Friday, December 21, 2007

Gift-Giving in Jamaican Tourism

I've been reading a bit of Geogres Bataille and Marcel Mauss recently - especially their concept of 'the gift.' However, I am trying to work the idea of gift-giving into describing some features the Jamaican Tourism Board run on their website. Here is what I have composed so far. I'd be happy to hear comments/criticisms as this is the first time I've used Bataille and Mauss as a resource:
As always, sorry about the spelling and grammar:
Gift-Giving and Jamaican Tourism
On the Jamaican Tourism Board (JTB) website there are two feature’s ‘Be a Jamaican for a Week’ and ‘Meet the People.’ These features I argue are examples of what Marcel Mauss and George Bataille refer to as (contemporary) Gift-giving.[1] For the purpose of this argument, I will define the concept of ‘gift-giving’ in reference to Bataille’s differentiation between a restrictive economy and a general economy. I will then describe the ‘Be a Jamaican for a Week’ and ‘Meet the People’ features advertised on the website to explain how they function as acts of gift-giving. My particular observation is the JTB use the website as part of a strategy to generate a general economy of exchange that coexists with the restricted economic of Jamaican tourism. I will also examine how the Internet is used as a forum to provide a counter-gift to the gift giving practices. This is done through tourists writing review of their experiences of consuming the gift. In general, the practice of gift-giving provides the possible option for ‘contact zones’ of exchange to occur within Caribbean tourism that do not construct the region as merely a commodity for consumption.
In Accursed Share Bataille argues ‘there is a need to study the system of human production and consumption within a much a larger framework’[2] as ‘economic science merely generalizes the isolated situation; it restricts its object to operations carried out with a view to a limited end.’[3] For Bataille, and Mauss, economic rationalism cannot explain all the practices of production and consumption. This type of approach concentrates on a restrictive economy which tries to rationalise (individual) actions from an economical rationale. For example, a person would only expend their energy on an activity if it was an economical prudent decision. In contrast, a general economy is the practice of (cosmic) expenditure that ‘is to go against judgements that form a basis of a rational economy.’[4] This type of expenditure is also a practice of affirmation where ‘to affirm that it is necessary to dissipate a substantial portion of energy produced, sending it up in smoke.’[5] An example of (non-human) expenditure is the sun, which expends its energy, giving life to earth, without asking anything in return.[6]
The act of gift-giving is part of Bataille’s vision of a general economy. Following Mauss, Bataille forms the concept of gift-giving through examining ‘pre-modern’ practices of exchange. One of the main forms of gift-giving is the custom(s) of potlatch. Bataille uses various practices of potlatch, from the tribes of Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and Kwakiutl, to form a concept that is opposed to Western theories of ‘barter.’ Potlatch is classified as a general economy practice while bartering is practiced within a restrictive economy. Practices of potlatch are generally constituted and defined through giving generous gifts. For example, a tribe may expend there energy (i.e. their wealth) to produce a festival for other tribes to consume. The expenditure of wealth, which is not (necessarily) economic wealth[7], is fundamental for the concept of gift-giving. The consumer does not then consume the expenditure of wealth as a commodity, but rather as a gift.
However, despite gift-giving lacking a capitalist and functional logic there are beneficial reasons for expending energy through gift-giving as ‘the gift would be senseless (and so we would never decide to give) if it did not take on some meaning of an acquisition.’[8] For Mauss there is both joy and freedom in gift giving, ‘once again we will shall discover those motives of action still remembered by many society and classes: the joy of giving in public, the delight in generous artistic expenditure, the pleasure of hospitality in the public or private’ and ‘we shall come out of ourselves and regard…giving as a liberty.’[9] Gift-giving, while not economically beneficial or rational, can be beneficial for those expending the energy as they produce a gift to give to the world. At a general level the gift can be something more than its materialism, becoming a symbolic valuable as people customs, which can generate emotional attachments to these practices.[10] Such attachment between the gift and the giver means, for Mauss, ‘to give something is to give part of oneself.’[11]
Mauss and Bataille’s gift-giving concept is not without problems. One of the main problems is how Mauss and Bataille use it to create binary oppositions of exchange: pre-modern exchange and modern exchange; Western exchange and Non-Western exchange; capitalist exchange and non-capitalist exchange. Another problem is gift-giving, as an example of a general economy, can be viewed as being constructed through a naive nostalgia, arguing for a return to primitive societies. My belief is gift-giving does not necessarily need to be attached to a specific period, but can emerge, in the contemporary world, as a practice of exchange. However, the subsumption of capitalism means it is no longer plausible to regard gift-giving as a radical other to the restrictive (capitalist) economy.[12] Instead gift-giving has to be understood as entangled in the exchanges and practices of the restrictive economy. This is how interpret the gift-giving features advertised on the JTB website, where they are not radically separate to commodity (i.e. restrictive) tourism, but rather an example of general economy practices/exchanges occurring within the flow of commodity tourism. I therefore classify gift-giving as contact zones created between ‘Jamaicans’ and ‘tourists’ where an exchange occurs between the two that does not involve them exchange cash. If this occurs then it no longer becomes gift-giving, but rather the tourist purchasing a commodity.
The ‘Be a Jamaican for a Week’ and ‘Meet the People’ are regarded as important aspects of the JTB website. Both of them feature predominantly as hyperlinks on the homepage. Crucially, to regard them as gift-giving exchanges, the JTB do not offer them as products for economic purchase (i.e. commodities). Instead the websites present them as gifts to be consumed. The result is a contact zone between tourist and Jamaican is arranged through these features, but not one where capital exchange dominates the exchange. Instead the two features generate a general economy from the restrictive economy of tourists vacating in Jamaica. The intention is these gift-giving features can (hopefully) provide an inter-change that is beneficial to Jamaica as the Jamaicans give something of their self. Part of the benefit, which associates with the JTB’s desire to create a multi-dimensional Jamaica, is the tourist will experience an exchange that generates an opinion beyond viewing Jamaica as only the Sun, Sand, and Sea.
In the ‘Be a Jamaican for a Week’ the tourist is encouraged to partake in Jamaican cultural activities when visiting the island. The activities listed are: attend a religious service; share Sunday dinner with a Jamaican family; watch or play a cricket match; ‘reason’ or have some ‘veranda talk’; Go a dance; lick two domino; and go a market. Through suggesting these activities the JTB offer them as gifts to be consumed by the tourist, which also offer part of Jamaica. The tourist is meant to ‘get to know our people and culture.’[13] The hope of the JTB is a Jamaican, as a gift of expenditure, can offer the tourist these activities as Jamaican culture. Jamaicans can therefore offer their wealth (i.e. energy and customs) to the tourist. For example, while it may not be economically beneficial for a Jamaican family to give Sunday dinner to a tourist it provides a contact zone of another form.[14] The tourist is immersed into an exchange of customs, food, and habits that are emotional as well material. However, the ‘Be a Jamaican for a Week’ does list some activities that could occur as an exchange of capital, which would remove the gift element and classify it as a commodity. For example, the tourist may consume one, or more, of the activities as a commodity (e.g. being a spectator at a professional cricket match). ‘Be a Jamaican for a week’ is not exclusively promoting a gift-exchange or the purchasing of Jamaica through commodities. It instead they provide suggestions that could either involve the exchange of gifts or commodities.
The JTB website also provides a medium to continue the ‘Meet the People’ program that was launched in 1968. The idea of the program is to provide a platform ‘for travellers seeking insight into the Jamaican experience and the warm welcome of a Jamaican friend.’[15] The JTB act as ‘matchmaker between visitors and Jamaicans’ and is offered to both adults and children visiting the island.[16] In the program people, who are already travelling to Jamaica, can sign-up to spend some of their time with resident Jamaicans. In this time the tourist can participate in a wide range of activities that ‘are uniquely Jamaican…that only locals can create’ through being ‘teamed up with Jamaican hosts or volunteers.’ [17] The website also allows potential participates to sign-up for ‘meet the people’ online. Importantly, for conceptualising in gift-giving terms, the program is offered as a free experience for the tourist to consume.
Throughout the ‘Meet the People’ website ( a discourse of gift-giving figures predominantly. The JTB refer to it as ‘our treat to welcome you to Jamaica and share the sights, sounds, and flavours of our majestic island paradise.’[18] The use of paradise as reference to Jamaica reverses the normal associations of Jamaica (and the Caribbean) as paradise. Instead of Jamaica being the paradise of those who travel, which allows them to escape the ‘civilised’ world, paradise is used as a territorial signature. The territorial signature places the emphasis that Jamaica, as a ‘majestic paradise’ is not the property of those visiting, but rather the territory of (resident) Jamaicans. Jamaica, as a paradise, is then offered as a gift, which also implies it should be respected as a gift. The discourse of gift-giving continues as the JTB write ‘this program is made possible by the generosity of Jamaicans’ and ‘remember it’s our treat.’[19] Once again the ownership of the gift is emphasised as the JTB refer to it as ‘our treat’ and ‘generosity of Jamaicans.’ The idea is that Jamaicans, through expenditure, provide ‘meet the people’ as something to give as part of themselves, but also something ‘uniquely Jamaican.’ The tourist then consumes Jamaica not as a commodity, which they have purchased, but rather as a gift they have signed up for. As with ‘Be a Jamaican for a Week’ the ‘Meet the People’ program is not a radical other challenging restrictive economic exchanges. The tourist will have (probably) already purchased their holiday, or travel arrangements, to Jamaica, and only signed-up to ‘Meet the People’ as an additional extra. However, the exchange, or contact zone, created between the tourist and Jamaica is one of a general exchange. This is an important aspects, which suggests ‘Jamaican’ activities, customs, traditions, and life is not (entirely) for sale as a commodity. Instead it can be offered as a gift, and even a gift with a personal characteristic, as the volunteers in the program can provide a personal gift to the tourist rather than a standardised product (e.g. all-inclusive hotels). This characteristic provides one of the key ideas behind Bataille’s notion of the gift, which views intimacy as a crucial component

