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    Polytopia
    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    by Leon Tan and Tomas Skovgaard


    Mixed Reality Publics

    Networked publics are mixed reality assemblages, open social wholes hacked
    together from Internetworked virtual spaces and actual locales. Mixed reality is a
    companion concept to that of the networked publics, and for our purposes, refers to the
    re/mixing of virtual and actual lifeworlds resulting from the embedding of Internet and
    mobile technologies and networks into the fabric of actual territories and their ritual
    social activities. As a concept, mixed reality was coined by Paul Milgram and Fumio
    Kishino (1994), who proposed a ‘virtuality continuum’ defined by ‘real’ environments on
    one end and ‘virtual’ environments on the other. Their virtuality continuum, displayed in
    the first diagram, has become quite influential in theorizing virtual experiences, with
    over 800 citations to date. The opposition that they make between virtual and real is
    however, incorrect. Instead, as the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1988) argues, the virtual
    is not opposed to the real, but to the actual. The second diagram replaces Milgram &
    Kishino’s ontologically naive proposal with a mixed reality continuum in which reality
    spans both virtuals and actuals. A minor correction to be sure, but one which allows us
    to escape the strange position of misunderstanding virtuality as deprived of/lacking
    reality in some way.



    Virtual Communication Topologies

    Communications topologies are key virtual components of the networked publics.
    A communications topology consists of “structures of links and nodes - rather than
    locations” (Adams, 2009: 69). It is a dynamic virtual space that connects human and
    inorganic machines through communication, regardless of geophysical location. We can
    think of such topologies as ‘informational milieus’ as Terranova (2004) proposes,
    immaterial neighborhoods composed by the circulation of linguistic and non-linguistic
    ideas. Linguistic ideas take the form of propositions as well as propositional attitudes,
    namely beliefs and desires. Non-linguistic ideas may be visual or aural, an idea of a face
    and an idea of its voice for example. Both kinds of ideas may be considered ‘currencies’
    in the informational milieus composed by Internetworking. They extend into “systems
    of action intended to change the world” (Gell, 1998: 6) largely by stimulating the
    production of what the philosopher David Hume (1977) called ‘impressions,’ secondary
    passions including pleasures and pains as well as "love and hatred, grief and joy, pride
    and humility" (Vol. II, p. 4). Passions are the variables that most influence the pursuit of
    desired ends, and are for this reason, the moving force behind social processes. The
    online circulation of ideas enables individuals to form affective links not only with each
    other but also with local spaces, architectures, events and circumstances. For our
    purposes, “topological spaces are lived spaces, that is, they are built and maintained,
    liked or disliked, invested with desire, fear, or other emotions, and they form contexts
    for the formation of subjectivity and social interaction.” (Adams, 2009: 70)

    Networked Crisis: Globalizing Political-Economic Contention

    According to the economic historian Fernand Braudel (1977), capitalist
    organizations and a roll call of hegemonic nations ‘globalized’ themselves at an early age,
    their command over long distance trade and capital enabling such institutions to deal
    with the problem of resource dependencies through elimination and vertical integration,
    and to gain an upper hand in claims-making in relation to small-scale and relatively
    powerless economic actors. As Braudel writes:

    At an early date, from the very beginning, they went beyond ‘national’ boundaries and were in touch with merchants in foreign commercial centers. These men knew a thousand ways of rigging the odds in their favor: the manipulation of credit and the profitable game of good money for bad... Who could doubt that these capitalists had monopolies at their disposal or that they simply had the power needed to eliminate competition nine times out of ten? (p. 57).


    Internetworked communications topologies of the last decade however, bring with
    them significant changes in the capacity of small-scale actors to express claims, giving
    rise to globalized waves of political-economic contention. Consider for instance, the
    recent eruption of claims-making in the form of The Pirate Bay (TPB) and so-called
    ‘media piracy,’ disrupting/eroding the prevailing claims (distribution models and revenue
    streams) of media oligopolies, and stimulating transformations in world markets. Despite
    the ruling of the Swedish courts against TPB organizers in 2009, TPB is still operating
    thanks to the global distribution of its component servers and users.

