Archive for the Deleuze Category

fistful of zizek

Posted in Cost, Deleuze, Foucault, Galloway, MM, Nealon, resistance, theory, Zizek on April 13, 2008 by untimelymediations

I think Žižek presents the most compelling argument thus far for how resistance might be practiced under the regimes of protocol, the control society, and biopower. While Žižek doesn’t offer this theory in terms Galloway, Deleuze, or Foucault and Nealon employ, I think the relationship between Žižek’s work and that of the other theorists I’ve mentioned is fairly clear.

Žižek argues that subversion must take the form of the “empty gesture,” the gesture that is offered only in the expectation that it will be refused. For Žižek, subverting the fantasy of the false choice becomes a real act of subversion and resistance. As he writes, “the truly subversive thing is not to disregard the explicit letter of the Law on behalf of the underlying fantasies, but to stick to this letter against the fantasy which sustains it” (29). That is, to resist means not to avoid the (illusion) of choice in the empty gesture, but to take it at face value; not to deny choice (or argue that it is being denied) but to revel in choice, to exploit the opportunity (falsely) offered as a genuine moment of agency and autonomy. “In other words,” writes Žižek, “the act of taking the empty gesture (the offer to be rejected) literally—to treat the forced choice as a true choice—is, perhaps, one of the ways to put into practice what Lacan calls ‘traversing the fantasy’: in accomplishing this act, the subject suspends the phantasmic frame of unwritten rules which tell him how to choose freely—no wonder the consequences of this act are so catastrophic”. The fantasy of the empty gesture is not the fantasy of having one’s way—if only I could accept the offer!—but rather that of the offer qua offer: it is understood, expected that the offer will be rejected—because that is what one does. One does not say “yes” to the empty gesture without, as Žižek demonstrates, provoking catastrophe.

I think this is a promising mode of resistance. In some ways, it echoes the work done by groups like the Yes Men. The name here is intriguing: rather than resisting through negation (“No!”), the Yes Men have used satire and irony to show up the hypocrisy of governments and NGOs alike. However, their actions are not done through protesting as such, but through infiltrating these bodies and using their own logic against them. In the link above, for example, a Yes Men operative proposes to the WTO that private ownership of labor—i.e., slavery—would benefit African nations in the same way that private ownership and industrialization has already benefited them. Plainly, the plan is abhorrent, but what is abhorrent about it is not the implication of slavery qua slavery, but that the promotion of slavery is made according to the rules of free-market capitalism; the argument of an enslaved workforce is derived from the same logic that urges private investment in African industry and resources. In Žižek’s terms, the Yes Men are “sticking to the letter” of the Law, but the Law in this case is flawed; the forced choice here—privatization of all parts of production, including labor—is made under the empty gesture that no body or organization would accept this choice because it is (ostensibly) so plainly a violation of human/humane ethics and international standards.

What complicates this as a form of resistance, to my eyes, is that it requires an audience or observer who is capable of recognizing the logic of the satire and irony. That is, it demands an audience who is engaged enough with the issues at hand and the modes of resistance being deployed to see these acts as resistance and not simply just a “prank” or, worse yet, as a viable proposal for resolving economic crises in sub-Saharan Africa. I’m not saying that people are dumb, though I have serious questions about whether such acts could work on a large enough scale to be politically productive when many people might not recognize them as being political acts of resistance. Rather, I am more concerned about the second consequence, that tactics like those of the Yes Men will be taken at face value and that, for example, privatized labor will be enacted by overeager capitalism. In this case, Žižek’s qualms about the ethics of such forms of resistance are of utmost importance. The question that needs to be asked, then, is not just one of how to resist power and capital, but rather how can we use the empty gesture effectively—without allowing for the empty gesture to be taken at face value in ways that would be counterproductive to progressive causes?

On one hand, it is tempting to say that no organization, body, or company would be so daft as to accept such a proposal as privatized labor. But . . . it is not a contention I have much faith in. I think it is far more likely that without making plain the emptiness of such empty gestures such proposals as privatized labor could become a reality. What, then, is the cost of such an outcome? If it ultimately leads to greater outcry, resistance, and protest to such practices, can we accept a few thousand (or million) people being enslaved? Or is the cost in human dignity too great?

