[iDC] Off Topic? Not really...

Snafu snafu at thething.it
Thu Dec 23 15:12:24 UTC 2010

On 12/19/10 11:08 PM, Brian Holmes wrote:
> The political question is how to
> set up forms and rhtyhms of exchange that twist away from the dominant
> patterns of social interaction that isolate people, that wall them up in
> their poverty or their privileges?
> Like Snafu (and I guess, Samuel Webber) I wrote a text about that,
> focusing not so much on stories per se (though I agree they are
> important) as on the visual cues, machinic protocols, ethical principles
> and philosophical/metaphysical horizons that structure a networking
> relation and keep it coherent over distance and time. Drawing on Knorr
> Cetina's work among others, I wanted to suggest that there have been and
> will continue to be rival strategies for collective self-fashioning in
> the informational era:
> http://brianholmes.wordpress.com/2007/07/21/swarmachine

Brian, thanks for linking this article. I read it and found this 
interesting passage:

"Knorr Cetina stresses the importance of real-time coordination and the 
creation of shared horizons. She shows how networked ICTs allow distant 
participants to see and recognize each other, and to achieve cohesion by 
observing and commenting on the same events at the same time.Yet the 
technology employed is used opportunistically, it can be "outsourced." 
What matters is the system of goals or beliefs that binds the 
participants together. She reinterprets the usual view of networks as a 
system of pipes conveying informational contents, insisting instead on 
their visual function: there is a shift from "pipes" to "scopes." It is 
the experience of the mediated image that maintains the shared horizon 
and insists on the urgency of acting within it, especially through what 
Barthes called the /punctum/ : the affective register that leaps out 
from the general dull flatness of the image and touches you."

This idea that the affective register is what enables individuals to 
break the wall of isolation is a powerful one in that it forces us to 
think the task of organizing a network as a process that is not entirely 
rational. Barthes writes that the punctum, "that which pierces the 
viewer," differs from the studium--a merely analytical perspective on 
the world--because of its subjective character. While the picture of my 
mom evokes specific feelings in me, it is just the picture of a woman to 
a stranger. Now, it seems to me that when we ask what holds a network 
together, affect, desire, and subjective experience become essential to 
inform structures that cannot be formally described and encased in 
standardized patterns. Luther Blissett's mutliple-use name strategy was 
aimed at reaching a precarious balance between an image or narrative 
that pierces you as soon as you realize that Luther Blissett demands 
your participation and the more rational understanding that everyone can 
be Luther Blissett--a process of becoming other.

In Precarious Rhapsody, Franco Berardi "Bifo" distinguishes between 
bodily *conjunction* as an asignifying process of becoming other and 
digital *connection* as a relationship between parts that have been 
formatted and standardized in order to be interoperable and function 

"Conjunction--writes Bifo--is the encounter and fusion of rounded 
irregular forms
that infiltrate in an imprecise, unrepeatable, imperfect, continuous way.
Connection is the punctual and repeatable interaction of algorithmic
functions, of straight lines and points that can be perfectly superimposed
onto each other, inserting and detaching themselves according to discrete
modalities of interaction. Modalities that establish a compatibility
between diverse parts according to predetermined standards. The 
of communicative processes produces a sort of desensitization
to the curve, to continuous processes of slow becoming, and a corresponding
sensitization to code, sudden changes of state and the succession of
discrete signs."

 From this point of view, the art of networking can be understood as an 
art of conjoining that exceeds the smooth functioning and articulation 
of a network's parts. For instance in a truly networked narrative 
narrator and narratee can both insert themselves in the story as 
characters. This means that the story allows for a certain degree of 
unpredictability. At the same time, activist narratives present 
recurring patterns--such as the existence of a power imbalance, an 
antagonistic relationship between more and less powerful subjects, and 
the deployment of a participatory strategy--that prevent the story from 
floating in a space of absolute indeterminacy. The political question of 
how a distributed network is to be organized lies for me in the tension 
between what the single nodes can do and what the network can do as a 
singularity, i.e. an assemblage characterized by the proliferation of 

If we adopt Bifo's perspective, we may say that a truly activist 
narrative cannot confine itself to the Internet but has to be able to 
generate an experiential shift--a shift that far from being purely 
semantic or syntactic has to be grounded in a bodily shift in 
sensitivity. In this respect, I am wondering whether the new cycle of 
student struggles that is emerging out of many European countries 
(especially Italy, Greece, and the UK) may mark the beginning of a new 
generational shift in sensitivity. You have probably seen the video of 
this 15-year old at the national conference of the Coalition of 
Resistance in Camden:


What is really powerful about this video is not so much what the young 
Rodney says but the way he says it--a new way of experiencing the world. 
He tells a story, a story in which he inserts himself and that is at the 
same time the story of a new generation of activists who have started 
seeing the world anew.

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