    Internetworked topologies also make possible the ad hoc formation of
    transnational political constituencies, enabling intensifications of claims-making anywhere
    in the online world economy. TPB related claims making for example, increased
    dramatically in the hours following the court ruling against TPB, leading to a surge in
    numbers for a loosely related Piratpartiet (Pirate Party), just in time to gain the fledgling
    party a seat in the European Parliament in 2009. The political success of Piratpartiet has
    since inspired a global pirate movement with official parties registered in states as
    diverse as Australia, Canada, Argentina, UK, France, Spain, Austria, Finland, Denmark
    and Belgium. As another example, the 2008 Beijing Olympics provided the perfect
    opportunity for pro-Tibetan activists to mobilize groups in different locations into a
    coordinated global wave of political claims-making demanding changes in Sino-Tibetan
    relations. Finally, terrorist organizations demonstrate how loosely knit collectives may
    rapidly reconstitute themselves as ‘terror cells’ in any city in the world with little or no
    forewarning and catastrophic consequences. Transnational assemblages such as these
    are endemic to the networked city. They may be considered ‘autonomous zones’ (Bey,
    1985) or ‘strategic sovereigns’ (Andersson, 2009), whose claims expressed online and
    offline have become exceedingly difficult to anticipate, control and censor. The
    networked publics are for this reason characterized by major institutions are in perpetual crisis, as
    claims-making and contention exceed and short circuit geopolitically bound legislative
    frameworks and established lines and arrangements of power.

    At the same time, the existence of power nodes or hubs in virtual topologies
    must not be neglected. Such nodes are immediately visible in network visualizations –
    they are the ones with an enormous number of connections. Search engines such as
    Google and major news websites such as The New York Times or the BBC are good
    examples of power nodes. By virtue of their centrality in many networks, such nodes
    may often function as opinion homogenizing machines. As DeLanda (2005) explains:
    “The overall effect of mass newspapers and news agencies was homogenizing.
    Newspapers aimed their presentation to the lowest common denominator, while news
    agencies attempted to create a product that would be acceptable to all their
    subscribers…” (p. 244). Combined with the global reach of the Internet, such
    homogenizing machines may exert formidable subjectivating pressures on vulnerable
    individuals. Nevertheless, the affordances of Internetworked topologies appear
    considerably greater for collectives of small-scale actors than for institutions on the side
    of prevailing power. According to Peter Evans’ (2008) analysis, such collectives may
    contribute to a kind of ‘counter-hegemonic globalization’ that redresses problems of
    ‘neo-liberal globalization,’ in particular, “failures to deliver social protection and collective
    goods” (p. 277).

    The networked publics are no utopia. It is an intensification of real
    informational/communicational flows traversing the online world economy, inspiring a
    turbulent remixing of virtual topologies with actual sites and circumstances. To survive
    the perpetual crises and cycles of contention in the networked city, one becomes a
    reality jockey (RJ). Learning from DJs and VJs, the RJ remixes virtuals and actuals in a
    pragmatic mode concerned only with whether or not things ‘work.’ Like DJs and VJs,
    the RJ is sensitive to its audiences or ‘publics’ and understands the importance of visual
    and aural ideas in affecting individual experiences and social interactions. The RJ is also
    acutely aware of the linguistic ideas over/coding the territories s/he belongs to,
    especially those ideas given by prevailing legislative frameworks, and attuned to
    opportunities for evasion and strategic manipulation. Immersed in globalized flows, the
    RJ has highly developed filters, and is able to rapidly sift through marketing and
    ideological ‘noise’ to yield information of relevance to the circumstances. Likely
    belonging to multiple transnational communities, the RJ is not attached to local
    nationalisms but instead has multiple neighborhoods to hand wherever ‘home’ happens
    to be. It is not as though actual places diminish in importance however, but rather that
    communications topologies gain a measure of autonomy from geopolitical moorings.
    The resulting upheaval is the RJ’s native milieu and hunting ground; networked crisis is a maelstorm of worlds and people to come.

    Authors

    Leon Tan (PhD, Auckland) is an independent art and media historian based in Sweden.
    His research focuses on Internet media, mixed/augmented reality and cultural studies.

