Posts Tagged ‘Doyle


Hayles’ My Mother Was a Computer

N. Katherine Hayles
My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts
Area: Digital Media
Preface: Computing Kin

•    Materiality—construction of matter that matter for human meaning
•    The complex dynamics through which the Computational universe works simultaneously as a means and metaphor in technical and artistic practices
•    Intermediation = complex transactions between bodies and texts as well as between different forms of media
o    The posthuman will be understood as effects of media
2: “’Postbiological’ future: the expectation that the corporeal embodiment that has always functioned to define the limits of the human will in the future become optional, as humans find ways to upload their consciousness into computers and leave their bodies behind.”
4: “In the contemporary period, reading as ‘hallucination’ has been displaced in part by the instant messaging, chat rooms, video games, e-mail, and Web surfing that play such a a large role in young people’s experiences.  To an extent, then, the mother’s voice that haunted reading has been supplanted by  another set of stimuli: the visual, audio, kinesthetic, and haptic cues emanating from the computer.  If the mother’s voice was the link connecting subjectivity with writing, humans with natural environments, then the computer’s beeps, clicks, and tones are the links connecting contemporary subjectivities to electronic environments, humans to the Computational Universe.”
Chapter 1: Intermediation: Textuality and the Regimes of Computation
•    Comparison of speech, writing, and code
•    Code: synecdoche for information
•    Emergence
o    25: “This term refers to properties that do not in here in the individual components of a system; rather, these properties come about from interactions between components.”
22: “Even if code is not originally ontological, it becomes so through these recursive feedback loops.  In Wetwares, Richard Doyle makes a similar observation about the belief that we will someday be able to upload our consciousness into computers and thereby effectively achieve immortality.  Doyle comments, ‘’Uploading,’ the desire to be wetware, makes possible a new technology of the self, one fractured by the exteriority of the future….Uploading seems to install discursive, material, and social mechanism for the anticipation of an externalized self, a techno-social mutation that is perhaps best characterized as a new capacity to be affected by, addicted to, the future.”
33: “’Remediation’ has the disadvantage of locating the starting for the cycles in a particular locality and medium, whereas ‘intermediation’ is more faithful to the spirit of multiple causality in emphasizing interactions among media.”
33: “I want to expand its denotations to include interactions between systems of representations, particularly language and code, as well as interactions between modes of representation, particularly analog and digital.  Perhaps most importantly, ‘intermediation’ also denotes mediating interfaces connecting humans with the intelligent machines that are our collaborators in making, storing, and transmitting informational processes and objects.”
Chapter 4: Translating Media
•    If the text is stored accurately on a second storage medium, the text remains the same though the signs for it are different
o    Braille v. Print versions: the text is the same but the sensory input is very different
•    “The materiality of an embodied text is the interaction of its physical characteristics with its signifying strategies.”
101: “With electronic texts there is a conceptual distinction—and often an actualized one—between storage and delivery vehicles, whereas with print the storage and delivery vehicles are one and the same.  With electronic texts, the data files may be on one server and the machine creating the display may be in another location entirely, which means that electronic text exists as a distributed phenomenon. The dispersion introduces many possible sources of variation into the production of electronic text that do not exist in the same way with print, for example, when a user’s browser displays a text with different colors than those the writer say on her machine when she was creating it.”
102: “Certainly the time lag is an important component of the electronic text, for it determines in what order the user will view the material.  Indeed, as anyone who has grown impatient with long load times knows, in many instances it determines whether the user will see the image at all.  These times are difficult to predict precisely because they depend on the individual computer’s processing speed, traffic on the Web, efficiency of data distribution on the hard drive, and other imponderables.  This aspect of electronic textuality—along with many others—cannot be separated from the delivery vehicles that produce it as a process with which the user can interact.”


