Cybersoma

From Higher Intellect Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Mysti Easterwood
University of Texas at Austin
4600 Avenue G
Austin Texas 78751
Internet: mystes@actlab.rtf.utexas.edu

Copyright (c) 1994 by Mysti Easterwood.  This version may be
freely distributed electronically, but may not be reproduced in
hardcopy form without permission.


                 Cybersoma/space: Touching on Reflection
 
Pretext --
 
     First, I want to warn my reader that I am an intellectual who is also
a mystic (see, it says so right on the label: Mysti Easterwood), which
means--in the current milieu--that my job is to look for things that
haven't happened (yet).
 
     So it follows that this paper deals with a body that, strictly
speaking, does not yet exist: the cybersoma that corresponds to a still-
enigmatic cyberspace.  Like all bodies this one is (or will be) configured
to its space.  The terms of this configuration (:a notion I will refer to
as 'enfoldment') have been anticipated by French postfreudians and
sociolinguists, German phenomenologists and critics.  But if Western
intellectuals have been the theorists of such enfoldment, artists are its
practitioners; or better said, they are its experimental ontologists.
 
     Through a shift in the cultural landscape this existential laboratory
has expanded to include a place primarily composed of time: cyberspace.
The ontogenesis of cyberspace as a product of the desire for time makes it
an ideal material (oxymoron intended) for artistic endeavor, one consisten
with art's vocation to experiment with the relations of desire and
perception.  It does so by giving artists (and other revolutionary
technologists) the ability to 'monitor' not only what they want, but how
they are wanting it.
 
     Unlike bodies in nature, the cybersoma can only come into being
according to our specifications.  This imposes upon us (if 'imposes' is the
right word) an obligation to come to terms with the corporeal source of ou
wishfulness.  First, by recognizing the unconscious asceticism of most of
our intellectual practices (the parsimonious dermatitis left over from
Occam's razor!).  Then, by actively cultivating the antidote to this mental
miserabilia: our wishfulness, that is, wanting to want.  And this
tautological formula isn't just bad grammar-it points up the formal
similarities between an elicited wishfulness and the recursive algorithms
that perform cyberspace.  Once we grasp the rudiments of this relationship,
cyberspace, in nurturing a fully imagined corporeality, can become a mantic
space--a term I will qualify at length in what follows.  But now it's time
for a story:
 
*NEW PAGE*
 
     The tibetan and the texan sat in the half-full auditorium, listening
to the author speak on the architectural poetics of cyberspace.  The
tibetan was in ruins.   On his feet for thirty-six hours now, he'd spent
the night before up with his newborn daughter, and all of today showing his
students how to hear the answers built down into their questions.  A gnosis
rendered, moreover, in the pragmatic language of a class on the history of
technology
 
     "Big day, huh?" whispered the texan.  It wasn't a question so much as
probe, launched into the cosmos of his fatigue.  "Wow," she said gingerly,
as it sank out of earshot.  She followed up with a few experimental pats
along his shoulders and back --confirming the acoustical report.  After a
quick assessment of her own comfort levels, she loosened up the tibetan
side of her attention where she kept his coordinates, 'remembered' him with
six more hours of sleep and began to expersonate what it was like to be
(with) him when he was rested.  She felt him notice the emulation, and,
with the merest surge in their combined attention, begin to agree with it.
 
     Meanwhile, the author continued to speak, invoking the need to mine a
poetry from randomly-generated orders of knowledge.  "Cyberspace," he said,
"reduces selves, objects and processes to the same underlying ground-zero
representation as binary streams, permitting us to uncover previously
invisible relations simply by modifying the normal mapping from data to
representation."
 
     Did he really think that this was a set-up for poesis? she wondered.
Coleridge had encountered a similar confusion, and put the matter to rest
by distinguishing 'fancy' (recombination, or in the speaker's parlance,
'modification') from imagination--an altogether more complicated gift.  So
while the author assured them that "poetic thinking is to linear thinking
as random access memory is to sequential memory," here was the blunder
renewed, as if Samuel Taylor had never lifted a pen.
 
