Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Einstein was right (ie. wrong), you can be in two places at once

As empirical acolyte Steve Connor shows, new groundbreaking work in science proves that "Einstein was right when he thought he was wrong", proving that he was right about what he thought wasn't right, and so was wrong about what he didn't think was right at all. What was he wrong (right) about? He was (in)correct regarding whether "you can be in two places at once" - Conner shows that he was in fact right (making him actually wrong) thanks to a new device with which - according to science writer Adrian Cho - they "still haven't achieved a two-places-at-once state". As Conner makes clear, Einstein never could have guessed that he would be right (wrong) that it would ever be possible to (not be able to) exist in two places at once, but time has shown that the opposite of what he didn't (not) think has actually turned out to be true (false). A perfect instance of science journalism.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"If You See Something, Say Something": Napolitano's Radical Take on Post-Searlian Speech Act Theory

corporocybernautics - a trajectory of clauses - the delicate relation of aesthetic opposites (sight-sense - then speech)

Act 1 is the Department of War. Act 2 is the National Security Act of 1947 (1). Act 3 is the USA Patriot Act (2). Napolitano provides the Coles Notes theoretical summary of the work, relating its relevance to philosophy, society and you as an individual contributive to that society.

The heroics are open-ended and pointed outward, the plot entirely paradoxical in the perspectivisms of safety. More cogently, as Napolitano's character puts it during the crux of the rising action (you see, with this, any attempt to delineate a clear, linear plot will undoubtedly fail):

"Homeland security starts with hometown security, and each of us plays a critical role in keeping our country and communities safe"

Or, in live form ( and


1 - the Department of Defense/U.S. Armed Forces+foreign policy+Intelligence Community/Secretary of Defense/Department of War+Department of the Navy=National Military Establishment/National Military Establishment-NME>Department of Defense/Army-Navy-Air-Federation/National Security Council/Central Intelligence Agency/~=Truman Doctrine/~=Marshall Plan

2 - USA PATRIOT Act/United States Department of Homeland Security/Secretary of Homeland Security/Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection/Critical Infrastructure Information Act/Cyber Security Enhancement Act/Science And Technology In Support of Homeland Security/Border And Transportation Security/Emergency Preparedness and Response/Coordination with Inspector General and Secret Service/Information Security/Arming Pilots Against Terrorism/Airline War Risk Insurance Legislation/Corrections To Airline Transportation Security

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Wizard of Mono Lake: NASA's Chymical Wedding of Arsenic and DNA

What is interesting to me about this debate is not so much its specific content as how it acts out the trappings of officialized sciencese in a manner perfectly evacuative of all science. On the one hand you have the "renegade bloggers" using their namby-pamby web 2.0 gadgets, and on the other you have the hard scientists utilizing respected and established fora (Science mag) to rigorously communicate ideas. It just so happens that it is only the bloggers that are discussing science, those more selective with their venues are completely silent.

This is not a case of a proper method of engaging in scientific discourse, it is a matter of either engaging or not, or worse, refusing to engage in the name of some as-yet-unsatisfactory linguistic milieu. The Wizard never speaks except from behind his/her curtain. Is there a possible chance that some people actually read science news without going to the original article and scrutinizing its experiments and methodology? Nooooo...

What is great about Redfield's blog is that she goes right to talking about the science. No intro, no dumbing down, no "this is what it really means" - just here it is, this might be a way to interpret it. There is no science communication here, this is the thick of it, either you know the subject or you don't and you're lost. Think now back to reading the article a few days earlier in Science News - did you think: "Man, what the hell does this mean?" or "wow, too much technical jargon"? No - you were presented with something understandable, tantalizing - a possibility. "This is what science is saying" - hmmm, maybe science is right? (science is pretty smart). And then you read Redfield's post and it's all confusing - how do you speak with science?

This is, I'd like to argue, a fundamental tenet of what could be relatively termed a kind of open science. The subject, in this case, is as contextualized and particular as it may be, nothing more, nothing less. If we are talking about conjecturing a form of knowledge based on a series of elaborate microscale techniques, then that's what we are talking about. We don't sidle up to cells and check out their translucent bellies, we use a construction of technologies to reduce and infer aspects of their nature (already and foundationally in the microscope). To talk about the matter in any other terms would obfuscate what actually is insofar as our best knowledge is able to ascertain it.

So we return to Wolfe-Simon and the forgotten promises of the arsenic world of yore, and the insurgent rebels unmasking the truth via blog posts and facebook statuses. But neither of these happened - we have simply had no knowledge, then a little knowledge. What is significant here is not that Wolfe-Simon and her subpar review squad need to be shipped to sea, their bad science with them. No, rather, this is a chance to learn what sort of events might fall under the title of science, its public interface, the term and category's collective existence, a category which in this case is void of its own content. This is not an isolated incident where the black sheep bad science slipped out of the fold in its NASA avatar, but rather an instance of the type of events, the kind of stories and data which complement an interface of science news, a collective knowledge thereof, and even (quite directly in this case) the "critical" source (Science mag) which will allow it all its clout and travelling power to warp across the mediasphere.

It seems that if we don't believe something about which we have no real knowledge, there will never be any sort of unmasking. These too, of course, are ideal terms, but at least perhaps a reaching towards knowledges with specificity as opposed to authoritarian brands (Wizards have become incorporated since the 50s btw) might produce a more tentative and continuous approach than the shock and flock of nonsense quasiknowledge (ours it should be clear here, as the actuality is never even arrived at but in its beginnings through the renegades).

So here we are, again:

"The items you are presenting do not represent the proper way to engage in a scientific discourse and we will not respond in this manner"

- Thus spake the Mage of Oz?

Monday, September 13, 2010


Vasubandhu, the telomeric tripod, expressed himself by pulsing his dislike for video ports. His scaled arms recoiled in where, on the left, he was immediately connected with another tripod of his kind. Desire too connected to that appendage, and he expressed his motivation for seeking a system of frozen plains.

A cybernetic future entails the intricate complexity of finger bones. Like no other bones, the bones of the finger are interlaced with silica fibres which make them an especially potent conductor. So the tracks of the finger, the pattern-sought fingers of Vasubandhu which tapped to the succession of chemical suction in the tray meter. Pulsing, the desire which connected the appendage diced and reformulated on the tray, Vasu held it at arms length so as to avoid the smell.

- So I've discovered the form of negligence, he whispered. Arbuda. The blister. Feeling his feet, along the other side (a depth of sadness) was there the frozen plain, the mountains, nothing but an oblique foot. The foot, which means nothing.

Continually swept with blizzards. Looking up out into the night sky, the sky covered mostly with clouds, Vasu thought how he wanted to know where things were, to have a relation to the sky, to have a single hypothesis that made the sky and him together. Oh look, he thought, that succession of stars means this nonsense, which defers our bonding and allows me to run my finger across your cheek.

The tentative hand movements of the Orion constellation when, after having fought a hard losing battle in the wild, returned home to collapse into his chair, with all his sensor-appendages collapsing and recoiling inward. The sound of movement as his wife came to say hello and express regret at a day filled with unsatisfactory incidents and less-than-savoury things. Some moments, with the clouded sky outside, spent in close proximity while focussed on irrelevant moments and images broadcast from another bio-system miles away. Through electricity alone, he said to her.

She looked at him and down at her finger where a blister had continued to develop. Icy, the mountains, the plains they dipped into which were no warmer. It was said in her husband's treatise that in this land the naked abide, desiring only to be social and to derive respect yet geography could not be argued with. It could not be argued that the interactive force of denigration accelerated, and the desire for tenderness was nothing at all in comparison with the depths of brutality seeking to equilibrate itself through increases in order. Here the hand reaches upwards, sideways, some which way which in every way expressed the naked, expressed how its supernatant egressed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

the ideologues of web-specificity

registers and territories of muck which - in turn - eliminate publication

The Silence of Gathered Knowledge

Bessemer, in his industrialized innovation of carbon-removal in iron (nothing new to the 800-year antedated Song Dynasty scientists), patented this new economic boon in an explanatory method that could not be reproduced by other steel-makers. What lacked was just what lacks in peer-idealization, or the iconography of scientific communication. Peircean guessing here becomes relevant, as do the memory-tablets of Gilgamesh and the pleas against the reduced recollective-knowledge in documentation for Socrates. As Polanyi would put it, the knowledge is tacit, a silence akin to the purposeful fudges of a Davincian diagram, or the jargon-enriched self-patent in the alchemical description of chemical experiments. Bessemer could not convey the method which - though its overtly ideal form as a scientific process correlates to its pragmatic success when he took up the job - serves as a post-Goethian aesthetized instance of material epistemology, a basic instance of knowledge which Peirce rightly held as an irreductive core of scientific exploration.

Thus Bessemer industrialized and brought about radical changes in the steel-making process (which itself then brings about a new experimental paradigm - in society not only but also in the factory), which correlates interestingly back to Polanyi's personalized science and subsequent opposition of the socialized advocacies of physicist John Desmond Bernal (think here of the current split between Science 2.0, transhumanism and citizen science - advocacies towards a less immediately social (but ultimately far more plurally social) form of science, and the general practice which in certain ways exists as a skewed legacy of the socialized science semi-progressivism of Bernal (which could be redated to List, a contemporary of Bessemer)).