[1] See Marcel Mauss, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange (Norfolk: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1974) & Georges Bataille, The Accursed Shared: Vol I translated by Robert Hurley (New York: Zone Books, 1991)
[2] Georges Bataille, The Accursed Shared: Vol I p20
[3] Georges Bataille, The Accursed Shared: Vol I p23
[4] Georges Bataille, The Accursed Shared: Vol p22
[5] Georges Bataille, The Accursed Shared: Vol I p22
[6] ‘The sun gives without ever receiving…Solar radiation results in superabundance of energy on the surface of the globe.’ Georges Bataille, The Accursed Shared: Vol I p28-29
[7] Wealth can be more generally defined as having energy to expend and not merely capital wealth, and what is important is how this wealth (i.e. energy) is spent: ‘the excess energy (wealth) can be used for the growth of a system (i.e. organism); if a system can no longer grow, or if the excess cannot be completely adsorbed in its growth, it most necessarily be lost without profit; it must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically.’ Georges Bataille, The Accursed Shared: Vol I p21
[8] Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share: Vol I p69
[9] Marcel Mauss, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange p67-69
[10] A engagement ring is an example of a material item taking on symbolic and emotional meaning.
[11] Marcel Mauss, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange p10
[12] Hardt and Negri argue subsumption is now a total effect, where all social relations are subsumed by capital, see Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire (London: Harvard University Press, 2000)
[13] ‘Be a Jamaican for a Week’ Jamaican Tourist Board (, 24th September 2007)
[14] Importantly, the family does need to buy the (additional) food for the guest, but this type of gift-giving is similar to a party where all the drink, food, entertainment and so forth are supplied by the organiser, which makes economic exchange at the party meaningless or relatively unimportant. This means other types of exchanges occur (e.g. communication, music, customs…)
[15] ‘Meet the People’ Jamaican Tourist Board (, 30th September, 2007)
[16] ‘Meet the People’ Jamaican Tourist Board
[17] ‘Meet the People’ Jamaican Tourist Board
[18] ‘Meet the People’ Jamaican Tourist Board (Italics added by myself)
[19] ‘Meet the People’ Jamaican Tourist Board (Italics added by myself)

Deleuze Poll

Hi all,

The new struggles with philosophy poll is up and running. this time I've decided to ask your favourite Gilles Deleuze book. I'm sorry I could not put more of them available to vote on, but there is only a limited space. However, I think I have put the main ones up. Although I would have liked to include the Cinema books.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

the threat of blogs...

I’ve been amusing myself with watching some Bill O’Reilly clips on Youtube. Rather than speak about his style of interviewing or political beliefs, which are most commonly discussed, I was curious about his thoughts on blogs. He basically regarded blogs as where the far left would generate and spread conspiracy theories. What interested me about this point was it demonstrated the broadcast model of the first media age feels threatened by the second media age. What I mean is the ideological interpellation that Althussar identifies becomes difficult as mediums are more participatory and not only Debord’s ‘Society of Spectacle.’ In other words it makes the flowing of a hegemonic discourse more problematic as different mediums enter into everyday life. I found it funny to hear O’Reilly dismiss these blogs, which came across as TV being threatened by the Internet. Also related, it is interesting to note that paper circulation has fallen in the UK and USA. This is not to claim ‘TV is dead’, but rather imply (some) assemblages are in what DeLanda terms as phase transitions. It will be interesting to see how these phase transitions play out, or ‘solidify.’
*The second media age is a concept created by Mark Poster in 1995, which is basically used to argue that ‘new media’ are entering us into a new period.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Political Ontology - living in the web

Larval has written an interesting post about the interconnection of folding and unfolding, or what I understand as metamorphosis. I will not be able to do justice to the contents of the post, which can be read here. In terms of my interest I would like to focus on this section:

But if the fly is nothing but folds or weavings of the web, a product or creation of the web in the robust sense that an origami bird is not other than the paper out of which it is made but is itself continuous with that paper as a topological variation of its substance, then how can creations of the fly be anything but creations, foldings, weavings of the web of social relations? That is, how can they be anything but ways of strengthening the web.

There is great appeal in thinking politically about the point larval is making. This is what I call 'plateau thinking', where a quest for a transcendental signified, or essence, is rejected in preference of accepting immanent existence at this point in time. In other words, we are continual within the middle of a flux (or difference) without a teleological purpose causing the flux. Questions of agency, and transformation, then require focusing on how we can (intensively) fold and unfold that which is already present. Abstraction gives ways to experimentation. An example, which DeLanda uses, is adding fertilizer to the soil in order to help grow crops. Adding a certain amount will be beneficial while passing a certain critical threshold will poison the soil and kill the crops. The relations between the soil, crop, and fertilizer will be strengthened only if the ‘correct’ amount of fertilizer is added to the assemblage. However, this is not implying that the correct amount becomes a law, or atemporal figure. Instead the correct amount is dependent on ontology, which means the soil type/mixture, crop type, ecosystem, fertilizer type/mixture…would all be (quasi)causal interconnected dynamical factors.

The difficulty, and danger, of this type of thinking, which gives preference to ontology, is experimentation offers no promises or guarantees. This is because the web is all interconnect and open to other (cosmic) forces. For example, the field (i.e. territory) containing the soil, crops, and fertilizer may be destroyed from a weather system. In this sense the field has been opened too much to the forces of detteritorialisation. Deleuze and Guattari realize this factor and throughout warn against excessive openness and practices:

There in fact botching the BwO: either on fails to produce it, or one produces it more or less, but nothing is produced on it, intensities do not pass or are blocked. This is because the BwO is always swinging between the surfaces that stratify it and the plane that sets it free. If you free it with too violent an action, if you blow apart the strata without taking precautions, then instead of drawing the plane you will be killed, plunged into a black hole, or even dragged toward catastrophe (A Thousand Plateaus, p178).

The political impetus then is to focus on how experimentation can occur within the web, which will fold and unfold the web, without risking excessive detteritorialisation, and can instead strengthen the web.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A brief thought on the culture industry

‘Those listening to light music are depoliticised’ (p55)

For Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer media technologies are regarded as part of the culture industry. The development of mass media, such as radio and television, has served the ideological purposes of capitalism. Rather than class antagonisms causing a dialectical conflict within society the masses are pacified through the culture industry. A master-slave dialectic is created where the culture industry (master) dominates the masses (slave) through the commodification of all cultural products. Crucially Adorno believes the culture industry is an attack on freedom through standardisation; ‘It [the culture industry] proclaims: you shall conform…The power of the culture’s industry’s ideology is such conformity has replaced consciousness.’ (p104). Individual freedom (consciousness) is lost as the masses conform to the purchasing of cultural products produce by the culture industry (e.g. going to the cinema). Adorno approach to media analysis would be to understand how the serve the ideological purpose of the culture industry.

Adorno’s concept of the culture industry ought to be admired for two reasons. The first is for the recognition that media should not be detached from the economic situation. Products, which are part of the culture industry, are ‘tailored for consumption.’ (p99). The second is his argument that the media can produce, or at least alter, (popular) culture. In other words, media companies and industries serve as an important aspect of understanding the production of culture.
However, Adorno’s concept of the culture industry fails on three accounts. The first is his argument that media, as part of the culture, creates a depolitical population. This negative and simplistic account removes any political potential media technologies may offer society. The second, and related to the first, is Adorno’s separation between the media and the masses. For him the media works through a broadcast model where there is a distinction between producers and consumers. This position seems untenable in the second media age (see Poster, 1995) where there are multiple producers and consumers. The consumers are no longer only consumers, but also producers. In this sense the distinction between the media and the masses is lost as it becomes entangled into an integrated relationship. The individual is now an active participant in the decentred technologies of new media. Another problem is Adorno and Horkheimer claim there is only one culture industry. My belief is this forms a top-down approach that fails to account for the specific types of cultural industries. Transformations within the culture industry, as emergent properties, are relatively unimportant for Adorno and Horkheimer as these only serve to further the dominance of the culture industry. For example, counter or sub-cultures are disregarded through failing to move beyond capitalism and being consumed by the culture industry. My belief is these alterations within the culture industry are important for transforming the coexistence and relations of the ‘masses’ with each other. While they may fail to transcend the limits of capital they can generate important transformations.
*All references are from T.W. Adorno 'The Culture Industry' (London: Routledge, 2001)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Habermas Wins

Habermas, i think deservedly, won, with 35% of the votes. While I have never been drawn to his project(s), and view his separation of the lifeworld troublesome, I can understand why his work is one of the greats in 20th century thought. I also admire his effort to save the project of modernity and enlightenment.

