Particulate arising from study

Month: August, 2013

Good Point, Brian Massumi

There is a certain hubris to the notion that a mere academic writer is actually inventing. But the hubris is more than tempered by the self-evident modesty of the returns. So why not hang up the academic hat of critical self-seriousness, set aside the intemperate arrogance of debunking- and enjoy? If you don’t enjoy concepts and writing and don’t feel that when you write you are adding something to the world, if only the enjoyment itself, and that by adding that ounce of positive experience to the world you are affirming it, celebrating its potential, tending its growth, in however small a way, however really abstractly- well, just hang it up. It is not that critique is wrong. As usual, it is not a question of right and wrong- nothing important ever is. Rather is its a question of dosage. It is simply that when you are busy critiquing you are less busy augmenting. You are that much less less fostering. There are times when debunking is necessary. But, if applied in a blanket manner, adopted as a general operating principle, it is counterproductive. Foster or debunk. It is a strategic question. Like all strategic questions, it is basically a question of timing and proportion. Nothing to do with morals or moralizing. Just pragmatic.

– Brian Massumi, Parables of the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, p. 13.


Duet Avatar Grange

Alan Sondheim, Foofwa d’Imobilité


Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter & Foofwa d’Imobilité,


“On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge.” – WENDY HUI KYONG CHUN, PEOPLE!

A Rape in Cyberspace

“To participate, therefore, in this disembodied enactment of life’s most body-centered activity is to risk the realization that when it comes to sex, perhaps the body in question is not the physical one at all, but its psychic double, the bodylike self-representation we carry around in our heads… Small wonder, then, that a newbie’s first taste of the slippery terms of MUDish ontology, recognizing in a full-bodied way that what happens inside a MUD-made world is neither exactly real nor exactly make-believe, but profoundly, compellingly, and emotionally meaningful.”

– Julian Dibbell, “A Rape in Cyberspace,” 203-204.

(For the record, I thing that the psychic homunculi thing that Dibbel suggests is still pretty embodied).

Trauma and Code

“Trauma… serves as the archetypal moment of breakdown that brings into view the extent to which our present and future are entwined with intelligent machines. No longer natural, human-only language increasingly finds itself in a position analogous to the conscious mind that, faced with disturbing dreams, is forced to acknowledge that it is not the whole of mind. Code, performing as the interface between humans and programmable media, functions in the contemporary cultural imaginary as the shadowy double of the human-only language inflected and infected by its hidden presence.”

– N. Katherine Hayles, “Traumas and Code,” 42. In Critical Digital Studies: A Reader.

(Hayles is great. There’s a lot for me to mine in her work, even if it is a bit too focused on language and psychoanalysis for my materialist/phenomenological sensibilities. Also, she’s totally coming to town this fall…)