     "From sequential to chaotic is still linear, 'manito," mumbled the
texan.  The tibetan sighed.  A thousand thousand 'modified' images of
stairwells and naked pedestrians could not render a single "Nude Descendin
a Staircase," because the Nude was a phenomenon that no amount of randomly
generated representation could instigate -- it was a necessary accident.
As the author talked, the two listened into his voice, trying by turns --
irritable, then indulgent-- to hold it open to its own music.  If the
speaker had noticed this fluctuation at play in what was hearing him, he
could have ridden its long whitewater wreathing back into his own
'necessary accident.'
 
     But no.  Now he was saying, "The mind will always overflow the body,
find its limitations an impediment to the mind's range of motion."  "There
it is," muttered the tibetan.  The Cartesian rabbit pacing the entire
presentation shot out from the podium and bounded up the stairs.  Twitchin
to a stop at the tibetan's pantsleg, the rabbit sniffed his shins, then
scrambled up into his lap.  He absently scratched the hare behind the ears
then leaned over and said, "I think this means you're on..." The texan
gauged the time available, her relative beauty (it would finish the point
begun by her language), the patience and intelligence of the speaker.
There was probably enough.  Go.  "About this mind/body split you are
hypothesizing," ...it was a clean blow to the forehead, the eyebrows were
UP... "what do you think happens to the senses in the hyperenvironment of
cyberspace?" "What do you mean?"
 
     "I mean if we go from 259 colors on a paper chart to 1016 colors on a
monitor, what happens to our ability to distinguish color?"

     "Obviously, it becomes more acute."

     "And is this acuity located in the body or in the mind?"  It was a
stupid question, but the author didn't seem to notice.  She watched his
body weigh the answer.

     "The mind," he said.

     Damn.  She didn't know whether to burst out laughing or begin to
shriek with vexation.  Suddenly conscious of her connection to the tibetan,
she packed an answer down into the next question.

     "What I really want you to think about is the relationship between
increased sensory acuity and desire.  What are we actually doing at the
point of distinguishing one shade from another?"  He looked puzzled, so she
took a breath, slowing down to pace herself to the tension in his face and
shoulders, the way his glasses drew back when his ears tightened.  "When
you make the transition from 259, the known universe, to the 260th," ...she
watched him register the feeling of that transition... "is this just the
result of accelerated experience?  Or is there a change in the extent to
which desire..."  and here she unveiled the whole, slow mirror of sound,
letting his image flood her voice "...comes out of Being?" Did he hear the
wordplay... or better, did he feel it?

     The rabbit stretched over from the tibetan's lap and nipped her
finger: You are about to go too far...  She smiled, pushing the question
into the speaker's flesh.   And he began to blush, his skin blooming like a
parachute in the long fall toward his body.  The rabbit loped back down the
stairs to the podium.

     She had blown it, but oh well.  It was a beginning.
  
 
*NEW PAGE*
 
Introduction...
 
          In order to come to terms with cybersomatic experience, this
essay will look for three components in the articulation of its space: its
cognitive, ritual and mantic aspects.  I want to stress that these are
artificial divisions, but for the sake of clarity, I will treat them
individually, while privileging the mantic aspect as a mediation for the
other two.  This analysis follows from Marxist sociologist Henri Lefebvre
struggle to adumbrate a theory that would encompass physical, social and
mental spaces.  It was Lefebvre's contention that a critique of how space
was disarticulated between the individual and the social body (ostensibly
by the owners of the means of production) would allow theorists to
promulgate new spatial codes with the capacity to return the blighted urban
dweller to a more coherent relationship with his/her environment.  A worthy
project, but wrong-headed for reasons I've set forth elsewhere1, all of
which can be reduced to the fact that there was no disarticulation to begin
with.
 
