as stubborn, as harming myself, & often as naïve.

  8. One simplification noted by Stiegler is putting limits on one's own thoughts, "so as to remain their master." In other words, embracing limits lets us feel a paradoxical sense of mastery within those limits, and so is always tempting under contemporary governmentality. (How often are we told what is or isn't realistic in the political process, for instance, usually in grave tones? It's as if the worst possible outcome would be a feeling of failure or disappointment.) One might also frame such a note as urging open practice, open epistemology, open ontology, etc.

  9. Writers such as Voegelin suggest that sound itself is truth, and so demands (ethical) participation. I would characterize such a notion as overstatement, but the basic immanent demand of sound itself should be acknowledged, pace various other factors. (How does the scream figure participation?)

  10. For example, it seems to be a commonplace of contemporary, "interior" life that one cannot even listen to one's body so as to know when to stop eating. Various tricks are offered as a substitute for learning one's own physical feedback mechanisms [11] — which are rarely if ever taught, at least outside of "alternative" practice. (Do our own bodies become unfamiliar? Rather, they never become as familiar as they might....)

  11. Suppressing bodily feedback goes far beyond food & eating: Pharmaceuticals have generally operated by further disrupting the body, for instance (although a paradigm shift might be coming to that arena, finally). One might also figure various aspects of sexual morality as substitutes for bodily feedback, although in that case, attunement would need to span bodies, thus further problematizing it [12], particularly for liberal governmentality.

  12. Perhaps I'm being rather eccentric by suggesting that general issues of trans-individual bodily feedback at least partially condition attempts at sexual morality.... (Thus sexual morality is also related to subject construction per se, which is itself not an eccentric notion.)

  13. One might say that notions of internal & external really only become coherent when combined, or rather, in the (improvisatory) combining.

  14. My main example for these comments is Christian church music, with its long history (that I happen to have studied fairly extensively). However, one could name various other practices, such as Carnatic music & Indonesian court music (each embedded in a "multimedia" production), contemplative Chinese qin music (which tends toward naturalism, and so might not be figured as sacred per se), etc. (Whereas such production might not be entirely conscious in the sense of [1], it does saturate consciousness: Modeling good behavior is very straightforward in some ways.)

  15. In some (reductive) sense, contemporary media must be urging us to make the choices that the contemporary regime wants us to make: We are urged to consume, to work for the wealth of others, and to increase profits. However, such an emphasis has yielded — in part by design — inattention to a variety of other social issues, and in turn such an intense focus on marketing that it would be difficult to characterize much contemporary media as urging us to make good choices in any general sense. (We still have so-called educational programming, public service announcements etc., which seem even more isolated & awkward as a result: They don't fit easily into the general media regime, quite unlike the seamless integration of traditional ritual environments such as those of [14].)

  16. Buying one company's product might be in direct conflict with buying another company's product. This is a simple point, but whereas one can discern some contradictions in e.g. the Catholic Church, its traditional ritual messages do & did not involve telling people to do one thing, and then something contradictory in close succession. (Including per [15], we should take note of how contradictory our media environment can be on even a minute by minute basis, rather than normalizing the situation. Is it any wonder that we're drawn to consistency?)

  17. Previously, I had figured noncompliance together with attunement & improvisation, but that assumes an immoral (or aporetic) regime. (Hence noncompliance, or opposition, can be & has been figured as dissonant. How attuned are we to public dissonance?) What if we were getting good advice from our media? It's difficult to imagine, since we're so accustomed to self-serving messages....

  18. Authority is inherently imperfect, and perhaps far worse than that. However, choosing whether to interrogate authority is itself something of a "reverse" aporetic position (i.e. is irreversible), since choosing otherwise provides no place from which to perceive the consequences of such a choice, and choosing to interrogate already enacts a particular affective assemblage.

  19. My intent here is likewise to align our listening with our other acts (& desires) — but from another direction, i.e. without authority, and so without privileging reception (i.e. listening) per se. In other words, our priorities should affect our listening choices, not simply derive from (non-chosen) listening, although these notions are not easily separable (pace the primal scene).

  20. Note that our basic premise is that listening affects us, and so a choice to listen is a choice to be affected — although perhaps the assembled relations can be inflected by that choice. Listening itself is thus a response, particularly if by choice.

  21. In other words, limits to representation, figured via excess, are implied by a transcendental conception of "the other." (In yet other words, transcendent gesture might indicate excess over one's current situation, the latter as proscribed by e.g. representation.)

  22. In Christian terms, one can speak of salvation rather than judgment. (Which is actually moral?)

  23. Besides religious institutions, which claim (or once claimed) to have the general welfare in mind, the education system (which, at least in the West, largely derives originally from religious institutions [24]) has sought to encourage us to attempt to acquire difficult or even impossible knowledge... subsequently refigured as a potential source of (if we're lucky, windfall) profit.

  24. I must note the irony of the West bringing "secular" education to other parts of the world. (Of course, there are plenty of Bible study schools around the world too.) But then, in this & many contexts, "secular" actually means "capitalist" (i.e. Western education teaches capitalist values).

  25. The OED, from which these notes on definition are largely derived, cites use of the words practice & practical only back to the late middle ages, as derived from French (whereas "listen" predates Old English, and doesn't derive from French). It also defines practical in part with "value or consequence in relation to action" & "devoted or inclined to action." (Obsolete meanings include suggestions of practicing an art or craft, scheming, & negotiating. Perhaps these meanings fit our present circumstances rather well too.)

  26. I'm not shy about including theory & speculation as well... but hopefully there is ultimately something of concrete value here. First, however, please let me continue with my (perhaps overlong) preliminaries....

  27. Consciously affecting the world starts, at least in some sense, with learning how the world is already affecting us. (Even a choice not to affect the world — as opposed to simply doing whatever, and having whatever effect we have — involves understanding affective assemblages, if it is to be successful.)

  28. For instance, how do various morality technologies "assemble" aporia into morality? What is the relation of the unknown and/or unknowable, and what circulation does it impel or impede? (As already noted, such an assemblage might engage defeatism: You can't win, so don't try. This is largely the situation of USA national politics.) As technologies, in principle, such assemblages can be reconfigured.

  29. Besides that "practice" is the literal term used by various medical or therapeutic professionals (and others), I want to include a note on the tension in professionalism per se: Do standards of "professional ethics," which are basically attempts to circumscribe the aporia inherent to morality, thus making it easier for practitioners (a word, as opposed to "practicers," regarding which we should probably adopt skepticism as well) to navigate, explicitly justify abdicating moral behavior? (Harney & Moten, in a broad critique of professionalism, go so far as to equate it with negligence. In other words, moral practice does not hide behind a rationalized veneer of professional standards, but such a stance is likely controversial for many people undertaking many sorts of practice.) Pace Epictetus, a professional might be figured as an actor, complete with mask.

  30. As I believe I've noted elsewhere, I've been trained & worked as a mediator: Among other things, I was trained in "active listening," i.e. repeating back to someone my understanding of what they just said, perhaps refigured so as to de-escalate conflict, as well as to explicitly note "what they said" (perhaps nonverbally) in the emotional domain. In mediation, we are supposed to be neutral regarding the "parties" to mediation & their desires, but we do seek agreement — i.e. an outcome. How might one treat the parties differentially when seeking an outcome? After all, they don't want to be treated the same.... "Active listening" already suggests something far from neutral.

  31. Psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and to an extent the medical profession more generally present perhaps the canonical domain of trained listening today.[32,35] Their investigations have yielded concepts such as transference, projection, hypochondria, etc. that problematize the listening assemblage. And such concepts have in turn been functionalized for marketing & propaganda. (Is the individual mind, at least in the psychiatric sense, still the crucible of meaning & control?)

  32. In the West, in the past, I might have named priests as canonically trained listeners, but such an emphasis has been diminished in contemporary, secular society. However, secular therapists are a relatively recent innovation, and mark a particular break with earlier regimes. (To what extent was there really a break? A theological basis for Lacanian psychoanalysis often seems apparent, for instance.) Is psychoanalysis then inherent to, or functional only for the contemporary liberal subject? It does seem to be extremely limited by context [33], particularly with its Freudian origins in a very particular milieu.[34]

  33. Beller suggests that psychoanalysis itself is a symptom of the rise of cinema, that it was largely figured & developed according to the assemblage of film, i.e. that technology is itself the repressed of dream theories of the unconscious. (Of course, speaker-listener therapy is already another technological assemblage in our terms.)

  34. That Marx & Freud were both avowed atheists places the various attempted syntheses in a particular context. (And synthesizing Marx & Freud was a particular project of Althusser, et al....) There are also shared notions of progress, etc. Moreover, Freud's milieu was highly privileged, further problematizing any supposed universality to psychoanalytic practice. (Freud's listening thus borders on instructing, broadly speaking: How to be like me? A listening assemblage might thus invoke multiple layers of control via speaker-listener tension.)

  35. Note that mediators, per [30], are drawn mainly, and relatively equally, from counseling & legal professions. (Personally, I eventually came to tell people that I came from the arts. No one else said the same, although someone did find me a flyer advertising public mediation services provided explicitly by an artist, so it has been done.) Note also that law, much like therapy, has a significant portion of its Western institutional history in the Catholic Church.

  36. Market research is the core of marketing practice per se, particularly systematic research about how people want to be addressed, to what they'll respond, etc. Whereas one can figure marketing as simply asking people what they want, today such research is quite sophisticated, and assimilates various bodily interfaces & types of affective response. However, still, it's about listening — even if the results are immediately inflected by the imposed goal of increasing profit. (Marketers will even listen for how we want the latter to be rationalized.)

  37. Whereas presenting music for listening by others is not in itself listening, pace [14], composing & performing music has long been a profession presumed to affect & assemble listeners, and it's a profession that ultimately involves listening (if perhaps not always to listeners' reactions, per [36], per se). Being a musician (or storyteller, etc.) was thus a moral practice in a rather specific sense. (In a traditional setting, such creativity might be figured via integration, since appropriate messages would be everywhere already. One might say the same of much global neoliberal production, in which a similar sense of saturated consistency is attempted.) What are some assemblages of composing & listening, anyway?[38] Collective improvisation is one....

  38. One obvious assemblage of composing (or music-making in general) & listening results in the stance of the critic: This is another kind of professional (perhaps) listener, and so probably what I should have listed above. However, I want to continue to emphasize creativity, even within the presumptively responsive stance of listening. (In other words, the critic might be figured as analyzing the musician, somewhat akin to [31], but it might actually be the musician who is practicing psychoanalytic technique, based on previous listening. Note that marketing, despite involving critical listening per [36], also ultimately prioritizes production, forging the parallel with artistic production reflected in the sentence above.)

