Death to the Home: Part 2

1) Moving again tomorrow. I really just want to set a life up for myself that enables me to finish my thesis and stops me from going completely crazy. I am going to crash at a mates house for a few days while I find somewhere.

2) I still have not smoked since last Saturday (9/7), so it has almost been a week. Those who have spent anytime with me know that this is a radical shift in my behaviour. Over the last 3 years I have been a fulltime smoker, which means I always had cigarettes and always had to go have a smoke every now and then. Now I don’t have ciggies and I don’t go for smokes.

I am treating it as a test of my will power. I am going to finish my PhD in the three years. I suspect that quitting smoking is going to be chicken feed compared to the task I have set myself with my studies/research. War (the drums)! Fuck, I love it…

EDIT: Via Myke. I suggest a new title for this .gif:

“Doing a PhD”

3) I bought the Deleuze cinema books today (Cinema 1 and Cinema 2). I am preparing to write my chapter in my thesis on affect and modified-car culture by preparing to write the paper for the upcoming M/C Journal issue on affect to be edited by Mel Gregg. My paper (if accepted) shall basically pick apart a quote from Mr A in the interview I did with him in Sweden. He said, “The hardest thing about it all is capturing speed on film.” ‘Capturing speed on film’ is not only a problem for Swedish film makers making films about racing through the streets of Stockholm but it is also a problem for philosophers of cinema and affect, especially those who use Deleuze.

As most Deleuze nerds will know, his books on cinema are heavily influenced by Bergson. Basically, Bergson argued that there is a time-matter continuum which we experience as ‘duration’ and that the world is constituted totally by images. Deleuze picks up on this and argues in Cinema 1 that the movement-image captures and frames a duration. In Cinema 2, Deleuze argues that there was a shift to the capturing of time with the time-image. He has a taxonomy of 18 ‘images’ derived from these two distinctions and three basic images he gets from Bergson.

The definition of speed in theories of rectlinear motion is of a rate of distance over time. Acceleration is change in this rate (ie a rate of a rate).

To represent speed on film is very difficult. Either a movement can be tracked within a frame so a camera pans across a (normally) horizontal landscape (but may include vertical landscapes of rocket launches, for example). Or a camera can be locked on to a moving body to represent the world moving past the body. Or the camera can track a moving body while it moves itself and without being locked on to the moving body. Important in representations of speed is a relation of proximity. The farther away a camera is from a moving body the slower it looks.

The problem is that even though ‘speed’ may be quantifiable at any distance, there is a qualitative dimension to speed that is of a different relation than that of time and distance. There is not only the speed as an abstraction, but speed as a relation between the body and movement that makes particular movement feel fast when they may be slow and vice versa. Examples, sitting in a plane doing 1000 km/h or driving a go-kart doing maybe 30 km/h. It is the affective dimension (that may be overcoded as emotions like fear or excitement) that I shall focus on. The speed of affect is instantaneous; the affects of speed, let alone representations of the affects of speed, is a problem of a different order.

The tricky bit for me is to connect representations of speed with the representation of the affects of speed. Mr A raises the example of motorsport television coverage such as rally racing. The representation of speed in rally racing does not look particularly fast. The point of racing is to win the race, ie be the fastest. On the other hand, the makers of Getaway in Stockholm work at representing the affects of speed. The point in their films is not to be the fastest, but to represent speed in a particular context (the ‘getaway’, cars in relation to the Swedish police). What they market are films that capture the affects of speed.

Anyway, more on this later.

Hot Coffee and Immaterial Labour

Although it is probably bigger news in the conservative heartland of the US, apparently there is a mod of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that allows for pornographic content (and you thought the title of this blog post indicated it was going to be another rant about postgrad life!?!). The hoopla has also spilt onto our shores. For me the news is not so much that people are enabling 1st/3rd person ‘shooter’ porn content, but that Rockstar games is turning against the enhtusiasts that created the mod:

“So far we have learned that the “hot coffee” modification is the work of a determined group of hackers who have gone to significant trouble to alter scenes in the official version of the game,” reads Rockstar’s official statement. “In violation of the software user agreement, hackers created the ‘hot coffee’ modification by disassembling and then combining, recompiling and altering the game’s source code. Since the ‘hot coffee’ scenes cannot be created without intentional and significant technical modifications and reverse engineering of the game’s source code, we are currently investigating ways that we can increase the security protection of the source code and prevent the game from being altered by the ‘hot coffee’ modification.”

On the dude who actually created the mod:

“Now widely reported in the Associated Press and other outlets, the mod was authored by 36-year-old Patrick Wildenborg, a Dutch gamer and a member of the modder community, those computer users who alter a game’s programming for creative purposes, often adding new character “skins,” altering weapons, or adding new items as aspiring game developers.”