     I realize this sounds like a piece of tuna hitting the countertop, but
the next few pages should atone for such bodacity.  In order to defend this
assertion I have converted Lefebvre's categories of space--mental, social
and physical--into their constitutive processes2, assimilating social to
ritual space, mental to cognitive, and physical to mantic space.  This will
advocate my position in three ways: first, by showing how the production of
space cannot be separated from the production of the body through which it
takes its definition; second, that such an articulation can be perceived at
a processual level once we shift our attention from the body as a thing to
the body as a process of substantiation; and that in constrast to a feeling
of 'detention' by the body, the emergent placelessness of the
cyberspace/soma interface provides a highly sensitive index of this
substantiation.  The first two assimilations are pretty straightforward.
For example, most anthropologists will concur that social space is the
product of ritual activity (witness the numbers of Centers for Performance
Studies that have sprung up at the intersection of theatre,
psycholinguistics and anthropology departments in the last five years).
And though I recognize that there are problems with looking to cognitive
theory for the basis of 'mental space' (problems having to do with
cognitive science's quantitative fetishes and a tendency to biologism),
this essay's exploration of cognitive space is based on studies wherein the
model of the biological 'substrate' is itself clearly circumscribed by the
cultural paradigm.  But how can we derive something as fluid as a mantic
space from the palpability of a physical one?  In order to answer this
question, the rest of this section will explore the production of mantic
space at the confluence of desire, imagination and exaggeration found in
consensual realities.
 
I.  Mantic Space: Wanting to Be T/here
 
          Physical and mantic spaces can be folded into one another3, but
are distinguished by two kinds of desire.  And whereas both forms of desire
are at play in the experience of physical space (and bodies), only one of
them is involved in mantic space.
 
     Physical space is apprehended through the enfoldment of your basic
object-oriented hankering ('I-want-my-MTV') with a variety of longing so
primordial that we do not generally remark it as desire ('I'd-like-to-
breathe-now'), that kinesthetic slurring associated with wanting-to-be.
Whereas negotiating (measuring, appropriating, avoiding) physical space
comes about through a delicate articulation of these two 'desires' (which
may be roughly characterized as conscious and unconscious--though anon I
will show how the second is less unconscious in our time than ever before),
operating within a mantic space involves scrupulously attending to that
kinesthetic undertow before it is lost in the object.
 
     Jacques Lacan provides a preliminary description of this desire in his
awkward epithet for the unconscious: the-between-perception-and-
consciousness, which is said to subsist in a 'non-temporal locus.'4 But
cyberspace's origins in the desire for time means that its mantic aspect
cannot be entirely identified with the 'unconscious' since unconsciousness
is, like consciousness, ineluctably of something else.  Although eventually
redirected to one thing or another, at its inception the time so desired
is--as Marcus Novak pointed out--nothing more than a binary stream, and as
such is free of intentionality or object.  Yet the object-oriented desire
that drives our experience of physical space also continues to inform our
expectations of cyberspace, so that when these (physical) conditions turn
up missing, voila!  the delicious (and for some, nauseating) sense of
freedom reported by the early erotologists of this realm.
 
     One of the most common mistakes made by these theorists has been
to ascribe this sense of imaginative expansion to an intuition of
'disembodiment.' This vertigo is rather the perception from the somatic
level of experience, but enhanced by the mimetic operations of cyberspace.
In other words, the body's first wish, wanting-to-be, is not lost or
projected into the object, but rather explicates its origins in kinesthetic
perception, a perception which, having no object, is unconditional.  In a
linguistically-derived social universe (the place that most of us inhabit
on a daily basis), to abide in this perception would render the imagination
infantile or ineffectual.  But borne out in a mimetic medium (cyberspace),
it is capacitated by the desire for an as-yet-unqualified time.  Moreover,
this desire is not reflected but rather inflected by the mimetic medium,
allowing it to double just enough to produce a semblance of its original
(un)condition.  This is what gives the productions of cyberspace (texts,
images, sensations) their viscosity, not because they are free of the body,
but because they are doubly anchored: through the operator's desire to that
desire's wellspring in the-between-perception-and-consciousness.
 
