Saturday, October 30, 2010

Seminar 2011

Here is the initial course description for my spring 2011 graduate seminar (these things have to be submitted early in the fall, while the course is still in development).
Gift Game Economy Strategy
The title refers to a set of theoretical operations whose convergence is tracked and tested in this seminar.  The methodological frame is heuretics (the logic of invention), and one of the purposes of the seminar is to gain some experience with “invention” as an orientation applicable to any area of the discipline. The semester project is generated by extracting from “the logic of the gift” a principle of “strategy,” to function as an alternative to the strategy of game theory informing American policy during the Cold War. Our interest is not only in political or policy strategy but in “strategy” as an attitude or orientation within any problem field. The heuretic goal is to articulate and test a strategy (a game?) of “gift.” A particular benefit of grounding our experiment in the logic of the gift is that acquaintance with this account of pre-capitalist economy reduces some of the mystery surrounding the most original thinkers of French poststructuralism (for example, Bataille, Derrida, Baudrillard, among others). Readings may include the following: Alan D. Schrift, Ed., The Logic of the Gift:  Toward an Ethic of Generosity; William Poundstone, Prisoner’s Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory, and the Puzzle of the Bomb; Richard A. Lanham, On the Economics of Attention:  Style and Substance in the Age of Information; Sun Tzu, The Art of War. The semester experiment is composed as a blog.  
The original plan has been modified, to clarify and simplify the heuretic CATTt generator.
Prisoner's Dilemma remains the Contrast.  Baudrillard is now Theory, specifically Fatal Strategies, in part because Baudrillard represents one major option coming out of Gift theory.  The fact that he couches his approach as "strategy," is useful, but more important is his appropriation of 'pataphysics as the basis for the strategy.  Analogy is a book on 'pataphysics by Christian Bok (replacing Lanham's useful but tamer framing of dadaism as a brand strategy in an attention economy -- an insight that can be covered in lecture).  This set-up means that the seminar continues to explore Routine, taking up where last year's experiment left off.  The immediate pivot is the pun (noted by Bok):  Ubu is a slapstick comedian (pataud physique) of unhealthy obesity (pateux physique)...  Target remains public policy formation (EmerAgency consulting), but the texts relevant to Target and tale are undecided at this moment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The case of Anna O. is considered to be the founding case of psychoanalysis by Freud himself, even though she was Josef Breuer's patient.  Breuer treated Anna O. for hysterical symptoms in 1880-81, using hypnosis among the techniques for overcoming the symptoms.  The procedure included Anna telling stories related to the causes of her illness, which had the effect of draining off the accumulated energies and relieving (temporarily) the symptoms (she favored the basic form of folk or fairy tales).  The point of special interest is in the following comment in Breuer's case history.  "She aptly described this procedure, speaking seriously, as a talking cure, while she referred to it jokingly as chimney-sweeping.  She knew that after she had given utterance to her hallucinations she would lose all her obstinacy and what she described as her energy." A note in the text states that the italicized words are in English in the original.  The significance of this usage is modified by the fact that, although Anna's native language was German, during significant periods of her illness she only was able to speak in English.  She was fluent in several more languages, including French and Italian.

The point for now concerns this "joking" reference to "chimney-sweeping."  That it is "joking" indicates Anna's familiarity with the French meaning.  Anna's treatment was occuring contemporaneously with the beginnings of the avant-garde movement just developing in bohemian Paris (Montmartre).  The counter-culture attitude and related parodic productions of the cabaret settings were labelled with this term, fumiste, fumisme.  In French, besides the literal "chimney-sweep," the term's connotations include "joker" and "charlatan."  It names an attitude of "disdain expressed through aggressive hoax," the culminating prototype of which is Duchamp's anonymous submission to an art exhibition of "Fountain" (the upside-down urinal).  Retrospective analysis of the era established the connection between psychoanalytic and experimental modernism, of course.  The specific convergence is between dreamwork as conductive logic and collage "bachelor machine" poetics, a convergence made explicit and systematic in Surrealism. 

That the term "chimney-sweep" appears in the semantic domains of these two institutional settings is suggestive in several ways.  One entailment is that the Parisian vanguard in its parodic assaults on the established conventions of art is a kind of "talking cure" for a paralyzed civilization.  The existence of the shared term implies that such transversals lend themselves to database searches using conductive criteria.  Fumisme was not just for artists, but names an attitude generally available in the period.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Poisoning the Well

From Paolo Virno we adopted the strategy of exploiting the overlap between logical fallacies and joke work, in order to switch the figure ground relationship between rules and cases organizing our policy aporia.  In the case of my policy question (the Superfund site in Gainesville, Florida, involving the potential for pollution of the city well field), it is impossible to resist starting this experiment with the fallacy known as poisoning the well.
Fallacy Joke

This sort of "reasoning" involves trying to discredit what a person might later claim by presenting unfavorable information (be it true or false) about the person. This "argument" has the following form:
  1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented.
  2. Therefore any claims person A makes will be false.
This sort of "reasoning" is obviously fallacious. The person making such an attack is hoping that the unfavorable information will bias listeners against the person in question and hence that they will reject any claims he might make. However, merely presenting unfavorable information about a person (even if it is true) hardly counts as evidence against the claims he/she might make. This is especially clear when Poisoning the Well is looked at as a form of ad Homimem in which the attack is made prior to the person even making the claim or claims.
The effectiveness of this fallacy may be seen in contemporary American politics.  Conservative talk show hosts and Tea Party movement activists have poisoned the well of the "lamestream media" (Palin) to the point that a significant percentage of citizens are immune to fact-checking rebuttals.  For example, no amount of evidence proving that President Obama was born in the United States (Hawaii) can stop "birther" error, because the media reporting the evidence are rejected in advance. 

Comedians such as Stephen Colbert already exploit the obvious potential for humour related to this frame of mind, and the tragic potential is also apparent.  The question in our context is to explore the electrate dimension of this phenomenon, to discover the affective ratios of nonsense for a politics and ethics of well-being.  Reason is not the measure of order in a dromosphere.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Daumier's Gargantua

Bakhtin in his famous study of Rabelais did the most to clarify the larger, metaphysical implications of the return of Rabelais in Bohemian Paris. Bakhtin argues that Rabelais is the exemplar of a folkloric, popular attitude that he names the laugh. The chronotope or time-space figure anchoring this world view and serving as its measure is the material, even grotesque, human body, the body in all of its corporeal vulgarity of copulation, defecation, the processes of living and dying. This time-space image is profoundly affirming in its embracing of the organic cycle of life, from birth to death and around again. “The extraordinary force of laughter in Rabelais, its radicalism, is explained predominantly by its deep-rooted folkloric base, by its link with the elements of the ancient complex – with death, the birth of new life, fertility and growth. This is real world-embracing laughter, one that can play with all the things of this world – from the most insignificant to the greatest, from distant things to those close at hand. This connection on the one hand with fundamental realities of life, and on the other with the most radical destruction of all false, verbal and ideological shells that had distorted and kept separate these realities, is what so sharply distinguishes Rabelaisian laughter from the laughter of other practitioners of the grotesque, humor, satire and irony” (Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination).