  39. Whereas listening (i.e. making sure that someone is heard) surely figures empathy (particularly if having listened is communicated in turn), managing e.g. a patient's problem, i.e. assembling them to general social circulation, might seem more empathetic (or compassionate) than supporting their eccentricities. (For one thing, within such a milieu, what might one reasonably anticipate changing? A "professional" is unlikely to include reconfiguring general social circulation on that list — thus potentially triggering criticism, such as that noted in [29].) In other words, listening might be & often is, reductively (perhaps akin to [36]), for the purpose of management alone.

  40. In the "actual practice" of mediation, i.e. per [30] (as opposed to mediation in general, which is also surely practiced, and frequently so), there is no question but that affective interfaces are assembled or activated for purposes of future control or inflection: So one must ask (as always), what are the actual relations involved? Who is benefiting, etc.?

  41. For some reason, caring about outcomes is often framed as caring about some specific outcome, to the exclusion of all others. A path of doing, a practice, generates many outcomes — whether considered to be major or minor (and such a designation surely varies with one's perspective, even for the same events) — and feelings of intent are one sort of outcome.

3. Global listening

To what might one listen? In other words, if one is to choose, what are the choices? The world interior presents us with many "choices" (which might not be choices [1]), but what else is there? How do we open to other worlds? Do those worlds want our attention? Presumably, if the world is to be remade, then our attention must be remade, but what does our attention assemble? What has attention to the world, attention to other worlds, actually accomplished? The modern, imperial era was devoted to subjugation, but what now? Can our attention assemble something better? While other worlds (cultures) weary of "our" attention [2], global institutions nonetheless continue to enforce a particular economic regime [3,4]: How do we, as ordinary (or everyday) people, listen to other people in this & other worlds, beneath or beyond the mediation of neoliberal (and other global) institutions? Such attention might yet be unwelcome [5]: Museums [6], photographs [7], etc. continue to reflect the colonial gaze, a presumptively omniscient gaze that still permeates the global world, and perhaps even more so now via despatialization.[8] How do we overcome past problems if not via present or future listening? Does time even move forward anymore? Museums & photographs not only collapse space, but intertwine history with the present: How does one overcome the constant presence of history as (deactivated) history?[9] What else might one be able to hear?[10]

If the contemporary era involves modernist & postmodernist logics arrayed in ever more diverse combinations, what are these (temporal) logics? Whereas postmodernism (at least sometimes) posits the end of history, modernism figures imperial conquest as a narrative of progress: Time itself becomes a quantity reflecting merit, with various peoples declared not to be occupying "now."[11] If the postmodern is always after, after what?[12] What are the points of continuity & rupture? How many times are there?[13] If the postmodern is itself opposed to time, when do people live? The most basic message of racism to emerge from postmodernism remains just such a foreclosure of now for the various people who have never experienced material benefits from modernism [14], and whose history is still figured as inherently deficient (when it rises to the level of "history" at all [15]). Most of the world has yet to have a real, mutual opportunity to discuss their experience of racism, let alone to develop social ideas outside of the overbearing shadow of liberalism. (So when does most of the world ever benefit from our system? Not now, because now it's time for something else.[16]) If an era is ending, or has ended, when is the negotiation, i.e. when do other people get involved in deciding what's next?[17] Such an "end" has only seemed to suspend colonial time indefinitely, and so not only to preserve the privilege of its history [18], but the privilege of prior conquerors to validate subsequent decisions. Moreover, the West continues to claim a monopoly on theory, despite the many pre-Western global philosophies, both written & unwritten.[19] How might we listen to other theory as it's being (simultaneously) foreclosed by postmodern, global production?[20] If the age of the sign is essentially theological [21], what of translation? Does global listening necessarily involve mishearing, non-listening?[22] Does translation involve seduction?[23] Is it secular?[24] What of the contingency of memory itself?[25] Does philosophy somehow preclude religion? (The West seems to believe that it has achieved non-religious thinking.[26]) Does philosophy preclude music?[27] What of harmonious implications? Indeed, how might the (global) social actually be reassembled?[28]

If we are to move forward from modernist imperialism [29], where or when do we go, if not into the postmodern? Indeed, how do we embrace an actual postcolonial, postracist, etc. situation? (How might we hear it?) Whereas the specific "racial triangle" forging USA might be figured as "merely" historical today, what sorts of social relations continue to be assembled by race?[30,31] What sorts of relations are assembled in spite of race?[32] Again, we must listen.[34] Such listening assembles & entangles us, including by entangling here & there via distributed media: If we listen to e.g. a world music [35] recording, (to) where are we listening? Are we attracted to exoticism per se?[36] (Does the exotic even have a location?[37]) When is such listening taking, i.e. appropriation? What are the economic relations involved?[38] (Aestheticization of the other already implies appropriation, i.e. objectification & hence appropriating agency.[39]) What are the politics of such cultural borrowing? Clearly, simply (even genuinely) enjoying other cultural production does not automatically mitigate against appropriation & commodification [40]: Again, what are the relations? Where is the tension in any specific situation? How might our listening assemblage prioritize the sorts of relations we want to support? The specific situation of global listening itself might still support pastiche via despatialization: All of the "world recordings" in one place (if only metaphorically) suggests the incoherent pastiche of global racism itself, deriving as it did from many non-situations (i.e. fantasies of power).[42] What could be a more powerful fantasy of mastery than having "all" of global cultural production at one's fingertips, then? How might one become attuned in such an incoherent & illusory situation, whether to self or other?[43] "Interior" attitudes of the twentieth century did not yield such attunement, or yielded only misattunement, so how might such an aporetic result be functionalized otherwise? Note that this is still the refrain of modernism: What comes next? Rather, let's ask what comes from elsewhere.[44] How do we hear something else, i.e. something already happening somewhere else?

If postcoloniality is a particular form & choice of listening [45], how else might one hear worlds? What other choices & responsibilities do we have? How might one hear global political desire, both emanating from & exceeding postcoloniality per se?[46] If postracism is to exceed other post-s, it must arise from immanent desire, and not from an externally imposed framework.[47] (In short, the interior does not know, cannot know what is next for worlds, other than via attempts to retain the present situation by force [48,49]: So the interior must be exceeded, even overflowed.) Moreover, ending global racism is an ongoing process — not an abstract state to be achieved & declared once & for all. Who is being injured in any particular assemblage & how?[50] What of changing assemblages? Is racism simply converted into (domestic [51]) classism via postcolonial logic?[52] Where is the loyalty of intellectuals? Are they always already complicit with global neoliberalism?[53] Is postcolonial thought inherently complicit, as a condition for its arrival? According to globalizing rhetoric, doesn't e.g. "emergent" always imply complicity & assimilation? While we can surely hear these notions resonating, whether consonantly or dissonantly, can we hear global social resistance itself?[54] Can that resistance be heard within the aesthetic domain?[55] Again, where is that "world music recording" actually being heard, and what is assembled?[56] Where does resistance irrupt into the familiar, and where does it remain unfamiliar? Can we hear dispersed resistance? In short, where is our attention, and where is our attention relative to that of many others?[57] If we can answer with regard to our attention, both technically & morally, maybe we can (finally [58]) prompt & consummate the overflow of aesthetics into a broader domain of difference that in turn embraces outcomes.

Who are you then?[59] Who is any of us? Do we seek to forge a global aesthetic? (In the aporetic form of classical aesthetics, certainly not.) How do we figure participation? What of creatures with different sensory assemblages, different bodily assemblages, different relations to sound?[60] I have been invoking a specifically human globality above, but what is everything to which one might listen?[61] Besides people, animals & plants, even inanimate objects make sounds: What are the object relations of a multi-species spectacle of listening?[62] What is familiar? Is there a global body, a global voice?[63] How does nature-culture figure voice?[64] What of absent voices?[65] How might posthumanism mediate the voice?[66] Such questions raise issues of universality, and it is precisely the notion of a universal voice that one must discard in order to engage global listening: We must hear the particular, the generic [68], the very multiplicity of global desire: The man-in-person, the creature-in-person does not exemplify universal desire [69], but rather embodies particular desire. How do we become attuned to such desire, so as to assemble it other than hierarchically [71], other than universally, but rather as bodily & generic? Is the primal scene itself generic? (It is surely multiple.) Again, if resistance to neoliberal globalization is dispersed, how do we hear it? How do we assemble attention to change, but without universalizing? (While there are probably too many questions in this section, I hope that they at least suggest some of the many pitfalls for global listening.[72]) Listening for the generic, we might not hear everything, but we exclude nothing (at least not a priori). Such a process does not end.... (And this is only one more iteration.)

  1. For instance, marketing & propaganda are not offered humbly for our possible choice to listen: We're expected to listen, and effort will be undertaken to ensure that we do.

  2. Within the liberal world, "too much attention" is generally figured via invasion of privacy. However, let's not immediately project such liberal notions. Rather, attention can lead to appropriation, the taking of traditional cultural outputs for the gain of others. (Note that whereas appropriation is often figured as "cultural" today, it extends back directly to imperial appropriation of material, i.e. agricultural output.)

  3. As investigations by Braudel et al. have demonstrated, capitalism had always needed "the state" in order to enforce its conceptions of political economy on other populations. Such a need might even be traced to the imposition of various royal (or church, or any larger institution) courts onto local populations, even within Europe, in order to claim economic rights against the local population. Such law was & is still being exported around the world, and is still imposed by force in most circumstances.

  4. When considering the coincident arrival of nomadic theory amp; globalization, one might want to note more than the role of deterritorialization in capitalist expansion. Indeed, regarding expansion, was there ever really virgin territory? Again, what is & was being assembled, and from what? Such deterritorialization, at least upon being figured as a remedy, only seems to project utopian ideals into the future, while continuing the present retreat.

  5. Nancy's observation that concepts of listening derive from espionage seems particularly relevant when considering listening to other worlds & cultures. (Again, per [2], it's tempting to figure such listening via concepts of privacy. However, privacy names only a particular locus of concern: That our listening might be unwelcome does not indicate that a production is "private" in any technical sense. Rather, we might be suspected of wanting to privatize the situation.)

  6. A museum collection can be regarded as the past ripped from its context, such that it becomes nonfunctional, i.e. impossible to transmit as living knowledge. (At what point does such a possibility actually foreclose?)

  7. Photographs sometimes forge a locus of pity in their inherent objectification. What does a photograph assemble? What aspects of its subject are preserved or activated for further assembly? (Whereas the reaction of so-called primitive people to being photographed has often been figured as ignorant, one starts to hear suggestions that they have a good understanding of media rights. The latter might or might not be accurate, but it's hardly ignorant to observe the photograph figuring the colonial gaze, which it enacts in a rather concrete & straightforward way.)

  8. Collage or pastiche, as the prototype of postmodern art, might merely collect global references onto one canvas: Such references, ultimately such cultural products, are thus literally assembled for the gaze via despatialization, i.e. being placed within the same physical space. How can collage possibly disassemble the gaze? (One alternative has been enormous pieces of art that cannot be experienced from one perspective, since such a global perspective does not exist. Spatialization is thus enforced by confronting perception with physical limits.)

