Friday, December 28, 2012

Object Oriented Philosophy: Reflections on Style and Method

Graham Harman 
A banana Peel

I have been tracking informally the development of Object Oriented       Philosophy/Ontology/Onticology/Speculative Realism for the past couple years, as not only several books, but also blogs have been committed to its development. Over the break, in preparation for my course in New Materialisms/Ontologies that I will be auditing, I have read roughly the first half of the semester's readings: Grahman Harman's Guerilla Metaphysics, Levi Bryant's Democracy of Objects, Ian Bogost's Alien Phenomenology (actually read over the summer), Latour's We have Never Been Modern, and the majority of Harman's book on Latour, Prince of Networks. I think I can firmly say that I have a grasp on the work, but I'm not sure how useful I find it, except perhaps to inspire me to compose a bit more naively and with a bit more confidence and wonder. Not because I find these texts "bad," but because I found them interesting, refreshing, and yet at the same time I wonder where they can really lead me.  Harman was most interesting of the bunch partially because he contextualizes his philosophy in the phenomenological tradition I am most familiar with in Guerilla Metaphysics (among other traditions). Harman is distinctly aware of the positions he is refuting, even if he does not do much with the texts of Spinoza, Kant, Leibniz, Hume, Locke, etc.

 Its interesting to me that he claims in Prince of Networks that a "minor author" or character (taking 'minor' as someone who has little impact, I guess, as opposed to D&G's notion of a 'minor' science and other such uses of 'minor') is one who is "reducible to content. The more a person, object, or idea can be summarized in a list of univocal assertions, the less substantial they are" (140). Given this definition, one could argue that Object Oriented Philosophy/Ontology as a whole deals in such propositions and content, so that reading one book by Harman or Bryant is enough, and differences between them are mostly reducible to comparing relatively clear positions. Certainly my friend Tim ( would argue that this is precisely the problem; actually, "argue" is not how he would put it. Philosophy, for some, does not consist of arguments. 

And yet, this would be a bit unfair to Harman, who does so much more than reiterate his positions and modify other thinkers. Harman is a dramatic philosopher, who  understands the meaning of "speculative" realism in sense that we can see him as writing Science Fiction philosophy or Theory as science fiction, to paraphrase Steven Shaviro in his book, Connected. Harman is truly interested in making philosophy more interesting because he thinks it has become boring. His targets are the analytic philosophers rather than continental, although his disdain for Derrida's style of writing (and his whole mode of thought, which he sees as indicative of "postmodernism," a movement abhorred by Latour)  is clear in Guerilla Metaphysics. But he admires Levinas, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Alphonso Lingis, even if these thinkers maintain an ontological privileging of the human. For Harman, the world is a "carnival of things" and as others have pointed out (such as Levi Bryant) his philosophy is populated with concrete objects, animals, and imaginary characters. For example, in Prince of Networks, he imagines a philosophical dialogue between Socrates and Latour in pitch perfect parody (and yet with sincerity) of Plato's style. Also, in order to illustrate how difficult it is to create enough allies to open a black box, imagines a scene in which Karl Rove has to transform himself into a philosopher so as to defeat Kant's Copernican Revolution, after trying to discredit his morality and even the sincerity of his thought (What if there was evidence that Kant wrote his whole philosophy as a joke? Harman muses). These are the moments where Harman shines as a stylist and as a rhetor that takes his audience into account as he is writing. 

Finally, he uses an endless series of objects for his examples, sometimes annoyingly so. Ian Bogost points this out in Alien Phenomenology and repeats this stylistic gesture. Bogost argues that these series of objects (Latourist Litanies) are a remedy to the philosophies of becoming, philosophies of which Harman and Latour take issue. Harman writes, “for the real novelty in philosophy no longer belongs to the tired old limerick of shifting fluxions and becomings, but to utterly concrete and utterly disconnected entities that cry aloud for mediators to bridge them” (105). 

I'm not against talking about more mundane objects and I am also drawn to the argument  that talk of flux, flow, becoming, is becoming a boring metaphorical description of interactions. However, sometimes these lists of objects don't really contribute to the argument and seem to simply function as a rhetorical ploy to make readers believe that this philosophy more than any other (especially the postmodernists/poststructualists) is concerned with the real, mundane, every day world of objects and other nonhumans. It is not the populations of objects that succeed the most in Harman's work, but rather his extended metaphors or imagined scenarios and thought experiments that truly do work to connect these objects. If Harman, Bryant, and Latour are correct that alliances among objects require work, when these authors list objects out of any sort of context or relation, we may bring these objects before our imagination, but they are disconnected. I usually skip these lists, as I can witness the wonder of the world by simply lifting my eyes from my post, noticing the lights on the windows or the chip in my coffee cup. 

Perhaps Harman is merely trying to illustrate his point that some objects do not affect one another and some metaphors do not work. One of the issues I want to take up in more detail in another post is Harman's reading of Derrida and his claims about the nature of metaphor (particularly Harman's claim that some metaphors 'don't work' -- that is, metaphors either work or not, in a binary fashion). 

But to end on an interesting note, I want to point out an explicit methodical instruction from Harman's Prince of Networks. Instead of critical thinking, Harman recommends hyperbolic thinking. Harman argues that the books that impact us the most are not the ones that are error-free, but "those that throw the most light on unknown portions of the map" (121). Hyperbolic thinking can be broken into steps: 

1.) Choose a particular provocative theorist, thinker, or philosopher 
2.)  Imagine that this thinker at maximum strength; that is, imagine that this thinker has dominated the intellectual world in the future: what would that world look like?
3.) Think about what would be missing from this world.  (121-122). 

In the text, Harman imagines a Latour intellectual domination in 2050: Here is a kind of science-fictional paradigm for thought: creating a narrative of an intellectual future and trying to figure out what one would like to see being taken account in that future. We do a similar thing when we read Science Fiction; As critics, we assume that this representation is not a blueprint, map, or prediction of the future, but rather think the underside of this representation. This comparison shines a light on OOO and OOP just as much as it illuminates a kind of Science Fiction method; That is, OOO  and OOP are, in some sense, representational philosophies. Writing serves to create vivid scenes and helpful narratives to explain and argue for positions. This is not necessarily a criticism, but it might explain why some hardcore Derrideans or Deleuzians might scoff at movement as moving backwards from these philosophies. 

I don't want to sit here and criticize this philosophy, especially since this "critique of critique" is integral to the mission and attitude of OOP. Harman has written compelling books that are readable without sacrificing argumentative rigor or compelling and vivid prose. Its going to be interesting to see how I might apply these insights to my own work as the semester develops. We can also look forward to an object-oriented view of language, writing, and or rhetoric. These well-worn themes of our discipline are not going away in favor of talking about objects, but rather could be rethought in terms of this new metaphysics. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Memory, Technology, and Biology in M.T. Anderson's Feed

"Look at us! You don't have the feed! You are the feed! You're feed! You're being eaten! You're raised for food! Look at what you've made yourselves! -- Feed, pg 202

M.T. Anderson wrote his novel Feed in 2001 and published in 2002, but it was recently republished in a 2012 edition. I initially thought it was just recently written and even after reading the text I thought "How relevant!" This might not be the first science fiction novel to explore the idea that the internet is in our brains, but it does so with an awareness of how that might affect our biological being in a very visceral, fleshy way that I don't remember even Delaney's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand exploring (despite the fact that the book explores the problem of desire).

Anderson writes in his postscript to the 2012 edition that he didn't set out to "predict future tech" but to think "about the cultural conditions as they already were then." He was less concerned about the technologies themselves than how they were used by commercial forces, who of course will be the ones to control these technologies. Perhaps more importantly, he notes that we are less and less sure of how the technologies got to where they are (and thus who controls them): " As time goes on, it becomes harder and harder for any of us to keep track of how things were made and how they got to us. Yet at the same time, whenever we buy something, we're also putting a 'yea' vote for the system that put it together. We're responsible for a world we don't understand."

Personal Advertising

Indeed, our advertisements, even though they are not implanted within our skull, structure, predict, and form our desires in a FEEDback loop of information. Instead of watching TV on a separate device, TV can be viewed post-air time on sites like HULU that will give you a "choice" of which Ad you would like to view (usually for the same product) as well as containing a button in the upper right hand corner that asks "Is this ad relevant to you?" Based on our purchases (and moreover even our VIEWS!) on and other sites, the site will then recommend other things for you to buy, personalizing the range of your purchases.
The same thing happens in Feed to a more extreme degree because the person guiding  purchases is in your head and can track what you look at in a physical mall or what you order through your feed in your head. The narrator describes the power of the Feed in the following passage:
It knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. It can tell you how to get them, and help you make buying decisions that are hard. Everything we think and feel is taken in by the corporations, mainly by data ones like Feedlink and OnFeed and American Feedware, and they make a special profile, one that's keyed just to you, and then they give it to their branch companies, or other companies buy them, and they can get to know what it is we need, so all you have to do is want something and there is a chance it will be yours. (48)
I can't help but recall the Prilosec OTC commercial with America's favorite dumbass. Larry the Cable Guy:  "Cuz this is America. We don't make just things you want. We make things you didn't even KNOW you wanted!"

The Feed is literally an organ, an integral part of your body: "Before that, computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe" (47). Electric media, in this sense, are less an extension of the body as McCluhan argues, but rather an incorporation, an organ that infiltrates and fuses with the brain. The Feed cannot actually be turned off, only disconnected, because, as Violet, one of the main characters point out, "it's tied in everywhere. They said the limbic system, the motor cortex. . .the hippocampus. They listed all this stuff. If the feed fails too severely, it could interfere with basic processes." (171).

