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Immaterial Labour 2.0: Fleshy, Affective, Embodied Technology

Immaterial Labour 2.0: Fleshy, Affective, Embodied Technology






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    Immaterial Labour 2.0: Fleshy, Affective, Embodied Technology Immaterial Labour 2.0: Fleshy, Affective, Embodied Technology Document Transcript

    • Immaterial Labour 2.0: Fleshy, Affective, Embodied Technology Mark Coté, Trent University, markcote@trentu.ca Paper prepared for The Internet as Factory and Playground: A Conference on Digital Labour, Eugene Lang College, The New School, New York City, 12-14 November 2009 N.B. I took Trebor’s request to not ‘read from prepared papers” seriously, perhaps too seriously! As such, what follows are much more lecture notes and much less a paper, although I hope some ideas remain coherent. Thanks. Introduction Immaterial Labour 2.0 • as a means for understanding the vexatious relations between work and play Immaterial labour, along with the myriad other critical analyses of the architecture, code, and contours of the apparatus of capture by capital offer compelling models for understanding labour Does immaterial labour adequately account for the persistence and proliferation of play in light of its shared status as labour? The gift of immaterial labour • Communicative capacity, affect, networked sociality—all via embodied technology Play, however, remains largely out of the grasp of such analysis and thus relatively under-theorized • the gifts of immaterial labour A question? Are these gifts part of an originary birthright of humanity? • from a constitutive relation with technology which marked the emergence of our species? I want to consider the transductive relations between the body-technology-affect- communicative capacity as a means to address the persistence of play • transduction: concept from Simondon in which the relations themselves holds primacy over the things related To get to that point I want to ask a basic question: What is the relationship between the human and technology?
    • First a concise recap of the article I co-wrote with Jennifer Pybus: ‘Learning to Immaterial Labour 2.0: MySpace and Social Networks,’ (Ephemera: theory & politics in organization, v.7 (1): 88-106, 2007) www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/7-1/7-1cote-pybus.pdf We wanted to highlight the new compositions of relations between audience and producer, production and consumption, and the general political economy of new media The importance of learning to immaterial labour • article written in 2005-6 when social networking had not really spread to the general population (MySpace not Facebook) • learning the social, cultural, communicative practices which constitute the actualization of environment This expanded communicative capacity has quickly become rote and quotidian • from which capital has been able to structurally extract value A capacity resulting from a new composition of embodied technology • actualization of environment Audience commodity Dallas Smythe—the audience commodity • emerged in the ‘blindspot’ of Western Marxism debates of the 1970s (media and communication) • concept created for the broadcast model of communication (Fordist) • static organizational form of spokes emanating from a central point without an outer connecting wheel • couch potatoes, isolated and sedentary dead-end nodes in a unidirectional cultural flow emanating from a centralized broadcaster Not a model apposite for social networks (nor any distributed network model) What remains useful? • that the audience performed more than an ideological function (Smythe against ‘culture industry’ thesis) • pol-eco function of the audience—first as commodities produced and sold to advertisers • audience not only an aggregate linked by the consumption of a media commodity; serves an additional productive role in the labour of consuming and adjudicating the advertising contained therein Distributed networks have a different dynamic • audiences are not only increasingly fragmented, they are organized differently • as interconnected and variable nodes circulating content amidst its consumption
    • Thus we brought Smythe’s audience commodity in union with Lazzarato’s immaterial labour • to account for the creative cultural and communicative practices comprising a new ‘economy of forces’ which produce a ‘surplus of power’ Also under the influence of Tiziana Terranova’s related concept of ‘free labour’ Immaterial labour The production of subjectivity ceases to be only an instrument of social control (for the production of mercantile relationships) and becomes directly productive, because the goal of our post industrial society is to construct the consumer/communicator – and to construct it as ‘active’ (Lazzarato) • a concept more adequate for an understanding of the conflation of production and consumption (labour and play) • post-Fordist shift; • networked ICTs—i.e. ‘information labour’ (“skills involving cybernetics and computer control”) • finally, the production of affect Most relevant, immaterial labour flags activities not traditionally understood as work [A]ctivities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and more strategically, public opinion (Lazzarato). What immaterial labour directly produces, then, are subjectivities • always via embodied technology Here I want to emphasize that the 2.0 version of immaterial labour is both fleshy and imbued with technics Ambient to this process is affect (very stuff which animated subjectivity) • constitutive of this “new commodity form” As we wrote in the article: It is in social networks that the importance of affect becomes clear, as it is the very stuff which coheres and differentiates those myriad networks which express a proliferation of audience-producers.