  9. "History" tends to reify around a particular narrative, to declare that "this is how things were" — and, in turn, are. (In other words, there is a sense in which history becomes written in stone, despite that its interpretations were often contingent & politicized in the first place.) In spite of various denials, and general lack of knowledge, "history" seems to wield more power than ever: It's another set of messages in which we're saturated, in which the globe is saturated.

  10. If one is to change what one hears, perhaps one must change one's situation....

  11. Between postmodernism, postcolonialism & various (historical or otherwise) colonial temporalities, notions of "now" themselves start to be ironic. (Of course, contemporary temporality, i.e. "now," is frequently invoked as a mechanism of control, as a means of insisting that everyone join the liberal regime & start making more money for the rich. After all, "out of time" often simply means "unprofitable.")

  12. The postmodern, as a particular kind of temporal doubling (or proliferation), enacts a particular affective assemblage simply by being posited into a situation. (Again, such relations proliferate.)

  13. I already discussed the multi-temporality of colonial time in Is postmodernism racist?. (That article also raised the question of who I am to be writing such an article, and that question remains open. Is any of this welcome?)

  14. Even if it's argued that someone did receive benefits from the modern regime, such "benefits" were not necessarily chosen: Fundamentally, whatever positive quality they might have had was accompanied by the imperial imposition itself, i.e. arose from other than personal desire. (Being forced to "benefit" can be rather insidious.)

  15. Declaring an end to history only seems to have underscored religious attitudes toward history, what is or isn't history, etc. What are today's events, if not history? Does the colony ever "catch up" to time or history? (The mainstream answer would appear to be that this occurs only via total assimilation, i.e. forgetting any contingent history — often framed as forgetting grudges.)

  16. The postmodern "now" retreats at its most rapid in the face of demands for benefit made by other groups.... (In other words, it's always time for a new system before people catch up to this one.)

  17. Of course, various non-interior people have already been involved in forcing a change of era. So such decision is always already underway. How might such participation actually be valued? For instance, how can spatially separated participants communicate other than via technology controlled from the interior?

  18. Note for instance that there has been very little in the way of apologizing for imperialism, let alone reparations, etc. (We're apparently expected to continue to find good in imperialism — more required, immaterial labor.)

  19. Not only might we want to listen to unwritten theory, but per Deleuze & Guattari, let me raise the notion that text itself is despotic. (And such a focus on text has surely been theological as well, underlining the basic absurdity of the West's claim to have developed non-religious theory.)

  20. As noted in Is postmodernism racist?, even theorists from other parts of the world seem to feel obliged to present their ideas according to Western philosophy. Is such a phenomenon simply pragmatic, or does it reflect losing, or at least segmenting, traditional knowledge? (What might a non-colonial museum be like? Can it preserve knowledge in active form?)

  21. The suggestion regarding the theological age of signs is from Derrida. (One might then figure obedience versus alterity: Who can modify the sign?) Moreover, as European language took over the world, its own science became unsatisfied with its language, and invented new signs. (Hence accessibility retreated further into transcendence.)

  22. At a minimum, global listening involves the possibility of many errors, whether due to some sort of translation, or otherwise: One must keep such limitations in mind.

  23. Asad et al. figure the Islamic interrogation of capitalism via seduction. (Indeed, my comments regarding noncompliance in section two suggest immersion in seductive marketing & propaganda.) Post-seduction, what remains of a functional society? Since Islam posits salvation as prior to creation, the repercussions of social seduction run deep. (In other words, the social cannot thrive absent significant parts, but can it even be translated?)

  24. Does so-called "multiculturalism" inherently imply secularism? Does it negate transcendence? (What then of religious ideas & ideals?)

  25. I have previously discussed the Buddhist approach to epistemology without memory. (Listening might become transpersonal in such a situation, i.e. an assembled flow that does not coalesce with or into a subject.)

  26. Whether hypothetical non-religious thinking is really an achievement or not, the main ways in which Christian (and other) thought is enfolded into contemporary Western ideas have already been noted at various points during this project. (In short, denying theology seems only to intensify the power of certain theological notions: As accompanying thoughts are suppressed, ideas are removed from the context of debate, i.e. are institutionalized as "neutral" background knowledge..)

  27. I will continue to figure music as that which we want to hear. (So I intend the term very generally.)

  28. I want to consider social assembly very much within the context of technological & moral practice, per the previous two sections. In other words, I am not seeking merely to collect, sum, or superpose the social into a static mass. Rather, how can it be actively assembled? How might its relations be figured & refigured? What dynamics become possible for such a living set of relations?

  29. I should emphasize that a critique of modernity does not imply a desire to go backward in time. (Such a desire is frequently posited in response, so that it can then be dismissed as absurd, together with the entire body of criticism. Such figuration of history fits together with neoliberal denial of possibility more generally.)

  30. Spivak notes that the image of the "native" is being replaced by the image of the "migrant." In other words, many people no longer have a home, not even their supposed site of ethnic origin, as neoliberal globalism continues to consolidate its hold on the planet. (Spivak's lament also involves criticizing reification of such a state before it's actually true.)

  31. Moten already notes the African slave as the commodity that speaks — in historical parallel with Marx's musing on "if the commodity could speak...." (Moten thus figures biological "reproduction" as prior to automated logistics.)

  32. Weheliye suggests that e.g. affect theory involves the biological depoliticization of race. In other words, affect is being deracialized [33], so that can in turn be reassembled so as to suppress race. (Whereas I believe that this criticism has merit, such assembly need not suppress race. As elsewhere, the issue revolves around close attention to specific relations of assembly.)

  33. Spivak suggests that rejection of (racialized) affect is specifically what energized defense of civilizing missions. In other words, if subjugated people showed negative affect, this was to be rejected as reflecting lack of understanding — perhaps on both parts — and the modernist project could be continued apace, as what was supposedly good for everyone involved. (Such a remark relates to Spivak's remark that everything is being made into culture. In other words, negative affect under the imperial regime was figured as merely cultural!)

  34. The necessity of listening to people with other experiences seems very obvious, yet such listening continues to be rejected — and quite loudly — during the many, recent USA racial conflicts. Given such basic denial, i.e. denial that other experience might be relevant, all within the interior, one can only imagine the level of denial that can be maintained relative to people we might never actually encounter.

  35. "World music" has always been a problematic category. What is the specific tradition involved? To what does it relate? To what is it assembled in the act of recording, etc.? (In some sense, it's a non-label, since all music is world music.)

  36. I could have figured (sexual) exoticism via sex in routine, and flights of sexual boredom certainly do index the familiar & unfamiliar, perhaps on a world scale via distributed media. (Sexual exoticism might thus be said to figure a particular sort of orientalism.)

  37. Attempting to locate the unfamiliar involves familiarization....

  38. In other words, who is benefiting economically from our listening to such a hypothetical "world music" (pace [35]) recording? Is it the musicians? Ourselves? A third party? Is this a stable assemblage, a one-time thing, etc.?

  39. Although concepts of agency might themselves be problematic, particularly in a guise of mandating (only) liberal subjects, I want to suggest tracing agency behind any cultural production as a critical part of interrogating its assemblage. (In other words, who is being empowered? Simply listening to a recording might empower us, the musician, the producer, politicians, etc. One must interrogate, in order to know.)

  40. Let's also resist the temptation to summarize & quantify oppressions, so as to compare & calculate.[41] In other words, let's not be satisfied with measuring our appropriation as small against empowerment, but rather, let's reconfigure all relations away from oppression & appropriation. (Note that "all relations" is not only a lot of relations, but can multiply to infinity. Hence, relations of oppression & appropriation can reassert themselves, or even be generated, at any moment, in part via affective response. In other words, no amount of positive intention can mediate a negative response, if all relations are to be respected.)

  41. The law is one such basic sort of calculation, per James. (Note how law also tends to multiply affective response: What's our opinion of or feeling about the law, the outcome of the case, etc. etc.)

  42. One can observe e.g. projection to have been a powerful component in the development of racist ideas. (In other words, whereas racism itself is all too real, the notions supposedly underlying it are often pure fantasy.)

  43. I had already noted that contemporary governmentality takes us out of attunement to our bodies & selves, just as much as it restricts attunement to the other.

  44. In other words, let's hear situations that have never been modern, and not simply demand that they become modern, then postmodern, etc. (Let's hear actual difference.)

  45. Recall that listening assembles a technology, in this case, a specific sort of (highly mediated) postcolonial technology.

  46. Note Weheliye's basic observation that viewing "colonization" as a theoretical process already appropriates the reality of being colonized. (So whose desire might one hear then? Only one's own?)

  47. That (functional) desire cannot be imposed via (simple?) framework seems obvious enough. (Of course, the middle class conspiracy suggests otherwise.)

  48. In Remède de Fortune, I figured the modern era as an exercise in capturing Fortune, i.e. in maintaining some people on top & some people on bottom indefinitely. ("Interior" knowledge is thus erected from the interior only, rendering it aporetic with regard to outside movements.) In Is postmodernism racist?, I remarked similarly that "establishing priority in the superstructure has been exactly the project of modernity." Simply, the interior prioritizes itself, including & especially its own cultural production. (This is what Gramsci called hegemony.)

  49. If we listen, one thing we will surely hear about liberal governmentality, despite (or because of) so much rhetoric to the contrary, is that it always returns to force & violence when confronted with limited compliance. ("Listen to us, or we won't be so nice!")

  50. I have a tendency to frame injury in anarchist terms: Your right to swing your arm stops at my face, so in any given situation (assemblage, relation), what & where is the arm, what & where is the face?

  51. Absent European imperialists, do privileged people simply reoccupy their domestic positions? Is the Euro-modern social structure maintained, simply with different people sliding into different roles? (Yet the roles at the bottom of society remain the same....) In other words, does the social logic remain that of modernist exploitation?

  52. Spivak chides what she terms the "multiculturalist masquerade of the privileged as disenfranchised." (In other words, foreign aid might well be directed primarily toward the privileged in postcolonial situations, both in order to cultivate continuing global economic relations at that level, as well as according to a misguided sense of skewed reparation: We might even hear that the privileged classes truly suffered, since they were the ones with something to lose. Of course, these two impulses fit together rather well from the perspective of maintaining hierarchy.)

  53. The inherent complicity of intellectuals remains a big issue, including for me personally. For instance, how does one balance education against action? What of being supported by liberal society itself? On a global stage, what of "natural" rapport among intellectuals that tends to draw us away from other people? (This last impulse must be resisted constantly: One traditional method has been asceticism, which might e.g. emphasize humility, but still underscores separation.)

  54. One might ponder that the social (i.e. "culture") is forged only via resistance. So what was forged via colonial resistance? What are points of continuity & rupture with that resistance? What various resistances are there (already)?

  55. Do the shifting perspectives of postcolonial literature point toward a critique of critiques? (How does such critique move beyond collage?)

  56. If music is what we want to hear, per [27], is it what its producers want to be heard? (What sort of "harmonious implications" are involved?)