Bernal, who has been cited as an originary of the sociology of science, still represents an age where empirical methodology was not relatively confused by technoscientific re-encounter (although certainly well present, as Bessemer's case attests) - forms of progressivism still held more consistent sway in collectivized ideals (as opposed to the more radical forms today, or the watered-down negating assumptions of more oblique terminologies such as welfare and care (progression as neutralization)). Further, Bernal's social analysis comes from a practitioner - its pragmatics find a grounding there, and serve to inspire the annals of science policy, economic thought, yet also in a sense become more radical than their successors, as in Bernal's fervent support of Soviet science and subsequently Lysenkoism.

Polanyi's critique enters here (say in the 1940 co-founding of the "Society for Freedom in Science", an ostensibly anti-instrumentalist defender of liberal free enquiry - a neutralized personalism which ironically flips Bernal's argument to a predictive rebuttal which formulates the theory-laden admittal of a socially-oriented critical counter), propounding something akin to what some call pure science, or the gentlemanly and individualized, free as they say to enquire without the bounds of social capital and public approvals. It is an intermediary of these two views that offers a useful model - this begins with an acknowledgement that Polanyi's critique of the socially-oriented science of Bernal could be restated as an aleatoric clearing that could well remain tacitly personal, or could reorient in a different social function (the which is inevitable anyway). It is in this fated reorientation (personality exists socially, there is no isolative lone man for neither Hai Ebn Yokdhan, Mowgli, nor Rousseauian analysis, aside from their fictional reproductions) that a personally-pluralized view of social process begins to unravel.

The correlation to industry growth matches research funding, thus the question of policy becomes a crucial instance of where the money comes from, as this indelibly serves to focus what the research is doing. This, which leads to a bureaucratic insularity, was something that Bernal was critical of - again, as a partial radical which confuses a simple binary opposition with Polanyi, this position mirrors open science policists general advocation of more pluralist and public fund-models (crowdsourced as they say) as a method of breaking down bureaucratic singularity - in critique Bernalian, but in counter-solution quite different from the socialist orienting before and after Lysenko's sanctioning. For Bernal, science should serve the people - here in this simplified nobility applied as a contradictory rigidness, this point is in fact defended and more concretely brought home through the opposition and personalized elements of Polanyi's disagreement therewith. The foundation then of this hybridized social orientation, is not a collectivized social policy but a system that, while just as socially-indebted, fundamentalizes Bessemer's formula for making steel in a more rapid fashion. It eschews the collective for a more critical application of what is foundationally not neutral at all, but definitively personal, or ill-defined in open relationship to a collective which it will alter (contrast this with the idea of political or state science) - this is not the symbolic gentleman in his laboratory unearthing laws, but a situated individual whose socially and theoretically tied ontics produce a knowledge that disrupts formalized systems - both through language and the lack thereof. The epistemology of silence marks experiential inception.


the coaster townspeople

[who had] accounted [for] salting

imply a quadrate

(cowardly these proscriptions damn synaptics)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Problem of Growth

Methods to Grow Plants in Your Lungs

Inside the germ-pod of the carboniferous structure there is a de-watered mini-me, which needs only moisture and its own stored nutrient (saccharides) to survive a bit in human dirt

slidte, revet, ufuldstændige, undersøgelse

Betsy: "The proper appreciation of Deleuze is not in his endless series of jargons, his pseudosciences, his self-recursive language of pure trend, but in his work as an important writer (and embodiment) of aesthetics. (Something similar might be said about Baudrillard, though he plumbs the language of poetry to its medial denial (not its Deleuzian proliferation) which allows it to give way to physicality, immediate symbology - bearing its spiritual idea to its root in Bataillean flesh))"

Plant: "Our religious formulations have shifted to mediated displacement, focussing on its figurations of sex, violence, and the miracle of an all-too otherwordly science of technique."

Betsy: "In converse relation to the intensity of basic experiences is the collectively rationalizable aspect of their results - yet it is always the role of the rational to realize its foundation in the empirical and to further accept its fallibility and incompleteness in what is a range of empirical data that resist final categorization, and do so increasingly as those experiences become more fundamental. The Euro-Christian synthesis that forms in neo-latinate medieval Europe, and which comes to inform our post-colonial new world of increasingly American forms of global structure and power, generally turns to deny these more taboo-ridden realms of grotesque materialism to a less-privileged epistemological status than the more rationalizable and collectivizable."

Stein on Pound: "he was a village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not"

Plant: "The simulacrum no longer engages in the sex act, but it can multiply its image."

A squishy tomato comes out of Betsy's navel. Betsy, the revolutionary.

Betsy: "and just words, and she said i feel as though i'm fucking your words" (from Beauty and the Gimp)

de Sade, Solanas and the measure of man; the synthesis in the garden of eden.

SK: "Christianly, 'witness' and 'danger' correspond"

Sunday, August 22, 2010


A: The muscles of Kay Underwood - a cataplexic - fail to fire when experiencing strong emotion, such as laughter.

B: Matt Frerking - a Neuroscientist - is petrified when he has a romantic impulse, or sees others as such.

C: The narcoleptics Allison June Burchell and Luis Alfredo Pinilla both woke up on a slab in the morgue one day. For June, this was one of two times. The first, as a teen, was induced by a Hollywood comedy film: having collapsed paralyzed and conscious, she was brought to the hospital and pronounced dead, only to wake up hours later, oddly displaced.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

predicative dissolutive ontology and the gateway to sensation

ontology ultimately a set of instances – foundationless (albeit in ad hoc extremities) the opening leads to new being which supplants what non-definition attempts to contain

in its study it is anything that can be said to be whether "transcendentally" or "immanently" or in any other conceivable manner

hegel has a divide between stuff that is (has beingness) and the Geistly being of humans, the strange distinction is married by his pessimism towards a sense meaning of being as a concept alone, as its lack of predicates indicate that nothing at all remains

The Redemption of Action

In Act II, Aaron compares his attachment for Tamora, to whom he is "fetter'd in amorous chains", as one stronger than what binds Prometheus to the Caucasus as his innards are born away.

She is like Semiramis, the daughter of Derketo, who was abandoned at birth, after which her mother drowned herself. First fed by doves, then found by Simmas, a sheep-herder, her story is one of millions, the abandoned child of Musean or Oedipal climes. That is, one of millions if she was an abandoned son, which she was not. Her consequent independence mirrored her wit and craft, and with time wed her to the king of Assyria. Her exploits included cross-dressing as her son (after her husband passed) to fight in battle, to gaining a reputation as the originator of both the chastity belt and male castration. At each turn, the pedigree of a female who acts was an ambiguous heritage to assume. For the individuality of action, her reward was the death by her own seed and a mixed reputation which included its travel to Armenia as an amoral homewrecker and pretended harlot.

The poet Nairi Zarian told of her desire for a good-looking king of Armenia, Ara. Upon being refused in marriage, she proceeded to attack with her Assyrian forces. Once Ara died, she dressed a lover of hers as Ara, and feigning a resurrection to the Armenian people, one both peace and the dubious honour of saving through inexplicable sorcery. The role, then, of the witch, no longer the dove-symbol of Ishtar and human love, but that Medusa whose actions are feared and mystified for no more reason than that they are actions. It is at this juncture that love becomes lust, no different in action, yet in perspective a life transfers in this case to the second rung of Dante's hell, an empress of many languages, that made the lustful licit and became abandoned to the sensual - not as the naive encounter with an otherwise mystifying senselessness (that is, the means to know, to know at all, in the sense of faculty), but rather to double deviation so as to remove the blame to which she had been led.

It is here, in this metaphor, that Tamora's character takes place, a woman who plans, and a woman who loves, duelly for caution in a recursive circle of pre-empted amorality. And Aaron, the all-too-black, and fittingly dark and sinister companion of hers, attached as the chains of punished hubris, the chains that bind not devotion, but vice and its irremediable, quite Dantesque, remunerance of flesh elimination (in this case, by vultures).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Venter and the Epiphany of Abstraction

Craig Venter might be considered one of the exemplary contemporary models of the marriage of capital and scientistic endeavour (which might in turn be traced through euro-capital beginnings and the specific kind of institutional climate (in its inception, the catholic church) against which it worked to define itself - in other words, capitalism in a kind of infancy and science as a practice defined either in conjunction with or in contradistinction with the christian church).

In Joseph Jackson's recent interview at H+ mag he drew a distinction between what he labelled as authentic past citizen scientists consistent with an advocated contemporary view of open science practice - here he names Franklin, Jefferson and Jenner - and what didn't quite fit that bill, or was only partially representative of the citizen scientist, for which he named Thomas Edison. Edison "partially fits the descriptor of Citizen-Scientist" but, on the whole, for Jackson, "his example is not one we want to encourage under the new Open Science paradigm". The key distinction here between the authentic citizen scientist and Edison, is Edison's "feud with Tesla and other abusive monopolistic industrial practices". Now, I'm not sure if Jackson's claim says that increased commercialization makes it less qualified to be open science, but I don't think he believes this (and certainly many advocates of breeds of open science are not anti-capitalist, but rather in favour of new and different forms of capitalism (more "open, plural and collective" you might say)). Nonetheless, I would like to use the suggested distinction myself, to draw a difference between what might be a particular definition of citizen science, or empirical exploration, and a certain kind of pragmatic technoscience, or capitalistic science, or business science. In this latter case, we might look at someone like Edison (and even further explore Jackson's examples, such as the pragmatic elements of Franklin's science) or Venter as representative of a science not solely focussed on empirical description and exploration (as say in the case of Linnean classification, or Darwin in the Galapagos), but that further explores the knowledge's use and application in new technological products.

