Posts Tagged ‘Foucault

28
Nov
08

Hansen’s Bodies in Code

Mark B.N. Hansen
Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media
Area: Digital Media
Preface

•    Bodies in code: a term designating embodiment as it is necessarily distributed beyond the skin in the context of contemporary technics
Ix: “My explicit aim is to show how Merleau-Ponty’s final ontology of the flesh, with its postulation of a fundamental indifference between body and world, requires a technics—a theory of the originary technicity of the human.  Because the human is essentially a being distributed into nonoverlapping sensory interfaces with the world, it is characterized by a certain ‘gap’ or ‘divide- by what Merleau-Ponty calls an ecart.  As I show, the most primordial form of this ecart is the transduction between embodiment and specularity, the transduction that informs the emergence of the visual from primordial tactility.  This transduction (a relations that is primary with respect to its terms) is an instance (indeed, it is the protoinstance) of the inherence of technics within embodied life.”
Intro
•    The virtual now denotes a space full of information that can be activated, revealed, reorganized, and recombined, added to and transformed as the user navigates ewal space
•    Motor activity—not representationalist verisimilitude—holds the key to flux and functional crossings between the virtual and physical realms
•    The first generational model of VR as a disembodied hyperspace free of all material constraints simply no longer has any purchase in our world
•    The priority (or the ‘superiority’) of the analog: always on arrival a transformative feeling of the outside, a feeling of thought (Massumi)
o    Outside coming in
o    The analog creates reality out of forms or mixing realms, out of transformations
•    All reality is mixed reality
•    Theory has become almost simply coextensive with the claim (Sedgwick and Frank)
•    What makes the passage from one realm to another so seamless, so unnoticeable, so believable?
•    Blindspot (the photo montage of the parts of the body the artist cannot see) recognizes the inescapability of a cofunctioning of ‘natural’ perception and technically extend perception
•    Across the virtual body our culture constructs its own body image
•    Rigid Waves: the ‘mirror’ art—movement creates distortion, proximity shatters the image
•    To think of the body as a body-in-code is to think of human existence as a prepersonal sensory being-with
3: “Natural three dimension” demotes a more immersive, data-rich visual simulation.  In contrast, for Krueger, ‘natural formation’ means information produced through an extension of our natural—that is, embodied, perceptuomotor—interface with the world.”
3: “The development of 3-D simulations puts us in touch with out most primative perceptual capacities: ‘the human interface is evolving toward more natural information.  3-D space is more, not less, intuitive then 2-D space…3-D space is what we evolved to understand.  It is more primitive, not more advanced 9than two-dimensional space].”
4: “First, the mixed reality paradigm radically reconfigures a trait that has characterized VR from its proto origin as the representationalist fantasy par excellence: namely, a desire for complete convergence with natural perception.  This trait serves to distinguish it from all discrete image media, including cinema, which as underscored by Gilles Deleuze’s correction of Bergson’s criticism of the ‘cinematic illusion,’ function by breaking with natural perception.”
4: “Atonion Damasio’s analogy for consciousness: if consciousness can be likened to a ‘movie-in-the-brain’ with no external spectator, then VR would comprise something like a move-outside-the-brain, again, importantly, with no external spectator.”
5:  “Rather than conceiving the virtual as a total technical simulacrum and as the opening of a fully immersive, self-contained fantasy world, the mixed reality paradigm treats it as simply one more realm among others that can be accessed through embodied perception or enaction (Varela).  In this way, emphasis falls less on the content of the virtual than on the means of access to it, less on what is perceived in the world than on how it comes to be perceived in the first place.”
8:  “Mixed reality specifies how ‘media determine our situation’ (following Kittler’s media-theoretical deepening of Foucault’s epistemo-transcendental historiography), it does so in a way that foregrounds, not, (as in Kittler) the autonomy of the technical, but precisely its opposite: the irreducible bodily or analog basis of experience which, we must add, has always been conditioned by a technical dimension and has always occurred as a cofunctioning of embodiment with technics.”
12:  “The social-technical-psychological condition of psychasthenia, meaning ‘a state in which the space defined by the coordinates of the organism’s body is confused with represented space’”
20:  “Such a technical mediation of the body schema (of the scope of body environment coupling) comprises what I propose to calls a body-in-code.  By this I do not mean a purely informational body or a digital disembodiment of the everyday body.  I mean a body submitted to and constituted by an unavoidable and empowering technical deterritorialization—a body whose embodiment is realized, and can only be realized in conjunction with technics.”

