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.