File spoon-archives/deleuze-guattari.archive/d-g_1994/deleuze_May.94, message 31


Date:         Sat, 28 May 94 14:09:57 EDT
Subject:      VirtFut3



Various real-life tasks have occupied my time since early May such that
I've been unable to seize upon the momentum that the splendid U of
Warwick conference created in order to provide a report of it to this
list. As my previous short post refering to the conference indicated, it
was at once productive and fraught with tensions, as much from local
sources as from the usual collision of modes of conceptualization.

While Joan Broadhurst provided the list of the proceedings in an earlier
post, I'll refresh your memory in terms of the broad framework, and
provide slight emendations to the schedule as it actually unfolded:

Fri May 6th 1994:
14h: Opening Address, David Wood (Chair of Philosophy, U of Warwick)
     Plenary 1: Stephen Pfohl (Boston Collge, Sociology), "Theses on the
                Cyberotics of History: Venus in Microsoft, Remix

16h45: Parallel Sessions, 1
         SO.20: Eric Cassidy (U of Warwick, Phil), "Apocalyptic
                    Cybernetics"
                Stephen Metcalfe (U of Birmingham), "Crash Sex (Barthes,
                    Bataille, Baudrillard)"
                Stephen Mooney (London School of Economics), "The
                    Cyberstate" SO.19: Matthew Kiernan
         SO.19: Matthew Kiernan (U of Leeds, Phil), "Sexual Simulation"
                Keekok Lee (U of Manchester, Phil and the Environment),
                    "Nanotechnology, the Ultimate Green Technology?"
                Benjamin Macias (Cambridge U Computer Lab), "Virtual
                    Communities, Representation of the Self, and
                    Religion"

19h: Plenary 2: Charles J. Stivale (Wayne State U, French), "The
                    Rhizomatics of Cyberspace"

21h: Plenary 3: Iain Hamilton Grant (U of Warwick, Phil), "Black Ice"

Sat 7th May 1994:
10h: Plenary 4: Sadie Plant (U of Birmingham, Cultural Studies), "Coming
                    Across the Future"

11h30: Parallel 2 [NB: Stivale used this time to visit the book exhibit
                    and to experiment with some of the CD-ROM software,
                    including "A Digital Rhizome" created at the U of
                    New South Wales]
         SO.21: John Pickering (U of Warwick, Psychology), "Sex, Lies
                    and Videorape"
                Andrew Calcutt (Journalist), "Virtual Panic"
         SO.20: Brennan Wauters (McGill U), "Baudrillard's Blindness:
                    Rhetoric and the Drive for Object Absorption"
                Pete Mills (U of Wwarwick, Phil), "Visceral Interfacing"

14h: Plenary 5: David Porush (Technion, Israel Inst of Technology),
                    "Telepathy and Illiteracy: Alphabetic Consciousness
                    and the Age of Cyberotics"

15h30 Parallel 3:
        SO.20: Diane Beddoes (U of Warwick, Phil), "V is for Virtual"
               Suhail Malik (U of Sussex, English) "The Immateriality of
                    the Signifier: The Flesh and the Innocence of
                    Michael Jackson"
               Jules Haston (U of Warwick, Phil) "Virtual Val's Night
                    Job on the Strata"
         SO.21: Leigh Clayton (The Old Brewery, Old Aberdeen, Phil),
                    "The Virtual Universe: Visual Metaphors and the
                    Non-Visual"
                Samantha Holland (The Old Brewer, Old Aberdeen, Phil),
                    "Descartes Goes to Hollywood: Mind Body and Gender
                    in Contemporary Cyborg Films"
                Megan Stern (U of Central Lancashire, Cultural Studies),
                    "Learning to be Human: Heideggerian Heroics in
                    'Blade Runner'"

18h: Parallel 4:
         SO.20: Ralph Schroeder (Brunel U, Human Sciences), "Lost in
                    Cyberspace: The Cultural Significance of Virtual
                    Worlds"
                Michael Forrester (U of Kent), "Can Narratology
                    Facilitate Communication Successful Hypermedia
                    Events?"
         SO.19: John Collins (U of Warwick, Phil) "Representation and
                    Cognition: Biting the Bullet"
                Michael McGuire (King's College, Phil), "Cyberspace - A
                    Type of Space"

20h30: Plenary 6: Stelarc, "Phantom Body/Fluid Self: Images as Agents in
                    Virtual Reality Environments"
                  Pat Cadigan

After (until 12:30): House of God D.J. Collective

Sunday 8th May 1994
10h: Plenary 7: Manuel De Landa

12h30: Parallel 5
         SO.21: Ben Rumble (U of Sussex), "Screens"
                John Sellars (U of Wales, Phil), "Transcending
                    Technofear"
         SO.20: Paul Tappenden (King's College, Phil), "The Concept of
                    Brain"
                John Mullarkey (U of Warwick, Phil): "Myself and other
                    Computer-Minds: Intentional Stances, Turing TEsts
                    and the Primacy of Perception"

15h: Plenary 8: Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen (U of Warwick)
                Greg Hunt (U of Warwick), "Virtual Futures, Never
                    Explain?"