  57. I already asked (in part C) whether some populations provide more attention than others. Is "virgin attention" being cultivated by global capital, then? Can we inflect & assemble it differently from within the interior? (I do not believe that this is possible: So one must leave the interior in order to inflect assemblages significantly.)

  58. And so worlds would overflow so-called enlightenment, thereby returning to immanent contingency (i.e. real relations)...?

  59. I ask Arendt's basic political question, but also Joëlle Léandre's related musical question: Can you hear me? (Am I being constituted for you? Are you constituting yourself? How might such mutuality span interior-exterior, and not simply via despatialization?)

  60. Such differences, whether of body or sensation, might be found within the human, as well as outside of that category (however defined).

  61. What is everything that might listen to us? (Consider mutual constitution, in turn, per [59].)

  62. Let's recall that, at least in the past, one might listen to "the music of the spheres" as well. (What is globality in such a setting?)

  63. It's tempting to declare the earth itself to be the global body, but let's resist any temptation to declare a global voice: There are many voices, and many ways to assemble via listening. (Just how familiar is the global body? What are the most unfamiliar voices?)

  64. Sometimes the voice is figured as natural, sometimes the voice is figured as cultural. What are its relations? (Generally, we speak "naturally," yet as mediated by culture.... Who might speak unnaturally? Who speaks unculturally? I want to meet these people.)

  65. Spivak has attempted to gesture toward absent voices via the figure of the subaltern, yet by questioning whether the subaltern can speak, she has been accused of enacting muteness. (So the question must be approached with caution: Rather, perhaps we should ask how to hear the subaltern — a figure basically defined as unheard.)

  66. So what is the posthuman voice? Rather, what are posthuman voices? (What is the immediate voice? The "posthuman" notion suggests mediation via the post- concept, so where or what is the unmediated generic?[67])

  67. The generic cannot be mediated: Immediacy is one way to figure what Laruelle means by man-in-person.

  68. Per the earlier discussion of attention economy, Laruelle's generic provides one means of interrogating the nexus between unique & universal forged by attention. Is the generic (of) listening simply random noise? Rather, one cannot circumscribe generic sound: It has no standard or representation. (Listening for the generic might even be figured as searching for compassion & empathy, i.e. the victim-in-person.)

  69. Perhaps European universality has consumed its own particularity. In other words, in such a long search for the universal, or rather, in such a long attempt to justify its own "enlightenment" as universalizable [70], has Europe lost sight of whatever made it unique in the first place? Is an urge toward universality ultimately self-destructive then? (If we can no longer hear generic global desire, it must be....) Hence European society resists its own pretension to the universal, in yet another invocation of pharmacology.

  70. A web search to check the spelling of "universalizable" has informed me that one should act only on "maxims" that are universalizable. What terrible advice! (I would say, rather, that attempts to universalize knowledge only render it suspect, by taking it away from its real context.)

  71. Is there generic global desire for heterarchy, then?

  72. Global listening continues apace, in some form, regardless of whether we do or don't engage with it actively. (In other words, passivity remains a choice, and is certainly the choice of those who believe that they have no choices.)

4. Demands for participation

Whereas I continue to figure listening via choice, such choice involves modulating attention: We might choose to hear something that (already) comes before our attention, we might choose to expand our attention (perhaps in a specific direction), we might feel as though we have no choice but to listen to something that has captured our attention, etc. Moreover, we might seek someone else's attention, or merely find it accidentally (or in spite of attempts to avoid it). We continue to be constituted by such (possibly improvisatory) attunement, whether our attention is sought or seeks another [1] — or circulates indeterminately. Of course, our attention is constantly being sought by marketing & propaganda, but let's set aside such immersion in institutional demands [2] for the moment: Who else might make demands on our attention? What might we demand in turn?[3] How might we mutually constitute each other despite institutional immersion?[4] Let's assume that there is a multiplicity of non-institutional, generic demands, whether originating with us, or directed at us, and moreover that the latter are highly dispersed & may never come to our attention. Do we have the will to listen? How is that will constituted? (It's easy for me to continue asking such questions, interior questions, but what do others want?[5]) Even without such a will, or without the reciprocal will to seek (our) attention [7], demands might nonetheless reach our consciousness — from a variety of directions.

Since we tend to figure speaking as active & listening as passive, it is the speaker whom we might consider to be demanding our attention.[8] Yet, do we listen? Does our attention make its own demand? If we say that a speaker has a voice (or an audience), such an assessment implies listening: So how does a speaker acquire a voice? (How might a listener acquire a voice in turn? Does our listening demand speaking?[9]) If the voice figures the will, what is its grammar? Indeed, what subject-object relations are involved more generally?[10] Are we objectified as an audience, or subjectified as choosers?[11] What does listening itself produce?[12] If listening captures attention, does it induce production in turn?[13,14] "Art" has long been figured as an object at the nexus of production & reception: What are its outcomes, not simply as object, but in attentional relations? Does the object speak, or refuse to speak; does it demand attention, or perhaps demand aversion?[15,16] Does the object mark our passivity [17], i.e. objectify us in turn, or does it spark further relation?[18] Even if art as poesis, creation itself [19], is beyond "mere" praxis, it continues to figure not only object relations, but the very temporality of creation & change [20], and so in turn our symbolic relation to worlds.[21] (Art might thus become practice.) So how can we participate actively in such symbolic mediation & modulation? Who else is demanding participation, i.e. a voice? What are the means & conditions of such participation? How might bodies be assembled differently, even artistically?[23] What is the morality of access & participation?[24] We already participate in an attention economy, to varying extents, and so in turn, mutually sculpt society & each other: Such an acknowledgement might not extend much beyond the interior [25], however, where it is highly attenuated anyway. Here, then, I ask not what "we" would like, but what demands are there [26], and how such demands might capture our attention.

Given the title of the present article, it's fair to ask if I am being completely impractical, not only in interrogating demands that might never come to (our) attention, but in figuring (& demanding) such broad change. First, let me suggest that "what is practical" (or what is "common sense") is constantly in need of deconstruction: Neoliberal governmentality works via limiting the possible [28], so that not only must such limits be interrogated & negated [29], but urgency only increases as limits become more entrenched.[30,31] Any suggestion that change is impossible must be met with real resistance [32], and as close to the source as possible. Demands for participation already swerve & inflect the other [33]: Participation, and in turn change, arise from necessity, which is the real arena of practice: The impossible might yet be necessary, there must be something better, and we are all artists.[34] (Is that sequence impractical enough?) So must everyone reset their clock with (or to) modernity [35], and begin anew, always already with Western theory? Exactly whose ideas have run their course? Is every rupture a repetition?[36] If phenomenology (as empiricism [37]) is concerned with appearance (as is aesthetics), then worlds (of appearance) can forge their own logics: We demand an end to both modernist logic & modernist narrative.[38] (And such an end need not begin with answers to these various questions.[39]) Philosophy itself may be redeemable, if it embraces indeterminism, i.e. stops claiming to know [40], thereby embracing & restoring the scene of history, beyond the monologue, and beyond theatrical segregation per se.[41] Is Western thought even capable of restoring the scene of history?[42] Once again, we must engage with the nexus of art & time [43]: When is the scene of such creation? Where is the necessary impossible actually staged?[44] Where & when are these other demands? If demands do not capture our attention, might participation itself (whether mutual or otherwise) do so?

If active listening requires a "context of specific moral practices & outcomes," how might such a context be forged by demands for participation? If every word is diagrammatic [45], and the (immaterial) labor of language supposedly yields truth [46], what of professional listening techniques & their outcomes? Do they allow us to forge new weapons, or do they only maintain limits (on participation & otherwise)? How might life move beyond such purposive limits?[47] What of the crisis of "wrong" participation?[48] Should demands be ignored or deferred?[49] Again, what of the (presumptive) poles of creating & listening?[50] How are such possibilities for participation, whether creating or listening, inflected by the internet, for instance?[51] Indeed, what is the state of colonizing [52] & postcoloniality on the internet?[53] Does the increasing singularity of internet marketing [54], refigure participation per se? (Note that even in its singularity, such marketing is oriented around institutions, i.e. is not person-to-person per the concerns of the present section.[55]) Are there predetermined interests, or only self-management?[56] Are people forced to have "interests" in order to participate?[57] Then we must demand to forge our own interests, or our own lack of interests [59], rather than having them imposed on us via a policy of legibility: Especially if minority discourse [60] enacts liminal spaces from which to launch new sorts of subjects [62], "minority" politics exceeds critique, i.e. arises from much more than mere lack. In short, if politics serves only to refine labor under contemporary governance [63], then real political participation must still be demanded, i.e. cannot simply be granted or imposed by hierarchy [64]: The power of such demands, exceeding any critique [65], arises from exclusion itself. Yet, the notion that everyone can or should participate in (artistically) sculpting society can all too easily become just another assignment & figuration via lack [66] — a (competing, counter [67]) demand in turn. So again, to hear demands, one must listen, not assume or assign: Where is (micro-)resistance in any relation?[68] Is a demand to participate really an act of resistance? How does such a demand inflect the primal scene, and in turn attention economy itself? Where does one tune one's noncompliance, if not toward demanding participation, once the latter is (always [69]) already assigned? Perhaps a demand for participation, if it is to be figured as a demand, requires illegibility (i.e. excess over interior thought per se).[70]

In the world of listening, illegibility is often figured by noise: All of these demands for participation might be rather noisy — indeed, such demands might never come to our attention specifically because they're "lost" in (the) noise. Noise pollution is thus more than an environmental problem: It is a political [71] (& artistic [72]) issue. Not only does "noise" interfere with hearing others, but our own speech might interfere with hearing others: Is my writing here an impediment to hearing demands?[74] Is it an impediment to posing them? Whose demands, which demands? Such issues surely play out differentially (i.e. according to hierarchy), but I'm already raising questions that I cannot possibly answer about myself.[75] In short, how does one "get out of the way," and actually listen? Moreover, how does one hear discord?[76] Various demands for participation might themselves conflict [77], and noise is relative: I've prioritized people relatively close to the interior, whether "minority" residents [78] or postcolonial scholars, largely because that's who I'm able to hear.[79] People & entities farther from the interior are "behind" (i.e. obscured by) even more noise: So how might one hear them?[80] If a colony is itself a critique [81], perhaps oppositional critique per se is actually more practical [83]: Such directed opposition might break through the noise (via its specificity [84]), yet surely leaves many voices behind. And isn't "leaving behind" much of the motivation for contemporary (interior) politics itself? We not only seek to leave people (& various other entities) behind (or simply "elsewhere" [85]), but our own prior bad acts as well: The interior (for the most part) does not listen to demands regarding imperialism, native genocide, slavery, etc. [86] — not even to acknowledge that these events occurred, that people were affected, etc. After all, figured via postmodern logic, the interior regards itself as "the finished product" [87] to which all others do & should aspire.[88] So why would "we" apologize?[89] Many demands for participation thus appear to be rather confusing [90], if not incoherent, yet demands continue to be posed: Some even come to our attention, somehow.