Julia Kristeva, who was one of the earliest and closest readers of Bakhtin, took her cue from this metaphysical laugh to characterize the French avant-garde writers (Lautreamont and Mallarme in particular) as accomplishing this transformation of laughter as device and method into a logic and ontology. “The practice of the text is a kind of laughter whose only explosions are those of language. The pleasures obtained from the lifting of inhibitions is immediately invested in the production of the new. Every practice that produces something new (a new device) is a practice of laughter: it obeys laughter’s logic and provides the subject with laughter’s advantages. When practice is not laughter, there is nothing new” (Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bureaucracy of the Imagination


There is an arresting statement deep within the 9/11 Commission Report, that makes explicit an organizing theme, suggesting an opening for attitude adjustment.  It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing the exercise of imagination (p. 344).  The immediate context is concern that security experts had not foreseen the scenario of the hijack attacks, despite many contextual signals. The comment is made in a chapter entitled "Foresight -- And Hindsight," in which imagination is listed, along with the categories of policy, capabilities, and management, as the four categories of failure demonstrated by the surprise attack.  We may be witnessing the creation of an addition to the list of oxymoron jokes:  military intelligence, jumbo shrimp, bureaucratic imagination.  The wording in the Report suggests a misunderstanding about imagination, as if it were a way to eliminate surprise, when the reality is just the opposite. The desired effect might be the same, which is to say that there is strategic value in imagination.  To admit this truth is already a proposal for a transformation in American education.  Our project is to take this sentiment at face value, and take up the challenge of constructing a concept of Routine that includes a capacity (an ability, a virtue, a power, a faculty) of auto-surprise:  surprisability.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The principle of "version" is central to concept creation.  Philosophical concepts are dynamic, enabling an orientation on the plane of immanence, in relation to the problem (the disaster) that motivated the concept design.  Orientation refers to direction, directedness, and more fundamentally to attitude of the conceptual persona (of the one who thinks).  This principle has its corollary in graphic design, especially in architecture, in the practice of "transformation" of an open-ended image during the design process.  The most common transformations are topological, ornamental, reversal, and distortion.  The grammar of ornament has been studied in these terms, describing the basic manipulations of a geometric unit used to generate a pattern:  translation, rotation, reflection, and inversion.  The rhetoric of Routine includes image as well as text versions.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Conceptual Personae

Here is an essay by D. N. Rodowick on Deleuze and Gauttari's "conceptual personae," a figure that is central to the "concept" that we are inventing.
The indispensable condition for constructing conceptual personae in philosophy or film would thus be the following: to make a power of the false pass as an irrational interval between the author and the aesthetic figures he or she composes. Now it could be that the author constructs a first person discourse in relation to the camera. (But in fact this form is always already doubled since seeing and speaking, image and sound, are constituted a priori as separate acts.) But to express a power of the false, this discourse must pass through an intercessor that transforms it into the discourse of an other. Since they are divided from within by the differential relations of the irrational cut, the conceptual personae of the time-image can be neither individualized nor individualizing, for they do not 'represent.' The are neither figures of representation nor representative figures. At most they can be expressed across two points of enunciation, always displaced in relation to one another by the interstice that divides them as a power of the false (D. N. Rodowick).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Smoke Without Mirrors

Sapeck's "Mona Lisa with a Pipe" (1887) is emblematic of the attitude that is the "Spirit of Montmartre."  The attitude is fumisme, used to name the mocking humor that characterized the cabaret scene of bohemian Paris.  The anchoring term is the verb fumer (to smoke), but with a usage in agriculture, "to manure."  A fumiste is chimney sweep, with slang extension to name a joker, crackpot, fraud.  A "wit" is different from a fumiste, a distinction used to clarify the intent of Sapeck's illustrations.
Whereas the former made fun of idiots in terms that they were not always able to understand, the fumiste accepts the ideas of the idiot and expresses their quintessence. . . . The fumiste avoids discussions of ideas, he does not set up a specific target, he adopts a posture of withdrawal that makes all distinctions hazy, and he internalizes Universal Stupidity by postulating the illusory nature of values and of the Beautiful, whence his denial of the established order and of official hierarchies.  From this point of view, which is that of the sage, the dandy, the observer, and the skeptic, everything has the same value, everything is one and the same thing (Daniel Grojnowski, in The Spirit of Montmartre:  Cabarets, Humor, and the Avant-Garde, 1875-1905).
 This particular image helps specify the context of Routine as a concept formed to function within the apparatus of electracy.  Our argument is that Paris is to electracy what Athens was to literacy (in general).  The cabaret is the "Academy" of electracy, and this analogy between cabaret and academy may be developed extensively to define a template for an image metaphysics (the analogy guiding this project).  Cabaret entertainment institutionalizes and provides material support in the new conditions of "Street" for the invention of a new seat (see) of culture.  The equivalent for literacy is the attitude of questioning, of materialist mathematics, that evolved into the scientific method and the whole Gestell of utilitarian techno-science over the historical life of literacy.

An immediate point of interest is the background that Sapeck's Mona Lisa provides for Duchamp's more famous readymade (the mustachioed Mona Lisa), composed much later.  The curious might wonder about the choice of iconic image to profane, and one latent connection is indexed in the term fumisme.  The hazy smoke associated with this attitude resonates with one of the important terms used to identify Leonardo's stylesfumato.

Sfumato is a term coined by Leonardo da Vinci to refer to a painting technique which overlays translucent layers of color to create perceptions of depth, volume and form. In particular, it refers to the blending of colors or tones, so subtly that there is no perceptible transition. In Italian sfumato means "blended" with connotations of "smoky" and is derived from the Italian word fumo meaning 'smoke'. Leonardo described sfumato as 'without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke'.One of the best examples of a sfumato painting is the Mona Lisa
Some other associations to be developed further:  That the emergence of cabaret arts in late-nineteenth-century Paris was done explicitly in opposition to the official "Academy" of art.  A question:  is the fumiste pose a dramatization intended to bury the Cartesian version of selfhood and subject, whose conceptual persona is the idiot (as D&G explain)?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Version Logic

Routine as a mode of inference (working conduction) engages version (-vert) as trace.  The stakes and opportunities of version (the directionality of attitude), the potentiality of turning in relation to problem on the plane of immanence, may be appreciated relative to the historical developments in the several practices and disciplines that exploit this register.  One example is the inference procedures systematized by categorical propositions.  Any textbook of logic covers the manipulations of the logical square (Aristotle), including conversion, obversion, and contraposition.
The converse of any categorical proposition is the new categorical proposition that results from putting the predicate term of the original proposition in the subject place of the new proposition and the subject term of the original in the predicate place of the new. Thus, for example, the converse of "No dogs are felines" is "No felines are dogs," and the converse of "Some snakes are poisonous animals" is "Some poisonous animals are snakes."
In order to form the obverse of a categorical proposition, we replace the predicate term of the proposition with its complement and reverse the quality of the proposition, either from affirmative to negative or from negative to affirmative. Thus, for example, the obverse of "All ants are insects" is "No ants are non-insects"
The contrapositive of any categorical proposition is the new categorical proposition that results from putting the complement of the predicate term of the original proposition in the subject place of the new proposition and the complement of the subject term of the original in the predicate place of the new. Thus, for example, the contrapositive of "All crows are birds" is "All non-birds are non-crows,"
 [Interactive Demo]

Saturday, May 15, 2010


A familiar example of a vital anecdote associated with a concept is the scene of hailing offered by Louis Althusser.  The anecdote is relevant for us in showing another case of turning (-vert).
I shall then suggest that ideology "acts" or "functions" in such a way that it "recruits" subjects among the individuals (it recruits them al), or "transforms" the individuals into subjects by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing:  "Hey, you there!"  Assuming that the theoretical scene I have imagined takes place in the street, the hailed individual will turn around.  By this mere one-hundred-and-eighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject.  Why? Because he has recognized that the hail was "really" addressed to him, and that "it was really him who was hailed" (and not someone else) [Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"].
Routine concerns the trace of turn, meaning not this or that version, but turning as such, the direction and directedness of attitude, and a temporal movement that includes at some point or site a pivot or switch, enabling or generating the experience of peripety and anagnorisis.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Taking Turns

Truth can only be defined on the plane [of immanence] by a "turning toward" or by "that toward which thought turns"; but this does not provide us with a concept of truth (WIP? 39).