Doyle’s On Beyond Living

Richard Doyle
On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformation of the Life Sciences
Area: Digital Media
Chapter 1: The Sublime Object of Biology

•    Not the economy of differences between signs and things, but the force field that organizes the relations between them
•    The ‘freezing’ of scientific discourse suspends its relation to history as well as its relations to language.  For what does not appear in the freeze-frame of science is the technology of framing itself, what I call rhetorical software
o    Rhetorical software foregrounds the relational and material interactions that make possible the emergence of scientific statement
•    Foucault: pre-19th century, “life” didn’t exist because biology as a science hadn’t yet been articulated (Order of Things)
•    Life becomes the unseen guarantor of biology, knowable only at a distance
•    Living species are classified alive because of what they conceal
•    Ontological economy = spent life
•    Reproduction maintains life, it doesn’t create it
•    Any given cell can be seen as nothing but the instantiation of a memory of past “choices”—directed by the genetic program
•    Postvital organism is nothing but coding
•    What are we studying when we study life?
•    Two meanings of resolution: precision and closure
•    Transparent body, unseen, resolved into nothing: memory of a body, body of a memory—past choices of ancestry
•    Two deaths: symbolic and biological (Lacan)
•    Rotman: meta-sign—inscription marks absence
3: “We usually think of an experimental report as a narration of some prior visual experience: it points to sensory experiences that lie behind the text. This is correct.  However, we should also appreciate that the text itself constitutes a visual source.  That is, narrative functions as a kind of supplement to the material technology of the air pump, framing it in a coherent and persuasive fashion so that others might be convinced of Robert Boyle’s finding at a distance in the absence of the pump or of Boyle.”
4: “For Derrida, writing about the writing of philosophy, this impossibility of arriving at the final or complete metaphor of metaphor exhibits philosophy’s dependence on the passed over, the preterit, something ‘outside the system.’  That is, the very working of metaphor, the fact of metaphor, testifies to the fact that language works through a forgetting, at the very least a forgetting of what we mean by metaphor.  Our mania for accounts of language that stress the possibility of univocality and overlook the force and rhetoricity of language occludes the ways in which language matters.”
9: “The virtual is the unsaid of the statement, the unthought of thought.  It is real and subsists in them, but must be forgotten at least momentarily for a clear a statement to be produced….The task of philosophy is to explore that inevitable forgetting, to reattach statements to the conditions of their emergence.” (Deleuze)
15: “For cells, as for computers, memory makes complex programs possible; and many cells together, each one stepping through its complex developmental control program, generate a complex adult body…Thus the cells of the embryo can be likened to an array of computers operating in parallel and exchanging information with one another. Each cell contains the same genome and therefore the same built-in program, but it can exist in a variety of states; the program directs development along various alternative paths according to a combination of the past information the cell has remembered and the present environmental signals it receives.”
16: “These choices lead to the eradication of the centrality and sovereignty of the cell as agent, much as in the rhizomatic example drawn from Deleuze and Guattari’s ATP: ‘Puppet strings, as a rhizomatic or a multiplicity of nerve fibers, which form another puppet in other dimensions to the first.”
17: “For the postvital body, the overlooking or disappearance of the body displaces this ‘beyond’ onto an ever denser and ever more complex genetic apparatus.  That is, it is not simply that the accelerating pursuit of knowledge of molecular genetics leads to a greater appreciation of the richness of genetic expression. Rather, the intensity of the pursuit of a ‘complete understanding’ of C. elegans increases the resolutions of analysis and plunges research ever deeper into the genome to a place beyond the molecule, the postvital.”
Chapter 2: Mr. Schrodinger Inside Himself: The Rhetorical Origins of the Genetic Code
•    Pattern = cradle-to-grave biography
•    “Smart” DNA = DNA as an AI
30: “Derrida has argued that philosophy cannot be extricated from its rhetoricity, most notably due to philosophy’s reliance upon metaphor.  But the other side of this analysis also shows the extent to which rhetoric is indebted to philosophy: ‘metaphor remains, in all its essential characteristics, a classical philosopheme.’ Philosophy nad rhetoric thus mark not oppositions, but lines of difference, what Gilles Deleuze might call a ‘fold,’ or what Derrida explicates as ‘the contamination of logic, the logic of contamination.’  These cross-pollinating models all point to the ways in which discourses, like the chromosomes in Schrodinger’s text, cross over and ‘contain’ each other.  As a play of differences rather than a tool for meaning and communication, scientific discourse can be seen to be both productively and hopelessly embedded in the discourses of technology, philosophy, and as we shall see, cartoons.”
36:  “The cyborg now constructs and orders the slave ‘body’ in smart but lifeless immanence, fulfilling the function of the ‘director to the board of an industrial corporation,’ while the proteins work ‘by processes essentially resembling those of assembly plant robots.’ In short, Adam’s text announces that the cyborg no longer needs the organism to ‘implement’ its program.  In a reversal of McLuhan, ‘man’ becomes the extension of the nanotechnological, a mean puppet run by molecular machines.”
Chapter 6: Emergent Power: Vitality and Theology in Artificial Life
•    The rhetoric of molecular biology implies (literally) that there is no outside of the genetic text
•    Vitality, too, in the age of simulation, that which can be ‘xeroxed’
•    Dawkins: “raining DNA”—everything can be replicated; it is real/can live
110: “Rhetorical softwares play a crucial tactical role in this regime of power, as it is through rhetorics that he uncanny connection between the machine and the organism is installed and managed.  Dispersed from the unity of the organism, life gets networked, located, and articulated through a computer screen.”
113:  “Life is no longer that which can be distinguished in a more or less certain fashion from the mechanical; it is that in which all the possible distinctions between living beings have their basis” (Foucault)
123:  “The age of simulation thus begins with a liquidation of all referentials—worse: by their artificial resurrection in systems of signs….It is no longer a question of imitation, not of reduplication, not even of parody.  It is rather a question imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody.  It is rather of question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself.” (Baudrillard)