This is the other side, the unthought possibility, of the utopic extropianism of thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil in his article "This is your Brain on Neural Implants." Kurzweil imagines a scenario very close to that of the Feed, shorn of its commercial aspects:
You undergo a procedure to replace a very small part of your brain with a nonbiological unit [. . .] As promised-- the procedure works perfectly--certain of your capabilities have improved. (You have a better memory perhaps). 
Perhaps the procedure does go well, but what about continued tech support? Kurzweil is most concerned to allay people's doubts about whether they are still "them," whether they still have a unified and unique identity; what he doesn't consider, is who controls and monitors this wetware? Kurzweil's use of language gives us a clue as to his ignorance of these potential problems: 
We have already largely outsourced our historical, intellectual, social, and personal memories to our devices and the cloud. The devices we interact with to access these memories will become smaller and smaller, making their way into our bodies. It will be a useful place to put them--we won't lose them that way. And in the coming years, we will continue on the path of gradual replacement and augmentation scenario until ultimately most of our thinking be in the cloud. 
 "Outsourcing" is a term we have heard a lot recently, or at least until our own economic crisis has taken front stage, particularly outsourcing jobs. I think it is worthwhile to give an exact definition of what outsourcing is to show how commercial interests always play a role in our outsourcing of memory: 
Outsourcing is the contracting out of a business process, which an organization may have previously performed internally or has a new need for, to an independent organization from which the process is purchased back as a service. (Wikipedia)
So let's think about this for a minute: Our memories, according to Kurzweil, are now outsourced, in the sense that we allow our memories to be systematically organized and controlled by the cloud interface and purchase them back as a service!  Even free programs like Dropbox only gives you so much memory space until you either pay them or sign up for something else. Even if we don't "pay" them actual money, it has now been made abundantly clear that the companies that produce services that "store" your memories are also using them for their ends. Just recently, Instagram has admitted that their service agreement allows them to use your photographs for advertisements. Although they just as quickly denied it and repealed their change to privacy policy. Still, we all know that Facebook is becoming more and more commercialized with their "promote" function and Facebook uses our information to advertise to us. Indeed, the "newsFEED" is not only loaded with friendly updates, but also notifications (that I have to believe are false) that so an so "likes Budweiser" or whatever company they decide to notify. In other words, Kurzweil's right that we have already outsourced our memories to the internet Cloud, but we still have private memories that are not uploaded, memories attached to sensation and perception that we can sometimes recall or set off with a smell, taste, or touch. These memories are still "ours" and a deep part of our being. 

The Tragedy of Violet

But what if those memories were outsourced, or tied into something that is controlled by a corporation whose sole purpose is profitable investments? This is where the narrative of Feed needs to be introduced. One could say that Feed has one sole narrator, Titus, who is a typical college teen in this near future society, but this would inaccurate. Why? Because the feed punctures the narration with its indirect discourse: snippets of advertisements, presidential speeches, and hacking messages pepper the text. The indirect discourse may be the most powerful and most challenging aspect of Feed for younger readers, but it also illustrates that Titus and his friends are conduits for the feed, full of multiple voices, but ultimately the voice commands them to do only one thing: consume. 

The story begins on the Moon, where bored teens travel to get fucked up either by drinking or by a kind of electrical scrambling of the brains they call "in mal" ("mal" is French for "bad" or "evil," but the novel also connects it to the Mall). Titus meets Violet, who is a bit strange to all of them because she uses strange words, like "suppuration," which the rest of the group have to look up on the Feed. I must note that I myself had to look up "suppuration" on my own "external" feed (google), finding that it meant "the formation or discharge of pus."  While dancing at a club, a "hacker" touches Titus, his friends, and Violet and all of them begin to broadcast the hacker's message: 
We enter a time of calamity. Blood on the tarmac. Fingers in the juicer. Towers of air frozen in the lunar wastes. Models dead on the runways, with their legs facing backward. Children with smiles that can't be undone. Chicken shall rot in the aisles. See the the pillars fall. (39)
They are taken away to the hospital and are told they must have their feed's turned off. We find out later that they were only "disconnected" since they could not be turned off. Everyone misses their feed because they can no longer silent chat to each other nor do they undergo the constant barrage of advertisements. 

Luckily, in this world, testimony is absolutely reliable in legal matters because they can simply subpoena your memories without having to worry about deterioration or distortion (56). Memories can also be "played" for people, not only as a visual, but a haptic experience. You can experience another person's memories as if you were in their position when the memory happened: like a record of an intimate VR experience. 

Most of the novel centers around the relationship between Titus and Violet, as well as Violet's attempt to resist the logic of the Feed. She decides that she will look at many random objects so that the feed cannot pin her down as a particular type of consumer. Violet clearly explains the mission of the Feed: 
Everything we've grown up with--the stories on the feed, the games, all of that--its all streamlining our personalities so we're easier to sell to. I mean they do these demographic studies that divide everyone into a few personality types, and then you get ads based on what you supposedly like. They try to figure out who you are, and to make you conform to one of their types for easy marketing. It's like a spiral: they keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets so used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything simpler. (95)
Instead, Violet decides to make a screwed customer profile so they cannot pin her down: "I'm not going to let them catalog me. I'm going to become invisible" (97). She starts looking at all sorts of things and realizes that once you look at this other stuff, the stuff that is not dictated by the feed, "you realize this obscure stuff isn't obscure at all. Each thing is like a whole world" (102). By introducing variety into her interests and desires (and not actually buying anything) she becomes invisible because she is an unpredictable customer. As we shall see, her life depends on her worthiness as an investment. 

But there is a price to be paid for being invisible. . .

As the novel progresses, we learn that Violet's feed is actually malfunctioning (probably another reason why Anderson chose the word "mal" for his drug-like state) and causing her to lose feeling and control over her bodily functions. Later, she tells Titus that she has lost one year of her memory. Violet begins to depend on Titus and to have fantasies of them doing all of these things that she wants to do; "normal" things that actually correspond to a typical bourgeois lifestyle, like "I want to rent a hotel room with you [Titus]. As Mister and Missus Smith" (230). Or, alternately, "And I want to go into 'the office' everyday, sometimes even on weekends, and be someone's administrative assistant, and complain to you through the feed while I'm at my desk about my bitch of a manager or my pervert boss" 

When she enrolls Titus to do this, he breaks up with her, unable to handle the idea that she will die soon. He even says, harshly, that he cannot sleep with her because it would be like sleeping with a zombie or a corpse!  Violet also sends Titus her memories because she knows that they cannot be preserved within her, but he simply deletes them, and lies to her, telling her that he never received the memories. 

But one memory he does "try on" and the reader finally understands that ones very life depends on feeding the feed. Violet had petitioned for customer support for her Feed from both Feedtech and other corporations, because her family cannot afford to pay for it. The Feed, according to the novel's world, is not covered by health insurance because despite the fact that it essentially merges with your most basic functions it is not medical! (219). Indeed, the feed is commercial through and through. She receives this devastating message from Feedtech: 
FeedTech and other investors reviewed your purchasing history, and we don't feel that you would be a reliable investment at this time. No one could get a 'handle' on your shopping habits. (246-47)
FeedTech has condemned her to death because she is no longer a worthwhile investment for the company. Instead of people investing in stocks, people become the stocks, they are the commodities, and their memories are merely mined for commercial purposes not only on a cultural, but personal, intimate, level. 

The Erasure of Cultural Memory through the Attenuation of Language and Commodification of History

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of Feed is the lack of historical memory and context in the novel. History has been appropriated as fashion or been discarded as useless. The language used by the teens contains little concreteness or any allusive or metaphorical significance. Indeed, one thing that attracts Violet to Titus, as she tells him, "You're the only one who uses metaphor" (62). Language has become purely functional; It's no longer "Yeah, man" or "Yeah, girl" but  "yeah, unit" --specificity is erased. The kids favorite TV show is called What! Oh! A Thing! and the parents speak just as inadequately. No one writes anything down anymore, except Violet, and there don't seem to be any books. 

Furthermore, as the case of Violet's father tells us, programming languages that allow the user to control their hardware and software are obsolete. Fortran and BASIC are now the "dead languages" that no one needs anymore. He makes little money and tries to preserve not only programming languages, but the variety of English as well. As Violet tells Titus, "He says the language is dying. He thinks words are being debased. So he tries to speak entirely in weird words and irony so no one can simplify anything he says" (137). 

There are many allusions that the reader will catch, most importantly, Violet's father's statement that Titus should "hang with the Eloi" (290). When Titus doesn't get it, Violet's father says "Its a reference [. . .] To H.G. Wells' The Time Machine." He just keeps telling Titus to look it up, to read it. He doesn't want the reference to be easily consumed by Titus, as he says, echoing Anderson's statements in the afterword: 
We Americans [. . .] are only interested in the consumption of our products. We have no interest in how they were produced, or what happens to them [. . .] what happens to them once we discard them, once we throw them away. (290)

The members of this society consume everything. Not just products but history and culture. In one of the most disturbing scenes in the book to me, Titus's friends get out of their "upcar," wearing "torn up clothes" and looking like "they'd been burned up and hit with stuff" (158). When asked about it, they respond that this is the new fashion: Riot Gear: "Its retro. It's beat up to look like one of the twentieth century riots" (158). When Violet asks which one is the "Watts" riot, no one can answer her and they think its weird that she would try and understand the historical precedent. The scene surrounding the encounter  consists of Titus and his friends trying to say  good things about Coke to your friends 1000 times so as to get a free six pack. They repeat so many phrases about Coke, it becomes a magic word that sets off their craving. They think that they are cheating the companies, but they describe it so much that they decide they will go buy a six pack. Historical questions of riots are overridden by the mantra of Coca-Cola consumption. Corporate mentality erases collective memory of history. I may explore this further with references to Steigler's Technics and Time 3 in a later post. 