My vote went to Walter Benjamin. Maybe this is because i situate myself in media studies, and Benjamin was able to consider how the 'medium is the message'. In addition, he avoided the high humanist critique of media seen in the work of Adorno and Horkheimer. While not being uncritical of mechanical, or film, (re)production, Benjamin could argue there were beneficial circumstances to this development.

I am undecided what the next poll will be, but I'll post it in a few days.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


just a short comment, but how cool does DeLanda make materialism without relating it only to political economy.

Before reading Deleuze and DeLanda I think i was in the idealist mindset, only because i thought materialism could not answer questions about social constructivism. However, the materialism that DeLanda produces from Deleuze helps to avoid a lot of idealism and put the focus on ontology before thought/beliefs.

Here are a links to the lectures.

I also think DeLanda's reading of Deleuze should avoid people thinking his philosophy is postmodern. If anything Deleuze is the most realist thinker i have ever come across.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Baudrillard Abstract

Here is my abstract for the paper I will be giving at the Baudrillard workshop that is happening tomorrow at Newcastle University:
Title: International Relations of Deterrence Machines: Taking the Trivial Seriously

Abstract: Baudrillard, throughout his career, took consumption seriously and in the spirit of continuing to take consumption seriously this paper argues the discipline of International Relations (IR) now needs to consider international tourism as a body of study. My main argument is there requires an understanding of what Jean Baudrillard labels ‘deterrence machines’ in global tourism. For Baudrillard these deterrence machines do not function upon a true or false dichotomy, but rather creates a (false) reality principle of distinguishing between the real and unreal. (In)Famously Baudrillard provides the example of Disneyland, as a deterrence machine, which serves to convince people that inside Disneyland is fantasy and imaginary, while outside Disneyland, the USA, is the real. The paper extends this observation to examine how the Caribbean is produced as a deterrence machine in what Mark Poster has called ‘The Second Media Age.’ The focus is on how people, through consumption, and second media age technologies, encounter Caribbean tourism as product to create their self-identity. The result is time has moved on from Descartes’ ‘I think, therefore I am’ to Massumi’s ‘I Shop, therefore I am.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Against ID cards

Thanks for Thom for this news.

For British citizen's you can sign up to a petition against bringing in ID cards (here). Personally, I feel they are a great waste of money, and not something I want to trust to as part of the state apparatus.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Baudrillard and Simulacrum

In an interview Baudrillard reveals the strain of thinking about simulation, 'I stopped working on simulation. I felt I was going totally nuts.' I can understand why Baudrillard would say this, as I am working on an essay about Baudrillard for the workshop at Newcastle.

Here is a short section from it. i would be happy to hear comments. My main purpose is to try and make Baudrillard into a (sort of) Deleuzian, which should hopefully remove the perverse platonism in Baudrillard:

In Merrin’s assessment, the majority of Baudrillard’s commentators have simplistically critiqued, and misunderstood, the concept of the simulacrum (see Best and Keller, 1991). For Merrin they fail to grasp that Baudrillard adopts a critical stance towards the simulacra, which privileges the symbolic. This means to challenge Baudrillard ‘we must oppose him not with the real but with the simulacrum, not rejecting but accepting, employing and escalating its force to challenge his work’ (Merrin, 2005: p30).
One of the few works I have found attempting to turn Baudrillard against himself is a short essay by Brian Massumi. Written from a Deleuzian perspective Massumi is able to argue simulation both replaces a real that did exist and is all there has ever been. The result is Massumi adopts a paradoxical position of believing simulation is both transhistorical and historical. To understand simulation, for Massumi, means focusing on how ‘simulation takes as its point of departure a regularized world comprising stable identities. But these “real” entities are in fact undercover simulacra’ (Massumi, 1987). Simulation is then a process of immanent becoming, with no foundational referent, but rather an appropriation of reality to alter and metamorphosis life. There is only ‘simulation upon simulation’ (Massumi, 1987).
However, for Baudrillard the referent, or what we call reality, is the symbolic, which is outside the process of the dominant semiotic processes. The symbolic is excluded from the semiotic, as the symbolic is an external threat to the semiotic, which can cause a rupture in the semiotic. Yet, Lyotard, and Merrin, have both critiqued the privileging of the symbolic as producing another simulacrum. Lyotard has labelled this privileging of the symbolic as the creation of a ‘good’ savage simulacrum, which holds nostalgia for the past in order to challenge the present. I completely agree with Lyotard’s assessment, and the ‘good’ savage is nothing other than another simulacrum. However, simulacrum become crucial, as it is through the production of simulacrum that life is lived. The production of simulacrum should be regarded as the creation of habit, the creation of machines, the creation of assemblages, and so forth. Baudrillard recognises this, claiming ‘the simulator produces’ (Baudrillard, 1983: p5). Simulacra may then also be a form of empowerment, and not only to be regarded as domination.
It is my belief Baudrillard’s orders of simulacra are aimed to comprehend different blocs of becoming. These blocks of becoming are how life is produced. The names attached to these blocs of becoming are arbitrary and unimportant. What is important is the recognition that something different is occurring, ‘becoming produces nothing other than itself. We fall into a false alternative if we say that you either imitate or you are. What is real is the becoming itself, the block of becoming, not the supposedly fixed terms through which becoming passes’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004: p262). Baudrillard is then proposing the orders of simulacra to argue, in comparison to other ages of production (counterfeit and industrial production), the affirmation of the contemporary world is different. This is why Baudrillard is complementary to Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan, who were both able to understand the significance of new mediums entering into production processes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When theory meets practice

There is an intereting article here, which describes how the israeli defence have been influenced by recent theories and philosophy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Baudrillard Workshop at Newcastle University

If you'd like to spend some time in Newcastle, here is an event that might be of some interest to you:

Baudrillard & International Politics

Geography, Politics, and Sociology Workshop
28th November 2007
Bedson Building Room 1.48
Newcastle University

Plenary Speakers:

Paul Hegarty (University of Cork),
author of ‘Jean Baudrillard: Live Theory’

William Merrin (University of Swansea),
author of ‘Baudrillard and the Media’

Aim: To consider the (ir)relevance of Jean Baudrillard for understanding international politics. A selection of presentations, from academics and postgraduate candidates, will be given on the topic. In addition, after the presentations, there is time scheduled for a roundtable discussion.

The workshop is free to attend, and we envision a lively interaction between participants. Due to a limited capacity, could you please contact Mark Edward ( if you would like to attend. Deadline for registration is 22nd November 2007.

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Blog Pole

I am happy to announce the latest blog pole for struggleswithphilosophy. This month the pole is on the Frankfurt School, a group of thinkers that have inspired and interested me for a few years.

On another note, I am slowly making my way through Badiou's Being and Event, and also Hallward's Badiou: A Subject to Truth. Nick, from the accursed share, has writing a nice entry about the issues of Badiou's immanent ontology and politics, while comparing it to the immanent ontology of Deleuze (and Hardt & Negri). I have yet to formulate my own opinions on Badiou, but I have so far found his denial of the virtual, and the formulation of nothingness (the void) in contrast to the way I view ontology, which concentrates on the ontology of the present. I find this works towards a more affirmative way of thinking. I'll write a more detailed entry once I finish the reading and have developed coherent ideas.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

more stuff on academic publishing

Steve Shaviro has writing an interesting blog post regarding publishing rights for academic authors. In the end of the post he makes an interesting point:

In particular, it’s pathetic that academics in the “humanities” don’t have the sort of network for distributing their research online in the way that scientists and certain groups of social scientists do. Putting up pdfs on my own website will have to suffice for now.

