PATHIC CHAOS

Machinic osmosis

Contemporary subjectivity is defined by the shift from mass media to post-media. This transition, however, is not a linear affair. By the end of Guattari’s life in the early 1990’s, the introjection of the internet into our daily lives and the resulting proliferation of information presented an epoch shift that occurred (and is still occurring) through a coexistence rather than sequence. It is the messy and confused case of the post-modern as explored by Lyotard, in which cultural phenomena are not laid to rest for emergent phenomena to take their place; rather, there is a repetition and doubling up. We now maintain a history of concurrence. Fashion trends are an example of this process, in which the cycles of what is in and what is out circulate at such a rate to bring about a total destabilization of the high and low. While mass-mediation can result in a post-modern abandonism, characterized by lack of responsibility, the post-media era maintains the potential for the reappropriation and resingularization of media. During Guattari’s time, the phenomena of social media had yet to infiltrate the entirety of our social relations. Within post-media, due to this new and mysterious creature we call technology, there is no way to reduce and distinguish between the levels of mass and social. Therefore, post-media can be understood as the the totality of what was known as the mass and the social. Welcome to the feedback loop.

Surges of connectivity in post-media promote tense constellations comprised of cultural factors, psychic dimensions and historicity to produce our machinic subjectivity. The divide between human/natural and technology/artificial erodes. This chasm is the processual creativity of our mental, social and environment ecologies that can either be opened up or seized by fascist enterprises. We face an interconnectedness, a double process of autopoetic-creative flow and ethical-ontological choice. Enveloped within the fold where chaos and complexity coexist, multiplicities differentiate and remerge with renewed complexity. Machines negotiate the Universe of signs and the virtual. Their reference is infinite. The machinic promotes heterogeneity as it unsettles the determinant position of the individual. Liberty has an ontological responsibility to specificity and singularity.

Should we keep the semiotic productions of the mass media, informatics, telematics and robotics separate from psychological subjectivity? I don’t think so. Just as social machines can be grouped under the general title of Collective Equipment, technological machines of information and communication operate at the heart of human subjectivity, not only within its memory and intelligence, but within its sensibility, affects and unconscious fantasms.

Guattari elucidates the production of a polyphonic machinic subjectivity through the refrain, using the individual’s relation to the television as a metaphor: As you’re hypnotized by your favorite show, a dog barks or your neighbors fight. Your attention is fixed on the screen, on the will-they-won’t-they moment. You are out of body and out of time. In the back of your mind you realize you forgot to buy toilet paper or you remember you just got dumped, but never do your eyes disobey the screen. In this trance your subjectivity is constantly returning back to you and your territory is in perpetual reterritorialization. The refrain of music and poetry composes your subjectivity as a steady flow of circuitry. The television screen becomes a projective existential territory, yet we don’t perceive ourselves as all of these heterogeneous components. Existing beyond the individual, yet restricted to one, I.

It is necessary to update the composition of subjectivity in terms of our contemporary machinic body. Today refrains are doubled as we do not sit in front of the screen but rather the screen fixes itself in between us, the individual, and everything else, as a constantly expanding the existential territory. Everything proceeds through the refrain of the smart screen. We don’t gaze at this screen, rather the screen is our lense through which we see the world. The screen no longer informs, but rather is an active and reactive element in the production of the individual and the group. This doubling dismantles the possibility of distinguishing between of the actual and virtual. We exist in multiple planes. Post-media offers the potential for resingularization and heterogeneity through this refrain.

The processuality of subjectivity, the constant shifting and swelling and incorporating on the semiotic level, both proves and permits the existence of nascent subjective forms yet to be confiscated by the dominating forces of capitalism. We can carve an underkey, if you will, to the overcode. Metamodelization operates on the axiom that the formation of subjectivity can be fused to our more practical capacities in an ontological pragmatism in order to dislodge from structures that operate purely as closed systems. Law, rule, order: these are the things that impose boundaries on the possible. Technology and media have been confiscated by capitalistic injunctions to then be inserted into the level of the production of value. They are active agents of our existence, steering us towards profit rather than the enrichment of experience. The acceleration of communication has resulted in a pseudo-singularization through immediate fulfillment of identity bound representations of desire. Technology has provided us with intimate access to desire as a thing, as consumption, when we should be concerned with the intimacy of desire itself.