For those that are interested, the mod does actually exist and here is a link to 1:30m video of the action.

(EDIT July 14: Hmmm, dial up modem finally downloaded the video overnight and what is more problematic than there being actual ‘sprite pr0n’ content is the unrealistic expectations reproduced about sex. Kiddies are going to be brainwashed into thinking that you can go around stealing cars, shooting cops, bashing prostitutes and only having sex for one minute. haha… I reckon you won’t get to have much sex if you only go for one minute. Maybe that is why the computer game character is so violent?)

Modding is an example of the ‘free labour’ that Tiziana Terranova discusses:

“By looking at the Internet as a specific instance of the fundamental role played by free labor, this essay also tries to highlight the connections between the “digital economy” and what the Italian autonomists have called the “social factory.” The “social factory” describes a process whereby “work processes have shifted from the factory to society, thereby setting in motion a truly complex machine.”2 Simultaneously voluntarily given and unwaged, enjoyed and exploited, free labor on the Net includes the activity of building Web sites, modifying software packages, reading and participating in mailing lists, and building virtual spaces on MUDs and MOOs. Far from being an “unreal,” empty space, the Internet is animated by cultural and technical labor through and through, a continuous production of value that is completely immanent to the flows of the network society at large.” (33-34)

She draws on Maurizio Lazzarato’s conception of the two different aspects of labour:

“On the one hand, as regards the “informational content” of the commodity, it refers directly to the changes taking place in workers’ labor processes . . . where the skills involved in direct labor are increasingly skills involving cybernetics and computer control (and horizontal and vertical communication). On the other hand, as regards the activity that produces the “cultural content” of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as “work”—in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion.” (41)

This is actually different from Paulo Virno’s conception of immaterial labour. Virno conceives of immaterial labour as virtuosic; meaning the ‘product’ is the labour itself and not a finished object (commodity). Virno is explicit in his argument that the virtuosic dimension of immaterial labour is also the basis for its inherent political content.

“Virtuosity is open to two alternatives: either it conceals the structural characteristics of political activity (lack of an end product, being exposed to the presence of others, sense of contin gency, etc.), as Aristotle and Hannah Arendt suggest; or, as in Marx, is takes on the features of “wage labor which is not productive labor.” This bifurcation decays and falls to pieces when productive labor, in its totality. appropriates the special characteristics of the performing artist. In post–Fordism, those who produce surplus-value behave — from the structural point of view, of course — like the pianists, the dancers, etc., and for this reason, like the politicians. With reference to contemporary production, Hannah Arendt’s observation on the activity of the performing artist and the politician rings clear: in order to work, one needs a “publicly organized space.” In post-Fordism, Labor requires a publicly organized space” and resembles a virtuosic performance (without end product). This publicly organized space is called “cooperation” by Marx. One could say: at a certain level in the development of productive social forces, labor cooperation introjects verbal communication into itself, or, more precisely, a complex of political actions.” (54-55)

The distinction Virno is making is similar to the distinction D&G make between a ‘tool’ and a ‘weapon’ in ATP:

“One could also say that the tool encounters resistances, to be conquered or put to use, while the weapon has to do with counterattack, to be avoided or invented (the counterattack is in fact the precipitating and inventive fact in the war machine, to the extent that it is not simply reducible to a quantitative rivalry or defensive parade).” (395)

Lazzarato, on the other hand, broadens the conception of immaterial labour to be defined by communication with, on the one hand, machines (information) and, on the other hand, communication within language (culture). Of course, there is no difference between the two in the sense that both have a creative aesthetic dimension only that in the case of the communication of ‘information’ the discourse is determined by much larger social machines of which a ‘user’ or ‘operator’ may only be but a constituent part. That is, there is a difference in scale. I am thinking of a post-fordist assembly line worker who exists within the ‘total’ factory of a car company (which includes marketing, design, etc) compared to the car dealer who exists in relation to the finished commodity and the circuits of exchange on a different scale.

Anyway, if Rockstar games goes after the enthusiasts that produce mods and extend the durability of cultural commodities such as computer games, then I am pretty sure there will be a massive backlash. Rockstar needs to be very careful as I suspect others will be watching with interest.

