Archive for the Leroi-Gourhan Category

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.)

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Radial Raheem

Posted in Aristophanes, hypertext, Jaeger, Leroi-Gourhan, MM, paideia, Plato, rhetoric, Tech on March 17, 2008 by untimelymediations

Couldn’t decide what picture to use, so you get both.  First, invertebrate porn:

Starfish porn!

Second, Radial Raheem:

Radial Raheem

Yes, I know it’s “Radio Raheem,” but give a guy break, eh?  Onto the post:

I’m stealing a page from Lacey’s playbook and offering two minicomments rather than a single sustained response. I’m also using the “research fatigue” card since I spent my break getting little sleep and typing up 80 pages of notes and 10 pages of introduction for the M.A. only to find that, in fact, I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to write about. This isn’t an excuse, per se, so much as a warning for possible incoherence in what follows.

I) Intellectuals vs. Technicians.

We’ve spilled a lot of ink . . . pixels . . .whatever . . . this semester trying to pin down what constitutes “sophistic rhetoric” and how critics have reacted to, adapted, co-opted, condemned, or otherwise responded to its promises of threats (depending, of course, on who we’re reading). Of course, the only we keep coming back to as the source of all this angst is Plato, who condemns sophistry on a number of counts. At times, it’s been easy to demonize Plato for just “not getting it,” and for insisting on an idealized ontology that appears to have little guidance for how to actually conduct one’s self and manage social problems.

However, I think Leroi-Gourhan helps to counteract this urge to demonization. As ALe-G writes, “in all historical periods and in all nations, even when their activities are closely integrated in the religious system, artisans were relegated to the back of the stage” (172). ALe-G argues that this is a typically “human” move, to denigrate those that work at the material level while valorizing those whose social function is dependent on intellectual or knowledge work. “Society’s discrimination in favor if the ‘intellectual’ as against the ‘technician,’ which still persists today,” ALe-G explains, “reflects an anthropoid scale of values on which technical activity comes lower down than language, and working with the most tangible elements of reality lower down than working with symbols”.

Yet much of what we’ve seen and read about sophistic Greece would seem to challenge ALe-G’s comments here. While they seem an apt description of Plato (whose Ideal Forms removed the intellect further still from the body), the notion of Jaeger’s paideia—the shaping of the Greek culture as reflected in the training of the Greek citizen—seems entirely bound up with rhetoric and rhetorical training. Is ALe-G off his chump here? Or does the age of the sophists represent an anomaly? Perhaps the artisan-intellectual shift is more periodic than constant: if we take Aristophanes’s The Clouds to be a reactionary response to sophistry, perhaps we can then see Isocrates’s work as a shift back to rhetoric-friendly times?

II) Radial vs. Linear Thought

I’m intrigued by ALe-G’s comments about the radial trajectory of archaic thought. As ALe-G describes it, “the thinking of pre-alphabetic antiquity was radial, like the body of the sea urchin or the starfish” (211). Radial thought provokes him to cosmological metaphor: “It was a time when the vault of heaven and the earth were joined together within a network of unlimited connections, a golden age of pre-scientific knowledge to which our memory still seems to hark back nostalgically today”.

It’s not difficult to prompt the comparison between the “network of unlimited connection” that ALe-G writes of and the networked Web we know and love today. What might be valuable to think through, though, is the way ALe-G ties the archaic network to “pre-scientific” thought. If scientific thought is thought dependent on the scientific method (as I understand it to be here), then we might point to a certain linear teleology implied in the method: whatever the result, the scientific method is still designed to move from hypothesis to conclusion. Perhaps this also implies a linear mode of expression as well? On the other hand, science also invites reiteration as means of testing one’s conclusions; in this sense, science is less bound to linearity than it is to recursive thought.

I’m not exactly sure I have a point to make here, but I’ve always found the contrast between radial and linear textuality interesting, so I want to make something of this passage but I’m not clear what. Maybe there’s something to be said for the body as a cue for material, radial textuality; ALe-G seems to be suggesting that as intellectual came to be more and more divested from material experience, writing, contemporaneously, became more and more linear. So what might a bodily-derived writing experience be like had it evolved without science’s linearizing influence? Might we point to something like Rotman’s gesturo-haptic writing?

Hands full with Leroi-Gourhan

Posted in Exteriorization, Hands, KL, Leroi-Gourhan, Memory, Science, Tech, theory on March 17, 2008 by untimelymediations

hands.jpg

After completing Andre Leroi-Gourhan’s Gesture and Speech, I admit that I do not know where to begin with all fascinating archeological, technological, and sociolinguistic information he presented.  Therefore, I’ve decided to break this post up into small, bite-sized chunks to discuss what I find most applicable to my research that I have taken from this text.

Extending the body with the development of hands

What I immediately find most fascinating in Leroi-Gourhan’s work is his early argument that Homo sapiens’ hands developed as aides in speech, rather than as tools with which to eat.  By quoting the Treatise on the Creation of Man, Leroi-Gourhan argues that, “Yet it is above all for the sake of speech that nature has added hands to our body.  If man had been deprived of hands, his facial parts, like those of the quadrupeds, would have been fashioned to enable him to feed himself” (35).  After reading Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals a few years back, I would never have made this connection, as it is my understanding that Darwin instead argues that our faces and the expressions on them become the vessels of speech.  The similar, sometimes even identical, affective responses amongst all mammals indicate that our hands are not the sources for speech or expression, but rather our faces.  As a hardcore Darwinian, I have a difficult time straying away from his argument in Expression to believe Leroi-Gourhan’s argument in this week’s text.  However, after I continued reading Gesture and Speech I found myself more convinced with his argument that the development of hands is not limited to speech, but is indicative of technological advances to expand the body.   To speak and function by utilizing various extensions of our bodies is precisely his argument when discussing the development of the hands.

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 (his hand stand – ark ark ark – clearly illustrates the desire to expand the body).  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.

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.