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)


Some talking points on the digital

Merlin Donald’s term, “external memory devices,” or EMDs henceforward. Until called upon, EMDs remain suspended and retain the exact information one uploaded onto the device. The increasing utilization of EMDs suggests that our bodies are not enough.
Vilem Flusser argues for a distinction between cultural memory and genetic memory, noting that the former is, “is shorter than genetic memory, and even less trustworthy” because the individual re-remembers an event over time (397). Electronic memories are simulations, within inanimate objects, of the memory functions of the human brain. Even though EMDs only simulate memory, they do not disregard all other aspects of the brain. EMDs do indeed exaggerate memory, but rely upon computers (or, the “rest” of the brain) to function properly.
A crucial distinction between personal memory (storage apparatuses) and collective memory (libraries) is the notion of progression. Whereas collective memory is themed knowledge, we place ideas that are important to ourselves in our EMDs.
Collective memory entails privileged access to particular places, but personal memory is not limited in this sense, as EMDs only demand an internet connection or a USB port. Simply, personal memory is individualized.


Deleuze states that, “time simultaneously makes the present past and preserves the past in itself” (98).
According to Henri Bergson’s essay, “Of the Survival of Images,” time is a constantly formed and reformed trinity: past, present, and future. We simply “define the present in an arbitrary manner as that which is, whereas the present is simply what is being made” (Bergson 149-150). This is the critical illusion of time according to Bergson—the present is ‘being made’ as it is at the same time disappearing.
Bergson designates three important processes through which one can examine time and, ultimately, one’s personal history: pure memory, memory-image, and perception. Just as the past/present/future trio function only as a result of each other, “perception is bound to expel the memory-image, and the memory-image to expel pure memory” (Bergson 134).
Derrida calls this recurrence “hauntology,” defining it as, “repetition and first time, but also repetition and last time, since the singularity of any first time, makes of it also a last time. Each time it is the event itself, a first time is a last time” (10).
As Stelarc admits in, “Prosthetics, Robotics and Remote Existence: Postevolutionary Strategies,” “evolution ends when technology invades the body” (591). Arguing for the need to begin thinking about our future selves, Stelarc suggests that we should replace parts of the body as they fail, rather than temporarily repairing the body with modern medicine.
“The body need no longer be repaired but simply have parts replaced. Something other than the present, something yet to come, insures the cryonic body,” the body in suspension, too, risks the possibility of never being resuscitated (Doyle 65).
Van Dijck argues that memories are never stable over time, and how we choose to remember them and the technologies that we use to recall such memories are actually the concerns. In chapter three, van Dijck shows how some Alzheimer patients are utilizing blogs and lifelogs to record their deteriorating memories. Although van Dijck argues that memories are never stable, Alzheimer blogs are functioning in the exact opposite way by storing memories so that they become stabilized. Also, the shared experience between the blogger and the blog reader further compliments the notion of collective digitized memory. This specific type of collective memory suggests that the Alzheimer blogger will experience her own memory as though it is not actually hers. Moreover, while the disease actively deteriorates the mind, the Alzheimer blogger is actively posting to suspend his memories in order that he, his family, and others who may be experiencing similar deterioration can return to these memories knowing they will be constant and unchanged.
Extending the brain with the development of exteriorization
Today, we are dramatically externalized, so much so that our physical memories are under worked and reliant upon outside sources. However, Leroi-Grourhan views externalization as a “logical stage of evolution,” as noted in the following:
“These machines […] reflect a logical stage in human evolution. As with hand
tools the process whereby all implements came gradually to be concentrated outside the human body is again perfectly clear: Actions of the teeth shift to the hand, which handles the portable tool; then the tool shifts still further away, and a part of the gesture is transferred from the arm to the hand-operated machine” (245).
