Posts Tagged ‘biopower


Fukuyama’s Our Posthuman Future

Francis Fukuyama
Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnical Revolution
Area: Digital Media

•    No end of history unless end of science
•    Biotechnology threats:
o    Tom Wolfe: “Sorry, but your soul just died
o    Longer life and reduced mental capacity
o    Freedom from depression with freedom from creativity and spirit
•    Three scenarios
o    Advances in neuropharmacology = human behavior more plastic
o    Stem-cell research = increased life expectancies/regeneration
o    Optimize reproduction
•    Use power of state to regulate biotechnology
•    Globalization ensures the advancement of biotechnology
o    Any country that tries to limit/place ethical constraints on scientific communities will ultimately be punished
•    “While everyone has been busy staking out ethical positions pro/con various technologies, almost no one has been looking concretely at what kinds of institutions would be needed to allow societies to control the pace and scope of technological development”
•    More regulation, but not something that should be called for lightly
•    Fukuyama believes that biotechnology should not/cannot be controlled
o    Who decides control of new biotechnologies?
•    Watson: make mothers the regulators
•    “Even if we decide that technology should be legitimately controlled, we face the problem of whether it can be.”
•    Raising costs for access to “objectionable” sites will automatically regulate/control
7: “The most significant threat posed by contemporary biotechnology is the possibility that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a ‘posthuman’ stage of history.  This is important, I will argue, because human nature exists, is a meaningful concept, and has provided a stable continuity to our experience as a species.  It is, conjointly with religion, what defines out most basic values.  Human nature shapes and constrains the possible kinds of political regimes, so a technology powerful enough to reshape what we are will have possibly malign consequences for liberal democracy and the nature of politics itself.”


Foucault’s Ethics

Michel Foucault
Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory

•    Some of Foucault’s aims: philosophical concepts and empirical inquiry
•    Systems of exclusion linked to scientific categorizations
•    xiii: “Foucault interpreted Aristotle as representing the universal and naturalistic pole.  For Aristotle, there is an essential pregiven harmony between sensation, pleasure, knowing, and truth.  Out perceptual apparatus is constituted in such a way that it establishes a link of pleasure and of (above all visual) knowledge, even when such a link serves no direct utilitarian purpose.  The same economy extends all the way up the hierarchy through to the highest form of knowing, contemplation.  As posited in the famous opening lines of the Metaphysics, the desire to know is essential to who we are, and ours ‘by nature.’”
“Birth of Biopolitics”
•    What should be understood by “liberalism”?
•    The question if one is governing too much must also ask, “why must one govern?”
•    Liberalism became a critique of “excessive government” and a return to a technology of a “frugal government” (American)
•    74: “One is not paying enough attention, too many things escape one’s control, too many areas lack regulation and is governing too little.”
“Subjectivity and Truth”
•    Placing the maxim “know oneself” back into explicit/implicit interrogation
•    What should one do with oneself? What work should be carried out by the self? How should one “govern oneself”? => object of actions and subject of the acts?
•    Looking at “care” and the “techniques” of the self would be a way of doing a history of subjectivity
•    Technologies of the self were developed in Hellenistic and Roman periods
•    Medical regimens concern the frequency and moment of sexual acts
•    87: “How was the subject established, at different moments and in different institutional contexts, as a possible, desirable, or even indispensable object of knowledge? How were the experience that one may have of oneself and the knowledge that one forms of oneself organized according to certain schemes?  How were these schemes defined, valorized, recommended, imposed?
“Self Writing”
•    If we write down our thoughts as if telling them to each other, we shall be so much more guarded for the shame of being known
•    What others are to the ascetic, the notebook is to the recluse
•    Hupomnemata ≠ memory support or aids for failed recollections
o    Instead, a material and a framework for exercises to be carried out frequently
o    Not just recall, but use in action
o    Capture the already said => shaping of the self
•    Stoics and Epicureans: refusal of a mental attitude turned toward the future
o    Positive value on the possession of a past one can enjoy without disturbance
•    (Cicero): Correspondence is a certain way of manifesting the self to oneself/others
•    Hup: formation of self without the collected discourse of others
•    Corr: with others and the exchange of soul services
•    Examination of conscience written as an account of oneself
•    209: “Yet one also sees that writing is associated with the exercise of thought in two different ways.  One takes the form of a linear ‘series’: it goes from mediation to the activity of writing and from there to gumnazein, that is, to training and trial in a real situation—a labor of thought, a labor through writing, a labor in reality.  The other is circular: the mediation precedes the notes which enable the rereading which in turn reinitiates the mediation.”
•    211: “By going constantly from book to book, without ever stopping, without returning to the hive now and then with one’s supply of nectar—hence without taking notes or constituting a treasure store of reading—one is liable to retain nothing, to spread oneself across different thoughts, and to forget oneself.  Writing, as a way of gathering in the reading that was done and of collecting one’s thoughts about it, is an exercise of reason that counters the great deficiency of stultitia, which endless reading may favor.”
“Technologies of the Self”
(See class notes)
“The Masked Philosopher”
•    A name makes reading too easy
•    Anonymity is a way to address a potential reader
•    Suffering from inadequate means for thinking about everything


