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Tag Archives: blogging

Žižek as Ur-Bloggist: Perfecting the Associative Theoretical Multimedium

The First Bloggist, Žižek as Father

Adam Kotsko has a wonderful line about Žižek, that his writing can only be understand as a theoretical-asethetic pre-posit of the Blog:

I think that Zizek has something about how Flaubert can only be understood retrospectively, because he was trying to do film by means of the novel — similarly, perhaps Zizek’s writing is anticipating not (as he has somewhere said) the CD-ROM, but rather the blog.

Aside from the fantastic inversion of Flaubert to cinema, and thus Žižek to populist journalism – talk about the return of the Bourgeoisie, first as parody, then as tragedy or at least made serious pop – this calls to mind Truman Capote’s line about Jack Kerouak, “That’s not writing, that’s typewriting.”

Žižek as the first, Primordial blogger, he who could not then blog because the techno-social space was yet invented. But how else could we have heard about the theories of someone from a country which no map knew, sporting unpronouncible consonants and knowing marks in his name, pealing off counter-intuitional brilliances on otherwise abandoned Hegel and Lacan, DJing in Hitchcock and the Terminator? Is not the Nom du Père of us bloggists…Žižek? The man who enjoys.

As proof of this, imagine how horrible it would be if Žižek actually blogged? It would be as if Flaubert made talkies. Does this mean that the blog world must track down and consume our father, ripping him into pieces like so many post-Oedipal and rabid daughters, maenads tearing at their Orpheus near a media river, or must it simply meet him at the crossroads and refuse to step aside?

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Bryant’s Ring of Gyges: The Social Restraints of Blogging

I dislike these kinds of posts because its more interesting to be talking about this philosopher or that, this line of reasoning or that, but sometimes the content of philosophy comes together with questions of finite community and ultimately of ethics in general. In fact occasions of our own interactions become the best examples or illustrations of why we believe that the ideas we hold are important to the world at large. It is the question of “local ethics”, how Big Ideas and boring everyday stuff touch.

On the Street

I was strolling down my electronic neighborhood today – I usually walk through my blogroll, and then once in a while I then go over to Splintering Bone Ashes who has a nice distribution of blogs and the titles of recent posts outside my usual sphere (SBA never really posts but I like him when he does). So I’m strolling along, down streets I don’t always follow and I run into this bit of rude graffiti chalked on a public wall (I say rude because this posting was vaguely directed towards some anonymous and generalized many, but also with targeted persons in mind, and for those likely walk down that particular electronic street, not unlike other graffiti in the “real” world):

Notes From the Chalk-Breaker

The immediate source for the prejudicial hilarity is Levi Bryant’s site Larval Subjects a post entitled: “Important Theory of Social Relations in New Media”. It has an original source (which a commenter provided), but Bryant initially left it unreferenced as he no doubt wanted it to express his own feelings about the internet contributions of those who don’t write under their “normal” name, a pre-occupation of his and others of circle. Although Bryant once was one of these anonymous types who actually vigorously attempted to conceal his identity (or so I am told, and he admits), he regularly has attacked pseudonymous bloggsters as inauthentic, and in many instances morally suspect. Since coming out of the virtual closet, he has been in the fore-front of uncloaking otherwise cloaked ones. We really must read the meaning of the chalkboard comic as his own intent.

“Larval Subjects”, the name under which he once wrote, seems to feel that if human beings are not restrained by the social consequences of their normal “name”, they will produce what is worst in them. It it not just the Ring of Gyges, but a Ring of Gyges combined with an audience that draws out of human subjectivity what is pejoratively called “total fuckwad” (or those, as Levi Bryant has also grouped: Grey Vampire, the Troll, and inconcordantly as well, the homophobe, the nationalist, the Nazi, the KKK member). We are to imagine that the difference between Fuckwad and the Normal person is simply the combination of anonymity and audience which turns the latter into the former. Leaving Plato’s assumption aside, I have to say that this is a curious, in fact sad view of the world, especially for those who spend a lot of time discussing things on the internet. And it has some rather simple-minded conceptions of what “normal” is and how it operates.

First of all every interaction contains degrees of “normal” nameness, and anonymity. Which is to say the human being has potentialities of in/coherent expression far beyond the name they are under. And the “norm” within the term “normal” is not always something to esteem. And whether “Larval Subjects” posted this comic, or “Levi Bryant” did is a question of community. Most of us don’t really care who “Levi Bryant” is, but we do care (or HAVE cared) who “Larval Subjects” is. The “name” that circulates and falls under community standard consequences is equal to that sphere. For those that wish to give up their nom de plume and attach the products of their writings, including all those interactions to OTHER spheres of normalization are not those who are better persons. They are working on the powers of simply a singular identify.