Although I've attempted not to focus so much on the interior here, obsession with photography among the (interior [91]) public seems to be too pregnant a phenomenon to ignore: Look at all the artistic participation, complete with symbolic figuration![92] How has "point & click" refigured participation itself, though?[93] For one, such participation is assembled not only in relation to the image per se (& quite literally) [94,95], but globally via contemporary media (i.e. technology) companies & their distribution channels. Circulation of images, as discrete instances of attention [96], thus serves to emphasize particular forms of contemporary mediation (& in turn, profit). Moreover, images of the past accumulate [97], as the (postmodern) interior turns increasingly away from the future.[98] So is this actual symbolic participation?[99,100] Perhaps more to the point [101] for the contemporary regime, does circulation of "user-generated content" [102] produce more attention?[103] Whose attention, and how is it assembled? Does circulating photos actually satisfy demands for participation?[104,105] It seems that such circulation only serves to distract from other demands [106], and so raises questions of attunement, improvisation, & noncompliance yet again....

How can we actually listen to a multiplicity of non-institutional, generic demands [108] then, particularly to those which we might not otherwise hear?[109] That is the question....

  1. The listening assemblage is itself social performance. (Others might in turn listen to us listening, for instance.)

  2. Institutional demands may often be characterized as universalizing, but when it comes to marketing, they are increasingly targeted specifically as well. (Such a relation is then specific, not generic.)

  3. I want to emphasize that demands can be mutual & simultaneous, even as I am suggesting two sides (roughly, production & reception) for purposes of articulating this discussion. Such a duality may emerge only afterward, if at all.

  4. There might be differences in institutional immersion within a listening assemblage, particularly if such an assemblage straddles the world interior. (In other words, listening might assemble us to someone or something that has very different relations from us otherwise.)

  5. Whereas it's tempting to believe, particularly in the context of writing such as this, that other worlds both want our attention & to be saved, let's be careful to refrain from any such conclusion. I will focus on demands per se, whether made intentionally [6] or otherwise.

  6. Let's consider, further, that generic demands are intentional as demands per se, but have no intended audience. (In other words, a generic demand has no specificity beyond its character as a demand — i.e., it is certainly not tailored marketing.)

  7. When considering demands on our attention, it is far too easy to fall into a narcissistic mode, and declare that such demands make our attention valuable, and so in turn make us important. (Such a mode is cultivated by "interior" marketing.) We should consequently be wary of any assumption of reciprocity in attentional assemblages: The latter need not align in neat ways. (Perhaps it would be helpful to think of the so-called "love triangle," which is itself still a relatively tidy configuration.)

  8. Does the speaker occupy a position of omnipotence? (Such would be the presumptive position of the colonizer.) Where is the aesthetic gap in this situation, i.e. the divergence between outcome & intent?

  9. From the standpoint of marketing & profit, our listening does indeed demand speaking. (To ignore our listening would be to ignore a market. Note that whereas this is largely unthinkable in the interior, many markets do remain ignored.)

  10. That I have routinely reduce grammatical discussions to subject-object indicates two things: One, my personal exposure to languages that do not emphasize subject-object duality is limited, and two, even the relative simplicity of subject-object duality is too often neglected in similar discussions.

  11. We are frequently told that we are being subjectified as choosers in order to objectify us as an audience. (Do we actually choose then?)

  12. One thing that listening produces is, of course, the subject (via the primal scene, and beyond).

  13. In section one, I already raised the nexus of creation & reproduction, and suggested that "creation of sound is increasingly mediated & modulated by reproduction of previous sound." (In other words, the audience-object might become the speaker-subject by utilizing identical content, i.e. input as output. Although this description might seem esoteric, such a "pass-through" occurs routinely, often without the consciousness of the eventual speaker.)

  14. In classical music, a musician attends to a composition (or composer directly), in turn producing musical output for another set of listeners. (One might also ponder the critic listening and then producing, etc.)

  15. Aversion is a form of attention.

  16. One can speak of an obligation toward "pure" appearance, i.e. toward the unveiled. (Although such discussion is found frequently in enlightenment-derived aesthetics, it indicates religious origin in its reverence toward appearance, i.e. revelation per se. Such a stance likewise suggests Platonism.)

  17. Halberstam suggests that we refuse the logic that figures refusal as inactivity. In other words, passivity in the face of the object might be refusal of te object. (Such refusal might then be enacting or acknowledging other relations.)

  18. These would appear to be fundamental aesthetic questions, particularly if we refuse to separate intent from outcome, or focus on intent at all. (However, note once again that intent is indeed another kind of relation, and may yield its own outcomes.)

  19. The aura of art as poesis can easily invoke a narcissistic perspective on object relations (in part per [7]).

  20. Artistic production (and listening in turn) can forge its own critical temporality. (One can & should contrast such a temporality with the presumptive temporal relations of the postmodern in general.) Barthes suggests, for instance, that we demand our own rhythm.

  21. The symbolic was traditionally mediated & modulated by religious institutions, and so (as per [16]), religious approaches underly significant portions of modern aesthetics. Symbolic participation might thus be framed as a quasi-secular demand for religious participation.[22] (Is this, once again, a pharmacological response to modernity?)

  22. Stiegler observes that the death of god marked the birth of art per se (and with it, as I've observed, Kantian aesthetics). Now must we ponder the death of art in the face of the ever more ubiquitous culture industry, and indeed the postmodern end of history? It is this concern that, at least in part, seems to prompt Stiegler's (recognition of a) demand for participation in the symbolic economy.

  23. The artistic assembly of bodies is one way to figure a response to disability & in turn accessibility. (Today it is common to hear disability framed as a technological problem, but let's demand that it be framed as artistic potential. Such potential then involves situating disability as other than with individual people.)

  24. One basic demand is for enjoyment of the sensible. (Some people can apparently enjoy the sensible without participation in the symbolic. Is it possible that they haven't noticed their own exclusion? The USA middle class does seem to be in denial on this point.)

  25. After all, before it marked an "interior," imperial modernism set out to disrupt all other global social dynamics, and did so rather successfully. (So those other mutual constitutions have been compromised and/or implicated.)

  26. Note per the previous section that demands need not originate with people per se, but might emerge from various creatures [27] or entities or environments....

  27. For instance, species representation is already a kind of micro-struggle: What counts as an actual creature, as a type of creature, etc.? To be seen as an entity, or coherent group of entities, is thus one sort of (minimal) demand for participation. (Forms of recognition that deny diversity might be figured as "purification," and such a fundamentalist danger animates many contemporary contexts. Demands for participation thus deny purity.)

  28. In its emphasis on limits, neoliberalism thus inverts liberalism in at least one significant way. (I have already suggested that such an inversion might have been at least partially motivated by global environmental limits — reframed so as to deny the relevance of the actual limits — given the coincident timing.)

  29. Nancy suggests that the rhythm of limit & unlimit sets the pace of philosophy itself. (So how might we escape just such a trap? After all, what we demand is not philosophy....)

  30. Immanence itself is a basic indicator of political urgency: It marks what we are faced with, what is inescapable. (In contrast, the transcendent domain is where one might wish to escape.)

  31. Since post- itself always signals deferral, any post- rhetoric should bring a feeling of urgency. (Moreover, Spivak suggests that some theory betrays a faith that minds change at the same speed as structures, which presents another situation for deconstruction: Such lag is an opening for improvisation, even if structures are constantly assembling us.) Deferral also brings fatalism, which might be figured as the postmodern mood itself (in a perverse reprise of millennialism).

  32. Micro-resistance is real resistance, and as noted already, its outcomes might not remain small: It's about inflecting & swerving at every opportunity (or even non-opportunity).

  33. Ochoa Gautier suggests that modernism has demanded forging "techniques of alterity." (In other words, one must forge techniques for effecting change per se under a regime that declares change to be impossible: This was the colonial situation.)

  34. As per [3], perception of art is not necessarily separable from the creation of art: Perception itself, as a forging of relation, is also a kind of creation.

  35. While writing this section, I learned that Latour specifically plans a "reset modernity" project — as one outcome of public mediation on his ideas on modes. (I had mentioned the "reset" concept, at least as articulated above, already in Is postmodernism racist?.)

  36. Spivak is particularly wary of postcolonial rhetoric simply repeating & reinscribing colonial logic. (After all, inclusion typically means beginning from the way things have been — suggesting e.g. non-augmented concepts of the subject in opposition.)

  37. My invocation of phenomenology, particularly in a nexus with empiricism, might be figured via its parallel in aesthetics. (In other words, one perceives art.) However, I have also found that phenomenology interfaces well with other global demands for participation: Such discipline is one way to listen.

  38. In other words, we do not demand an end to all narratives, but rather an end to some narratives. (What other narratives already exist?)

  39. Stiegler suggests that it is essentially aesthetic societies that do not (explicitly) ask so many questions. Rather, doubt is conveyed via production itself, not separate interrogation.

  40. One might suggest that philosophy substitutes "understanding" for listening, i.e. that it essentializes. How then might indetermination evade capture by determinism? (In other words, what is a nonequilibrium sense of truth, not for all time, but in the moment?)

  41. Stiegler suggests that the origins of theater mark the retreat of the divine, i.e. that there was no more separation between spectacle & ritual, profane & sacred, no more scenic break. And theater marks the origins of Western philosophy in turn.

  42. Rousseau (via Derrida) suggests that, for instance, writing is itself usurpation. (Does writing only restage theater?) Is writing secondary to speech? (What of graphic writing versus phonetic writing?) Where is the voice in such a nexus? Where is the listener?

  43. Music is one obvious way to engage with the nexus of art & time, since music relates time "artistically."

  44. Is truth itself the fruit of immaterial labor? Whose? (Whose labor & whose truth? Let's not assume that they align.)

  45. The diagrammatic character of words can be observed in a variety of contexts. (Hopefully I have been actively refiguring such character throughout this writing.)

  46. A "linguistic" notion of truth is only one such notion. (Perhaps one doesn't need a notion of truth: Demands perform their own truth, after all.)

  47. Life without telos remains a significant contemporary issue (pace concerns of [22]): What is the nexus of art & telos? (How might one abstain from reversibility, i.e. forge new & forward-looking temporalities, in such a context? From a process standpoint, after all, reversibility is even more constraining than equilibrium.)

  48. Contemporary USA politics makes a lot of noise about "wrong" participation, and thus how eliminating people from society will help. (What such elimination would help, I'm not actually sure. It would feed people's anger & resentment, I suppose, which contemporary media likes to figure as helpful.)

  49. Stiegler contrasts an "adventure of consistencies" with subjecting "existences to the imperatives of subsistence." In other words, demands are deferred by imposing more pressing concerns.