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“Gallons of Tears” Galloway vs. “Keep em’ Kneelin” Nealon

Posted in Deleuze, DR, Foucault, Galloway with tags , , , on April 4, 2008 by untimelymediations

As I read through the introduction to Protocol, I am reminded of one of the more significant arguments that Nealon makes in Foucault Beyond Foucault.  It seems that both Galloway and Nealon have quite a divergent understanding of the issue of resistance as it relates to biopower.  Here, I believe the contention between their understandings resides in the different interpretations of Foucault’s work that they voice (namely, in regard to Discipline and Punish).   Seemingly, whereas Nealon suggested that reading subjectivity as a means of resistance in Foucault’s later work evidences a misreading of what Foucault intended, Galloway is suggesting quite the opposite. 

Nealon outlines two of the dominant trends in academic work on Foucault.  First, the prevailing attitude is that we are, quite simply, incapable of resisting power and its manifestations.  Second, and more relevant to this particular post, Nealon provides that academics are also too quick to argue that Foucault abandoned his midcareer work on power in favor of the ethico-aesthetics of subjectivity.  In response, Nealon provides that his work will rethink the relationship between disciplinary power, biopower, and subjectivity.  His suggestive counter argument is that Foucault never really abandoned his mid-career work on power (Nealon 5).  According to Nealon, the shifts of Foucaultian emphasis are better, and more productively, understood as intensifications, an argument that he pursues in greater detail in the remainder of his text (see 36-39).  

Interestingly, it seems that Galloway is approaching the issue of resistance from the second understanding that Nealon criticizes.  This becomes apparent in Galloway’s introduction.  Here, he begins by providing that Deleuze recognized that the site of Foucault’s biopower was a site of resistance.  To emphasize the prevalence of this argument in Deleuze’s text, Galloway provides a direct citation of the three times that Deleuze repeats this realization.  To this argument, the third quote seems to be of particular relevance: “When power becomes bio-power resistance becomes the power of life, a vital power that cannot be confined within species, environment or the paths of a particular diagram” (Deleuze, Foucault, p. 92).  Now, I realize that by drawing Deleuze’s commentary on biopower into discussion, I am maneuvering my argument in one of two directions:  First, I might hold Deleuze’s argument in direct contention to that which Nealon provides.  Second, and more importantly, I might add, I could approach Galloway’s understanding as it is twice removed; Galloway’s understanding of Deleuze as the latter understands Foucault.  Here, I will pursue the second path.

As Galloway proceeds, he questions whether life resistance is a way of engaging with protocological management, which is reminiscent of biopower.  Then, Galloway provides what seems to be his interpretation of the means by which one might resist:

To refuse protocol, then, is not so much to reject today’s technologies as did Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber), but to direct these protological technologies, whose distributed structure is empowering indeed, toward what Hans Magnus Enzensberger calls an “emancipated media” created by active social actors rather than passive users (Galloway 16)

I think that this requires some unpacking, because as Galloway gets from Deleuze to this proposition, it seems as though a contention arises.  Returning to Deleuze’s discourse, as referenced by Galloway, Deleuze argues that resistance is the power of life.  Now, although Galloway seems to follow in this line of discourse, I think that he is forgetting the second part of Deleuze’s statement.  Here, Deleuze provides that a “vital power” cannot be confined within species, environment, etc.  Here, the vital power that he seems to be referring to is that of the power to resist; the power of life.  This power, seemingly, is as dispersed and ubiquitous as what Nealon suggests about power in Foucault Beyond Foucault.  Instead of following the argument, Galloway limits the power of resistance to the individual body; the “active social actors,” and in this, I believe he is reading something into the quote that Deleuze provides that isn’t there.  This, also, is where the contention between Galloway and Nealon’s arguments seems to arise.  Whereas Nealon denigrates subjectivity, Galloway seems to be insisting on the importance of a conscious subjectivity, as he differentiates between active social actors and passive users.