I refuse both notions that:

1. The only reason why we behave civilly or even altrustically is because we are restrained from doing what we really would like to do.

2. Our “normal” name includes the very best of what we have to offer others.

Autonymy and Anonymous

In fact for those that have experienced writing pseudonymously, there is a definite benefit from this anto-nymy. One simply is able to explore new relations under the context of a new community which do not have much to do with the other communities that can define you (and in defining you, cause you to see yourself in a constricted sense). This is to say, the auto-nym is not so much a freedom from the behavioral restraints of others, as the possibility to redefine oneself in new contexts, under specific projects or trajectories. To discover oneself, so to speak, something beyond the dominant identity that sometimes conflates the “ego” with the proper name. In fact it is quite the case that the virtual intersubjectivity afforded by autonymy is necessarily trans-subjective, pulling at the boundaries of the otherwise regards as whole “self”, opening up possibilities that are entirely creative.

It is important to see that what is loosely regarded as anonymous, when in the context of a regular and interactive (shared) expression is a case of autonymy. And that the “auto” though it expresses the way that one names oneself, the power and authenticity is earned amid a community…it is an autonomy of the name itself, the pseudonym belongs to everyone, and not just you. You are not the locus of its laws. My name here is “kvond” or sometimes “Frames /sing”. I do not own this name. I am made from it, in part, thrown in its direction. It becomes a center of gravity, both for myself but also others.

I had the coincidental experience of name-experiment once that is worth mentioning.  I was a younger man and had romantically dreamed of traveling to and eventually livng in Florence. I saved up a bunch of cash, flew across the Atlantic and headed out blindly to the mesmerizing city. I found a little pensione and resolved to find a job, start a little life there, despite the fact I spoke no Italian (ha). I moved into my pensione where I was to stay for the next month or so and upon registering me the owner read my passport incorrectly. My name is very long and takes up two lines, and she identified a nice Italian sounding middle name as my Christian name, my proper name. She pronounced it, I hesitated, and then I went with it. For my time there, exploring this aspect of myself, this small vector, this line of flight, I was (insert name). It should not make a difference, but it did. Everything I experienced and expressed came out of this new center of circulation, in its orbit. What I was there was not false. It was from a node on a rhizome.

For me the cocooning nature of an experiment of self under name does not generate “Fuckwad” or anything like it (though certainly people can find the me unpleasant at times). When someone is rude to me in text under a specific name I never think to myself “Ah, I wish I had that guy’s REAL name!”  It is much more the case that autonymy propels one forward into interesting spaces. And I think it cool that in those spaces some people are under their “real” names (normal) and some are not. Some people want to say, “Hey! This is me, pay attention to what I really am, and this is what I think.” and other people are like “Hey, forget about who you “really” are, and who I “really” am, and think about this interesting thought”. Try on “this”.

What is extra curious about Levi Bryant’s Normal = Good/ Anonymous = Bad is that it is quite Fascistic in conception. (Levi writes at length how pervasive the so called Neoliberal system of singular subjectivity is, something he equates with Nazism (sigh).) Which is to say the way that illicit behavior is to be controlled is through public exposure under a single register. If we want to control the behavior of others we need to expose them to a panoptical “eye”, an eye that takes its main measurement upon the Name. As a matter of policy, opening up what is otherwise “private” (be it a bedroom, or personal friends, an email) is key to normalizing these aberrations. If one wants to stomp out homosexuality or Communism, let’s say, one exposes what is in the closet, and then attaches it to a “Name” to be regulated. One brings to bear the armature of the Law upon the Name, and does so in a direction tending towards universalization. It’s an interesting theory, but one must acknowledge to where it points.

I side in another direction. I prefer to esteem the long history of pseudonymous writings, and I esteem the virtual world’s new potentiality for micro-climates of interpersonal subjectivity. Here names create vectors for growth and discovery. Yes, in the cloisters of experiment surely there are possibilities for abuse. With freedom from what in Rap is called your “government name” can indeed come a boldness that slips into what is base or simple-minded. This is the risk of freedom itself. It involves the possibility of a regression. But I do not think that autonymy essentially involves regressive expression, nor do I even think that human beings are those that need to be essentially restrained from what is worst. Indeed, the abuse of one’s name, the exercise of its earned and somewhat deceptive power, has as many crimes as the autonymous. The “name” contains no more good than bad.