In this way, Venter can be seen as a model of what has been called technoscience (herein used as a way of saying scientific exploration linked whether as goal or byproduct to a kind of technological invention and production). I'm not here drawing any moralistic divisions, but I do hold that a different paradigmatic structures merit different formulations of accountability. I think there is a functional difference useful to delineate between how to look at a more exploratory science and one that could be called technological, the which - to explore the latter - is my current concern.

I'm particularly interested in Venter's language and certain aspects of his recent project, a "synthetic" bacterium which the ETC called "Synthia", where a synthesized imitation of the Mycoplasma mycoides genome was transplanted into a cell of Mycoplasma capricolum, whose DNA had been removed. Scientifically speaking, everything about the project consists in slight modifications of current methods, mimicry of biological parts and while certainly in ways this can be practically distinguished from other experimental practices, the extent to which it can be is dwarfed by the amount that this is largely differentiated as a conceptual and medial event. In this way it might be considered a fitting conceptual pillar from which to analyze current technoscientific engagement.

"To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!" - these are some of the "words" that are etched in the synthetic genome (a mind-bogglingly arbitrary association that coincides well with the "genetic poems" of Bok (whose words's roman letter abstracts were, in all probability, generally unknown in the early grammar schools of Hadean hyperthermophiles)). Barring the combinatoric and desultory fact of their logographic being, the choice itself is quite interesting. This line, from Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is contextualized by a preamble of the protagonist, on the beach, gazing at a woman. His voyeuristic silence (matched only by his Dantesque relationship to the shore's Beatrice) is monologued in the kind of epiphanic aesthetic manner that makes up some of Joyce's best prose. This stream-of-consciousness encounter, one that - aside from a returned look mentioned in the text - has little to no physical or interactive involvement either of the "gazee" or even the protagonist himself (in another framing, you might say that as a film scene it would have appeared largely inactive or, shall I say, very effectively Tarkovskian).

The quoted line however, only comes after the momentous and riveting encounter (in what might fittingly be described as an instance of Kierkegaardian recollection), after the protagonist-viewer has fled, overwhelmed at the statuesque sight. The encounter already from its inception is experienced from the monologue of the protagonist (not to say that being viewed is merely the non-act of a passive object, but whatever the subjective experience of the woman being viewed, the text does not represent it) - thus already the viewed lacks the reality that might be attributed to interaction, dialogic description, speech or action and instead is largely an epiphanic fixation for the viewer in its terms of description (think here of the medieval story's insta-love sight that precedes the intrepidly random quest to marry someone unknown, if but for that all-descriptive initial mental photograph).

The overwhelmed protagonist then suddenly sprints away, no longer able to handle the burgeoning emotion, and launches into inspired tongues of speech bitten by the bug of transcendental love. Love, in this case, of the sort that involves little to no action nor interaction, is immediately perceived, and is, finally, something that - like the young man in Kierkegaard's Gjentagelsen - can only effectively be experienced alone, tending towards either the silence or absence of the actual object of love (making it in this sense a form of virtual love). It is in this state of enraptured retreat that our possessed subject intones the inspired line "To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!"

And now, this line is "written" into Synthia, or at least so the team has coded it to be as such, and so it is claimed which is, in the respect of their intentions and choice of Joyce quotes, the same in practice. Now you could say that any analysis is useless, that it's just a line, and it says life and Venter put it in there, and whatever who cares it doesn't mean anything. However, I think to actually hold that there was no real selection process at all (aside from say, looking for nice sounding words and maybe a mention of the word "life"), wouldn't really hold up to any scrutiny, and if we are to concede that, then the next question is how exactly does it relate, in its entirety (whether in a premeditative or accidental way) to the project to which it's being applied. This line, which might, in Joyce's own general terms of Aquinian gradations into epiphany, be described as a transcendental form of aesthetic appreciation. Everything the protagonist is experiencing is in the abstractive realm - his living and triumphing are inspired by the virtual abstraction of a viewed beach siren, and out of this, to say that life is being recreated out of life, is to say that the virtual is created out of the virtual (or, if one were to disagree with this interpretation, s/he would be hard-pressed to discover what specifically "life" is referring to here, other than the ineffable simulacrum of the girl in the protagonist's memory, or some equally vague idea of "all life" or some such blanket concept). So the virtual begets the virtual and this includes falling, triumphing, living and erring (as well as most anything else, I dare say).

"To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!" To now return to this line (and our inauguration of Venterian textual analysis), we can do so through Venter's own words. Venter talks about the Synthia project as one that - for him at least - changes the definition of life - we've sloughed off the old heavy baggage of formerly overbearing life definitions and moved into a realm where "we're limited mostly by our imaginations". It is "the first species.... to have its parents be a computer", whose active ingredient, DNA, itself is fittingly the "software" (compare the materialist Lewontinian concept of DNA as recipe book) and of course, this ineffable, immaterial definition fits precisely in the abstracted territory of patents and watermark signatures (more gene "writing" that accompanied the various literary selections). In one of those gene-quotations, we have our Joycean expression of abstracted beauty, of the imaginative and virtual sublime whose eternal newness evades specific description beyond the solitary experience of the observer. The material object or experimental subject at hand is eschewed for abstractive concepts of imagination, new definitions, logographic substitutions and the aleatoric gamut of the virtual entities of software that - while certainly never denying the scientific and material elements underlying all this - focus instead on the abstracted elements which play more effectively into patent and media. Those material elements might be comparable to the plethora of wet lab work in transfections, transformations, transductions, protofections and similar common techniques in current lab practice, yet the language (the very fact there's "language" in the synthetic organism) and descriptive elements mark out Venter's project as conceptually exemplary.

This is, then, a model for technoscientific discussion, science as taken into a realm that focusses more on object-orientation and the symbolizing procedures of computation and simplification and away from what could be termed naive empirical description. The automatic and isolative elements of effective technology (perhaps nowhere better exemplified than in the machine-talking-to-machine singularity concept - no human agent is even required at all) in fact invert the experiential portions of scientistic encounter, emphasizing its philosophical counterpart, a kind of classical rationalism tweaked to reinvent Lullian combinatorics (or finally, those of an exemplary rationalist himself, Leibniz) into a more complexly abstracted form of computational object arrays (in this case, the formula for recording and remaking the gene itself).

Capital, in its essential formation, is coincidentally a displaced symbolism of value (you're not getting the cow you want to eat, but you're getting the equivalent symbolic value which could be applied to getting the cow, or something else entirely). The technical, patentable portion of Venter's endeavour is thus fittingly an ideal object for market introduction (as were the inventions of Edison), and the human relation thereto, becomes increasingly complexified, insofar as the web of uses into which that technology is reapplied is complexified (say, a lab technique used for multiple different areas of research, such as a technique like PCR).

This withdrawl of the human, as it might be termed (into, let's say, the universal black hole that will co-evolve with the singularity), is perhaps in few places better represented than by Stephen Daedelus, Joyce's protagonist, and his retreat from the object of his fascination. His actual relation becomes nill, limited now only by his imagination and the "life" that is born out of that, may not be a collectively distinguishable entity by anyone but himself. Conversely, it is just that move to symbolically abstract "life" that puts it entirely in the hands of Daedelus to redefine it however he likes and then if - like a good maze-building Daedelian - he could then reify that concept, his personally patented version of the term could then take actual form. Of course any such idea will then be resubject to the empirical events of nature's course (the more rigorous experiment of observing different results of different genetic "transplants"), yet these results, both relatively enabling and paradigmatically undermining/disabling (say, a fantastic computer that a kid benefits from and his grandparents get "left behind" by) are still subject to the human creator (that is, Daedelus, the technowizard) whose visions, insofar as they are speculatively practical, must take responsibility for the abstracted dreams they have actualized into effect.

Technoscience - as opposed to strictly experimental science - then as the Daedelian experience or epiphany and its technological manifestation. However, unlike a religious epiphany, there is more than simply the persuasive aspect of the vision to account for - its rhetoric is not just rhetoric but, in Fregeian terms, referential language. What in Joyce can be aesthetic and entirely in the realm of the hypothetical, for Venter applies that aesthetics into potentially practical objects (quite literally in "writing" in genes) whose activity forces the transcendent into a scrutiny of its potential applications. The problem, of course, with multi-referent language is that, while in a poetic space it can demolish trite distinctions and seemingly liberate, in scientific endeavour it becomes questionable insofar as its actual referent is unknown (in this case, what sort of "life" will *actually* exist with this genetic mixing, beyond the vaguely affirmative language of Joyce's quote). Technoscience - the pragmatic and collectively implicated aspect of the properly empirical - creates tools that, contextually speaking, quite simply extend ability in relation to need. They are simple social decisions that work to address an issue (say, a physical disability, and the social accommodation thereof) through invention and application. Yet like nothing else, it's these practicable elements of science - from textual creations to mainframe computers - that require the most multilayered scrutiny and analysis. Whether through verification or more severely, falsification, or in the case of the unfalsifiable (say, a realm where imagination rules over everything), a contextual analysis and, in pseudo-Kuhnian terms, a revolutionary approach that re-evaluates the very precepts under which investigation is conducted.

