Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notes from class 24 Jan 2008

writing is the technology of cyborgs
the breakdown in distinctions is part of the struggle for language
is struggle against perfect communication
struggle against the preference in masculine in the construction of meaning
the apparent contradiction is part of that struggle
pleasure in the confusion of boundaries

struggle for ambiguity
technology is liberating
writing, the technology of cyborgs

makes it hard to write philosophy
writing is undermining self
self that emerges in human culture

the problem is
ambiguity incorporates these unambiguous meanings

dualist metaphysics

self-realization makes one of many possible senses

the hope of a monstrous world
"without gender"

narratives running ahead of lived experience?

but what's the perfect meaning of "human"?

how might we use this as an argument against global capitalism?

here I am writing I am cyborg I am in some ways just an "I" but am both many and no one

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Haraway Notes

In Haraway we see a skilled critique of naturalistic rhetorics (e.g., Heidegger's might be seen as indulging in this naturaliast rhetoric)

Cyborg Manifesto: goal is to create an "iconic political myth" that is a materialist & socialist feminism (sort of a Levi-Straussian self-denigration?)

cyborg is "cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction."

Social reality "is lived social relations" which is equated with the political and the fictional

we are all cyborgs

argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries & for responsibility in their construction (

breakdown of distinctions between human/animal; organism/machine; inorganic/organic

p.176 "Writing is pre-eminently the technology of cyborgs [....] the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism"

phallogocentrism: preference of the masculine in the construction of the meaning of meaning itself(?)/in defining the means of the construction of meaning itsel

NOISE! SEE JACQUES ATTALI's connection between music and economics
(an outline of personal interest in the role of number in poetry, something which is both masculin et feminin)

big problem with Haraway's utopic vision is that a networked structure does not preclude hierarchies
in fact it may reinforce them
first of all, a network if viewed at a certain scale may represent a local hierarchy
secondly, the linkages may have ordering properties by nature
e.g., Jim and John are connected is a network graph of the relationship between Jim and John
but perhaps the conenction is a hierarchical one, maybe Jim has a lien on John's property
finally the ability to understand and leverage social networks is a privileged position that promises rapid enhancement of privileged position along with a layer of disinfo obfuscating the hierarchical nature of the seemingly value-neutral "connection" relation

another problem is, well, can't help my phallocentricm here but the analysis seems to lack method, focus, seems entiurely more like worship than blasphemy (to borrow from Haraway's intro)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Does technology make way for poetry?

Martin Heidegger's commentary regarding the "question concerning" technology (“The question concerning technology,” The Question Concerning Technology, And Other Essays; translated and with an introduction by William Lovitt, New York: Garland Pub., 1977, pp 287-317) ends in a cryptochristian promise that with the fullest realization of technology comes the infinite potentiality of art. Heidegger's vision of the relation between technology and humanity is that technology by virtue of its ordering of nature reduces the sphere of what can be discovered to the point that humanity loses its freedom. We are somehow not to be too alarmed about this loss of freedom because the mysteries of art will be growing as some divine, er, cosmic complement. That is to say that as the freedom to discover truth disappears the freedom to make truth reappears. Heidegger says specifically that this time of the infinite potentiality of art is "the coming-to-pass of truth." (Cryptochristian, because Heidegger asks his reader to marvel at some grand mystery that sounds uncannily similar to the mysteries of divine truth I have had described to me through years of Catholic education and schooling).

Heidegger's rhetorical approach to the mystery of what happens upon the fullest realization of technology is itself somewhat mysterious or, better stated, akin to the magic to be witnessed in the sleight-of-hand of any local magic act. Interestingly, the sleight of hand is exactly how Heidegger uses Holderlin amidst the discussion. We have a couple of quotes from Holderlin from his poem, "Patmos." Patmos if you don't recall is the Aegean island where John the Baptist suffered his exile and allegedly wrote the eschatological text we all know by the name of The Book of Revelations.

But where danger is, grows
The saving power also.