By looking at Leroi-Gourhan’s argument for extending our bodies, it appears that technologies have always encouraged the expanding of the brain in one fashion or another. Currently, we are experiencing the ability to “store” our brains: “evolution has entered a new stage, that of the exteriorization of the brain, and from a strictly technological point of view the mutation has already been achieved” (252). Compared to the reformation of the skull to hold our physical brains, this mutation of which he speaks occurred rather immediately. Consequently, we are externalizing the self with more frequency and relying upon a stored, technologized memory. It should be noted that while Leroi-Gourhan refers to encyclopedias and punch-card indexes, he was indeed able to see where externalization is heading.
Memory is becoming individualized, rather than group oriented
One might argue that with the prevalence of externalized memory, a collective memory is replacing our individual memory. However, I believe that it is the reverse that is occurring: because a collective memory is no longer necessary, our memory is strictly individualized. Real memory of specific, collective, survival behaviors that were passed on through a group are no longer necessary for the species to endure. We simply store the information that we need and seek out only what we deem important. Perhaps, then, the next step in externalized evolution is maintaining a certain technical savvy-ness—if one does not have the means (economic, knowledge or otherwise) to externalize, you will not evolve.
Hawhee’s detailing of ancient gymnasia perfectly illustrates the interrelation of mind and body training. Both types of training are initiated through a seeking out, a dedication to becoming, which is initially motivated “by a concomitant submitting: active submission is thus a necessary first step for transformation” (87). This transformation is a recognition that the individual wants to become something more, something other than his/her natural self. Only through the 3Rs (rhythm, repetition, and response) can one remold his/her current nature, thus forming new habits, or a “second nature,” that “become so ingrained in a person they become almost instinctual responses and most closely approximate a ‘natural’ response” (95). This sounds quite like the flatterer who “has no principles in him, and leads not a life properly his own, but forms and moulds it according to the various humors and caprices of those he designs to bubble, is never one and the same man […] like the water that always turns and winds itself into the figure of the channel through which it flows” (5). Interestingly, Hawhee calls upon Heraclitus’ saying ‘it is not possible to step twice into the same river’ during her discussion of cyclical differentiation, the notion of simultaneous combination and scattering (141). We can see cyclical differentiation represented in both the flatterer and the trainee, for both are learning new skills while abandoning the older ones.
The flatterer, whose “second nature” is based solely on imitation, is unlike the ancient ‘gym rat’ in the sense that the latter has “the desire to become something else” permanently (97). Instead, the flatterer is never completely transformed, but only performs as someone based upon his/her situation. The athlete—and here I use athlete to recognize the training of both the mind and the body—has the potential for self-improvement and true change through his/her training. In order “to make oneself capable of training,” self-control is the necessary component of self-improvement; therefore “the transformative work of practice relies upon the readiness, the submission, the painful subjection’ for the athlete’s total transformation (146). Only others motivate the flatterer, whereas the self motivates the athlete.
Turning to Antidosis, Isocrates notes at the start that we are “not to form opposite
judgements about similar things” (1). From Hawhee, we have learned that the body and mind were not trained separately, but rather informed the other through similar training styles (the 3Rs). Speaking on the gymnasium, Hawhee notes, “the inculcation of such knowledge in a crowd heightens the embodied nature of such learning, as the space of the ancient gymnasium emerged as a network of forces” (128). This “network of forces” can be compared to Isocrates’ “similar things”: the physical space representing the convergence of mind, body, sophistry, and athleticism.