    Tomas Skovgaard (arch.maa, Copenhagen) is an independent architect interested in
    digitalisation, communication and Internet media, theory vs practice.

    References

    Andersson, J. (2009). For the good of the Net: The Pirate Bay as a strategic sovereign.
    Culture Machine, 10.

    Bey, H. (1985). T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic
    Terrorism. New York: Autonomedia.

    Braudel, F. (1977). Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. Baltimore: Johns
    Hopkins University Press.

    DeLanda, M. (2005). A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. New York: Zone Books.

    Deleuze, G. (1988). Bergsonism. New York: Zone Books.

    Evans, P. (2008). Is an alternative globalization possible? Politics and Society, 36(2), 271-
    305.

    Gell, A. (1998). Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Oxford University
    Press.

    Hume, D. (1977). A Treatise of Human Nature. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

    Milgram, P., & Kishino, A. F. (1994). Taxonomy of mixed-reality visual displays. IEICE
    Transactions on Information and Systems, E77-D(12), 1321-1329.

    Terranova, T. (2004). Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age. London: Pluto
    Press.


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    “A philosopher’s ontology is the set of entities he or she assumes to exist in reality, the types of entities he or she is committed to assert actually exist. Although in the history of philosophy there are a great variety of ontological commitments, we can very roughly classify these into three main groups. For some philosophers reality has no existence independently from the human mind that perceives it, so their ontology consists mostly of mental entities, whether these are thought as transcendent objects or, on the contrary, as linguistic representations or social conventions. Other philosophers grant to the objects of everyday experience a mind independent existence, but remain unconvinced that theoretical entities, whether unobservable relations such as physical causes, or unobservable entities such as electrons, possess such an ontological autonomy. Finally, there are philosophers who grant reality full autonomy from the human mind, disregarding the difference between the observable and the unobservable and the anthropocentrism this distinction implies. These philosophers are said to have a realist ontology. Deleuze is such a realist philosopher, a fact that by itself should distinguish him from most post-modern philosophies which remain basically non-realist.

    Realist philosophers, on the other hand, need not agree about the contents of this mind-independent reality. In particular, Deleuze rejects several of the entities taken for granted in ordinary forms of realism . To take the most obvious example, in some realist approaches the world is thought to be composed of fully formed objects whose identity is guaranteed by their possession of an essence, a core set of properties that defines what these objects are. Deleuze is not a realist about essences, or any other transcendent entity, so in his philosophy something else is needed to explain what gives objects their identity and what preserves this identity through time. Briefly, this something else is dynamical processes. Some of these processes are material and energetic, some are not, but even the latter remain immanent to the world of matter and energy. Thus, Deleuze’s process ontology breaks with the essentialism that characterizes naive realism and, simultaneously. removes one of the main objections that non-realists make against the postulation of an autonomous reality.”

    (Manuel DeLanda: IS&VP pp. 2-3)
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    by Manuel DeLanda

    One constant in the history of Western philosophy seems to be a certain conception of matter as an inert receptacle for forms that come from the outside. In other words, the genesis of form and structure seems to always involve resources that go beyond the capabilities of the material substratum of these forms and structures. In some cases, these resources are explicitly transcendental, eternal essences defining forms which are imposed on infertile materials. The clearest example of this theory of form is, of course, religious Creationism, in which form begins as an idea in God’s mind, and is then imposed by a command on an obedient and docile matter. But more serious examples also exist. In ancient philosophies Aristotle’s essences seem to fit this pattern, as do those that inhabit Platonist heavens. And although classical physics began with a clean break with Aristotelian philosophy, and did endow matter with some spontaneous behavior (e.g. inertia), it reduced the variability and richness of material expression to the concept of mass, and studied only the simplest material systems (frictionless planetary dynamics, ideal gases) where spontaneous self-generation of form does not ocurr, thus always keeping some transcendental agency hidden in the background.