17h: Plenary 9: Nick Land, "Meltdown"

This outline is clearly barebones, and even the most diligent
conference-goer, which I am not, has gaps. Thus, while I attended all
the plenaries, I missed some of the parallel session, in some cases
simply to take a break, in others to have a bite to eat as well. While
the conference has "breaks" built in, they disappeared as sessions went
overlong and scheduling had to shift, i.e. as in many conferences.

References has been made on the list (Michael Current relaying a comment
by Joan Broadhurst, to which I responded) that the conference broke down
into and American/Warwickian divide. As I have stated, this view
misrepresents the unfolding of the conference, not to mention the
numerous non-Warwick persons in attendance as well as the dissonance
among Warwickians themselves.  What the view represents is the cleavage
that I perceived from my arrival in Coventry, and I'll repeat myself
from an earlier post to the list:
What I did discover, and learn from immensely, was the fascinating
preference among *some* folks I met in Warwick toward _Anti-Oedipus_ as
Ur-text of D&G, mainly since it is perceived to express an unrelenting
political position of schizoanalysis. Whereas _ATP_, and many other D&G
pieces/interviews since, express a *pragmatics* and sets of distinctions
that extol *caution*. This split, between a politics of
deterritorialization without limits and a more cautious view toward the
consequences of such a no-holds-barred politics, constituted the crux, I
believe, of the *differend* [characterizes as American/Warwickian].

Many of the tensions that built up through the conferences seemed to
arise from numerous sites: the outright hostility of those Warwickians
who, for whatever reason (philosophical, professional, personal, and
combinations thereof) had absolutely no sympathy/patience/use for such
an event as a "Virtual Futures" conf; a nostalgia among some present for
the good old days when theorizing could proceed without consideration of
practical consequences, and within this strain of thought emerged an even
more peculiar 'becoming-same,' to the point that one's personal habits
(e.g. non-smoking, in my case) might be called into question as some
sort of failure to engage in 'necessary' deterritorialization;
reflections on different aspects of thought related to Virtual Futures
(not only D&G oriented) some of which translated *caution* if not
outright skepticism toward an uncritical acceptance of the benefits of
'technoculture'.

Given my own interests, the papers of Benjamin Macias on virtual
communities and Samantha Holland on the cyborg films (especially her
form of presentation: she prepared an excellent video in which selected
film clips screened behind her reading *in* the video) were quite
valuable. Also, all of the plenaries, Stelarc's in particular, opened my
mind's eyes to new possibilities on V. Futures. However, the momentum to
which I've referred built up to Nick Land's "Meltdown" talk, and this
moment was in some ways a culmination and a summing up of much that had
preceded. Here is a sample, from the abstract provided to all
participants:

"Modernity races through intensive half-lives : 1500, 156, 1884, 1948,
1980, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2010, 211... Closing upon Terrestrial Meltdown
Singularity, and triggering terminal political crisis across the planet.
Reverse transcription subverts genomic (ROM) command structures, and
tradition-based authority dissipates in artificial space. Having climbed
the negentropy curve from industrial thermocontrol to the brink of soft
technocataclysm, power panics and condenses the Human Security System.
Looming green-black schizoshapes begin to come up on the screen.
   Cyberian invasion deploys the future as a weapon, camouflaged in
history as global technocapital convergence. Disintegrating social
reality skids into cyberpunk, and you find yourself reformatted in
Globewar-5. Meltdown virus is infiltrating from tomorrow, cooking
protection in bottom-up intelligentsia, and hacking through the
ICE-fortresses of SF (security futurism) to spring feral
connectionist-AI emergence from anthropomorphizing Asimov-ROM. It's
a mess: trashed meat all over the place, and China-syndrome running away
from control.  Wintermute is getting vicious. Then VIRTUAL FUTURES
happens, and things really turn horrific . . ."