This brings me back to another post I wrote regarding the insignificant use of the Internet in disseminating academic research/writing on the web (read here). From Shaviro's position there could also be the advantage of authors having more control over their work, rather than the publishers. This could allow the author to reproduce their work in other forms of the media (e.g. blogs), giving access to more people, without worrying if copyright infringements are occurring. It is not as if the quality of the papers submitted would fall in quality. A group of established academics could even set up their own blog that would accept articles, through email, for a particular subject/discipline. Once the articles are peered reviewed then the articles could be uploaded as pdf files for readers to download. The advantages are the blog is free to set up and the access to students/academics/non-academic readers is free.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Draft Intro chapter - Second Media Age and cognitive mapping

Mark Poster’s ‘Second Media Age’

The above example (coming soon as blog entry) is used as a narrative to suggest the Caribbean has entered into what Mark Poster, in 1995, has termed the Second Media Age. This second media age, while not a new concept, is something Caribbean Studies has so far paid little attention towards. In order to address this situation the dissertation intends to provide the reader with a cognitive map of how the Caribbean is being produced in the second media age. In this section I want to concentrate on describing and defending Mark Poster’s concept.
In general, the second media age differentiates itself from the first media age through being more interactive. This is due to the first media age being based on a broadcast model, creating the circumstances of film, radio, and television having a small number of producers sending information to a large amount of consumers.[1] This meant a film, for example, could reach a significant amount of the world’s population. These people would then be consumers of what Guy Debord referred to as the spectacle. In academic terms, the broadcast model of the first media age generated a debate between those arguing for the democratic possibilities (McLuhan, Benjamin, & Enzensberger), and those arguing the immanent dangers to liberty and freedom (Adorno, Habermas, & Jameson).[2] While these debates composed interesting insights for media and cultural theory, the development of new media technology has, to a certain extent, shifted the foundations of the debate as ‘new media may be seen as creating a major force that is uncontainable by’ theories of the first media age.[3] The limitations of the first media age theory then require exposure through beginning with the critics of the broadcast model – Duhamel, Adorno, and Habermas.
For Duhamel the invention of mass cinema held no benefits for consumers: ‘a pastime for helots, a diversion for the uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries…, a spectacle which requires no concentration and presupposes no intelligence.’[4] As part of the broadcast mode, cinema, from Duhamel’s perspective, created nothing more than a spectacle for the viewer consume. His opinion echoes a high humanist critique, which installs a boundary between art, which he enjoys, and everything else (film, radio, and television) to valueless entities.[5] This view is shared by Adorno, and to a lesser extent Habermas. For Adorno, as Poster points out, the broadcast model unsettled a perceived autonomy of the subject. The reactions to television and radio are not those of the ‘liberal’ subject, but are instead the hegemonic view of the masses. In simple terms, the first media age was nothing more than a cultural industry, producing homogeneous people unable to think for themselves, ‘For Adorno and Horkeimer the broadcast model of the first media age was the practical equivalent to fascism.’[6] The result, for Adorno and Duhamel, is they ascribe to a view of equating the first media age as the production of homogeneous masses. They therefore subscribe to the view that art should be classified as separate from the first media age as only art can preserve heteronomy.
Like Adorno and Duhamel, Habermas’ The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere concludes with a similar position. His main fear is the disappearance of the public sphere as the first media age emerges into society. The problem is the retreat of what he calls the lifeworld, which provides the opportunity for communicative action and deliberative democracy. However, in his latter work, Habermas is able to argue there is an emancipatory potential for the media through bringing information to a larger audience. Yet, this still allows for a yes/no response on the part of the individual, and is certainly far away from his proposed ‘ideal speech situation’.[7]
The critics of the first media age are then concerned with a centralist media structure, where producers have the power to disseminate information/propaganda to a large amount of consumers. Their view of the first media age is not too different from Marx and Engel’s claim that ‘the ideas of the ruling class are every epoch the ruling ideas.’[8] In this scenario the ruling class would be the producers in the first media age, who the creators of ideology, (re)producing values and structures to homogenise the masses, which ultimately pacifies (class) antagonisms. The result is the ‘freedom’ of the viewing subject comes under threat from the first media age.
While not being na├»ve, there were also defenders of the first media age, who were able to argue for ‘emancipatory’ potentials and possibilities. Marshall McLuhan, for instance, considered the first media age as part of the larger epoch of the electronic age. In his (in)famous maxim, ‘the medium is the message’, McLuhan adopts an approach to media technology that focuses not on the content but rather on the medium. The main argument is ‘media technologies carry distinct temporal and spatial specificities to which correspond definite frameworks of perception.’[9] The implication of McLuhan’s ‘theory’ is electronic mediums/media will reshape perceptions of the world. The electronic age is therefore one of integration through the implosion of previously established boundaries/fragmentation created through past mediums (e.g. print). One of the advantages of McLuhan’s argument against the centralist media structure, identified by Adorno, Duhamel, and Habermas, is opposing the simplistic structure they propose. For McLuhan these critics are unaware of the significance of the electronic age. Rather than experiencing the homogenisation of the masses, McLuhan argue the electronic age would see a re-tribalisation of people through electronic mediums, which presents a more decentralised understanding of media technological. However, as should become clearer when I define the second media age, McLuhan’s position is easier to defend in the contemporary world through the emergence of digital technology and the Internet.
Another cautious defender of the first media age, and quite different from McLuhan, was Walter Benjamin. In contrast to Duhamel and Adorno he ‘manages to avoid disdain for the cultural products disseminated by electronic media.’[10] The autonomy of the subject is therefore not completely lost as the cultural industry removes possibilities for communicative action. This is because the first media age, for Benjemin, has an egalitarian property, which provides the opportunity to bring art into the everyday life of people. The consumer of art, through film, radio, and television, is also a critical consumer through having the ability to question, contemplate, and challenge what they see and hear. His interpretation of the media then provides the idea that there is a play of forces present, which means he neither dismisses nor celebrates the arrival of the first media age. The result is Benjamin’s response to the broadcast model is certainly not a one way dissemination of the producers to the consumers as argued by Adorno and Duhamel.
For Poster these debates have become ineffective as media technology has developed and the broadcast model is no longer the only media model. The second media age, which is defined through multiple producers, distruburtors, and consumers means ‘an entirely new configuration of communication relations in which boundaries between these terms collapse.’[11] The issue then becomes one of trying to come to grips with the model of the second media age, which means considering: cyberspace, the Internet, virtual reality, and digital technology. Instead of considering the problem of the relation between the spectacle (film, television, and radio) and the consumer, the main problem becomes one of conceptualising the issue of interactivity. To illustrate this point David Holmes distinctions of the first media age and the second media age can help out:

Table 1.1 The Historical distinction between the First and Second Media Age:[12]

First Media Age (broadcast) Second Media Age (Interactivity)
Centred (few speak to many) Decentred (many speak to many)
One-way communication Two-way communication
Predisposed to state control Evades State control
An instrument of regimes of stratification Democratizing: facilitaties universal
and inequality citizenship
Participants are fragmented and constituted Participants are seen to retain their
as a mass individuality
Influences consciousness Influences individual experiences of
space and time

Despite oversimplifying the differences between the first and second media age Holmes’ table is able to capture the differentiating aspects of the two periods. Through identifying the interactivity of the second media age Holmes, and Poster, understand ‘the imminent appearance of bidirectional, decentralized media, such as the Internet.’[13] Whereas the first media age created an interface of the spectacle to consume, the second media age technologies have a more ‘democratic’ interface, which means the producer and consumer division implodes into one another. Even Benjamin’s sympathic understanding of the first media age is only plausible from comprehending media through a broadcast model. His thesis of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction relies on considering the reception of the consumer, and not how the consumer could be part of the productive process, which is a key element in the second media age.
The answer to considering the interface and interactivity of the second media age, for Poster, is to develop theories (and ontologies) that rethink the relation between media technologies and humans, which ‘allows their mutual imbrication to be investigated.’[14] The works of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Donna Haraway are those most likely to advance the possibility of comprehending the social landscape of the second media age.[15] This is why I have elected to construct a Deleuzian ontology, which will introduce the reader to the machinic thought of philosopher Gilles Deleuze (and psychoanalysis Felix Guattari) through the concepts of: becoming; machines; and assemblages. The advantage of this machinic thought is the ability to provide a posthumanist ontology[16] that can consider the new assemblages of the second media age ‘that erase the humanist subject and bypass the human/non-human opposition.’ [17]
The concept of the second media age is not one without its problems and requires a defence of choosing this concept to ground the dissertation. The first main problem comes with the question of periodisation, something Poster has also considered. The use of periodisation could suggest a clear division between the first and second media age, which implies the first media age is over and/or surbordinated to the second media age. Used in this fashion the period of the second media age serves as totalising concept. In conjunction with Mark Poster I intend to avoid any such totalising periodisation through implying the Caribbean has entered into a new age:

Yet the insertion of a period may suggest not a passage from one state of being to another but a complexification, a folding of one structure upon another, a multiplying or multiplexing of different principles in the same social space. Periods or epochs do not succeed but implicate one another, do not replace supplement one another, and are not consecutive but simultaneous[18]