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24
Nov
08

Kittler’s Discourse Networks 1800/1900

Friedrich Kittler
Discourse Networks: 1800/1900
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From Thomas Sebastian’s Review

•    The book is “‘thoroughly informed by post-structuralism’” but especially because it avoids a discussion of post-structuralist theory altogether, engaging instead in a radical application of its practice.
•    Post-hermeneutics: a criticism that “stops making sense”
•    “Discourse analysis, he argues, must be transformed into an ‘archaeology of the present’ by considering the material and technical conditions that permit discourse storage in the first place.”
•    “It follows that the status of literary texts is also determined by what one might calls this technicist perspective:
o    Discourse analyses…have to be materialistic.  An elementary datum is the fact that literature (whatever else it might mean to readers) processes, stores, and transmits data, and that such operations in the age-old medium of the alphabet have the same technical positivity as they do in computers.”
•    “As a result Kittler takes the fictive content of literary texts at face value as though the projections of a literary text are tantamount to eh historical reality from whci it emerges.”
•    “The epochally inopertune is thus excluded by the fable of two mutually exclusive historical orders.  Their relationship, determined by a categorical paradigm clearly recognizable as a construct, is based on a simple oppositional series: 1900 is to 1800 as signifier to signified, writing to speech, insanity to sanity, untranslatability to translatability, anarchy to state, outside to inside.  Kittler’s history describes the inversion of one order unto the other.”
•    “Kittler advances ‘woman’ somewhat crudely as a ‘presignifying talking machine’ in order to conceive of literature around 1800 as a recording system in the sense of technical medium.  ‘Woman,’ however, does not refer to ‘the women’ around 1800 as historical individuals, but rather those ‘mothers’ who Kittler believes to have discovered in the metaphoricity of literary, philosophical and pedagogical texts of that time as the instance which, according to Lacan, ‘causes speech but does not itself speak.’”
•    “A shift was made form learning complete words and phrases to the phonetic approach of oralizing the consonants and syllables of the alphabet. But the success of this ‘coercive act of alphabetizing’ was not merely initiated by a pedagogical shift to phonetics in High German orthography but rather, according to Kittler, because this measure was associated with the body of ‘biographical’ mothers.”
•    “’Man’—a word not simply problematic, but one that has become utterly devoid of content for Kittler—is a machine in a larger complex of machines […]  The principle governing this universe is energy consumption or ‘exhaustion.’ Just as machines ultimately break down and wear out, so, too, does Man as machine.”
•    “For Kittler, translating around 1900 is no longer the translating of signifieds (as he claims it was in 1800), but is instead simply based on relationships between signifiers.  Kittler calls these interlinear translations ‘transpositions of media’; he presumably uses this term in order to metaphorically rule out all doubt that this transposition of media is still a hermeneutical procedure.”
•    “Kittler thinks of technology merely as a technical apparatuses in their empirical facticity and not, like Foucault, as a function of knowledge.  And Kittler does not recognize that if he replaces language by technologies—conceived of as such empirical apparatuses—then everything that Foucault says about language holds true precisely for technology.”
•    “As Heidegger, for example, would argue, this is precisely an anthropological definition of technology, namely technology as man’s supplementing instrument, since man has been considered a zoon technocon since Aristotle at the latest.”