The erasure of history and the dominance of corporate fashion arrives at a point where people froze in their tracks from Nostalgia Feedback:

People were just stopping in their tracks frozen. At first, people thought it was another virus, and they were looking for groups like the Coalition of Pity, but it turned out that it was something called Nostalgia Feedback. People had been getting nostalgia for fashions that were closer and closer to their own time, until finally people became nostalgic for the moment they were actually living in, and the feedback completely froze them.
People were just stopping in their tracks frozen. At first, people through it was another virus, and they were looking for groups like the Coalition Party, but it turned out it was due to something called Nostalgia Feedback. People had been getting nostalgia for fashions that were closer to their own time, until finally people became nostalgic for the moment they were actually living in, and the feedback completely froze them. (277). 

In a way, what is happening on a larger scale is a less extreme version of Violet's predicament. Violet writes to Titus, "What are we if we don't have a past?" and the irony of this statement is that if you don't have a purchasing history, you are nothing, you aren't a worthwhile investment.

The Nostalgia Feedback is only one negative effect of the Feed on everyone (and not just poor violet, who ends up dying as a result of her malfunctioning feed). The reader suspects that the Feed is also producing lesions on people's bodies as well as causing their hair to fall out. The body is also becoming transparent: "You can see like muscles and tendons and ligaments and stuff through the lesions," one character says of another (199).  The lesions eventually become a fashion statement so that one of Titus' friends actually gets artificial lesions that ooze just like real ones. The Feed has turned disease and detrioration into a fashion statement in order to keep people from realizing what's really happening to their bodies. Violet is the only one who sees the problem: "Shes a monster! A monster covered with cuts! She's a creature!" (202).

In this world, people have become the conduits, no, the servants of the corporations; their memories are only guaranteed by their purchasing histories and while Violet's story is tragic, the novel suggests that the rest of the society is about to collapse as well: "Everything was not always going well, because for most people, our hair fell out and we were bald, and we had less and less skin" (277). Titus even notes that "My mom had lost so much skin you could see her teeth even when her mouth was closed" (283). Truly if the reader pays attention to these little details, the reader might agree with Violet that these people are monsters, monsters created by the corporations that they created. Monsters we are feeding our own flesh to, so they can sell other shit back to us, satisfying our desires that the Feed as already created:

"Soylent Green is People! It's People!" 

Monday, December 17, 2012

End of Semester Reflections on "Digital Humanities"

Alex Reid has posted some really interesting videos on the state of Digital Humanities and "middle state publishing" here:  A couple of these spawned the following reflections. It will take me a bit to get through all the videos and more may be added later.

So Jamie Bianco in the below interview says that the public is doing more interesting things than academics. Not just in the sense of "bells and whistles" but rather in the thought produced.  Is this true? Is academic humanities "behind" in the sense that we need to start producing in other media (See Bogost's elaboration of Harman's concept of "carpentry") and to catch up to the speed at which thought is produced in an online ecology? The rate at which new signifers are produced is somewhat staggering to a point that it is so hard to keep up or at the very least difficult to spend time interpreting and understanding. Levi Bryant, in his interview in the same series, notes that he no longer calls himself an "object oriented ontologist" but a "machine oriented ontologist" -- "I don't believe in objects anymore" he says. Isn't it all just moving too fast and furthermore, what is the proliferation and dissemination of new movements, terms, and fields doing to our understanding? I'm not trying to sound like a conservative reactionary, but everything is speeding up in the radical sense of Paul Virilio. Although I hesitate to use the language of crisis, I truly believe that graduate students in the Humanities (particularly "English departments") are see-sawing between the literary scholarship we (or at least I) was taught and something else. Even my training in continental philosophy was much closer to my previous literature training with emphasis on reading, language, text, and rhetoric then this something else. I'm now thinking about new abstractions (that claim that they are not really abstractions) -- objects, materiality, medium, multimodality, digital humanities, image, etc. Do they not become abstractions through their academization (as they become part of the university discourse -- to refer to Lacan)? That is, the claim is to try and think the world not as language (the linguistic turn) but ironically this turn has produced a staggering amount of new language ABOUT these phenomena.

Levi Bryant says in his interview (posted below) that he's not sure what to call himself anymore. His blog larvalsubjects deals with philosophy, rhetoric, technology, ecology (and the "environmental crisis"), "theory," and so on. As he points out, he is able to talk about many different things. This is great and is generative of so many ideas, but I think Bryant's confusion as to the nature of his "field" is precisely what so many of us in graduate school are struggling with. Partially this is because new "fields" (or the master signifiers that designate a specialization) are created. Despite the fact that Bryant is correct that there is no "master discourse" that can serve as some sort of foundation (Philosophy, Science, etc.), there are still new master discourses formed, picked up, and disseminated. I am very far from arguing that this has not always been the case, but the introduction of the "digital" as an object for study as well as, as Bianco puts it, a "set of methods or practices," means that as graduate students we are struggling to not only learn how to expand theoretical perspectives on scholarship, philosophy, and literature in completely new ways -- not just new interpretations of texts that negotiate previous interpretations. That is, my object of study was pretty clear at one point: literary texts. I could say that my object of study is now "writing," but "writing" is really any moment of inscription; this includes videos, images, objects, bodily movements, DNA, etc.

This is what Sid Dobrin tells us when he says that we should do theory. --But how? Part of this task seems to be to find new "texts," but instead of making the text the focus, the object, and thus the purpose for the interpretation, the interpretation serves as an example in a larger argument. True, this happens in more "traditional" literary scholarship in dissertations and books, but I am still floundering around, trying to figure out what "my" argument could possibly be (in the larger sense). Perhaps this is a regular condition of graduate school.  But the rhetoric of Digital Humanities suggests otherwise.

In some sense, perhaps all I'm saying is that I miss contributing to a tradition rather than a current conversation; But perhaps this is less the fault of the university or graduate education, and more because, as Bianco suggests, publics have caught up with the academics and are doing more interesting things and thinking more interesting things that form relevant and meaningful practices that address our collective situation. Perhaps the speed at which thought is created and disseminated is even more intimidating to a nascent academic than it used to be because of "middle state publishing." No longer am I merely trying to produce some sort of "original" thought or argument in the midst of peer-reviewed journal articles and books accessed on EBSCO Host, but the conversations on the blogs as well.

I feel like more academic books are being published that address interdisciplinary theoretical and practical issues than ever before. I'm not only trying to catch up -- I'm trying to get ahead.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hypnosis and Psychoanalysis: Toward a Research Prospectus

It is well known that the origin of psychoanalysis is in hypnosis. It is even more well known that Freud eventually left hypnosis behind in favor of the "fundamental rule" of psychoanalysis -- that the patient free associate. However, it is less well known that Freud was never quite able to "get rid" of hypnosis. Hypnosis remains psychoanalysis's repressed other, the true 'underside' of psychoanalysis. As Freud said, hypnotic relation is rediscovered in the "transference." In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Freud even writes that "being in love" is really a form of hypnosis, one in which everything is much less "clear." Hypnosis is evidence of the unconscious (what better evidence?) and, as such, remains a mysterious phenomenon that Freud cannot entirely grasp or explain. He writes,
there is still a great deal in it which we must recognize as unexplained and mysterious. It contains an additional element of paralysis derived from the relation between someone with superior power and someone who is without power and helpless. (60) 

On the one hand, Freud claims that the hypnotist possess a great power, similar to the power of a shaman: 

This mysterious power [. . .] must be the same power that is looked upon by primitive people as the source of taboo, the same that emanates from kings and chieftains and makes it dangerous to approach them (mana). The hypnotist, then, is supposed to be in possession of this power. (73) 

The argument that the hypnotist has too much power over the patient and thus, as Lacan might say, imposes the hypnotist's own beliefs, opinions, or modes of being on the hypnotized (the analysand) is problematic. Freud states outright in his essay on "Hypnosis" that, 
The chief deficiency of hypnotic therapy is that it cannot be dosed. The degree of hypnosis attainable does not depend on the physician’s procedure but on the chance reaction of the patient. (111)
If we follow Freud here, then the hypnotist actually has much less control over the patient then previously thought. Indeed, the hypnotist, like the analyst, is at the mercy of the patient's "chance reactions." While these may not manifest themselves in speech (although, is it not the case that the patient may report to the analyst what he or she is experiencing in the same way that analysand's report their dreams?). I would argue that similar to psychoanalysis, the hypnotist is not the "subject-supposed-to-know" but rather, the "subject-supposed-to-be-powerful." Both of these are "false" (and 'true') projects onto the analyst/hypnotist -- they both function as lures that keep the analysis/hypnotism going. Both are lures that manifest in the belief and susceptibility of the patient to treatment. 

There is much more to be said about Freud and psychoanalysis and I hope to go further into this relationship in my research paper, referring to further passages in Group Psychology and drawing on the work of Borch-Jacobsen, D. Diane Davis, and engaging critically with Dylan Evan's masters thesis, which argues that Freud mainly rejected hypnosis on ethical, rather than theoretical grounds. However, for now, I want to point to two passages where Freud makes apparent the close relationship between psychoanalysis and hypnosis in the phenomenon of the transference. Both passages are from Group Psychology. 

