[-empyre-] universal contagion?

Zach Blas zachblas at gmail.com
Fri Nov 13 16:10:14 EST 2009

hi everyone--

just thought i’d share something brief this evening. i’m giving an
artist talk at the school of visual arts on saturday, and on my flight
to new york today i read an essay from the newly published “spam book”
edited by jussi parikka & tony sampson.

in sampson’s own essay “how networks become viral: three questions
concerning universal contagion,” he challenges the “too much
connectivity threat,” discussed by theorists such as Hardt & Negri and
Eugene Thacker. When H&N write that “the age of globalization is the
age of universal contagion,” they suggest that increased connectivity
increases contagion. However, Sampson suggests that this is not
necessarily the case: “universal contagion is not grasped here as
determined by increased contact alone, but becomes apparent when
networked assemblages overlap, and contagion and contamination
follow.” Sampson argues for a type of situated, contextualized network
emergence...that contagion is endemic to the network and is
constituted by all the heterogenous components of the network, rather
than only increased contact / connectivity. viral contagions become
much more about “risk assessment than it is about containment. . . .
in which the known and unknown are no longer binary but increasingly
fuzzy distinctions.” Therefore, Sampson points out that, “in order to
defend against highly contagious viral events, network security
security strategists have had to accept a trade-off between
maintaining a robust means of communication and the fragility of a
system sensitive to unforeseen contagions.”

this seems like an interesting approach toward viral contagion for
those interested in viral tactics & aesthetics. spreading would not be
enough; the political power of the viral contagion would reside in the
emergent relationalities that emerge through events that occur in the
network. is the “fuzzy” here the prime working ground for the artist?

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