Correction to Lotringer’s Forward to Virno’s A Grammar of the Multitude

I am reading Paul Virno’s A Grammar of the Multitude. Lotringer’s forward references (fn 8) a then unpublished essay by Brett Neilson “The Market and the Police: Finance Capital in the Permanent Global War.” The problem is that Brett’s name is spelt “Breit Nelson” even though is sounds very European and perhaps even Germanic, it is incorrect. So for anyone googling Brett for this paper, the reference details for the paper at the moment are:

Neilson, Brett (in press) ‘The Market and the Police: Finance Capital in Permanent Global War.’ Traces 4. Special issue on ‘Sovereign Police, Global Complicity: Addressing the Multitude of Foreigners.’ Eds. Jon Solomon and Naoki Sakai. (Accepted: 7 August 2003, Publication date: December 2004).

on the go

Anyway. Report to myself on my progress. Or a ranted-up sliver of self-reflection. Or ‘Mental cob-web clearing going on, watch for falling tools.’ Or ‘No high-concept fireworks to see here, people. Move along. Move along.’

1) Thesis is coming along. I am continually struck be the immensity of the task I have set myself. I realise that I am doing something half-right when my research object seems so utterly complex that any work of research that makes any kind of totalising claim without being a multi-volume work will undoubtedly fail. I am only doing something half-right because I need to come up with the other side of the equation; that is, placing limits on myself and on my research.

I have been trying to think of ways to deal with this, to move on beyond the paralysing fear that whatever limits I select will be insufficient. Taking Lawrence Grossberg’s idea of ‘mattering maps’ and running with it, I have been working towards a calculus of mattering. I understand my research to be performatively conditioned; to be a act of intellectual (immaterial) labour that is expressed through academic tradition. My problem is deciphering the question of what matters to which audience.

Why this has taken me so long to figure out and why I have turned to a notion like a caculus of mattering is that I am caught between what can be considered the normative claims of what matters within cultural studies and an expression of what matters to me as a one-time member of the culture which I am researching. So far I have refused to assume the calculus of mattering that pertains (in an admittedly unrealistic ideal or categorical way) to cultural studies. My first introductory chapter was originally going to be called “This is not cultural studies”. As a sidenote, this is not an anxiety about what sort or ‘type’ of research this is. It is undoubtedly cultural research working from within the paradigm of cultural studies. It is simply a matter of realising that the sort of questions that I ask of my research and the sorts of questions that I ask in my research will be determined by what matters.

Therefore, my rationale so far has been to keep on working away in an attempt to find a mattering that is organic to my research object. My problem is that I did not come at this research project with a ‘problem’. I have certainly discovered a number of ‘problems’, that is, event-based structurations that can be rendered problematic and explored, however, I don’t feel like these are sufficient in themselves to sustain what is meant to be a piece of high-quality research suitable for a PhD.

Anyway, part of my problem has been my infatuation with Deleuzian thought. It is so utterly useless if you want to ‘keep it real’. Instead it is perfect if you want to interrogate the real. I actually have an unfinished blog post, derived from my rereading of What is Philosophy?, where I outline a case for the utter uselessness of Deleuze (and his work with Guattari) for ‘Cultural Studies’. The situation either needs some serious modification of their work to ‘make it fit’ or without some hard core engineering project whereby the world is rendered Deleuzian. At the moment I am unwilling and probably incapable of doing either, especially for my thesis, and especially in the time I have left. The basic Deleuzian method (although it should never be called this if you want to be a ‘real’ Deleuzian, but, yeah, who really gives a fuck?) is to grasp the actual state of affairs as an expression of a virtual machinic structuration. The problem that most people have failed to realise is that you are not meant to see ‘rhizomes’ or ‘war machines’ everywhere, you are meant to create your own concepts. Or, rather, the concepts, that is, incorporeal events, that belong to a state of affairs. Of course, certain states of affairs will be repeated and then task is to therefore isolate the difference that is repeated in such a state of affairs, which can then be traced back to being another differential repetition of a singular virtual machine.

I have been debating, and it really is not a debate, because I am so far down this track I don’t really have any choice, whether or not I should take this on board and deploy (actualise) the Deleuzian-machine in the specific state of affairs that is my research. The Deleuzian-machine is a virtual machine that pertains to the state of affairs that we might commonly call Deleuzian thought. The’second book’ of the two books that Buchanan discusses in his book on Deleuze. I would be surprised if more has not been written about this.