First passsage: 
The hypnotist avoids directing the subject’s conscious thoughts towards his own intentions, and makes the person upon whom he is experimenting sink into an activity in which the world is bound to seem uninteresting to him; but at the same time the subject is in reality unconsciously concentrating his whole attention upon the hypnotist, and is getting into an attitude of rapport, of TRANSFERENCE on to him. Thus the indirect methods of hypnotizing, like many of the technical procedures used in making jokes, have the effect of checking certain distributions of mental energy which would interfere with the course of events in the unconscious, and they lead eventually to the same result as the direct methods of influence by means of staring or stroking. (74)
First, we should note the distinction made between direct and indirect suggestion. Freud seems to equate direct suggestion/influence with physical gestures ("staring" or "stroking"). Indirect suggestion is likened to "technical procedures in making jokes," and,according to Freud, these methods can lead to the same results (!).

Second, we need to note that for Freud hypnotism is a way for the world to withdraw so that the patient focuses entirely on the hypnotist, which is evidence of the transference. This second point plays into the next passage I want to focus on.

This next passage is actually a footnote in Group Psychology, indicating that it is an "aside the point," that it can be subsumed under the main text. Footnotes are the unconscious, the repressed other of any text. It is the space of the text where the text exceeds itself, where the author must acknowledge other arguments or points of view: " See ____ for an argument different than mine."

This particular footnote does not point to another text, but it explicitly addresses a point of intersection between psychoanalysis and hypnosis:
This situation, in which the subject’s attitude is unconsciously directed towards the hypnotist, while he is consciously occupied with monotonous and uninteresting perceptions, finds a parallel among the events of psychoanalytic treatment. . .At least once in the course of every analysis a moment comes when the patient obstinately maintains that just now positively nothing whatever occurs in his mind. His free associations come to a stop and the usual incentives for putting them in motion fail in their effect. If the analyst insists, the patient is at last induced to admit that he is thinking of the view from the consulting room {etc.} Then one knows at once that he has gone off into the transference and is engaged upon what are still unconscious thoughts relating to the physician; and one sees the stoppage in the patient’s associations disappear, as soon as he has been given this explanation.  (75)

In the former passage, Freud argues that the hypnotist puts the patient into a state in which the "world is bound to seem uninteresting to him," at the same time as his unconscious is directed toward the hypnotist. Perhaps we should understand the remarks about the consulting room (the patient's immediate surrounding) as still marking this "uninterestedness" or "withdrawness" from the world. This speech may correspond to what Lacan once called "empty speech," speech that signifies to the analyst that something else is going on that the patient is not saying. Freud points to this phenomenon in the case of "The Rat Man"
 Next day he came in a state of deep depression, and wanted to talk about indifferent subjects; but he soon admitted that he was in a crisis. The most frightful thing had occured in his mind while he was in the tram yesterday. It was quite impossible to say it. His cure would not worth such a sacrifice. I should turn him out, for it concerned the transference. Why should I put up with such a thing? None of the explanations I gave him about the transference (which did not sound at all strange to him) had any effect. It as only after a forty minute struggle--as it seemed to me--and after I had revealed the element of revenge against me and had shown him that by refusing to tell me and by giving up the treatment he would be taking a more outright revenge on me than telling me --only after this did he give me to understand that it concerned my daughter. (326)
 Here, we see that Freud notices that Rat Man's speaking of "indifferent subjects" indicated that there was something else going on. However, we also note that Freud had a hard time explaining the transference. Freud argues that once he gives the explanation the patient's free associations go on again, but what if the transference cannot be explained away? And, does it really go away? There is more to say here (always more to say).

Lacan and Hypnosis

Lacan is generally thought to have dismissed hypnosis and the problem of suggestion outright. Whereas Freud confronted it again and again throughout his life, Lacan seems to have dismissed it as irrelevant to the search for signifiers. Hypnosis is the realm of affect and that which cannot be explained in words. In this sense, it is similar to the realm of "desire" which cannot be reduced to language.

But even in Lacan, there are a few passages where he makes a distinction between "crude suggestion" and another kind of suggestion.

in "Introduction to Jean Hyppolite's Commentary on Freud's Verneinung," referring to ego psychologists, Lacan says,
What they in fact do--instead of confining themselves to the dialectical pathways by which psychoanalysis has been elaborated, and lacking the talent necessary to return to the PURE and SIMPLE use of suggestion--is merely to resort to a pedantic form of suggestion, taking advantage of our culture's ambient psychologism. (314, italics and capitalization mine)
The "pedantic" form of suggestion is one in which the analyst desires to "have the last word," that is, to form the patient in their own image of what they should conform to. This kind of suggestion would result in, as Lacan puts it in "Direction of Treatment," a directing of the patient, in particular his or her conscience, rather than directing the treatment. For Freud as for Lacan, directing the treatment is merely to put a process in motion. Freud writes that the analyst "cannot determine beforehand exactly what results he will effect," and that the process "on the whole, once begun, it goes its own way and does not allow either the direction it takes or the order in which it puts up its points to be prescribed for it" ("Beginning the Treatment," 368-69).

Thus, "pure suggestion" (whatever that might mean) is not excluded. Does Lacan mean here suggestion without the transference? Or, on the contrary, does he mean the affect created within the the transference, a pure performativity without any content (i.e. the hypnotic effect?). Either way, Lacan says that the transference effect must be interpreted:
However, this interpretation [any interpretation the analyst gives], if he gives it, will be received as coming from the person the transference imputes him to be. Will he agree to take advantage of this error concerning who he is? Psychoanalytic morals do not forbid it, on the condition that he interpret this effect, failing which the analysis would remain at the level of crude suggestion. (494)
The "suggestion" spoken of here is meant in the sense of something spoken by the analyst that contains content. Lacan's distinguishing between "crude suggestion" and an interpreted suggestion refers to the difference of the analyst thinking he knows best once and for all and the analyst who allows the patient's reaction (the effect) start the dialectical process moving again. The mistake is to think that somehow a suggestion can cure a patient in itself, without the dialectical movement of further interpretation. That is, suggestion is understood here as a particular rectification.  Lacan sees this as one of Freud' strengths as an analyst:
The fact is that this rectification is also dialectical in Freud's work. It takes off from the subject's own words in order to come back to them, which means that an interpretation can be exact only by being. . .an interpretation. (502)
Lacan emphasizes interpretation, as Terry Harpold puts it, "does not mean the resolution of meaning, but the continued ongoing exposition of meaning" (from commentary on wiki)

 This is the mistake of hypnosis, if by hypnosis we mean that it is only by the suggestions of the analyst (while the patient remains silent) that the patient is cured. However, "hypnosis" here refers to a particular therapeutic technique and method rather than what Freud calls in Group Psychology the "hypnotic relation" (that constitutes group formation; hypnosis is a group relation involving two people) and what we refer to here as the transference.  For as Borch-Jacobsen argues,
At bottom, what is transference described by Freud if not hypnosis without a hypnotist, persuasion without a rhetorician, since it is produced in the absence of any direct suggestion? Paradoxically, the phenomenon of transference reveals that the influence of the hypnotist and/or analyst is based not on a particular technique or power, but rather on an a priori affectability (a 'spontaneous receptivity') in the patient-- that is to say, on the 'rhetoricity' of the affect as such, a rhetoricity anterior to any verbal persuasion and also to any metaphoric expression of passions. (71, first italics mine)
Thus, transference is indirect suggestion because what it suggests is that the analyst/hypnotist has the power to cure. What else could Lacan be referring to when he speaks of "pure suggestion" than this subtle indirect suggestion, the lure of the therapeutic situation itself?

Lacan leaves the question of "pure" suggestion far more open than previous commentators have admitted. Lacan even indicates that he may be able to come up with an account of suggestion that fits with the analytic situation. I quote at length for context:
And given that Freud goes on to deplore the fact that the concept of suggestion has drifted in an ever vaguer diretion which does not allow us to foresee the clarification of the phenomenon any time soon, what mightn't he have said about the current usage of the notion of resistance? How could he not have encouraged, at the very least, my efforts to tighten up its use in analytic technique? In any case, my way of reintegrating it into the whole of the dialectical movement of an analysis is perhaps what will allow me to someday provide a formulation of suggestion that will stand up to the criteria of analytic experience. (315)
Does this reduce suggestion to a verbal suggestion or, on the contrary, does it open it up to suggestion as an indirect, "pure" suggestion, a pure performativity, affectivity, rhetoricity that should only be used to further the dialectical process of interpretation? Should we perhaps follow Isabelle Stengers and Leon Chertok when they write,
“For Freud, psychoanalysis was not the opponent of suggestion, but had succeeded rather in ‘putting suggestion in the service of knowledge’ (272). 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Science" in the Humanities

I can't remember when, but it may have been over drinks and a bonfire, a friend of mine, who has a background in science remarked that she thinks the humanities have a reductive straw-man concept of what science "is" and tries to do. Despite having little background in formal science education, I have also thought that this may be the case, since  "science" is hardly a unified field as Terrence over at Agent Swarm recently has pointed out (echoed by Adam over at und fur sich -- I'm not sure which post came first).