The above couplet Heidegger cites from Holderlin's "Patmos" is in actuality the response to the opening call of the poem, which begins, "[t]he god/Is near, and hard to grasp." In "Patmos" Holderlin delivers a watchwork and majestic god of mysterious pomp, a figure I might say is an age of reason cliche, no? A cliche that has trickled into the modern and contemporary, from Joseph Campbell's incantation of the "music of the spheres" to Steven Hawking's popular text, A Brief History of Time. And it is a loaded cliche, a cliche whose terms have internalized by many of us living in the Western world. (Maybe even "Western world" is itself evidence.) And it is because of this internalization that Holderlin's poem is moving even for a relatively godless sort like myself. A sort of awe-struck wonder much like the sort of vertical awe of experiencing the world's greatest cathedrals or seeing the stars 1000 miles from any inhabited location. The poem essentially instructs us that we be clear in our writing as a sacrifice for God as the Father. So loaded into this mere citation are the myriad voices of the Pater luminum who dictates to us and whose voice, presumably singular, we must transcribe faithfully for all to sing. Talk about sleight of hand. Heidegger poises us upon a decidedly non-secular mystery, the divine mystery of Christianity, cast to us in a mechanistic way, bound via Holderin to the movement of celestial bodies. One might even read Heidegger here as a predecessor of David Hume who proposed two centuries earlier that the world might be better understood as that which resembles a vegatable rather than a clock? that the mechanistic is far from a general metaphor for the universe.

First of all, what is comforting in the realization of the potential for infinite beauty? Who in their right mind would actually desire this, particularly after we strip out the glorious elegiac overtones of Holderlin? If you think about what that means for just a moment, wouldn't this moment of infinite possibility for art be equivalent to a perfect absence of beauty? Furthermore, doesn't this sound uncannily like the supposedly divine proposition of the Sermon on the Mount, that the lowly should pretty much not only accept but really revel in their complete lack of fortune because they're going to get to cash in during some imaginary period of time, just as long as they maintain this multidimensional poverty in their not-so-imaginary time on Earth? Isn't this moment the freakin' apocalypse itself? I personally don't want any part of a vision that reflects some desire for the end of humanity and some concomitant vast increase of human suffering.

This vision of science Heidegger promulgates sounds uncannily classical, as if at the time of its composition (1954) Heidegger had not heard of quantum mechanics and its dramatic revision of classical science? Admittedly Heidegger's essay comes out well in advance of the wave of popular mashing of physics' frontier with post-psychedelic philosophy. Nevertheless if he were writing about science wouldn't he have known about the Copenhagen Interpretation and its controversial status? Did he just ignore the state of modern physics and perhaps the rich debate over the state of truth itself in relation to science (e.g., the EPR paper)?

Fortunately we not only get to enjoy Heidegger's angels but "his devils too," to quote e.e. cummings. The devil, in this case a devil of fortune, lurks in the details of Heidegger's argument and we needn't be so scared of St. Martin's apocryphal visions. This devil is the devil of Heidegger's "ordering." Sometimes in Heidegger's argument it appears that this process of ordering is one of making truth. Other times, particularly at the conclusion of Heidegger's essay, it seems that technology doesn't make truth but rather reveals truth so completely that there's none left. The difference here is one between true poiesis, namely because creation is to partake of the infinite, and lowly revelation, which relies on discrete and finite lengths of truth presented in finite amounts of time all coming from a finite pool of truth. If this pool is not finite, well, then we simply can never have Heidegger's glorious immanetizing of post-apocalypse art, because we'll never reach a state where we've run out of truth to reveal.

I think if we stick to Heidegger's idea of poiesis as "the revealing that brings forth" then we don't have to worry about some technological end-times. For one thing, we already know that there's only one thing guaranteed in this universe, and that is death. For another we know that at some point that death will be complete for the human race, at least by virtue of how we classify species into human and non-human groups. And another, and germane to this point, is that the sort of eschatological vision Heidegger espouses depends entirely upon an unambiguous vision of poiesis' relation to truth, that poiesis is revelation rather than creation. Finally, we really won't witness creepy horsemen, namely because we will go "not with a bang but a whimper" and will hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing, because we will already be dead. We will leave artifacts and so something will endure, but even the artifact of human existence will itself come to past and humanity will vanish. And, at that point, there won't be much use for poetry or technology.

