Posts Tagged ‘Hauntology

26
Nov
08

Castells’ The Information Age

Manuel Castells
The Information Age: vols. 1-3
Area: Digital Media
From Felix Stadler’s Review

•    Castells’ main argument is that a new form of capitalism has emerged at the end of this century: global in its character, hardened in its goals and much more flexible than any of its predecessors. It is challenged around the globe by a multitude of social movements on behalf of cultural singularity and people’s control over their own lives and environment.
•    This tension provides the central dynamic of the Information Age, as “our societies are increasingly structured around the bipolar opposition of the Net and the Self” (1996, p. 3).
•    The Net stands for the new organizational formations based on the pervasive use of networked communication media. Network patterns are characteristic for the most advanced economic sectors, highly competitive corporations as well as for communities and social movements.
•    The Self symbolizes the activities through which people try to reaffirm their identities under the conditions of structural change and instability that go along with the organization of core social and economic activities into dynamic networks.
•    Transformations amongst the trilogy
o    First: Changing relationships of production
o    Second: relationships of power and experience: crisis of the nation-state
o    Third: ties together the loose ends
•    Technology and society can’t be understood or represented without its technological tools
•    Rather than seeing identity as an effect, as a traditional Marxist would, he argues the opposite: identity-building itself is a dynamic motor in forming society
•    “A new society emerges when and if a structural transformation can be observed in the relationships of production, in the relationships of power, and in the relationships of experience” (1998, p. 340).
•    The first assumption structures Castells’ account of the rise of the Net: the dialectical interaction of social relations and technological innovation, or, in Castells’ terminology, modes of production and modes of development.
•    The second assumption underlies the importance of the Self: the way social groups define their identity shapes the institutions of society. As Castells notes “each type of identity-building process leads to a different outcome in constituting society” (1997, p. 8).
•    A society produces its goods and services in specific social relationships–the modes of production.
o    Since the industrial revolution, the prevalent mode of production in Western societies has been capitalism, embodied in a wide range of historically and geographically specific institutions to create and distribute profit.
o    The modes of development, on the other hand, “are the technological arrangements through which labor acts upon matter to generate the product, ultimately determining the level and the quality of the surplus” (1996, p. 16).
•    Identity is defined as “the process of construction of meaning on the basis of a cultural attribute, or related set of cultural attributes, that is/are given priority over other sources of meaning” (1997, p. 6).
•    Castells concludes that information technology evolves in a distinctively different pattern than previous technologies, thus constituting the “informational mode of development”: a flexible, pervasive, integrated and reflexive, rather than additive evolution. The reflexivity of the technologies, the fact that any product is also raw material because both are information, has permitted the speeding up of the process of innovation.
•    This new economy is informational because the competitiveness of its central actors (firms, regions, or nations) depends on their ability to generate and process electronic information. It is global because its most important aspects, from financing to production, are organized on a global scale, directly through multinational corporations and/or indirectly through networks of associations.
•    Rather than creating the same conditions everywhere, the global economy is characterized “by its interdependence, its asymmetry, its regionalization, the increased diversification within each region, its selective inclusiveness, its exclusionary segmentation, and, as a result of all those features, an extraordinarily variable geometry that tends to dissolve historical, economic geography” (1996, p. 106).
•    Its most distinct result is the emergence of what Castells calls the space of flows: the integrated global network. It comprises several connected elements: private networks, company Intranets; semi-public, closed and proprietary networks such as the financial networks; and public, open networks, the Internet. Social organizations reconstitute themselves according to this space of flows.
o    Technology: the infrastructure of the network.
o    Places: the topology of the space formed by its nodes and hubs.
o    People: the (relatively) secluded space of the managerial elite commanding the networks,
•    The space of flows has introduced a culture of real virtuality which is characterized by timeless time and placeless space.
•    Binary time expresses no sequence but knows only two states: either presence or absence, either now or never.
o    Within the space of flows everything that is the case is now, and everything that is not must be introduced from the outside: that is, it springs suddenly into existence.
•    Sequence is arbitrary in the space of flows and disorders events which in the physical context are connected by a chronological sequence.
•    Binary space, then, is a space where the distance can only be measured as two states: zero distance (inside the network) or infinite distance (outside the network), here or nowhere.
•    Power is concentrated in the intricate space of flows, to the extent that “the power of flows takes precedence over the flows of power” (1996, p. 469).
•    The classic embodiment of legitimizing identity, the nation state, is losing its power, “although, and this is essential, not its influence” (1997, p. 243).
•    Trapped between the increased articulation of diverse, often conflicting identities and the need to act on a global scene, the traditional democratic institutions–the civil society–are being voided of meaning and legitimacy: they lose their identity. The power of the political democracy, ironically at the moment when it reaches almost global acceptance, seems to be inevitably waning.

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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.”

