Thesis Troubles # 1

I am having trouble with the third and final section of my introductory chapter. In this section I set up the general relation between markets, scenes, and what I am calling at this stage ‘potential’. (I am writing this up here, as is the case with all the seemingly crazy esoteric stuff I write here sometimes, to help with the intellectual digestion process. My blog is a mind stomach!)

I have briefly written about or mentioned Paul Corrigan’s piece “Doing Nothing” in Resistance Through Rituals before. He is the only person in or associated with ‘the’ BCCCS cohort that writes about affect. He frames it in terms of youth, acts of deviance, and the ‘potentialisation’ of found objects in the ‘street’ as a way to combat ‘boredom’. I take this as an example of the limit case of the ‘ontological creativity of poverty’ (Negri) or ‘cramped spaces’ (D&G; Thoburn).

There is a conjunctural dimension to this process of potentialisation. Gomart and Hennion’s work on amatuers and the sociology of attachment is useful here. It allows me to think a little further along an emerging continuum between immanence (random/deviant ‘potentialisation’) and the hegemonic cultural industry captivation of attention. The immaculate active preparations taken by Gomart and Hennion’s drug users and music amatuers enables the participation in a ‘passing’ whereby one’s disposition (‘dispositif’) becomes passive for the sake of participation in a conjunctural event with others (musicians) or a state (drug users). The willed aspect to this preparation and participation is what I call enthusiasm.

Lastly, on the other end of the spectrum is the manipulation and captivation of attention what Beller calls the labour of looking or what Negri has called the economy of attention. This thesis is a rich extension of Adorno’s pessimistic account of the ‘effects’ economy of ‘mass-culture’ produced by the culture industry. (An example of this and some early thinking of mine here.)

I am mostly interested in what happens between the two limits of the potentialisation of anything to combat boredom and the willed subsumption of the subject for the sake of stimulation in the culture industry. Both of these limits actually become part of the single process whereby the culture industry exhausts the reserves for stimulation/attention in consumer subjects and produces the false differences in mas-cultural commodities that Adorno complained about.

Adorno describes what the people in the middle — between the boredom/simulation of expelled/subsumed subjectivities — as carrying out ‘pseudo-activity’. There is much ‘pseudo-activity’, much more than existed at the time of Adorno’s writings on the subject. it would be tempting to reinscribe a moralising dialect here of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pseudo-activities, along production and productive consumption lines, however that would soon become untenable.

The way I am currently thinking about it is in terms of ‘scenes’ as the space that enables ‘pseudo-activity’. Or, rather, it is not so much a ‘space’ but a particular affective mapping of all spaces in terms of their relation to an enthusiasm (all spaces in terms of Lefebvre’s three spaces). I am extending Geof Stahl’s concept of a ‘music scene’ in Montreal, to think ‘scene’ as a particular enthusiasm-based affective mapping of all spaces. Without a sense of ‘scene’ collectively shared by those who inhabit Gomart and Hennion’s worlds of amatuers and addicts, then the amatuers and addicts could not carry out their practices of ‘passing’ and participate in the conjuntural aspects of their respective events.

The workings of the scene has a temporality and rhythm. For musicians this would be different to that of drug addicts. Again, the limit cases are the economy of attention — with the regularity of the rhythm of the cultural industry’s ‘blockbuster’ events, the pre-event ‘teasers’ to the post-event stream of ‘bonus’ releases — and ‘doing nothing’, or the weapons against boredom — the irregularity of spontaneous acts (perhaps akin to the Situationist detourment? dunno).

One of the overall arguments of my thesis is that certain elements of the culture industry, those which service an enthusiasm, and between the two limit cases, the (subcultural) media manipulate/cultivate and sustain the consistency of the affective relations that constitute an enthusiasm.

There is a weird mediation here around affect, the ‘image’, and discourse that I have yet to figure out, and I think it belongs specifically to magazines, or magazine content ‘remediated’ in an online format or in tabloid newspapers. This is where is becomes specifically about modified-car culture as the arrangement of images and text is perculiar to the car magazines. The discourse stuff I have been thinking via D&G’s discussion of Kafka and the legislation of sense into reference through the ‘juridical statement’, ie the actualisation of ‘social discourse’ in the production of ‘order words’. The images in the magazines I think highlight the arrangements of technology (and everything else) that the modifiers themselves accentuate (potentialise). I may just leave it like that for now. I need to get it to my long suffering supervisors.