Galloway’s Protocol

Alexander Galloway
Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization
Area: Digital Media
Critical moments in the text

Xiii: “The concept of ‘protocol’ is thus meant to demonstrate the nonmetaphorical quality of networks. Or, put another way, the concept of protocol shows the predilection for general discussion of networks in terms of general tropes. […] A code is process-based: it is parsed, compiled, procedural or object-orientated, and defined by ontology standards”
Xxii: ‘The ‘wet’ biological body has not simply been superceded by ‘dry’ computer code, just as the wet body no longer accounts for the virtual body.”
10: From McLuhan: “the content of every new protocol is always another protocol.”
13: Foucault writes, “that biopolitics ‘tends to treat the ‘population’ as a mass of living and coexisting beings who present particular biological and pathological traits and who thus come under specific knowledge and technologies.”
25: “H & N specifically address new media in Empire, writing that, within the internet, ‘an intermediate and potentially unlimited number of interconnected nodes communicate with no central point of control.’ In their opinion this ‘decentralized’ architecture is ‘what makes control of the network so difficult.”
30: Hierarchy v. distribution
34: Rhizome
35: “If one route is blocked, another will do just as well.”
49: ‘Like this, the process starts at the most general point, then follows the chain of delegated authority until the end of the line is reached and the numerical address may be obtained. This is the protocol of a decentralized network.”
55: “It is precisely the tension between these two Machinic technologies—one deterritorializing and one reterritorializing—that creates the protocological system and allows it to be so powerful.”
59: “A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.”
61: “On the one hand, the Web is structured around rigid protocols that govern the transfer and representation of texts and images—so the Web isn’t ‘an acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system’ as is D & G’s rhizome. But on the other hand, the Web seems to mirror several of the key characteristics of the rhizome: the ability of any node to be connected to any other node, the rule of multiplicity, the ability to splinter off or graft on at any point, the rejection of a ‘deep structure,’ and so forth.”
73: Kittler: “Looking at the ‘moment’ of 1900, he writes that ‘the ability to record sense data technologically,’ using such instruments as the phonograph and the typewriter, ‘shifted the entire discourse network circa 1900. For the first time in history, writing ceased to be synonymous with the serial storage of data. The technological recording of the real entered into competition with the symbolic registration of the Symbolic.”
75: “The internet is a delicate dance between control and freedom.”
82: Recap of protocol so far
142: “The generative contradiction that lies at the very heart of protocol is that in order to be potentially progressive, protocol must be partially reactionary. To put it another way, in order for protocol to enable radically distributed communications between autonomous entities, it must employ a strategy of universalization, and of homogeneity.”
164: Code
213: “Computer crashes, technical glitches, corrupted code, and otherwise degraded aesthetics are the key to this disengagement. They are the ‘tactical’ qualities of internet art’s deep-seated desire to become specific to its own medium, for they are the moments when the medium itself shines through and becomes important.”
Fave line:
57: “Fear of handling shit is a luxury a sewerman cannot necessarily afford.”
From Untimely Mediations:
While I found the entirety of Galloway’s Protocol pleasurable, I found my interest most peaked in one of the final chapters on hacking and viruses. Even more specifically, when Galloway discusses the ethics of hacking and relates the upsurge of computer viruses to the AIDS epidemic, I was intrigued because I had never read anything like that (sure, my knowledge of hacking is a bit slim and that could account for the oversight). For this week’s post, then, I want to discuss how ethics, control, and biopower are interrelated.
After reading Jill’s post, I, too, am impressed that Galloway spends significant time laying out the why/how intricacies of the internet as we know it today. Impressively, he wrote for an audience like myself (some techy knowledge under my belt), and also those with extreme fluency in the matter. Before Protocol, I didn’t know there was a “hackers code of ethics.” Following a lengthy discussion of code of ethics, Galloway mentions that, “hackers don’t care about rules, feelings, or opinions. They care about what is true and what is possible. And in the logical world of computers, if it is possible then it is real. Can you break into a computer, not should you” (168). While hacking could be seen as a point of non-resistance, from a Foucauldian standpoint, I’d have to agree with Galloway that we’re simply seeing a different/another form of control. However, what is most interesting about hacking and control is that the hackers seem to relinquish their bodily control to the machine. Even though they write the code that wreaks havoc, it is the transference of power from the individual (hacker) to the machine (i.e. damaging code replicating itself in other computers) in which we clearly see the moment of control being illustrated. Further, rather than trying to push through the control of the protocol, “hackers are created by protocol […] hackers are protocological actors par excellence” (158). Hacking cannot and would not exist without protocol.
AIDS/Computer Viruses:
“Computer viruses appeared in a moment in history where the integrity and security of bodies, both human and technological, was considered extremely important. Social anxieties surrounding both AIDS and the war on drugs testify to this” (179).
This quote suggests that bodies and computers are certainly interconnected through disease, subject to the same type of collapse. (Again, I had never seen these connections before, so I might sound n00b-ish.) During the AIDS epidemic and confusion, no one had [much] knowledge on its origins, treatment, or prevention, and we can see the same parallels to computer viruses. At the time, hacking hadn’t “hit it big” yet, and just like AIDS, the population that it infected was unaware of its powers. That is what’s most fascinating to me about this moment is that both the technological and the biological were experiencing the same sorts of attacks on their “bodies.” Further, “bodies,” and ultimately biopower, has become even misconstrued (i.e. selling bodies on eBay).


