and the Integral Accident of Love?

Some thoughts on Me and You and Everyone We Know. Everybody go see it. Yes, it is that good.

On the ‘sign’:


Was she aiming for perhaps post-gendered intimacy? Anyway…

One of Paul Virilio’s more well known theses is that with the invention of modern technologies come the accidents associated with them. He calls this the integral accident. Railway locomotives produce the railway accident. The car produces car crashes. So on and so forth.

Reading Mackenzie’s Transductions has got me reading some long forgotten books (I was storing them in my car’s boot!). One such book is Lyotard‘s The Inhuman. It is a book made up of papers delivered at conferences and the like. In one such paper, and BTW the only paper that Mackenzie seems interested in, Lyotard writes:

From its origins, mankind has set up a specific means of controlling time — the narrative of myth. Myth allows a sequence of events to be placed in a constant framwork in which the beginning and the end of a story framework in which the beginning and the end of a story form a sort of rhythm or rhyme, as Holderlin put it. The idea of destiny long prevalent in human communities — and even today in the uncoscious, if we are to believe Freud — presupposes the existance of a timeless agency which ‘knows’ in its totality the succession of moments constituting a life, be it individual or collective. What will happen is predetermined in the divine oracle, and human beings have as their only task that of unfolding identities already constituted in synchrony or achrony. Although given out at the time of Oedipus’s birth, Apollo’s oracle none the less prescribes in advance the destiny of the hero up until his death. This initial and summary attemp to neutralize the unexpected occurence was abandoned as the techno-scientific spirit and the figure od capitalism came to maturity, both of them much moreefficient at controlling time.
Very different, and yet very close, is the way modernity treats the problem. Modernity is not, I think, a historical period, but a way of shaping a sequence of moments in such a way that it accepts a high rate of contingency. (67-68)

An accident as such does not have to be something bad; ‘accidents’ are overcoded as bad within certain symbolic rituals of capitalist/moral/governmental enterprises such as the actuarial insurance industry with their technologisation of risk.

What if there are integral accidents to sociality? What if all we live are the accidents produced in a technologically mediated world? And what if what we thought of as our respective ‘lives’ were merely the latest versions of narrative myths that we tell ourselves about ourselves?

I have discussed this before and I think in a not dis-similar fashion to Punch Drunk Love, Me and You and Everyone We Know explores the nature of social accidents in a postmodern world.

The harmonies produced by the rhythm and rhymes of everyday life are accidental. MaYaEWK is a study of social accidents. It explores them with a childlike innocence. From covoluted accidents on the roadway involving goldfish to accidents of intimacy on internet chat programs to accidents of love that precipitate between an elderly person’s taxi driver and a shoe salesman.

(You can listen to the freakin fanta-stic soundrack here and more from Everlong Records, as a sidenote check out Roxy Saint‘s track “Rebel” and Metric’s stuff on the Everlong site. Yeah. That’s not what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Yeah. But what you should be talkin’ ’bout.)

Broadband and Skinny Glen

I am currently waiting for our national telecommunications supplier to activate my phone line for broadband. I got paid recently for a magazine article I wrote. It was either bills + a couch or bills + broadband connection. I decided on the broadband option and a general rejig of my personal telecommunications expenses (so I can reuse my home phone line for something beyond the internet and turn my mobile into pre-paid rather than post-paid). So hopefully the line activation should happen within a week.

My intensive gym activities have allowed me to reach something of a weight plateau; what I think must be close to my ‘normal’ weight. I am hovering around the 111kg mark now. My previous proclamation was actually a bit premature as the next day I weighed 113kgs. However, my weight loss has definitely slowed, yet my fitness levels keep on increasing (did a 2km warm-up ergo the other day in 6m:46s, almost the quickest I have ever gone). When I was previously superfit the lightest I ever became was 108-109kgs.

Technology, Events, and Thresholds of Subjectivity

I am reading Adrian Mackenzie’s Transductions at the moment. There are a couple of reviews and mentions online. The reviews are mostly positive. My experience of the book so far is summed up by this comment from the esteemed Chris Chresher:

A transductive approach extends the domain of the political beyond language and institutions: ‘politics is in technology just as much as it is in the more visible and enunciative domains of collective symbolic interactions’ ([Mackenzie, Transductions] 43). However, Mackenzie doesn’t pursue political questions per se, focusing more on the philosophical questions of the ways in which technical changes alter the capacities of bodies, and their experiences of time.

Danny often has a go at me for what I understand to be his criticism of those who use theories and do research in such a way whereby one basically finds research to fit the theories; so that research is essentially a rhetorical exercise. What Danny calls a ‘processual’ approach to research. I welcome Danny’s provocations because otherwise I would lull into a sense of accomplishment akin to pleasuring one’s self. (Believe me, I would not choose ‘modified-car culture’ if my aim was to simply to demonstrate how good I am at reading and intellectually digesting difficult philosophical arguments and other scholarly stuff.)

