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An Analog/Digital Philosophical Repository

Corry Shores emails me a link to a wonderful directory for the philosophical dicussion of the Analog/Digital distinction, with a particular Deleuzian flavor.


He also mentions that this weekend he is set to begin a project concerning Analog and Digital consciousness, and has just recently posted an abridged copy of his paper:

Posthumanism and Pixels, Condensed Version

As I told to him, and to others below, my interest in the Analog/Digital distinction was primarily in concern over Hoffmeyer’s biosemiotic use of the two in his life-defining concept of Code Duality, something I have found problematic (a criticism I have not written yet).

I look forward to Corry’s work. It sounds exciting. There is from Corry even the suggestion that his project may find some correspondence points to my research on Spinoza and optics, which would be intriguing.

Peaks and Troughs of Intensity: From Digital to Analog Embodiment

The above two illustrations, from Shores’ Deleuze’s Analog and Digital Communication; Isomorphism; and Aesthetic Analogy,  which show the translation/transmuation of an analog signal (continuous) into a digital one (discrete), give me room for some (very) lose musings. The first is that we tend to polarize these two kinds of forms. For instance emulsion photography is thought to be analog (as opposed to pixelated digitalization), yet the presence of film grains in an emulsion image tells us that the suspended silver halides indeed do pixelate to some degree.

In such cases the structure of the recording material simply falls away composing differences that make no difference. On the other hand, the pitting in a cd’s material, the consitutent thresholds that make up the recording material, also fall away as differences that make no (additional) difference.

What I want to say is that the discrete elements which are thought to make up digital copying, elements that under some defitions are linked through syntactical (not temporal) powers, are themselves materialized events subject to analogical relations which hold them together. A brain’s neurons which may exhibit something of a binary on/off digitalization, or a computer’s circuit which also expresses on/off threshold states, is part of a structural matrix of other temporal thresholds. Parameters of felt limits contain these peak/valley alternations, conditioning them and orienting them.

Additionally, if we are to ask, Is there a digital-like relationship between discrete elements and syntactical joinings which marks out the behaviors/capacities in abiotic world? Are not the features, lets say in a protein, that mark out differences that make a difference in its production (as a kind if peak or valley), also as discrete joined by the syntax of its structure, giving a protein molecule a digital status, of a kind? And are not the temporal unfoldings of this molecule (or any molecule), when in interaction with its environment, of a continuous and therefore analogical nature? This rock I hold in my hand is exerting discrete differences (joined in a structural/syntactical array) upon the threshold centers that make up the perception field of the hand, (these thresholds also linked through a structural/syntactical array), such that to ultimately separate out the digital and the analogical is to lose their essential interaction and really parallel development. The rock analogically “feels” and records the discrete differences that make a difference of my hand, just as the hand does the rock.

When we construct codified, syntactical wholes (linguistic, conceptual for instance), we are not just abstracting. We are creating new feeling bodies, analogical bodies which reveal their on diachronic expression and recording upon results.

Analog and Digital Intellect: Threshold Intensity, or Either/Or


Analogical Co-munications

I came across (now twice, but this time investigated) this wonderful collection of Deleuze-inspired writing and exhaustive explications, Pirates and Revolutionaries. Some of the very best stuff on the internet for instance on Spinoza’s concept of infinity. This article though on the difference between Analogical and Digital thinking is immensely clear and open-ended, for any of those who have not considered deeply the two modes of intellect. Below is one small snippet in a wide-ranging summation and positioning:

We will first address the research on animal communication that Gregory Bateson discusses in his Steps to an Ecology of Mind, a text that Deleuze cites when distinguishing analog and digital language. According to Bateson, the ‘messages’ that animals convey refer not to objects but to their social relations; for example, the cat’s mewing does not mean milk, but ‘dependence.’ A more compelling illustration is his story of a wolf-pack leader catching an inferior male who broke the code of hierarchies, and achieved coitus with a female, which involves being locked-in with her. Bateson explained previously how an adult wolf weans young puppies by crushing them down with its jaw. Then, in the case of the leader finding his subordinate infringing upon his mating prerogatives, instead of attacking, the leader simply crushed the male down as though weaning him. This communicates their social relationship by analogy: ‘just as a father is to a puppy, I am to you.’ In general, most animals normally convey their interrelations by means of such an analogical language, which consists of paralinguistic and kinesthetic expressions (body language) that communicate magnitudes of social relations (such as being more or less dominant) by means of analogous changes of magnitudes in bodily expression. Deleuze himself defines analogical language as one of relations, which consist of “expressive movements, paralinguistic signs, breaths and screams, and so on.