The second media age is not to be thought of a new distinct evolutionary stage of human development, but rather the emergence of new media technologies the form assemblages to coexist and produce the Caribbean. Adopting such an approach allows for recognition that the emergence of something new does not imply the disappearance of that which went before. The period of the second media age then has to coexist and is not a privileged reference point for explaining all things producing the Caribbean.
The concept of the second is also used in the spirit/technique of what Levi-Strass terms as bricologe. As Derrida writes, ‘the bricoleur, says Levi-Strauss, is someone who uses “the means at hands,” that is, the instruments he finds at his disposition around him, those which are already there.’[19] The implication is a new discourse is not created, but rather transformed and altered through borrowing and extending another person’s concepts. The metaphysics of the presence (i.e. contemporary discourses) can then offer methodological tools as an analytical gesture for the researcher and the reader. The intention is therefore to borrow from another in order to create a unique use for the instruments around him. The advantage of bricolage is the dissertation does not claim to be engineered out of nothing, but rather borrowed, repeated, and altered from other discourses available.
The main reason for choosing the concept of the second media age is I believe it to be an empirical concept. While the concept is formed/disseminated through language it aims to represent the shifting dynamics of experiences of media. The concept is then an example of what David Hume would term as a Copy Principle, which is when an idea (the second media age) is derived from an impression or impressions.[20] The idea then relates to the outside world, and intends to consider how ‘we’ are experiencing the world differently. Poster then attempts to contemplate the world from an affirmative perspective through creating a concept that relates to a change (becoming) in the world. This type of empiricism is defined through not trying to find the ‘universal or eternal, but to find the conditions under which something new is produced (creativeness).’[21] The basic assumption of the second media age is therefore the state of things have transformed from what they were. The coherence of the second media age then must come from experiences elsewhere that reinforce, challenge, and alter the concept. The empirical sections of the dissertation should be thought of providing this (in)coherence to Poster’s concept, which brings it into contact with actual experiences of the second media age producing the Caribbean.

The Second Media and ‘The Need for Maps’

If it is accepted that the Caribbean (and the world) is in the second media age, which is not a totalising period, but rather one that has emerged into life, then the question arises: how to study the second media age? For his book Poster considers three perspectives: ethical-political; enlightenment; and cartography. The ethical-political dimension aims to consider the opportunity for transformation through ‘the ability of humans to change their circumstances.’[22] Research of this type would then aim to examine the second media age to establish the progression of political and ethical circumstances. The enlightenment notion tries to overcome the ‘confusion about the nature of domination and the character of alternatives’[23] through providing knowledge about the second media age. While cartography is the attempt to provide an ‘analysis of the conditions, or as Frederic Jameson says, a “cognitive mapping,” rather than insisting on the revolutionary character of agency.’[24] Despite the three study perspectives of the second media age having interconnects, this dissertation will largely concentrate on providing the reader with a cognitive map of how the Caribbean is produced in the second media age. This is with the hope of not connecting the analysis to any political project or ideology.
In his influential essay, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Frederic Jameson concludes with a section entitled ‘The Need for Maps.’ Discussing Kevin Lynch’s ‘The Image of the City’ Jameson suggests an alienated city is a place people are unable to map in their mind. The city is a mystery for the people. They cannot map either their location or the urban totality (e.g. the infrastructure). To overcome these circumstances a process of disalienation is embarked upon. This process becomes the practice of exploring and mapping the city. The benefits are the mapping allows the people to become (more) aware of their surroundings as they discover places then never knew existed. These places then become part of their mind as a cognitive map is created. As a city is never ‘finished’ then the process of creating a cognitive map is never complete, and is a continual process requires taking into account the becoming of the city.
It is my belief that Caribbean studies provides various cognitive maps that allow the becoming(s) of the Caribbean to be mapped. However, at present, Caribbean studies is alienated from the second media age is the same way that people are alienated from Jameson/Lynch’s city.[25] There appears a general unawareness of specific conditions, which involve second media age technology, that are relevant for the Caribbean. The dissertation is then part (and only part) of the process of disalienating Caribbean studies from this period. It is a map for the reader to create, or at least add to, their cognitive map of how the Caribbean is produced in the second media age. To achieve this map, which connects with the empirical natures of Poster’s concept, empirical data is analysis as a form of cartography.
However, the practice of cartography should always recognise the dangers and prejudices in mapping. The colonial experience of the Caribbean is evidence of this characteristic. In Consuming the Caribbean Sheller provides multiple examples of the colonists mapping the region, ranging from the cartography of botanical species and racial/ethnic categories. As form of Orientalism the white Europeans were also able to claim ‘superiority’ through mapping racial classification as form of social Darwinism that ‘seemed to accentuate the “scientific” validity of the divisions of races into advanced and backward.’[26] The mapping of ‘information’ was then a crucial art of establishing and maintaining power relations in colonial times for Western hegemony. In addition cartography is also a form of making things invisible as will as making things visible. The cartographer is unable to map all the details of a given field into their map. For example if a cartographer concentrates on proving population statistics of a given area then there may not be ‘room’ to add the geological information of the area (e.g. mineral composition). The map then selectively brings information to the forefront while other detail is absent. The consequence is there no inherently ‘correct’ map of a landscape, as this depends on the prejudicing certain empirical date over other data. I will return to this problem when I discuss the empirical data of this dissertation, which I intend to argue are legitimate prejudices for mapping the production of the Caribbean in the second media age.
In respect to these problems of cartography it may seem more appropriate to avoid mapping. A legitimate view could declare: has not the Caribbean suffered enough from cartography! While I am sympathetic to this view I also believe cartography is beneficial and almost something necessary. The aim of this cartography is to neither to condemn or celebrate the second media age, but rather analyse the conditions producing the Caribbean. This ‘type’ of cartography is similar to Michel Foucault’s in Discipline and Punish, which was able to map particularly disciplinary procedures used to produce docile bodies. The reader then ‘receives’ a cognitive map of these disciplinary procedures and can use the map as a tool to consider and research other aspects of society. The map also does not need acceptance on the part of the reader, who can challenge the empirical data, the method of cartography (style), the political implications, ethical considerations, and the absences (what is missing?). Producing a map is therefore not an objective exercise, but rather a critical exploration and experimentation on both the part of the author and reader.
[1] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995) p3
[2] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p1
[3] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p18
[4] From Scenes de la vie future (1930), as quoted by Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969) p239
[5] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p5
[6] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p6
[7] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age 12-13
[8] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology edited by C.J. Arthur (London: Lawerence Wishart, 1970) p64
[9] David Holmes, Communication Theory: Media, Technology, and Society (London: Sage, 2005) p39
[10] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p14
[11] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p1
[12] David Holmes, Communication Theory: Media, Technology, and Society p10
[13] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p19
[14] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p19
[15] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p19
[16] Posthumanist ontology simple means that humans are not the privileged centred for existence, which therefore avoids subject-oriented theoretical/ontological perspectives. The result is humans do not disappear, but they are no longer in the privileged place they took from god when Nietzsche declared ‘god is dead’
[17] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p19
[18] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p21
[19] Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference (London: Routledge, 2006) p360
[20] In David Hume’s lexicon impressions corresponds to both feeling and experience. This means that an idea has to be an idea of something. See Harold Noonan, Hume (Oxford: OneWorld, 2007)
[21] Gilles Deleuze, Dialogues II (London: Continuum, 2002) vi
[22] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p22
[23] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p22
[24] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age p22
[25] As the literature review shall demonstrate this view has a certain hyperbolic claim. To a certain extent, the creating of a cognitive map in the second media age has already started. However, this map is so far from being sufficient.
[26] Edward Said, Orientalism: Western Concepts of the Orient (London: Penguin, 1995) p206

Foucault Wins!!!

After looking like Gilles Deleuze was going to cruise the poll, Michel Foucault ends up the winner with 40% of the vote. Thanks for everyone who took part. While these polls mean nothing they are none the less interesting.

As may not come a surprise my vote went to Deleuze. However, rather than try to legitimate my vote I’ll try to explain why I put each thinker in the poll.

Jean Paul-Sartre: I think the biggest compliment you can pay to Sartre is he not only attempted to think, but he also attempted to live his thinking. While I have never felt a close affinity to Sartre, and the existential ‘movement’, I do admire his (latter) effort to work against the facticity of the world in order to change it through forging a group (particularly in ‘search for a method’). This coming from a guy who said hell is other people!

Michel Foucault
: From my perspective Foucault has helped me to understand complex technologies of power. His work serves as a helpful tool for analysing the present, especially liberal democracies. It may seem a bit of a tautology, but I think Foucault was correct to say that where you find knowledge you will find power. There is also the added advantage that Foucault was able to define power not only negatively, but also as empowering.

Jacques Lacan: Unfortunately most of my knowledge of Lacan comes from secondary reading (Zizek & Deleuze/Guattari). Yet, this seems to some the benefit of Lacan. From Zizek’s reading Lacan continues the Freudian tradition, while the other (in Anti-Oedipus) views Lacan as moving away from a Freudian understanding of the unconscious. While not a fan of psychoanalysis Lacan’s triad of the symbolic, imaginary, and real do provide useful tools for analysing the ‘social’.

Jacques Derrida: Probably the most controversial philosopher of 20th century France. (In) Famously associated with the idea of deconstruction, which caused so much outrage. I think his type of thought was almost necessary to demonstrate the slippery nature of language, and also to provide a compelling case against Habermas’ notion of ‘ideal speech’, which would only work if communication were possible.