A possible view here could be (and is, for some) that both Venter's science and his overarching theoretical vision are sound and to be supported. So be it, this is a possible viewpoint, and the primary concern of this analysis is that that is a possible perspective, but hopefully in terms that are increasingly collective in their generalized or public understanding (one key catch here is that "science communication" is a two-way, not a one-way street). Likewise, insofar as this description is laid out, another might hold that the singular patent model and the vaguely optimistic definitions and descriptions might, if nothing else, call for a more open and collective model, that works to ground the abstracted terms in a more pluralistic forum, as in a more open patent system and a more empirically-grounded set of descriptions (contrast the usual funding-seeking report of "it works" with a relation of both the negative and positive data).

Maybe then, if we were to attempt to glean a complete, practical picture of Joyce's scene (and not his lyrical flight), we might, quite simply want a monologue from the woman on the beach shore (which could well be like Molly Bloom's thoughtstream which ends Ulysses' final chapter). But while such "practicality" might rightly be said to entirely miss the point of the subject's transformative experience (which is, after all, a key event that turns the "young man" into the "artist"), I think this sort of a reply would hold little water in relation to a genetic practice which will proliferate into multiple aspects of daily life. Here the epiphany and its transcendental imagination becomes a crucial object of analysis which only hints - as a dream hints a reality - at what the actual manifestations of an unlimited imagination really are.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Mediacentric (and its Mock over History or Drowning)

The scam, in its permeation of a given material, reveals the obtuse quality of the medium-in-itself. Its referentiality fails - a crucial element in discarding hypotheses and plumbing the qualities of a given means.

Ibn Batuta, the great Muslim traveller, recounts his travels into Hangzhou, China in the midst of the 14th Century. What he sees there is the remarkable aerial travel of an inanimate object, for which he attempts to provide an explanation. The explanation of the action of the relatively inanimate, we will see, was a move it seems only preliterate culture grasped in its immediacy. It was, as the rare intelligence of Ibn Battuta discovered, explained by re-relating that object to a human agent.

Pu Songling, in his collection of 18th Century folkloric tales, performs the task not just of a Lonnrot or Grimm brother in collating the rural fancies of purportedly simple folk, but also records some tales which he saw with his own eyes. In this story - this story that is an immediate account, not distorted by multiple tales nor the labour of copies - this story begins with a mandarin who, upon meeting a vagabond whose reputation merited the common name "magician" (this translation entirely loses the nuance of a word which refers to no magic at all, or one that might otherwise be associated with a kind of being) - upon meeting this traveller and the pretenses of his unofficialised status, upon meeting him the mandarin stops and starts in thoughts of humiliation, or of pre-empted challenge. How and what can the magician do? Or, to return to the title, what can the charlatan do? Fakery, in this case, is the refuge of the impression which delineates ones belief into anothers influence - the magician can say nothing, nor do anything. He can however regard the instance of the event and its appearances, as a method from which to be reduced, to - as the masked men would say - mock. And mock he did.

The challenge, a fantastical and maliciously ironic request to produce a peach in mid-winter, was met with equal malice, this time in the form of action. The magician sent his son to climb a rope, which he did, into the sky, and vanished from sight. Shortly afterward, a peach falls, soon followed by the dismembered limbs of the now-mutilated son. This strange, and viciously humorous reply, not in words, but more severely in actions - in the surreal falling actions of the appendages of ones progeny - this reply did not even arrive to form a metaphor, to cleverly invert the mandarin's obvious envy of the magician's visual allure. This action was too jarring for such a result, and could not settle into anything but the event itself, as it occurred (at least, insofar as we can depend on the so-called magician to be performing a successful ruse).

This event - which the magician called a protometaphor - was once described by him to his friend as being done "in the traditional manner". That is, as if surreal brutality can necessarily have an abstracted condition (we see here already the magician's clear predilection for mockery - in nothing else if in his very description, recited during this latter portion, that his son can never be other than what he is - imagine these words, accompanied by an entirely unearthly spectacle, and yet the simplistic reaming of what by this point is an audience both transfixed and disgusted). As if in affirmation of his now somewhat questionable status as one to be accorded due presence (as if his reply to the impossible task of the mandarin was to rise to it by humiliating himself beyond anyone's prediction or comprehension), the magician now stoops over and begins to pick up the parts of his scattered son. One by one, he places them in a basket, which he has seemingly (and oddly retroactively) brought just for this specific task which he now performs in tact and religious solemnity. He closes the basket, and approaches the mandarin, demanding his payment. Yet no payment had been offered and it was this action, which the magician described as the "point of tradition" - demanding a referent currency where there is none - which formed what he called the "essence of the trick". Whether or not the mandarin gave him some money - probably an amount insignificant to him though possibly meaningful to the magician - is irrelevant. Indeed the tale can well end at this point where the entire act is reduced to a trivial and basically habitualized occurrence. "It might as well have been", the magician would say, "that I simply begged for the money."

The ruse, he said, of being poor, the ruse of an event trapped nowhere but reality, is enough for him to properly pay homage to history. The mandarin suddenly becomes irrelevant to the story - this, he said, was the function of the mediacentric trick. The drowning artist, he explained, once famous on the shores of France, did not understand the essence of irrelevance (though some have disputed this to a powerful degree). And history, he said, well you see how its tradition is simply a function of my whimsical drive to either effectively make light of it, or to take it so seriously so as to repell any listener from its fabricated precepts. The triumph, he said, is not in silence, but in deriding not only those who want to either be fooled or expose a given trick, but to deride *the trick itself*.

Songling once claimed that the tricks of the magician were favourites of the White Lotus Society - and that he must have initially learnt them from them. The White Lotus Society was a Buddhist heterodoxy that found appeal with women and the poor, and whose image of solace was collectively referred to as the "Unborn and Eternal Venerable Mother".

Monday, August 2, 2010

Science 2.0/3.0

As I've already intimated in my preliminary explorations of literature and art in the web 2.0 environment, the web 2.0 paradigm (or what might simply be called the web or internet paradigm) informs my investigation of an empirical epistemology and its aesthetic and scientistic bifurcations. Thus, just as much as the internet reformulates aesthetic questions and their relation to our ontological framework (regardless of whether we use it or not), so will it reformulate the pragmatic affairs of our scientific endeavours. Insofar as its tools are adopted and employed, it will shake up and reconfigure the current structure of science practice; these changes will, in partial parallel with aesthetic modifications, provide paradigmatic shifts that could facilitate a move more towards what might be outlined as an open and fallible system of practical inquiry. Simultaneously, it could do the opposite, but this only enhances the need for social and critical engagement with the new problematics that coincide with its structure.

This position still, is resolutely for the use of a web whose presence is real and increasingly prevalent, as it comes to define our virtual-global society, so it will quite functionally redefine our being and knowledge - and what actualized measures we take with them. In this way, the web is *the* location for scientific forums (in their actuality and speculation) - and although its uptake in the science community is slowed in relation to the large scale of its actual institutions, its impact is inevitable: already its general use is in certain respects common - such as in the online subscription database, and the article-driven search engine.

Mark Hahnel's Science 3.0 (I'm techblob there) is a new hub in the continued move to interpolate science, its commentators and practitioners into the web realm. This move is, as I've said, inevitable in my opinion; I think that participation in these spaces (and the creation thereof as Hahnel and co have done, no slight task) is increasingly relevant in how science is and will come to be defined. As I have done with aesthetic and literary endeavours, so I hope to bridge my interest in science (therein unified with technology) through a similar move, compounded by a return to the pathways and processes of formulating artistic creations in a web environment, that explore its content formally and in subject.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tragicomic Empiricism and the Mystical-Rational Age

The challenge today, as it may be expressed, the challenge for subjective experience, for any humanistic philosophy is the unprecedented difficulty in establishing individualized existence in what is a more rationalistic and mystical society than history has known. Moreover, this is compounded by the fact that it is not some clandestine group of Cartesians or Swedenborgians* (or say, "the Man") that perpetuates this fact, but indeed the relative lack of human subjects, and the increase in technological and object-oriented means of organization. Both the ultralogical forms of analytic philosophies and the poetically abstract forms of continental versions address this and are symptomatic of it.

This then, the age of abstraction becomes conversely the age of immersion. The rational and mystic demands to which one is subject are not cases for debate - there is nothing to debate - there is instead an a priori assumption of what simply is - that is, for the lawful and rule-abiding societal member. The subjective experience is in this sense non-existent in the assumed parameters of existence - the immersion is present, and the subject-less abstraction as well. If there is no agency or speaking subject, then there is none of the properly fallible, contestable science that I mentioned earlier, nor is there the open space for the aleatoric, germinating and messy (so inimical to aesthetic categorizations which are a mystical analogue) forms of art. The base empiricist idea then is (in these described contexts, which I argue are increasingly definitory) totally unpracticed and, while materially it is the epitomy of naturalistic conservatism, in the context of mystical alienation the concept becomes an inversion or revolution. That is, its essence is more provocational than explanatory and its simple empirical means contrary to the effective consistency of rationalism.

The chief problematic of communication theories of social justice, of acts of speech and societies with open forums, is that there simply is no such Arthurian Round Table in our midst. As noble as these ideas may sound, we are simply not born into their idyllic world, but instead into one where we are immersed in a system which is more and more about figuring out the means to get something done (who to call or talk to, what papers to fill out) than in voicing our ideas in an equivalent platform. It is more about the technical processes to achieve an end, the bureaucratic engagement that enables and accords power, in which no human opinion is generally involved (of course there is the desk clerk which sends you the forms, but they are entirely subject to certain predetermined procedures) - it is more about these processes than about a person to person discussion**. The communication theory assumes a space (an agora or public sphere if you like) where such communication can take place. An age of abstractive immersion assumes a relative lack of human subjects and their (to borrow from Levinas) "face-to-face" interaction which thus requires different forms of response for the subject immersed in it.