Instagram, as a dominant form of contemporary social media, fails to latch onto and explore the revolutionary potentials of post-media. It is a platform for a new construction of identity that reifes the super-ego and traces, like an infection, the linkages drawn from networks of various ecologies. This app is a virtual space that functions as the stage to play out the theatrics of group phantasy. Instagram territorializes domains that were previously contained to the individual level, resulting in a fragmented, schizoid position of the person. The immediacy and urgency of instagram solidifies a full integration with a technological appendage as the body extends beyond the smartphone. A totality of values have been reconstituted through this new dimensions of representation and communication so that even if an individual refrains from logging into these new networks of social media, they are still prey to its power and rule. Participation is automatized and existence is forced to circulate through yet another system of control. History itself is now fascism. Critical analysis of the post-media mediation of the personal, social, and technological sectors of our existence offers a way to conceive of a metamethodology to counterbalance subjugation.

Instagram reinforces capitalistic and semiotic oppression through verticality and horizontality. The seriality of scroll hypnotizes, promoting standardization as a horizontal movement, while vertical power hierarchies doll out shards of dominance in the form of the like. In creating a new social, it is both political and religious. To like a post is a vote for a populist dictatorship and to post is to participate in communion, social validation and its rewards as the new sacramental bread. God becomes an algorithm. This is a Universe of indifference, where quality is quantity and a new economy of human value is drawn up accordingly. Under the image, human relations are restricted to an unchecked empiricism. Failure of a collective analysis of the subjective ramifications of our rapid integration with social media and technology will leave us with a scientific reductionism imprinted upon our most private and chaotic splinters of subjectivity. Post-media triggers a new permeability between individual, group, and machinic relations, resulting in collapse of the actual/virtual divide. This volatile reorientation of communication has erupted into new languages, new anxieties, new isolations, and an ultra fragmented conception of identity. If we don’t activate analysis of these new power flows, our relation to singularity will be lost and we will be left with a retrenched identification to a cold and senseless system.

Guattari believed drugs didn’t just come in small plastic baggies. A drug could be any mechanism that provides one with the sensation of belonging to a group, of forgetting oneself. He uses examples such as rock-n-roll music or being a part of a club to draw the metaphor of the drug (or doping) into modes of everyday life. Today, the metaphor becomes literal- there need not be any external substance to alter our brain and behavior. Cognitive neuroscience has been used against us by social media engineers to manipulate our own brain chemistry in order to render us automized consumers.  Reward stimuli activates dopaminergic pathways that urge us to repeat actions that first supplied the dopamine high. This concept is called operant conditioning and was first introduced by BF Skinner in the 1930s. Engineers residing in Silicon Valley are also are aware of this concept and capitalize on our dopamine reward systems, actively transforming its users into addicts. It’s a technique called brain hacking. Instagram, facebook and snapchat all operate with algorithms that withhold and then overwhelm the user with rewards of social validation through rhythmic releases of likes. Corporations use our own dopamine like the strings on a marionette. When we participate in these systems, we sacrifice organic social relations and a sense of self to algorithms put in place purely to guide consumption. There are no participants in social media, only users. This is a new envelopment of social manipulation by capital, mediated through technology, and it exemplifies a system that has successfully altered subjectivity on a mass scale. Guattari remarks: Subjective formations concocted by dopings can either get things moving again, or kill them slowly over a low flame. Behind all this there are possibilities for creation, changes of life and scientific, economic and even aesthetic revolutions. In the case of instagram, the creation of machinic subjectivity has been led down a path towards servitude. This crises, however, also reveals the revolutionary capacities of social media.

While acknowledging the ramifications of a corporatized regulation of digitized life, it is clear that post-media has the potential to ignite subjectivization on a mass scale. It is up to critical theory to steer this subjectivization towards an emancipatory discourse. Demanding transparency from social media conglomerates is vital to the process of appropriating social media towards the enhancement of connections, singularity, a greater self-esteem and a more enjoyable and meaningful way of life. It is possible to conceive of systems that activate reward centers in the brain through political activity and social awareness in the same way social media exploits dopamine to make us hunger for more. Technology has provided us with new methods of collective creation, new forms of expression to organize and subvert. We have been catapulted into a mutant Universe in which we can create our own value. If future evolutions of subjectivization are to be emancipatory by nature, we must engage in a never ending re-examination of machinic production, of artificial intelligence and deep learning, as materials of our subjectivity. The growing sensibility and intelligence of machinic subjectivity will be the most intense transformation humanity has ever encountered. The task is not to distinguish between what is man and what is machine, nor is it to parse what is the mass and what it the social. There is no room for nostalgia here. Rather, our task is to critically approach post-media, its effects and potentials, in order to take hold of the revolutionary capacities available to us. New formations of technological communication can reconstitute power. This is the possibility of revolution or a revolution of the possible.