I sense as well that those who argue that the Ring of Gyges is revelatory of essential human nature are those under a kind of self-confession. They personally struggle with their own anonymity, are uncomfortable with it, and dream that one day their “name”, their real name (that signifier) will hold as much power as the anonymity they both fear and lust after.

INDIRECTIONS offers a harmonizing response to the above, bringing out what I hoped was best in what “kvond” was saying about the auto-nym.

For related but different thoughts on the twists of subjectivity and the subversion of Name, consider a prospective Antigone Complex: What is the “Antigone Complex”? Posthuman Tensored Agency, and More on the Antigone Complex

The Soul Crushed and Twisted by the Mechanical Arts – Plato

Plato’s Prisons of Techne

I repost here the quote from the Republic that in usual Platonic, imagistic language is full of potential truths. Here we find Socrates discrediting primarily the sophists, but really by virtue of a whole class of technically skilled [techne] workers, those whose power and knowledge consists in their experiences, and standing, as workers. In condensed fashion he runs the gambit from prisoners to technicians to mere machine workers. All of these he tells us, wish to gravitate, actually more, leap or fly to the prestige of philosophy:

Just as men out of prisons into holy sanctuaries are fleeing, so these joyous men out from technical arts are leaping into Philosophy, as if those being most intricate would hit upon the little art of themselves. For in comparison with the other arts the honor of philosophy even though abandoned is more magnificent. This is the flight of the many unaccomplished by nature, who from the technical arts and even workmanship, their bodies have been mutilated and their souls envined and even crushed through the mechanical arts.

Plato, Republic [495d]

Leaving the question of the sophists aside and picking up the word-image, we really have something here. There is the interminable sense that our experiences as workers confined to the techniques of our knowing and doing, caught within the demands of an economic and thereby psychic necessity, contort us, alter us. And Plato’s image is quite strong as he evokes the worker or technician (and some editors have thought that he had the military arts in mind, but the image carries through) whose body is maimed by the arts he practices. We see vividly the industry worker, or other friends of the “machine” who has lost fingers or received other bodily harm, even desk workers whose time in the chair have changed their posture. All of these graftings of a machinic upon the human body are rolled up into the image of the prisoner at the beginning of the passage, the one who is confined, shackled by circumstances of every degree. And all of these make for Socrates those who are unqualified to the seat of Philosopher. This is because, as the body is the image of the soul, it is not only bodies that have been exacted upon, it is souls, and here in the end forming a bookend to the prisoner the image is striking. The mechanical arts (by which we are to see mean arts, perhaps those of low craftsmen, even with the association of the weaver who is feminine), actually “envine”, they envelope and slowly twist and choke the soul, even eventually crush or pulverize it. What comes to mind for me is of a gear-working, a rack that out of its unnatural nature incrementally destroys the cognitive powers of the soul. Here “work” in every mechanical gradient becomes the equivalent of torture.

At a certain level we have condensed here all of the reasons why the economic freedoms of others become a high priority for us. For it is not just in political restriction that the voice and soul becomes contorted, but also that the very lived mechanical – and we read mechanical even in the most abstract sense of purposed and productive repetitions – states of workers are binding and cognitively contorting devices. At least that is the rhetorical picture. Aside from Plato’s political aim, the freeing of cognitions from devices remains a kind of halo of a hope, an attractor.

Scholastic Silence: How to Comtemplate

But in this ethical picture stands its opposite, the idea that the Philosopher is he who is not contorted, maimed or crushed. The one whose body and soul stands relatively whole, unpressured, the one who can see clearly, from a distance. It is there that Bourdieu’s critique of the “scholastic point of view” which I brought up in my last post, occurs. The production of the quietude of the Philosopher, the near monastic, let us say scholastic isolation from the contortions of mechanical art pressures, is, Bourdieu wants us to know, artificial. The cocoon and buffer that creates the gap between a world of devices and techniques exacted, and the imagined realm of reasons, has to be built. It has been constructed through labors which themselves are structured. And then it too is structured by internal devices and arts. What Bourdieu wants us to know is that when the philosopher adopts the scholastic point of view, he/she is likely carrying with him/her the vast train of social constructions (literal constructions) which enable that monastic cell of contemplation, and there is both a social and epistemic responsibility towards the excavation of those inherited and largely unconscious relations (an excavation that in some sense is retarded by flat ontologies who know only their surface).

