Monday, July 24, 2006

Power of Simulacra

EDIT: 2 August 2006: I have moved blogs to This post is here on the new blog.

Digitalisation has had a profound impact here too; text and image are no longer ontologically separated but have become expressions of similar codes. The hyperreality of digital codes is that there is no possibility of ascertaining authenticity – editing of images and texts is an ongoing process.
Joost van Loon over @ Space and Culture has published 4 of Seven Theses on Terror. The above is from the fourth. I agree with much of what Joost is writing however the two lines above are problematic as it inverts the logic of the rest of the Fourth Thesis. The Fourth Thesis is pertinent to my work as Joost shifts gears to look at popular culture.

First line: 'Digitalisation' is presented as an onto-epistemological discursive mode by Joost, yet this mode existed for a long time before being used online or with computers. I have also looked at the ontological relation between Text and Image, not because of the WoT, but because of car enthusiast magazines. The images and text must work in concert to capture the particular affects of the enthusiasm. This is one of my main points of my dissertation. Cars are 'tough' and represented in images to accentuate the 'toughness' and the text normally revolves around an axiomatic truth in the first paragraph that reinscribes the subject-object relations of an enthusiasm on an affective level in a particular way. However, diferent magazines had different discursive modes. So, for example, there is a difference between the massifying Street Machine magazine and the old 1980s Supercar magazine. Street Machine treated readers as individual enthusiasts and sought to connect readers directly with the affects of events and cars. Supercar magazine mediated reports on events through the structured and habitualised heirarchical affects of car clubs. When did this ontological link between image and text emerge? I am not sure but going by my genealogy of car enthusiast magazines it was sometime in the late 1970s.

Second line: I'll assume Joost is implicitly using the Baudrillard argument about the non-events of media simulacrum; that is, of representations refering to representations refering to representations and so on with no 'originary' link. I tend to think of this as feedback to feedback with only a provisional locus of stability. However, Baudrillard's semiotics is still caught up in what D&G call the despotic signifier. The 'despotic signifer' captures the assymetrical relation between signified and signifier in pre-capitalist semiotics. (D&G are unclear in other writings, particularly Guattari, when they talk about 'archaisms' returning. Does that mean with the return of these archaic social movements that there is a return to the despotic signifier? Isn't this precisely what is happening?) The simulacrum is used as an endocolonising power, which what I understand the rest of what the Fourth Thesis is about. The ontological link between text and image of this media simulacra captures the affects of particular enthusiasms. Here 'enthusiasm' is meant in the broader Kantian sense as the universal of being enthused that can be recognised on the face of others! (Yes, I have been reading;) Replace 'universal' with 'singularity' and 'face' with 'faciality' and now you're cooking. The ontological link between text and image captures a particular mobilising constellation of affects, ie faciality (cf. Deleuze's affect-image of Cinema 1).

The truth of the hyperreality is irrelevant when the power of the simulacrum does not rely on truth! The truth of the simulcra is determined by the affective resonance of the image, by what it does, not by what it represents. 'Truth' is a heavily reinscribed simulcrum, it has an affective gravity that previously dwarfed other 'truths'. The truth may or may not set you free, but it is certainly what captures you. Also Weber's comments on Charismatic leadership are relevant, not the stuff about actual leaders, but the short sections where Weber discusses what happens in organisations between leaders. Membership to this charismatically organised population is facilitated through tests of belonging that are carried out by the lesser members. Enter yellow ribbons and national flags...

The ongoing editing is not because of the impossible slippery link between signifier and signified but merely the technical means for the ongoing affective modulation and attunement of populations. Media is thus a biopolitical problem, not a problem of representation.

I've got another post in the works written partially in response to Joost's excellent posts at Space and Culture, but also in reply to the America - Civilization 3 chapter of McKenzie Wark's GAM3R 7H30RY and the absence of what is called the 'fog of war'. It directly relates to the above as the 'fog of war' produces an event horizon that introduces chance into the determinations of the algorithm, thus makes gaming exciting, but on an 'allegorithmic' level reproduces docile populations for the warmongering machinations of current state-of-emergency governmental modes.

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