19
Nov
08

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)

08
Nov
08

Baudrillard’s The Vital Illusion

Jean Baudrillard
The Vital Illusion
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
Chapter 1: The Final Solution: Cloning beyond the Human and Inhuman

•    Cancer cells forget to die—forget how to die
•    Only by obtaining the power to die, that we live
o    We’re now eclipsing this with cloning
•    Freud’s death drive: nostalgia for a state before appearance of individuality and sexual differentation—state before were mortal and distinct from one another
•    First, sex was liberated from reproduction, now reproduction is liberated from sex
o    Sex is becoming a useless function
•    Death, once a vital function, could become a luxury
o    When death is eliminated, the luxury of dying increases: cyberdeath
•    Durable and contradictory movement: humankind tries to build itself a deathless alterego and at the same time to perfect natural selection through artificial selection
o    Puts an end to natural selection
•    “The specter that haunts genetic manipulation is the genetic idea, a perfect model obtained through the elimination of all negative traits”
•    Behind the Rights of Man are the prerogatives of an endangered species
•    The loss of the human is serious, but the loss of the inhuman is just as serious
•    In process of erasing the distinction between human and inhuman by reconciling them
•    Clone overthrowing the father (not the sleep with the mother) but to regain status as the original
•    Life is preserved as long as it is has exchange value
15-6: “If we discover that not everything can be cloned, simulated, programmed, genetically and neurologically managed, then whatever survives could truly be called ‘human’: some inalienable and indesctructible human quality could finally be identified.”
22: “Once the human is no longer defined in terms of transcendence and liberty, but in terms of functions and of biological equilibrium, the definition of the human itself begins to fade, along with that of humanism.”
Chapter 2: The Millennium, or The Suspense of the Year 2000
•    Cleansing is the prime activity of this fin-de-siecle
o    Turning away from history ‘in progress’
o    Nothing’s been resolved, plunging into a regressive history
•    Time is counted by subtraction—starting → end
•    Fanatical memorization: commemorations, rehabilitations, cultural museification
o    Making the past itself into a clone
o    Instead of first existing, works of art go straight into a museum
•    Makes of excess (ecstasy of the body: obesity—fatter than fat; ecstasy of information: simulation—truer than true)
•    But is a ghost history, a spectral history, still a history?
•    If Foucault can analyze power it’s because power no longer has a definition that can properly be called political
51: “That the system of information has been substituted for that of history and is starting to produce events in the same way that Capital is starting to produce Work.  Just as labor, under these circumstances, no longer has any significance of its own, the event produced by information has ho historical meaning of its own.  This is the point where we enter the transhistorical or transpolitical—that is to say, the sphere where events do not really take place precisely because they are produced and broadcast ‘in real time,’ where they have no meaning because they can have all possible meanings.”
Chapter 3: The Murder of the Real
•    No corpse, no victim
•    The Real is disappearing because there is too much of it
o    Excess brings end
•    Illusion is the general rule of the universe; reality is but an exception
65: “This short circuit and instantaneity of all things in global information we call ‘real time.”  Real time can be seen as a Perfect Crime perpetrated against time itself: for with the ubiquity and instant availability of the totality of information, time reaches its point of perfection, which is also its vanishing point.  Because of course a perfect time has no memory and no future.”
82: “Either we think of technology as the exterminator of Being, the exterminator of the secret, of seduction and appearances, or we imagine that technology, by the way of an ironic reversibility, might be an immense detour toward the radical illusion of the world.”

21
Oct
08

Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter

Friedrich Kittler
Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
Area: Digital Media
Translator’s Intro