    Yet, as Gilles Deleuze has shown in his work on Spinoza, not every Western philosopher has taken this stance. In Spinoza, Deleuze discovers another possibility: that the resources involved in the genesis of form are not transcendental but immanent to matter itself. A simple example should suffice to illustrate this point. The simplest type of immanent resource for morphogenesis seems to be endogenously-generated stable states. Historically, the first such states to be discovered by scientists studying the behavior of matter (gases) were energy minima (or correspondingly, entropy maxima). The spherical form of a soap bubble, for instance, emerges out of the interactions among its constituent molecules as these are constrained energetically to “seek” the point at which surface tension is minimized. In this case, there is no question of an essence of “soap-bubbleness” somehow imposing itself from the outside, an ideal geometric form (a sphere) shaping an inert collection of molecules. Rather, an endogenous topological form (a point in the space of energetic possibilities for this molecular assemblage) governs the collective behavior of the individual soap molecules, and results in the emergence of a spherical shape.

    Moreover, the same topological form, the same minimal point, can guide the processes that generates many other geometrical forms. For example, if instead of molecules of soap we have the atomic components of an ordinary salt crystal, the form that emerges from minimizing energy (bonding energy in this case) is a cube. In other words, one and the same topological form can guide the morphogenesis of a variety of geometrical forms. A similar point applies to other topological forms which inhabit these spaces of energetic possibilities. For example, these spaces may contain closed loops (technically called “limit cycles” or “periodic attractors”). In this case the several possible physical instantiations of this space will all display isomorphic behavior: an endogenously generated tendency to oscillate in a stable way. Whether one is dealing with a socio-technological structure (such as a radio transmitter or a radar machine), a biological one (a cyclic metabolism), or a physical one (a convection cell in the atmosphere), it is one and the same immanent resource that is involved in their different oscillating behavior.

    Since this is a crucial issue in Deleuze’s philosophy let me explain this point in a little more detail. Deleuze calls this ability of topological forms to give rise to many different physical instantiations, a process of “divergent actualization”, taking the idea from French philosopher Henri Bergson who, at the turn of the century, wrote a series of texts where he criticized the inability of the science of his time to think the new, the truly novel. The first obstacle was, according to Bergson, a mechanical and linear view of causality and the rigid determinism that it implied. Clearly, if all the future is already given in the past, if the future is merely that modality of time where previously determined possibilities become realized, then true innovation is impossible. To avoid this mistake, he thought, we must struggle to model the future as truly open ended, and the past and the present as pregnant not only with possibilities which become real, but with virtualities which become actual.

    The distinction between the possible and the real, assumes a set of predefined forms (or essences) which aquire physical reality as material forms that resemble them. From the morphogenetic point of view, realizing a possibility does not add anything to a predefined form, except reality. The distinction between the virtual and the actual, on the other hand, does not involve resemblance of any kind (e.g. our example above, in which a topological point becomes a geometrical sphere) and far from constituting the essential identity of a form, it subverts identity, since now forms as different as spheres and cubes emerge from the same topological point. To quote from what is probably his most important book, “Difference and Repetition”:

    “Actualization breaks with resemblance as a process no less than it does with identity as a principle. In this sense, actualization or differenciation is always a genuine creation.”

    And Deleuze goes on to discuss processes of actualization more complex than bubbles or crystals, processes such as embryogenesis, the development of a fully differenciated organism starting from a single cell. In this case, the space of energetic possibilities is more elaborate, involving many topological forms governing complex spatio-temporal dynamisms:

    “How does actualization ocurr in things themselves?…Beneath the actual qualities and extensities [of things themselves] there are spatio-temporal dynamisms. They must be surveyed in every domain, even though they are ordinarly hidden by the constituted qualities and extensities. Embryology shows that the division of the egg is secondary in relation to more significant morphogenetic movements: the augmentation of free surfaces, stretching of cellullar layers, invagination by folding, regional displacement of groups. A whole kinimatics of the egg appears which implies a dynamic”.