Kenneth Burke provides some context for the turning (the -vert family of terms) enabled by "concept."  "Turn" is the rhetorical operation relevant to the "directionality" experienced through attitude.  In his study of St. Augustine's Confessions, generalized as The Rhetoric of Religion, Burke foregrounds the -vert family in relation to decision-making ("voting or purchasing, giving answers to questionnaires, taking of risks calculated on the basis of probability"). "I sometimes wonder whether the good Bishop of Hippo could ever have written that work were it not for the many Latin words that grow from this root, meaning turn." Augustine's moment of conversion to Christianity (the famous scene in Book VIII) is analyzed dramatistically:
There are the tense moments of decision in formal drama, when the protagonist debates whether to make a certain move, and finally makes the choice that shapes his destiny, though he still has to discover what that destiny is. . . . We are interested in the kind of decision, if it can be called decision at all:  the kind of development that usually takes place in the third act of a five-act drama.  Despite his great stress upon the will, and despite his extraordinary energy in theological controversy, Augustine seems to have felt rather that, at the critical moment of his conversion, something was decided for him.  Act III is the point at which some new quality of motivation enters.  And however active one may be henceforth, the course is more like a rolling downhill than like a straining uphill (Burke, The Rhetoric of Religion).
This moment of decision is taught as the turning point of the standard Hollywood screenplay, instructions for which may be found in countless primers on scriptwriting (coming in this genre at the end of the second act of a three-act script).  There is a narrative or dramatistic dimension in Routine, but "concept" separates, isolates, and develops as an alternative to any particular turn or direction, the pivot or switch site, the Archimedian lever of upon which turning as such depends.   Routine does for turn of attitude what peripety (peripeteia) does for drama.

Burke's analysis of the Confessions resonates with Virno's observation about virtue and evil exploiting the same rhetorical resources of language,  Augustine himself contrasts his con-version with the per-version of his pagan experience. "As regards Augustine's Confessions, the  most notable use of the vert- family is in the contrast between Book II, concerned with what he calls his adolescent perversity, in stealing pears (a Gidean acte gratuit), and Book VIII, that describes his conversion."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Simon Critchley on Comic Thought


Our CATTt is derived from the one implicit in WIP?  Modernist arts are referenced throughout this text as a relay for understanding the "non-objective" (non-mimetic) treatment of ideas in the history of philosophy.  The "Documents of Contemporary Art" series includes a collection on "The Artist's Joke," which might have worked.  Duchamp anchors this collection, as he does the one we used on "Appropriation."  Pressed by an interviewer to accept sophisticated hermeneutic readings of his Readymades (such as the geometry book left out in the rain), Duchamp replied, "It was a joke.  A pure joke.  To denigrate the solemnity of a book of principles" (cited in Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art).

Appropriation is a twofer, since it includes the bit strategy while foregrounding the logical operation of detournement.  The CATTt context frames the collage method first in relation to the quarrel between philosophy and commerce.  Advertising already uses appropriate inference, including bachelor machine juxtapositions and fallacies of ambiguity and relevance.  The apparatus context shows that the flow of mass or pop media discourse is the "natural language" of electracy (pop media : electracy :: inscribed Greek epics : literacy).  Appropriation is electrate "writing" (designing).  The categories of image metaphysics are emerging through this modernist arts practice of the photogram (the principle of "taking" pictures).  The second point is that appropriation in general, and detournement in particular, extend the logic of joke-work fully into conduction as the fourth inference principle (the one that electracy adds to the -ductions invented within literacy).  The instruction from the CATTt is to introduce detournement into the joke mechanism, as the ultimate device for turning up the unthought.  Routine distinguishes its direction (attitude), its -vert on the plane of immanence, as diversion (not conversion, perversion, subversion, or adversion).

One example illustrating the logic is Jeff Wall on Dan Graham's Homes for America (1966-67).
The magazine pieces are structured as small, ironically insignificant defeats for liberationist ideas, as "defeatist interventions" in the mechanisms of ideological dominations.  They are aimed at interrupting the flow of standardized, falsified representation and language, and inducing a "mini-crisis" for the reader or viewer by means of the inversions they create.  Reflected in the provocations and interventions characteristic of 1960s Situationism,  in which an unexpected and confrontational gesture interrupts the established rhythm of relationships in a specific context, and induces a form of contestation, paradox or crisis, this approach thereby exposes the forms of authority and domination in the situation, which are normally imperceptible or veiled. The most notable artistic image of this is the unexpected "void" or "rupture" in this seamlessly designed social surface, and conceptualism's origins are filled with such blanks, erasures, tears and cuts [,,,]  It aggravates Pop irony by means of humour noir, and attempts to elicit a recognition of the terroristic aspects of the normalized environment of images, things, spaces and mechanisms (Appropriation, Evans, Ed., 43).

Monday, April 5, 2010


Dean's instructions for creating a stand-up routine provide our "tale," showing us how to style the blog invention of a concept for conducting theory online.  The blog is not a finished routine, but a "rehearsal," the backstage planning and preparations.  For mnemonic purposes, Dean's advice is to locate our bits within a fully imagined situation.  The principle is that a bit is a particular situation and our response to it, dramatized as our own experience.  The heuretic rule is to substitute our own policy problem for the joke situation.  The joke mechanism, and the mining procedures for filling the slots of the mechanism, constitute inferential steps for thinking the unthought.

The joke mechanism consists of two stories, two interpretations of one situation.  To use a Margaret Smith version of one of Dean's examples, take the situation of Smith visiting her parents.  The parents wonder why she doesn't visit more often.  The cultural expectation guiding the first story concerns what is appropriate according to norms, etiquette, values:  families should respect and care for and about one another.  The connector (pivot, switch, hinge) prompting this norm (expectation) is "visit."  Dean's advice is to locate a connector open to a second interpretation, a different assumption.  This second assumption is Smith's ATTITUDE, the assumption of her persona, which is hostile to her family.  She tells a second story expressing this assumption:  "I would visit more often, but I can't get Delta to have its plane wait in my yard while I run in."  The mechanism as a whole is this conjunction of two stories around a shared term.  The instruction is to translate the family visit situation into the situation of our policy problem, in which we imagine ourselves as a participant with an attitude.

Here is where we modify Dean, to fit his advice into our CATTt.  A context is Virno, in that Dean's first story exemplifies practical reason, the application of rules to cases to guide judgment.  In fact the joke takes a Machiavellian approach to the cultural rules/expectations, one that is more cynical.  The second assumption in Smith's bit is that most families do not get along.  This assumption is just as familiar as the normative behavior, but violates decorum.  Freud might say this violation releases the energy used to repress this attitude, and so we laugh.  Zupancic noted that the unofficial attitude is familiar, and yet suprising when it appears.  The comedic stand, she says, is that when a husband returns home unexpectedly, one may assume that there is a lover hiding in the wife's closet.  In tragedy the husband (Othello) assumes this as well, but is wrong. 

