[-empyre-] July on empyre: Screens

Brian Holmes bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com
Sat Jul 7 08:35:15 EST 2012

On 07/06/2012 09:21 PM, Kriss Ravetto wrote:
> If we are to be talking about the complexity of politics,
> technology, communications, then through what medium did we create the
> individual or the social? The factory? The school, the Church? And if we
> are talking about, screens, screening, and forms of mediation, what type
> of social does social media produce?

This line of questioning seems productive to me. Who are we becoming in 
relation to the dominant representational and communicational techniques 
of the present? That's a good organizing question, a la Foucault indeed. 
I am very interested in the way that Bernard Steigler has taken 
Foucault's reflection on the ancient techniques of externalized memory 
or "writing of the self" (hypomnemata) and extended that to computerized 
devices. I agree with you that the networked character of these devices 
tends to break up the unicity or sovereignty of the individual as 
idealized by nineteenth-century or Enlightenment thinkers. But there are 
a range of outcomes to that process of breakup and recombination.

> If you are interested in the question of power to program which you are
> extending to programming experience, then how can you assume that Is
> there some pure self-consciousness unaffected by power (the programming
> of sensorium)?

I wouldn't assume any pure self-consciousness. But I would look for how 
enunciation happens. People are always entangled in their environments 
and in each period or phase of this entanglement there are also attempts 
to reshape the environment, as well as the group and something like the 
"self" (or maybe, the social self-consciousness of a group). These 
attempts constitute a quest for autonomy, always relative and always in 
relation to heteronomous forces. I know the OOO folks think relational 
ontology is out of date. But I've yet to be convinced they're right.

Occupy and all the social movements of 2011 show that the quest for 
autonomy is alive (if maybe not entirely well) amidst the proliferation 
of networked devices and coercive programming. In this sense, it is not 
only the case that social media produce a specific form of the social. 
The reverse is also true: social concatenations also reshape how media 
is conceived and what media can do. Plus, those who want to derive the 
forms of subjectivity from the latest technology generally underestimate 
the lags, inertial effects and overlays of past and present to which 
human populations are subject. The persistence of the archaic is often 
very troubling, but it can also be a resource of emancipation or at 
least of heterogeneity in a technologically unifying world.

I am attracted to this discourse on screens because I have the 
impression or intuition that it could become a good focus point of that 
Foucauldian question on who we are becoming in the present. So thanks 
for bringing it up.

best, Brian

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