 I spent some time with a friend who was doing research in immunology and learned that immunologists see the "ecological" sciences as less sciences. In other words, there is just as much debate between the sciences (because, again, scientific paradigms are not unified and are splintered into different focuses that have different goals) as in the humanities (Literature proper vs. 'rhetoric and composition' vs. 'new media' vs. 'theory' vs. digital humanities -- I'm far from suggesting these don't interpenetrate one another, but these are some of the disciplinary identities that are currently floating around). 

Without a doubt, as Levi Bryant has emphasized in his posts, the humanities should not shun science, but at the same time, do we not have a different relationship with knowledge? I realize that I am essentializing "the humanities," as much as we have essentialized "science," so let me narrow it down to "English," which at UF is a strange hybrid of literature, composition, philosophy, "theory," psychoanalysis, ethnography, etc. etc. We have a very "broad" definition of our department. Anyway, I am getting away from my point. . .

Despite my misgivings of treating science as a unified field or reducing science to one dominant way of epistemology or ontology, I would like to affirm that our treatment of the sciences is about on par with what I am going to call "pop science" books, written by renown scientists for the general public. 

In the public intellectual sphere of books like Regenesis (discussed in more detail below), The Selfish Gene, Consilience, there is just as much "essentializing" and "theorizing" and "speculating" about where science is taking us as in academic articles in the humanities. In some cases, academic theorists go into even more detail about how these theories are constructed. For instance, Thierry Bardini in Junkware spends 3 chapters discussing the genesis of Watson and Crick's theory of DNA, mobilizing a specific critique that has political ramifications of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. N. Katherine Hayles in How We Became Posthuman narrativizes the cybernetic conferences to bring forth the tensions and decisions that were made in order to come to agreement about the field. Some may find these tedious, but I find them fascinating as they take into account the "material" reality outside the laboratory (in letters, conference presentations, transcripts, etc.) that eventually result in a scientific "movement" or "discovery" reported in the newspaper under the headlines "science." Hayles and Bardini both take seriously Sherry Turkle's demand at the end of Evocative Objects that we must tell new stories, counternarratives to the one presented by the mainstream media. 
The question for me is how our stories are different from the "narrativizing" of science we find on our pop science book shelves aimed toward the general public? But even if our stories are at the level of abstraction or at the level of the regulative genres of writing/recording (see Spinuzzi) that help form a scientific discipline and are the same "level" as the popular science books, we should at least be OK with that since even the "hard scientists" when explaining the implications of their works resort to the same kind of rhetoric, sometimes sacrificing an "interesting anecdote" for a hard critique of dominant paradigms. 

In order to illustrate further what I mean, I want to take George Church's and Ed Regis's recent text, Regenesis into account. I saw Church on The Colbert Report discussing his new book and figured I had to read it as the chapter titles dealt with issues I raised in my thesis. I would post the interview, but it is currently unavailable. . .I'm not sure why. Probably copyright issues. 

Regenesis, Biohacking, and Transhumanism

Instead of buying this text due to fund restriction and since it was not in our library yet, I just went to the local Barnes and Noble and causually "browsed" the book (speed skimmed it in an academic fashion). Undoubtedly, the book contained some scientific descriptions as well as narrative expositions of the origins of Genetic technologies. The subtitle is "How Synthetic Biology will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves." I've noticed that a lot of the subtitles of pop science books directly address an individual reader, which suggests that it will serve to teach them something that will give them an ability to do x,y, or z. These titles are sexy and make you want to read them. So this one claims that synthetic biology will reinvent us in some major way. I'm not disagreeing, but a scientific paper (and even a humanities paper) would hardly make such claims within the title. 

Let us move to the rhetoric of the inside flap: 

"Imagine a future in which human beings have become immune to all viruses, in which bacteria can custom-produce everyday items, like a drinking cup, or generate enough electricity to end oil dependency. Building a house would entail no more work than planting a seed in the ground. These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but pioneering geneticist George Church and science writer Ed Regis show that synthetic biology is bringing us ever closer to making such visions a reality.

In Regenesis, Church and Regis explore the possibilities—and perils—of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology, in which living organisms are selectively altered by modifying substantial portions of their genomes, allows for the creation of entirely new species of organisms. Until now, nature has been the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution; with synthetic biology, we now have the potential to write our own biological future. Indeed, as Church and Regis show, it even enables us to revisit crucial points in the evolution of life and, through synthetic biological techniques, choose different paths from those nature originally took.

Such exploits will involve far more than just microbial tinkering. Full-blown genomic engineering will make possible incredible feats, from resurrecting woolly mammoths and other extinct organisms to creating mirror life forms with a molecular structure the opposite of our own. These technologies—far from the out-of-control nightmare depicted in science fiction—have the power to improve human and animal health, increase our intelligence, enhance our memory, and even extend our life span.

A breathtaking look at the potential of this world-changing technology, Regenesis is nothing less than a guide to the future of life.

First, I want to point out that there is a concrete division (at least at this level of discouse) between 'nature' and human life: "Until now, nature has been the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution; with synthetic biology, we now have the potential to write our own biological future."

As most writing teachers know, "writing" is never fully in our control (nor is language) so to "write our own future" is still to live with contingency. This is a small point, but I think that claiming that we can now "write" our biological future is in essence to say that we are in control of where we are going and this assumes that we know who this "we" is (or who the "we" ought to be).

Second, note the contrast between the dreaded science fiction "out of control nightmare" with the "powers" of these new technologies. These "powers" are most extensively explored in the "epigenetic epilogue," titled "+1 year, The End of the Beginning, Transhumanism and the Panspermia Era (Societal Risks and Countermeasures)" This is the chapter I read closely and the one I want to focus on. Due to the method I chose to encounter this text, I will be unable to cite exact passages.

The chapter mainly is mainly addressing the problem of control, drawing on Francis Fukuyama and Ray Kurzweil. Although Fukuyama makes a decent argument in his text, both he and Kurzweil, although on opposite sides of the spectrum, both have an essentialized view of the human. Fukuyama uses statistics and Kurzweil betrays his concept in his discussions of the future. Fukuyama sees our "Posthuman future" as an immanent disaster and Kurzweil reads our posthuman future as an immanent transformation of human transcendence and control. Church and Regis straddle this line of thinking, erring on the side of Kurzweil.

One movement discussed briefly, and which I discuss in more detail in my thesis, is "Biohacking." Regis and Church seem to think this is a real threat to the control of biological life, and offer some general ways that we might keep it under control of experts. But as I point out, these tinkerers are doing things mostly on 6th or 7th grade level and the threat of bioterrorism is greatly exaggerated in popular discourse. Still, Regis and Church, though eschewing his paranoia, follow Fukuyama in arguing that problems will largely be a manner of control and regulation, while still recognizing the difficutly of enforcement of possible regulations.

There is no discussion of BioArt, which of course, serves no utilitarian value for the human race, so why discuss it in a book on what science will be able to do for us next? (catch my sarcastic tone?)


I bring up Regenesis to show that popular science books by scientists are not enough and that the humanities does have a role to play in theorizing concepts and rhetoric of science (and various sciences -- physics, ecology, immunology) and that the detail and rigor we can bring to the table is at least on par with books by scientists that claim they can predict or illustrate what developments in science have to offer.
I don't think these scientists would disagree with me as ultimately Regenesis ends with a lot of questions (left unanswered -- as they should be) about the ethics and politics of scientific experimentation.

Popular science works pepper their texts with formulations from great authors, theorists, and philosophers in order to frame their theories in a more interesting and accessible manner. Humanistic discourse is usually the clothing that dresses up scientific discourse. This is really no different from the humanities using concepts and paradigms of the sciences to expand our own discursive horizons.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Directing Treatment: Suggestion and Interpretation in Freud and Lacan

Both Freud and Lacan were constantly trying to differentiate between true psychoanalysis as a science and mere suggestion. Even though Freud began his work with hypnotic suggestion, he would eventually abandon the overt technique, since it does not admit scientific explanation. However, Freud does not deny that suggestion may still help the patient. In “Beginning of the Treatment,” he writes,

Often enough the transference is able to remove the symptoms of the disease by itself, but only for awhile—only for as long as it itself lasts. In this case, the treatment is a treatment by suggestion, and not a psychoanalysis at all. It only deserves the latter name if the intensity of the transference has been utilized for the overcoming of resistances. (377)

But treatment by suggestion is only temporary because it does not get to the root of the problem. Instead of using the transference (i.e. suggestion) in order to move to the more serious task of analytic interpretation, the transference is taken as a cure. This is usually the fault of the analyst rather than the analysand because the analyst is either satisfied that he or she has successfully interpreted the analysand’s problem or, what amounts to the same thing, is a result of the countertransference, which Lacan defines as “the sum total of the analyst’s biases, passions, and difficulties, or even of his inadequate information, at any given moment in the dialectical process” (“Presentation” 183). For instance,  Lacan argues that Freud’s analysis of Dora was unsuccessful because of Freud’s tendency to interpret from the standpoint of Herr K: “It is because he put himself rather too much in Herr K’s shoes that Freud did not succeed in moving the Infernal Regions this time around” (“Presentation” 182). In his “Postscript,” Freud says that Dora’s symptoms had subsided for awhile, but that she relapsed into 6 week case of aphonia later (“Dora” 238).  Thus, it seems that Freud’s analysis of Dora was a ‘failure’ because his analysis ultimately was treatment by suggestion. But, we might then ask, what analysis is not an analysis by suggestion? That is, how can an analyst be sure that the analysis is an “authentic” and “scientific” psychoanalysis? To put it another way, is not suggestion as transference required for a successful analysis?