“Deleuze’s Analog and Digital Communication; Isomorphism; and Aesthetic Analogy”

Analogical/Digital Oscillation

What is interesting for my processes is that here in the treatment of the analog and digital I am finding the confluence of two divergent studies. Last month I found myself troubled by Hoffmeyer’s notion of the life-defining Digital and Analog concretizations of an individual, touched on in my review of Morten Tonnesson’s essay on Bio-morality Bioethics, Defining the Moral Subject and Spinoza. I very much wanted to write a piece on the kind of distortion Hoffmeyer was performing when reducing the individual into an almost entirely digital (DNA) state, a capacity he felt that was only something that living things could achieve. I had a strong intuition of what I wanted to say about what was problematical in this, but time and circumstance dragged me away.

My objection to Hoffmeyer stemmed from my Spinozist position of the parallel postulate that the order of things and of ideas is the same, and that, at least from a Spinozist position, it was nonsensical to say that an individual existed in primarily a digital state. If Spinoza is correct, one can never have a primarily digital state of an individual, as the material, bodily dimension follows it explicitly. At the time of my original intuition I simply roughly equated Spinoza’s “idea” with digitality. But in the long loop I’ve run into discussions with Eric Schliesser who is organizing a paper to be presented on Spinoza’s skepticism towards mathematical capacities to describe Nature (at first a counter-intuitional position given the mathematic-like forms of Spinoza’s reasoning, and his dependent use on mathematical examples). Our talks gave me to look closer at Spinoza’s letter 12 to Meyer (which Corry Shores does an incredible job of summarizing in cross-reference fashion, treatment I would like to return to). There, famously, Spinoza puts numbers and mathematics to be the products of the Imagination, the lowest forms of knowledge in his coming trinity of knowledges, found in the Ethics). There is no space/time here to go into these investigations, though it is good to mention that they touch on Badiou’s deep misreading of Spinoza and Badiou’s Ontology of Mathematics. It is enough to say that Spinoza denies the Substance itself cannot be discretely divided, and that even the discrete operations of which mathematics specialize fail at capturing the infinity of the taken-to-be finite modes. The order and connection between ideas (and things) is not a numerically ordinal connection. Mathematical discretions are imaginary constructs by Spinoza’s reasoning, as must be the digital reductions/abstractions that much of conceptual philosophy concerns itself with.

In this sense any digital abstraction of analog expressions/relations itself must be materialized. This makes Hoffmeyer’s digital/analog oscillations that are supposed to define life in further jeopardy, at least from a Spinozist perspective, for digital discretion does not even correspond to the notion of “idea” ordering. Rather, Spinoza’s take on infinities under which a maximum and minimum are known, turns digital processes into extreme analogical ones.

This leads me to minimize the entire latter portion of Corry Shores appreciation of Deleuze’s digital/analog analysis of modern painting, on Spinozist grounds. Even the most binary reductions are not “safe distance” processes, but rather are products of the imaginary under specific thresholds. They are felt in topographies, as any viewer can attest. The digital is always felt. The calculation is ever an impression on the material of the body seen through the discretion of its organized thresholds. One can see that there is a certain “faculative disorder” in the (digital) peak tracing of diagrammic representations, but, following Spinoza, these can only be analogical, which is to say continual, conjoinings. If Spinoza’s treatment of the infinite which disjoins the imaginarily discrete (mathematical) infinity from the real, expressive causal infinity, tells us anything, it is that diagrammic dis-organization and re-organization are imaginary processes which ever seek a continuity in the body itself, the body an infinite expression of magnitudes which press nestled upon each other. But unlike Deleuze’s pursuit of the chaotic elements (and this may only be an aesthetic difference), looking with the Intellect, as Spinoza would, is seeing-through these connections, not as bound, but as continually out-flowing and unitary. In this sense the ordering of numbers is a pale, imaginary imitation of the density of continuity in all things, a mechanism for our continual re-orientation.