•    Media determine our situation
•    Media of the present influence how we think about the media of the past or future
•    “Media Science” will remain mere “media history”
o    Study of media should concern itself primarily with mediality and not resort to the usual suspects (history, sociology, anthropology, lit and cultural studies) to explain how and why media so what they do
•    Media are not coefficients but effects of ideology (Baudrillard)
o    Media do no mediate; they are anti-mediatory and intransitive
•    Kittler: merger of Foucault, Lacan, McLuhan
o    Discourse analysis, structuralist psychoanalysis, and first generation media theory
o    “Media discourse analysis”
•    Lacan: human consciousness is a camera that captures and stores imagtes even when no one is around
•    Ulmer: grammatological works of Derrida “already reflect an internalization of the electronic media”
•    Hypertext and hypermedia : poststructuralism :: cybernetics : structuralism/semiotics
•    Hermeneutic “master plan” can only work if people are trained to work with language in standardized ways that downplay its changing materiality
•    People have been trained to disregard the change from handwriting to print
•    When a camera (Lacan) does all the registering, storing, and developing on its own, there is on need for an intervening subject and is celebrated consciousness
o    When the phonograph stores everything on might say there might be an unconscious, but no mediating Soul
•    Use of military combat illustrations
Xii: “Such framing, however, implies that the (re)discovery of a past orality will affect the perception of our present literacy, since every exploration of the dynamics of orality is a renegotiation of the limits and boundaries of literacy and its associated media networks.”
Xv: “technologies such as the transistor radio recognize no contradiction between transmitter and receiver.  Rather, these technical distinctions reflect the social division of labor into producers and consumers and therefore are ultimately predicated on the contradiction between the ruling and ruled classes.  If passive consumers were to become active citizens and producers, they would have to take charge of this untapped technological potential, install themselves as producers, and thereby ‘bring the communications media, which up to now have not deserved the name, into their own.”
Xx: “Step 1: We recognize that we are spoken by language.  Step 2: we understand that language is not some nebulous entity but appears in the shape of historically limited discursive practices.  Step 3: We finally perceived that these practices depend on media. In short, structuralism begot discourse analysis, and discourse analysis begot media theory.”
Xx: “Whereas Foucault’s archives are based on the hegemony of written language, on the silent assumption that print is the primary (if not the only) carrier of signification, Kittler’s archeology of the present seeks to include the technological storage and communication media of the post-print age(s).  ‘Even writing itself, before it ends up in libraries, is a communication medium, the technology of which the archeologist [Foucault] simply forgot.  It is for this reason that all his analyses end immediately before that point in time at which other media penetrated the library’s stacks. Discourse analysis cannot be applied to sound archives and towers of film rolls.’”
Xxv: “While the typewriter did away with either’s sex’s need for a writing stylus ( and in the process giving women control over a writing machine-qua-phallus), it reinscribed women’s subordination to men: women not only became writers but also became secretaries taking dictation on typewriters, frequently without comprehending what was being dictated.”
Intro
•    McLuhan: One media’s content is always other media
•    Media are always already beyond aesthetics
•    “If the film called history rewinds itself, it turns into an endless loop”
o    History if Foucault’s “wave like succession of words”
•    Writing merely stores the fact of its authorization
o    Writing celebrates the storage monopoly of the God who invented it
•    Hegel: the alphabetized individual had his ‘appearance and externality’ in this continuous flow of ink and letters
•    “Once memories and dreams, the dead and ghosts become technically reproducible, readers and writers no longer need the powers of hallucination”
•    Reproductions don’t simply resemble, but guarantee this resemblance by being a product of the object in question
•    Media are always flight apparatuses to the great beyond (specter)
•    Typewriters don’t store individuals
•    No computer has ever or will ever be built that can do more than the Turing machine
10: “Once storage media can accommodate optical and acoustic data, human memory capacity is bound to dwindle.  Its liberation is its end.  As long as the book was responsible for all serial data flows, words quivered with sensuality and memory.”
11: “If (according to Balzacz) the human body consists of many infinitely thin layers of ‘specters,’ and if the human spirit cannot be created from nothingness, then the daguerreotype must be a sinister trick: it fixes, that is steals, one layer after the other, until nothing remains of the specters and the photographed body.”
14: “The beginning of our age was marked by separation or differentation.  On the one hand, we have two technological media that, for the first time, fix unwritable data flows; on the other, an ‘intermediate’ thing between a tool and a machine, as Heidegger wrote so precisely about the typewriter.  On the one hand, we have the entertainment industry with its new sensualities; on the other, a writing that already separated paper and body during textual production, not first during reproduction (as Gutenberg’s movable types had done).”

26
Sep
08

Foucault’s Ethics

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

•    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

20
Aug
08

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.
Ethics/Hacking:
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).




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