Nealon’s Foucault Beyond Foucault

Jeffrey T. Nealon
Foucault Beyond Foucault: Power and its Intensifications Since 1984
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory

•    Sophists and technology
o    Post critical take
•    Nealon’s first book was on control and control societies
•    Discourse within a discourse
•    How governmental power operates within networks
o    Network v. network
•    Goal aligned in network warfare
•    Discipline will return in some way
o    Dis-intermediated
•    Warrant-less wiretaps—controlled and networked?
•    Does control put something back into discipline that wasn’t there in the first place?
•    Recruitment and marketing schema
•    Discipline enhances the sovereign
•    Maintenance of the same technique
•    Fordist—when it was the ruling technology
o    Everyone’s a producer
•    Everyone has to provide; become someone
•    Nealon turns back certain reading of Foucault
o    Cost and Foucault
•    Can’t be against economics
•    Risk and self sacrifice: turn to ethics
o    Market-logic?
•    Private is the new concern
o    But…are we satisfied with this?
•    Resistance out of the private?
•    Domination and resistance are everywhere
•    Even if private, there’s no more individual
o    Virno: commonplace
•    Exit value and civil disobedience
•    No longer strategies that work
•    Private experiences
•    Cultivated distraction: Shaviro
•    Make the common attractive
o    Drop the connection between
•    The mechanism that capital/culture travels under => Galloway
•    Capital becomes more capitalistic as it becomes more Machinic
o    Subjectivities and techniques they use
•    Control is something like a machine logic
•    How are ideologies technological?
Critical moments in the text
6: (in response to Deleuze): “Perhaps power has to do with investments, as much economic as unconscious.”
14: “The legacy of the Enlightenment is the call to think critically about the present, to emphasize becoming over being, and to practice what Foucault calls ‘a permanent critique of our historical era.”
20: “Cost enacts or dramatizes the effects of social compulsion and their imbrication with individual desires, without any necessity for natural or transcendental backing: if you want it, you have to consider the price, monetary or otherwise.”
21: “The Marxist project highlighted by Foucault here is not the denunciation of capitalism as a misery machine, but the project of mapping the myriad ways in which misery is produced by capital, in the hopes that the machine can be modified to support a different series of outputs.
24: “Foucaultian power is not something held but something practiced; power is not imposed from ‘above’ a system or socius; there is no ‘outside’ power, no place untouched by power; conversely, there is no place of liberation or absolute freedom from power; in the end, power produces desires, formations, objects of knowledge, and discourses, rather than primarily repressing, controlling or canalizing the powers already held by preexisting subjects, knowledges, or formations.”
37: “Foucault two uses for the word ‘intensity’—to signal individual bodily pain and systematic saturation—correspond roughly to what Foucault calls the ‘two images of discipline.’”
43: “If discipline ‘discovers’ the body as power’s primary pivot or relay, disciplineary power also ‘made’ that body: ‘The body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body’”
64: “’Money,’ Deleuze writes, ‘perhaps best expresses the difference between the two kinds of society, since discipline was always related to molded currencies containing fold as a numerical standard, whereas control is based on floating exchange rates, modulations depending on a code setting sample percentages for various currencies.”