22
Oct
08

Carruthers’ Book of Memory

Mary Carruthers
The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Intro

•    Learning can be seen as a process of acquiring smarter and richer mnemonic devices to represent information
•    Divide the material to be remembered into pieces short enough to be recalled in single units and to key these into some sort of rigid easily reconstructible order
o    This provides one with a “random-access” memory system: immediately and accurately find bits of information
•    Concern with educated memory
•    Memoria: integral part of virtue of prudence
o    Makes moral judgment possible
10: “A work is not truly read until one has made it part of oneself—that process constitutes a necessary stage of its ‘textualization.’  Merely running one’s eyes over the written pages is not reading at all, for the writing must be transferred into memory, from graphemes on parchment or papyrus or paper to images written in one’s brain by emotion and sense.”
Chapter 1: Models for the Memory
•    Memory is a central feature of knowledge
o    Plato: recollection
o    Aristotle: the agent of building experience
•    The proof of a good memory lies not in the retention, but the ability to move about it instantly, directly, and securely
•    Recollection can happen:
o    Naturally = formally
o    Artificially = associatively (more efficient for mass amounts of material)
•    Partialness is also a characteristic of memory
•    Thesaurus refers both to what is in the strong box, the “treasures,” as when Augustine speaks of the treasures of countless images in his memory
31: “The ancients began from the twin assumptions that the mind already writes when it stores up its experience in representations, and, as a corollary, that the graphic expression of such representations is not an event of particular importance, at least for ‘ways of thinking about things—no more important that he sound of an individual’s voice is to his or her ability to use language.  From this viewpoint, the symbolic representations that we call writing are no more than cues or triggers for the memorial ‘representations,’ also symbolic, upon which human cognition is based.  And to mistake one sort of think for the other would be a significant error.  Writing something down cannot change in any significant way our mental representation of it, for it is the mental representation that gives birth to the written form, not vice versa.”
Chapter 2: Descriptions of the Neuropsychology of Memory
•    Aristotle: two processes of memory: storage and recollection
o    Both = memoria
•    The concept of ‘intellectual memory’ is attributed by Thomas Aquinas to Augustine
o    No human is capable of thinking entirely abstractly without some sort of signifying image
o    All memory images have an emotional component acquired during the process of its formation
•    Dreams: Aristotle: memory phantasm
o    In sleep, the consciousness isn’t functioning
•    Personal memory = subject to re-creation and inaccuracy
•    Rote memory = depends on unchangingness (ex: 7 x 6 = 42)
51: “Animals have memories too, but only of discrete experiences – they cannot generalize or predict on the basis of what they remember.  But concepts ‘are not retained in the sense part of the soul, but rather in the body-soul unity, since sense memory is an organic act.’ Human memory is thus both material, as it retains the impress of ‘likenesses,’ and yet more than that, for people can remember opinions and judgments, and predict things, based upon their memories.”
56: “The phantasms themselves are ‘movements started by actual sensations,’ and memory is, in definitions deriving from Aristotle, a delayed motion that continues to exist in the soul.’”
58: “Aristotle says that the mental images which come in dreams arise spontaneously, not in response to a controlled process like recollection; in fact this is their chief difference form the memory-images that are subject of my study here.  Dream-images are created by the vis imaginativa, as are all phantasms.  They are in the same class as ‘after images,’ hallucinations, and other irrational images, the product of aroused, imbalanced emotions (as perception is distorted by anger or lust) or of raw sense-data unformed by judgment (as when we ‘see’ the land move as we ride past it).  Such images are themselves just sense-data, aisthemata, rather than being the imprint of a sense impression after some time has elapsed, Aristotle’s basic definition of a memory-phantasm.”