To me, this question raises the problem of rhetoric, that is, of persuasion. How does rhetoric function in Lacanian and Freudian discourse? Can psychoanalysis be a ‘science’ if it uses persuasion, suggestion, or, dare I say, hypnosis? In her book Inessential Solidarity, Dian Davis claims that Freud’s science of psychoanalysis is founded by trading in “persuasion for interpretation” and “rhetoric as persuasion for rhetoric as trope” (31). We can see that this substitution also holds for Lacan through his text’s use of rhetorical tropes, while constantly denouncing ‘suggestion’ and persuasion.    In the “Rome Discourse,” Lacan argues that the importance of the dream is in its text, “that is, in its rhetoric” (“Function” 221). He then rattles off a litany of tropes that correspond to Freud’s categories of displacement and condensation, moving on to claim that “Freud teaches us to read in them the intentions [. . .] with which the subject modulates his oneiric discourse” (“Function” 222). Thus, in Freud and Lacan, rhetoric is relegated to the analysand’s text rather than to the analytic situation involving the analyst. If this so, what do we make of Lacan’s claim that the analyst function as a rhetorician?  “It [psychoanalysis] is a practice of chat…. The psychoanalyst is a rhetorician…. He does not say what is either true or false. That which is true and that which is false, this is what we call the power of the analyst. And that’s why I say he is a rhetorician” (Lacan qtd. in “What does Lacan say about Rhetoric?”). The commentator who translated this passage interprets Lacan’s position on rhetoric as a function of speaking well rather than its purpose of persuasion:

Could we not interpret Lacan here as simply pointing out the fact that the psychoanalyst does exactly what the rhetorician does: uses words in the most economical way. Without speaking poetically, or even trying to persuade, he communicates a message in a very efficient way, if at all possible by just sending the speaker’s words back to them, allowing them to hear the resonances of their own words.” (What does Lacan say about Rhetoric?”).

Not only does this misunderstand rhetoric as it has been defined since Aristotle (as the available means of persuasion), but it also disregards the function of persuasion and suggestion within the analytic situation. Borsch-Jacobsen, for instance, asks rhetorically, “what is the transference [. . .] if not hypnosis without a hypnotist, persuasion without a rhetorician, since it is produced in the absence of any direct suggestion?” (qtd. in Davis 32). Thus, transference can be understood as a form of hypnotic suggestion, a susceptibility to persuasion which forces the analyst to be constantly attentive to their role.

But as already mentioned, Freud attempted to keep persuasion at bay so as to be able to interpret from a relatively “neutral” position. According to Davis, Freud thought that those who use hypnosuggestion were like the rhetoricians in Plato’s Phaedrus, who do not “know what they are doing” (Davis 31). Freud is careful to lay out the limits of the analyst’s role: “He can supervise the process, further it, remove obstacles in its way, and he can undoubtably vitiate much of it. But on the whole, once begun, it goes its own way and does not allow either the direction it takes or the order in which it picks up its points to be prescribed for it” (“Beginning” 368-69, italics ). Similarly, Lacan maintains that even though the psychoanalyst directs the treatment, the psychoanalyst “must not direct the patient,” particularly with regard to the patient’s conscience or moral standards; such direction on the part of the analyst would lead to the analysand merely taking on the conscious values of the analyst’s ego.  However, the analyst must have some form of knowledge, most notably, when to reveal something: “by giving the patient information at the right time, it shows him the paths along which he should direct those energies” (“Beginning” 377). This idea of intervening at the right time (punctuating the analyst’s discourse) is echoed by Lacan, when he argues that the analysis of resistance is neither pointing out his or her biases that prevent he or she from understanding nor persuading, which leads to suggestion, but rather at every instant of the analytic relation, knowing at what level the answer should be pitched.” (Seminar II, 42-43). But if the analyst punctuates he analysand’s discourse, even if he or she simply speaks the analysand’s discourse back at the analysand, is it not the case that this is a “suggestion” – a suggestion of what the analysand should interpret? Furthermore, isn’t the analyst attempting to persuade the analysand at one and the same time that he or she should continue with analysis?

In their book Critique of Psychoanalytic Reason, Isabelle Stengers and Leon Chertok ask the key question: “What if the Freudian foundation of psychoanalysis were not a break with the practices of hypnosis and suggestion, which Freud himself used, but the invention of a new way (or manner) of practicing them” (272). They answer that, for Freud, “psychoanalysis was not the opponent of suggestion, but had succeeded rather in ‘putting suggestion in the service of knowledge’ (Stengers and Chertok 272). Indeed, I think it is difficult to deny this conclusion given that Freud, in the above quotation, argues that the transference has to be utilized for overcoming the transfnerence. This is why, for Freud, “So long as the patient’s communications and ideas run on without any obstruction, the theme of transference should be left untouched. One must wait until the transference, which is the most delicate of all procedures has become resistance” (“Beginning” 375).

But when the transference becomes resistance, what is to be done? For Lacan it seems that instead of thematizing the transferece (that is, explicitly pointing out to the patient that the resistance is because of transference), the analyst should use it as a lure to continue the anaylsis: “What then does it mean to interpret transference? Nothing but to fill the emptiness of this stand still with a lure. But even though it is deceptive, this lure serves the purpose by setting the whole process in motion anew” (“Presentation” 184). That is, if the lure is a suggestion or an interpretation, the analyst cannot assume that this is the ‘correct’ and final interpretation. Rather, it should be used to continue the analysis. As Lacan says, “the subject’s resistance, when it opposes suggestion, is but a desire to maintain his desire. As such his desire should be considered a positive transference, since it is desire that maintains the direction for the analysis” ("Direction" 531).

Thus, to return to an earlier question, even though the analyst’s function is not to persuade the patient that a particular interpretation is “correct” in the sense that it corresponds to “the reality” of the situation, the analyst does have an interest in keeping the analysis moving.  This is why Lacan can say that and interpretation that is “inexact” can nevertheless be “true” (“Direction” 499). This is also why we should understand interpretations as “lures” at a “moment of stagnation in the analytic dialectic” ("Presentation" 184). Interpretations help to continue the analysis because even if the patient resists a particular interpretation, this should be read as a positive development because it keeps the analysis going.

But it must be noted that an interpretation is not the same as satisfaction of the analysand’s demand, whether that be for a cure, the analyst’s affections, or the demand to become an analyst. Neither should one interpret the transference in the hopes that once the transference is resolved, the analysis can resume as a confrontation of two equal egos who can communicate and “understand” one another (“Direction” 497). Far from appeasing the analysand’s demands, according to Lacan, the analyst has “created demand” and is the one that “sustains demand [. . .] in order to allow the signifiers with which the latter’s frustration is bound up to reappear” (“Direction” 515, 516). Except when interpretation or punctuating the discourse of the analysand, the analyst is silent, a dummy, a dead man, if you will. That demand and desire (are these two different?) must be sustained is why, perhaps, Freud cautions against speaking to friends about the analysis: “The treatment thus has a lead which lets through precisely what is most valuable. When this happens, the patient must, without much delay, but advised to treat his analysis as a matter between himself and his doctor” (“Beginning” 373). To talk to an initimate friend about what the analyst says or punctuates or what he or she has said in the analysis is to ask for a response that he or she will not receive from the analyst. The relation between friends is vastly different from that of the patient and the analyst, as the former is between two conscious egos, one recollecting (perhaps organizing) that which is supposedly free association and one responding from the position of what Lacan calls the “semblable” rather than the Other.

In conclusion, I want to suggest that there are (at least) two “lures” of psychoanalysis; the lure of an inexact interpretation that provokes the subject or patient to respond as well as—and perhaps this amounts to the same thing—the lure of the “subject supposed to know.” That is, the analysand believes that the analyst knows where the treatment is headed and can provide an answer to his problem, something he or she might understand. But, to paraphrase Lacan, desire is incompatible with speech (“Direction” 535). The subject is demanding something of the analyst, “but he knows very well that it would be but words. And he can get those from whomever he likes [. . .] It’s not these words he’s asking for” (“Direction” 515). Lacan is trying to say here that it is mistake to think that “to understand is an end in itself” and that perhaps it is better to think without understanding, to listen without response, and to engage in “a positive nonaction aiming at the ortho-dramitization of the patient’s subjectivity” (“Presentation” 184).  

Works Cited

Chertok, Léon, and Isabelle Stengers. A Critique of Psychoanalytic Reason: Hypnosis as a Scientific Problem from Lavoisier to Lacan. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1992. Print.

Davis, D. Diane. Inessential Solidarity: Rhetoric and Foreigner Relations. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2010. Print.
Freud, Sigmund, and Peter Gay. “Beginning of Treatment.” The Freud Reader. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989. Print.
Freud, Sigmund, and Peter Gay. “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (Dora).” The Freud Reader. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989. Print.

Lacan, Jacques, Héloïse Fink, and Bruce Fink. Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2006. Print.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Today I went to class. We talked about Hansen, Wolfe, and Derrida. Tonight I'm practicing music with a band. I'm in a relatively good mood. Here's a picture of my cat:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Embodying Technesis: Part 1

Chapter 3: From Metaphor to Embodiment: Resisting Technesis

Systems Theory
In a response to a review of the book Embodying Technesis, Mark Hansen agrees that he may have given short shrift to systems theory. His discussion of systems theory, which he sees as a “positivation” of the deconstructive moment takes its departure from William Paulsen’s book that explicitly attempts to show how systems theory can help us to understand literature; from this example, Hansen argues that systems theory is still committed to a “relative exteriority” that ultimately leaves materiality out of the distinction of system and environment. The problem is that Hansen chooses one specific application of systems theory that is committed to explaining how it functions within literature (the domain of representation). Hansen argues that “commitment to representationalism” and the collapsing of literary and techno-scientific systems is the major problem he has with cultural studies’ appropriation of poststructualist theory (and some of the poststructuralist theory itself).

