I am participating in a really exciting workshop on Simondon and digital culture. Below the poster and my presentation abstract.


Affective Timing and Non-sensuous Perception in Differential Media

The relation between ethics and aesthetics defines a crucial problematic through which Félix Guattari develops his philosophy and analytic practice. Simondon exposes similar lines in his work with equally strong indications of its political relevance. He conceives of the aesthetic as immanent force in experience pertaining to its preindividual field as unexhausted resource for potential becoming. His overall theory of individuation could be also considered as continuous process of differentiation through such a field of potential.

Simondon defines the aesthetic as temporal relation between the preindividual as partially expressed present experience and its pull towards a future becoming, i.e. differentiation. The aesthetic is the interval through which experience passes as felt intensity in the immediacy of its occurrence. It is Alfred North Whitehead who links this temporal process of experience to perception, not as mere sense perception of given empirical data but through his notion of non-sensuous perception. Non-sensuous perception emphasizes the immediate past shaping the passing of the present and the present, as tendency of the future, shaping the potential function of the past. Through non-sensuous perception an interstice for aesthetic practices opens up allowing for an ‘immanent’ and ‘transcendent’ process of co-becoming between the temporal passing of the event and its metastable bodily expression.

For similar reasons Guattari, thinking at the dawn of the digital media era, envisioned post-media practices as “laboratories of thought and experimentation for future forms of subjectivation.” He underlines that what comes to be termed post-media describes a general transformation away from media as mere technological entities. Guattari interlinks aesthetic and ethical concerns pointing out that a “post-media society “will be invented, created within the perspective of a new aesthetic-political paradigm.“ For both, Guattari and Simondon technology defines an active and vital realm of potential not as a means but as enabling ecology. In their works both emphasize technology’s processual dimension, where aesthetics generates links between perception and its relation to time, ethics pertains to acts developing relations with other acts. How can we conceive of such acts not as a volitional and anthropomorphic activism but as a relaying of temporal entanglements between the immediacy of occasions of experience and their material constraints? Further investigating Simondon’s and Guattari’s take on ethics and aesthetics in a post media era I will look at digital media technologies susceptible to (temporal) differentiation. Such “differential media” (Andrew Murphie) highlight the potential of digital processes of timing as discontinuous yet relational processes of timing. Looking at Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s video installation The Visitor’s I will work through the affective and emotive temporalities of digital media art and its relation to non-sensuous perception. How can we conceive of such artworks as instigating collective individuation foregrounding the temporal affective tonality at the heart of their expression in experience?

nouveau terrain d'apparition panoscope sphere

On January 7, 2010 we launched the first general meeting after phase one of the “nouveau terrain d’apparition” (NTA) project has been accomplished. The first phase focused on establishing a solid and properly working system to run the panoscope in a networked state, allowing telepresence between two characters in a shared and immersive virtual space. The general meeting targeted at a presentation of the technical system (mostly developed by Mike Woznieski), a demo of the system and theoretical reflections on the potentials of the system from my side. Guest at the event were students from Université Laval in the the Museology Department and members of the Institut Technologies de l’information et Sociétés, Bob White from the Anthropology Department at Université de Montréal, Erin Manning, Brian Massumi and of course head researcher Luc Courchesne.

I will here focus on some potential alleys and first insights from the conversations. My presentation was targeted at opening the NTA-system’s black box (à la Bruno Latour) and to outline its actants and interdependencies. The importance for the first phase lies in the system or rather assemblage that has been developed. As Luc pointed out the other day, the system is at its limits in terms of computation and therefore we will have to take its state as “enabling constraint.” The first important move which occurred consists in going beyond the conceptualization of such a system as dispositif and to use the notion of the assemblage instead. This shift in terminology brings us close to think different registers of realities (those realities of matter included) together and to annihilate any kind of other-worldly conception of virtual reality. To unfold this move I was drawing on Andrew Murphie’s article “Putting the Virtual back into VR.” Here Murphie claims with a Deleuzian approach through “The Fold” that Virtual Reality as a concept can help us to understand and play with what Deleuze defines as the virtual, the continuous immanence of potential in each actualization.  Since assemblages of virtual reality provide the potential to narrow the usually very crowded (with percepts and affects) experiences in our general “Umwelt” (von Uexküll), we can more precisely tap into the field of the potential. What we encounter as assemblage exists on the one hand as a complex intertwining of different realities - material, human, social, spatial and computational -  and on the other hand as a narrowing of our sensory focus to experiment with the virtual relay in our experiences.