10
Jul
08

Derrida’s Specters of Marx

Derrida: Specters of Marx
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
(Notes from the text)
Intro: How to learn to live finally; a time without tutelary present; Being-with specters would also be a politics of memory, inheritance, and of generations; future-to-come: proceeds from the future
xx: A spectral moment, a moment that no longer belongs to time, if one understands by this word the linking of modalized presents (past, present, actual present: ‘now,’ future present). We are questioning in this instant, we are asking outselves about this instant that is not docile to time, at least to what we call time. Furtive and untimely, the appartition of the specter does not belong to that time, it does not give time, not that one.
6: “The specter is a paradoxical incorporation, the becoming-body, a certain phenomenal and carnal form of the spirit. It becomes, rather, some “thing” that remains difficult to name: neither soul nor body, and both one and the other. For it is flesh and phenomenality that give to the spirit its spectral apparition, but which disappear right away in the apparition, in the very coming of the revenant or the return of the specter. There is something disappeared, departed in the apparition itself as reapparition of the departed. The spirit, the specter are not the same thing; but as for what they have in common, one does not know what it is, what it is presently. It is something that one does not know, precisely, and one does not know if precisely it is, if it exists, if it responds to a name and corresponds to an essence. One does not know: not out of ignorance, but because this non-object, this non-present present, this being-there of an absent or departed one no longer belongs to knowledge.”
10: “Repetition and first time: this is perhaps the question of the event as question of the ghost. What is a ghost? What is the effectivity or the presence of a specter that is, of what seems to remain as ineffective, virtual, insubstantial as a simulacrum? Is there there, between the thing itself and its simulacrum, an opposition that holds up? 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. Althogether other. Staging for the end of history. Let us call it a hauntology. This logic of haunting would be not merely larger and more powerful than an ontology or a thinking of Being (of the “to be.” Assuming that it is a matter of Being in the “to be or not to be,” but nothing is less certain).”
17: Since the future, then, since the past as absolute future, since the non-knowledge and the non-advent of an event, of what remains to be: to do and to decide. If “since Marx” names a future-to-come as much as a past, the past of a proper name, it is because the proper of a proper name will always remain to come.
18: Time is out of joint: time is disarticulated, dislocated, dislodged, time is run down, on the run and run down, deranged, both out of order and mad. Time is off its hinges, time is off course, beside itself, disadjusted.
31: No differance without alterity, no alterity without singularity, not singularity without here-now.
39: Why in both cases is the specter felt to be a threat? What is the time and what is the history of a specter? Is there a present of the specter? Are its comings and goings ordered according tot eh linear succession of a before and an after, between a present-past, a present-present, and a present-future, between a ‘real time’ and a ‘deferred time’?
97: The one who has disappeared appears still to be there, and his apparition is not nothing. It does not do nothing. Assuming that the remains can be identified, we know better than ever today that the dead must be able to work.
99: There are several times of the specter. It is a proper characteristic of the specter, if there is any, that non one can be sure if by returning it testifies to a living past or to a living future, for the revenant may already marks the promised return of the specter of living being.
100: There is no Dasein of the specter, but there is not Dasein without the uncanniness, without the strange familiarity of some specter.
101: The specters appears to present itself during a visitation.
102: (Since this singular end of the political would correspond to the presentation of an absolutely living reality, this is one more reason to think that the essence fo the political will always have the inessential figure, the very anessessence of a ghost.
109: The conjuration is anxiety from the moment it calls upon death to invent the quick and to enliven the new, to summon the presence of what is not yet there.
109: The dividing link passes between a mechanical reproduction of the specter and an appropriation that is so alive, so interiorizing, so assimilating of the inheritance and of the ‘spirits of the past’ that it is none other than the life of forgetting, life as forgetting itself. And the forgetting of the maternal in order to make the spirit live in oneself.
110: This forgetting is only a forgetting. For what one must forget will have been indispensable. One must pass through the pre-inheritance, even if it is to parody it, in order to appropriate the life of a new language or make the revolution. And while the forgetting corresponds to the moment of living appropriation, Marx nevertheless does not valorize it simply as one might think. Things are very complicated. One must forget the specter and the parody, Marx seems to say, so that history can continue. But of one is content to forget it, then the result is bourgeois platitude: life, that’s all. So one must not forget it, one must remember it but while forgetting it enough, in this very memory, in order to ‘find again the spirit of the revolution without making its specter return.
115: All the same, in the past revolution, when the gravediggers were alive, in sum, the phrase exceeded the content. Whence the anachrony of a revolutionary present haunted by its antique models. But in the future, and already in the social revolution of the nineteenth century still to come in Marx’s view (the whole novelty fo the new would inhabit this social dimension, beyond the political or economic revolution, the anachrony or untimeliness will not be erased in some plentitude of the parousia and the presence to itself of the present. Time will still be ‘out of joint.’
117: Must one not think that the loss of the body can affect the specter itself? To the point that it is then impossible to discern between the specter and the specter of the specter, the specter searching for proper content and living effectivity?
123: The history of the ghost remains a history of phantomalization and the latter will indeed be a history of truth, a history of the becoming-true of a fable, unless it is the reverse, a fabulation of truth, in any case a history of ghosts. The phenomenology of spirit describes (1) the relation of consciousness to the object as truth or as relation to the truth as mere object; (2) the relation of consciousness, insofar as it is the true, to the object; (3) the true relation of consciousness with truth

From Tom Lewis’ essay, “The Politics of ‘Hauntology’ in Derrida’s Specters of Marx,” in Ghostly Demarcations:

140: “In this light, Derrida goes on to assert the need to replace ‘ontology’ with its near homonym ‘hauntology’: ‘To haunt does not mean to be present, and it is necessary to introduce haunting into the very construction of a concept. Of every concept, beginning with the concepts of being and time. That is what we would be calling here a hauntology. Ontology opposes it only in a movement of exorcism.’

01
Jul
08

Some talking points on the digital

MERLIN DONALD
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
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.
COLLECTIVE MEMORY AND PROGRESSION
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’S THEORY OF TIME (NOT NECESSARILY DIGITAL)

Deleuze states that, “time simultaneously makes the present past and preserves the past in itself” (98).
BERGSON’S THEORY OF TIME (NOT NECESSARILY DIGITAL)
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/HAUNTOLOGY
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).
STELARC/PROSTHETICS/REPLACEMENT
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.
DOYLE
“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).
VANDICJK: MEDIATED MEMORIES
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.
LEROI-GOURHAN: GESTURE AND SPEECH
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: BODILY ARTS/MUSCLE MEMORY
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.
ISOCRATES
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: DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH/ LOSING THE BODY
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.
ROTMAN: GESTURO-HAPTIC
“[…] 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).




September 2017
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