          In qualifying the mantic dimension of cyberspace, we have noted
the peculiarities of desire and imagination in this milieu.  Their
combination gives rise to the third aspect, exaggeration; but again this
term--like a desire that has no object, and an imagination indistinct from
corporeality--can only have a brief conceptual radiance before being
absorbed into the general luminosity of mantic space.  What may be briefly
experienced as 'surreal' in a milieu produced by a weaker imagination (that
is, an imagination that has displaced its wishfulness into an object), is,
in the commutative atmosphere of cyberspace, normalized into a sort of
basal metabolism of the cybersoma.  In the linguistically-derived social
universe, to make explicit the continuity between space/soma, figure/field
is to commit an egregious double-negative, cancelling the dissociation
between subject and object, which are, in the Western paradigm of
consciousness, expressly forbidden to construe one another.  Obviously this
'eruption' of continuity has occurred in various cultural productions long
before the development of cyberspace, but what distinguishes cyberspace's
exaggeration from other avant-garde, eruptive moments is the anonymity of
the process.  This guarantees that the continuity (between, for example,
consciousness and cyberspace) never breaks through to the level of
'identity' between sub/objects, while nevertheless being destabilized just
enough to allow a cumulative effect upon experience, from a consciousness
of things, to a consciousness for things.
 
 
II.  Cognitive Space: the first frontier.
          Most discussions of cybernetically-conceived experience focus on
the differences between virtual and natural realities.  It is the purpose
of this section to explore the notion that cyberspace/soma may be not a
super- but an infranatural reality.  I want to pursue this idea by looking
at the sensual work of producing and maintaining consciousness.  And this
discussion also sets out to eliminate those habits of mind that persist in
regarding the body as either a mitigating factor of consciousness (a
'spiritual' bias) or the origin of consciousness (a 'materialist' one)5.
This is in order to give us a better shot at understanding an expression of
corporeality in cyberspace that is relatively free of technofetishism, the
unholy alliance of the aforementioned habits of mind.
 
     To reiterate: What initally prevents the kinesthetic undertow of an
object-free desire from folding back on itself is the mimesis of (an
unconditional) cyberspace, producing not the narcissism of infantile self-
absorption (though this might be a stage in the pre-history of cyberspace -
- as the planetary outbreak of gameboys suggests) but rather, an increased
(and demystified!) intuition.  The main difference between the infantile
and the intuitive exercise of desire lies in the ability to assemble an
operant identity responsive to the specific circumstances of the task at
hand.  Consciousness for.  (By-and-by we'll see that this is pretty much
how we have always put ourselves together.  Cyberspace just makes it more
obvious.)
 
     In setting out this discussion of the cognitive aspects of cyberspace,
I don't want 'cognition' to be taken in its conventional sense as
distinguished from 'emotion.'  This is an old and problematic reduction
dating from the Scholastics' rendition of Platonism.6 But since I doubt we
can eliminate its effects, we have to figure out how to employ them when
seeking to map the integrity of the soma and its environment.
 
     One useful example of the interdependence of cognition and emotion can
be found in the well-documented relationship between the production of
endorphins and enkephins (brain candy) and the blazing of new dendrite
trails in the brain7-- a neurochemical event experienced subjectively as 1)
enthusiasm for the an unknown task, and 2) as habituation to that task.
 