More on Galloway’s text in the near future…

Nealon at the Alter of the Foucaultian Legacy

Posted in Deleuze, DR, Marx, Nealon on March 31, 2008 by untimelymediations

I must admit, that initially I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Nealon’s text. Though I am slightly familiar with Nealon’s reputation, and I have faith in Pruchnic’s reading selections, I was concerned that Nealon might, quite simply, fail to go “beyond Foucault.” I think this was a reasonable assumption, on my behalf, considering the rather devastating use of Foucault in contemporary “scholarly contexts,” and the rather ambitious theoretical plan of work that Nealon sets forth in his introduction. Fortunately, my fears were soon assuaged, for Nealon, himself, criticizes the very texts that I initially feared he might emulate.

First, concerning the content, the repertoire of examples from which Nealon draws is quite provocative. In many ways, I find that the title is indicative of another move that Nealon prompts. Although Nealon is successful in his attempt to bring Foucault into more contemporary contexts, where vastly different situations have emerged since the time of his death, I feel that Nealon’s method of discourse encourages another significant move or shift. In the course of his work, Nealon takes Foucault beyond what might be considered the limiting confines of the academic or scholarly spheres. It seems that the examples Nealon draws on are more accessible than those invoked by others. It is this very Chuck Klosterman – esque, pop cultural awareness that becomes so entirely provocative in the course of Nealon’s work. Here, if one is to assume that this method of discourse is intentional, it is interesting to consider what the import of such a method might be? Or, perhaps, what is the inherent “cost” of speaking in this manner; of addressing such an important issue in this capacity? These questions stem from my understanding of a very purposeful decision on Nealon’s behalf. To go beyond Foucault, means not only to go beyond the limitations imposed by death, but to go beyond the very method of discussing Foucault that is so entirely prevalent in current academic discourse. This entails not only a different understanding of Foucault, but a different means of discussing that very understanding. And, it seems that here I might insist that this is the very means by which Nealon goes beyond simply revising a tradition of short sighted discourse.

On another note, it seems that Nealon’s recovery of Foucault, is driven by the same word-centered progression that Deleuze and Guattari pursue in A Thousand Plateaus. Here, I take the same interpretative strategy that I use to approach Barthes, Deleuze, and Guattari. I introduce this interpretative method in an attempt to outline an effective means of approaching the major issues that Nealon addresses.

As a point of departure, I begin with the terms “intensity” and “subjectivity.” For Nealon, much of Foucault’s significance in contemporary contexts stems from his theories on intensity. This is the term that links his middle career to his later work; the concept that allows Nealon to bridge the theoretical gap that many academics continue to reinstate. Instead of relegating Foucault’s theoretical dispositions to some rather inadequate model of linearity, Nealon’s argument evidences the importance of a more Deleuzian conception of progression. Instead of (mis)understanding Foucault’s theories of the varying systems or regimes of power as being segmented, separable, or defined by temporal limitations, Nealon argues the importance of a more integrated understanding. The power shift from the body to the soul, and from the soul to the action (tortured -> reformed -> docile bodies), must be understood, as Nealon suggests, in terms of overlap or bleeding. This, of course, is a matter of the increasing intensity of power (32). And, it seems reasonable to assert that Nealon takes this emphasis on intensity one step further. For Nealon, not only is it fruitful to consider intensity in Foucault’s work, but it seems important to consider history as a whole in terms of intensities. History, in Nealon’s terms, can only be read as slow accumulations as opposed to the predominant discourse of radical shifts (38-39). This is an issue of thresholds, phase transitions, or tipping points:

With the rise of governmentality in the historical linkage between discipline and biopower, Foucaultian “intensification” becomes both the useful tool and the desired end of power relations (53)

Second, the other term that seems of extreme pertinence to Nealon’s discussion is subjectivity or the subjective. Nealon spends a good portion of his text refuting the more general assumption that Foucault is focusing on subjectivity as a means of liberation in his later work. Here, Nealon is quick to suggest that not only is this not really what Foucault is addressing, but that, the subjective is really the worst way to approach the questions that Foucault introduces or propels. For Nealon, Massumi and others that approach affective subjective experience, fail to consider that this is really the least effective or productive way of approaching the question of intensity; they fail to consider the implications of such an individualized perspective. As Nealon outlines earlier in his text, Foucault’s theories are predicated on more complicated relationships; relationships which negate theories of individual significance.