68: (from Deleuze) “In disciplinary societies, you were always starting all over again (as you went from school to barrackes, from barrackes to factory), while in control societies you never finish anything—business, training, and military service being coexisting meta-stable states of a single modulation, a sort of transmutation of power.”
80: “’A whole political network became interwoven with the fabric of everyday life,’ a whole vast network of confrontations and resistances is configured and deployed.  And that network confronts us every day, all the time, with increasing intensity.  Welcome to, Jeffrey, we have some suggestions for you.”
85: “Following the intense saturation of biopower’s concepts and practices within everyday life, contemporary capitalism has not gone about setting boundaries on work, but rather has sought to increase work’s saturation into the very fiber of everyday life.  Think of yourself at home, answering e-mail at midnight.  A highly intensified mode of biopower, then, is what one might call the ‘operating system’ of contemporary economic and cultural life, at least in the so-called first world”
From my previous post on Untimely Mediations:
“In sum, the critical history of thought is neither a history of acquisitions nor a history of concealments of truth; it is the history of ‘verdictions,’ understood as the forms according to which discourses capable of being declared true or false are articulated concerning a domain or thing.  What the condition of this emergence were, the price that was paid for it, so to speak, its effects on reality and the way in which, linking a certain type of object to certain modalities of the subject, it constituted the historical a priori of possible experience for a period of time, an area, and for given individuals” (18).
Nealon’s discussion of Foucault and cost obviously reminds me of Fearless Speech, but I am most interested in the part that mentions the ‘discourses capable of being declared true or false.’  If my memory serves me, to be labeled a parrhesiastes, this assumed that the individual was truthful—there was no ‘being declared’ to be sought.  The cost, here, is the individual coming forth to speak.  The cost was not in the discourse itself since it was assumed to be true because it could cost the individual everything.  Cost would also be found on the side of the King—by listening to he parrhesiastes, he was creating the possibility for his own downfall (well, at minimum he might be proven wrong).  Therefore, cost is an interesting spin on power in general—the one who has the most to lose is the one currently with all the power.
I think this goes against Foucault’s argument in Fearless Speech – or at least my earlier response to it.  In Fearless Speech, Foucault argues that the king, who essentially has nothing to lose, cannot have parrhesia. However, if we look at this from a cost perspective, it doesn’t cost the individual (who speaks the truth to the King) anything—he is only risking what little street cred he might have.  If the individual points out something against the King (a flaw, perhaps), and according to “rules of parrhesia” what is spoken by the individual must be true), then it might cost the King everything simply to listen. An individual, under his power nonetheless, can uproot it.
To summarize, after reading Nealon, I believe that there is a critical difference between “risk” and “cost” that would be interesting to discuss.  I should point out that I do not think these terms are separable; however “risk” does seem to evade the consequential nature of “cost” i.e. “he risked his reputation” = he still has it, compared with “that move cost him his reputation” = he risked and lost.  Anyway, maybe those are bad examples, but my question this week is “what’s the diff or the connections between “risk” and “cost”?”