     A more complicated example can found in the way in which cerebral
laterization takes place.  In contrast to the biologically-deterministic
position that cerebral hemispheres are genetically programmed for lateral
dominance, one group of researchers at the University of Berlin are
hypothesizing cultural sources of hemispheric specialization, resting on
parental/infant nurturing patterns.  Their research --based on
anthropological data, and 1400 multi-cultural images dating back to 1900
BCE-- assesses the importance of a universal left-arm holding pattern that
maximizes the parent's heartbeat upon the body of the child, as well as
optimizes the infant's view of the left side of the parent's face, using
the infant's left visual field.8 This earliest configuration of touch to
right hemispheric stimulation has important implications for the
development of unconscious preferences.  Infancy is a period of high
neuroplasticity, and most stimulation during that period is tactile, a
global somatic experience.  Even the earliest 'distinction' within that
tactile holism is one that comes about through tactile/auditory
synesthesia, the sound/feel of the parent's heartbeat on the infant's body
 
     In tachitoscope studies carried out by another group of cognitive
scientists in Zurich, it was found that subliminal exposure to faces
influenced affective choice in subsequent exposures.  The first conclusion
was that feeling precedes cognition.9   But further testing yielded even
more interesting results.  It seems that in right-handed individuals,
subliminal exposure of a face to the viewer's right field (left hemisphere)
resulted in a preference for that face in a visible exposure; but
subliminal exposure to the left field (right hemisphere) produced
consistent aversion.10   Supported by other studies, the report concluded
that the left hemisphere prefers the known, the right the novel and
unusual.  Could it be that the neuroplasticity  of infancy--as a kind of
para-linguistic function --is memorialized in the 'global/spatial'
functions of the right hemisphere?  And with novel stimulus-- given the
fact that novelty often mobilizes a wide range of euphoria-inducing
neuropeptides--neuroplasticity is invoked?  It would be easier to make this
case if more of our 'exotic' experience was tactual, but to the extent that
our (adult) experience is linguistically- defined, these questions become
difficult to contemplate.  Yet once we anchor this discussion firmly to th
corporeal imagination, perhaps such questions will not seem so rhetorical.
 
     The issue of the need for novelty in infant development (and its
'institutional memory' in non-dominant brain functions) points to another
articulation of emotion to cognition.  The surprise factor in emotional
experience places it in high contrast to the linguistically-identified
operations of volition; and to the extent that such indeterminacy (or, as
Lacan says, tyche) is identified as tactual/emotive/holographic it trigger
(and is triggered by) the body's index of its environment.11 Moreover, thi
points to the possibility that the relationship between an individual's
volition and emotion has a metonymic correlate in the relationship between
soma and situ.
 
     Rom Harre asserts that human experience is circumscribed by two modes
of perception: objective/observational, whereby the self is generalized asa
thing among other things; and subjective/situational, wherein one is aware
of internal states, composed of gradients of pleasure and pain.12 This
experiential range basically falls into tactual or visual self-perception,
and many cultural historians have pointed out that civilizatonal structure
are tending toward visualist regimes.13   This may be so, but if we resist
the all-too-academic tendency to extrapolate alienation from that
orientation, and take the time to scrutinize just how visual information
actually performs, we may be able to discern more easily the analogue
between volition:emotion and soma:situ.
 
***
 
          Every image has both iconic and indexical features.  The iconic
aspect is that which allows an image to resemble something else, answering
the question "what is it (like)?" with the identity of the image.  Since
identity can only take place between two things separated by space, the
iconic is experienced at a distance, and alludes to the visual aspect of an
image.  The indexical aspect gives information about the physical action
that produced the image, answering the question, 'how is it (made)?', and
refers to the process by which the image came into being.14
 
     The indexical aspect of our visual experience refers us back to the
body's ongoing configuration with its environment.  Lipprints on a wrist,
incense wending its way into our clothing recall us to the mouth
originating the kiss, the burning tip of the punk.  In comparison to the
proximity of  the indexical, the iconic often seems flawlessly self-
contained, the Image of Images.  But a careful examination of just how the
iconic works will wipe out this assumption.
 
     The iconic aspect of an image refers to its character as a copy of an
original.  As copy, it is first and foremost a conventional representation,
whose link to the original is guaranteed in two related ways: first, one
must be able to infer that the image could be the result of a direct
indexical imprint (as epitomized by those indices of light called
photographs); and second, that "institutional and traditional authority
establish the link between model and representation, lending it the force
of a real physical connection."15 Thus, we can see how an authorized
representation is convincing (or 'impressive') to the extent that it
displaces the indexical plausibility of an image; and that in order to
function, the iconic aspect of an image is no less dependent on tactual
operations than the indexical.
 