    In “Difference and Repetition”, Deleuze repeatedly makes use of these “spaces of energetic possibilities” (technically refered to as “state spaces” or “phase spaces”), and of the topological forms (or “singularities”) that shape these spaces. Since these ideas reappear in his later work, and since both the concept of “phase space” and that of “singularity” belong to mathematics, it is safe to say that a crucial component of Deleuzian thought comes from the philosophy of mathematics. And, indeed, chapter four of “Difference and Repetition” is a meditation on the metaphysics of the differential and integral calculus. On the other hand, given that “phase spaces” and “singularities” become physically significant only in relation to material systems which are traversed by a strong flow of energy, Deleuze philosophy is also intimately related to that branch of physics which deals with material and energetic flows, that is, with thermodynamics. And, indeed, chapter five of “Difference and Repetition” is a philosophical critique of nineteenth century thermodynamics, an attempt to recover from that discipline some of the key concepts needed for a theory of immanent morphogenesis.

    At the beginning of that chapter, Deleuze introduces some key distinctions that will figure prominently in his later work, specifically the concept of “intensity”, but more importantly, he reveals in the very first page his ontological commitments. It is traditional since Kant to distinguish between the world as it appears to us humans, that is, the world of phenomena or appereances, and the world as it exists by itself, regardless of whether there is a human observer to interact with it. This world “in itself” is refered to as “nuoumena”. A large number of contemporary thinkers, particularly those that call themselves “postmodernists”, do not believe in nuomena. For them the world is socially constructed, hence, all it contains is linguistically-defined phenomena. Notice that even though many of these thinkers declare themselves “anti-essentialist”, they share with essentialism a view of matter as an inert material, only in their case form does not come from a Platonic heaven, or from the mind of God, but from the minds of humans (or from cultural conventions expressed linguistically). The world is amorphous, and we cut it out into forms using language. Nothing could be further from Deleuzian thought than this postmodern linguistic relativism. Deleuze is indeed a realist philosopher, who not only believes in the autonomous existance of actual forms (the forms of rocks, plants, animals and so on) but in the existance of virtual forms. In the first few lines of chapter five of “Difference and Repetition”, where Deleuze introduces the notion of “intensity” as a key to understand the actualization of virtual forms, he writes:

    “Difference is not diversity. Diversity is given, but difference is that by which the given is given…Difference is not phenomenon but the nuoumenon closest to the phenomenon…Every phenomenon refers to an inequality by which it is conditioned…Everything which happens and everything which appears is correlated with orders of differences: differences of level, temperature, pressure, tension, potential, difference of intensity”. {2}

    Let me illustrate this idea with a familiar example from thermodynamics. If one creates a container separated into two compartments, and one fills one compartment with cold air and the other with hot air, one thereby creates a system embodying a difference in intensity, the intensity in this case being temperature. If one then opens a small hole in the wall dividing the compartments, the intensity difference causes the onset of a spontaneous flow of air from one side to the other. It is in this sense that intensity differences are morphogenetic, even if in this case the form that emerges is too simple. The examples above of the soap bubble and the salt crystal, as well as the more complex foldings and stretchings undergone by an embryo, are generated by similar principles. However, in the page following the quote above, Deleuze argues that, despite this important insight, nineteenth century thermodynamics cannot provide the foundation he needs for a philosophy of matter. Why? Because that branch of physics became obsessed with the final equilibrium forms, at the expense of the difference-driven morphogenetic process which gives rise to those forms. But as Deleuze argues, the role of virtual singularities can only be grasped during the process of morphogenesis, that is, before the final form is actualized, before the difference dissapears.

    This shortcoming of nineteenth century thermodynamics, to overlook the role of intensity differences in morphogenesis, to concentrate on the equlibrium form that emerges only once the original difference has been cancelled, has today been repaired in the latest version of this branch of physics, appropriatedly labeled “far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics”. Although Deleuze does not explicitly refer to this new branch of science, it is clear that far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics meets all the objections which he raises against its nineteenth century counterpart. In particular, the systems studied in this new discipline are continuously traversed by a strong flow of energy and matter, a flow which does not allow the differences in intensity to be cancelled, that is, maintains these differences and keeps them from cancelling themselves. It is only in these far-from-equilibrium conditions that the full variety of immanent topological forms appears (steady state, cyclic or chaotic attractors). It is only in this zone of intensity that difference-driven morphogenesis comes into its own, and that matter becomes an active material agent, one which does not need form to come and impose itself from the outside. To return once more to the example of the developing embryo, the DNA that governs the process does not contain, as it was once believed, a blueprint for the generation of the final form of the organism, an idea that implies an inert matter to which genes give form from the outside. The modern understanding of the procesess, on the other hand, pictures genes as teasing out a form out of an active matter, that is, the function of genes and their products as now seen as merely constraining and channeling a variety of material processes, ocurring in that far-from-equlibrium zone, in which form emerges spontaneously.