Hansen argues that systems theory actually isolates the system from environment, but Cary Wolfe’s reading of Luhmann argues that it is only through the closure of the system that the system can connect to the environment. He writes,

This self-referential closure, however, does not indicate solipsism, idealism, or isolation but is instead crucial to understanding a fundamental principle of what I call ‘openness from closure’ [. . .] in the self-referential mode of operation, closure is a form of broadening possible environmental contacts; closure increases, by constituting elements more capable of being determined, the complexity of the environment that is possible for the system (Wolfe 15).
Furthermore, the system that makes a distinction is not limited to human beings, but every system that can “make distinctions.” For instance, a cell makes a distinction between what is and what is not itself – creating an outside environment that is not the system. In contrast to the systems theory approach, Hansen, appears to argue that complexity arises autonomously from systems. He writes, “technology also functions as a key agent in the macroevolution, or complexification of the material world. Whereas technologies are always results of culturally determined processes, they are also privileged vehicles of the natural process of material complexification” (56). For Hansen, then, the rule is that technology is increasing material complexification and that this complexity is “negantropic.” In other words, it seems to me that for Hansen there is a “natural” negentropic force of technology that complexifies our world, a force having little to do with a “relative” exteriority. So even if Hansen maintains that this movement is “non-teleological” there still seems to be a telos: the elimination of entropy.

The question is – who is “positivizing” the deconstructive moment? Does Wolfe “positivize” Derrida when he claims,
Derrida and Luhmann converge on the same point from opposite directions; while Derrida emphasizes the final undecidability of any signifying instance, Luhmann stresses that even so systems must decide, they must selectively process the differences between information and utterance if they are to achieve adaptive resonance with their environment. Thus underneath this apparent divergence is a shared emphasis—against ‘relativism’ and ‘anything goes’ reflexivity—on the determinate specificity of the signifying or communicative instance that must be negotiated, which is precisely why in Limited Inc. Derrida rejects the term ‘indeterminacy’ because it occludes an understanding of the determinate oscillation between possibilities (for examples, of meaning, but also of acts). (23)
I would argue that, no, he does not. Indeed, it is important to see that Hansen is the one using thermodynamic theories of entropy/negentropy in service of his ontological claim of material complexification that results in negentropic force. Luhmann’s distinctions go further than the second-order cybernetic theories Hansen depends on that simply distinguish between information/noise (another distinction critiqued by Hansen).
Indeed, I think that it is important to note that Hansen’s more recent essay, “Media Theory” uses systems-theoretical terms to describe the media’s function in connect system and environment:
The medium, we might say, is implicated in living as essentially technical, in what I elsewhere call ‘technical life’; it is the operation of mediation—and perhaps also the support for the always concrete mediation—between a living being and the environment. In this sense, the medium perhaps names the very transduction between the organism and the environment that constitutes life as essentially technical; thus it is nothing less than a medium for the exteriorization of the living, and correlatively, for the selective actualization of the environment, a demarcation of a world, of an existential domain, from the unmarked environment as such” (300, italics mine).
Taking this quotation as a departure point and translating it into the language I used a minute ago, we might say that the medium (which is basically any exteriorizing medium – language, but, moreover, writing (Derrida) or communication (Luhmann)) helps to make a distinction, actualizing a different relation between system and environment.
Furthermore, I think we should read Hansen’s argument about “medium” as corresponding to the position he ascribes to Derrida in what Hansen calls Derrida’s ‘machine reduction of technology’: “Functionally, technology is limited to the role of material support for the ‘possibilities of the trace’; like writing in the restricted sense, it is merely the means by which differance exteriorizes and expresses itself” (84).Replace “differance” with the “exteriorization of the living” as a selective actualization of the environment and I think you will see why his position corresponds with Derrida’s, except that Derrida uses the “machine” metaphor and Hansen calls this “medium” (which is also what systems theory would call it if we remember Gumbrecht’s quote).
Hansen argues that Derrida and others who put technology into discourse, reducing technology to a text-machine, is “a defense against the threat posed by the radical material alterity of technology: by safely situating technology as the ‘other’ within thought, as the machinery of language integral to thought’s genesis, technesis neutralizes a more formidable ‘other’ that threatens the wholesale dissolution of the much cherished closure of representation” (87). Here, I would argue that the idea that human ‘thought’ or ‘writing’ as communication is integral to ourselves, to any human being – that we are always already “inhuman” would be much more terrifying. Thus, I think Hansen in a sense is defending against this position, which he partially amends in his essay “Media Theory.” Following Bernard Stiegler, Hansen argues that the break of the human from everything is else is also the invention of technics (299).  However, Hansen still maintains that, a bit contrary to his Lyotardian position in Embodying Technesis, that “no matter how cognitively sophisticated these technologies become, they operate only through their coupling with the human” (302). In this way, technology is not an “autonomous,” radically exterior force; rather, technology is only “quasi-autonomous”
The key rhetorical move by which the poststructuralists reduce technology is metalepsis. Hansen defines the term as
a rhetorical figure describing the metonymical substitution of one (figurative) word for another or several others. Most often involving extreme compression and an ensuing obfuscation of the literal sense of the statement, metalepsis also, in certain cases, designates an inversion or conflation of cause and effect (91).
Thus, Hansen argues that metalepsis designates “the triumph of having so stationed technology, in one’s own work, that particular aspects of technology seem to be not preconditions of one’s description, but rather to be caused by one’s own production” (Hansen 92, original italics).
One of the issues with Hansen’s use of the text-machine is that he is reducing the text to an ideal form rather than a material artifact/medium that is one way “writing” happens. He is confusing “text” and “writing” with language, particularly language as representation: “As long as technology is made to derive from language, the postructuralist and constructivist idioms can confidently maintains their enabling conflation of technology’s robust materiality with the relative materiality that it possesses within the theater of representation” (93).

Greek ontology and the Machine Reduction
I hate to sound snotty, but if Derrida has reduced the machine to a textual metaphor, then Hansen has reduced the supplement to only one of its significations. Hansen quotes Aristotle on the meaning of techne, which contains two specific forms of mimesis: that which “carries to its end what physis is incapable of effecting” and the usual sense of “imitation” (Lacou-Labarthe qtd. in Hansen 95). Hansen argues that Derrida’s description of the supplement “could well be a gloss on Aristotle’s passage: “The supplement adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence. It is thus that art, techne, image, representation, convention etc. come as supplements to nature and are rich with this entire cumulating function” (Derrida qtd. in Hansen 95). Then Hansen moves on to say that in this form, the supplement, “retains a basic fidelity to Aristotelian techne” (95).
First, we must contextualize the passage that Hansen tears out of Derrida. The passage stems from the section From/Of Blindness to the Supplement, a section that discusses the function of the supplement in the text of Rousseau. Derrida says many times surrounding this passage quoted from Hansen that he is speaking about the supplement “in the text of Rousseau” (although, it might be worth pointing out that in “Typewriter Ribbon,” Derrida says that in de Man, the text of Rousseau becomes “exemplary of the text in general”)  It is extremely important to the rest of his argument to read what Hansen did not quote. Directly before the passage, Derrida writes,“For the concept of the supplement—which here determines that of the representative image—harbors within itself two significations whose cohabitation is as strange and as necessary” (144).
So, we already know that Hansen has not quoted the second signification. But even before we get there, directly after the passage Hansen quotes, Derrida writes, “This kind of supplementarity determines in a certain way all the conceptual oppositions which Rousseau inscribes the notion of Nature to the extent that it should be self-sufficient” (145). This part is quoted to show that the type of supplement is articulated within the context of the text of Rousseau specifically regarding nature. But let’s see what the other signification is:
substitute, it is not simply added to the positivity of a presence, it produces no relief, its place is assigned in the structure by the mark of an emptiness. Somewhere something can be filled up of itself, can accomplish itself, only by allowing itself to be filled through sign and proxy” (145). More importantly, the next paragraph states, “this second signification of the supplement cannot be separated from the first [. . .] But their common function is shown in this: whether it adds or substitutes itself, the supplement is exterior, outside of the positivity to which it is super-added, alien to that which, in order to be replaced by it, must be other than it” (145).
Although I am not quite sure what this means, the question is whether or not Hansen can really claim that Derrida’s notion of the supplement is a “gloss” on Aristotle’s concept of “techne” if he erases the context of the passage (Rousseau) and the second signification of the supplement. I think we may find that Derrida does not recuperate the supplement into the domain of thought, as Hansen claims.
Luck and the automatic (pgs 98-101) (some notes and Questions)
Luck—“restricted domain of events, those capable of choosing” (humans)
Automatic—“to animals other than man, objects” etc.
The Difference:
1.)    luck ‘former’ “are for something in a sense that could be determined by their agent (i.e. according to the category of thought), while the latter are for something in a sense that cannot be so determined, that remains-in itself-indeterminate.
2.)    The final cause of an automatic event is external and thus can only make sense if understood by an intentional agent.
Hansen points out that Aristotle does not hold to the radical exteriority of the automatic and assimilates it into the domain of the mind. The automatic is “para physin in the sense that it cannot be tied down to a purpose immediately graspable by and attributable to an agent of thought or to nature. Its efficiency derives from something purely contingent and external in the subject it qualifies” (100). If we look back to Derrida’s description of the supplement, we see that is much more akin to “the automatic” than to Aristotle’s restricted definition of techne.

