[iDC] sentiment geeks and the social graph

Brian Holmes brian.holmes at aliceadsl.fr
Wed Oct 14 12:58:29 UTC 2009

Hello Mark -

Mark Edward Cote wrote:
> might there not be tremendous
> potential in considering the affective realm (neuroscientifically and
> otherwise) as a means to link the technico-juridical and the everyday
> experiences of work and play online?

It seems certain! After all, what else has art ever done? And why else 
did activism become artistic?

> this might help expose the real limitations of of all forms of analysis
> predicated on rational calculation, be it from the perspective of
> capital (i.e. there is lots of money to be made if we can just develop
> more sophisticated metrics of emotion--jodange, scout labs, et. al.) or
> from points of creative resistance (i.e. if people would only recognize
> the truly predatory nature of the networks in which they play, they
> would flee to more truly autonomous alternatives).

Rational calculation of what we are and what we should be has been a 
real problem in the Western societies... since the 17th century, but 
especially since the advent of cybernetically calculated environments. 
The question is how you work with affect, what you give people to feel, 
how that exists between us. It seems to me that in our societies the 
thing is always how to move towards autonomy, understood not as 
individual independence but as a group process, a form of social 
learning in environments that unfortunately are always a little bit 
untrustworthy. How to shape social affects? They can be cultivated but 
the cultivation is always more or less framed. In online situations we 
talk about affect, but since the user is so often physically alone it is 
still mainly a stimulus game, where signals touch off fantasy sequences 
and ego-emotions. I do think that copresence feels different, it is much 
easier to experience affect as something mobile, evolving in a state of 
betweenness. In online situations the artistic question is how to deal 
with all the framing, the coding, the specular relation between a me and 
a screen, how to overflow them.

> surely that capital is already pursuing multiple avenues for the parsing
> of the neuroscientific parameters of affect should be of no surprise nor
> a reason to dismiss it as a promising area for critical analysis.

Well, the field is undergoing some pretty amazing developments. But the 
question, What makes us tick? always remains quite different from, How 
could we make ourselves tick otherwise?

> at the conference, i hope to broadly engage this area, albeit from a
> very different trajectory. beginning from the premise that the human was
> always constitutive with technology, might not we not learn as much by a
> focus on the pre-rational and pre-discursive? in other words, what might
> affect tell us about the persistent conflation of play and work in
> current technological manifestations of sociality. more to the point,
> why is it that the experience of such work-play leaves it largely
> impervious to rational critique?

Undoubtedly because the worker-player is engaged with something vital to 
his-her-our existence, the mysterious "X" of subjectivity in time that 
psychoanalysts call desire. Scientists usually want to reduce it to some 
determinant, like a reflex arc of stimulus and response. I am curious 
how you approach it. Critique can be important to the cultivation and 
expression of desire, and at all kinds of levels it is too often absent. 
Still the most meaningful thing is how the affective-critical relation 
plays out, where it leads, what it makes possible.

best, Brian

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