Monday, September 3, 2007

draft section of PhD- machinic hetrogeneous of the caribbean

I am in the painful process of composing draft chapters for my PhD, and thought I'd post some of the sections on my blog. This one is the construction of my Deleuzian ontology for the Caribbean, which uses Deleuze's concepts of becoming, machines, and assemblages. In sum the dissertation is arguing the Caribbean has entered into the second media age (Poster, 1995), and a cognitive map (Frederic Jameson) of how the Caribbean is being produced in the second media age is required for Caribbean Studies, which can be achieved through deleuze's empiricism and machinic ontology first laid out in Anti-Oedipus.

As always all comments are welcome. The following is introducing the chapter and starting to discuss Deleuze's concept of becoming. As this is a rough section please forgive the grammar.

The Machinic Heterogeneous of the Caribbean: Deleuzian Ontology

‘a philosopher is not only someone who invents notions, he also perhaps invents ways of perceiving’
Gilles Deleuze

‘It is when you decide what exists that you tie your thought to being’
Alain Badiou

‘I am not a man I am a machine’
Maximo Park

To understand how the period of the second media age[1] is producing the Caribbean, and in order to provide a cognitive map, a Deleuzian ontology is appropriate for the dissertation’s purpose. The following section is dedicated to constructing the Deleuzian ontology, created from the three Deleuzian concepts: becoming; Deleuzoguattarian machines; and Assemblages. In simple terms these concepts are used to construct an ontology that argues the Caribbean is in the process of becoming, which is composed of Deleuzoguattarian machines that form assemblages. The second media age therefore represents a new becoming of the Caribbean, as machines of the second media age are part of the assemblages that produce the Caribbean. To qualify this statement each of the Deleuzian concepts that form the ontology require a clear description. These concepts are described separately, which should help the reader understand their complexity and their practicality for contemplating the Caribbean in the second media age. Where possible I shall provide empirical examples that reinforce the ideas of the concepts in an attempt to avoid this section being overly abstract. The ontology of the dissertation can best be described as a machinic ontology connected to the concept of becoming.
The structure of this section follows the following outline. Firstly, there is a brief discussion/defence of electing to choose a Deleuzian ontology, which asserts that Deleuze’s philosophy is a practical philosophy, and one that is capable of understanding the significance of technology in producing the Caribbean without assuming a social or technological deterministic position. Secondly, the concept of becoming of is described, which argues the Caribbean ought to be conceived as a movement, which is a productive flux. Becoming is then opposed to other (philosophical) concepts of movement, which argues becoming is more appropriate for understanding how the Caribbean is produced. Thirdly, the three main characteristics of Deleuzoguattarian machines are introduced: production of production; production of code; and the production of consumption. As the name of these features suggest, Deleuzoguattarian machines argue for a productivist ontology, but one that crucially understands production differently from the economic theories that focus on the mode of production. Fourthly, Deleuze’s concept of the assemblage is explained to complete the three concepts of the dissertation’s ontology. Assemblages are required as a concept because Deleuzoguattarian machines are not discrete entities, and instead the emphasis is on how machines connect with one another to form assemblages. The concept of assemblages, following Manuel DeLanda, can then provide a theory of society, ranging from: single persons; networks; organisations; governments; cities; and nations.[2] One of the main reasons and attractions for using the concept of assemblage, which is explained below, is that is avoids essentialism and totalities, as machines can enter, be removed, or be de/re-coded in assemblages. Fifthly, I briefly relate the dissertation’s ontology to Antonio Benitez-Rojo’s Deleuzian ontology in The Repeating Island.

Why Deleuze? :
Arguably, there are more reasons for avoiding Deleuze, than there are trying to construct a Deleuzian ontology, aiming to understand how the Caribbean is produced in the second media age. Such reasons, for example, could be composed of the following: the idiosyncrasy of his style is too heterodox for practical research; his philosophy is non-relevant for the Caribbean; his philosophy is nothing beyond vitalism; his philosophy is a mathematical one; and he is a philosopher of de-materialism and spirituality.[3] While each of these critiques, or readings, of Deleuze’s philosophy are not without merit, they suffer from either concentrating too narrowly on certain aspects, or miss the practicality of Deleuze’s philosophy. Even though this Deleuzian ontology is only constructed around three Deleuzian concepts, it avoids a narrow reading of Deleuze, and (should) indicate the practicality of his thought, which becomes relevant for the Caribbean.[4] As this section of the dissertation makes clear below, Deleuze’s philosophy is curious and fixated with the new and novel, which is a relevant issue for producing a cognitive map of the Caribbean in the second media age, as this is a new and novel period for the Caribbean. Importantly, there is also the ability of Deleuze’s philosophy to contemplate the role and significance of technology in society.
There are two false positions that should be avoided when considering and analysing technology in social sciences: social determinism and technological determinism. Social determinism, in simple terms, would argue the role of technology is unimportant, and explains things from the social perspective. This views technology as inert and without agency, and would stress the social formation of a society or an event has nothing to do with technology. One only need think of Columbus’ voyages of ‘discovery’ to realise this position is untenable, as the technological development of the Portuguese navy allowed them the possibility of crossing the Atlantic ocean. In many respects, events or social formations are made possible from the technological developments of a society or culture, which opens up the possibilities of new experiences. In constructing a machinic ontology, the philosophy of Deleuze is able to account for this property of life, and understands the significance of new machines becoming part of the social.
However, while realising technological development creates new experiences for life, this does not mean the role of technology should be understood from a technological deterministic position. This perspective, in simple terms, would remove agency from the social and argue technology is the agent that requires analysis to understand social. The social is therefore only produced as a result of the technologies, and what occurs is a reverse humanism, where the objects (the technology) are given complete primacy over the subject (the human).[5] Deleuze collapses the distinction of machines being separate from humans, which is explain below, and creates an ontology that gives the primacy of production neither to human, technical, or natural machines, but can only be understood in terms of how these machines form assemblages with one another.