Chapter 4: Questioning the Machine Basis of Technology: Heidegger on Techne
In Rutsky’s book, he interprets high-tech as technology that reveals in the mode of poesis; For Heidegger and for Rutsky, poesis, as a revealing that brings-forth, puts us in a positive, “science-fictional” relationship with the future. Rutsky writes at the end of his book,
“These ‘other’ futures cannot be represented through rational analysis and predictions; they can only be imagined through a science-fictional process, an imaginative, aesthetic process that is similar to the bringing-forth that Heidegger saw in the Greek techne” (158).
While Rutsky sees this shift as promising and productive, following Heidegger’s lead, Hansen reads Heidegger’s “Question Concerning Technology” as another symptom of technesis, arguing that “Heidegger’s reduction of technology thus functions to insure the domestication of modern technology within the frame of poiesis” (104).
Hansen first reads technology as an ontic supplement that contributes to our “fallenness” and “inauthentic” existence in idle chat and curiosity. The argument is that basically, technology infiltrates the purity of language: “What cybernetic technologies do is present the being of language as mere words cut off from their connection with a [. . .] ‘context of involvements’. In this sense, what Heidegger says of the typewriter is all the more true of the computer” (109).
Hansen argues that Heidegger only considers technologies which “can be thematized in explicit terms” because these are the only ones that can have a direct impact on our lives. He argues that there are two mediated practices which are left out of this category:
1.       Experiences in which there is no breakdown and hence no motivation to cross from the practical to the theoretical domain.
2.       Experience in which technology’s impulse (because it is molecular and diffuse) isi n pricinpel not recuperable through thematization.
I think we need to explore particularly what number 1 could possibly be referring to in terms of concrete technologies that Hansen seems to be referring to here.
In terms of “Question Concerning Technology,” it seems like Hansen comes to the opposite conclusion of Rutsky; namely, that far from the mode of poiesis being able to engage with high-tech, it actually cannot extend to the question of high-tech: “Whereas poiesis could coherently be applied to the forms of production known to the Greeks (“handcraft manufacture,” “artistic and poetical bringing into appearance and concrete imagery,” and physis) it simply cannot be extended to cover the category of modern production” (115). Instead, Hansen argues that “as long as it comprises a mode of poiesis or the revealing of Being, modern technology, in other words, can distinguished solely through its negativity—the way it obscures the meaning of Being” (118).
Given what we said about Rutsky’s tracing of the development of technologies back to an artisan, a producer – that such an origin of production is rare these days (see I, Pencil) I think we would be more apt to agree with Hansen’s critique rather than Rutsky’s affirmation of the Heideggerian poiesis.

Chapter 5: The Mechanics of Deconstruction: Derrida on De Man, or Poststructuralism in the Age of Cultural Studies
Hansen claims that Derrida effectively preserves the priority of Heideggerian poiesis, claiming that “privileging the trace as the withdrawl of truth, Derrida retains the very same priority of ontology for which Levinas rebukes Heidegger” (124). And again, on the next page: “by taking the being of what is and making it thoroughly dependent on the metaphysics of the text (and thus on the operation of techne), Derrida simply effaces the very category of radical exteriority and, along with it, all traces of materiality outside the space governed by textuality” (125).
“The functional analogy linking text with machine begins to function ontologically—and hence reductively—from the moment when deconstruction generalizes its claims to technology as such, rather than restricting them to technology in its textual form” (128).
“matter” is reduced to playing “the purely abstract role of that which resists idealization” (129)
We should recall Hansen’s understanding of the supplement, as it is crucial to his argument in this chapter on Derrida as well. Hansen writes, “technology simply supplements thought ith a material basis without which it could not function” and also, on the opposite page, “technology is made wholly coequivalent with the supplement and thus loses its truly radical force as a material obstacle to the onto-phenomenological movement of thought, a threat to thinking itself” (133). I have a hard time thinking how technology isn’t a threat to thinking itself while at the same time being the enabling condition for thought. It’s a threat to the purity of thought or to thought without any mediation – ideal thought.
De Man and Derrida’s ‘materiality’ of the text
Hansen argues that Derrida “ignores de Man’s introduction of the ‘material’—a category, I suggest, holds the relation of radical exteriority with respect to phenomenological thought or consciousness [Erinnerung]” (read pgs 138-`139 for a general summary of Hansen’s argument)
In Psyche: Inventions of the Other 1 Derrida is adamant that de Man’s notion of textual “materiality” is not matter. I will quote a few passages from the essay,  “Typewriter Ribbon: Limited Ink (2) (within such limits),” which we would do well to read closely:
The materiality in question—is not a thing; it is not something (sensible or intelligible); it is not even the matter of a body [. . .] this nothing therefore operates, it forces, but as a force of resistance. It resists both beautiful form and matter as substantial and organic totality. This is one of the reasons that de Man never says, it seems to me, matter, but materiality [. . .] I would say that it is a materiality without matter (350)
This force of resistance without material substance derives from the dissociative and inorganic, disorganizing, disarticulating, and even disseminal power that de Man attributes to the letter “ (351)
First of all, the inscription of a textual event—and this will later be one of the traits of the materiality of matter—is a machine like deconstruction of the body proper. This is why I said, using a formulation that is not de Man’s, that materiality becomes a very useful generic name for all that resists appropriation (353).
The materiality of this event as a textual event is what is or makes itself independent of any subject or any desire (357).
On the one hand, we can read these statements as Hansen would – as a reduction of robust materiality into the relative exteriority of the text. However, might we also consider that these passages mean that the world is not a text in the sense that everything is “textualized” (turned into and object for literary hermeneutics). Indeed, in these above formulations, the textual event/world is not appropriable, which means that is not something that is simply “given to thinking.” Or at least, it cannot be subsumed and appropriated by the thinking subject.  Let us now look at how Derrida defines the text in his work:
In his essay “But beyond. . .,” Derrida writes that the text is,
always a field of forces: heterogeneous, differential, open, and so on . . .[Deconstructive readings and writings] are not simply analyses of discourses, such as, for example, the one you propose. They are also effective or active (as one says) interventions, in particular political and institutional interventions that transform contexts without limiting themselves to theoretical or constative utterances even though they must produce such utterances (168).
So the text is metaphorically described as a machine in some essays, but it is also described in other ways. Perhaps we can take this as a sign that Derrida finds the machinic metaphor convenient to describe the disarticulation of the text, but does not restrict technology (in the more “robust material” sense to an object (a text) for thinking. Furthermore, it’s not as though Derrida is unaware of the actual effects of material technology on someone, for instance, being filmed (see my last blog post on Echographies of Television).
Ch. 6: Psyche and Metaphor: Derrida’s Freud
“Through his proposed generalization, technology remains, in its essence, a means of archivation, of information storage; only now, in the postFreudian era, it finds itself spread over global dimensions. Stripped of all hints of autonomy, of a proper materiality, technology—as the materialization of the world’s resemblance to memory—is made to fit within a teleological history of the psyche and its ontogenetic production of thought and memory. Integrated into the textually given play of the world, technology comprises nothing more than a support for the Being-in-the-world of the psyche.” (147)
The question here is whether or not there is something wrong with conceiving of technology as forms of memory; specifically, exteriorizations of memory, as Stiegler puts it, tertiary retentions. In Katherine Hayles essay “Tech-TOC,” she argues that Stiegler’s privileging of tertiary retentions is problematic:
the biological capacity for memory (which can be seen as an evolutionary adaptation to carry the past into the present) is exteriorized, creating the possibility, through technics, for a person to experience through complex temporality something that never was experienced as a first-hand event, a possibility that Stiegler calls tertiary retention. This example, which Stiegler develops at length and to which he gives theoretical priority, should not cause us to lose sight of the more general proposition: that all technics imply, instantiate, and evolve through complex temporalities[JR1] 
It seems that in Hansen’s “Media Theory,” he is following Stiegler, arguing that there is an “essential correlation of storage with life” (301). Even though he seems to follow Stiegler, Hansen seems less concerned with tertiary retention and more with secondary retention. Hansen writes,
As Stiegler has shown, the contemporary culture industries strive to exercise and maintain a stranglehold on cultural memory (secondary memory) by offering pre-programmed, media artifactual memory objects (tertiary memories) that, because of their seduction and their ubiquity work to erode the role of personal consciousness and to displace lived experience as the basis for secondary memory (304). 
The priority of secondary memory for Hansen is because, continuing his project in Embodying Technesis, he wants to still focus on lived experience. According to Hansen, digital technologies
empower personal secondary memory to reassert some control over the production of presencings [. . .] because they allow personal lived consciousness control over the flux of the media artifact that is its surrogate temporal object, they allow consciousness to live time (at least to some extent) according to its own rhythms. In sum, digital technologies restore some sense of agency that personal lived consciousness has (apparently) lost (304).
Hansen wants to create a “politics of presencing” to…supplement?... Stiegler and Derrida’s “politics of memory,” that both refer to in Echographies of Television.
My next blog post will address the Hansen’s last chapter of Embodying Technesis and the distinction Benjamin makes of different kinds of experience/memory and Stiegler’s reading of tertiary and secondary retentions. Is it plausible to see Stiegler’s tertiary retentions as “voluntary memory”? If so, how would this different from Hansen’s current project of a politics of presencing?