ANTI-MEANING

In our post-media reality, we are never alone. We are constantly negotiating data blitzes which we invite as the wonders of connectivity. Let us not mistake this connectivity for collectivity. Connectivity denotes the insistent plugging in, the inherent reproduction of power arrangements, and an over saturation of content. Collectivity, on the other hand, transforms the individual with its vast organizational assets and psychic material in order to bring about the subjective emancipation of the group. Collectivity, bounded by desire, concerns itself with enunciation. In Guattari’s words, collectivity is a multiplicity that develops beyond the individual, on the side of the socios, as well as on this side (so to speak) of the person, that is, on the side of pre-verbal intensities that arise more from a logic of affects than from a well-circumscribed, comprehensive logic. Collectivity enspheres singularity. Connectivity, by comparison, is an overcoding of collectivity. Connectivity proliferates the transmission of data while truncating reception down to a binary. We have the like or the absence of the like. This is a product of anti-production.

Anti-production has always been at the heart of production and the heart of capitalist desire in the sense that it creates a lack for capital to seize upon. The abundance of anti-production today has resulted in the progressively imaginary and circuited nature of value. This is in reference to virtual economies, but also to language. The roar of cryptocurrency, the dramatic lunges and retractions of stock, or the cacophony of fear traipsing around as political debate are all players in a general confusion and apathy that will ultimately led to paralysis. Anti-production feeds off of the group and takes on the appearance of the production of new subjectivity in order to increase its authority. Take the rise in popularity of feminist fashion for example: Pink knitted hats and T-shirts claiming a gendered future produce the look of revolutionary aims. This is however only the furthering of consumerism while subverting the urge of activity, as a pseudo-singularization. Consumerism as political action is the new opium for the masses.  

Anti-production leads to anti-meaning, an exponential lack. Incessant transmissions degenerate semblance while our language widdles itself down to a single emoji. The signifier is reduced as the realm of the signified expands, displacing the subject and its meaning. A message must be received, not just transmitted, in order for the creation of meaning to crop up. Post-media has failed to promote the production of meaning, instead only content, a substance that fills and holds, a placemaker. Connectivity emphasizes group relations now more than ever, while promoting the false image of individuality through the valorization of a leader. It secretes an imaginary of eternity and proliferates upon death. Within instagram we are becoming-wolf. We exist as one in a pack, within a social machine, and are even supplied with pseudonyms and a graphic language. Identity bifurcates with the emergence of a pictorial other-ego, the cadaver, or Janus. In a territory that is constantly being rebounded to capital, these entities traverse different registers of meaning, of the actualized and the incorporeal Universes. If future post-media machines are to be used in the revitalizing of our existence, they must accommodate a heterogeneous reception of polyphony and work towards the preservation and expansion of the multidimensionality of our connections. Post-media machines must work towards the production of meaning, not content.

Individual leaders in contemporary society have an unparalleled potency due to the mobilization of group phantasy. As an imaginary of desire, a leader is an unconscious manifestation of the group. Group fusion occurs across social media like a combustion while activating common praxis. The group takes on the role of the mirror stage, drawing on an intersubjective reciprocity, and provides for the group subject a sense of unity, the rapture of belonging. This is the doped void. When group phantasy takes on the form of a leader, desire is concentrated around this person, and the leader is transformed into a signifying mirror. If a collective repression (that tied to economic failures or social inequalities for example) inserts itself within history, it will erupt in a collective identification. Whether it’s a punk idol or despot, group phantasy defines history. How do we understand Lenin’s masses with the emergence of our new technological speed? The songs of collective phantasy whisper in our ears, do you want to have something of the eternal?

Instagram is ruled by the visual. While the image offers certain liberties, it also imposes stasis, a certain death. The image is a reinforcement of Thanatos and faciality. It is a reduction to one language and a proliferation of others, resulting in a devaluation of the self. We become a copy of ourselves. Life is qualified through a pictorial representation of life, as if we are always remembering, as if it’s already happened. The phantasies created through group relations cannot be discarded or ignored. Guattari warns of irrational acts, wild gestures and suicidal behavior if group phantasy is not provided its breadth of expression. A rise in religious fundamentalism and white supremacy are contemporary symptoms of this fact. Erraticism will continue to bubble up until phantasy manifests itself in the order of representation. Group phantasy can produce malignant creatures, the real of the nightmare. If we do not analyze these phantasies, we risk falling into the impulse toward death.

Trump is the seepage of social entropy and he carries a scythe. As a result of collective phantasies, a hateful, ignorant menace, known for its tangerine complexion and a bird nest for a toupée, haunts our subjectivity with an unprecedented potential for destruction. Trump is not as much of a political figure as he is a construction of a global network of powers and of capitalist overcodes. He was not just created by identity struggles, nor solely economic, territorial, and ecological strife, but also by the Universes of language, of currency, of distortions of faciality and capital. He is a phantom of post-media, a collective misrecognition, a bad egg that fertilizes overproduction. As the spawn of capitalism, his power sprung forth from descensus absorbed for quick, short sighted victories on behalf the subject group. With the utterance of covfefe, political discourse collapsed into semiotics and the fear of alterity reached a critical blabbering head. But what does it mean?