Deleuzian Movement: The Becoming of the Caribbean

For Deleuze movement is a crucial component of his philosophy. This movement is a specific type of movement and is termed as becoming. For Deleuze, following Bergson, there is no pre-existing identities (beings), but rather a productive life flux, drawing on the materials and energies of the world. This means things (Deleuzoguattarian Machines) are historical constituted and there are no timeless essences to ground beliefs (e.g. God, Human nature, Platonic ideals) as these are all in the process of becoming. Becoming, as a movement, also has no fixed end or predetermined goal (telos), nor any logical order for becoming as becoming progresses ‘not from a logical order, but following alogical consistencies or compatibilities’ as ‘no one, not even God, can say in advance whether two borderlines with string together or form a fibre, whether a given multiplicity will or will not cross over into another given multiplicity.’[6] Becoming, as a concept, relies on the opportunity or chance for things to occur, which means movement is not predetermined. The future, which the present moves into, is therefore conceived as an open whole in terms of providing infinite potentialities. While this may appear an abstract, or vague, a relatively simple example can demonstrate becoming in process, and how it becomes a practical and actual phenomenon.
Imagine an apple falls from a tree to a ground composed of soil. At that point the apple has a duration, or identity, as an apple. This would focus on the present materiality of the apple, taking into account its substance and form. However, in terms of becoming, the apple is in a flux, and Deleuze terms this ‘pure becoming’[7], where the apple has had an infinite amount of identities previously, and will be an infinite amount of identities in the future. For example, the previous amount of identities of the apple comes from the forces that produced the apple: the sun; the rain; the fertiliser in the soil; the farmer producing an orchid field; and so forth. Importantly is it recognised there is a multiplicity of forces that have assembled to produce the apple. In terms of the future of identity of the apple this is open to the infinite/open whole, and, for example, could become energy for a human which can lead to producing other things. Yet, as Deleuze states about becoming; ‘what is real is the becoming itself, the block of becoming, not supposedly fixed terms through which that becoming passes.’[8] This is an important aspect of becoming, and Deleuzian philosophy, which does not attach itself to transcendent notions or fixed terminology, but rather the actual blocs of becoming and their productive features. The metamorphosis of life, and the Caribbean, is therefore crucial for the concept of becoming, as the concept encourages thought to focus on the experiences and blocs of becoming occurring. The concept of becoming also demonstrates a Dionysian affirmation of life, where creation and destruction are on the same plane[9] as transformation and alteration cause destruction through their creation.
The example therefore demonstrates that becoming is not an object focused approach (e.g. identity), but rather a focus of coexistence and alliance. This illustrates that things are not separate or in a vacuum, and form consistencies and compatibilities with other things – the apple forms a compatibility with the ecosystem. However, these consistencies are not essential, but historically produced features that can alter or change. Deleuze’s provides the famous example of a wasp’s compatibility with an orchid, where the wasp becomes part of the orchid’s reproductive apparatus.[10]
The choice of providing the empirical example of the apple to describe the movement/process of becoming was also elected to demonstrate that becoming is not an anthropogenic centred movement. In contrast becoming can occur as a human mind-independent property of life. Deleuze, in Anti-Oedipus, takes the position to the extreme, arguing that consciousness of man is a historical product of becoming, and may have not of occurred if the contingencies of history were different. This point is also stressed in his book on Nietzsche.[11] The significance is becoming, as a productive force, is not a human centred concept, but a decentred concept, focusing on various bloc of becoming. The reason why this decentred concept of becoming is relevant for understanding how the second media age produces the Caribbean becomes most evident in the Google chapter. This is because search algorithms are now created as part of the second media age, which are used to move through, search, and databank the Internet. These forces of becoming, analysed later, are important as the search algorithms are part of the blocs of becoming that produce the Caribbean through the Google organisation.

[1] The concept of the second media age is from Mark Poster, The Second Media Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995)
[2] See Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (London: Continuum, 2006)
[3] Hallwarddematerial/spiritual, Badiou-vitalism, DeLanda – maths (ISVP)
[4] The reason why I believe this ontology avoids a narrow reading of Deleuze is that the three concepts of the ontology are crucial for understanding any Deleuzian ontology which considers all of his main published books. This is contrary to Manuel DeLanda and Alain Badiou, where the former argues Difference and Repetition is Deleuze’s main book for his ontology, and where the latter critiques Deleuze from mainly reading his earlier pre-Guattarian books.
[5] This reverse humanism is seen in the work of Jean Baudrillard. However, we should read this as a science fiction, which is intending to warn people of the dangers of society becoming ever more reliant on technology through the risks of a new master/slave dialectic emerging where humans become the slaves of the technology machines, as seen in the popular trilogy of the Matrix.
[6] Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (London: Contiuum, 2004) p276
[7] Gilles Deleuze, A Logic of Sense (London: Continuum, 2004) p3
[8] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p262
[9] For Deleuze’s clear Nietzscheanism see Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2004) Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (London: Continuum, 2004) & Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
[10] Gilles Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus p11
[11] ‘Nietzsche knew the hour had come…to remind consciousness of its necessary modesty is to take it for what it is: a symptom; nothing but a symptom of a deeper transformation and the activities of entirely non-spiritual forces’ from Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy p39


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