Louis Althusser: Simply included for the reason of being the greatest 20th Century Marxist thinker to come from France. Maybe only Henri Lefebvre could challenge Louis for this position.

Gilles Deleuze: Maybe more of a 21st century philosophy for the English speaking among us. It was probably Paul Patton’s translation of Difference and Repetition, in 1994, that helped Deleuze get the justified recognition he deserved. Without a doubt his metaphysics will propel him into the canon of greats: Plato, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Heiddeger…even if this was a canon he didn’t much like. I also feel Manuel DeLanda’s interpretation of Deleuze as a realist will help to move beyond defining Deleuze as a poststructuralist/postmodernist.

Luce Irigaray: I simple admire her attempt to merge Derrida and Lacan to construct her feminist thought.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The New form of Orientalism

There was insightful and short article in today's Guardian that caught my attention. It was written by Soumaya Ghannoushi, director of research at IslanmExpo, entitled 'Return of the Muslim Other'. The focus concentrated on the recent rise of right-wing politics in Europe. This paragraph from the article should give an indication of the content:

The far right is on the ascendancy in many parts of Europe. Beyond its explicit party political expressions, this assumes a more worrying form. What had been traditionally confined to the margins of dominant political discourse is progressively penetrating its mainstream, with parties of the centre absorbing much of the far right's populist rhetoric. This underlies the complaint by Jean-Marie le Pen, leader of the racist National Front, that Nicolas Sarkozy had "stolen his clothes". Across the Channel, the Tory candidate for the London mayoralty, Boris Johnson, believes that "to any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia - fear of Islam - seems a natural reaction".

What Soumaya points out is there an attempt from the right-wing to construct some cultural essentialism in order for Europeans to define themselves and create a Muslim Other. There is a lot of legitimacy in this argument and it seems we have learned nothing from Edward Said's Orientalism. Political Theorists like Samuel P. Huntington are clear examples of 'academic/populist' attempts to create cultural essentialism. From this type of thinking people are grouped into crude molar identities (e.g. civilisations) without a regard to the dynamic nature of culture and identities. Rather than deal with the complexity of the issues these right-wing thinkers make the basic argument of West/Europe = Good & Rational and Muslim/Oriental = Evil and Irrational. There also seems to be a clear disregard for historically understanding, or even the acknowledgment that colonial or cold war phenomenon could have played a part in contemporary problems of the world. Nor can they envision benefits for a multi-cultural Europe or USA. Once again S.P. Huntington leads the way in this sort of argument, which can be read in his book 'Who Are We?America's Great Debate'. Maybe it is time to stop trying to cling onto essential identities, and rather put the focus toward who we can become?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deleuze conference and Camp


sorry about the lack of activity on the blog recently. The draft edition of the PhD is taking far too much of my time. Hopefully, I'll post sections of it soonish on the blog. In the mean time here is news of a call for papers for a upcoming conference on Deleuze:

The first international Deleuze Studies conference'One or Several Deleuzes?'Cardiff University, Wales, UK August 11-13, 2008CALL FOR PAPERSThe incredible body of research on Deleuze's work that has emerged in the past two decades - well over 130 books and literally thousands of articles - has created a situation in which it is no longer possible for a lone scholar to keep pace with new developments in the field. As scholars in disciplines as far flung from each other as musicology, organisational studies, philosophy and cultural studies embrace Deleuze this problem grows ever more intractable.Compounding matters further, Deleuze scholarship spans most languages. In the process there has appeared a highly contested variety of Deleuzes - there is the political Deleuze, the apolitical Deleuze, the philosophical Deleuze (who is a Kantian, a Nietzschean, a Spinozist, a Stoic, etc.), the phenomenological Deleuze, the activist Deleuze, and so on. Sponsored by the journal Deleuze Studies, the aim of this conference is to bring all these Deleuzes into communication.

Participants include:Hanjo Berressem
Ronald Bogue
Claire Colebrook
Gary Genosko
Eugene Holland
Dorothea Olkowski
John Protevi
James Williams
Convened by Ian Buchanan Tim Matts and Aidan Tynan

Send panel proposals and abstracts to Registration, accommodation options and program updates will be posted on theweb

Graduate Students may also be interested in attending Deleuze Camp 2 - 'Whenfar too much Deleuzeis barely enough!'.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Burma and Internet Access

It appears the war of communication is not going well for the population of Burma as the Junta further restrict the dissemination of the Internet.

The Guardian reported today that 50% of the online reports from Burma to the rest of the world are being blocked by the regime. In terms of blog reporting the news is worst. Their activity is down to about zero, and only a few continue to publish via third parties. The result is the Junta are keeping their Internet access running while blocking access to the public.

It is at times like these I feel a slight appeal to Habermas' communicative action. Not in the appeal that I think communication takes place through intersubjectivity, but rather the significance of machinic connections, and their potential to create something different. Maybe Habermas' communicative action can be re-written from a Deleuzian perspective, arguing for 'free' access to rhizomatic forms of media to destroy/remove those who censor information by cutting and blocking the flows.

academic stuff: publishing and the flows of knowledge and capitalism

When I was attending the University of West Indies as part overseas institutional visit for my PhD I was struck by the lack of journals subscriptions the institution had. Of course, this has a lot to do with the limited funds available. It was one of those experiences that allowed me to realise how rich a lot of North American and Western European universities are.

However, I felt the larger point was the form of censorship and exclusion money plays in academia. Money = knowledge, and if you don't have money then no knowledge! all is not lost though; why is the capabilities of the Internet not used?
Take the example of introduction books for disciplines, whose twofold purpose is to introduce the discipline and (hopefully) serve as a nice little money earner. I am sure lecturers at universities could produced various chapters and publish them on a joint website. Why could there not be, for example, a website dedicated to 'introductions to International Relations: Main theories and Concepts'. I don't think it would suffer in quality if it did not go through the traditional flows of publishing as academics could review each other. There could also be a discussion forum for both students and academics (and even the non-academic world).

There also needs to be a lot more free quality online journals that do not have subscriptions. From my reading I concentrate more on 'The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies' and 'The International Journal of Zizek Studies'. Both of these are free to access and peer reviewed. Why do we need the press machines (Blackwell; Routledge; Macmillan...) to flow information in the age of the web? Could academics not use the web more productively to free the interconnections of knowledge/information and capital(ism)?

I know this probably sounds Utopian, but I do feel traditional modes of publishing are too ingrained in academia. Maybe this, in the UK, has something to do with how the RAE rate/judge academics.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Burma in the Second Media Age

As Mark Poster points out, technologies of the second media differentiate themselves from the first media age. Whereas the first media age was defined as having few producers disseminating to a large number of consumers, the second media age is defined as having multiple producers and consumers. The obvious example of the second media age in practice, with multiple producers and consumers, is the Internet. I mention this because of the recent events in Burma and the important role of media technology.

One of the crucial struggles, apart from the protests, is the dissemination of information, pictures, and videos. It is through these that the people of Burma can hope to provide 'real time' coverage of what is occurring. While it is estimated that under 1% of Burma's population have access to the Internet, which is also censored, the cyber-bloggers of Burma have been able to exploit loopholes. The BBC website has an article on this practice here.
However, the Burma Junta have realised that the flow of information reaching the outside world is going to be a problem, and I recently heard they are closing down Internet cafes. The other problem, as Mark Poster discusses in his recent book, is that the Internet is not immaterial, and a lot of material technology is required for access to the WWW (phonelines, mobiles, PCs...).
It was even report on the 18th September that the Junta cut off mobile phone service to foreign reporters, which can be read here.

At present, I don't have much to say, but only wanted to bring attention to the significance of the medium in Burma, which I will certainly be paying attention to find how it plays out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The blog's first pole

Struggles with philosophy has decided to create a recurrent pole.

The first topic is the who is the greatest french philosopher/thinker of the 20th century. Please don't be offended if your one is not there, i have tried to include what i view as the main philosophers. However, as with all polls of this nature some people are (unfairly) excluded: Maurice Merleau-Ponty; Marcel Mauss; Claude Levi-Strauss; Jean Baudrillard; Jean-Francois Lyotard, Henri Bergson...

the next pole will be on the greatest philosophy to come from the Frankfurt school tradition.

On another point, I had noticed the comment settings were set to only authorised members only, so sorry if anyone has been trying to comment over the last few weeks. It should be working now.

Monday, September 17, 2007

draft section - machinic heterogeneous of the Caribbean (part 2)

Here is the second part of my Deleuzian ontology for my PhD. The first section can be found here. As always, sorry about the poor grammer, the majority of my blogs are created to put rough stuff out before the editing process.

the third section should appear in a couple of weeks.

