[-empyre-] affect, low theory, and capture

Zach Blas zachblas at gmail.com
Wed Jun 20 10:44:33 EST 2012

hi all--

i’m finally jumping in here again after some great posts from
patricia, lauren, jordan, and jack again!

i’d really like to pull in some empyre subscribers to this discussion,
so i wonder if we can try to tackle some more general questions about
the stakes and stances around affect and its relations to queerness,
digital technology/media, and political art.

patricia and lauren, you have already somewhat laid this out, but i
think it would be great to hear more about how you parse affect and
feelings and what those frameworks / structures of thinking permit,
enhance, delimit, enclose. in my experience, discussions around affect
always run up against conflicting approaches to defining it as well as
how it relates to feelings or emotions.

patricia, it seems that many theorists and writers who focus on
technology, the nonhuman, and the new materialisms you have already
mentioned engage affect through a deleuzian / spinozan approach. and
they do so because it affords them a particular way to think technical
/ nonhuman materials. it seems like one of the critiques we could
think about here is the one that jack has already brought up, which is
on the use of high theory and a politics of citations. do you think
its possible to explore this strand of affect through low theory? do
you know of anyone who is doing this? in this area of deleuze, affect,
queerness, and feminism, luciana parisi has talked about a fundamental
queerness through her notion of abstract sex and claire colebrook has
also considered how doing theory could be fundamentally queer. i’m
just really curious how the feminist new materialisms, which engage
affect and queerness, could align/overlap with jack halberstam’s
investments in a low theory and what that might look like--or what it
already looks like if someone is doing this....and for this week, how
low theory and high theory differently impact and shape our
understandings and experiences of affect.

lauren, thanks for bringing in the transitional objects video! i
wonder if was can all take a look at a recent work by jordan crandall
called “hotel.” http://vimeo.com/7091631 maybe we can think about the
relations and (dis)alignments between these two videos and how they
convey affect. notably, jordan’s piece does not use language, while
the other piece has consistent speaking.

maybe another way to think about affect, queerness, and technology is
around capture, withdrawal, and escape. i’m pretty taken by recent
theories of escape, invisibility, refusals of recognition, tactics of
nonexistence, becoming imperceptible. personally, i’ve been really
interested in how alex galloway and eugene thacker have framed this
around what they identify as the coming era of “universal standards of
identification,” which of course are already here with devices like
biometrics. “henceforth,” they write, “the lived environment will be
divided into identifiable zones and nonidentifiable zones, and
nonidentifiables will be the shadowy new ‘criminal’ classes–those that
do not identify.” this is something phil agre has also written about,
what he calls the capture model and grammars of action. different from
surveillance, capture is specific to our information age and grammars
of action are what capture produces. arge writes that “the capture
model describes the situation that results when grammars of action are
imposed upon human activities and when the newly reorganized
activities are represented by computers in real time.”

i bring this all up because i’m generally interested in affect,
capture, and measurability. since i recently read a lot of hardt &
negri for my prelim exams this spring, immeasurability and beyond
measure surfaced a lot. this is a pretty open-ended question at this
point, but i’m just wondering if anyone has thoughts on affect’s
relation to (im)measurability and capture--and how that might weigh on
queerness and feminism...


zach blas
artist & phd candidate
literature, information science + information studies, visual studies
duke university

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