  50. One way to reframe & implicate poles of production & consumption has been the figure of the amateur: The amateur "loves" production, and doesn't seek (capitalist) exchange. What relations are forged by amateurism per se? (What economic relations might become undone in turn?)

  51. Following Harney & Moten, let me pose the notion of an "undercommons" of the internet. (Their notion of undercommons as possessing means without ends seems to fit the early internet rather well.)

  52. Many of us witnessed the colonization of internet structures, many of them created on a volunteer basis, by for-profit entities: Such colonizing happened tentatively at first, both in fear of destroying what it sought to appropriate, as well as of regulatory reprisal, but has continued to accelerate. (It might already be difficult for some readers to realize just how powerfully commercial activity was circumscribed at some times & places on the internet.)

  53. What might a hypothetical postcolonial internet be like? (We are nowhere near such a result, at least when considering the internet only on its own terms, since the big technology companies, i.e. imperial powers, continue to increase & consolidate their colonial holdings online.)

  54. Whereas the potential to market to individuals on the internet is revolutionary, whether such singularity will ever be thoroughly implemented remains an open question. How does it affect industrial mass production, for instance?

  55. I am not considering whether institutions "hear" our demands: They have their own priorities — and modern institutions have rendered morality aporetic anyway. Per [52], person-to-person communication (i.e. as not mediated by an institutional site) was once relatively far more common online, though.

  56. Note that self-management, although increasingly demanded of us, is a notion that (often) contradicts the relations of the primal scene.

  57. Per [51], I take many of the questions in this paragraph from Harney & Moten. (The reader might also want to consult my Investments & Relations regarding those general issues.) They even suggest that contemporary governance is in the process of criminalizing lack of interests, and in turn, framing participation according to such lack.[58]

  58. Participation via lack is one way to frame assimilation — as opposed to actual respect for differences. (Hence the posthuman, etc.)

  59. Cautions similar to those of Harney & Moten regarding interests can be framed as cautions regarding representation, as I've regularly done here. (Harney & Moten urge caution regarding interests, even those formed "from below." They also note that the undercommons is frequently accused of lack of seriousness, i.e. lack of real interests.)

  60. Note that "minority" discourse [61], such as that of African-Americans, as invoked in this section, can straddle interior space: Moreover, such straddling becomes increasingly ubiquitous, as the interior folds up on itself, i.e. as included & excluded people are in ever-closer physical relation. (The "space" of hybridity thus becomes increasingly common, particularly as, per Spivak, the migrant increasingly displaces the native theoretically. One might then ask, in parallel, regarding Native American discourse: Unfortunately, I have nothing concrete to cite in this context.)

  61. Although African-Americans are actually a minority within many of the groups of which they are a part, many "minorities" (women, for instance) are not actually minorities, and so I quote the term. Moreover, the beneficiaries of the neoliberal regime are certainly in the minority, so such concepts become increasingly tenuous. (In other words, whether someone is literally in a minority is unimportant to many situations, including many contexts here.)

  62. I quote Weheliye quoting Sylvia Wynter. (The idea of new subject positions certainly appeals to me, but what I most often see is "minority" groups clamoring to be a part of the middle class conspiracy, i.e. full-fledged interior subjects themselves. Or maybe that's simply what contemporary media reports.)

  63. In other words, contemporary (interior, at least) politics has often become synonymous with identity politics: It seeks to define us, and in turn urges us to fulfill our role (in generating profit). Contemporary identity politics also seems to have totally undermined Marxist concepts of consciousness.

  64. In other words, real participation is not contingent, and cannot be derived from others.

  65. Accept no prefigured role: Demand full access to creation itself.

  66. Ochoa Gautier observes that folklore might only exist (as folklore) in the face of its imminent disappearance, for instance. (In other words, as opposed to interior discourse, it is conjured via lack. Hence another need to move beyond assignment & lack into the world of real demand.)

  67. One obvious means of putting off demands is to make counter-demands, e.g. by imposing conditions, etc. (This has been a typical imperial approach to postcoloniality.)

  68. Micro-resistance is possible in any relation, but one cannot assume its direction. Moreover, one cannot assume its scope: After all, relations are assembled into larger structures, and so where is the focus of resistance? One might ask where is the weak point of the assemblage, and realize that resisting one relation might involve supporting another, if only accidentally. (In the latter case, one might speak of negative resistance emerging from an assemblage of resistance.)

  69. Neoliberal governmentality already knows our role, of that we can be sure. (Moreover, it claims that such relations exist in perpetuity.)

  70. So once again, we ponder demands to which we might never (be able to) attend: Such is attention economy, but such is also real performative demand, existing beyond the caprices (or even capacities) of our attention.

  71. As already noted & partially reiterated in [48], general noisiness is conducive to political scapegoating: People aren't just "lost in the noise," but are positioned externally so as to be unheard.

  72. One might in turn create music that interacts with "noise," whether to heighten or transform. (I frequently discuss how improvised music interacts with environmental noise. Indeed, I consider modulation & mediation of ambient noise to be a "practical use" for music. So what are some other possibilities?[73])

  73. For instance, one might create music that refigures political participation via its relation to noise. (See Music as political, and elsewhere, for more discussion of figuring relations musically.)

  74. In principle, my own speech might be an impediment both to my own listening, as well as to the listening of others, if I become (or am already) a distraction.

  75. Quite possibly, someone else could begin a list of people & entities who are more difficult to hear on account of my activity.... (Such a situation is often opaque to me, at least in its specifics, since learning that I was impeding something or someone in particular would automatically intrigue me — such that I'd probably go listen. Such impediment surely happens, though, nonetheless.)

  76. It's tempting to suggest that the interior tends not to hear discord — or opposition — but that's not entirely true: The interior tends to hear very particular sorts of discord, discord that fits its standard narrative. (So, one might want to redefine "discord" for these purposes: With what is it dissonant?)

  77. If we are to hear discord, then we must acknowledge agonistics as ongoing, and without transcendental position. In other words, there is no such thing as "world peace," but rather an ongoing series of sometimes contradictory demands: There is no equilibrium, but a chaotic & changing sea of voices (& non-voices).

  78. I hesitate to write "citizens," both because I don't want to exclude non-citizens, and because even introducing the concept poses other troubling political issues. (In other words, I decline to separate "citizens" from people in general, while acknowledging that many people are fighting for the right to be citizens for real reasons.)

  79. After all, per Moten quoting Masao Miyoshi, globalization is "a strategy for maximum exclusion." In other words, noise is structural & cultivated by the neoliberal regime.

  80. Sometimes listening is simply random, at least from the listener's perspective. Perhaps we must accept that, and value what we do happen to hear.

  81. Bhabha notes how "deficient" colonizer ideas are constantly being reflected back by the colonized: Such reflections might not be heard explicitly, but continue to impinge on the governing body nonetheless. (The colonized themselves are thus able to hear far more, both their own production & much of what is directed at them externally.[82])

  82. In other words, noise is not symmetric: One group might be buried under noise for another, but not vice versa. Such a situation tends to arise from power differentials, and the (silencing) narratives that accompany them.

  83. To what extent is practicality really the issue, however? (Per [76], a "practical" response might suggest hearing only what one wants to hear. So I remain impractical in that sense, i.e. continue to listen for dissonance.)

  84. In other words, people might come to "speak with one voice" on some specific, significant issue. (Such speech in turn silences others, or the same voice on other issues — anything that might differ. In yet other words, assembling attention skews expression, particularly as differences reify into definitions.)

  85. The rhetoric is that we want (to help) them to "catch up," but the reality is often abandonment — depending on resources to be exploited, etc. (Such situations are always figured as deficits for, and probably caused by, the other.)

  86. Latour suggests that one of the principles of the modern (& contemporary) economy is quittance. In other words, once a transaction is completed, it is completed — there's no going back to demand other compensation, consideration, etc. That the West demands quittance in its transactions should come as no surprise, given its imperial history. (The ability to declare when transactions have completed is a significant marker of power anyway.) Moreover, quittance in general tends to negate social bonds: Relations need not be maintained beyond a transactional approach to economy, in sharp distinction to many traditional assemblages (in which economies are embedded). In some sense, this is the essence of modernity: Indeed, one might characterize the West as demanding quittance on Fortune itself, i.e. demanding that the current hierarchy be preserved forever.

  87. Stiegler notes that incompletion is the only real motive. In other words, the West feels no incentive to change, because it regards its own project as "completed." (Think of how often messages of completion are injected into contemporary politics: Everything is finished & as it should be, if only "you people," per [71], would get in line!)

  88. Of course, the interior has no intention of compromising itself so that others can have a turn enjoying similar luxury....

  89. There is also a sense in which apologies show weakness, and that might be relevant. Is an apology a step toward reparations? (The scale of potential reparations largely makes them unthinkable for the current regime.)

  90. Confusing demands certainly do problematize the West's basic claim to omniscience....

  91. Everyday photography extends beyond the interior... just how far, I don't actually know.

  92. One might immediately ask whether the way people exchange & label photographs rises to the level of the symbolic itself. (Rather, does such public participation announce the retreat of the symbolic from the "mere" circulation of images, which has become automatic?)

  93. I should have said "point & shoot" in order to use camera manufacturer rhetoric, but enjoyed the conflation with clicking (on the computer) — which I suppose should be "tapping" now, what with smartphones. In any case, such technology (& accompanying marketing rhetoric) figures mastery in a particular way. I don't want to suggest that symbolic participation must be "difficult" in order to be effective. However, refiguring mastery is certainly an aspect of this technological assemblage.

  94. Images can (all too easily) be figured as representations, invoking all the criticism of representation that such a move implies. (Hence contemporary writers interested in the art of photography often distance themselves from representation per se. But the public?)

  95. The image emphasizes the static scene. Although the public is increasingly filming videos as well, they nonetheless retain the character of a finished product, i.e. a static encapsulation or summation for all time. (In a similar sense, thought is often rendered as a photograph of itself, i.e. without life.)

  96. Laruelle figures photography as photo-fiction, and suggests that the photographic act is a vector, i.e. not closed. Whereas circulation of images can induce a variety of relations & affective responses, the photographic image nonetheless becomes an object — one might even speak of the fetish. So I would have to regard Laruelle's suggestion of an open vector as wishful thinking, or perhaps the (artistic) exception that proves the rule. (For Laruelle, this is how photography can rise to the level of a fiction.)

  97. Laruelle also characterizes photography as a "weak art of revival," yet sees potential for insurrection in it. (In this, he emphasizes a lack of realism that urges us to look for more, and so a possible sense of incompletion per [87]?) Can revival of the past, weak or otherwise, possibly lead to insurrection? One might pursue examples....

  98. Obsession with photographs seems to fit rather well with notions of the end of history, etc. We can rehash memories forever!

  99. I'd like to think that actual "participation" is more future-directed than past-oriented. (However, we've certainly seen the power that comes with being able to define historical narrative for oneself. Can circulation of public images rise to either level?)