Foucault notes that the panopticon is the “perfect exercise of power” for several reasons, although most significantly “because it can reduce the number of those who exercise it, while increasing the number of those on whom it is exercised” (206). The panopticon, just as the parked police car, does not need a physical body behind it to instill a sense of control. Because any of the prisoners may be watched at any time, simply the possibility of being watched should be enough to maintain order. Further, Foucault says that, “because without any physical instrument other than architecture and geometry, it acts directly on individuals; it gives ‘power of mind over mind’” (206). The panopticon’s strength lies within the ‘power of mind over mind’ since it is the prisoner’s mind that is being controlled. One could assume that no one is ever looking, but one assumes that one is always looking, without ever knowing which is true at any given time. Becoming posthuman, or becoming body-less, is previewed by the panopticon. Some sort of actual human presence is not necessary for the panopticon to function—it is self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency is not the issue though, but rather that human presence is no longer needed. We are in a time when we can be absent and present concurrently (i.e. on dating websites, blogs, and myspace and youtube postings). Just as the prisoners did not know when they were being watched, no one knows when we are ‘available,’ as the webpage, posting, etc. stands in for us even when we are offline.
“[…] force-feedback devices are enabling varied forms of haptic actions at a distance. These range from the simulated handling of molecules by research chemists and telesurgery effected through visually enhanced feedback loops, to cross-planetary arm wrestling, and the inevitable attempt to realize sex-at-a-distance, or teledildonics (“Corporeal” 431).  If ‘avatars sexing other avatars’ enables an actual feeling, how are the lines of private and public redistributed? And further, is there a private self anymore if public actions (i.e. the sexing avatars’ deeds) are responsive to and received by the lone, haptic recipients? As Brian Rotman notes earlier in “Corporeal or Gesturo-haptic Writing,” this results in “a form of transposed physicality,” where we can be both ‘here’ and ‘there’ simultaneously (430). Although because ‘sex- and arm-wrestling-at-a-distance happens’ here and there, the haptic response seems to suggests that there is no ‘there,’ anything that is being felt is only happening ‘here.’ To explain, even though I might be tele-arm-wrestling someone else across the globe, the only sensation I am feeling is their presence back on me. The action is only taking place for me ‘here’; I am exerting strength, but I don’t feel it there (where my opponent is ‘located’). There is a supposed ‘there’ (with which I am supposedly interacting), but since I do not feel my actions, the only ones that ‘count’ are the ones being received. The tele-arm-wrestling is transpiring in two separate places, and the same event is identical and separate.
To add to this, Rotman says in “Going Parallel” that “the I/me unit is disintegrating, the one who says ‘I’ is no longer singular, but multiple: a shifting plurality of disbursed, distributed and fragmented personae” (60). To return to the above example, the tele-arm-wrestling “I” materializes in two locations at once, creating two copies of the same action. The idea of “copies” is an interesting thread, as the transported self is not necessarily a reproduction, but is the same action And, MMOGs such as Second Life foster this distribution and fragmentation of the individual—there (in Second Life’s virtual world), one can be both “serial” and “parallel”; behind the computer is one “operator” with the ability to create multiple selves “doing many things at once” (“Going” 57). In this life (and I am not referring to reincarnation here, but distinguishing our lives from virtual ones), one can be a starving grad student, while at the same time have enough Linden Dollars to consistently devote to groceries in Second Life. Also in Second Life, we are able to foster our “alters” by creating various personae; there we can create “The Angry One” and “The Innocent Child” while we, “The Actual One” maintains control over all of them. What I find most interesting about MMOGs such as Second Life is that they still require an actual person to foster action. They are not, to borrow Varela’s term, “selfless selves” (“Becoming” 6). Although limiting, one can play MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft by oneself, while Second Life would not exist without involvement from other people (actual ones, not their avatars).

July 2017
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