Basic empiricism attempts to describe a fundamental (and alternately pragmatic) epistemology and underlying ontology, however its problematic lies in having its "base embeddedness" if you will, entirely ignored. This is a case where Popperian critical rationality is hopeless since there is nothing falsifiable to critique (what's the phone number for the Man?). Instead we have a case of instantiated holism (different from the hypothetical holism discussed in relation to art), of theory-ladenness and underdetermination, where the overlying rationality easily incorporates anomalies into its sphere. This Kuhnian and post-Kuhnian (or para-Kuhnian) epistemic description correlates with his opposition of the paradigm with the revolution***. It is the Kuhnian model which gives us a more powerful framework to juxtapose with a system described as abstractively unfalsifiable and paradigmatically immersive. The experience or experiment in this case inevitably becomes - through the simple sensing and expressing of its content - what Bacon called an instancia crucis (later taken up by Newton through Hooke as an "experimentum crucis"). It becomes an instance or experiment that violates a theoretical paradigm - that this is a fixed or categorical possibility is not of interest to me, nor is it staked as a science philosophy claim; rather it is situated along a continuum of speculative empirical events that parallels the basic empiricist experience with the instancia crucis which is socially and paradigmatically upsetting, versus the classical empiricist event which is argued to be - due to its more abstracted rational quality - easier to tidy up into a normalized setting.

The expression of the basic experience in a space that allows for no dissent that is not revolutionary is no longer permitted the critical literalism that an easily referent language affords (such as in the pared down descriptions of the copepodal experiment). With the literal eschewed, an equal dialogue is refused the base experience, which is forced into more metaphorical and indirect forms of communication. The paradigmatic discourse and its normal procedures do not make place for the acts of speech of the subject (the assumed position of the base, or the crucis, which does not fit the paradigm, nor its dialogic language) which is then forced into the only kind of speech which remains honest, that which plays the lie in order to say the truth. The hypothetical agent is situated in an immersive space without recourse to counterdialogue (an abstraction without its lived foundation) and instead must use that immersion (as it is the only narrative or structure to use) against itself, with itself. This language is consigned to the fictional or aesthetic (reincorporating the discourse as a fiction in-itself, making of it what the Socratic Plato denigrated as the copy of a copy) the which takes the literal and turns it inside out. This, in full fictive description, is the tragic, in inadequate description, the comic, and in a direct failure at description, the silent. The latter apathetic non-action may be further styled as the tragicomic insofar as the tragicomic fails at either tragedy or comedy. It goes without saying that these words could be others, or that the scope of these could be different from the scope proposed. Nonetheless, as in the common practice of use as it pertains to practice, the scope is chosen to be extended a certain amount and further the terms used are useful for their literary pedigree - for what comparative and traditional ideas it may offer. So the tragic may speak of what others term the grotesque, comedy may as such speak of satire, and tragicomedy of the indecipherable. The replacement of these terms with others is always a possibility****, yet still, despite this, they are used in the aim that such reduction focuses referents (and indeed other terms that may compare) so far as to elucidate not the language so much, but what that language forms around, and what will be recurrent in presence in a given culture, regardless of one's actions. Under these terms then, or others, such an encounter pretends to style appropriately according to what is called an immersive time, and offer such terms as might validate sense and hypothetical reflection in that time.

So it is that the forms of expression of the base empiricist in a period of rational-mystic pomo submersion is one that takes the classical forms of theatre and re-representation in a realm of fictive mimicry: the brutal tragedy, the satirical comedy and the hybridization interform of muteness and lacked articulation. These too, distilled to their language, inform methods that similarly work to dismantle a paradigmatic normality from within its own normality - the literal is eschewed for the consciously fictive, whose real excluded reference is expressed through the fictional particularizing of what performs such exclusion. Language is infused with its experiential content to the point where it becomes entirely aesthetic and performative - that is, proliferative with nothing consistent to offer logic - yet it brims with that kind of empirical content, those experimenta cruces which fail to meet with a normalized criteria, yet to meet and disrupt that criteria, it is an aesthetic language that science needs to properly accommodate and express itself. The language of theatre here, turning a Chymical Theatre to a physiological one, is the language of science, most properly the most experimentally intense thereof, which is human biology. Its mimicry and multi-representation serves as the ultimate aesthetic foil, it presents everything but in play and thus obliterates everything real by making nothing at all real. As the complete aesthetic art it also generates that which properly is the abductive core of science, germinating its hypothetical postures, and naively disregarding all normative realities for an explosion of alternatives and ignorantly transgressive possibilities. It is entirely fitting in this way, that in an undifferentiated oral-cultural state, that the chief actor or artist of the village is also the medicine man who is the chief scientist, a reflection that situates this intimate interrelation of the fictive and the real, the aesthetically propounded and the actually present. It is this same interrelation which needs to be called upon again, in an age that presents a literalized reflection that no longer contains its actual lived referent, the mysticism of pseudo-science, that it is precisely art that is needed to re-establish the empirical grounds of science (and not say some "harder look" at facts and such since there is no longer any reference point, dialogue space or forum in which to perform such an action). The horrible language of tragedy, the satirical streak of comedy, and the refusal and silence of incompleted language, these are the formulae to dismantle pseudobabble and clear the ground for a more veritable empirically-based engagement of the subject with his or her societal space.


* note, in my estimation, rationalism is to scientistic empiricism, what mysticism is to aesthetics, as capable parallels

** An exemplary instance is the encounter with a cop. You do not discuss or argue the basis for his or her claim for pulling you over - you in no way expect to be convinced that he or she is right and debate until you both reach a consensus. You accede as much as possible (lest you exacerbate the charges) and work through the due bureaucratic process before entering a domain where your speech may be completely naive to legal processes, whereas for the cop it is integral to the job and experience abounds. This isn't even a critique per se of the system in itself, but merely a description of its preemptive rationality - it is not even to say that it is in any way wrong (insofar as it is laid out here), but rather an attempt to effectively describe aspects thereof so the proper object of consideration is at hand when considering whether one agrees or not.

*** this does not here comment or engage with the ideas as accurate or inaccurate depictions of historical science, but rather as differing models which can be applied to reveal different aspects of different epistemic systems.

**** And is, it should be said, held to always be the case in such specified and reductive language, as its technical particularity inevitably dissolves into an uncontainable use. Yet the reductive and illusorily "clear" is useful as that linguistic ladder that Wittgenstein both used and discarded.

Aesthetic-Scientific Criticality

Both the empirical (empeiria: "experience") and the aesthetic (aisthese/aisthanomai: "to feel/sense") are derived from sensation and/or experience (both etymologically/historically and in their current general uses). No definition can consistently draw a dividing line between them. Of the many attempts that have been made, from CP Snow to Aristotle, the line differs and what is included and discluded is not consistent: arbitrarity forms the basis of the distinction. However, as with all arbitrary decisions, their freedom give place to the possibility of a utilitarian definition, which frees a categorical distinction into one based on use (without any necessary logical grounding). The arbitrary distinction here proposed is one of practicality and impracticality (that is, of no specific practical use that can be articulated as such), for "science" and "art" respectively. These distinctions, like any others, cannot be held up, yet their action-oriented base serve not only to usefully situate the terms, but also provide a fallible ground by which the contingency of their incomplete definition can be observed.

In both cases, the aesthetic and the empirical question is one of epistemology or knowing. Both likewise vary from a situated skepticism (we know what we are presented with in experience) to a transcendental, a priori form of knowing (in art, there is here the unearthly divine epiphany, in science, the divine light of reason and logic). As transcendental illusory forms, one can say that in that abstraction the logical division (like any such division in relative isolation) is more possible than in the undifferentiated realm of immediacy and sensual encounter. Both in aesthetic and scientific matters, I am interested in exploring the situated, skeptical approach, as the transcendental view is - upon expression - immediately either correct and total, or entirely inevitable in its idealized form, and thus indiscussable (in the same way as an appeal to authority or another dogma-oriented instructional form). The transcendental view could have art and science as completely distinct and there would be nothing that could be said in contradiction of that (even if - indeed appropriately if - the definitions were completely nonsensical).

As in the experiments utilized to expound the ideas of basic empiricism, let us take the copepodal and sexual experiments, exploring how these encounters are knowledge, or how they inform knowledge. The base empirical view holds an indistinction here, or a blending, where the aesthetic and scientific are complementary. In the copepodal laboratory experiment, the aesthetic experience fills the hypothetical space, it describes the experience with no eye to getting results or accurately analysing, but with an eye to completely faithful description and relating of the experience. This essentially abductive process is integral to science (as Peirce has rightly argued), its general holism provides the entirety of a situated encounter which is also an endless abundance of hypothetical possibility (the *reasons* why the copepod behaves a certain way could be *anything* - the freer this imaginative aspect of ascertainment is allowed to be, the greater chance there will be therein a hypothesis that yields experimental results). The aesthetic experience creates imaginative possibilities, it looks naively and totally (yet totally in a completely fictive and hypothetical way) at a situation and expresses anything and everything germane to the evocation of that experience. The aesthetic is hypothetical knowledge* - its role is to germinate and burgeon possible correlates to the given experience. The empirical, on the other hand, applies the hypotheses of experience, and waits for the results - it is dependent on a practical action - one that is sociable and repeatable (where the aesthetic experience may be completely personal and impossible to share).