A similar critique can be made of Mackenzie’s book. Is the ‘transductive’ relation between technological ensembles and user-collectivities encapsulated through a combination of Judith Butler’s notion of material iteration with Simondon’s concept of ‘technicity’ really the best way to talk about bodies, time and speed?

One problem I have been grappling with is the multi-dimensionality of the car and the multi-dimensionality of ‘enthusiasm’. Firstly, enthusiasm. I have decided to discuss ‘enthusiasm’ as the pre-individual and necessarily collective thread around which modified-car culture is organised. It exists on affective and material levels and can be found embedded in discursive formations. The problem I have been trying to address and which is evident in the BCCCS-style subcultural theory is the constitution of a typology of subjecthood organised around a singular subject (ie the punk, the mod, the rocker, etc). There are massive problems with this approach. A few that others have noted include the tendency to exclude those who do not fit this model (including discriminations based upon gender, ethnicity, and most importantly, class) and a perhaps related tendency to perceive such singular subjecthoods as heroically resistant to a hegemonic order against which the subjecthood is defined.

Much scholarship has concerned itself with affirming or debunking particular conceptions of the ‘punk’ or more broadly conceived ‘subcultural’ identity. The true or false determination of a punk identity is a somewhat pointless exercise for anyone not concerned with policing what is included or exlcuded from the punk enthusiasm. The determination of a punk identity is one example of what Deleuze and Guattari call the axiomatisation of the capitalist socius. The punk axiomatic is exactly the set of ‘givens’ or ‘assumptions’ one thinks of when imagining the ‘punk style’. Punk is this, this, this and so on. I am not really that interested in questions of identity. Let that concern those who have a stake in the capitalistic axiomatic.

I have decided to appoach the problem a different way. Instead of a singular subjecthood, in my thesis I shall argue there are multiple subjectivities distributed across a singular enthusiasm. In the case of music-based spectacular subcultures, the is a singular enthusiasm, for example lets call it punk, around which multiple subjectivities are organised (or which are intepellatively organised by a subcultural media or embodied gesture), including audience, musicians, shop owner, music executive, public, mainstream, and so on. Punk is not a style, but a problematic of which the (axiomatised) style is but one expression; just as all the subjectivities either individual or collective are also expressions.

The common thread to all subjectivities organised around ‘Punk’ is that they actualize a dimension of ‘Punk’ the social event. The term ‘Punk’ is the retroactive coding of a heterogeneous but related set of practices which existed before the moniker ‘punk’ did. The activities and events precipitated by these practices are given the monolithic name ‘Punk’ by history’s representatives, such as the popular mass-media and governmental authorities. The absorption of Punk into history demands a folding of the punk-event into the subjectivities of all the differential subjectivities actualised from the singular punk enthusiasm.

My interest is in the the multiple actualisations of an enthusiasm for modifying cars. The relations between the various subjecthoods that exist as expressions of a singular pre-individual, but necessarily collective enthusiasm for modifying cars. In the case of modified-car culture the subjectivities produced are relatively simple to describe because of the insertion into the set of relations by the car. The car organises the distribution of subjectivities into relatively sedimented relations determined by the proximity to the technology of the car. The subectivities of enthusiasm include, but are not limited to, driver, passenger, techno-mechanic, artisan, spectator, journalist and commentator. The subjectivities are determined by thresholds of proximity, which can be thought of in terms of an experiential and knowledge-based intimacy. I have tried to discuss this before on my blog in terms of ‘users’ and the example of gamers, modders and so on. A very simple parrallel can be drawn between actualisations of an enthusiasm for modifying cars and actualisations of an enthusiasm for computer gaming. A ‘subcultural event’ for gamers is ‘gaming’ or ‘modding’ and for modified-car enthusiasts it is ‘modifying’ or ‘driving’ or ‘spectating’ or whatever. Or just how various everyday ‘fan-enthusiast’ subjectivities are distributed in time and space by mass-produced ‘cultural franchise events’ such as Australian Idol

To get back to the issue at hand: Mackenzie’s Transductions. Mackenzie does not take into account this aspect of the ‘interface problematic’, that is, the socio-economic implications of different subjectivities organised around a singular technology. The easiest example to give is of when a technology is working or when it isn’t working. Some info-tech computer systems in a knowledge economy environment are ‘always on’ such as various types of server and so on. When such systems are off that means something has gone wrong. ‘Going wrong’ — like Deleuze’s favourite example of ‘being cut’ — is an event. The event emits a stream of singularities which distribute bodies in space and organise the subjectivities performatively embodied in them. What does this mean? The ‘user’ ceases to exist in a ‘user’ relationship to the technology. User does not signal a becoming, but a socially sedimented subjectivity. What the singular dimension of the ‘going wrong’ event organises in time and space is not only the body of the user, ie it is no longer embodying a user subjectivity, but also the body and subjectivity of the computer technician. The technician comes to fix the computer. If the computer user and computer technician are in fact the same person (such is often the case for gamers or car enthusiasts), then threshold of subjectivity is crossed. The technician unscrews the ‘black box’ of technology and enters into a more intimate relation with the technology. (Hence, D&G’s comments in _AO_ about N-sexes and the flows produced between a handyman and his tools.) The normal user and computer technician are two subjectivities organised around the singular technology and distributed in time and space by the event of the ‘going wrong’. Socio-economic considerations? Is there not a question of the political economy of knowledge, labour and so on that emerges as soon as one takes into account the different sedimented subjectivities organised around technologies and distributed in time and space by events?