Take for example, Nealon’s emphasis on the power that is incurred by dispersement. Power, as is associated with the individual sovereign is quite weak, whereas that which is more dispersed or more ubiquitious becomes more powerful. Dispersement, then, is an intensifying process.

Or, one should consider Nealon’s emphasis on the premise that punishment rarely targets the individual. Instead, punishment operates in direct relationship to the virtual field surrounding the individual (36). Punishment, in effect, is only effectual when it moves beyond the individual. Although the individual might be considered a starting point, there must be something more.

Here, I return to Foucault’s insistence on “channels” for further clarification. It is not the individual institution that is most powerful, but the channels that guide us as “living” bodies (Discipline and Punish). Most specifically, as Nealon argues, Biopower is applied not to man as body, but man as living being (45).

Finally, I really enjoy Nealon’s suggestion that some theoretical alignment exists between Foucault and Marx. Here, though this argument is present throughout much of the first half of the book I reference Nealon’s discussion of wealth, commodity, and profit. Again, it is Nealon’s very ability to draw on contemporary examples that benefits his argument. Here, Nealon notes that it is no longer a shift from wealth to commodity to profit, but rather a more direct relationship between wealth and profit. The fourth and most intense wave is that of finance. The problem is no longer that we are all made into consumers, but that we are all made into producers (67).

For now, that is enough. Rest assured, I will be returning to Nealon soon.

I leave you with a complimentary picture of Foucault…who says I can’t compete in this picture game?

foucault is a pimp
Myspace Glitter Graphics

Time Management

Posted in Deleuze, Exteriorization, Foucault, Hardt, KL, Leroi-Gourhan, Memory, stiegler, Tech on March 24, 2008 by untimelymediations

I want to start off this post with a couple small comments on my post from last week.  Yes, I’m using some of my space here, not because I felt a bit narcissistic leaving a comment for myself, but for the obvious intersections of the two texts. Stiegler states that, “Leroi-Gourhan shows how all the elements quite anciently come into play for the emergence of a general system of a certain function that remains unique: the human, that is, technology ‘exuded’ by the skeleton” (145).   Is Stiegler saying that humans are the only species to exude the body through technology?  Short answer: yes.  Long answer: Gesture and Speech.  Anyway, I particularly enjoy imagery of the latter part of that sentence, and I wanted to quote it.  “Exuding” is a fascinating term, one that I’ve never actually used in my academic writing, but that I now find rather important to my larger project.

Another point Stiegler makes is that, “With the advent of exteriorization, the body of the living individual is no longer only a body; it can only function with its tools” (148, emphases mine). My personal project on externalized memory relies on this argument exactly, precisely because our personal memory is now a tool.  Recollection, then, only becomes possible by returning to externalized places; a brain is not just a brain, but rather functions only by relying upon these tools.   Here again, we are exuding the skeleton.

Now, onto this week’s post.  I attended the Michael Hardt seminar this afternoon, during which one of the participants mentioned the increased speed at which our economy functions.  We then had a discussion on immaterial labor’s inability to be contained within work time—that creativity cannot be forced, that it just ‘comes’ to someone (as an example, Hardt referred to the Google and Microsoft’s campuses).  However, I am concerned that there is an economical contradiction—if the speed at which one produces immaterial labor (ideas, creativity) is central to the production of capital, how are, say, the Google and Microsoft campuses effective?  Even if one never leaves one of these places, the individual who is constantly ‘at work’ (physically at their place of employment) does not become faster at producing ideas—they are simply more available.

