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Following on from Thijs’s Show and Tell and Rik’s post on the really flipping cool work of Evoke (god, if I ever make it to teaching at university, my course is definitely going to be called Resilience Logistics 101, or perhaps just Thinking and Resilience or a version of this……!) I wanted to draw your attention to another link that I am pretty astounded by.

I was heartened weeks ago to read that the Encyclopedia Brittanica has more errors than Wikipedia. (Oddly, when I tried to find the said article I could only come up with a slightly more modest one….)

Naturally I allow myself to widely extrapolate on this fact to make sweeping statements about egalitarianism, collectivity, dispersed knowledges and so on and so forth…..

But I have just been even more delighted to discover another beacon of wiki resistance and communal intelligence called WikiLeaks which publishes government leaks and other sensitive information anonymously.

Wow?!

The global movement, from Seattle forward, appears as a battery that only half works: it accumulates energy without pause, but it does not know how or where to discharge it. (Paolo Virno, 2004)

The motives, resolutions and execution of the movements present at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in december of 2009 expand a majority of topics that relate to our musings on being-together. The organized resistance that was present at the summit expresses bio-politics, elicits exposure, frames globalization, critiques culture, utilizes networks and, of course, is movement in and by itself. Yet, one point requires immediate address: the matter of its definition. What do we mean when we talk about movements?

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Here is something I also posted on the cultural analysis blog, it is called Evoke, and it is an online game that attempts to utilize the gaming community to solve the worlds problems. However stupid this may sound, it becomes more interesting when we realize that people in developed countries between 12-21 spend just as much time playing games as they do in school. What creative potential! I am not at the point yet where I can analyze this phenomenon: at the moment I am in awe.

link to the website of evoke

At the moment I am thinking through a series of questions which I hope to produce proper, well thought through blog posts on. Here they are:

Why am I for re-thinking some aspects of the university? Why am I for thinking about autonomous spaces? Why am I slightly disillusioned with the university system? Why am I concerned about increasing bureaucracy at universities, why am I concerned about corporatisation of the universities?

These stem from other, broader questions which I am also grappling with at present:

How can we create dialogue that does not alienate or exclude? How can we communicate on shared terms whilst still being conceptually ambitious? Is there a reason that our academic study stays inside the university system? How can we expand or extend what might be called “intellectual” or “academic” practices? In our own practices as ponderers, writers, readers and cultural analysts, how can become creative, take wild risks and explore new terrain with verve and ambition, all the while producing precise, honest and incredibly discerning work of integrity?

I want to bring all of you into a conversation about alter-academic practices. I use the word alter-academic because I want to refer to creative ways of doing “academic” things that do not immediately depart from the connection to education and scholarship. I want to try and conceptualise innovative and alternative ways of catalysing some of the (already pretty damn wonderful, in my opinion) things that we do as members of the broad university community.

Last night Thijs and I attended a seminar at the splendiferous Schijnheilig, somewhat ambitiously titled “Toward a Global Autonomous University.” The evening was centred around a group called Edu-Factory; this is how they are described on the Schijnheilig website:

Edu-Factory is a transnational collective engaged with the transformations of the global university and conflicts in knowledge production.

Several issues regarding the university system and capabilities for effective student movements were discussed…..

  • For me what was most significant was the discussion about breaking down the false binary between anarchism and reform. One strategy which was mentioned, which I found quite thought-provoking, was to recognise that serious attempts to become completely autonomous might actually influence politics and law. What might initially seem like a perversion or contradiction (i.e. to link autonomous anarchist movements to legal reform is surely blasphemous) actually quite unexpectedly knits autonomous projects to a social fabric which is altered by these projects. This obviously involves complex questions about militancy and lobbying which I do not have the space to go into here.
  • How do student movements connect with the working class, precarious workers, activists in other parts of the community? There was also a lot of discussion about precarity that actually really opened up the concept for me.
  • What was also important was the remark (I cannot remember whose it was…) that in student movements and activism centred around the university there is often a nostalgia for something that never existed, or a project that we might think of as deeply problematic: an kind of Enlightenment institution producing rational, free-thinking beings. I certainly unwittingly subscribe to this Enlightenment rhetoric to uphold the university as a place of free thought and innovative education. What type of subject does the university produce and exclude? How does the university “construct” “free” thought? Is this bound up with a certain construction of authority, a certain type of “proper” academic practice? Do the two actually contradict each other? Does this combination of authority and free or analytical thought sever the university from its ties to community?
  • A few audience members also mentioned that the point of critique of the university is not to claim that the university is not a valuable knowledge centre, but that the structuring relationship between university and society means that there is a whole sphere of knowledge that is denied. In relation to this, another question was asked: “What happens when events outside the university render it the institution ineffective or meaningless?” Do we need to reconceptualise the university’s role in relation to knowledge and society in order for the institution to actually become important and effective?

