Unknown Unknowns: Automaticity & Agency

Agency is the extension of the actant into a social relation, attempting to implement their desires and enact commitments. In this extension, the values and commitments of actants come up against those of others. Commitment as extension moves being from a passive subjectivity (caught within the flows of intercourse that formulate an advanced sentience) toward a referential agency (referencing the understanding of these flows as a form of sapience). A move from the limited individuation of a self-interested perspectival mode[1] toward a greater collective understanding with attendant conflicts and negotiations between different agents in these collective assemblages. This extends beyond the simple relations of human formations, into wider assemblages or paradigms as Latour describes them[2]. In paradigms, we see a wide field of potential actors producing relations and oppositions. Latour uses the story of a hotel manager, who in encouraging his guests to leave their room keys at the front desk before leaving the hotel, attempts various technological and social methods, from warning signs and reminders to changing the design of the keys themselves, adding a small weight which makes the keys bulkier and less desirable to carry around. These are the syntagms that are built upward in paradigmatic extensions. In these continual extensions, we see the emergence of an agential field, including not just the hotel manager but the lay out of the hotel (with added signs and reminders) and the construction and design of the key itself, producing a particular technical assemblage where the manager’s agency is mixed with a technicity of control.

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Institutional Oceanography

“An oceanography of alternative codes and semiotics, where the new lifeworlds are below the surface of our view”[1]. In contrast to the map and the land, the ocean was an unpredictable expanse known for its destructive potential and illimitable depth. The Hereford Mappa Mundi depicts the oceans as mysterious outer seas, possibly being linkages to biblical lands and the afterlife. Hitler found the limits of blitzkrieg at the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. “According to Nazi doctrine, strangely enough, there is just one element: the lithosphere, the earth, blood. Despite the war in the air and under the sea, the offensive of the first space weapons, the atmosphere and the hydrosphere remain foreign to Hitlerian ideology”[2]. It is in the map, in the explicitly understood landscape of Europe where Hitlerian ideology remained, a vestige of a limited nomos that only saw a land empire (and a land army) as the primary forces of conquest (despite the irony of Nazi innovation around rocket technology and air-based warfare). The Lebensraum enveloped the Nazi’s institutional cartography, with the sea as its limit, much as the early cosmographers saw the outer seas as liminal places, unpredictable in their potential.

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Inside the Financial Babel

Everyone assumes they speak the same language in their interconnected sphere of activity, whether in the literal sense or in the way they share particular linguistic markers. Shared patterns and norms are the mechanisms through which financial markets become institutionalised, and through which specialisation develops. “A capital market entails security of property rights”[1], or as Ayache theorises in the moment of the conversion of credit to equity, the market entails a move away from a finite social process of start-stop exchangeability to an asocial process of contingency through continuous exchangeability. The processes of debt and credit are “past and passive”, while the development of convertibility (into bonds or stock) is an “infinity of processes”[2].

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On the Limits of Simplicity: Coronavirus and Libertarianism

Following from Adam’s critique[1] of Matt’s post against covid libertarianism[2], and then Matt’s critique of the critique[3], I want to add some further clarifications and provocations to the mix. I find myself positioned between both Adam’s and Matt’s points, agreeing with both to some measure while also seeing some limitations that can be built out from.

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Capitol Hill Antics

Only hours after one of the dumbest debacles ever witnessed and the talk of coups, insurrection and the rise of fascism is already hot among the twitter blue checks[1] and media[2]. This apparently signals the fragility and/or destruction of democratic norms, all because a bunch of morons stormed a building with the most inept security arrangements, threw some papers, trashed some offices and took selfies. If this is the end of democracy then these rioters were already hitting a corpse. But of course this isn’t the end of democracy, which is little more than hot air thrown around by the press corps and politicians. Instead it’s the continuation of the same dynamics of 2020 and before.

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On Covid Subjectivities: Some Thoughts

Following on from Matt’s critique of the covid libertarian streak[1] seen on social media or aptly demonstrated during anti-lockdown protests in the US, the nature of these protests, the response to them, and the wider institutional response to coronavirus displays both the inadequacy of the libertarian subject as a means to understanding how to respond to the challenges of the pandemic, and the innate institutional stupidities which put their responses rightly within the firing line.

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Collapse Patchworks: A Theory

The complexity of modern industrial, social and organisational flows presents the headlong perception of dromological speed[1]. As we fall faster and faster, our sense of volume is displaced as the surface quickly grows until it is the centre of our vision. The speed of these flows mean that they come at us headlong, as does their precipitous crashes and transformative potential. Stock market crashes, climate change, cultural complexity and viral pandemics sit on the periphery of vision while the flows make up a blurry surface. In this sense, I’m analysing these flows and their collapse both socio-economically, as the production of dynamics that increase complexity exponentially, meaning solutions to it are growing out of multiple places (patchwork); and dromologically, as a series of accelerative flows that mean solutions are constantly instantaneous, interdependent and contextual. Collapse patchworks are the bases of various methods of technological and social practices and instantiations that grow in these flows and anti-flows, creating transformative potential and impotent reaction. The increase in social networking, home-working and social distancing in response to viral pandemics. The stock market crashes and evolutions in industrial policy due to evolutions in human capital, organisational value and trade flows. Within these cyclical patterns and black swan events exist the trails and fractals that makeup new socio-economic potentials, forming part of wider paradigms of growth and innovation as well as methods of containing the future, putting it along specific pathways as the modality of these patchworks grows outward.

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Accidents in Ideological Machines

“Every technology produces, provokes, programs a specific accident”[1]. The invention of the car is the invention of the car crash. The invention of nuclear fission is the invention of Chernobyl or Fukushima. The invention of the internet is the invention of an interconnected fragility and an overreliance. Every technology intends its collapse and its breakpoints. This technological accidentology isn’t only applicable to the machinic technologies of life. It can also be seen in the ideological technologies of hegemonic social forces and their counterparts.

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Cladistic Postmodernity

A posthuman future of markets in everything, artificial intelligence and a dividualisation of the subject augurs itself as the gears of machinic evolution grind. “These new logistical and organisational possibilities produce new ontologies for conceptualising and abstracting information and using it to delineate spaces of action. ‘For the individual agent and complex system alike, this is the continual re-assessment of reality following the (vital) trauma of ontological crisis’. These new ontologies further dividuate the circumstances of being and identity, and produce posthuman forms that compete in increasingly level playing fields for political viability and social recognition”[1]. In combination with crises like the coronavirus pandemic and the auspices of climate change, a future that blurs the line between human and posthuman emerges.

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The Crumbling American Edifice

Biden’s victory has sent people into an idolatrous frenzy, signalling for many the end of the aberration of Trump and a turning point against all forms of nascent national populism. Where the media returns as the unchallenged arbiter of the national discourse. This pathetic liberal imagination will last well into the first months of the Biden presidency as anti-Trump activists and legacy institutions hope to herald the removal of not just Trump but his supporters, apparatchiks and ideology. How long it lasts beyond that is questionable, as the rigours of having nearly the half country view you as an existential threat to their way of life combined with the asymmetric coalition of voters and activists undergirding Biden’s victory spell a turbulent governance as his supporters (in the media, protests, donor groups, etc.) bay for blood and his opponents in the Congress gridlock and delay.

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