The relevant point for our concept concerns its purpose of an inference leading to the unthought.  The unthought here must include the unofficial as well as the official expectations; that is, the attitude of our persona must itself be surprised.  The contribution of Analogy (Appropriation art) is responsible for producing this effect.  We learn about "appropriate" (noun) by appropriate (verb).  The potential addition to the mechanism is already sited when we note that Dean's mechanism relies primarily on fallacies of ambiguity (the connector is open to multiple interpretations).  The other major class of fallacy is that of relevance (red herring, ad hominem and the like).  The key point to note for now in documenting the rehearsal is this instruction to apply the generative mechanism not only to the expectations or assumptions of the policy debate, but also to the assumptions motivating your attitude to the debate.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Conceptual Stand-Up

The function of tale is as vehicle for the CATTt inventories.  Users encounter the emergent poetics of the invention through some form that partly demonstrates and partly explains the new method (or concept).  Plato introduced his new concept of "method" in the form of "dialogue."  Commentators remind us that Plato invented this form, but we recognize the heuretic practice in it:  the scene of Socrates conversing with interlocutors is an interface, embedding the encounter with dialectic in a familiar situation.  Dialectic (method) is a core practice of literacy, unfamiliar in the oral culture of Athens, transitioning from orality to literacy.  In the terms of our Theory (D&G), "Socrates" is Plato's Conceptual Persona.  Part of the nature and purpose of "method" (the concept) is communicated by the aura associated with Socrates as an iconic type:  the gadfly.  The image of thought associated with this icon is complex, including the representation of Socrates as a sophist in Aristophanes's The Clouds.  D&G provide many examples of this holistic effect of the Conceptual Persona portraying the image of thought.
Kierkegaard's "knight of the faith," he who makes the leap, or Pascal's gambler, he who throws the dice, are men of a transcendence or a faith.  But they constantly recharge immanence: they are philosophers or, rather, intercessors, conceptual personae who stand in for these two philosophers and who are concerned no longer with the transcendent existence of God but only with the infinite immanent possibilities brought by the one who believes that God exists (WiP?, 74).
Here is the first dimension through which we understand Routine as our concept:  the image of thought evoked by the figure of a stand-up comic.  "Stand-up comic" is for us what "gambler" was for Pascal's thought:  a vehicle evoking the tenor that is Routine.  The image of thought shows the attitude that frames thinking through Routine.  "Attitude" concerns the state of mind within which the thought happens, concerning belief or desire (for example) directed towards our Target (the problem in the world, the disaster).  Taken as a whole, or as a position of enunciation within the culture, comedy implies a certain attitude towards reality, which is the answer Routine gives to a fundamental question of philosophy -- the transcendental question (where are we when we think?).  Alenka Zupancic offers an insightful description of the comedic stand, relevant to Routine.
There is something very real in comedy's supposedly unrealistic insistence on the indestructible, on something that persists, keeps reasserting itself and won't go away, like a tic that goes on even though its "owner" is already dead. In this respect, one could say that the flaws, extravagances, excesses, and so-called human weaknesses of comic characters are precisely what account for their not being "only human."  More precisely, they show us that what is "human" exists only in this kind of excess over itself" (Zupancic, The Odd One In, 49).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Prudence as Joker

The primary instruction derived from Virno is based on his proposal to adopt logical fallacies (exploiting the structure of joke-work:  condensation, displacement, secondary elaboration) as sources of innovative inference practice in conditions of ethical/political crisis.  "Jokes and innovative action displace the 'rotational axis' of a form of life by means of an openly 'fallacious' conjecture, one that nonetheless reveals in a flash a different way of applying the rules of the game:  contrary to the way it seemed before, it is entirely possible to embark on a side path or to escape from Pharaoh's Egypt" (163).  The pragmatics of laughter and the forms that elicit it are guides to the exact site of interface, the moebius twist, crossing body and language.  The two slopes of language are hinged here, enabling discourse and jouissance to coexist in one practice.  Here is the point of departure for electrate ontology.  Literacy ontologized the semantic register of writing; electracy ontologizes the musical (choral) register.  It is the site of Lacan's letter/l'etre.
The logic of crisis is most evident in the articulation between instinctual apparatus and propositional structure, between drives and grammar.  Each attempt at delineating a different normative "substratum," though it unravels within wholly contingent sociopolitical circumstances, retraces and compounds, on a reduced scale, the passage from life in general to linguistic life.  Anomalous inferences are the precision instrument by virtue of which verbal thought, delineating a different normative "substratum," recalls, each time anew, the anthopogenetic passage.  Their anomaly lies in the manner in which language preserves within itself, though transfigured to the point of being barely recognizable, the original nonlinguistic drive (160).
it is worth a further citation, to make the Target instruction emphatic:  introduce a fallacy into the argumentation of your public policy debate.
The multiple use of the same material and the displacement of psychic accent are the two fundamental ways of reacting to the intensifying of chronic problems presented by the application of a rule to a particular case.  Furthermore:  these are the two ways in which,  in the process of their application, we return to the primary system of reference that is the "common behavior of mankind." Multiple use and displacement are the two main genres of fallacy and the primary genres of jokes.  However, as we have just seen, in jokes (as well as in the unusual application of a rule) fallacies have the value of counterfactual hypotheses, and therefore they take shape as heuristic procedures.  The two types of jokes (as well as productive fallacy) correspond to two types of creative action on a vast scale:  Entrepreneurial innovation; Exodus (146).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Conducting Prudence

The instruction to be derived from Virno concerns practical reason:  drawing upon the lessons of the past to make a decision in the present situation promising the best outcome for the future well-being of the community.  Good judgment requires the virtue of phronesis, prudence.  Prudence is a virtue, meaning that it is a matter of disposition, a quality of character.  The practice of deliberative reason follows the paths of inference:  abducting from the particular conditions to the rules (an archive of maxims and proverbs representing the wisdom, the experience, of tradition and associated respected authorities).  The rules supplied the premises for deductions formulating hypothetical cases, which in turn inductively were applied to the situation.  The problem with practical reason today, Virno observes, is that there is not now, and never has been, a rule for applying the rule to a case.  The application requires a decision, and this decision represents the aporia of ethics.

The aporia is even more implacable than Virno admits, since in the sublime conditions of the industrial city the archive of maxims and proverbs recording the wisdom of collective experience lost all authority.  Moreover, the locus of causality disappeared from everyday life, to become accessible only to scientific expertise supported by technology.  Commerce filled the void, promoting through advertising the conversion of citizens to an entirely new state of mind, oriented along the axis of pleasure-pain.  Marchand cites a pronouncement made by one advertising agency in the 1920s to note the role commerce attempted to play:  "The product of advertising is public opinion; and in a democracy public opinion is the uncrowned king. It is the advertising agency's business to write the speeches from the throne of that king; to help his subjects decide what they should eat and wear; how they should invest their savings; by what courses they can improve their minds; and even what laws they should make, and by what faith they may be saved" (Marchand, 31).

Virno's proposal assumes that we are now living in conditions of a permanent "state of exception," in which the rules guiding judgment may be open to revision, to innovation, to testing against experience.  His suggestion to replace valid reasoning with the deliberate use of fallacies, in order to expose the enthymemes, the assumptions and values determining the ineffective deductions guiding decision-making, acknowledges the unconscious as a site of ethical decision unsuspected in premodern philosophy.  Ethics we now understand is beyond the reach of both reason and will.  Fallacies and joke-work are transitional forms manifesting the fourth mode of inference emergent within electracy:  conduction.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