    • Immaterial labour acts as a transductive relay between the production and consumption of affect • affective commodities (i.e. our social-networked subjectivities) are not destroyed by consumption • they are intensified, enlarged and diffused and constantly re-aggregated It is this final point—the dynamic, affective, networked relays—which necessitates the suffix 2.0 • networked communication and circulation • making the concept more adequate for social networking and other distributed cultural practices Important to stress that within this dynamic, capital is reactive, only able to deploy strategies for capture • hence the obvious importance of the architecture and terrain within which social networking transpires • capital always responding to the potential, the practices, and the struggles of labour—or in this case, of social networkers One thing I want to take forward: the creative cultural and communicative practices of social networks always begins with people not capital As such, the affective dynamic must be taken seriously • not a false consciousness obfuscating real conditions of exploitation Embodied technology Central to immaterial labour are debates about the relation between the human and technology I want to introduce some contemporary media theory here but first I want to segue via Negri [I]f labor and the tool of labor are embodied in the brain, then the tool of labor, the brain, becomes the thing that today has the highest productive capacity to create wealth. But at the same time humans are "whole," the brain is part of the body, the tool is embodied not only in the brain but also in all the organs of sensation, in the entire set of "animal spirits" that animate the life of a person (“Back to the Future”). Here there is also an emphasis on the transductive relations between the human and techne. This relation (between labour and machine) is an issue of long-held importance for Marxists • divergent readings between autonomists and orthodox
    • In ‘Fragments on Machines’ from Grundrisse Labor appears, rather, merely as a conscious organ, scattered among the individual living workers at numerous point of the mechanical system. • a more orthodox reading is that Marx posits the ossification of the general intellect into machinery (fixed capital) • an external object form which the labouring subject can be alienated Autonomist reading ‘Subjective’ reading wherein value is situated in the variable capital of new laboring subjectivities (technical, cultural and linguistic knowledge) Very relevant to social networks as they are a key site in the general diffusion of productive labour • for many autonomists, it is this diffusion of productivity in subjectivities of creative cooperation which holds revolutionary potential • an affective, creative ‘surplus’ ‘Crisis of measure’ debate • posited as an emergent characteristic of global capital and as a new path for radical political, social, and economic change • its subjective form of labour confounds temporal laws of productivity (i.e. objective measure of value) • surplus permits spaces of autonomous valorization They are not units of measure, but rather are the measureless presupposition of heterogeneous operative possibilities (Virno) Thus initiating a “permanent pursuit-race…of this multitude of productive singularities” • a “virtually antagonistic dispositif” Related here is biopower/biopolitical • biopower: productive mgmt of populations • biopolitical: the becoming of creative resistance For Negri, these subjectivities are comprised by a ‘fabric of biopolitics’ • the biopolitical capacity for freedom and transformation • always in an indissoluble link b/n resistance and control • no pure lines of flight Negri’s revolutionary gambit
    • [This new kind of productivity] becomes simply—in an absolutely affirmative and positive manner—the power of living labour. In “Return to the Future” Negri asked a question: This embodiment, then, envelops life through the appropriation of the tool. Life is what is put to work, but putting life to work means putting to work what exactly? In an article published earlier this year (“Metamorphoses” Radical Philosophy, May/June 2009) Negri insists that to answer this we must acknowledge a metamorphosis has taken place This metamorphosis, in part the expanded and intensified communicative and affective capacity—the subjective turn in labour—has profound implications i) the “vital powers” of embodied technology diffuses productive labour beyond what would traditionally be defined as the working class ii) these subjectivities are increasingly animated by Kunstwollen—the creative will—as a generalized desire • signaling the demise of the mass worker (and related strategies) • and the rise of biopower Again this could be taken in support of the thesis of the crisis of measure For me, what is more interesting is how this contemporary metamorphosis can be linked to the work of Bernard Stiegler (and Andre Leroi-Gourhan and Simondon) Linking this conjuncture to an originary condition of the human • beyond machinery inside factory walls • to a more general relation between the human and technology For me this is a means to decisively break from a more orthodox reading which situates general intellect as ossifying in machinery Final words from Negri: [Stiegler/Leroi-Gourhan] capture the tendency towards a unification of anthropogenesis and technogenesis as the world exposes itself to a veritable machinic turn. Concluding Cognitive labour produces objects that modify the subject. Negri’s aforementioned interpretation reads as if human cognition is determinate in a causal relation with technics
    • Epiphylogenesis: originary contamination of the human by technics I want to follow Leroi-Gourhan more closely and insist upon a transductive and recursive relation • not only in our contemporary historical moment (wherein labour is increasingly immaterial, cognitive, affective and biopolitical) • but as an originary relation • wholly counter to humanist models (i.e. Rousseau’s ‘natural man’) And [what] if we already were no longer humans? (Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, v.1, 136). The human as marked by an originary contamination by techne • aporia marking the origin of the species • a lack filled by techne (stone tools) A question: Did the human invent technology (stone tools) or did technology invent the human? It all begins with the feet (Leroi-Gourhan). Homo habilis brain case half the size of our own • crainial expansion a recursive byproduct of an upright posture (initially a morphological adjustment for balance) Among our hominid ancestors, early tool use was an extension of the hand—like an animal’s claw …as if their brains and bodies had gradually exuded them (Leroi- Gourhan, Gesture and Speech,106) The implication is that technics emerges first as a zoological, not a cultural phenomenon • e.g. primitive lithic industry remains unchanged for 1M years (from Oldowan to Acheulean) Lithic industry was a pre-condition of the human • not because of superior cognitive faculties (contra Darwin and Negri) No human in a state of nature uncontaminated by technology An originary unity of technics and the human sensorium • key for the calibration of affect • technics as vectors of exteriorization • constitutive in the actualization of environments In other words, while technology always had a functional or instrumental component (labour) it was equally constitutive of experience (play)