  100. Although Stiegler frames his demand as participation in the symbolic, he actually names three economies, including political & libidinal. Whereas symbolic participation can figure political participation in straightforward ways, what of libidinal participation? (Let me reframe "participation" in this sense as agency. In other words, we demand agency in our participation, particularly when we must participate regardless.) Is the circulation of images more about asserting libidinal agency, then? (The media history of the internet, particularly its early emphasis on pornography, might suggest as much.)

  101. Correspondence with Barthes' use of "punctum" is not coincidence.

  102. The circulation of images has multiplied considerably with the rise to prominence of so-called user-generated content, but let's not forget that circulation of images had already exploded in the twentieth century, and without much user-generated content. More creators has certainly meant more images, but how much has really changed?

  103. More specifically, does "consuming" user-generated photos induce us to consume something else? There is a corresponding need for internet storage & bandwidth to support circulation of photos, not to mention envy of photographic equipment, but what else might we consume in turn? Does looking at photos make us hungry, say? How else might attention be modulated via such circulation?

  104. If a demand for participation is satisfied without otherwise modulating the social assemblage, or indeed while consolidating the current relations of power, then the contemporary regime has managed to strengthen itself via such pseudo-participation. (It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this is what has happened, although pace [90,91], perhaps there will be further repercussions for contemporary governmentality.)

  105. How might one engage in micro-resistance via the taking (itself an interesting choice of verb) & circulation of photos? Various means of swerving present themselves....

  106. Intentionally generating noise so as to distract from (unpleasant) demands, such as per [67], seems to be a well-established response to criticism (including per [79]). So, again, how does one listen "through" such noise for what is behind [107] it?

  107. It's fortuitous that "behind" can not only suggest an explicit obstacle to listening (e.g. a wall of noise), but also invokes the temporal logic of modernism itself.

  108. Pace [2,6], generic listening — as emphasizing the haptic, per [80] — might be our only recourse, at least so as not to exclude or essentialize....

  109. Perhaps I should be asking how we demand to participate: Simply being a part of the interior does not automatically imply participation, not in any real sense. (What sort of participation do we actually want?)

5. Everyday music

The notion of generic demands suggests a (reciprocal [1]) notion of generic listening, i.e. listening to someone or something in particular without knowing exactly who or what (or why): What we hear might remain unsituated, including (perhaps [2]) relative to ourselves.[3] One might thus conclude that we need more consciousness when allocating (our [4]) attention, but we need less consciousness too: An open, receptive practice of listening exceeds our attentional choices [5,6], forging and/or interrogating an ecology of aesthetic (& non-aesthetic) production & consumption.[7] If consciousness can serve to modulate such an ecology or set of assemblages, then, where or how is it (best [8]) applied? How do we allocate consciousness so as to forge a receptive, open [9,10] listening practice? (Can or must we expand consciousness in order to do so?[11]) Moreover, how do we trace or perform micro-resistance in the swerve of the everyday?[13] Whereas institutional demands are significant components of everyday noise, there is a basic arbitrariness, even singularity, to what we actually hear that cannot readily be controlled.[15] In short, everyday listening activity & choice — the tapestry of sound in which we're immersed [16], for whatever reasons — not to mention everyday attention & ability [18] itself can be activated via practice, and without constant mediation by consciousness. To what are we listening, how might we hear it differently, and in turn, to what else might we listen? (Such questions can be raised at any moment.) Indeed, what is the nexus of attention & consciousness itself regarding our everyday sonic tapestry?[19] In the simplest terms, what can & do we really hear? (And not in "significant" moments, but in any moment.[20])

I already suggested that music is "sonic organization of affect," and that such organization might be done entirely by the listener.[21] ("Music" thus implies an attentional assemblage.) I've also emphasized relation between music & time [22], such that "music" implicates our sense of moment [23], and might lead directly to tracing complex strands of temporal relations themselves.[25] Such complexity cuts & multiplies time, and together with attentional choice, presents a multitude of momentary sonic possibilities.[26] Moreover, even prioritizing the sonic, music relates more than sound per se: Remaining within the realm of sensation [27], vibrations might be felt bodily, musical objects will be touched or seen, etc. So much sensation is induced at any particular moment that even a focus on sound & music implicates other kinds of production: Indeed music may be written [28], such that it ramifies memory itself.[29] (Writing music is another kind of listening assemblage [30], even as it was once incapable [31] of communicating the basic timbral "stuff" of sound.[32]) However, thinking in terms of "quantity" of sensation or "kind" of production, of a "multitude" of momentary possibilities, already fractures the moment: Whereas one might invoke the basic integrity of momentary immanence, thus taking us outside of time [33], temporal sequence has typically been rendered coherent via narrative: We often trace what we hear [34], and perhaps even articulate it in turn [35], via words (and in rather limited ways [36]). Knowing the words thus traces & invokes our critical sense [37], i.e. conscious modulation of attention via object relations: Again [38], what is the place of the epistemic relative to (attentional) choice? How has knowledge itself (always already) been scripted by narrative?[39] Is what seems to be "random listening" to us actually scripted by someone else?[40] These are questions of the generic moment, as narrative continues to situate that moment. Yet the moment is also the only time [41] to fight for new modes of existence.

Do we want to hear everyday sounds as music? How? I am not suggesting that one inscribe all of (sonic) sensation into preexisting narratives (whether musical or otherwise [42]), but rather that one problematize just such a tendency by tracing & interrogating relations [43]: In other words, one might expand "musical" sensitivity (and critical articulation per se, beyond narrative [44]) into arenas that rarely receive concentrated attention.[45] "Fully" tracing relations is impossible, from the primal scene onward, and indeed attention economy modulates & mediates an incredible range of relations, often well beyond our consciousness, whether via technological assemblage or otherwise (and perhaps even according to moral practice). Yet activity is ongoing, and there are many moments that we might inflect. How might one cultivate desire [46], for instance? What of the basic joy of existence? It seems that theoretical production often serves to inhibit both joy & immediacy (or immanence) [47], and so one must go not only beyond the conscious, but beyond theory: Whereas (existing) theory might be compatible with the everyday, theorizing per se is more problematic [48]: One must perform.[50] Moreover, since post- is always already melancholic [53], one must cultivate desire in order to shift theoretical production beyond its contemporary moment.[56] Theoretical activity — such as this — is unlikely to cultivate real desire, however.[57]

The basic integrity of momentary immanence is sometimes figured via presence: The sonic presence (or tapestry [58]) in our lives enacts or reflects a rich set of relations that we might or might not trace or interrogate. Despite some musical claims [59], there is an inherent richness to everyday tonality: There are so many sounds & noises, whether originating from other creatures, the global environment, explicit technological assemblages, etc.... The highly mediated might sound alongside the immediate, for instance, enacting new relations in turn.[60] Such presence envelops us immediately [61], plunging us into the moment: Yet many of us pull back from immersion in presence [62,63,64], and especially its political consequences.[65] (Perhaps we fear losing ourselves.[66]) How do we come to value the haptic, then, what we randomly happen to hear?[67] I started this section writing of the generic, but what of my own specificity? What is my everyday music? What might I want it to be?[68] I continue to articulate some answers [69], at least regarding conscious artistic production [70], but everyday music is much more broad: There are those moments when sounds from a variety of sources, impinging in a variety of intents & outcomes, simply align [71] — or don't align, perhaps even spectacularly. We might embrace & enjoy the sheer presence in such moments, ignore them, suppress them, reify them into events, etc. Yet practical listening will continue to assemble such diverse moments [73], and in turn, momentary possibilities.

  1. One might consider the duality between listening & demanding as dissolving in the generic. In other words, the generic poses a limit for the dual, as its reciprocity becomes indistinguishable: In generic listening, we might actually be demanding, & vice versa.

  2. Per the limitations already imposed by the primal scene, we can never be fully situated, not even with respect to ourselves.

  3. Sensation that remains unsituated relative to ourselves is sometimes called subconscious.

  4. Since attention invokes an assemblage that ordinarily exceeds ourselves, attention is not entirely ours. (Per the indistinction of [1], does hearing demands already obligate us? One then asks what "hearing" means....)

  5. One can argue that an open, receptive stance is the basis for not only phenomenology, but scientific empiricism & its epistemology as well.

  6. One must also assume the existence of the inaudible — particularly considering that it might figure other relations.

  7. Note that such an ecology acquires territories only via refrain (or repetition). Generic listening is unrepeatable in this sense.

  8. I hesitate to raise a notion of optimization, since any sense of optimizing is surely multiple (and likely incoherent if reified), but we are not concerned with just any application of consciousness here.

  9. Neo-romanticism posits a sort of "openness," for instance, but such an opening is typically toward transcendence. (And such transcendence might be invoked by rupture alone.) Here I want to consider the basic contingency of material sensation: At any moment, we might hear things at least a little differently.

  10. Note the caution (per Kassabian) that a relation of openness forges the hidden, i.e. establishes a hermeneutic dual. (In other words, such a choice has consequences, as the "open" category invokes its own opposite.)

  11. Whereas consciousness can yield more consciousness via assembly & feedback (i.e. nonlinear relation), I do not want to embrace a stance that requires increasing amounts of attention (i.e. consciousness). Rather, how is our consciousness allocated? If we could somehow avoid wasting it on propaganda & "garbage" inputs [12] in general....

  12. A garbage input is something already conceived as a distraction, something to (re)direct our attention, but without any particular regard for the input itself.

  13. Laruelle notes that self-belonging & event are mirror images of each other.[14] In other words, conjuring the event requires close attention to the swerve of everyday: What are the micro-relations?

  14. Laruelle also poses deconstructing (photographic) flash as event, which we might continue to inhabit. (If philosophy is invoked as light, we can thus interrogate such a nexus, even as flash closes in on itself — confines itself — via the rationalization of logos.)

  15. Although techniques exist for e.g. manipulating the sound production of insects, there are so many creatures & other physical sources of sound: Where is the unscripted at any moment?

  16. One might also feel a sense of loss or nostalgia for previous sound ecologies. (Even Muzak is now several decades old.) Are we listening, then, for the old regime, or for now? (As I described the generic in section three, are we listening for change without universalizing?[17])

  17. Although the generic is posed as an alternative to the universal, one must also question its (generic) relation to typology per se, particularly as paired with variants of the specific. (The generic might be posited as a means of scaling relationships without actually scaling: How does one really hear multitudes without essentializing, i.e. without imposing states over nature?)

  18. One might embrace a relation of discovery with ability, for instance.

  19. Such an everyday sonic tapestry has been mediated & modulated (historically) via a variety of disciplinary assemblages: There is music, of course, but also language & linguistics, audiology, musicology & ethnomusicology, ethology, and more recently "sound studies" as an attempt to capture auditory sensation either in sum or from different angles. Needless to say, these historical disciplines have had different characteristic concerns arising from different cuts or ruptures. However, attention economy exceeds such conscious (specific) disciplinary modulation: Indeed, "our" (per [4]) attentional relations generally exceed our conscious capacity to modulate them, and so while one might interrogate their nexus, the latter cannot circumscribe the former. (I hope that this is quite clear by now.)