     This implies that all of our visual experience is processed--sooner or
later--through the indexical aspect of the image.  Whether our seeing asks
"how is this (made)?," or even the more iconically accented, "how is this
like X?"16, we are still rummaging our corporeal memory (present one
included) in order to generate a meaning for the image.  And since this
rummaging takes (and makes) place below the verbal/visual threshold, it is
also a form of mantic space, this time within the 'natural' image.
 
     Insofar as icon and index correlate to visuality and tactility, they
are both reductively assigned the serial patterning of linguistic
processes.  In other words, they are construed as having a dialectical
relationship wherein one replaces the other in a linear sequence.  A good
deal of research in neuroscience is founded on one version or another of
this error, beginning with the premise that ego consciousness is the result
of a linear linguistic process carried out in the left neocortex; and both
of its sensory supports, visual and tactile, are similarly assumed to be
either/or, binary systems.
 
     There are two major flaws in this model.  First, it does not orient
the research to look around for a perceptual category subtending
visual/tactile --even though numerous cognitive studies on preference have
indicated that there is perception roughly identified as 'affective' before
(and, as I will propose shortly, during) recognition.17 The second has to
do with an unconscious methodological assumption that cognition progresses
in a unidirectional fashion through linguistic production to consciousness.
Any variations, such as might be supported by hemispheric intercalation,
are regarded as 'infrequent' at best, or a sign of pathology.18
 
     If images are only functional to the extent that they refer to tactua
experience, a more active role for the non-dominant hemisphere's
allocentric complement to the linguistically-derived ego must be sought.
Two examples of this allocentricity's 'determining'19 role should not only
shift the paradigm of the production of consciousness (to an indexical act,
producing a consciousness for the thing it touches), but in so doing give
us a clearer sense of how the relations between volition and emotion are
extrapolated from soma/situ.
 
     When meeting another person usually our first question is "How are
you?," a formulaic courtesy that is, nevertheless, part of an interrogatory
pattern carried out by our gaze.  A typical right handed person will spend,
during a six-second viewing period, the first 65-70% of the time looking
from his/her left visual field to the other's right visual field --in other
words, each partner uses the visual field that corresponds to his/her
allocentric hemisphere to process the other's egocentric facial field.20
This scanning pattern indicates that we use the indexical question "How is
it (made)?" in order to formulate the iconic question, "What is it (like)?"
 
     (Many cultural critics and semiologists have insisted that our
collective emphasis on visual experience has produced interiority,
isolation, and specular, neutral self, one caught in the mise en abime of
linguistically-determined visuality.  If I seem to hammer the point that
visuality is begotten through a corporeal index, it is in order to help us
feel/think our way out of this intellectual downwelling...)
 
     The iconic question is not only formulated through the indexical one,
but has another, more exponential link.  This question is answered through
an operation--fixing the gaze in order to optimize clarity--that at its
ideal limit would make the object (whose perceptibility in three-dimensions
depends on saccadic movement) disappear.  This disappearance would not put
the object at an infinite remove, but rather, by collapsing the temporal
sequencing that produces distanciation, an infinite proximity.  This would-
- hypothetically--place the seer and seen in perfect contiguity, allowing
vision to emulate touch--not the interrogative, piecemeal touch that 'puts
together a pineapple,' but the global touch of an indexical corporeality.
This means that the reality of the enfoldment of the body to its space is
idealized as the unattainable limit of vision.
 
     Probably the most challenging aspect of this proposition is
understanding that the idealization of indexical corporeality in no way
prevents its functioning at a primary, material level.  This configuration
of real and ideal is operationalized in the way we find out 'how (what?!)
are you?', a question answered by emulating the corporeal state of the
other.
 