So far I have not come across any discussion in Mackenzie’s book that even indicates he is aware of this problem of subjectivity or related questions of political economy or labour. I am only half way through so maybe it does come up. Dunno? But to me it signals the dangers of the purely philosophical argument versus the socio-economic or ‘political’ (as Chresher says) implications of a philosophical argument. Even though the book is listed under ‘Cultural Studies’ I would have thought the socio-economic or ‘political’ considerations would have been central to any mode of scholarship coming under such a heading.

How to Write a Cultural Studies paper

Perfect timing for everyone writing their CSAA papers, here is How to Write a Cultural Studies Paper (via Az). Those funny Norwegians. He even thanks Keith Windschuttle…

What a crack up! Yes, I do mean that in the technical Deleuzian sense. Phoarrrrr! Cultural Studies is a drug; one must write with an ethics of sobriety.

…but, dang! This guy missed the boat on the ‘Italian turn’. Why doesn’t he realise that the turn away from proto-Marxist conceptions of class was not because of the seductions of the ‘cultural turn’, but because in some circumstances the very mechanisms through which class stratifications were reproduced were being called into question?

I am up far too early. I hate it when you write an abstract drawing on the work of some dude who has got some other dude totally wrong but you don’t know that. Fuck. Fuck the ’70s.

We are all drops of water in a great river

Serenity was disappointing on one level. In terms of continuing the firefly/serenity franchise it succeeded; in terms of delivering crisp weirdly-esoteric dialogue it succeeded; in terms of transforming the TV concept into a movie it faltered slightly.

Whedon’s method for translating from the TV screen to the megaplex screen seemed to rest squarely with answering a number of questions left hanging from the TV series. He is a master of producing ‘dramatic arcs’ that can run across episodes, series, and even TV shows. These multidimensional arcs allow for a thoroughly sophisticated modulation of dramatic tension and resolution. If you imagine an arc then then it could be considered a segment of a circle’s circumference determined by location of the centre of the circle. In the television series, Whedon has the luxury of operating a number of arcs with different centres — be they different characters or different events in the same episode or different actions within a single event.

The problem with Serenity is that the arcs of the drama that Whedon captures are all high velocity, meaty arcs involving BIG centres of drama. He doesn’t have the luxury of the minutiae of modulation afforded by the small screen. The result of this is that fans are happy with the resolution of some obvious dramatic arcs of the series, while others get forgotten (is the Shepard a Shepard? etc). The bigger problem is that the dramatic tension of the television series based around the jobs that the crew of the Serenity do and the events that spiral from these jobs, becomes the dramatic arc organised around one character, the other characters and events are distributed in the dramatic arcs event-space according to the relative importance to this character’s dramatic arc.

Spoilers below!

Whedon somewhat skillful manages to suture two big questions together (Reavers and River), but the plot is determined by River’s psychoanalysis-like cathartic moment (whereby a truth of the cosmos is set free through her) more than the damning nature of this truth for the Alliance. River was treated as ‘damaged goods’ in the series, and her brother Dr Tam assumed that the damage was neuro-physiological problem. Instead the film is motivated by the concept that River was channeling the horror of an entire world that was unwittingly murdered. Whose horror is it? The horror of what? An entire world that lays down and dies because they have ‘given up the fight’ against the Alliance and against the trials of life itself surely is not going to bare witness to the horror of its own demise. Instead we have River who experiences the silence of millions of people who no longer want to maintain the basic and essential fight to live that all living things must have in the world (at the very least to fight off the effects of entropy). The Alliance originally designed the nerve agent that causes this loss of fight to reduce the destructive tendencies of humans. This is where the logic of Whedon’s script falls down because the horror is much worse than this.

Our ‘Alliance’ or (to use another Whedonism) the ‘Powers That Be’ want conflict. Wars are good for business. Whedon presents the horror of the Nanny State gone wrong on the ‘molecular level’. The problem is that we have the rhizomatic Police State that absolutely loves creating massive conflict on the ‘molecular level’. The human body becomes a site for the politics of sobriety in the society of the spectacle. To create conflict is to create the dream of resolution, which can be sold to anyone and everyone (well everyone in the ‘Central Planets’).

Doesn’t that leave people with some sort of critical awareness of the world in a state similar to River? She started developing symptoms of schizophrenia because of an acute blockage in the cosmic subconscious into which she was plugged as the Alliance’s secret psychic weapon. She was aware of the horror but could do little about it. Eventually she ‘goes postal’. The information will not set us free, because hope is slowly becoming commodified with the rise of the Security State. Do we have to find our own piece of Serenity somewhere beyond the reach of the false hopes provided to us?