One of the challenges of our Theory (D&G) is to construct a concept for thinking from the collective position of event.  Virno (on Target) contributes the procedure we are testing in Routine.
In the actual experience of talking, the road sign is language as a system of signs, while the different ways in which one can behave in the presence of these signs has to do with a universe of discourse language (with "the activity of the speaker who puts language into action," Benveniste: 256).  The distinction between the semiotic plane (sign) and the semantic plane (discourse), developed by Benveniste corresponds in many ways to the distinction between the normative plane and the applicative plane.  The semiotic system "exists in and of itself; it establishes the reality of language, but it does not require particular applications; the sentence, instead, the semantic expression, is solely particular"  (256).  The sentence is not a "habitual event"; rather, it is a unique, "evanescent" event (Virno, 105).
We may not "think" event directly, but write it, and receive it thus from ourselves (middle voice).  The crucial insight developed throughout Multitude is the focus on this moment of exchange, the twist in the moebius band of language, marking the imbrication of drives (body, natural regularity) in language (grammar, rule).  Julia Kristeva used similar vocabulary while naming the semiotic dimension "chora" (a term requiring further development elsewhere).  The point is that jouissance (bliss, blissence) associated with originary unconscious experiences of satisfaction (in psychoanalytic theory), are carried within discourse imbricated in the semiotic register of words.  Given the importance of the pleasure/pain axis to electracy, the usefulness of Virno's argument cannot be overstated. The value of Multitude is its foregrounding of the joke effect as announcing exactly the event of interference between the two registers.
The joke is a discourse--particular, unique, evanescent--that gives a reckoning of the difference between the semiotic system and the universe of discourse.  The comic effect derives, often, exactly from that coming and going between the two planes; inside one sentence one can see the diversity of the statute of the very same lexical entity, depending on whether it is interpreted as a sign, or as part of the discourse ("How's it going?" asks the blind man of the lame man; "Just as you see," the latter answers") (106).
In short, the event of Routine happens in the bit, in language and not only there, but in image discourse.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Virno functions as resource for the Target of our CATTt.  An immediate connection with this dimension of public policy disaster is his allusion to Hurricane Katrina through the metonym of the "Superdome."  A number of the students missed this allusion in their notes.
A theory of institutions that seeks to abandon the paradigm of sovereignty, without eluding the question of intraspecies aggression, must place at center stage that inviolable weaving together of the three levels on which human praxis is articulated: a) regularity, or "the common behavior of mankind"; b) defined rule; c) application contingent upon the defined rule.  None of these levels (and even less so, the application) constitutes a free zone, immune from so called "evil": all these levels are a theater for the oscillation between the good life and the Superdome of New Orleans (Virno, 36).
 The concern of Routine (in a project to place well-being at the center of electrate thought) must take into account Virno's observation, that virtue and evil emerge from the same capacities and faculties of human potentiality.  The oscillation signals we are in a threshold condition of cultural turbulence.  The Real speaks through the Superdome figure, intimating the catastrophe of winner-take-all values emblematized in this sports arena.  The natural and social disasters manifest at the Superdome allude to a further disaster of hypercompetition, the dangers of Entertainment as the site of emergent electracy.  Meanwhile, this scene is associated with a viral appropriation still in circulation, a photoshop joke, proving that a cliche (Nero and his fiddle) is also an archetype.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Paolo Virno's Multitude configures the Target register of the CATTt.  Our Target is a public policy issue, as it is manifested in the debates circulating in the public sphere, relative to our roles as consultants (egents) for the EmerAgency (a virtual consultancy).  The first step in seeking instructions from Virno is to situate his argument in the context of the history of philosophy (the discourse of our  Theory).  Virno himself identifies his work as addressing the problem of good judgment, prudence or phronesis, the virtue of practical reason.  Routine is constructed within a situation of our concern for a specific policy dilemma, requiring collective decision (deliberative rhetoric).  What should we do?

Virno explains the difficulty of this question, given that humans are open to the world, dis-oriented, indeterminate.  We will recognize in this description the terms of Aristotle's Ethics and Greek metaphysics (literacy) in general.  Literate metaphysics opened a plane of immanence to ontologize, identifying the reality of what exists in the substance of what is, the essence of entities, which is their nature, purpose, or end.  Aristotle named this essence with an invented portmanteau term, entelechy.  This concept (an operating principle of philsophy and hence also a concept in D&G's terms) is Aristotle's answer to Plato's question, asking about the relationship between being and becoming.  Plato proposed chora (space, a receptacle of mediation) as a solution, but Aristotle introduced time:  a thing becomes what it already is.  Reality has two dimensions:  the potential and the actual (dunamis and energeia). An acorn is a potential oak, and its actualization or becoming over time is guided by this inner nature.

In his Ethics Aristotle asked after the inner nature of humans.  What is our end (telos) or purpose?  Humans are unique in nature in that our own choices (proairesis) are included in our becoming.  There is nonetheless a guiding principle.  Human purpose is well-being, our goal or end is to thrive.  A measure of our well-being is in the experience of happiness.   Here is the immediate connection of Virno with our CATTt so far.  Theory and Contrast (D&G and Marchand), philosophy and commerce, are in a dialogical struggle to define the terms and construct the concepts most relevant for practical reason in electracy.  Virno now adds a philosophical approach to the arguments organizing the policy debates themselves, with a proposal for how to innovate within practical reason.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Persona as Corporate Mask

Marshall McLuhan's comments on Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp "mask" are relevant to our CATTt, providing a relay for synthesizing Event (as subject position), Conceptual Persona, Appropriation, Cliche.
The character in a mask is "putting on the audience" rather than expressing his personal feelings. Thus Charlie Chaplin did not spend his life expressing his personal feelings. Like any artist, he selected from the environment of his audience the equipment he needed. Chaplin chose only a small group of items: the costume of the middle-class nobody, the hidden gestures of the music-hall entertainer, the romantic outlook of Cyrano, the unlovable lover, and the foot positions of classical ballet. It was this latter inspiration that gave the bizarre highbrow aura to Chaplin's mask. To get into a role as opposed to merely having a job, is to put on the corporate social power of one's culture. In our still very literate society many people continue to seek corporate power by matching appearances. This has exactly the opposite effect from what is desired. It dilutes rather than enriches the experience, just as competition encourages people to resemble one another. The genuine role-player, on the other hand, doesn't have any competition whatever, since the items he selects from the environment from which to create his image are of the utmost inclusiveness. (McLuhan, From Cliche to Archetype).
In our case, however, there is no need to choose between "mask" and "expression," in the context of electrate identity formation, experienced as "extimacy" (the outside is inside).  The construction of our persona works through the middle voice:  We experience our collective subject position of event by means of the appropriated bits selected and combined into routine.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Laugh" Iconed

Appropriation in the context of electracy is a device for the formation of image metaphysics. Pop media is to electracy what natural language was to Greek philosophy. Philosophy formed practices of literate metaphysics as a second-order system based on written Greek. Image metaphysics similarly is extracted from mass media discourse. Here is an example of isolating a pop signifier.

Thanks to Geof Carter for this suggestion. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is Maus/s's Gift Appropriate?

Nom de Guerre

A negative example for creating a conceptual persona is "Jihad Jane." 

Colleen LaRose spent long days caring for her boyfriend's father in a second-floor apartment in Pennsburg, a small town north of Philadelphia.  But online, federal authorities say, the devoted caretaker developed a daring alter ego, refashioning herself as "Jihad Jane" while helping recruit and finance Muslim terrorists -- and eventually moving overseas to kill an artist she perceived as an enemy of Islam" (Associated Press).
The story demonstrates the potential functionality of a persona as an interface for new alliances, rhizomes, possibilities for taking action on behalf of one's policy problem.  As Virno observed, virtue and (vice) draw upon the same resources. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Human Nature

Paolo Virno states that attitudes towards sovereignty or the civil state are determined by one's belief about human nature--whether humans are naturally good or naturally evil. A recent column by David Brooks provides specific examples, comparing the current Tea Party anti-authority views with the New Left movements of the 60s. But the core commonality is this: Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains,” is how Rousseau put it. Because of this assumption, members of both movements go in big for conspiracy theories.