  20. The generic moment thus marks our everyday listening practice.

  21. In many situations, of course, listeners have been trained to attempt to identify (and respond according to) "the" organization as conceived by the musician (or "composer"), in a sort of rote hermeneutical stance.

  22. Although it's tempting to state that music must implicate time in order to be music, I'll leave open the possibility of non-temporal music.

  23. Despite my own decades-long involvement, I must note the perversity of performing historical music outside of its own temporal context [24]: Whereas such temporal rupture is perverse in a sense, it also underscores the basic flexibility of music at modulating temporal relations.

  24. In contrast, art that doesn't require temporal recreation, but that rather exists as an object — i.e. "art" as it's usually understood — "naturally" persists through time. (One might generalize to ask how art reproduces itself as an object, and in turn how else such reproduction could occur. One can certainly argue that music reproduces itself, even if it is silent for long or short intervals between such reproduction.)

  25. Note that by exploring or forging (i.e. performing) relations of temporal complexity, particular music might also be obscuring (or rather, silencing) others.

  26. Voegelin observes that the impossible is needed to pluralize the actual. I tend to agree, but have to ask, within such an observation, what is the nexus of impossible & unfamiliar? (In accord with [10], one might also note the hermeneutic implications of so-called "aesthetic possibilism." Circumscribing the possible certainly conflicts with an open stance.)

  27. Musical relation obviously exceeds sensation per se, encompassing as it does our memories & associations, our notions of what is or ought to be, poetic or mythical invocations, the product for which we hear the jingle, the television show with that theme song, etc.

  28. Although writing has long been the basic & essential means of knowledge transmission in the Western world, writing music has never actually been required. Indeed in the contemporary media environment, we have other forms of memory: Does writing music even make sense when everything is habitually recorded? (Whereas one might laud a renewed focus on performance over text, the media environment can be said to proliferate texts.)

  29. What is the relation of memory & practice? If practice is about (continual) relearning because of forgetting, it becomes a place to swerve. (Might we remember the radical past as it has never been in memory anyway?)

  30. One might suggest that we forge ourselves only via transcription, lacking direct access as we do to the primal scene. (One can also ask at what point such musical relations actually exist.)

  31. Per [28], a recording is a relatively new form of writing (or archive, one might say) that transmits timbre.

  32. One might consider a "musical note," in the traditional sense of Western music, to be an abstract representation of an idealized & essentialized sound. (Timbre would then be embodied, perhaps, only via an overlapping set of notes.)

  33. Per the remarks of [24], one might consider art to be "taking us outside of time" via its objectness & abstract persistence.

  34. Voegelin suggests that it has been (at least) implicitly posited that "listening needs a language that produces words." Are we thinking words when listening? Only during some kinds of listening? Are we thinking musical notes (i.e. another sort of abstract representation per [32])? What might be a non-linguistic sense of musical temporal relation?

  35. Kassabian suggests that narrative itself is an inherently masculine form, and has at least partially served to foster "goal directed" music. (Derrida traces some of these issues to the traditional social situation of the epic. He even suggests that phonemes themselves invoke linearity.) How might one articulate moments & multiplicities differently then? What else has been done?

  36. There are or have been rather more languages than we actually know or use. (While ours developed to facilitate particular sorts of communication, did it not develop to preclude other sorts?)

  37. A critical stance is often situated in opposition to creative production itself, but even beyond the indistinction posited by [1], these two poles include each other: The critic is producing, and the creative artist is critical. (Criticality might be formally separated via technique, but reenters at some point, if only in the decision to proceed.)

  38. I had already raised issues involved in relating knowledge (epistemology) to choice in Morality as aporia (including explicitly near the end).

  39. Ochoa Gautier suggests that "listening" be applied to disjunctures, i.e. situations (e.g. secular, cosmological, etc.) that do not seem to cohere. What is to be heard there? (In related terms, is this the sound of hybridity? Can one hear the noise behind a narrative?)

  40. Pace the welcome excess noted in [15], much of our "background" environment involves conscious choices by others, perhaps (as in the longstanding case of Muzak) with the explicit intention of modulating our attention.

  41. One might more simply say that the moment is the only time. (It also marks urgency via immanence.)

  42. Musical narrative is only one way to mediate sound (as per [19]). Indeed, sonic production generally includes literal spoken narrative.

  43. Previously, I talked about attunement figuring such an act of tracing, likely in an improvisatory manner (and in many situations, at least potentially enacting noncompliance).

  44. What might non-narrative critical articulation be like? (Per [35], what other possibilities already exist?)

  45. Expanding musical sensitivity can easily become an act of reinscribing sensation within preexisting (musical) narrative, so one must be alert for the tendency. (Recall tension between familiar & unfamiliar, for instance. One or the other might capture us.) One might speak of expanding the musicality of relation, but not in an imperial sense.

  46. Desire — in keeping with its prominent role in psychoanalytic theory — is a particularly active sort of attention.

  47. Indeed, this is not the first I've found that, during long periods of theoretical production, not only do I take less joy in the everyday, out of which thought constantly pulls me, but even my thoughts become repetitive & fractured, if not eventually incoherent. (I'm thus looking forward to embracing a more immanent sense of the moment in the very near future.)

  48. I hope that the distinction between applying [49] already existing theory & theorizing is clear: Such a distinction is certainly not noted in order to glorify equilibrium (or reification per [8]), but rather to acknowledge that the act of theorizing per se pulls us away from momentary immanence. (In other words, the equilibrium of existing theory is a "safe" position, with all the limitations that implies. Its "compatibility" might thus give us nothing more than a familiar distraction. In yet other words, preexisting theory can & often does colonize the everyday.)

  49. Performing theory exceeds the notion of applying theory, since theory itself might be implicated & inflected in performance. (Application suggests that theory remains static, at which point it is useless.)

  50. Whereas knowledge of theory can certainly aid performance, such knowledge must be internalized in order to emerge immanently.[51] Such internalization in turn problematizes the ability to perform theory (rather than merely apply it, per [49]) if it reifies arbitrary relations. In short, learning theory can be counterproductive. One might consider the parallel to the notion that a little knowledge is dangerous, but it's not so much the quantity, as how it is in turn modulated or modulates otherwise. (Apparently I still believe that theory has value, however, or at least engaging with theory, sometimes.[52])

  51. In other words, adequately performing theory requires quite a bit of practice. (Whether I do so "adequately" remains an open question, but I do practice — in the conventional sense of explicitly developing techniques & rehearsing for future situations.)

  52. Perhaps the most urgent theoretical knowledge is needed to facilitate fighting against other theoretical claims. Too much theoretical production remains largely unquestioned, except within very specific contexts. (In that sense, theory becomes a weapon against theory.)

  53. As the primal scene hopefully suggests, beyond postmodernism, which explicitly invokes a sort of cessation (yet with no corresponding mandate or disinhibition [54]), poststructuralism itself encapsulates limits that often make it seem absurd (at least to many people) as epistemological foundation. (Indeed, one might call it a non-foundation.) Even the postcolonial suggests a kind of vacuum in need of animation. So where is desire in these assemblages?[55]

  54. As we've seen, the modern was quite disinhibited. (What does the postmodern actually urge us to do?)

  55. To be clear, I don't mean a theory of desire, but rather (unmediated) desire itself.

  56. Again, what other theoretical production already exists? Can we hear it through the noise? (In other words, there are many contemporary theoretical moments, some per [52].)

  57. Desire, presumably, precedes & motivates participation in such theoretical production. (Or does not, particularly for those who are not participating!)

  58. I enjoy the "tapestry" image both for its medieval evocations, and because (literal) threads enact & interrogate relations. (Try pulling on a loose thread, if you want to know what I mean by interrogating relations.)

  59. I still encounter very limiting & essentializing claims about what sorts of sounds can possibly be musical. (Such claims typically emerge from people on the perimeter of music anyway, similar to the sort of behavior I've noted from "fans" of science. So perhaps call them pseudo-musical claims.) Such claims are often ethnocentric.

  60. For instance, per [15], insects (or dogs, etc.) might react to (i.e. relate to) sirens.

  61. Immediate (significantly, in both senses) envelopment suggests the primal scene, of course.

  62. Weheliye suggests that fully inhabiting the flesh can lead to different modes of existence. (What others have there been already?) And I ended Morality as aporia by suggesting that bodily precarity itself might be dualized as both an outcome of & message to modernity. (Such dualizing is sometimes figured according to radical passivity.)

  63. Rousseau (via Derrida) already suggested finding presence almost anywhere. Thus musical presence might be figured into writing (as in [28]), even via joy in writing per se (i.e. joy in the immediate production.)

  64. In Laruelle's terms — and obviously he is not prioritizing gender-neutral language in his production — immediate presence is figured by the man-in-person. (So what are generic aesthetics, let alone generic joy & desire, of the man-in-person?)

  65. According to composer Sylvaine Hélary (with whose work I am not otherwise very familiar) on the Ayler Records website, "Presence is the original political fact. Magic is the reconquest of presence. Music is the simplest form of magic." (I like the quote, for obvious reasons.)

  66. The interior favors a very conservative politics, after all, and feeling too connected to others can problematize its propaganda. (In that sense, losing oneself suggests losing privilege.)

  67. Valuing the random or haptic is a very different cure for Fortune than that pursued by modernism. (Moreover, why not be pleased with what one encounters, and especially in the "smallest" of moments? Joy seems like a good alternative, as long as we're choosing....)

  68. Halberstam reminds not only that the "revolution will come in a form we cannot yet imagine," but that what we want afterward will be different from what we currently think we'll want. (So, would I actually be satisfied with my current choices, if I were able to make more such decisions regarding my sonic environment, let alone more decisions about the world generally?)

  69. One can read my thoughts on "jazz" recordings, medieval music, etc. on www.medieval.org. I expect to continue producing & publishing more, although not formatted in such lengthy theoretical texts as these recent efforts — at least not for a while.

  70. I also articulate thoughts on e.g. sirens & leaf blowers, but such ranting is (presumably) largely uninteresting, so I tend to confine it to casual (i.e. everyday) conversation.

  71. I certainly do not posit such momentary alignment as an end to antagonism (which Harney & Moten assert can never really be tamed). Such moments are simply all the more striking amid general antagonism.[72] (One might ask, moreover, for whom are sounds actually aligning in such moments? Such a perspective might be very specific.)

  72. One might also hear agonistic moments amid general antagonism.

  73. Despite quite a bit of experience in these matters, including per [51] & [69], I find that the most diverse moments offer little opening to mastery: They move quickly, with no equilibrium, and no right answers. (Elaborating [8] & perhaps [38], one might never know if one has chosen or inflected well.)


Please see a bibliography for these appendices, as well as the original bibliography for the series, if you so desire.

Todd M. McComb
29 March 2016

6. Perspectives....