Deleuzoguattarian Machines:
As DeLanda points, a Deleuzian ontology is an ontology ‘where individuals do exist but only as the outcome of becomings.’[1] The important question is what are these individuals? This is where Deleuze’s ‘machinic thought’ is important, which argues the individuals are Deleuzoguattarian machines.[2] However what I term as Deleuzoguattarian machines is different to the conventional (mis)understandings of machines. To demonstrate this I compare and contrast Deleuzoguattarian machines with the definition of machines and machinery in Karl Marx’s Capital.[3] I then proceed to outline the three main characteristics of Deleuzoguattarian machines.
In Capital Marx dedicates a chapter outlining his thoughts on understanding machinery in modern industry.[4] As expected, Marx approaches the topic in relation to the mode of production, analysing the role of machinery in industrial capitalism. The economy is used to understand the place of machinery in the modern world. This leads him to state that ‘like every other increase in the productiveness of labour, machinery is intended to cheapen commodities, and, by shortening that portion of that he gives, without equivalent, to the capitalist.’[5] Machines are then part of the expansion of capitalism, and Marx connects them with the industrial revolution. The purpose of the machinery is to increase production and surplus value without increasing wages. This could even cause men to be replaced by machinery in the factory place where machines are construct to do the jobs human’s previously done.
The machinic thought of Deleuze is both influenced and critical of Marx’s definition of machines and machinery. It is inspired as Marx is able to acknowledge that machines play crucial roles in production process, recognising the creation of new machines transforms the working place. However, Deleuze is highly critical of Marx’s approach for being limited by economic determinism and attempting to separating humans from machines. Machinic thought critiques the idea that machines are only in the factory (for the purposes of capitalism) to argue ‘everywhere it is machines – real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, which all have the necessary couplings and connections.’[6] There are all types of heterogeneous machines for Deleuze: organic, political, territorial, economic, cultural, technical, natural, and so forth. Importantly these types of machines do not have their own discrete realms, and are part of the sample interconnected plane. This plane is what Deleuze terms as the plane of immanence [reference to WIP] and why Deleuze’s philosophy is an attempt at monism.
In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze (and Guattari) set out three clear characteristics of Deleuzoguattarian machines, which importantly connect them to a productivist ontology, but (crucially) not one tied to a mode of production. This is what allows Deleuze to claim ‘everything is production.’[7] These characteristics are: the production of production; the production of recording/coding; and the production of consumption.
The first characteristics of Deleuzoguattarian machines is ‘every machine functions as a break in the flow in the relation to the machine to which it is connected, but at the same time it is a flow itself, or the production of the flow, in relation to the machine connected to it.’[8] Deleuze terms this phenomenon as the law of production of the production. Each interruption and flow between machines is production and regarded as a bloc of becoming. Deleuze gives the example of the various desiring machines in the human body and the associative flow: ‘the anus and the flow of shit it cuts off, for instance; the mouth that cuts off not only the flow of milk but also the flow of air and sound; the penis that interrupts the flow of urine but also the flow of sperm.’[9] However, in respect to analysing the production of the Caribbean in the second media age, the law of production of production does not only need to be associated with the human body. Brain Massumi demonstrates how technical machines can be conceptualised in this characteristic of Deleuzoguattarian machines. In a brief section he describes the example of a saw, used by a wood worker, which is interrupted by wood.[10] This example helps to consider how the machine connecting, flowing, and interrupting can also involve inhuman machines. (reference Claire colebrook’s inhuman definition).
The reason for Deleuze illustrating this characteristic is to avoid machinic thought considering machines as being single objects, and to turn the focus onto the becoming of machine. This is achieved through reflecting on: what is flowing between machines; what machines are interrupting; and what productive qualities emerge from these flows and interruptions. In sum, it is the machinic bloc of becoming that is important, which concentrates on the exteriority of relations through understanding the coexistence and alliance of machines. This is termed as an assemblage later in the ontology.
The second characteristic of Deleuzoguattarian machines is ‘every machine has a sort of inbuilt code into it, stored up inside it.’[11] This is would Deleuze terms the production of recording/coding. The idea of machines having codes is important for asking functional questions about machines. However, when Deleuze claims that machines have codes it should be regarded as an interconnected dualism. The example of a clock can demonstrate the interconnected dualism, which has both a technical and social code. A clock’s technical code is inbuilt so the clock can measure uniform time, and the also produces a social code for assuring order in cities and societies.[12] The clock is therefore coded to measure time and also codifies society. The important feature about code is the determine, to a certain, extend how machines interact with one another.
One of the simplest ways to consider how codes function in technology (and life) is to consider a PC and software. The software codes the PC and allows it to function in a certain manner allowing particular tasks to be executed. A user of Microsoft Window, for example, therefore relies on the software package to provide the PC with an inbuilt code. The code is what Massumi refers to as the functional limitation of a things (e.g. machine) relations, as the codes of machines are important for the productive emergence as machines participate/connect with one another.[13] However, codes are not permanent features, and have the potential to be decoded and/or recoded. The decoding (and recoding) transformation of a code opens the opportunity for new experiences and sensations, which can cause society and life to be produced differently.
The third characteristic of machines is the production of consumption, where a residual subject is produced ‘functioning as a part adjacent to the machine.’[14] As Deleuze points out, this residual subject is a particular type of subject that has no personal or specific identity. This subject consumes and consummates other machines, and is born anew from these processes. The residual subject is therefore a productive subject as the act of consuming and consummation produces a difference, and alters things from what they were. One of the crucial differences between a Deleuzian subject and other ‘theories’ of subject is Deleuze’s subject does not need to be a human subject.[15] The subject is more of a machine than it is a human.
The Deleuzian residual subject perceives other machines and is altered from its capacity to be affected by these machines. Of course, the code of the residual subject is importance for (partially) determining how it is affected by other machines. However, the use of the word perceives is problematic as it leads thought to consider perception as a human quality.[16] Following A.N. Whitehead Deleuze prefers to adopt the term prehension rather than perception, which removes the anthropocentric connotations of perception. For Deleuze prehension is an attribute of an individual singularity (the residual subject), which has the ability to prehend (‘perceive’) other machines. A division is created between the prehended datum and the prehending one. The prehended datum is the data that the prehending one (the residual subject) passes through and consummes. Through consuming this prehended datum the predending one is born anew and a difference is created in the prehending one.[17]
The importance of Deleuze’s residual subject as a prehending one is that the subject is ‘trapped’ within time. This means the residual subject is produced through specific blocs of becoming that are historically contingent. The residual subject is therefore a subject that connects with Deleuze’s overall philosophy of immanence and rejects any definitions of the subject that call for transcendence. This means forces of subjectification are explained in terms of the immanent materials and energies of life and not some timeless and essential understanding of the subject. The result is the residual subject, through prehending, undergoes experiences of individuation, and these experiences are crucially productive.
This concludes the section on the characteristics of Deleuzoguattarian machines, which is now summarised. In general the machinic thought of Deleuze argues for a (re)conceptualisation of machines from the conventional (mis)understanding of machines. Humans are not separated from machines, but are regarded as compositions of machines – both external (state machine) and internal (bodily machines). Deleuzoguattarian machines provide a productivist ontology that does not concentrate on the mode of production. Instead the productivist ontology removes production from its economic determinism and is replaced by the maxim that ‘everything is production.’ [reference needed]. The Deleuzoguattarian machine have three main characteristics: the production of production; the production of codes/recording; and the production of consumption. However, to fully understand the machinic thought of this ontology the concept of assemblage now requires description.


In an interview Deleuze states the main unity of A Thousand Plateaus is the concept of the assemblage.[18] The idea of an assemblage is a complex one and has recently been expanded upon recently for understanding society.[19] One of the main advantages of the concept of assemblage is its versatility, which is capable for accounting for any number of micro-, meso-, and macro-level phenomena. In order to define the concept and connect it with the machinic thought of the dissertation I firstly describe it through negation (what it is not), and then define it through affirmation (what it is).
Following J.Macgregor Wise it is easiest to define an assemblage through describing what an assemblage is not:

An assemblage is not a set of predetermined parts (such as pieces of a plastic model aeroplane) that are then put together in order or into an already-conceived structure (the model aeroplane). Nor is an assemblage a random collection of things, since there is a sense that an assemblage is a whole of some sort of that expresses some identity and claims a territory[20]