Base empiricism proposes an aesthetic underpinning to scientific process, it proposes that knowledge is experiential and is complete as something that is both hypothetical and actual in a socially repeatable sense. The already externalized and reduced aspect of the copepodal experiment reduces the hypothetical possibility, making it more open to rationing and reducing the empirical demand (to the point where little to no observation is required besides reading a temperature which may already be largely known**). A more intense experience such as sex however, is far more sensual and is largely resistant to specific socializable results. In this way, the aesthetic is more powerful to explain the sexual experience, while the empirical result set is more powerful to give meaning to the copepodal work. In the base empirical framework, both are involved in each experience, and both correlated forms of knowledge to the given experience (ie. the "empirical" knowledge we learn about sex is but a miniscule part of the experience (say the path by which eggs are fertilized) but forms an important part of the practical knowledge thereof, likewise the general sense we get from observing copepods (boredom, alienation, confusion, fixated interest - or anything) is essential in forming a complete epistemological picture of what that experience is (which implicitly says, how it relates to us)).

Base empiricism is an uncompromised scale of experience, no matter how messy or disagreeable that experience is, and holds primacy for those experiences which are most intense, that is which most severely act in relation to a human subject (whether seeing, touching, or what have you). To properly explain and derive knowledge from these experiences is always a process that blends art and science - the more intense requiring a more artistic approach, and the little, abstracted, collective and contextually-progressive knowledge we have requiring the deliberation of repeatable and questionable science***. The "practicality" of science mentioned in the beginning refers to the practical and communicable relation of its knowledge to a collective, let's say to a larger group in order to build a bridge, while the "impracticality" of aesthetics imagines and dreams possible bridges and possible ways, but in no way says anything beyond the personal until it is translated into the shareable effects endemic to science testing. A whole other consideration then is the ethics of action when it is now a public and socially influential act - what is the responsibility of socializable action (such as that resulting from effective science)?

Experience then, is an undifferentiable whole. Yet the potential divisions we reap from its knowledge (essentially the key difference here being what knowledge is socially pervasive and therefore ethically questionable - again, a functional difference that addresses an actuality regardless of the effectiveness of a given definition for a given reader) - these divisions happen to be crucial. What we know we derive from experience (needless to say through our assumed body-environments) but what is contestable (and should always be contested, or its obfuscations overturned so as to make it open to contestation) and practically scientific, must be met with the public contestation that its public existence merits (which will need both theoretical shifts through the aesthetic generation of possibles and the critical attack proper to the testable and refutable aspects of science).

The measure of art is how well it proliferates possibility, the measure of science how openly contestable its contingent and collective points are. Both are subject to a critical stance, to the experiential test of another observer and experimenter, art tending toward a survey of hypothetical plurality, and science a multiperspectival scrutiny of its practical effects (and their social ramifications).

The base empirical view hinges on an embedded and materialized subject (this, an ontology) with an epistemological hub in given experience, and its fluid subdivisions into aesthetics and science.

All these terms, however, are guides and must be read incompletely in terms of what they reference, which is the actuality on which they are dependent. These terms, base empiricism, aesthetic-scientific criticality, must then be discarded, or must never have a reified position in the system (nor is there a system conceived as such, but a fictionally unifying language that ideally reorganizes the stuff of experience, and proves coherent insofar as it does that).


*Again, in this assumed results-based framework which isn't "correct" in any way, but assumes transparent and imperfect definitions with a pragmatic check so that, regardless of their preferred definition, their reference provides actualized descriptions.

** This again contrasts with the classical European idea of empiricism which would find this experience as compared with a sexual one more "empirical" not because there is more to experience or sense, but paradoxically because there is less to experience and more to rationalize.

*** But again most crucially here is the inevitable normalization of such abstracted work into a dogmatic trajectory - it is aesthetics here, the re-relating and naively total re-evaluation and proliferation of hypothesis that requires the aesthetic and its imagination.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Base Empiricism

The Greek empeiria translates generally to the Latin experientia which then relates to our word experience. The question arises that, if our epistemology is ostensibly "empiricist", just what sort of experience are we talking about? Are we talking about any experience at all, or is there is a difference between different kinds of experiences, and perhaps crucially, are there experiences which we must bracket out, which cannot count as grounds for empirical knowledge.

Without articulating the idea in so many words, past forms of empiricism have the tendency to leave out large terrains of experience in favour of experiences which - paradoxically - are more easily rationalizable. The pretended opposition of empiricism and rationalism collapses together in the face of what could simply be termed experiences that are too intense for both their tendencies.

Laboratory observation and having sex are both experiences, the latter can be said to be more intense. However in the former, if we have a hypothesis that say a given copepod will swim quicker with increased heat, the observation then is similarly easy to articulate as the experiment-informing hypothesis was - further, the logical trail for subsequent reflection will be likewise as rational as the abstractive process that led up to it. For sex, however, we could say that what led up to it was - relatively speaking - not as expressable in the terms of our laboratory hypothesis, that it was less amenable to linguistic rationalization, and more towards an experience that - while more intense and complex in its moment's sense-data - defies a literal representation in words. Empiricists of the past are more often than not talking about something more like the former experience (in the laboratory) than an experience like sex when they are talking about experience and sense-data as a source for empirically-grounded knowledge. They are preferring the more rational experience which is more agreeable to say the academic and decorum-abiding essay form in which they wrote (which - generally speaking - wasn't commonly used for elaborate erotic digressions). In this way, the classical European divide between rationalism and empiricism can also be comparatively seen on a larger scale as a common European rationalistic and abstractive tendency.

Although an experience like sex is inimicable to certain types of, let us say, "rationalistic" language, it is not at all entirely impossible to express (as the word itself attests), although it shifts the linguistic scope to reveal the contingency of more logical forms of language. Language is forced to more diverse and metaphorical forms to the point that the inarticulate and asemantic (say, sounds made during the sex act) sounds and "words" are needed to effectively approximate the experience itself*. Moreover, sex is an experience (to deny this would be - however blatantly ignored in the past - an absolute absurdity), and so the question becomes how - as one interested in using the label empiricist - can we describe an empiricism that includes such experience.

One thing to do would be to simply use the label empiricist and let the descriptive territory fill out the use of that term (or alternatively and more absurdly, use any term at all and allow descriptions to fill out the general meaning of the word). Insofar as no label actually refers to anything the absurdist move would be justified, however in the interest of differentiating from past accepted forms of empiricism and also in more fully exploring them (and indeed, insofar as the term is taken up, agreeing with their positions, however much they are felt to not be entirely complete), I've thought of other labels, fundamental empiricism, grotesque empiricism, basic empiricism, or - as written in the title - base empiricism.

Sex has been my contrastive example of a more intense, less rationalistic experience that a human may have. The idea of "baseness" can explain it as something that is ridden with taboo - it is low, crude, uncultured and representative of a lack of decorum (say, whether discussing porn in a public speech or being known to be an actor in it) - and it is also a basic, fundamental aspect of human existence. There are certain experiences that are relatively inevitable in a human life - experiences that are fated - experiences that are here referred to as basic. These same experiences are the most taboo and - from a cultural perspective - tendentially "grotesque", and to simply mention them - as in a ramble such as this - is seemingly provocative, transgressive, antagonistic or whatever other socially disruptive term. If one were to take the experiences one has, there are large amounts of people that have existed who have never had the laboratory experience mentioned above. Conversely, no one save the rare apotheotic hero like Heracles or Utnapishtim can say the same of the experience of death. Likewise, there are comparably inevitable instances of experience such as sex, excretion and eating (the devouring/killing of one form by another) that are both fundamental experiences in a generalized human existence and are further acts that are riddled with arbitrary custom and taboo, that are - socially speaking - either unspeakable or cloaked in ritualized forms of language which work to formalize their messiness and uncontainability. Thus these basic experiences are both relatively unavoidable (if we were to find any one instance of what we mean by "experience", these would consistently be our best candidates) and also contain a lowly, socially denigrated and ritualized status, that makes the simple fact of their existence disgusting and transgressive (this same idea is very concisely applied to other inevitable givens of biological existence, such as sexual orientation, health, race, that similarly are fundamentally fated and in given societal contexts denigrated or outcast)