I also wanted to draw your attention to a program of lectures and events that I think is pretty interesting. A group that flies under the banner of The Usual Suspects: the Art of the Non-Lecture organise somewhat unorthodox sessions where the advertised plenary speaker [deliberately] never arrives, but a discussion is facilitated nonetheless. I think what these seminars try to “re-mix” is the somewhat false divide between speaker and audience in these kind of events – often the audience are as well-informed as the speaker, and have equally valuable perspectives and contributions. What happens when this is the case? Does the “Art of the Non-Lecture” program go some ways towards answering this question?

I think that we each have unique perspectives on the university generally, and on what we do at the Uva, or at ASCA, in Amsterdam. I would love to hear your perspectives and your thoughts on change, ideas for new possibilities, events, or research or education practices.

Ok, so I thought it would be fun to start a ‘rubriekje’ in which we can share photos, movie clips or images that we have made ourselves. My first object: a snapshot I took during my recent trip to Brussels. I have thoughts about it (precarious ones!), but I first would like to know what you think!

What kind of community does the depicted image-text express? What kind of community does my framing of this picture suggest? What concept of spatiality can we use to grapple the ‘message’ that the image-text with its particular emplacement posits?

Note: we should perhaps channel my show and tell object through the fact that Brussels is the city where the EU parliament settles. And that, ironically, Brussels is the dubious winner of Europe’s most delapitated public parks and residential areas prize (I can show you a pictures of that as well…)

MICROPOLITICS

I thought I would draw your attention to the Micropolitics Research Group.  I think “micropolitics” might present a possible modus operandi for drawing connections between art and politics, and more specifically the possible formations and structures of community that might occur or come into being through ruptures in the “distribution of the sensible.” As a concept, “micropolitics” works as an identification of a sphere or process of articulation between community and artistic work. What is particularly interesting is that the Micropolitics Research Group seems to work at the intersections between theory and practice – analysing and interacting with current “creative production” and investigating how this production might carry a disruptive agency rather than being subsumed by the “system.”

What is Micropolitics?

A term that comes (originally?) from Deleuze or Foucault – I have not yet traced its proper theoretical genealogy. It is the way in which affect or emotion becomes resonant (I guess largely through artistic or creative praxis in this instance) on the level of subjectivity or subjectivation, generating the “surplus creativity” that the Micropolitics Research Group identifies as contributing to cognitive capitalism as well as modes of resistance, refusal, or exodus.

See the group’s own definition on their blog.

What is Militant Theory?

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the Micropolitics Research Group is their engagement with the idea of militant theory. I wonder if militant theory might be a lively and productive way to drive our own writings and theorisations about community into (dialogue, exchange, relevancy, political relation to) community. Here is the Micropolitics Research Group’s definition of militant research:

Related to practices of co-research and institutional analysis, militant research proposes that all new knowledge production affects and modifies the bodies and subjectivities of those who have participated. Rather than use research as a tool to categorise and separate knowledge from practice, militant research operates transversally, becoming part of the process that organises relationships between bodies, knowledge, social practices and fields of action.

Interview between Peter Hallward and Jacques Rancière, august 2003.

Peter Hallward: Isn’t there a quasi-transcendental or at least transhistorical aspect to your idea that the political actor, the universal actor, is always to be found on the side of those who aren’t accounted for in the organisation of society?

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So, to set up our undoubtedly engaging discussion about Derrida and the politics of community, I hereby post another experpt from my paper for Precarity course. It’s not related directly to Derrida’s politics of the impossible friendship, but does go into the enduring non-individuation of the political movement. I argued in my essay that it might be worthwhile to reframe the politico-theoretical discourse on multitude and movement into a more directed ‘point’: namely that the issue of horizontality and openness of Ideology concerning movement is in fact very precarious. I hope you at least find some things to argue with, and Baylee: please feel free to counter my text with the stuff that we are to read for the next session on Derrida and Community! Continue Reading »

Dominik was teasing me, a couple of weeks ago, and he said to me: So if I told you that the revolution was going to happen now, that I had my tanks and armies outside, would you come, would you come and join the revolution?

I realised that the point of this question was not to pick over the specificities of the imminent revolution; I realised that dwelling on the technicalities would have missed the point of the revolution entirely, indeed, I may have even missed the hypothetical revolution itself.

Nonetheless my first response was to begrudgingly tell him that I didn’t think that the revolution needed to be violent in that way, that I was against guns.

But the revolution is about to happen, would you join, would you come outside now?

Well yes, obviously.

There was a pause in the conversation whilst we both (I think, we both?) were bemused by the self-evident quality of the answer, as well as its absurdity.

