Thursday, August 21, 2008


Pseudo-interaction is when we do something and a machine is constrained to respond. True interaction occurs when a machine responds autonomously.

(This is the minimum we expect of interpersonal interaction)

synthetic animation

a) distinguish synthetic animation from indexical animation. In indexical animation, there is a source, a data-stream, which the infographic animates as a representation. In synthetic animation the source is a series of gestures which are read as commands
b) a synthetic animation is a record of gesture-commands which erases its own history in the concluding command 'Flatten layers'

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Democracy and affect

Democratisation would appear to imply standardisation: for everyone to enjoy luxuries, they have to be mass produced. The secrets of the great masters remain safe (Rembrandt's blacks, memling's azure), as they always were, the proprietary knowledge of an arcane guild system. Such too remains the case, as I learned in conversation with Elaine Shemilt, in the field of silk-screen printers' inks, and such may well be the case with with certain digital photographic printing techniques.

A different case holds for something like Rhythm 'n' Hues' fur algorithm: available for the use of only the top-end productions (Narnia, Kong), but as end-product democratically available to anyone who cares to watch the movies featuring it.

Democratisation means we all get a taste of luxury, but a luxury which travels in two directions and is devalued in each. In one, we plebs get access to the RnH fur algorithm in KK and Lion Witch; in the other, high culture loots the supermarkets of the popular, and discovers in varieties of pop and neo-pop (Paolozzi, Koons, yBa) only an inauthenticity.

What happens now – 2008 – is something like this.
A: migrants and the reserve army of the un- or/ marginally employed suffer the precariousness of life at the edge, and develop cultural forms to see them through the experience
B: a parallel experience occurs - but with far less risk of loss of life or liberty - as old professionals and skilled working class are managerialised, and as older patronage systems are replaced by markets
C: in this new displacement, not only does the old bourgeois culture no longer offer the same securities; but subjectivity, which has always been its its key product since the invention of the novel, evaporates as a centring repository of experience
D: At this juncture the newly managerialised "precariat" upload the cultural forms of the truly disprivileged]

The lost authenticity of experience among the cosmopolitan elite, as the social fraction which most feeds the cultural system of the newly managerialised, is replaced by the loot from the underclass: suburban boys listening to hip hop. This falsely assumed authenticity, which in its assumption becomes ironic and inauthentic, becomes the new high culture. That high neo-pop aesthetic is then democratised back to those from whom it was expropriated in the first place.

The evacuation of subjectivity is a result of its invention, in Romanticism and the 18th-19th century novel, and its industrialisation in Hollywood and Tin pan Alley. This triumphal subjject, theorised in depth from hegel to Husserl, is the terminus ad quem, the end to which experience tends, the locus therefore of truth. But it is the under-remarked fact that this subject had to be invented, and more specifically the social consequence sof its invention, that eventually betrays those who have bought into it most deeply: the middle class and the labour aristocracy. These were the ones who had the deepest buy-in to colonisation, as Wallerstein argues, but also into a worldview which their masters did not need to believe, merely to promulgate. This was the class or social fraction that bought in to subjectivity without irony, and as a result are the most betrayed by its collapse when it becomes clewar that they are not valued for their subjectivity but for their functions. This is the class that receives and delivers Gauri Viswanathan's Eng Lit, Angel Rama's myth of the enlightened mestizaje.

The myth of subjectivity is premised on its initial construction. Whatever raw materials pre-exist this modern subject, their construction as that subject turned out to be the very ones required to turn it into a commodity, or rather to be the terminal point for the consumption of subjectivities, which could now be manufactured on demand, and in increasing numbers, but according to only a most primitive roster of affective states. It is these states that are the nub of the standardisation of democracy as surrogacy and as inauthenticity. Perhaps the most alluring of all such states is the most intrinsically contradictory: the popularisation of the aristocratic attitude that Wyndham Lewis ascribed to Nietzsche. Today that emerges as the democratisation of elitism, where elitism is the state of mind that looks down from a height on the little people, a vantage which is promulgated through the worst and best of our fictions, from Troy to The Wire.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Our technologies are decreasingly isolable. They demand energy grids or other forms of consumables (oil, proteins), and articulate with expensive and energy-intensive networks (railways, roads – as an oil source, asphalt will rapidly become a site of competition between road builders and road users, its price growing from 37 cents a litre in January to over 55 cents in June and nearly 68 cents on 1st July 2008 and almost 25 per cent over the year). A car without a road is only marginally less conceivable than a computer without a network, or a human without a society.