I then began to think how this idea of work time/non-work time and speed/efficiency could be connected to Stiegler.  Hardt quickly recapped some Deleuze and Foucault by stating that they note a shift from a disciplinary society (Foucault) into a control society (Deleuze).  For Foucault, this disciplinary society is more of an archipelago – one is jumping from one sense of discipline to another.  When leaves one island, one is no longer under its disciplinary powers, but is now disciplined by the new island.  That being said, one never escapes any disciplinary powers, since they are simply replaced by another form of discipline.  Therefore, I believe Jeff answered my earlier questioning of the efficaciousness of work campuses by stating the following:

Rather, “control” here names a purely instrumental or “conceptual” (rather than particular or practical) force that forms the conditions of possibility for systematic integration of moments of spontaneity or difference; i.e., the “control” of “technosociety” is not a series of structures that rigidly dictate what may take place, but rather a force field that actively and flexibly responds to these outbreaks in a way that continues the maintenance (and evolution) of the present system. Thus, in a sense then, the system “itself” is premised on spontaneity and invention as its driving force, rather than being “vulnerable” to such instances as acts or forces of resistance.

The campuses work because they are created for spontaneity.  If one doesn’t physically ever leave work – which presumably one never has to on those campuses – then these companies are responding perfectly to the resistance of individuals who wish to separate immaterial labor’s work-time from their non-work time.  Speed, here, is not the issue, but rather the availability for spontaneity becomes the motive.  (And I guess I really didn’t talk about Stiegler all that much, but I couldn’t help but make connections to this afternoon’s seminar.)

Untitled (or a refusal to participate in this title competition)

Posted in Deleuze, DR on February 25, 2008 by untimelymediations

I most note, foremost, that Mike is entirely correct concerning the structure of this text.  I presume that the very organization of this text might present difficulties to those attempting to decipher each chapter as though a distinct entity, occurrence, or fragment.  In essence, the work, as a whole, refuses the Barthesian reading strategy.  One cannot, as one is often compelled, skip chapters and hope to decipher the complexities inherent to the text.  Though I also experienced some difficulties, I really enjoyed the brevity of each section, for I felt it enabled me, as reader, the opportunity to separate/isolate sections of difficulty, and to work on those sections until I was satisfied (or, at least partially satisfied).  In part, I thought this text was, much like A Thousand Plateaus, a work in progression.  Understanding the complexities of one seemingly miniscule though significant detail, enables one the opportunity to progress to the next stage of learning.  Though I am a fan of texts that allow the reader to “drift” or, perhaps “cruise,” following in line with Timothy “Speed” Levitch’s adaption of Barthes’ strategy, I felt as though Deleuze’s structure was more befitting to his particular subject.  This seems to be especially true considering Deleuze’s insistence on the importance of the infinitesimally small details contributing to the greater themes/ideas of his texts.

So, perhaps now would be the appropriate time to get down to the details (aka “the nitty gritty”).  Though I could position this text in relationship to Platonism or the Sophists, I chose, instead, to focus on the “Eighth Series of Structure,” in part because I believe the stoics and Hellenistic philosophy are of more emphasis in Deleuze’s text than Plato, Aristotle, or the Sophists, for that matter.  It is the Stoics that reverse Platonism, and bring about the radical inversion that Deleuze discusses in “Second Series of Paradoxes of Surface Effects.”  Thus, it seems that Deleuze is merely using Platonism as a point of initiating a turn; a departure or inversion that seems to have some economic, political, or social import (this, of course, being another important trope of Deleuze’s work).  And, it must be noted, this is the very reason that I turn to the eight series or section. 

Here, Deleuze discusses the existence of two “series.”  Befittingly, he refers to these two series as the signifying and the signified.  While the first series is characterized by excess, the signified-series is characterized by lack.  Though I had some difficulty deciphering this immediately, Deleuze’s example, located further down the page, provides some satisfaction:

The Universe signified long before we began to know what it was signifying…man, since his origin, has had at his disposal a completeness of signifier which he is obstructed from allocating to a signified, given as such without being any better known.  There is always an inadequacy between the two (48)

Deleuze follows this, by proclaiming that this might be referred to as Robinson’s paradox, and this makes a great deal of sense.  As I understand it, the signifying series is convoluted and congested; composed by all that existed before anybody interpreted the significations.  The island and all of its devastating natural complexity preexisted Crusoe, as the Universe preexisted man.  This is where Deleuze’s commentary becomes of particular interest.  Instead of interpreting, for this is most assuredly the wrong word to use, the foreigner to this complexity (Crusoe, or a person in any foreign/alienating space) attempts to import or impose upon that which is foreign the signified. 