The reference to Rousseau sounds a silent alarm. Brooks notes that neither movement had/has serious plans for what they might do if they actually came into power themselves. History does provide some analogies, beginning with the French Revolution and the Jacobins (declaring Rousseauist principles), responsible for the Reign of Terror (guillotine). Peter Sloterdijk's Critique of Cynical Reason reflects on what happens to so-called enlightened movements (motivated by beliefs in native goodness) when they acquire power. When people (the multitude) resist their ideals, the movements become "cynical." What cannot be achieved by persuasion must then be accomplished by force.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

True Fallacies

As is often the case with Python humor, this demonstration of the relationship between fallacious inference and humor is based on historical fact.  The scene is based on the life of Matthew Hopkins, the most famous witch finder of his day, who traveled the counties of Essex, Sussex, Huntington, and Norfolk, examining females suspected of witchcraft (fetishism).  Hopkins' ultimate test was that of "swimming."  The hands and feet of the accused were tied together crosswise, after which she was wrapped in a sheet and tossed into a pond. If she sank she was deemed innocent (albeit drowned). If she floated she was deemed guilty and executed.  In one year Hopkins oversaw more than sixty deaths by this means (Ulmer, Electronic Monuments, p. 165).

In our context we notice that the informal syllogism performed in our scene relies upon certain assumptions (beliefs), about the nature of reality, for example, that there are witches.  We may be reminded of D&G's reference to thought as "a witch's flight."  The reference to the inquisitor indicates a need for "fleeing" more than "flying."

Then there is the eponymous "rock/doom" band.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Definitions of bit on the Web: 
  • spot: a small piece or quantity of something; "a spot of tea"; "a bit of paper"; "a bit of lint"; "I gave him a bit of my mind"
  • a small fragment of something broken off from the whole; "a bit of rock caught him in the eye"
  • moment: an indefinitely short time; "wait just a moment"; "in a mo"; "it only takes a minute"; "in just a bit"
  • piece: an instance of some kind; "it was a nice piece of work"; "he had a bit of good luck"
  • piece of metal held in horse's mouth by reins and used to control the horse while riding; "the horse was not accustomed to a bit"
  • a unit of measurement of information (from binary + digit); the amount of information in a system having two equiprobable states; "there are 8 bits in a byte"
  • morsel: a small amount of solid food; a mouthful; "all they had left was a bit of bread"
  • snatch: a small fragment; "overheard snatches of their conversation"
  • act: a short theatrical performance that is part of a longer program; "he did his act three times every evening"; "she had a catchy little routine"; "it was one of the best numbers he ever did"
  • the part of a key that enters a lock and lifts the tumblers
  • the cutting part of a drill; usually pointed and threaded and is replaceable in a brace or bitstock or drill press; "he looked around for the right size bit" 
We may include a device learned from Derrida: the choral word. The names of our electrate concept (routine, bit) include all the meanings of the literate concept.

Creating a Brand Persona

Creating a Brand Persona
View more presentations from Jason Levine.
Here is some context for creating our conceptual personae, placing our construction in relation to branding and brand identity.  Brand is a strong contender for the site of subject position in electracy.  Our project appropriates this evolution of identity invention, reframing it within the process of apparatus invention.  Brand in this frame is subordinated to the larger emergence of avatar.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Literary Appropriation

A sign of timeliness is the appearance of this article in the NYT, Sunday, 2/28/10, reporting on the inroads that appropriation techniques from the other arts are making in the craft of literary authorship.
The Free-Appropriation Writer
The author in question is Helene Hegemann, whose novel about the Berlin club scene is a mash-up of unacknowledged quotations from other writers.  It is odd that the Times article does not mention the cut-ups of William Burroughs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Is Happening?

The Cabot-Koppers Superfund site in my city is just one of many such polluted sites in America and the world. Until recently the Koppers plant supplied the utility poles for the Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU), the entity also responsible for the well-field threatened by creosote used in treating the wood. The treatment makes the wood resistant to the wear of weather and insects. Florida was one of three states where most wood treatment was done, dating back to the colonial period. At one time treated wood was used in shipbuilding.

My bicycle route to campus takes me along roads lined with trees and utility poles, the wooden ones supplied locally until a month ago. GRU now gets its poles from Georgia. My house is connected to this grid by wires supported by these poles, and my swimming pool was recently refilled using city water. It took two days to fill the 20 x 40 pool at a rate of 35 gallons/min.

I am thinking my circumstances as a subject, a self, signed by my proper name. We are constructing a concept capable in principle of thinking what is happening from a different position, as event. Our concept (event, persona, problem) is to philosophy what "partial observer" is to science. Through science we grasp the state of affairs. The instruments monitoring the well-field, put in place by the Corps of Engineers, the corporation, the city, produce a measure from within the state of affairs, indicating the rate of seepage at which the pollutant is approaching the well-field in the acquifer that supplies our drinking water. What is the thought of the human measure, by means of which collectively we could think from our participation in these intersecting forces and processes (electricity, drinking water)?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Articulating Theory, Contrast, Target

A primary instruction for operating the CATTt is just the principle that everything found in the sources goes together, that the sources are all talking about the same “thing.” The notes on the readings make it easier to grasp a similar intratextual coherence: D&G are talking about the same thing at every point throughout their complex account: the philosophical concept.

The limits organizing our plane of immanence form a tension between Commerce and Chaos, between advertising and disaster. The image of thought territorializing the plane is that of the commodity. Our concept must deterritorialize this arrangement, and construct a new image of thought. The elements of our assemblage include a discourse of popular culture or mass media spectacle structured as commodity (Contrast). Commodity expresses the majority opinion of our situation, including the terms of the policy debate. Target establishes the applied region of our thought, which is a disaster and the way in which it is expressed in public policy debate, also organized as opinion. The overlap of Target with Contrast is the chapter in Marchand on advertising during the Great Depression (and also on therapeutics). The grammatological analogy is that what natural language was to the literate category, pop media (commodity) discourse is to the electrate concept. In each case, the philosophical thought extracts its category from a pre-existing discourse.

The key to our poetics is to learn from Theory (D&G) how philosophy designs the vital anecdote in which our conceptual personae perform the thought. The relevant documentation in WIP? is the references to modernist arts practices (literature, painting, music). Philosophy does for the noumenal what art does for the phenomenal. The mental landscape of thinking relates to the problem plane by means analogous to those invented by Cezanne to express the physical landscape. “The difference between conceptual personae and aesthetic figures consists first of all in this: the former are powers of concepts, and the latter are the powers of affects and percepts The former take effect on a plane of immanence that is an image of Thought-Being (noumenon), and the latter take effect on a plane of composition as image of a Universe (phenomenon)” (65). The CATTt context directs us to adopt the modernist arts plane of composition as a relay (Analogy) for treating the conceptual anecdote, in order to create a vector or a different turning within the problem than that of commodity.

Hubert Damisch turned the thickness of the plane into a genuine concept by showing that “plaiting could well fulfill a role for future painting similar to that performed by perspective.” [ … ] From literature to music a material thickness is affirmed that does not allow itself to be reduced to any formal depth. It is characteristic of modern literature for words and syntax to rise up into the plane of composition and hollow it out rather than carry out the operation of putting it into perspective. It is also characteristic of modern music to relinquish projection and the perspectives that impose pitch, temperament, and chromatism, also as to give the sonorous plane a singular thickness to which very diverse elements bear witness (WIP? 195).

The point for the poetics is not yet to say exactly how this modernist noumenon will appear, but to note its place in the process, with the instructions to render it using our Analogy, drawn from a specific arts procedure. If advertising provides anecdotes of opinion, philosophy brings into its anecdotes the dimension of the unthought. The “plaiting” in our context refers to the vectors of forces passing through our disaster (list here the institutional and collective agencies found in your policy documents). Art and science can show philosophers their versions of the vectors (the distortions of Bacon's portraits; the phase space diagrams of complexity), but philosophy must create its own version of what may happen (a means to think what is virtual, potential, unthought).

