Griff The Invisible fantasies of reality

Read this after you have seen the film and please go see it. It is very good. Below is a post that is parts review, critical exegesis of the film and reflection of its critical reception. The post has been languishing in my drafts folder for a few weeks and it was only after two of my friends Myke and Mel both wrote reviews of the film that, if I am not being to pithy, were negative.

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Media Interest Cycle

John Battelle has an interesting post on his blog that begins to isolate the phenomenon of internet interest bubbles. John is primarily talking about tech journalism and he explains that the bread and butter of tech journalists is to pursue the “echo chamber”. Rather than one massive tech bubble like the dot-com boom that collapsed in 2000, John is arguing that the accelerated media cycle (I won’t call it a ‘news cycle’) and the democratisation of access to publishing channels due combined with ultra-low barriers of participation.

we have migrated to a more free-wheeling discourse driven by any number of interested parties. As it relates to the Internet industry, that means VCs and entrepreneurs promoting or angling for investments or promotion (or souring a deal they didn’t get a part of), bankers trying to influence any number of outcomes, and sources within all manners of companies pushing their own agenda on Twitter, Quora, or in private conversations with bloggers and other media outlets.

The accelerated media cycle means that tech media outlets can ride the wave of interest produced as part of and in response to a given tech ‘PR event’. It is an example of where the structure of media has flipped from a cycle determined by the rhythms of publishing, distribution or broadcast constraints, to be a rhythm of the media cycle organised around the capacity of the audience to be interested in a given topic or event.
Not unlike the structure of a moral panic as a kind of media event, the ‘PR events’ that John is discussing in this context have a particular trajectory across media channels and involve a recognisable repertoire of story genres (the rumour or rumour, the announcement, the product launch, the walkthrough, the dismantling, the market response, etc.) and an equally recognisable list of players in the drama (the source, the tech company messiah, the fanboi, the self-righteous tech reporter).
I think it would be possible to map these ‘PR events’ by tracking all commentary within a discrete event. The complication, as anyone interested in media events will be aware, is the baroque character of media events. The ‘iPad2’ event is nestled within the larger ‘Apple’ event and so on.
The more pressing question for many media professionals is regarding the role of journalism within these PR events. Is it ‘journalism’ to cover the release of a new product? Just because you feed the ‘interest’ of an audience, does that make what you write ‘news’ and your practice ‘journalism’? For example, what newsworthy value can be found in the PR event of the iPad2 launch? It seems almost as if many journalists turn the PR event on its side and report on the success or failure of the PR event itself (What does the Apple fanboi think? What is the aggregate response by the tech media community?), but is this ‘news’?

Event Mechanics of Opportunity

Everyone does not have access to the same opportunities due to circumstance or the inability to witness their own circumstance. An ‘opportunity‘ is a recomposition of processual relations. It is an event that releases new visibilities, new discourses (or different ways of participating in familiar discourses), new capacities for action and so on. There is a movement and reconfiguartion of subjectivity before and after that defines the scale of the opportunity-event. This is the positive way to view opportunities.

Massumi and others have examined this processual dimension in terms of relations of futurity. Massumi’s “Future Birth of the Affective Fact” sketches out the diagrammatic arrangement of one composition of relations of futurity. A chapter I recently wrote for a forthcoming book on Derrida’s Spectres of Marx engages with ‘loyalty’ within capitalism as another composition of relations of futurity.

Relations of futurity are composed all the time. An ‘expectation’ is a good example of the way relations of futurity become structurated; the disappointment of failing to ‘live up to expectation’ is evidence of an ‘opportunity failure’. The opportunity in these circumstances may have been produced for one person (say, a son or daughter) by others (parents). Parents are disappointed because the relations of futurity produced by them for their children are not actualised in the way they expected. The parents know the future in the sense they can draw on experience to produce their own expectations. If a child is talented and does not follow the relations of futurity produced by parents in a way that the parents expect, then according to the parents’ expectations, an opportunity is lost. Expectation here works to discipline relations of future; an expectation is a colonisation of futurity.

It makes sense then, even if it is mildly paternalistic, to work on creating relations of futurity for those without the ability to do so in such a way as the maximise the opportunity and to increase the distribution of opportunity. The problem is in the way the discourse of ‘opportunity’ has been appropriated by those who would dearly like to make a buck off one’s hard work. As I wrote in my original comments about this, the event of the ‘opportunity’ can be deployed and actively cultivated so as to control worker-populations:

Workers are meant to be on the look out for ‘opportunity’ in the workplace or work milieu (if freelancers). They are meant to capitalise on the opportunity and maximise the positive outcome of opportunity to further their respective careers. There is a continuum of opportunity that is differentiated by relations of futurity made possible by the character of contingency around which opportunity is organised.

1) If opportunity is presented by those in power to a worker, then the contingency is often disciplined in accordance with the outcomes of productivity demanded by the managers and the way surplus value is extracted from the worker’s labour.
2) If opportunity presents ‘itself’, then it is because the contingency of labour relations and relations between worker productivity and the market have not been actualised. A new relation to the market can be actualised.
3) If a worker creates ‘opportunity’, then it is because he or she critically appreciates the mechanics of labour relations and relations between worker productivity and the market in its virtuality, an example of the limited fourth-person singular; that is, the worker does not perceive the situation though the identity and horizon of experience of a ‘worker’ per se. The worker actively differentiates a new set of relations that can only be apprehended through action. (What Deleuzians call counter-actualisation.)

To enfranchise workers in the emergent entrepreneurial mode of the unfortunately called ‘creative capitalism’ means equipping them with the capacity to appreciate the dynamics of managerial techniques and apprehend new conditions between labour and the market through the praxis of their own labour. It is not a matter of grasping the relations between specific individuals or objects (big or little) but of appreciating how the relations between individuals are actualised and differentially repeated in experience.