Any society whatsoever has all of its rules at once—juridical, religious, political, economic; laws governing love and labor, kinship and marriage, servitude and freedom, life and death…This is why law weighs with all its might, even before its object is known, and without ever its object becoming exactly known (49)

It is the very condition of importing the society all at once, and imposing it upon the foreign terrain, that the place/space/etc can never be known for the very complexity of all of its signifiers; it is as though they are ignored.  This is the disequilibrium or perpetual displacement that Deleuze refers to in this section.  Interestingly, though, this disequilibrium, which seems the perpetuation of a certain ignorance or the unwillingness, perhaps impossibility, of interpreting the new as anything outside of the old, is what Deleuze insists makes revolutions possible (49).  This presents me with some difficulty.  How is it that Crusoe, in imposing “civilization” upon the landscape, represents the revolutionary?  Here, Deleuze refers to the gap which separates technical progress from social totality, but this is really quite complicated. 

Perhaps, it might be appropriate to consider an example before resuming this line of questioning:

When MTV filmed Jay Z’s fairly recent trip to Southern Africa, the layout of the documentary evidenced an insistent attempt to import the American way of life, and to superimpose it as though it would combat the country’s problems.  Here, as Deleuze suggests, American society and the infrastructure of glamour and wealth arises almost instantaneously.  This infrastructure of signification is imposed on the landscape.  Perhaps I am being a little hyperbolic, but it seemed as though the show to an extent suggests that a concert might rectify various problems.  Though I must applaud the documentary for emphasizing the importance of clean water and sanitation to Southern Africa, for this seems a worthy cause, the conclusion focuses on songs that emphasize certain features of the wealthy American hip hop lifestyle; flashy women hanging on flashy chains (excuse me for paraphrasing).  In ending the documentary with this footage, with this message, the program evidences the disparity that Deleuze references.   Though the signifying series exists, that of contemporary South Africa, the documentary serves to import and impose a lifestyle and society over that which already exists. 

How, then, might revolution exist within the gap?  If the disequilibrium, the difference between the signifying and signified series, the difference between South Africa and the glamorous lifestyle alluded to by Jay Z, encourages revolution, how does this take form?  Deleuze states that the two series, though seemingly disjunctive, actually communicate and coexist.  This coexistence encourages the development and distribution of singular points (51).  Sense, is thus, according to Deleuze, distributed in each series.  The singularity, for Deleuze, circulates between the two series, thus encouraging displacement in relationship to itself.  Thus, the empty space or displacement becomes an esoteric word.  But, this still leaves the question, which I am struggling with: How exactly does an esoteric word encourage revolution?  I feel as though if this can be deciphered, than the import of considering what stoicism encourages, might be identified, and, furthermore, utilized. 

king’s lead hat

Posted in Deleuze, MM, Socrates, sophists on February 25, 2008 by untimelymediations

One reason why I’m having trouble making sense of The Logic of Sense has to do with the fact that Deleuze doesn’t seem to be following one argument through this text; rather, each successive chapter seems to build on the logic of the prior chapter in a way that recalls the denotative series that Deleuze writes about in the Fifth Series: “In short, given a proposition which denotes a state of affairs, one may always take its sense as that which another proposition denotes” (29). I’m not sure that recognizing this has helped me make better sense of the text, but I did want to note that I see the structure at work all the same.

That said, I want to devote some energy to trying to make sense of Deleuze by situating him into some of our other readings, in particular, I want to try and see where Deleuze might work as a way to think through Plato’s and Socrates’s relationship to the sophists.