Doyle’s Wetwares: Experiments in Postvital Living

Richard Doyle, Wetwares: Experiments in Postvital Living
Area: Digital Media
Notes from the text
7: Conjunction and ellipsis becomes, in Burroughs’s hands, machines for connection and entanglement with another, even if that other be silence… ‘Silence takes on the quality of a dimension here…’ Entangled with the future, the ballistic collision of flesh and metal becomes an accomplished fact when the future itself is familiar.”
9: “ Artificial life disturbs, continually rendering the border between life and nonlife, flesh and machine, seductively uncertain.”
14: “More than spaces is smeared in this zone of indiscernibility between sign and future – the clean border between present and future becomes slashed, leaking into the sudden jolting of qualitative difference in that zone of variation present/future, becoming.”
19:  A question of what life is:
•    Watson: “in order to know what life is, we must know how genes act”
•    Doyle: “And yet this localization of life onto genetic actors –“what life is”—has also enabled an astonishing distribution of vitality, one that allows us to speak of ‘artificial life,’ simulacra that are not simply models of life but are in fact instances of it.”
23: “The rhetorical challenge posed by life that emerges out of networks goes beyond the ontological uncertainty that haunts artificial life—are they really alive?—and becomes a problem of articulation: How can something that dwells not in a place but in virtuality, a network, be rendered? Hence rhetorical problems haunt not simply the status of alife creatures, but their locations.”
23-4: “Rhetorics of ‘localization’ suggest that some particular organism ‘in’ or ‘on’ the computer is ‘alive,’ thereby occluding the complex ecology of brains, flesh, code, and electric grids that alife thrives on and enabling the usual habits of narrative—an actor moving serially through a world—to flourish, as a more recognizable and perhaps seductive understanding of an organism as ‘agent’ survives.”
24: “Bu alife is in a slightly different position with respect to its rhetorical components, as the actual difference of artificial life, as ‘life,’ is continually at stake.  This crisis of vitality that pervades alife is not simply due to alife’s status as a ‘simulation,’ alife merges out of a context in which quite literally, life disappears, as the ‘life effect’ becomes representable through the flicker of networks rather than articulable and definable locales.”
•    Representation of live (Pierce, Langton, Levy)
30: “The real resembles the possible whereas the actual responds to the virtual” (Deleuze→Levy)
44: “Cryonics…emerges out of a similarly distributing response: vitality becomes distributed over time as well as space…in that light, cryonics might be seen as an odd vestige of the old corporeality, where the body, like the buggy whip,  persists longs after it is ‘needed.’ Such a judgment, though, forgets the retooled nature of the post vital body; it is not lost or forgotten so much as in transit, becoming code—the cryonic body is hooked up to the future.”
57: “Hence, ‘life’ is contained ‘in’ this artificial universe, not in the (natural?) (uni?) universe.  Just as identity is associated with an invisibility of the institutions and communities that enable it, so too does vitality seem to emerge only through the invisibility of its networks”
66: “…the cryonics patient is promised a self that will persist even through the sudden avalanche of identity called ‘awakening.’ I am still I.  Friends and family have become healthier, wealthier, but not different.  Subjectivity persists in death in a manner impossible in life; if identity is a set of becomings, it is only in becoming-frozen that becoming itself is frozen”
68: “Here the cryonic body exemplifies Levinas’ observations about subjectivity: “Subjectivity realizes these impossible exigencies—the astonishing feat of containing more than it is possible to contain.” The cryonic subject, alive or dead, thus ‘contains’ more thank itself; as a body with an ongoing subjectivity, the cryonic body is oddly shaped, as it contains its future.  It depends on the boundless need for an ongoing promise, a promise to preserve the body, name, and project of the cryonic subject”
69: The difficulty of deciding who owns the body in the future
•    Rhetorical undecidability
71: Creating a personal archive—memory for the future
Notes from class
•    D&G: Burning expenditures
•    Rhetorical software
o    Softwares aren’t immaterial
•    Somewhere inbetween
•    Conceptualization of viability
•    Cybernetic subjectivity
•    New comprehension of sexuality
o    Sexual not intimate, private
o    Public-cultural
o    Human rights part of the problem
•    Subjectivity of absence
•    Cybernetics
o    Compared to rhetoric in connection to Gorgias
•    If our mode of resistance has changed, so has control
o    Deleuze, Burroughs
o    Resistance won’t work for long
o    Biopower and technoscience

(Review conclusion: Rhetorical software)

December 2018
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