The contingency at the heart of these relations of futurity are important because it means that relations to the future are ‘open’ (this was a major breakthrough in my PhD, it gave me a way to think beyond goal-based definitions of motivation, so failure does not quench motivation, because the contingency is properly appreciated). The existence of contingency means that expectations always relate to reality through assumptions.

Reading D&G: Learning

Nate over at An Un-canny Ontology responded to my brief comments on his blog, so I have left another comment that I have pasted below with some additional material from Albert Toscano’s excellent preface to Eric Alliez’s Signature of the World:

Nate, to understand the ‘concept’ of the concept I suggest you read Eric Alliez’s The Signature of the World. Concepts are events, repeated in different ways, for sure, but each use of a concept has an intensive — not necessarily extensive — consistency with the series of differentially repeated concept-events (G: objet petit whatever + D: dark precursor become D&G: desiring machine becomes abstract machine, many philosophers and others have mapped these shifts in D&G’s work). Therefore, to use a concept effectively means apprehending the problematics that lead to the creation of the concept. You have a problematic and whoever created the concept has a problematic. Are they congruent? How do they vary?

To use a concept means following the event-series. The event-series is a map of the problematics for which it was created and deployed. When D&G talk about the artisan working on wood or whatever, the philosopher follows a similar path, but instead of knots in the wood, he or she follows singularities rendered consistent in discourse (if not method). For example, I had to read Whitehead to understand The Fold, read Kant to understand basically any of Deleuze’s earlier solo-authored works, read Lacan to understand Guattari’s solo-authored works and so on. Toscano in his introduction to Alliez’s SotW:

Deleuze, in Difference & Repetition, subtracts apprenticeship, or learning, from the representational logic of instruction, making it into a matter of the sub-representational contemplation or, better, contraction, of singularities, into the ability to extract a material shematism, or spatio-temporal dynamism, out of one’s encounter with what he elsewhere terms, following Blanchot, the outside of thought.

So it is not a question of making claims about what D&G are ‘really’ stating or not (which is a neo-Platonic model of truth ie, here is the ‘real’ D&G that through my majesty as the Oedipalised Master ‘I’ shall reveal to you), but apprehending the problematic that led to the creation of concepts. This is a material and time intensive process, which in the simplest description means understanding the philosophical context in which D&G, D or G or whoever was working. Hence my brief gesture, out of philosophical friendship regarding the emergence of the concept of desiring machines in the work of Guattari.

Using concepts without this grounding is a problem, a bad problem, not a good one! Normally those reading and using D&G’s work learn this the hard way, maybe the hard way is necessary, I don’t know. Again, Toscano:

As Deleuze writes: ‘There is no more a method for learning than there is a method for finding treasures, but a violent training, a culture or paideia which affects the entire individual […]. Method is the means that knowledge which regulates the collaboration of all the faculties. It is therefore the manifestation of a common sense or the realisation of a Cogitatio natura, and presupposes a good will as though this were a “premediated decision” of the thinker. Culture, however, is an involuntary adventure [see my previous post about stairs!] , the movement of learning which links sensibility, a memory and then a thought, with all the cruelties and violence necessary…’ Learning, and the indirect apprenticeship that a commentary constitutes, are thus not vanishing mediators between an initial situation of non-knowledge or ignorance and a final state of completed – which is to say representable – knowledge. Instead, as the constitution or invention of a determinate or differentiated problematic field, learning is the very essence of philosophy as an experience of construction whose concern is not with the production of stable propositions in a present voided of virtuality or becoming. As a truly transcendental exercise, learning (and the commentary as one of the guises learning takes) eschews the empirical actuality of a solution, endeavouring instead to link the subjectivity of the apprentice (or the commentator) to ‘the singular points of the objective in order to form a problematic field’. Rather than as a mediator between the (ignorant) reader and the (final) text or doctrine, a commentary can thus be conceived as a novel problematization of the ideal connections that define a particular philosophical object, a repetition of the text that does not seek to identify its theses as much as turn heterogeneity into consistency, uniting differences to differences, and open the work in question both to the ‘empty time’ of Aion of the event and to the specific virtualities of a contemporary situation.

The point -> OOO’s ‘object’ does not relate in any way to the problematic that the concept of the ‘desiring machine’ was developed to engage with. On this point, Levy should know this and considering he is the one tracking use of OOO in the interwebs he should be working on helping you as someone interested in reading this to avoid pitfalls when working with D&G and OOO. Were my comments purposefully discouraging? YES. In what world do you think all pedagogical discourse should be ‘encouraging’?

‘Lines of flight’ similarly has a specific conceptual context. It is a movement between two planes of consistency (or between two moments of the BwO to use the AO terminology). For example, a line of flight in your case would require you to look within and beyond the grad student persona and recompose yourself as something else.
Forget ‘ideas’, or making links between them, think about the materiality of concepts and the conditions that can make the material ideational, then make material connections to understand ideational relations.

Yes, Levi’s split objects. I prefer Deleuze’s baroque house. See Hélène Frichot’s essay, “Stealing into Deleuze’s Baroque House” from the edited collection, Deleuze and Space. Beyond superficial reasons such as intellectual fads and the like, I am not sure why OOO is happy to restrict itself to the ontology of objects, when D&G developed a far richer ontology of events.

Anon, I don’t separate epistemology and ontology in practice. Epistemology is not a simple ‘knowing’ of the world but the material conditions of possibility of knowing, too. The conditions of possibility of knowing are necessarily ontological. Additionally, to approach it from the other side, if claims are being made about the world, such claims are also necessarily epistemological, even if they are ontological claims, otherwise they couldn’t be made as such.