Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crisis in the meaning of meaning

Meaning was the once-natural sequence of being, knowing, interpreting, judging, willing and acting . It is this sequence which no longer operates as it did in earlier times.

The nature of being is de-natured when things are no longer simply themselves but monetary values, signs, status symbols.

Knowing is no longer definite but probabilistic.

Interpretation depends on knowledge, but when knowledge is subsumed into data, it is no longer known but, like data, processed.

True judgement occurs when I take responsibility for my action but that responsibility is removed when my every action has been modelled for its statistical likelihood.

Willing requires individual agency, but that agency dissolves in the mass-modelling of scenarios and the management of lifestyles.

Action is in crisis as a result of the sheer scale of the tasks facing us in a globalised network. And probability and complexity disrupt the foresight on which we can plan the effects of acting.

The immersive spectacle of the early 21st century is a response to these changes. So too is the development of the lo-res solution, in which the illusion of individuality and individual agency is imposed through the isolation of the individualised interface in order to produce a normative and mass replication of noise. Like Reality TV, whose selection of idiosyncratic and eccentric contestants is there to demonstrate that after all we are all individuals, mobile media divide in the interests of maintaining the fictive individual as the basic unit of consumption and social aggregation. Slack-jawed submission to blockbuster effects from Las Vegas to the Sydney Olympics substitutes for having a place in a world. Our fragile, ephemeral communities of contact lists are meant to substitute for the complex networks of kinship and locality that we have lost.

It is ironic that in this new age of biopolitics, we no longer hear the hundred-year old discourse about the crowd, and that, at the moment at which meaning evaporates, we devote ourselves to . . . psychology!


jeremy said...

hmm, interpretation relies on knowledge for context and inference, but primarily relies on sensory data

I would say being-experiencing-interpreting-knowing.

judging maps onto interpreting as the comparative faculty. interpreting is about deriving meaning, judging is about deriving differences.

so to judge things in the world we need meaning already.

willing is nonsense, the will is at best a fiction contrived. the geneology of 'will' I think reveals that it is a construction to provide for a certain form of domination that you can't have without the will, which is a domination centered on the interpretation of others and relating to a construction of fear in of transcendent objects, the will is necessary of the will of the other cannot be diffused without the trumpcard of future fear.

Knowledge isn't subsumed into data. Data is merely empirical evidence and its related abstractions. It is that which represents that which is. Knowledge is on one level, 'that which is' and on another level it is the 'sense of the data' or ways of meaning-making.

I don't get the history of your use of judgment. Have you read Onara Oneil's book on kant's judgment?

Agency is again 'nonsense'. It only means 'things act' it is not a property that is possessed, it is just what everything is. To say that x has agency is to say that x is. In a world with beings that interpret that world, everything has agency, as everything interacts with us. And as we know, existence is not a predicate, and from that agency is not a predicate, nor a property, it is just a state of being.

Judgment occurs when you have at least two things that can be compared. If they cannot be compared, then those things are non-commensurate. here i turn to Nietzsche para Kant via Oneil.

Likelihood is judgment.

mass-modeling does not remove 'agency' as 'agency' is nonsense based on the idea of the will which is based on the idea that there is something outside of us that 'acts' and thus something that does not 'act' without that division between the 'transcendent actor' and the non-actor to define our 'actions' and 'inactions (as moral failures) we are left with 'everything acts' which to me does not yield your problem of modeling, here we turn to guattari's modeling and meta-modeling of flux instead of Hjelmslev's and Barthesian static structuralism.

foresight... the horizon of events and possibilities is again knowledge and context.

is this psychology? or is it citation indexing.

Sean Cubitt said...

Thanks for the comment - and I'll look out the O'Neill book. In answer to the question about the history if judgement, much of this comes from reading Arendt. Clarifying terms which in a proper piece of writing i wd have offered definitions of: data here refers specifically to computer data (I resist the notion of the 'given' in physical relations as it were in their natural state). Concerning agency, I'm close to agreement in the abstract (everything mediates wd be my form of words) but in the historical world fictions like will and agency take on a form of existence like that of individuality, in fact an existence premised on the assumption of individuality both as sociological phenomenon and as the phenomenon of subjectivity. I offer Karl Krauss's bon mot "Today events no longer occur; the clichés operate spontaneously".

And surely buridan will recognise, in the characterisation "Judgment occurs when you have at least two things that can be compared" the paradox of Buridan's Ass, starving to death between twoequal piles of hay. ;)

But you are right. This post indicates one turn in a dialectical process. Pehaps it's wrong to publish these inchoate thoughts. But often it's all i get time for; and if it produces such interesting commentaries, it's worth it

Sean Cubitt said...

PS on the question of interpretation, look out mitchell whitelw's blog (the teeming void) linked from here for his posts on Gumbrecht's recent critiques

Anonymous said...

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