Nov 13, 2012
17 notes

DROP OUT. HANG OUT. SPACE OUT.: So I spent the morning making light of this whole #seapunk thing


Great points, dude. But let’s think about another troubling discourse of appropriation: that of ‘culture’.

When I say “you, white man, have appropriated my culture”, I do a couple of things: first, I posit culture as a hermetically sealed off thing, distinct from ‘another culture’; second, I reify the discourse of ownership of culture and the attendant essentialism etc etc.

So, one could argue in response “well, then let’s not talk about this discourse of appropriation, let’s just allow hybridity and mixture and fluidity to happen.” Fine, good. That’s a noble goal, in no small part because it resists the idea of culture as a static collection of ideas and practices that belong to certain people (almost always the people with power within a certain national, ethnic context). 

The trouble is that the processes of that appropriation are still the issues at hand: the constant reification of the West as norm and centre, the colonial gaze, the fetishization of the exotic, the establishment of hierarchies of who speaks and who is spoken about etc etc ad naseum

I’m not disagreeing with you, or your critique. But the process of ‘appropriation’ is, in the case of culture, a function of colonialism, and in the case of subcultures, a function of capitalism and the insertion of certain systems of signification into hegemonic relations of capital. If the aim of a certain aesthetic movement is precisely to resist not only that process of normalization, but also its inextricability from capitalism as the thing that defines normal through networks of economic relations - and I really don’t know if #seapunk fits here - then some tentative, measured skepticism about something ‘going lamestream’ seems warranted. 

It’s always both things at once - the troubled discourse of liberalism and the (capitalist?) connection of the art object to its author; but also that the same work of hegemony is still troublesome - and I’m not sure it is resisted by an open-armed acceptance of the movement from centre to margin.

Totally agreed Nav! I think your critique of arguments for, or an obsession with, hyper-appropriation/hybridity is really spot on. That’s why I know I try to catch myself avoiding that - because all too often I realize that calls for absolute openness, absolute subsumption of ‘culture’ in the twisted rhizomes of computers and social networks just smacks of the “perpetual revolution of production” that capitalism is best at. I know this is why I’m sometimes very uncomfortable with Deleuze (and in a sense his political deployment in Anti-Oedipus and people like Hardt & Negri) is that by accepting this deterritorializing feature of capitalism as inevitable we just accept the current material conditions as a sole determining factor with how we position ourselves in relation to ‘culture’ - in essence we let capitalism win a second time: it thus colonizes our collective liberation from it.

Like, we should be concerned with struggles against deterritorialization - both ‘cultural’ and economic. I’ve been reading through Anna Tsing’s Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection and maybe the most scary thing is how utterly total the cultural and material countryside of Indonesia is uprooted literally and figuratively. The horror inflicted by capital as it flowed into the pockets of crooks, local communities, migrants and Canadian mining corporations is bonkers. Any resistance against this structure is welcome and needed - but it’s hard because whose culture? The migrants? The local tribes? The government elites???

This is where I think Stenger’s and Latour's work on cosmopolitics becomes insanely important if we want to talk about 'culture' with any degree of sanity that doesn't end up colonizing the shit out of everyone.

I think what I want to continue to pay attention to, at least in my comments about culture in general, and something like #seapunk in particular, is where is it a culture, and where is it an economic relationship. I know my comments earlier were relegated almost entirely to the realm of economics - in that it appeared that there was a kind of call for a social or material remuneration of the role the online community played in the development of the form - which if we make the strategic reduction of the community of practice being subsumed in the totality of the capitalist social relationship, becomes a point of critique.

But if we don’t want to make this reduction, the dialectic of being both a part of liberalism and capital’s obsession with connecting art to the author, it’s more about cosmopolitics aint it?

Anyway, whoa, great conversation.

Jun 5, 2012
4 notes

Foucault on the panoptic dream building as a

diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; its functioning, abstracted from any obstacle, resistance or friction, must be represented as a pure architectural and optical system: it is in fact a political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use.

D.W. Rodowick on diagrammatics

The most succinct way of defining the diagram is to call it a map of power – diagrammatics is the cartography of strategies of power. As such, the diagram produces an historical image of how strategies of power attempt to replicate themselves in forms of surveillance, documentation, and expression on one hand, and in the spatial organization of collective life on the other.

Deleuze offers a rhizomatic / nomadic movement to the panopticon:

The diagram is no longer an auditory or visual archive but a map, a
cartography that is coextensive with the whole social field. [Furthermore the] diagram is a map, or rather several superimposed maps. And from one diagram to the next, new maps are drawn. Thus there is no diagram that does not also include, besides the points which it connects up, certain relatively free or unbound points, points of creativity, change and resistance, and it is perhaps with these that we ought to begin in order to understand the whole picture.

Greg Elmer follows this with:

Taking a diagrammatic approach to panoptic surveillance,
conversely requires us to conceptualize the manner in which modes of data accumulation, storage, and processing are networked in an increasingly dispersed and automated infoscape. […] In the
realm of contemporary infomatics the diagram therefore affords us the
possibility of tracing the everyday data-economy, in which habits, routines, rhythms, and flows are digitized, coded and diagnosed for the purposes of control.


In large part, the diagrammatic power of the panopticon lies in its claims to continuity and automation, that is, its ability to function without the need for direct supervision and intervention

On Intransigent Familiarity

As a predictive technique, then, the panoptic diagram calls upon an all-too familiar aggregated past to subtly limit access to different futures. […]

The panoptic diagram, in other words, only disciplines consumers if they actively seek out the unfamiliar, the different, the previously unseen, purchased, or browsed. […]

We are continuously solicited, either with a ‘more of the same’ product, or yet more inquiries meant to be cross-referenced to monitor new trends, changes in taste, or simply to refine the effectiveness and precision of the diagrammatic process itself. As a consequence, we may soon find it compellingly easy and convenient to consume ‘more of the same’, or conversely, increasingly more difficult to find something different.

All quotes from Greg Elmer’s (2003) “A diagram of panoptic surveillance” in New Media & Society.

Nonstop Maoist hymns, patriotic power ballads & shrill exhortations at all hours. Toronto-based PhD Student in Communication & Culture @ Ryerson/York.

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