    To complete my characterization of Deleuze theory of the genesis of form, I would like to explore the way in which his more recent work (in collaboration with Felix Guattari) has extended these basic ideas, greatly increasing the kind of immanent resources that are available to matter for the creation of form. In particular, in their joint book “A Thousand Plateaus”, they develop theories of the genesis of two very important types of structures, to which they refer with the terms “strata” and “self-consistent aggregates” (or alternatively “trees” and “rhizomes”). Basically, strata emerge from the articulation of homogeneous elements, whereas self-consistent aggregates emerge from the articulation of heterogeneous elements as such. {3}

    Both processes display the same “divergent actualization” which characterized the simpler processes behind the formation of soap bubbles and salt crystals. In other words, in both processes we have a virtual form (or abstract machine, as they now call it) underlying the isomorphism of the resultant actual forms. Let’s begin by briefly describing the process behind the genesis of geological strata, or more specifically, of sedimentary rock, such as sandstone or limestone. When one looks closely at the layers of rock in an exposed mountain side, one striking characteristic is that each layer contains further layers, each composed of small pebbles which are nearly homogeneous with respect to size,shape and chemical composition. It is these layers that are referred to as “strata”.

    Now, given that pebbles in nature do not come in standard sizes and shapes, some kind of sorting mechanism seems to be needed to explain this highly improbable distribution, some specific device which takes a multiplicity of pebbles of heterogeneous qualities and distributes them into more or less uniform layers. One possibility uncovered by geologists involves rivers acting as sorting machines. Rivers transport rocky materials from their point of origin to the place in the ocean where these materials will accumulate. In this process, pebbles of variable size, weight and shape tend to react differently to the water transporting them. These different reactions to moving water are what sorts out the pebbles, with the small ones reaching the ocean sooner than the large ones. This process is called “sedimentation”. Besides sedimentation, a second operation is necessary to transform these loose collections of pebbles into a larger scale entity: a sedimentary rock. This operation consists in cementing the sorted components, an operation carried out by certain substances dissolved in water which penetrate the sediment through the pores between pebbles. As this percolating solution crystallizes, it consolidates the pebble’s temporary spatial relations into a more or less permanent “architectonic” structure.

    These double articulation, sorting and consolidation, can also be found in biological species. Species form through the slow accumulation of genetic materials. Genes, of course, do not merely deposit at random but are sorted out by a variety of selection pressures which include climate, the action of predators and parasites and the effects of male or female choice during mating. Thus, in a very real sense, genetic materials “sediment” just as pebbles do. Furthermore, these loose collections of genes can (like sedimented pebbles) be lost under some drastically changed conditions (such as the onset of an Ice age) unless they become consolidated together. This second operation is performed by “reproductive isolation”, that is, by the closure of a gene pool which occurs when a given subset of a reproductive community, becomes incapable of mating with the rest. Through selective accumulation and isolative consolidation, a population of individual organisms comes to form a larger scale entity: a new individual species.