Plainly, Deleuze has some reservations about Platonism, esp. its emphasis on ideal forms and the forms’ relationship to truth; at one point, he offers a critique of “depressive Platonism: the Good is reached only as the object of a reminiscence, uncovered as essentially veiled; the One gives only what it does not have, since it is superior to what it gives, withdrawn into its height” (191). What I find interesting, though, is his response to these misgivings; rather than an outright dismissal of Platonism, Deleuze can be seen to work toward a conflation of Platonic, pre-Soractic, and Stoic philosophy. For Deleuze, this work takes the effect of drawing attention away from the Platonic fixation on height and depth and instead insisting on the transcendental surface; depth becomes of interest primarily “by means of its power to organize surfaces and to envelop itself within surfaces” (124). While it might be easy to dismiss this as a philosophical response to the reality of biological development (in which membranes are formed outside and then folded inside the increasingly complex organism), Deleuze insists on the contiguous relationship between physical and metaphysical surfaces: “And, to the physics of surfaces a metaphysical surface necessarily corresponds. Metaphysical surface (transcendental field) is the name that will be given to the frontier established, on the one hand, between bodies taken together as a whole and inside the limits which envelop them, and on the other, propositions in general” (125). Deleuze flattens to a single surface the Platonic cosmogony of bodies and forms; in Deleuze, bodies are not imperfect realizations of an abstract Idea(l) but are rather the actualizations of their own potential forms as events and singularities.

For me, then, this leaves Deleuze in the space of recuperating Isocrates’s philosophy-rhetoric. Deleuze notes that “the pre-Socratic philosopher does not leave the cave; on the contrary, he thinks that we are not involved enough or sufficiently engulfed therein” (128). In other words, we need to be more involved with the shadows and surfaces that flit before us in the cave; if we are to make them productive and useful for the definition of our own characters, Deleuze seems to suggest, we must ignore the Platonic voice at the mouth of the cave, calling us outward. We must instead recognize our own shadow-surface and make what we can of that.

Stop Making Sense

Posted in Deleuze, KL, Sense, Tech on February 25, 2008 by untimelymediations

83372pw150.jpg

“As there is no surface, the inside and the outside, the container and the contained, no longer have a precise limit; they plunge into a universal depth or turn in the circle of a present which gets to be more contracted as it is filled” (87).

Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense is an interesting point of departure for shifting our conversation towards technology. What cannot be ignored – although this may be my personal research bias kicking in – is the continuing development of Deleuze’s theories of the non-present. More specifically, we can link his argument directly to the internet (in what appears to be the most obvious and broad connection). However, in looking to the internet, Deleuze’s discussions of the non-present-present and subsisting expression are crucial characterizations on how we interpret time and virtual spaces.

In the third series, Deleuze notes that, “sense is that which is expressed” (20). What I find most interesting about this characterization actually comes from Zizek’s Plague of Fantasies (for once I am referencing a future reading!). Throughout, Zizek insists that technologies (insert broad reference to the internet -here-) allow users to sense an expression of something that is neither here nor there. Online, no one actually knows where something is located (insert broad reference to Through the Looking Glass -here-). I believe this would agree with Deleuze’s supposition that, “what is expressed does not exist outside its expression. This is why we cannot say that sense exists, but rather it inheres or subsists” (21). In the same way that users ‘sense expression’ from the computer, there is nothing there guaranteeing its existence. Sense, in terms of internet technologies, is located in the stability of its constant expression—we can repeatedly visit the same websites in which certain senses subsist. Although, in typical Deleuzean fashion, he throws off my whole argument by later admitting that, “to be actualized is to be expressed” (110). This statement then begs question where/how/when are technologies actualized? If expression is both actualized and sensed, what isn’t it?

Particularly pertinent to my research is the continuing development of his theories of time. As he did earlier in Cinema 2, Deleuze maintains that the present does not exist, that it is simultaneously divided into past and future. He states that there are not “three parts of single temporality” but instead two,

“each one of which is complete and excludes the other: on the one hand, the always limited present, which measures the action of bodies as causes and the state of their mixtures in depth (Chronos); on the other, the essentially unlimited past and future, which gather incorporeal events, at the surface, as effects (Aion) (61).

The always limited, or non-present as I am calling it here, is actually only a representation, a simulacrum signified by the past and the future moments. As “one goes from the future and past as unlimited,” the present is infinitely divided between these two. Technologically speaking, when we jump around online, conversely we are dealing with an always present-present—we return to specific sites because we know what will be there. (And here’s where my paper picks up so I’ll stop this response, and I’m certainly returning to this text as new/additional support for my argument…)