Category Archives: theory

media ecologies

in Guattari’s Chaosmosis, media ecologies do not act with the goal of preserving the species that inhabit them, but function by encouraging the

creation and development of unprecedented formations of subjectivity that have never been seen (Guattari, 1995, p.91).

His notion of ecology is not incompatible to the one proposed by Stengers. However,  Guattari’s vision appears to suggest a dynamism that aspires at transcending, more than just constructing a variety of practices through what Stengers had defined a “reciprocal capture.” In other words, Guattari seems to suggest that media ecologies are not just facilitating and enabling symbiotic and parasitic (thus necessarily interconnected) relations but radical transformations and unexpected formations.

ecological practices

In Cosmopolitics, Isabelle Stengers defines ecologic practice as a political practice in the broad sense:

Ecologic practice is related to the production of values, to the proposal of new modes of evaluation, new meanings. but those values, modes of evaluation and meanings do not transcend the situation in question, they do not constitute its intelligible truth. they are about the production of new relations that are added to a situation already produced by a multiplicity of relations (p. 33)

this ecological perspective does not correspond to a consensus situation, where

the population of our practices finds itself subjected to criteria that transcend their diversity in the name of a shared intent, a superior good, for an ideal peace.” (p. 35)

In fact, ecology doesn’t understand consensus, but symbiosis in which every protagonist is interested in the success of the other “for its own reason”. the process created then can be defined as the one of a “reciprocal capture.”

baroque unfolding

The “leaving out” Turkle refers to can be interpreted as an instance of transformation, which needs to be accompanied by an equal transformation of our way of thinking.

Where do we find the object amidst this complex overlapping and converging of raw data, digital and analog and arbitrary manipulation? It would be VERY difficult, and frankly useless to try and discern what is left of the “real object”. what is interesting, instead, is to reflect on its multilayered-ness, as the object becomes a complex hybrid, one that effectively manifests an

..implosion of informatics and biologics, one that is not born, but it is made (Haraway, 1991).

as Haraway so elegantly put it. more specifically, the object becomes a text dense of metaphors and tropes, a knitted fabric from which we may extract both scientific data and cultural material, which may shed some light on the complex and unavoidable meshing of information and biology as a new paradigm that is no longer the exception, but the norm. In other words: emerging from the piles of layers constructed by technology, human intervention and professional expertise, we might see the resulting object as neither lost nor hidden, but simply transformed. A process of transformation that reflects what Anna Munster sees as a clear sign of the decline of Cartesianism:

The digital conceived as part of a baroque flow, now unfolds genealogically out of the baroque articulation of the differential relations between embodiment and technics.. . in this baroque unfolding, the binary pairs that have populated the understanding of digital culture and new media technologies, can be seen to impinge upon each other rather than be mutually exclusive.(Munster, Materializing New Media 2009)

digitization and many worlds

Potts and Murphie argue that with the mediation of computer interface, we have to come to term with a different reality. Advanced computation has gradually given us

access to the nonlinear, emergent and dissolving orders of complexity and we can afford to abandon generalizing linear narratives without abandoning all understanding of the world. (Potts and Murphie, Culture and Technology, 2008)

The consequence is that we can

conceive of patterns within complex interactions such as those between collective human life and the other flows of matter and energy in which this life occurs.(Murphie and Potts 122)

But with the proliferation of digitization and the neverending possibilities we have to study further, to expand our notion of the world come also an increasing number of possibilities that both help us understand, but also confuse life and non-life, digital and analog etc… in this –literally— bottomless amount of resources and research, we are forced to leave out, or better leave behind, something, and come to term with the fact that what counts as Nature with capital N is forever broken.

visualization and simulation

Shelley Turkle, talking about simulation, defines it as a process that

brings new ways to see and forget (Turkle, S. Simulation and its Discontents, 2009)

Considering visualization a particular type of simulation, then we can interpret the above statements as  a. something that reveals but at the same time leaves out elements that constitute the object but are overlooked or deemed unimportant. b. something that transforms the object studied into something that is neither real, nor completely artificial, an object of the in-between, that nonetheless can provide an “idea” of what the object would look like if we magnified it millions of times of if we were able to see it without any interfaces.

 

natural, cultural and technological

By invoking the concept of machinic heterogenesis, Guattari implies that not only the construction of different discourses converging to produce a visualization of viruses, but also the forces involved in such productions implies a co-participation of individuals, technologies and other (media)objects (and not only individuals, as Foucault appeared to infer).

This can be verified by looking at the images of viruses produced by scientific visualization and information visualization. three elements jump to our mind immediately

  1. The subtle overlapping of different forces converging into one single image are no longer distinguishable
  2. The distinction between what is biological and what is informational tend to converge in scientific visualization and information visualization
  3. The methodologies use to do research on informational matter and biological matter are involved in a continuous exchange and borrowing from each other

Good looking

Barbara Maria Stafford, (Good looking : essays on the virtue of images, 1996),  seeks

an alternative view of the pleasures, beauties, consolations, and, above all, intelligence of sight. [I argue] that imaging, from high art to popular illusions, remains the richest, most fascinating modality for configuring and conveying ideas. more broadly, [I] prismatically interconnect seers and seeing within a sensory web productive of cultural signification. …
The totemization of language as a godlike agency in western culture has guaranteed the identification of writing with intellectual potency. ..forcing human cognition to become synonymous with computational codes or abstruse texts and with the ability to decipher them resulted in downgrading sensory awareness to superficial stimuli and false perception.