In resonance with the system’s actual state these considerations take specific configurations:

  • Space-time: In an immersed experiential space such as the panoscope the narrowing aspect of VR allows us to experiment with new experiences of space-time. Important for a successful design of such different experiences seems to me an appropriation of affective interaction design (as developed by Jonas Fritsch). As Fritsch outlines: the account of affect will have to ”…directly address forms of experience, forms of life, on a qualitative register” (Fritsch 2009). “Affect as a whole then is the virtual co-presence of potentials” (ibid.)
  • Affect & Interaction + Memory: To feel these co-presences of affective potentials the system might not only offer shared spaces for experience but also allow the potential for interaction. This point has been uttered by Massumi and Manning, as well as in my presentation and by Mike Wozinieski. The potential to actively contribute to the system seems crucial for an enhanced interactive immersive experience. This circumstance has two important values: On the one hand the experience of space-time is always related to the way memory occurs in Bergson and slightly different in Whitehead. Memory here functions as the potential side of an actualization in a new experience. Obviously, the human participant always carries potentialities into the system through memories. Such a form of memory adds a singular (yet potentially always collective) aspect to each experience with the system. Hence, an important consideration would be the generation of memory with the system. Not only through giving machine perception the potential for interaction but also to generate an affective moreness of computing other than traditional approaches of “affective computing” as emotional aspects of programming. For the future I will follow up this thought under the concept of “affective and perceptive traces.”
  • Time and Duration: Another form of space-time configuration that might be enhanced through interactive modes of contributing actively to the system would be jumps, leaps and the sensation of duration through the system. At the moment the space inside the panoscope consists of spheres (360° images), time-lines with images that relate to certain biographies, spatial city environments (e.g. Toronto), and animated spheres with moving sound and image. Since experience here is spatialized and therefore according to Bergson misses in its euclidian appearance a thorough attribute of duration (durée), the durational aspect need to be generated by particular strategies. One of these strategies has been mentioned by Erin Manning as boredom. For her, a new user of the system has to arrive at a point of boredom to become creative with the system. To allow this creativity, we need the experience a certain durational quality inside the panoscope and the potential of active participation and contribution.
  • Collective Experience: The final point touches upon the collective experiences the system might allow. On the one hand collective experience occurs through the potential telepresence with other users. On the other hand experience surfaces through the contribution to the system and the creation of traces that can be encountered by others. What seems important here is the experience of a fully embodied state in the immersive environment of the panoscope. The embodied quality of experience allows us to embrace multiple (crossmodal) perceptive modes. On the one hand one can share experience through telepresence. On the other hand (which has been suggested by Erin Manning) one can also have the same collective experience with more than one person inside one panoscope. There is a difference in the shared expereince either through telepresence or through the physical sharing of the space in a panoscope. Interesting in that regard world be a blending of collective experience that not only includes human participants in actual physical or tele- presence but also the contribution to this experience by the flow of memories and contributions to the experience by an active and interactive (responsive) system. In that sense, to provide an initial idea, the collective individuations that might be facilitated through the system, could be generated through an internal resonance of the system with its users. To conclude with Simondon: “Internal resonance is the most primitive form of communication between realitities of different orders. It is composed of a double process of amplification and condensation.” Amplification here defines the process of an individuation (of a system for instance) as a resolution of anterior tensed states. Its condensation is the very presence as event that ties together all its anterior disparate realities and tendencies. A nexus with social character in Whitehead. The internal resonance of the user-panoscope individuation expresses its amplification and condensation through the emergent relation between different realities (of users, memories and the systems active contribution) and its condensation in an actual occasion (an event in all its complexity and singularity).

smaller panoscope for torso immersion