The One Machinist of the 17th Century

In a way it is the Philosopher who knows least the mutilations of his/her body, the envinings of his/her soul, the pulverizations, due to the very quietude of contemplation. And to this great dis-orientation of thinking towards the mere mechanical, my mind turns towards the rise of the philosophy of the mechanical, the Dutch flowering of Cartesian mechanism. It seems here that most, if there was to be a philosophy that embraced the mechanical nature of thinking it would be found here. I wrote some time ago about the “hand of de Beaune” a brilliant mathematician who was working hard in the service of Descartes on the production of a fantastic automated lens-grinding machine :Descartes and Spinoza: Craft and Reason and The Hand of De Beaune. With somewhat of a coincidence de Beaune’s hand was severely cut just as Plato’s technician’s body was maimed. Descartes’ dream though was of producing machines which no hand would touch, pure, abstract machines, concretized maths, in a sense, those which would free the otherwise fettered human mind. Plato’s dichotomy duplicates itself, the machine as enemy to the mind because of the body, as well as its instrumental aid. As I have pointed out in my investigation of Spinoza’s lens-grinding, Spinoza was the only “worker” of the period, and in fact the only craftsman per se. While lens-grinding and machine fascination was an elite hobby among the new scientist riche, Spinoza was actually a worker, and engaged his lens lathe daily as a matter of his economic sustainance. Deep in this machinic age, only Spinoza new the machine in a fashion Plato’s Socrates could not. He knew it with his hands.

In an interesting fashion, Spinoza’s “scholastic point of view” embodies a unique self-reflective awareness that is encapsulated in his worker, machine status, as well as one might admit, his standing as an ostricized Jew. He occupied a position at the border, a stand-point, that made of his quietude a different sort of awareness. Born of the age of the machine, Spinoza understood the human being too as a device, a complex series of ordinations, to which other complex serieses of ordinations are connected, a “spiritual automaton” he called the human being. In this awareness the “worker” takes on a different place: Not that of “prisoner” to stand in dialectical opposition to the unmutilated man, but of machinic degree. Our work becomes an expression of machines, machines of which we never extricate ourselves. It is only that we need to choose our machines (those of which we are made) more carefully, with an eye to liberation. The gaze of leisure is to be questioned.

Blogged Quietism

In this view blogging of course becomes a significant phenomena. Some philosophical bloggers write out of a self-created cocoon to escape the twisting techne of university or college, forming however brief a contemplation of respite, engaging the machinic of the internet. Some blog in order to be able to speculate, to freely exhibit what they might be able to think, if they were allowed to. Yet, as we produce our ideas and disseminate them, to the degree that we do not embrace the machinic, we are fraught with generating the modes that have produced our monk-cell, unconsciously, not recognizing the shapes of our bodies and souls.

Atop this image of the mechanical arts that contort there is the artist, we might say, is also the self-artist. The one that grasps the inherent machinic character of the human, and purposely undergoes specific machinic contortions upon both body and soul, not to perfect, but to express (and to some degree soterologically free themself and others from) the specific techne of the world, as it stands. To take on the machine, in the way that a poet takes on a complex meter.

The “Quiet Sun” and the not so Quiet

Eric has started blogging, and it is good to have one more voice in the sphere. I’m very happy when someone starts publically writing when before they hadn’t. Already his thoughts on Spinoza and Tarkovsky have provoked more thoughts. And looking forward to what else comes forward.

The Quiet Sun

Ktismatics and the Wooden Stake of Vampires

Ktismatics offers one of the most balanced and insightful takes on the recent uproar over K-punk, Levi and Graham’s attempt to isolate a particular kind of internet un-dead vermin. Really worth reading for any number of reasons.

“On Projects and Energy Suckers” 

Part of the Elegance…

Who are the grey vampires, sucking your energy away from your project? They differ depending on what phase your project is in. If you’re in the formative, nebulous, middle-distance phase, then anyone who keeps your focus either too broad or too narrow can be an energy-sucker. For example, the grad student with a domineering advisor is too easily sucked into becoming a disciple or acolyte rather than channeling his/her energy into exploring something distinct. Conversely, the domineering advisor can be sucked into complacency through the flattery of fawning admirers. Academe is good at promoting these sorts of codependency relationships. The underling grad student, in order to establish a distinct identity, may have to pursue a course of active resistance to established ideas and respected figures in order to break free, even if that means being perceived by these respected figures as a grey vampire. And the established advisor may have to resist his/her students’ admiration and support, even if in so doing the students feel rejected and consequently drained of energy.

For me the entire neighborhood squabble has been a product of a certain kind of intellectual arrogance — notably NOT a “human type” — that seems to drive those that think their thoughts essentially of a better quality or worth then the thoughts of those that question them. Ktismatics is responding to the recent characterization that Grey Vampires are those “without projects”…