What is one to make of this 'vision'? David Porush asked Land, where is
the pleasure coming from in this projection of 'meltdown', is it the
pleasure of the horror? Stelarc's series of queries were even more
pointed: wasn't Land positing a kind of technophobia? Land claimed that
on the contrary, it was not him making such a postulate, but that it is
inherent to the top-down hierarchy from which meltdown inevitably
proceeds. Stelarc objected that he doesn't by into the
discourse of technofear, and that while Land implied a lot of intention
on the part of top-down repression, Land's own 'bottom-up' intention is
to disrupt the top-down through some disabling strategy aimed at the
Human Security System, but also carrying on as if some autonomous,
intelligent, decentered, self-regulating network were in place now.  To
Land's response that the nanospasm plateau is not impossible, that the
planet is constructed into a kind of nano-playdough, Stelarc doubts that
these forces would congeal so simplistically. Stelarc sees the body as
accelerating and also being invaded while interfacing with digital
systems and data spaces, in some ways enhancing what it means to be
human. Land responded he was simply attempting to designate boundaries
that are being set up by security systems.

The next phase of the discussion occurred with Manuel De Landa
juxtaposing _AO_ to _ATP_: whereas the former preached, let's destratify
like crazy, the latter reflected an aging, even courtesy: if we want to
transform this world into something a little less homogeneous, our
resistance has to become more pragmatic, and not destratify too fast
lest the strata fall on us harder than ever, i.e. avoiding a careless
destratification/acceleration that might provoke re-stratification with
a vengeance. Here, Land vociferously contested the subject positions
and intentionality that De Landa was attributing to AO/ATP, i.e. D & G
as constituted subjects, vs. (what I'll call) a de-subjectified,
destratified understanding of these works as 'texts', not necessarily
attributable to subject-specific intentionalities.

The *differend* heated up at this point, Land questioning De Landa's use
of the very term "we" as a very stratified 'readout' to enunciate his
position (i.e. Landa maintained that our bodies act upon strata through
our subjectivity for an empirically objective duration, and while we can
deterritorialize/ destratify while we are upon them by all kinds of
means, these means do not occur solely devoid of subjectivity). Pfohl
interjected that it was not only problematic for Land to use the term
'post-human', but was philosophically irresponsible to discuss these
problematics solely in terms of the destratification of flows. Ivan
Benjamin asked Land where was his irony, and suggested that in dealing
with the future, we're dealing also with it through the now, and not
just through flows; that Land's position runs the risk of a) failing to
deal with the now at all, and b) letting technofear read out of context
be employed against any work in the now at all, even on the flow. To
Land's response, that this response was bizarrely over-defensive given
the terrain, and that we have strategies now to employ our tools at
hand, Benjamin asked that Land provide an example of such tools at hand,
so that we could deploy them. Here, Land fell (dramatically) silent.
Stelarc suggested, however, that some alternate strategies might be
found, for example, in work by artists to subvert stratified modes of
perception.

Porush continued in the preceding vein: he said that Land unleashed a lot
of pleasure in his 'meltdown', self-marginalizing subversive text, but
also apocalypse: that the text urges and embraces the apocalypse at the
same time as it warns against it. Porush said that such pleasure might
turn quickly to other things, and that there is something irresponsible
in unleashing this apocalyptic view as a form of pleasure. Land said he
had a lack of sympathy with responsibility as a concept, that it
constitutes a crushing form of stratification. He asked, further, at the
end of the day, does being responsible really put you on the side of the
angels? We're so sedimented with years of responsibility, but this is
merely a way to hang onto a sense of control, which itself is a part of
the problem, not part of the solution. Diane Beddoes asked if Land's use
of the term subject implied such an autonomous sense of subjectivity
that his use displaced the term in history. To Land's disagreement with
her formulation, Beddoes suggested that he needs to provide a better
story than simply to tell us to deterritorialize/destratify.

All this is obviously a reconstruction of the final discussion, totally
without the context a) of the days that led up to it and b) of the
actual talk that Nick Land presented. However, the cyberorgasmic/
apocalyptic edge that several discussants pointed to emerged in a number
of talks and in a form of discourse, prevalent among one part of the
Warwick group, that seemed/seems to equate destratifying/
deterritorializing merely with a discursive strategy that provides no
practical means of developing new lines of flight. In any event,
important points were raised and seem already to bear fruit, e.g. the
proposal of a conference in 1995 entitled ambitiously, 'Capitalism and
Schizophrenia 3'! Be there, or be square!


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