Posts Tagged ‘power


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.


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)


Kastely’s Rethinking the Rhetorical Tradition

James Kastely
Rethinking the Rhetorical Tradition: From Plato to Postmodernism
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Is there a way to read classical texts as not merely an attempt to resuscitate a dead practice?
o    Is there a way in which the past can speak meaningfully to the present?
•    Need for skepticism and skepticism as political action are Plato’s justifications for rhetoric
•    Central concern for rhetoric is logos
o    Rhetoric is a power: subject to proper and improper use
•    Three types of decisions that affect an audience
o    Time past = forensic
o    Time present = epideictic
o    Time future = deliberative
•    Audience’s ability to become present to itself through discourse
•    “Refutation seeks to make us assume a responsibility for this world while recognizing that we can never be fully present to ourselves.”
•    The issue that makes rhetoric a philosophical problem is injustice
o    Injustice is partly a problem of language
•    For persuasion to succeed, the Other must be silenced
•    Burke’s work argues for the relevance of rhetoric to the postmodern world and it recover the philosophical problem of rhetoric that’s embodied in the ongoing need for refutation
•    Q: What utility is there in the study of the rhetoric of antiquity?
•    A: Such a study justifies itself as a refutation of postmodernism
o    23: “This refutation takes the form of recovering positions that have been taken inadvertently and that have been assumed to be not choices of the particular discourse theorists but discoveries about language or power.  What postmodernism has forgotten, for all of its theoretical sophistication, is that it is itself a rhetorical and hence historical product.”
1: “The contemporary return of rhetoric presupposes, through its very structure as return, an end of rhetoric, a discontinuity within tradition, and an alteration that renders the second version of rhetoric, its modernist-postmodernist redaction, a new form of cultural practice and mode of analysis.  To understand the significance of rhetoric today is to understand why and in what ways it is discontinuous with its past.”
5: “Further, and this is the crucial point, we do not know what ‘success’ would mean except simply ‘continuance.’  We are not conversing because we have a goal, but because Socratic conversation is an activity which is its own end.”
9: “Aristotle does not formulate this failure as an ethical corruption but as an artistic infelicity.  The problem of appealing either primarily or exclusively to the emotions and prejudices of the audience is that the decision that is finally rendered is not an accurate one because the audience who makes the decision has had its judgment distorted.”
12: “Logically, if the purpose of rhetoric is defined as locating the decision that is best for the audience, then invention becomes the foremost concern for the rhetor, who will be guided by the need to discover these interests and then communicate a determinate judgment of how the audience should act.  The art of rhetoric will reside in the invention and communication to the audience of how it should understand a particular situation so that its interests are best served.  It will be the audience that finally renders any given situation determinate by making a particular judgment.  The audience as judge also affords another check to the possible corruption of rhetoric.”
16: “Audiences fail to become participants in a rhetorical exchange because their power renders them indifferent to others, or because their trust has been so violated in the past that they can conceived of any speech only as a cynical attempt at manipulation, or because they remain ignorant of who they are and how they have been formed by history.”
18: “It is the audience as problem that ties the skeptical thread of classical rhetoric to the modern and postmodern rhetorics.  If these more recent rhetorics speak little of refutation, they are fully aware of the problem of the unavailable audience.”
22: “’As far as rhetoric is concerned, then, a Marxist must be in a certain sense a Platonist.  Rhetorical effects are calculated in the light of a theory of the polis as a whole, not merely in light of the pragmatic conjuncture fetishized by post-Marxism.  Rhetoric and dialectic, agitation and propaganda are closely articulate; what unites them for Plato is justice, a moral concept itself only calculable on the basis of social knowledge, as opposed to doxa or ideological opinion.”

July 2017
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