Today we have access to an infinite database of snuff and hardcore porn. We can watch the cold annihilation of military drones and the beheadings of ISIS from our own beds or on the train to work, and all the while we remain unaffected. Over stimulation has reached desensitization. Consumption and proliferation of such content is an expression of our collective desire: denial of death, adversity toward irrationality, and the refusal to confront the other. They are real examples of the expanding limits of the explicit and indicates a general loss ethical consciousness. Is it possible to define what is celebration and what is sublimation in today’s world? Conversations surrounding genetic engineering, AI, or post-humanity are swarmed by locusts of dissension as we rapidly approach the final debate. We do not need to overcome disagreement and dissenting opinion in order to reach a thoughtful and benevolent conclusion to these concerns. Fate will never converge on one god. We must commit to approach these conversations with the complexity and heterogeneity they deserve. In doing so we can forge a new ethics of difference.

The task is not to objectify and reify our contemporary pains and punishments, but rather to analyze and invent alternative phenomena that exalt not the phantasy of death, but the dreams of desire. We can be moved by attraction and production, by anti-repulsion. This process involves rejecting the Thanatos driven psyche of Freud in favor of Eros. We must concern ourselves with an analysis and cultivation of our desires beyond death and pursue new modes and new forms for post-media. Group phantasy can also counterbalance the horror it resurrects. It is not necessary for phantasies of destruction to end in physical violence, but this energy does require its own space for expression. These death phantasies can be transversalized as an abreaction: they can be transferred to a dislocated existential territory. This doesn’t delete our hijacked desires toward death, but it does produce an original overflow to assemblages that can sufficiently forge expression. We must find a way to encourage this process through the management of post-media machines. Phantasies of subjective liberation have the ability neutralize the phantoms of oppression already in place. We must pursue the advancement of revelatory systems that provide drives toward death with the adequate space to produce new life.

Pathic chaos

To override our current models of social media and escape an all to certain technocracy, we must engage in the creation of new metamodels of techno-communications. This task calls for the refrain of the ethico-scientific paradigm. God didn’t die, we just renamed him science. Our evolutionary understanding of heterogeneity has evolved beyond the survival of the species, to the survival of heterogeneity itself. It is precisely this evolution of heterogeneity that heralds the ethico-aesthetic paradigm. This is not a shift from one model of thought to another, but rather the towards metamodelization. In the ethico-aesthetic paradigm, the chaotic depths stirred from aesthetics and the heterogenesis developed from science are absorbed in a virtual ecology to return as hypercomplexity. Up to this point we have been subjectively inbred. The ethico-scientific mode of thought legitimized itself through reductive models to render an ontology insufficiently equipped to care for the pluralism of our Universes. Science alone is closed system based upon binaries that come together to form the vertical poles of our existential holding cell. If science is given ultimate authority, the individual is robbed of their singularity and aesthetic potentials are abandoned. Existence is subsequently reduced to algorithm. The ethico-aesthetic paradigm suggests an aberrant fate of Chaosmosis.

Chaosmosis is the plunge into the materials of sensation. In mutant Universes, we are more than the numbers that link us to social security or those denoting the stature of our spending. In this metamodelization every individual and every group creates their own models of subjectivity based upon their specific territory and network. The ethico-aesthetic rejects a Freudism dualism that tethers the unconscious to a mythic past. In this new paradigm, the unconscious is one model among a multiplicity. Tran-subjective components such as models of cognition, myth, family, etc., and the way in which they drive or inhibit are all singular reference points that come together to configure a cartography and provide for the creation of collective assemblages of enunciation.

Chaosmosis offers a new approach towards the creation of subjectivity that takes into account the specificity of subjectivity. In virtual ecologies, poetics merge with human institution in a post-algorithmic design and ontological pragmatism. Chaosmosic analysis holds an expeditionary creative potency, blending new interactions and points of disjunction to articulate totally experimental and foreign forms. New Universes of value and reference reorient subjectivity toward a processual resingularization. Everything must constantly be redefined to evade glorification and reification of capital in order to secure authentic relations, to confront the other. Chaosmosis ignites ruptures of signification. This is not just a new social media or new communications, but mutant subjectivities like never before. Between complexity and chaos, we can counterbalance the rapid planetary degeneration we now face. This paradigm shift remains an ethical decision: are we devoted to virtual and creative processuality that enriches the possible?  We answer this question by working towards the creation of new chaosmic communications systems. Our praxes must match the drapes.

Bibliography

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