     By 'corporeal' I don't mean just the other's psychophysiologial body;
in order to understand how the cybersoma is just a bigger body, we have to
perceive the soma as the organization of energy through which we express
our being in the world.  For example, a few days ago I noticed a car from
several blocks away, identical to one owned by a close friend.  Though I
couldn't see a face, I knew that the driver was not my friend because of
his/her style of handling the car.  (Several days later I found out that my
friend was out of town on that day.) Thus it was a combination of iconic
elements (the make and color of the car) with indexical ones (how it was
moving through space) that summarized the fact that this was not my
friend's autobody.
 
     But the importance of emulation in this process became clear when I
encountered a colleague whom I hadn't seen in 15 years.  Although he had
gained ten pounds and lost hair, I recognized his gait (in a crowd!) across
the distance of a football field.  When I reported this fact to him over a
cup of coffee a few weeks later, the almost invisible relaxation of his
features told me that I had registered the knowledge of his 'organization'
at a corporeal level.  But more important, I wasn't aware of that index
until his body (the facial part) figuratively 'informed' me.
 
***
 
     To be able to actively inform one another from our situations means
not only resisting the apparent conclusiveness of our linear analytical
habits --right brain to left, emotional to volitional, unconscious to
conscious, perceptual to linguistic, real to ideal, index to icon, tactual
to visual-- but invoking the more generous reality of their configurations.
And in order to perceive them in this process, we have to invent such
generosity in the world around us.  The model for this generosity is
contained in the simultaneous reality of the body and the idea of
community.  These sections on mantic and cognitive space have attempted to
map the enfoldment of soma and space.  The final section will examine the
processes by which we multiply this enfoldment through the proto-languages
of ritual.  I will propose that ritual is the means by which the body
trains itself to exist at the intersection of multiple affiliations, this
multiplicity played out at an historical level as 'community.'
                                ###sinfin###
 
*NEW PAGE*
 
 
A few notes toward the community/ritual aspect of cybersoma/space...
 
     In this section I am particularly interested in identifying ritual
activities or spaces that support the conditions whereby a sense of
fragmentation or anomie shifts into a sense of multiple capacities.
 
     In a culture like ours based on mass consumption, I am operating on
the assumption that anomie derives from constant exposure to repetition
(without significant difference) of mass-produced objects: entertainment,
housing, education, transportation, etc.  Yet this indifference is
primarily registered as visual experience.  The other senses, less embedded
in the rhetoric of repetition, demonstrate a more chiasmatic relationship
with the world, this is, anything touched is touching back.  I want to
investigate to what extent we can quantify a subjectivity different than
the one that inheres to representational languages, and look for the social
effects of ritually-created spaces.
***
 
    As I have gone farther into the issue of ritual space, I'm starting to
see the outlines of a semiotics of proximity --and by this I don't mean
architecturally defined 'proxemics.'  Rather I mean the condensations and
distributions of regard that assess where one is situated, the qualities of
others at play within in that situation, and the conditions that lead to
generosity of exchange.
 
     This focus shaped itself out of the section on ritual in Burkert's Gk
religion: it seems quite possible that what we call 'consciousness' was
shocked out of its sheltering-in-the-world by the hypervigilant processes
of marking off space, of participating in its intensification (in both
senses: intension between subjective awareness and eidetic 'objects,' and
in the more historically expressive sense of formulating intention), and
most critical, of relinquishing something (precious)(or that had become
appreciated) within that space (libations, votive offerings, or sacrifice)
Although the foregoing may be common knowledge, I think what's been left
unremarked in this process is the extent to which it takes a collective--
multiple users--to provide all of the component elements for this
consolidation of identity ('with/from' as we say in good grammatological
fashion).** And perhaps even more critically, I don't hear anyone asking
what might such ancestry portend in the life-cycle of the ego?   If
individuality is historically founded in this multiplicity, where can we
discern its ontogenetic traces?  The answer, I will venture to say, may be
in the repetitious nature{} of the construction of the speaking-being-in-
time, a nature which has never been so clearly revealed as now that it is
mediated by a purely intensional (that is, cyber) space.
 