Our poetics proposes a concept for which thinking is a kind of movement (the witch’s flight): the concept proper (event) is not a figure (as it is for sages or poets) but a connectivity, a passage or trajectory between domains. Such connections compose rhizomes. Thinking as creativity may break up one set and recompose it into another (disconnect Figure from Religion or Commodity and reconnect it with philosophy). Event as vantage point on the plane must help us notice and experience the vectors passing through us, the phase space of attractors producing the field of our situation. “We wlll speak of the brain as Cezanne spoke of the landscape: man absent from, but completely within the brain” (210).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Contrast 1

We are making explicit the intertext that results when we put into dialogue our Theory (D&G) with our Contrast (Marchand). First some reminders of context: the apparatus of electracy dates from the rise of the industrial city, the hegemony of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, with Paris as our “Athens” – the site of invention, the opening of a new space for a practice of pure aesthetics (Bohemia), crystallizing a new lifestyle, a new subject formation. The practices of image metaphysics are created here through the movements of modernist and vanguard arts. The invention includes the emergence of mass popular culture, with entertainment as a new institution facilitating the adaptation to the rising social order in which function replaces hierarchy, personality replaces character.

D&G designate Commerce as the problem articulating their plane of immanence, and we read Marchand’s account of the advertising in the United States from 1920-1940 to document the site of intervention. The key to focusing the CATTt is to note that D&G acknowledge that Commerce has replaced philosophy as source of concept construction today. Marchand as Contrast provides a double lesson: how to construct concepts, but (taking direction from D&G) concepts that counter the commercial stand of the commodity form.

The first part of our inventory of Marchand then covers what Commerce got right, understanding that the emergence of electracy in a Capitalist society is a contingency of history. D&G note the importance of milieu, and credit the survival of philosophy to its association with the Greek innovations in the forms of city, state, and capital. Marchand describes advertising as the discourse primarily responsible for converting the citizens of the industrial city to the worldview of the new apparatus. The commodity form, separating exchange value from use, desire from product, allowed the pedagogy of aesthetic judgment to operate autonomously. The ad discourse disseminated throughout America the inventions of Paris, including the new logic of taste, and the design styles of modernist arts. The appropriation in ad practices of popular culture forms from tabloid magazines to celebrity gossip and movies contributed to the didactic value, assisting the public in internalizing the new native discourse of the apparatus.

Within this general frame of Commerce as a consultancy on modernization, the ads specifically demonstrated how to construct concepts in the emerging mass media discourse. An important point of alignment between D&G and Marchand is precisely here. The philosophical concept includes a conceptual persona to mediate between the “concept” (the position of the thought) and the problem plane (between the general and the particular so to speak). Everything that Marchand describes about the strategies of ad campaigns is relevant to the design of conceptual personae: social tableaux, great parables, visual clich├ęs, fantasies and icons. Betty Crocker and her peers are to Commerce what Pascal's gambler, Kierkegaard’s knight, or Nietzsche’s priest are to philosophy. Adversion is a conceptual stand of reassurance, crystallizing majority opinion around a few key figures (scenes).

The next step in tuning the CATTt is to inventory WIP? relative to the features of Commerce, to see how the philosophical concept differs from the advertising concept. How might the inventions of advertising be diverted to the service of philosophy?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CATTt Practice

We are in the stage of forming the poetics that tells us how to construct the concept. The task or challenge of the blog part one is to use the discipline materials gathered via the CATTt to think more better other than we would on our own, just ad-libbing and well-wishing. Here is how the CATTt works (is supposed to work: it is a heuristic, not an algorithm). The acronym does not control the sequence we are following in the seminar, and in fact, the logical relationship among the parts is:
Contrast-Target set the problem
Analogy-Theory give the solution
tale provides a site of synthesis and partial demonstration of the proposed poetics.

In this matrix (simultaneous interactivity), in our case, the problem materializes as public policy (Target) discourse being dominated by commercial (Contrast) thought (not just narrowly, but more profoundly as commodity form, thinking by means of identity experience).

The seminar starts with Theory because Theory names a question that sets the terms of a project. In our case, D&G explain that it is possible to construct concepts, and that philosophy and philosophers do nothing else (properly). We propose to construct a concept, and adopt WIP? as the instruction book (task: translate it into instructions). In their blogs, students document these instructions. We have noted that D&G named our Contrast: Commerce, which they credit with having taken
over concept production, along with everything else in the order of public discourse.

We turn to Contrast, represented by Marchand, his account of the creation of the full commodity sign beginning in the 1920s (which is not the beginning of advertisement, but the first full separation of exchange from use value in guiding the mode). The second inventory of materials then is to discover what sorts of concepts Commerce makes. Remember that Commerce is Contrast because while we accept its formal discoveries (use of icons, schemas, scenarios, tableaux and the like) we reject its propaganda stance on behalf of corporate profit. In short, our goal is thinking, not selling/buying.

The real craft of using the CATTt generator comes at this point: How do we create (invent) a synthesis, a hybrid of D&G and Marchand, an emergent set of instructions
for constructing Internet concepts? Remember that our framing goal as a course in Digital English, is to ask after the sorts of concepts that work on the Internet, apart from the fully argued concepts of specialized literacy. For our project, the conceptual persona will take a more important role, perhaps altering the hierarchy of the literate concept, in which problem and persona are subordinate to concept (proper).

In any case, this negotiation between our Theory and Contrast is mediated by an important overlap or shared area of interest: opinion. The trick of Commerce, but also of sophistry or rhetoric in general, is the enthymeme. The argument is persuasive because it uses as proof what I already believe (a hidden and dropped premise). Modern theories of identity show that this enthymeme goes deep, on into the unconscious, and we can get into that region somewhat, however superficially, when we talk about "fantasy" (mentioned by Marchand). In any case, we put in the position of "product" as public issue (disaster), and the debates surrounding it (politics, ethics, decision, action). Contrast is for opinion and Theory is against it. Here is a key point for sorting out how to triangulate to our own poetics, by superimposing Theory and Contrast (our two books) and seeing what matches, what conflicts, what reinforces, and what diverges.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Continuing concept

5. Presentation
A conceptual persona models how the concept thinks the problem plane. It remains to add to this instruction the manner of this modelling, its aesthetic premises. A text with a relevant instruction is the following:
The history of philosophy is comparable to the art of the portrait. It is not a matter of "making lifelike," that is, of repeating what a philosopher said but rather of producing resemblance by separating out both the plane of immanence he instituted and the new concepts he created. These are mental, noetic, and machinic portraits. Although they are usually created with philosophical tools, they can also be produced aesthetically. Thus Tinguely recently presented some monumental machinic portraits of philosophers, working with powerful, linked or alternating, infinite movements that can be folded over or spread out, with sounds, lightning flashes, substances of being, and images of thought according to complex curved planes (What is Philosophy? 55-6).
D&G immediately criticize some of Tinguely's designs, but their opposition to "resemblance" or "representation" throughout the argument, with references to Cezanne, Klee, or Francis Bacon as relays, reinforce the instruction: do for concept what modernist vanguard arts did for painting. With this theme D&G identify the Analogy of our CATTt (modernist art practice).

Tinguely Video.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Conceptual Persona

Continuing concept

4. Conceptual Persona
The first two components of concept set up the core program of philosophical practice: to take a stand on the transcendental problem, by answering the question, "what is the relationship of thinking to world?" The genre of concept construction includes a third feature: a persona that dramatizes in a vital anecdote how the proposed thought mediates the relation of a person to the environment. Instruction: personify the thought proposed by the concept in an appropriate character type or role, enacting the attitude and orientation of the thought.