I continued: But would you, if I tell you that my revolution is happening now, that I have all my tanks (…somewhat unsure why tanks were a prerequisite, but hey, for the sake of conversation, right?) outside, would you come? Would you be part of the revolution?

No, of course not, I don’t want your Australian revolution! You want to turn the world upside down, so that Australia is at the top, and send all your prisoners to Europe!

Is it really too crazy to ask whether the coming community will be a human community at all?

At risk of unveiling myself publicly as thel dork that I probably am, I’d like to bring to the discussion contemporary science fiction, which seems to be consistently placing the coming community (be it utopic or distopic) as no longer in human hands (no longer humans in an alternate universe, a different time, or different undiscovered space – lost island, new planet, etc.) but in other beings, framed as evolved (updated) humans, be them robots or clones (or both!).

One of the protagonists of I, Robot - the other being a standard version human: Will Smiths.

I know it may seem absolutely ethereal or irrelevant. After all, if the academic research area of post-humanism as a whole seems absurd with its “what do computers feel?” and “what if we talk to animals?” propositions, surely “listening” to science fiction with its nonregulated, often campy and even more “out there” ideas borders on the absurd. But then again, life has funny ways of formulating knowledge. The three laws of robotics, currently in use in engineering programs and at work in developing robots, come from a science fiction novel written by Isaac Asimov and were recently made popular knowledge through Hollywood’s I, Robot movie.

Last semester I was reading Michel Houellebecq’s “The Possibility of an Island” and although in general I hated it (mostly because I couldn’t read more than five pages without feeling like vomiting and committing hara kiri––it was that depressing) it posits some interesting questions. On one side , the nature of humanity (something that has certainly been around in science fiction for a while, but that now seems to be resurfacing: as in the novel The Stone Gods, the comic book Y the last Man, the remaking of 70s TV series Battlestar Galactica, and the movie A.I., among others) and on the other, and more pertinent to this blog, the nature of community.

On the nature of humanity

 The future community of The Possibility of an Island is populated by neohumans: cloned versions of rich humans who are already on their 24-25th generation of whatever rich human they were cloned originally from. Thus these new humans have dispensed with sex as a means for reproduction, exchanging it for cloning of existing models (talk about strict population control methods) and along with it, as Houellebecq particularly charming view of the world seems to imply, by upgrading to a beyond sex state they also left behind one of the only (if not the only) rational reasons for engaging with other humans beings (in his mind brothels are probably the perfect community center).

Furthermore, for the neohumans humanness is defined by two things: laughter (associated with cruelty) and tears (associated with compassion). However, these clones of clones can’t really understand either of these things/affects, much less do them – as they say of their own account. In Battlestar Galactica, where evolved robots also play the domineering hand in the future commmunity, the clone/evolved robot that is perceived by the other robots as the weakest (with the most deffective programming) is the one that cries the most (usually because of “love issues”); that is, the most “human” one. And then we would have to wonder what is the role of affect in community and building/susteining relations. After all, emoticons are all the rage in Internet communication. Either explicitly iconic (yellow bouncing faces) or derivatively typographical,these little faces seem (feel as?) necessary. Words are not enough. Somehow they are too rational. To computational. Programmed. Robotic.

Sexy but sexless Neohumans. Not quite robots, but almost.

On the nature of community

In The Possibility of an Island a sign of the weakness of humans (what is left of them after subsequent natural catastrophes due to global climate – also another interesting topic: the limits of community according to natural laws and conditions) is their need to live in “herds”.

The neo humans live separately. The most direct contact they have with any other “beings” is cloned dogs. Apart from that, they receive a sort of furturistic telepathic text message from other clones but without any real attatchment. Once the clone dies, another fills his/hers spot both in space (whatever house the previous clone inhabited) and sociality (whatever social network through telepathic text messaging the previous cloned had) but there’s no mourning on the part of the text messaging “contacts” of the previous clone, even if it is recognized by all that this new version of the previous clone is not exactly the same. There is some consciousness from the neohumans part of their ambiguous mortality/inmortality that they inhabit, but it poses no preocupation, and certainly no affect.

In a way, the future community is a non-community á la non-place, a community for lack of a better word (maybe grouping would be better and less charged with community’s “We are the World, We are the Children” feel good vibe) defined by unrootedness, by the constant passing of the community/groupings members without any kind of mourning, loss, etc-also without laughter or happy memories… poor Hallmark, wouldn’t survive a minute in that economy. There’s a feeling of being eternal in that they dont perish and the genes (and even memories) are not exctint but it feels like an empty continuity––a constant filling in of a void. To which one could ask: A community without affect is a community without meaning? A community without affect is indeed not a communitry but something else?

Talk about bad break-up lines...