2) I have been thinking many thoughts about what I should say for the impending postgrad seminar presentation at USyd on the 22 July. I am now leaning towards some of the massive issues I have been dealing with and written about here about conceptions of success, measures of success, and what actually draws people to this sort of research (and lifestyle!!) in the first place. It certainly is not about being ‘successful’ in any normative sense, or if people do think it is about that then they are in the wrong bloody field!! Success is not abandoned, don’t get me wrong, I want to do this as well as I possibly can (hence the above rant), but part of what I find attractive about this type of humanities research is the fact it does not fit into any easily reconciled pidgeon hole. I don’t mean the actual research itself (it is cultural studies), but the act of doing the research itself as a job. For example, my short stint working for a private market research company taught me about the difference between deploying my skills in a conditioned labour environment where I sell my skills like any other worker and the kind of freedom I enjoy as a postgrad. Anyway, there is much to say about this…

3) Lastly, I have two projects simmering on the back burner. One is a paper on ‘post-romance’ derived from a couple of semi-recent films. The other is a script for a movie: “The Hoon”. 1) It is about the son of a tow-truck driver who wants to open up his own speed shop; 2) set in Australia in the early 1980s against the backdrop of the cultural upheavals of the late-1970s and the early-1980s (ie death of Fordist economy and labour/market reforms); and 3) the hoon/son may or may not fall in love with a bourgie arts student. Conflict is organised around the bourgie arts student love thing and some low level organised crime that the hoon’s father may or may not be involved in. It is based on one of my ultimate back-burner projects (I am not sure if I have mentioned this before?): a novel I have been writing and which I started about 5 years ago. I return to it once or twice a month and write another couple of pages. Anyway. The flick: I want to give the conservatives exactly what they fear the most while still being a ‘popular text’.

Now, letting me go

Cause I just can’t look its killing me
And taking control
Jealousy, turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies
Choking on your alibis
But it’s just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
‘Cause I’m Mr Brightside

How to let go? What is letting go?

The exquisite pain of ‘letting go’ is surely one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be alive. The misery of lost loves, the violence of gambled opportunities, the depression of crushed dreams. We all know it. ‘Letting go’ is a specific violence to be wrought upon a future that will never happen in spite of a past pregnant with possibility. It is a shutting down. A road block. The sadness of ‘letting go’ is an expression of bearing witness to something passing in the world. However, ‘letting go’ needs to be reclaimed from the negative. It needs to be interrogated under the bright lights of fidelity to the event for what can be affirmed.

When you ‘let go’ of an object it is released; ‘letting go’ as threshold. However, ‘letting go’ in the sense in which it is meant here is a process. What is let go is not the ‘object’ that was allegedly in one’s possession (another person, a car, a desire, a sense of security, whatever), but the reconfiguration of the self that affirmed and allowed for the connection in the first place.

Sure, part of you dies, and it is gone forever, only to be resurrected in un/pleasant dreams. But there is a joy in ‘letting go’. There is. The world is refolded into one’s self. Instead of a short circuit of desire between your self and an other, the circuit opens up to the world. Another part of the world is born and that is what needs care. The eager to-come of Destiny that never does, for it is always becoming on the bright side of our souls.

I would like to isolate and affirm two moments in the process of ‘letting go’ as an affirmation. I shall draw on an a-personal example for the sake of non-innocents.


The most famous fresco of the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel is the one regarded as a scene illustrating God’s creation of Adam. What if Michelangelo’s famous panel illustrated ‘man’ being let go by God, or, heretically, even man ‘letting go’ of God? The outreached hands could easily be read as either or both figures letting go of the other. I am not trying to rewrite history, but using it as an example in a thought experiment (so no one send me nasty emails, please).

Adam looks despondent and is seemingly relaxed. He is not bothered by God’s efforts and may even be playing with him, keeping his hand just out of reach. Adam is letting go of God. God’s face is intense and configured into a pained look of concentration. His upper-body is strained in a fury to make contact. His fingers may be at the bottom arc of a grab that failed. Little cherub angels look on, hiding behind God and supporting him in his strained, ferocity of movement at the same time.

To take it to the next level, the panel is meant to illustrate God’s creation of Adam, as most people know, in his own image. Adam as simulcrum. It is the original becoming that signals the power of the false. ‘Letting go’, in this case, signals a transformation of One copy into another another. There is a falsity to the Adam-as-copy; a falsity that has power. The power of falsity is the production of a variation within which one has the power to let go.

The illustration of God and Adam captures in a moment of time two sides of the singular process of letting go. The pain of letting go and the necessary disaffection that allows one’s self to let go of one’s past copy. We are always somewhere in between. Between two copies of ourselves. Letting go of you means letting go of my self.

But the power of falsity has another dimension. It is the second copy, the copy produced by letting go of one’s self, that needs to be affirmed. Adam in the world, which in biblical references is Adam in Eden. Quite simply, the power of the false allows us to affirm the paradise that is the world. To allow ourselves to refold the world into our selves again. This is what I now welcome and care for like a wandering stranger whom I have chanced upon: the new stranger of my self in the world.

The 28 Days song Goodbye is still my break up song, but now the Killer’s both sad and uplifting track Mr Brightside is my soundtrack for letting go.