 
*NEW PAGE*
 
Notes:
 
1.   "One of the challenges facing those of us who pertain to the
postmodern milieu is coming to terms with the limits of criticism as a tool
for knowledge.  Although there are some whose understanding of critique
includes its creative capacities, the critical project all too often
bypasses the object of its investigation, becoming stuck to the Tar Baby of
its problematic.
 
     "The crux of this limitation is in the position that the critic must
maintain in order to carry out the investigation.  What we must understand
is that our object is only going to be as accessible as our critical
objective allows; and this 'objective' must become fundamentally iambic: t
disable any ideological structure that would seek dominion over the object
and to create an opening (a space) in our attention that may accommodate
its larger effects.  I have treated this position more extensively in my
essay on anamnesis, but the gist of its argument is that in order to
"understand" a work, one has to invent a relationship with it, bypassing
the mechanisms that produce the appearance of objectivity in the critic.
It is not that such objectivity doesn't exist; rather, it inheres to the
object under investigation and has to be mimetically conceived by the
critic.  Analysis is notorious for the way in which ideological positions
are concealed in the order of deconstruction, rendered a 'neutral'
operation that pertains to the science of criticism (which derives this
legitimacy from a mimesis of scientific objectivity!)." Mysti Easterwood.
The Gold Room, work in progress.
 
2. Certainly Lefebvre tried to do so as well, but by taking as self-evident
the alienation between these categories of experience he retrofits this
'alienating tendency' back into their originary situations, producing a
critique that never notices this profound methodological solipsism.
 
3. An idea prefigured, perhaps, in Lyotard's notion of the matrix, but--and
I want to state this in the strongest possible terms--without the duality
ascribed to its operations.  See Discours, figure pp.  337-354.  (Go ahead,
his turgid argumentation will make my writing look like spring water ...)]
 
4. Lacan, J.  The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, pp.  55-56.
 
5. It is not a 'source' because consciousness doesn't 'go' anywhere else.
Nor can it be considered an impediment because first, if the body is
limited to a single thing, this 'thing' would have to be (spatially)
infinite; and second, if it is a multiple thing, it would be (temporally)
procreative.  Either way, no problem.
 
6. Not to be confused with Plato himself, whose wisdom pretty much went
underground with the Gnostics.  This is one of those points consistently
overlooked by my crabbier co-thinkers in po'mo--who insist that all of our
problems can be traced to Platonic idealism.  I realize that this is a
notion that started with Nietzsche, but I don't think Fred really had a
chance to finish the thought before he took the Dionysian detour...
 
7. Turner, F. Beauty, the Value of Values. p. 58; Hobson, J.A. The Dreaming
Brain, pp.  94-96; Gackenbach, J.  Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain, pp. 232-
237]
 
8. Grusser, Selke, Zynda. Beauty and the Brain. pp. 257-293.
 
9. Zajonc, R. p.  172.
 
10. Regard and Landis, p.  250.
 
11. "If development is animated entirely by accident, by the obstacle of
the tyche, it is insofar as the tyche brings us back to the same point from
which the Pre-Socratics sought to animate the world itself." Lacan, Four
Fundamentals, p.  64.
 
12. Harre, Rom.  Physical Being.  pp. 5-39.
 
13. Mosse, 1983; Romanyshyn, 1987; Harre, 1991, just to name a few...
 
14. Shiff, R.  "On Criticism Handling History"; "Constructing Physicality."
 
15. Shiff, R. OCHH, p. 75]
 
16. Yes, I do realize that I am giving the senses agency.  You'll get used
to it.
 
17. Eibl-Eisesfeldt, Levy, Regard and Landis.
 
18. Persinger, 1993.
 
19. ...keeping in mind that classical causality is not applicable here, so
what allocentricity can be said to 'determine' is indeterminacy, tyche.
 
20. Grusser, Selke, Zynda... again.


Share your opinion