The examples of conceptual personae provided by D&G in several different books, include Socrates, Diogenes, and Empedocles. The anecdote(s) reported in each case allegorize or figuratively enact a mode of reasoning.
Socrates: allegory of the cave. The way of the heavens. Conversion = movement through the inference procedures: abduction, deduction, induction.
Diogenes: lived in a barrel on the public square, performed all his intimate functions in full view of the citizens. The way of the surface. Perversion = dramatize the metaphor in the idea.
Empedocles: threw himself into Mt. Etna, but his (bronze?) sandel floating to the surface betrayed his action. The way of the depths. Subversion = transgression and destruction of forms (madness).

The vital anecdote illustrates the particular way the concept is oriented on the plane of immanence, its peculiar movement or path. The etymology of verse or vert + prefix indicates the possibilities, as observed in the descriptors con-version, per-version, sub-version.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Plane of Immanence - 2

Continuing concept

3. Plane of Immanence: Part Two
Our project has its own agenda, for which D&G supply the Theory (CATTt). We are less interested in philosophy as a discipline, and more in learning what sort of theoretical thinking is appropriate for the apparatus of Electracy, relative to digital technologies. This electrate thought must serve an Internet public sphere, to support deliberative reason (civic decision making) at the speed of light. Hence we supplement the problem given by D&G with our own: a public policy issue.

The context of WIP? clarifies the reason why event is required for thought in the plane of immanence, since the dimension we need to capture in our concept is the state of affairs named chaos or complexity in science. The old "causality" is called into question by the new account of nature, and our concept is relative to contemporary science, just as was cogito in its epoch. The forces of self-organizing systems, strange attractors, thresholds and emergent behaviors operate in the plane of immanence. For our Target, we select a public policy issue that concerns or attracts us, (a disaster in Blanchot's terms), and adopt it as a site by means of which to observe what is happening on the problem plane: turbulence interrupting order.

The CATTt heuristic directs us to put these different elements of our materials into conversation (intertext). The immediate instruction for this component of concept, is to document the opinions, presuppositions, cliches, majority discourse at work within our policy issue: how does Commerce (commodity form) frame what is happening? The italics for this phrase are a reminder that in D&G's vocabulary event is extracted from what happens.

Plane of Immanence - 1

Continuing the components of concept:

2. Plane of Immanence: Part One
D&G replace subject thinking through a plane of transcendence, with event thinking with a plane of immanence. This plane is selected by our intervention, by our creative activity, when we notice what is happening framed as problem. The problem D&G select, specific to the discipline and history of philosophy, is that the construction of concepts has been taken over by Commerce. The commodity form has already displaced philosophy as the source for defining what constitutes the good life, happiness, satisfaction, well-being. In terms of the CATTt, D&G identify Commercial discourse as Contrast.

In the conclusion of WIP? D&G explain a role for the fourth epoch of philosophy, the epoch of Creativity, philosophy in the present (after the epochs of Contemplation, Pedagogy, and Communication): articulate a minor thinking, against opinion, cliche, doxa (majority opinion), presupposition, preconceptions. This strategy of locating minority within majority discourse indicates how to include Contrast as part of problem. Our project further specifies problem in our Target, discussed in Plane of Immanence, Part Two.

Concept: Event

The primary purpose of Part One of the blog is to develop a poetics or recipe for the construction of a "concept," as defined by D&G. We are not yet introducing our own concept, but creating a set of instructions for how to compose one, to be acted upon in Part Two. The formula for a concept includes the following components.

1. Concept
The "concept" slot in the template assigns a name to the concept (eg. Descartes' "cogito"). Our Theory calls for a stand (attitude towards thought) that replaces all subject/object orientations towards thinking. D&G name their replacement for the subject stand "event." We need to design a thought form that thinks from the position of "event," rather than from the position of subject. Event thinks in and through me. It is a collective dimension of thinking. "Event" is not the name of the concept we are constructing, but a description of the slot that any concept constructed according to their specifications must address.

D&G are proposing a thought adequate to the il y a, or es gibt, it rains -- phrases philosophers have used to characterize thought as reception (I don't speak language; language speaks me).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Concept of concept

We are inventing a concept. Our formula is derived from Deleuze and Guattari (D&G), especially from What Is Philosophy?, adopted as our guide, but not only from them. WIP? provides the Theory for our CATTt generator, meaning that our final poetics will emerge through the intertextual matrix of our source texts. For now, we want to know about D&G's concept (of concept). An additional caveat is that our framing is not the same as theirs. They believe that the concept as practiced in philosophy still has a role to play in contemporary civilization, and we would agree. However, our project is framed within the larger purpose of inventing electracy. Our concept is not confined to the professional or disciplinary parameters of philosophy. Rather, we want to create a means for theoretical thinking native to the Internet. The historical record (the grammatological analogy) shows that each innovation in forms and practices of thought preserved some parts of the previous mode, abandoned some parts, and added some new elements. Our electrate concept, in this spirit, will not simply reproduce D&G's proposal, but will revise it with our purpose in mind, looking for those aspects of their poetics that lend themselves to digital imaging, while deemphasizing other aspects that are relative to the literate apparatus. We have much to learn from them, but we have our own project.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The "Athens" of Electracy

Electracy dates from the turn into the nineteenth century, the epoch of revolutions (industrial, bourgeois, representational, technological). The arts & letters strategy for orienting ourselves to our own epoch is by analogy with the invention of literacy in classical Greece. The term “apparatus” in this context (derived and expanded from media studies) is used to notice that the invention is a matrix including institution formation and identity behavior (individual and collective). A relevant point of the analogy is that in Athens Plato et al created a new institution (the Academy), which opened a new zone, within which they invented the devices enabling “pure thought.” This new kind of thought was different from the oral apparatus (religion, ritual, spirit, tribe). It has been dubbed “natural history” retroactively, and eventually became hegemonic, or at least fully independent, in the seventeenth century, the inception of “science” in the modern sense. “Science” as a worldview, however, became possible within the literate apparatus. The related identity inventions are “selfhood” as experience and behavior, and the democratic state.

Our present moment is the heir of these two apparati, providing two axes guiding (in unstable syncretism) our collective deliberations: right/wrong (oral); true/false (literate). Electracy does not eliminate or replace these two historical forces, but supplements them with a third dimension. The invention of this third dimension occurs primarily in 19th-c Paris. Paris is the Athens of electracy. The template from Athens maps the recurrence of apparatus creation. A good account of this event is Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. A new zone opens within hegemonic (bourgeois) culture, known as “bohemia.” The aesthetic is the relevant human capacity to be augmented in the prosthesis (the apparatus), and pure art is the means.

Bourdieu identifies Baudelaire and Flaubert as the inventors (his term) of this stance and formal operation, with Manet as their equivalent in painting. The vanguard revolution more generally subsequently develops and institutionalizes this innovation. The philosophical account of this gambit is familiar, beginning with Kant’s promotion of aesthetic judgment (taste) to equal status with pure and practical reason. The third dimension added to the axes orienting deliberation is that ofpleasure/pain (Spinoza’s joy/sadness). The responsibility of this dimension (distinct from oral salvation or literate science) is well-being (thriving). The implications for politics and ethics are substantial: what happens when pleasure/pain has equal (?) voice relative to right/wrong and true/false? To put it another way, what happens when well-being has an army?

For better or worse, this new dimension was quickly colonized by capitalism, institutionalized as entertainment, with the definition of “satisfaction” inherited from philosophy (the purpose of life as “happiness”) appropriated by the commodity form. Such is our present moment, with all dimensions of the electrate matrix still in flux, becoming whatever (autopoietically, without telos), still open to invention (but with strong tendencies already hegemonic). The caveat is that these developments include mutation of identity. As Kuhn said about scientific revolutions: the new paradigm does not solve the old problems but makes them irrelevant. Apparatus framing revises Kuhn: the old problems remain relevant, but relative to their apparatus. Our present condition then is tricameral, undergoing continuing negotiations.