    • Derrida in ‘Writing Before the Letter’ in Of Grammatology • paleo-anthropological support for deconstruction (against logocentrism; metaphysics of presence, privileging of speech over writing; interiority over exteriority) • breaks down binary of nature and culture (anatomy-biology; writing- figuration) Stiegler clarifies the aporetic origin of the human The emergence of technics signals • i) the origin of the human • ii) its originary lack In contradistinction to much of Western thought and metaphysics wherein the human emerged whole with access to transcendental knowledge [Technics] was already there before the first origin: technical exteriorization was but the pursuit of the very movement of life (163). Technical exteriorization marks the threshold of the human • a technical exteriorization of the human revealing a lack in the natural human Organic-inorganic coupling as “a new organization of life” The trace or gramme of the earliest stone tools presuppose the possibility of a more complex, symbolic, non-technical expression • syntax of it operating sequence as precursor to abstract symbolism of language (not speech) Epiphylogenesis [W]hat mirage of the cortex is experienced [s’éprouve], as pathbreaking, in the hardness of the flint; what plasticity of gray matter corresponds to the flake of mineral matter; what proto-stage of the mirror is thus installed (Stiegler, 135). Recursive correlation between technical exteriority and conscious interiority • facilitating process of corticalization—the development of advanced brain functions like memory, perception, thought, language, and consciousness. Epi denotes the accumulation of experience in technics • stone tools as inorganic repository of memory phylogenesis denotes a dynamic morphogenetic process • a branching off in the taxonomic order
    • Epiphylogenesis signifies the process whereby homo habilis breaks off into a new lineage from previous hominids • originary assemblage of the body and technology • structural coupling of the human and its environment Technology, not a just a prosthetic supplement to the biological body • an originary condition • defining characteristic of the human Technical preservation and transmission of epigenetic experience gives human evolution an extra-genetic character • not just a biological process Medium cartography, or, an ethology of embodied technology Regarding the crisis of measure, Negri maps this scission as a) capitalist time/value • Foucauldian regimes of power b) singular valorization • Foucauldian regimes of subjectivity I wonder whether this might offer one way past the impasse of the structural antagonism between labor and play • capital’s capture of creative affect Political philosopher Moira Gatens, in her important feminist account of embodiment offers an open methodology for understanding the temporal-spatial dynamic of bodies and their affective capacities. • she focuses on power and the body to demonstrate how gender is not just an ideological effect of the mind but a material effect of power circulating through the body • that embodiment is a constitutive element of gender which exceeds the explanatory capacity of the linguistic, discursive or symbolic • in short, that bodily capacities are not fixed on the basis of sex The focus on bodily or affective capacities is meant to facilitate a rethinking of “possible forms of sociability open to us” Drawing on a Deleuzo-Spinozist ethology mapping the body • relations of speed and slowness • of the capacities for affecting and being affected The distinctions between artifice and nature, human and non- human will not be of interest on an ethological view, since these terms too will be analyzable only on an immanent plane where distinctions between one thing and the next are reckoned in kinetic and dynamic terms. (Gatens 2000 61-62)
    • I find this deeply resonant with both contemporary media theory and autonomist thought • anti-humanist and anti-juridical thought This necessitates a dual ontology of juridical thought i) Plane of immanence (realm of affect, communicative capacity, sociality) • Nature • experimentation over organization • “conceived in molecular, mobile and dynamic terms” (61) Not function but becoming ii) Plane of transcendence (realm of capture—i.e. capital) Organizes and socializes the plane of immanence • i.e. digital code and architecture • into molar forms Able to capture affect and the temporal-spatial effects on political, economic and cultural organizational forms Social/Medium cartography Mapping individuals on a plane of immanence via two major axes i) intensive capacities—affect ii) extensive relations—speed and slowness, time and space i) Latitude (intensive capacities)—Dynamic axis Degree of power/potential Affective Power of action [T]he sum total of the intensive affects it is capable of at a given power or degree of potential. (63) ii) Longitude (extensive relations)—Kinetic axis Material elements Movements (time and space) [T]he sum total of the material elements belonging to it under relations of rest, speed and slowness. (63) Such an ethological cartography allows for an immanent appraisal as opposed to a taxonomic reading (draft horse and ox, not race horse). Mapping in terms of i) internal composition of the parts; ii) powers for affecting and being affected. • on a plane of experimentation not organization • maps intensive capacities and extensive relations
    • Remember, with an ethological view, nobody knows in advance what a body can do or can become • shared political import with technogenesis • no a priori parameters of the human No essence or finality Not causal relation between the longitudinal and latitudinal axes