    We can also find these two operations (and hence, this virtual diagram) in the formation of social classes. Roughly, we speak of “social strata” whenever a given society presents a variety of differentiated roles to which not everyone has equal access, and when a subset of those roles (i.e. those to which a ruling elite alone has access) involves the control of key energetic and material resources. In most societies roles tend to “sediment” through a variety of sorting or ranking mechanisms, yet not in all of them ranks become an autonomous dimension of social organization. In many societies differentiation of the elites is not extensive (they do not form a center while the rest of the population forms an excluded periphery), surpluses do not accumulate (they may be destroyed in ritual feasts), and primordial relations (of kin and local alliances) tend to prevail. Hence a second operation is necessary: the informal sorting criteria need to be given a theological interpretation and a legal definition. In short, to transform a loose ranked accumulation of traditional roles into a social class, the social sedimement needs to become consolidated via theological and legal codification. {8}

    Is there also a virtual diagram behind the genesis of meshworks? In the model proposed by Deleuze and Guattari, there are three elements in this other virtual diagram, of which two are particularly important. First, a set of heterogeneous elements is brought together via an articulation of superpositions , that is, an interconnection of diverse but overlapping elements. And second, a special class of operators, or intercallary elements, is needed to effect this interlock via local connections. Is it possible to find instances of this diagram in geology, biology and sociology? Perhaps the clearest example is that of an ecosystem . While a species may be a very homogeneous structure, an ecosystem links together a wide variety of heterogeneous elements (animals and plants of different species) which are articulated through interlock, that is, by their functional complementarities. Since one of the main features of ecosystems is the circulation of energy and matter in the form of food, the complementarities in question are alimentary: prey-predator or parasite-host being two of the most common. In this situation, symbiotic relations can act as intercallary elements aiding the process of building food webs by establishing local couplings. Examples include the bacteria that live in the guts of many animals allowing them to digest their food, or the fungi and other microorganisms which form the “rhizosphere”, the underground food chains which interconnect plant roots and soil.

    The world of geology also has actualizations of these virtual operations, a good example being that of igneous rocks. Unlike sandstone, igneous rocks such as granite are not the result of sedimentation and cementation, but the product of a very different construction process forming directly out of cooling magma. As magma cools down its different elements begin to separate as they crystallize in sequence, those that solidify earlier serving as containers for those which acquire a crystal form later. In these circumstances the result is a complex set of heterogeneous crystals which interlock with one another, and this is what gives granite its superior strength. Here the intercallary elements include anything which brings about local articulations from within the crystals, including nucleation centers and certain line defects called dislocations, as well as local articulation between crystals, such as events ocurring at the interface between liquids and solids. Thus, granite may be said to be an instance of a meshwork.

    In the socio-economic sphere, pre-capitalist markets may be considered examples of cultural meshworks. In many cultures weekly markets have traditionally been the meeting place for people with heterogeneous needs and offers. Markets connect people by matching complementary demands, that is, by interlocking them on the basis of their needs and offers. Money (even primitive money such as salt blocks or cowry shells) may be said to perform the function of intercallary element: while with pure barter the possibility of two exactly matching demands meeting by chance is very low, when money is present those chance encounters become unnecessary, and complementary demands may find each other at a distance, so to speak.

    Thus, much as sandstone, animal species and social classes may be said to be divergent actualizations of a virtual process of “double articulation” which brings homogenous components together, granite, ecosystems and markets are actualizations of a virtual process which links heterogenous elements through interlock and intercalation. These virtual processes are, according to Deleuze, perfectly real, a real virtuality which has nothing to do with what we call virtual reality. And yet, because this real virtuality constitutes the nuomenal machinery behind the phenomena, that is, behind reality as it appears to us humans, because this real virtuality governs the genesis of all real forms, it cannot help but be related to virtual realities, not only those created by computer simulations, but also by novelists, filmmakers, painters and musicians. Deleuze’s work is, from the beginning, concerned as much with physics and mathematics, as it is with art. But it seems to me, only when we understand the Deleuzian world of material and energetic flows, and the forms that emerge spontaneously in these flows, can we begin to ask “what is a novel or a painting or a piece of music” in this world? In other words, the movement should be from a rich material world pregnant with virtualities, to literature or art, and not from literature (and texts, discourses, metaphors) to a socially constructed world where matter has once again, become an inert receptacle for external forms. It is in this sense, that Deleuze’s work constitutes a true challenge to language-obsessed postmodernism, a neomaterialism which promises to enrich the conceptual reservoirs of both science and art and that one day could lead to a complete reconceptualization of our history as well as of our alternatives for the future.~
    Mon, Oct 5, 2009  Permanent link

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