Thus basic empiricism attempts to both affirm and alternately expand upon the idea of empiricism. It can be said to hold that empiricism is methodologically correct yet too narrow, or alternatively that it is misinformed insofar as it is too rationalistic. It can also be seen as an attempt to reaffirm a kind of epistemological naturalism in the face of what some might call a postmodernist turn in philosophy and generalized thought, or what I might call an unprecedented form of rationalism, both in the conventional divide of analytic and continental camps. A new, more severely abstracted form of rationalism, requires a more sensually undermining form of empiricism to disrupt its abstracted idealizations - as comparably you might argue that Locke and Newton's empirical tendencies were for someone like Voltaire, a fitting antidote to the then-prevalent forms of Cartesian rationalism that held sway. The vulgarized postmodernist ideas of total relativity, the magical disappearance of the subject, and the total unfalsifiability of an a priori media-coded existence are here described as a kind of super-rationalism - a rationalism whose proliferation of abstracted terms (think of the Deleuzian set of quasi-abstractions) far dwarfs the few terms such as God or thought or a monad which English empiricists were arguably the refutation for. Empiricism is, in this way, both untimely and perhaps all-too-timely a need in this, an age where the sense experiences of an individual are discarded along with other enlightenment projects that have rightly been critiqued for the overruling and unquestioned role they have come to take. In opposition however to the idea that it is the empirical process itself which is flawed, that it is too reductive and lacks spirit and feeling and so on, the contention here is that classical empiricism's abstractive quality have largely been rationalized and taken the form of an a priori prescriptive methodology rather than the open, fallible process that is arguably empiricism's ideal; in other words, it is not a surfeit of the empirical overlords diminishing the unscientific spirits of our lives, but a general lack of the empirical attitude and an insufficient rigour in that empirical attitude itself. The so-called "enlightenment project" is not problematic in its positivistic approach to epistemology so much as parts of it have evolved into the doldrum dogmatic tale of the human march from being more or less dumb primal morons to the now very intelligent evolved creatures that we are - in other words, totally nonsensical and unfalsifiable ideas that can't be proven or disproven but are just chosen and which ultimately form a relative rationalism. In other words, it is the loss of positivism that forms what might be called the enlightenment problematic, not its overwhelming empirical and analytical heritage. The result of such a misinterpretation is that the antidote to an overly empirical outlook would clearly be a healthy dose of rationalism - the odd result being what could be called the postmodern condition - in contrast with Lyotard's definition, it is not the collapse of metanarratives, but rather the unprecedented proliferation of abstract metanarratives and idealistic terms, creating a rationalism entrenched to an unprecedented level. If then, the enlightenment problematic has been thus misinterpreted, and the postmodernist solution has ironically buried us in an even more formidable version of its problems**, the proposed solution or opposition is a return to a kind of empiricism that both takes past empiricism into its position and works to expand that definition into a more rigorous and fundamental formulation.


*that is, if you were to re-represent as best you could the experience of the event for a random listener, you would tend to these types of language - alternatively, you could describe the act in terms of known biological pathways (sperm to egg and so on), though this experientially would come closer to that of a third, relatively detached viewer, or something like the observation of another species mating (though again, this becomes dangerous as the experience here may be more of disgust or overwhelmed fixation, the rationalized explanation not "being enough"))

** It could also be argued, quite simply, that postmodernism means nothing and/or if it does, it is merely as a reflective description of an empirically-alienated time - this would however be replied to in the same way.


2006 TIME magazine Person of The Year – "You":

Lev Grossman:

"It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes."

In 2006, Time magazine chose the millions of anonymous contributors of user-generated content to Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, the Linux operating system, and the multitudes of other websites featuring user contribution as its Person of the Year. The choice was personified simply as You.

The capital Y is fitting as this is an abstract you (it doesn't refer to any one "you" in particular). By not referring to a particularity, it isn't required to refer to anyone: whether you are there particularly or not, "You" are there regardless - the which is a perfect expression of fantastic agency.


The term "crowdsourcing" is a neologistic portmanteau of "crowd" and "outsourcing," first coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article "The Rise of Crowdsourcing"

Howe explains that because technological advances have allowed for cheap consumer electronics, the gap between professionals and amateurs has been diminished. Companies are then able to take advantage of the talent of the public, and Howe states that "It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing."

The banalization here of information itself is more clearly described when juxtaposed with its correlative:

Democracy, a "big element of Web 2.0", as exemplified in bloggers and the best news reporters, and random people as the best encyclopedia writer (as in wikipedia). In both cases, "expertise" is surpassed by amateurs.

In both cases, the amateur/expert divide has all but disappeared, and in both the amateur steps up to the plate to provide the answers - the masses are answering questions - this virtual democracy and massification's environment has only one key distinction between itself and the democratic debate-place of the Athenian Agora: its environment comes about as a byproduct of unrelated commercial activity (in contradistinction with the more simultaneous and overlapping quality of the Greek market and urban philosopher debate grounds - here specialization must work to meet the demands of more sophistication and a wider scope, making the cross-integration less and less incidental). Democracy and the sourcing of crowds then shifts the relationship to where those people and crowds are the primary means for the virtuality to subsist, their engagement being secondary to the mass establishment of the space (again, comparable yet far more modular and colossally segmented than the Greek Agora - the people here are more and more a mass a priori, embedded with the mainstreamed information they can produce - while the company might need that information for their site (what's wikipedia without articles?), it cannot provide it itself, which is an inversion of the philosophical banter in the market - now that banter forms the market itself - and out of that strangely inverted environment it is only varieties of noise which serve as actual agent-expressions.

This design is user-centred, and its bazaar is contrasted with the old contained cathedral. The bazaar, like the agora, has its vendor tent poles lined with the activity of its participants, its very space is an informational byproduct - the democracy enters as informational effect, the crowdsourcing as the actuality of the info-effectual democracy. The bazaar too, lets one see those haggling processes they'd prefer to not participate in - suddenly commerce is clear and its competitive stimulation sits uneasy for the former church-goers so used to consistency in purchases - the bazaar that instantiates the ideals of former rock stars on their myspace profiles as company sites whose users form the parasitical host for the star to continuing living, indefinitely.

Indefiniteness is the perpetual beta (see Raymond), no longer scheduled in christian software releases, the sacerdotal Britannica is given over the beta-release amateur, Heraclitean and with more eyes than Argus (to shallow out the bugs), to produce and reproduce, without end (this, in the terminology of the acedic-anomaly, the unholy union of goat songs and burlesque into the inert - the Steinian blank verse that says nothing at all - over and over again).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Webtext Aesthetics and the Reproductive Identity of the Postcommercial Banal

The aesthetic use of a technology - the theatrical use - explores a technology in its abductive capacities - it reels through the experimental aspects of coexistence between the agent and the technical object. The use of written language then - already subject to these precepts - spreads to the different medial forms integrated into the web, and is there challenged in its reception (on the part of the artist-creator as well as the speculative reader-viewer). In this assumed immersion, the entirely virtual is presented as web aesthetics, which favour certain concepts in use, from which is selected the idea of the neo-oral. In arbitrarily isolating letters from pictures (letters are pictures, quite simply), the discussion will be on the assumed forms "literature" might take. Neo-orality, then, takes those "oral" aspects of what internet literature might be - or rather, we could state the affair as its coincidence with an oral form of "literature", instead of with printed literature, in manuscripts, books, and so on.


A book presents itself as a finished work, something contained in itself - a story told by a story-teller might be a comparable "piece", yet that story will change even within the teller's own telling, and without recording methods, will never retain the same form. The content will change, the names, the references, it will pass through the hands of different speakers, its content will evolve through different agents, through a dialogue of multiple voices that continually reform it based on what a community might prefer to hear at a given time. Writing on the web often takes the form of "books" and articles and so on - that is, the same form as they take in print. Yet, to talk of writing *specific* to the web, that is, writing which differs from what is in books, we find a "literature" that has more in common with oral-traditional practice. Comments, chats, small posts, now twitters, microblogs, status-postings - all these range from "conversation" to statements whose existence awaits replies, additions, comments and so on. These are not exclusive terms (academic exegesis for instance, represents a kind of literary dialogue, though among a much more limited group), the argument is merely that with more writers, more responders, more writing in general and a closer connection between what should be written and spoken exists in web literature versus print publications.

In this way, web literature is an entire environment unto itself. Like the oral world, there is no material distinction between the literary tale and the banal conversation, or the literary work and the personal message in the case of the web. This pseudo- or neo-orality is of course quite different from oral culture, the virtual space it "talks" in is created by the action of a technological infrastructure and community whose material byproduct is the illusory "space" it creates.

Of course this aspect of the web, what could be called the user-oriented web, is something that has come bit by bit since bbs's and the early graphical web, to the current world of facebook and twitter. The latter are two instances of what has come to be known as Web 2.0, a term which has utility to discuss a web that is increasingly oriented to more and more users. The web 2.0 paradigm, a paradigm where users interact in a more technically friendly environment than early webpage builders and coders, is one that assumes a commercial infrastructure (say, the database code and design for the facebook site) before a user can use the space. In this sense, Web 2.0 can be described as a postcommercial space. In describing web literature (and the web itself) as something moving increasingly toward what has been called the democratic aspects of web 2.0, I am suggesting a different way of organizing what in this sense is called electronic literature - or perhaps electonic net literature (this does not consider cd-rom works, pre-net works, or anything meant to be read alone on a computer or other electronic device). This looks instead to define web literature as something existent in a space whose definition can be approached through the concepts surrounding web 2.0, which may retrogressively affects past categorizations of net literature, electronic literature and its cousins (this in turn, extends to resituate - in relation to itself - general aesthetic categories utilized in reference to an internet age). As the web 2.0 model becomes the dominant organizing force in shaping both the web and computers, so it will alter how the literary arts (and arts in general) are defined in relation, opposition or combination with it.