On a more practical level, we see technology and science in unity together everywhere. That is to say, we see science both revealing truth and making truth at the same time. We can see this from search engines to pharmaceuticals. With search engines we "recall" old information, bring it forth, but it is recontextualized and therefore creating a new truth as a result. With respect to pharmaceuticals we see this phenomenon of making/revealing particularly in patients who are in the upward throes of receiving one new medication to treat the side effects of another. In essence such pharmaceuticals are creating new biological phenomenae that are in turn being tamed by technologies, and, in turn, creating another new set of biological phenomenae. It is interesting to note that both of my examples are at once terrifying and comforting. Terrifying, namely becuse it seems like standing on the edge of a cliff, a disaster without bottom or orientation. And yet comforting, because we can treat ailments, because we can rapidly recall information and reframe it into purposes that serve some need.

Finally, I believe that technoscience increases the potential for art namely because it enhances our ability to create. In my own poetry I use electronic tools to create the "I" of the poetry (and the roles of other pronouns as well) and set in motion the dissonances of personal identity and ultimately the relation of the text to the world itself. And I can do this like Victor Frankenstein creates a being: I can suture monstrosities from the boneyard of texts: from well-loved and forgotten poems as well as the detritus of the ever-disappearing web. My problem (which is exactly the same problem in using generative technologies for artificial intelligence-augmented scientific discovery, another area in which I have deep interest) is that because of these powerfully generative methods I've got too much art around. My job becomes that of the policeman, judge, jury, arbiter, editor. What do I keep? What do I share? What do I delete? Truth be "told" I delete most of everything. I must make qualitiative assessments of the hybridized quant-qual produce and it is perhaps the fundamental operation of my art.

And here lies the essence of technoscience and its marriage to art that I think Heidegger wanted to avoid: the automation of the qualitative analysis. The quality metric. The glory of the Google search engine is not really the usability but rather the quality metric inside the box that allows the whole thing to be useable by anyone's grandparent. PageRank embodies not only technoscience but but rather where technoscience and art meet. Where the qualitative and quantitative can freely and openly misceginate. I don't think that this meeting of the numeric and nonnumeric is just the future of the internet and information retrieval but rather the future of the relationship between art and technoscience. I've been obsessed with quantifying qualitative assessments all of my life as it has served me as a speedy avenue out of analysis paralysis. It seems that qualifying quantitative production has served me as a speedy avenue into creating art, and I didn't have to wait until the world was destroyed by technology to do so.

Or, maybe, I too am wrong, and Sun Ra is right.

It's after the end of the world.
Don't you know that yet?


Martin Heidegger, "The question concerning technology," The Question Concerning Technology, And Other Essays; translated and with an introduction by William Lovitt, New York: Garland Pub., 1977, pp 287-317. [pdf]

Start discussion abt technology in re causality. Evading essentialism. "Free relationship." Aristotelian mode of causality. Four types of causes
causa materialis - material cause
causa formalis - form into which the causes take shape (design)
causa finalis - end state or result in its greater context (intent)
causa efficiens - the actor making it happen

these things are united for Heidegger
"the fourfold way of occasioning"
bringing-forth, revelation, technology

causes are cyclical

the acorn must connect back into the cycle by maturing into a tree capable of dropping an acorn

for aristotle, in nature, there is no actor but rather the causa efficiens is within the other three causes

technology fits into conscious agents

science: Kant: when copernicus decided to make the earth go around the sun, and when galileo rolled balls down inclined planes in order to measure freefall, and when kepler applied that to the heavens, a light dawned upon man that reason dictates to nature

modern view of science is like this kantian version of science

we don't merely observe nature and replicate it as such

make, poiesis: master and then create

technology turns the entire world into the standing reserve

enframing partakes of the frenzy of ordering that blocks revealing itself and blocks our view of truth, loses our free essence

on the other hand it is the granting that lets man endure & partakes of the safekeeping of truth

revealing & concealing truth
this is the mystery of truth

but essential to "the granting that lets man endure"

what is this "ordering"?

as the potential of science dwindles, becomes realized, the potential of art (techne) grows, it becomes more mysterious

the more the potential of techn ology dwindles, the greater the potential of the poetic, the artistic

tension in Heidegger inside the notion of ordering, between revelation and making truth
if we are revealing the workings of nature
if we are inventing the workings of nature

there's an ambiguity there

the role of large-scale collaboration
social fabric and agency
agency is a concept of the individual
something else is causing technoscience, namely, collaboration networks
the production of the technology is the production of the science

so as causa effiens seems less the product of a single conscious being, the less the distinction between revealing truth and inventing truth becomes

science becomes data-driven