The key point is assemblages are not predetermined or random, but rather blocs of becomin. In terms of machinic thought an assemblage can be described as interconnection of different machines to form a non-essential singularity. The assemblage is classified as a singularity because it is a unique assemblage of heterogeneous parts, but can not be classed as random as ‘there is also a contingency to the arrangement itself.’[21]
Deleuze develops the concept of assemblage to free thought from essentialism and totalities. In terms of assemblages being against totalities Manuel DeLanda differentiates between theories of relations of interiority and theories of relations of exteriority. Where the relations of interiorty, following the philosophy of Hegel, take organisms as their prime example, relations of exteriority approach concentrates on the coexistence and alliance of heterogeneous components. The relations of the heterogeneous components, which can be regarded as the Deleuzoguattarian machines, are not logically necessary, but only contingently necessary. Once again the Deleuzian example of the relations between the wasp and the orchid can demonstrate this point. In the relations of interiority approach the relation between the wasp and the orchid is understood as a constitutive whole, displaying an organic unity as it is logical for this relationship. However, in the relations of exteriority approach the wasp and orchid is considered as a contingently obligatory relationship of heterogonous parts, which is not logical but a result of their close co-evolution. This means assemblages are not totalities, but only arrangements of contingency as a result of blocs of becoming. Importantly this allows for new emergent properties[22] to emerge in an assemblage and also for component parts to be detached from one assemblage and plugged into another where its interactions are different.[23]
To avoid essentialism assemblage theory constructs a bottom-up approach and concentrates on causal interventions in reality. In accordance with the concept of becoming there are no essential traits but rather morphogenetic processes, which mean there are no timeless essences but rather ‘the idea of progressive differentiation.’[24] This means assemblages have the power to differentiate and become something different.[25] The result is assemblages can open themselves to new experiences, sensations, tastes, feelings, emotions, understandings, technologies and so forth. This is also true of machines entering into different assemblages from the ones they were in. An example is a person who learns to ride a bicycle, which results in them opening up their assemblage to new experiences. It also serves to indicate a machine (the bicycle) has been removed from one assemblage (the shop) and plugged into another assemblage (the persons).[26]
The bottom-up approach of assemblage theory is adopted to avoid totalising top-down approaches. The problem with the top-down approaches is they tend to talk of a system rather for accounting for how such systematic properties emerge. The analysis of capitalism from the Marxist tradition is an example of this top-down approach where they ‘place real history in a straight-jacket by surbordinating it to a model of a progressive succession of modes of production.’[27] Frenand Braudel’s historical analysis of capitalism has shown this model to be wrong; as from the its beginnings capitalism was monopolistic and oligopolistic, which means ‘real’ capitalism did not only emerge in the nineteenth century with the industrial revolution.[28] If a bottom-up approach, which would analyse singular and unique assemblages of capitalism, were considered then the successive stages of capitalism could not be proposed. This is a crucial point of the machinic thought of Deleuze (and Guattari) in generally, where an explanation does not come from explaining actions through a system, but rather how a system (or systems) emerges from causal interventions in reality, which are historical contingent and non-essential.
As DeLanda points out, the bottom-up approach could assume that individuals are the bottom-most level. This could risk constructing the individual in an atomistic way (e.g. the rational individual). However, assemblage theory avoids this situation as ‘persons always exist as part of populations within which they constantly interact with one another.’[29] As noted above the machinic ontology of Deleuze avoids taking an individual’s identity (human or inhuman) for granted through proposing a residual subject. The result means the individual in assemblage theory must be shown to emerge.[30] If this type of emergent individual was not assumed in the Deleuzian ontology then the bottom-up approach becomes a top-down approach through constructing a pre-given idealised subject (rational actor). The major problem is this individual is removed from the processes of becoming through their assumed transcendent features.[31]

Why this Deleuzian ontology:

The above lays out the Deleuzian ontology and now the purposes of constructing this ontology require attention. I firstly constructed the Deleuzian ontology for the ability (and danger) of saying ‘Yes’ to existence. This is crucial if the aim of the dissertation is to analyse how the Caribbean is produced in the second media age. It would be nonsensical to examine the empirical data without creating an ontology that affirms the existence. Secondly, the Deleuzian ontology is an attempt to create a materialist ontology that does not follow the materialism of [orthodox] Marxism, but is none the less materialist. It rejects the dialectic movement of history that unfolds through the antagonistic contradictions within the mode of production, and instead affirms specific blocs of becoming. Thirdly, the Deleuzian ontology is capable of studying how machinic identities are (trans)formed through various forces of continual inviduation. This can be termed Deleuzian sociology, where Deleuze follows the sociology of Gabriel Tarde, and argues the micro-textures of production are what needs attention. This sociology approach stands in opposition to the Durkeimiam tradition, who focus was on more on collective representations.[32] The Deleuzian ontology also avoids totalizing claims through concentrating on certain micro-textures of production, and using these as the empirical evidence, which, in turn, avoids discussing things in general.

[1] Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2002) p106
[2] As should become clearer later the differentiation between machines and assemblages becomes a relative distinction, where can both be regarded as unique individuals that have underwent processes of individuation (i.e. blocs of becoming). However, it is necessary to discuss Deleuzoguattarian machines separately from Deleuzian assemblages in order to emphasise the characteristics of these machines.
[3] Karl Marx is chosen because Deleuze’s philosophy, especially post-Guattarian, is influence by Marx, and also because Marx’s thought is representative of ‘conventional’ notions of machines.
[4] Karl Marx, Capital: An Abridged Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) p229-298
[5] Karl Marx, Capital: An Abridged Edition p229
[6] Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus p1
[7] Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus p4
[8] Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus p39
[9] Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus p39
[10] Brian Massumi, A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992) p10-p15
[11] Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus p41
[12] Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus p155
[13] For Massumi emergence is a two-sided coin, one side is the virtual, which is the autonomy of relation, and the other actual, which is the functional limitations. This allows his to conceptualise the importance of affect in the production of emergence. ‘Emergence is a two-sided coin: one side virtual (the autonomy of relation), the other in the actual (functional limitation). What is being termed affect in this essay is precisely this two-sidedness, the simultaneous participation of the virtual in the actual and the actual in the virtual, as one arises from and returns to the other. Affect is this two-sidedness as seen from the side of the actual thing, as couched in its perceptions and cognitions. Affect is the virtual as point of view, provided the visual metaphor is used guardedly. For affect is synesthetic, implying participation of the senses in each other: the measuring of living thing’s potential interactions is its ability to transform the effects of one sensory mode into those of another…the autonomy of affect is its participation in the virtual. Its autonomy is openness.’ Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, and Sensation (London: Duke University Press) p35. There is far too much detail in this quote that requires explanation, especially the role of Deleuze’s definition of the actual and the virtual. The quote is merely included to reinforce, implicitly, the significance of codes in machinic interactions, where participation are (partially) determined by these codes, and should be considered in terms of relationality. This is because these codes face an infinite amount of different participations.
[14] Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus p44
[15] For example, In Freud the subject is a human oedipal subject, in Derrida the subject is a human one created through a language act, in Habermas the subject is produced in human intersubjective communication, and Zizek’s subject is human through his (re)called for the Cartesian cogito. While having large divergences they all share a commonality of proposing the subject from a humanism and Deleuze is able to avoid this tendency.
[16] Reference a phenomenology of perception as an example of this tendency
[17] For Deleuze’s discussion of prehension see Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (London: Continnum, 2006) p87-89
[18] Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975-1995 (New York: Semiotext(e), 2006) p176-178
[19] See J.Macgregor Wise, “Assemblage” 77-87 in Charles J. Stivale, ed., Gilles Deleuzes: Key Concepts (Chesham: Acumen, 2006), Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (London: Routledge, 2006)
[20] J.Macgregor Wise, “Assemblage” 77-87 in Charles J. Stivale, ed., Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts p77
[21] J. Macgregor Wise, “Assemblage” 77-87 in Charles J. Stivale, ed., Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts p77
[22] Emergent properties are unique properties that emerge when components are ‘joined’ together
[23] Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity p10
[24] Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2002) p16
[25] Deleuze makes this argument for the eternal return of difference most clearly in Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (London: Continuum, 2004)
[26] DeLanda actual provides the example of learning how to swim, which would change a persons habitual assemblage. I have altered this example to the included the introduction of the bicycle to demonstrate a new machine entering an assemblage. This is a crucial point, as the technologies/machines of the second media age have entered into assemblage that produce the Caribbean. Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity p50
[27] Manuel DeLanda, Markets and Anti-markets in the World Economy (, accessed on 18/07/2007)
[28] For arguing that capitalism has always been oligopolistic and monopolistic Frenand Braudel uses the assemblages of Venice in the 14th century and Amsterdam in the 17th century. This is because there is evidence of coexistence of commercial, industrial and financial capitalism, which runs counter to the argument unfolds in totalising stages. See Fernand Braudel, Civilisation and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century. Vol 2 (New York: Harper and Row, 1982) p229
[29] Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity p32
[30] ‘But more importantly, while the identity of those persons taken for granted in microeconomics, in assemblage theory it must be shown to emerge from the interaction between subpersonal components.’ Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity p32
[31] An example of this flaw is in the philosophy of Kant, who, while opening his philosophy to the properties of time, was unable to extend this to the subject, and is why he created a (timeless) transcendental subject, which suffers from not (fully) considering how the subject emerges.
[32] ‘Durkheim’s preferred objective of study were the great collective representations, which are generally binary, resonant, and overcoded. Tarde countered that collective representations presuppose exactly what needs explaining, namely, “the similarity of millions of people.” That is why Tarde was interested in the world of detail, or the infinitesimal: the little imitations, oppositions, and inventions.’ Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p240-241