One method of graphing out a concept - in this case the neo-oral as a model to describe writing on the user-oriented web, and the extension of its compass to conceptualize a certain type of literature - one method to graph this is to analyze the work of certain authors that illustrate important aspects of it - that is, aspects that serve to illustrate its comparative difference as a definitional concept and contrastive presence. In the question of analyzing an author's work, there is the question of doing justice to it which I reject - I do not think a second literary work can exemplify a first literary work better than the original itself. With this qualificatory assumption in mind, it could be considered that I am engaging in critical appraisal - this possibility could also be rejected if a different type of critique is considered better, or more accurate or complete. Regardless of its status as generically acceptable critique, this additionally (or primarily - depending on the previous decision) will be a dual exploration of aspects of these authors in relation to my generalized concept of neo-oral literature, and how that theoretical system can serve to elucidate their work in what might be a new way.

Perhaps a crucial distinction between written literature - particularly as conceived in its post-gutenbergian western form - and oral literature lies in the concept of plagiarism. In the case of oral literature, to copy another story-teller or speaker is integral to the practice of story-telling itself. If there is a measure of "proper copying" (in a print analogue the distinction between lawful citation and unlawful theft) it is, if anything, the subjective measure of an audience member as to the quality of the performance ("how good it was"). There is no idea of specific human sources (though maybe there is an abstracted sense of an extramundane "gift" that inspires, allows or gives place to the tale - namely, the a priori presence of language and characters beyond an individual experience) and since there is no specific human inventor of a story, there is no proper or improper way of referencing that author to give them due credit. If there is an aesthetic hand at work here, it is - as previously intimated - the hand of the performer - the question is not of a given human creative source, but of an immediate performative interpretation, this is where the creative aspect lies. In other words, the question of plagiarism is essentially non-existent, or conversely entirely assumed as integral to the oral "literary" process - the competition and general prestige accorded to those who play the game well is not given according to scholarly breadth (number and type of authors included and synthesized) and orthodoxy - the game shifts to one of performance and entertainment competition, to oral rhetoric, the acting ability in capitivating and bringing material "alive".

In western print culture as it has evolved up to the internet's beginnings, plagiarism has come to occupy what is either the most, or one of the most taboo positions in literary practice. This is the corollary to the appreciation of the author being accorded through ownership of the text* and how valuable that text is (some gauges might be number of readers, number of citations it inspires, number of high quality reviews). The only thing this author has for all his or her unquantifiable labour in conceiving and creating the text, is in the value of that text itself - that text then is forced into the surrogate position of what was the value of the oral performer (consider the oral performance of the western writer - this is made possible by a text of a given standing, and refers to it as the reason and ultimate reference of its oral performance - the central nature is transferred from the spoken words to the text's writing). The text takes the place of the author, or the text is considered *as* the author - in the same way that every person is an individual, and one person is distinct from another, or some collective sense that we want to value that given person/author and their work: in a literate society this increasingly gets accorded to the textual creations which also can have more presence in a larger more complex society (a book can be in multiple places at once, can travel more quickly) and this increased presence leads to a gradual focus on the book and less on say, how the author describes his theories to a friend, or even to a group of people (which again, more and more takes the form then of "discussing his/her new book on _____"). With the increased domination of the textual creation's presence over that of the author, rules must be created to protect the author him/herself, whose literary-intellectual existence is increasingly dependent on the value accorded to their technical creations. To accord value to a technology can be consistent insofar as a given group takes up and re-relates it to the individuals of that group. To early medieval Christians a work of Hellenic Philosophy was distractive to moral purposes (ie. the most moral decision may be to have rid of it, to burn it) whereas in other periods it may be regarded as central to be cherished, honoured and had as required reading. The same technical artifact - this philosophical work - is the epitomy of moral degeneracy, or the epitomy of moral upbuilding - depending on the group considering it. Thus the moral value of a book is an invention of the people that use that book - from burning it to honouring it to anything in between: what and when to read it, what and when not to read it, how to read it, how not to read it, how to re-relate it to others (cite), how to not re-relate it to others (plagiarize), and so on. Like the question of whether the book is immoral or moral in itself, the question of the proper use thereof is - like the question of its moral value - a question decided upon by a group that use it. Thus on a macro, extra-societal scale, the decisions of proper etiquette in regards to using and relating that technology are arbitrary (that is, another culture or group could well decide on a different method and be practically as well off), but within that group form a game that creates prestige and acceptance, or alternatively denigration and illegitimacy - and insofar as this game creates a place for a given author, it enables the possibility of receiving merit in relation to collectively valuable labour - ideally the same kind of respect that might be accorded to the worthy performer. In the performer's case, it is immediate and fluid in its rules of appreciation, in the case of the literary work, the fixity of the technology demands a fixed set of rules that - when followed - will potentially produce collective appreciation: my earlier statement that the "text replaces the person" is only to say this much - that the gauge to measure literary value is in the oral system in the performance of the person's body (which is categorically indistinguishable from audience interruption, breaking character, "real" conversation etc - it is part of that person's fated, given material life) - whereas the gauge to measure literary value in literate culture is tendentially in a given text (which presents a form that suggests an author-separation whose endpoint is contained in the structuralist notion of authorial death, the alienation of oral presence to where the spoken originary is reframed as an essentialist ideal that must be deconstructed). In increasingly complex and widespread literacy (and widespread publishing) in a culture, there is an increasing tendency to reconstruct a kind of technoliterary agency - more and more, what has agency, power, and human influence is the technology itself - therefore how to read, share and cite that literature becomes increasingly controlled and regimented so as to ensure benefits for those that play the game - those that ideally deserve social status and accreditation for their contribution to a given context. However the more that these rules are applied to a technology (that in itself, is not a human), and the more that technology proliferates in complex relation to a society, the more probability there is for a misrelation between an object's technical success and the merits or abilities of a given creator of that object. Thus while the idea that a text has no author is simply nonsense, it highlights a condition where the proliferation of objects gives more and more over to an illusory agency of the object (creating the imaginary structuralist that argues that texts give birth to themselves**). What accompanies this is an ever-persistent idea that the text (an object in and to itself, independently existent in illusion land) must - in its fixity have corresponding rules that designate right and wrong, the honourable and dishonourable use of that technology. The examples we are using of this type of rule is the idea of re-relating a work to and/or from another work, which in its rule-abiding form is called citation, and in its rule-breaking form plagiarism.

Thus we travel from oral literature which either assumes or excludes the territory of plagiarism - here it is either an a priori given or a non-issue - to written literature where the difference between proper and improper copying is pivotal to whether or not a written work can be classified as valid or not. The focus of this work is to delineate forms of literature on the web and what they differentially illustrate about the web as a location for literature versus a more self-contained practice such as the book (and, as can eventually be seen, electronic works which - on a relative scale - can be seen closer to print work and less illustrative of the differential qualities illustrated as descriptive of web literature) thus the description presented on a framework for viewing plagiarism will begin to inform an exploration of internet literary practice. In elucidating this argument, it will be argued that there is - in web literature - a shift back from the text as literary work, to a modified version of the oral work, or we could say, an increasingly oral set of characteristics begin to help describe what is literature on the net. This return from the literary back to the oral is generally described under the term neo-oral, as something which in some ways relates back to oral literature, and in others adds something new (or conversely retains literary characteristics).***

This entire pursuit could be termed as an exploration of the reproductive identity of the postcommercial banal. Identity as it pretends to sameness, yet not as the original, but as a similar copy (as in general assembly-line commercial practice). Thus the aesthetics thereof (in this case, with the focus on webtext - the textual portion of the internet) is one whose value hinges on the virtual silence if you will of a pseudo-oral exchange whose essence is banal (no matter how quotidian or relatively unsalient a task, it is game for a status update). The a priori condition - the condition to which an agent arrives - is the virtual-participatory condition of this given - it is here that the generalized tendency of the tragicomic is epitomized. It's just this quality which allows web aesthetics to form an ideal in the resituation of both an exemplar form and all other connected forms categorizable under the rubric of the artistic.

Following will be analyses of different functionally isolable concepts that hope to trace different authors and instances which illustrate my hypothetical stance, and help describe it.


*of course - as with all technobureaucratic processes - this ownership is more practically in the hands of those whose work is to engineer and coordinate those processes themselves, printers, publishers and the businesses that organize them into efficacy in this case

** one could frame Barthes in this situation several ways. You could see it in the obvious sense that he gives primacy over to texts and not embodied authors - or you could argue that my use of text equals his use of Author, both highlighting the abstracted quality of something that is less and less a case of the practical interaction of a writer or reader, and more and more an object-oriented codification of the value of a given Work - further you could see him representing an intermediary - highlighting the author's seeming death, the rise of the text, and the corresponding need for a refocus on readerly/writerly practice (the idea of practice could further be seen to relate to my idea of the progression from the seemingly completed literary work, to the more interactive and incomplete neo-oral nature of the web text.) (As always, much more is possible here - you could not see a relation at all, or you could see this particular Barthes, as is done, as a post-structuralist voice, not a structuralist one).

*** the ramifications of this can be explored in different ways. In one sense, there is nothing new in web literature under this definition - many past works display these characteristics. Another path would be to reject the validity or worthy existence of such works, which may clash with past criteria for what constitutes a quality work of literature. What might oppose this rejection(and link back to the first statement) is a re-evaluation of what is and isn't classic or worthy in past literature, using to some varying extent the ideas put forth in the descriptions of these current strains of writing. In the same way that scholars have rediscovered works for their computational characteristics, so would it be possible to find works which match descriptive categories applied to web literature - in this way, it is new yet not new, and the delineation of a particular practice is a reorganization of past practice, innovation complements ignorance, while a historical view complements a reconfigured history of noteworthy works.