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DIGITAL | AFFECT

CRITICAL THEMES
IN MEDIA STUDIES CONFERENCE

APRIL 5-6, 2013 FREE AND
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

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Patricia Clough performing "My Mother's Scream" at Critical Themes' closing keynote on April 6th, 2013.

Patricia Clough performing “My Mother’s Scream” at Critical Themes’ closing keynote on April 6th, 2013.

The 13th iteration of the annual graduate student conference in Media Studies at The New School has come to an end. We would like to thank everybody who contributed to the success of this year’s conference for their invaluable work and enthusiasm, which made this event such a pleasant and inspiring experience: the whole student organizing team, the faculty advisors Christiane Paul and Eugene Thacker, the administrative staff at the School of Media Studies as well as our great keynote speakers Mark B.N. Hansen and Patricia Clough, and of course our graduate student presenters from all over the US, Canada, and several European countries. Your labors are what this conference is all about.

We will publish both keynote addresses in full length as videos by the end of May, which we will of course announce in due time on this website and through our social media channels.

Please stay in touch through Facebook and Twitter and we hope we will see you again at Critical Themes in Media Studies 2014!

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An afternoon full of exciting academic encounters between student presenters from five countries, New School faculty, students and guests is slowly coming to an end. We have had engaging dialogues regarding the “in-betweenness” of media and understanding the relationship of the body and technology in mediated spaces.


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Shola Ajayi giving her presentation of “The Sankofa Project”.

We are now looking forward to Patricia Clough’s closing keynote address, which will take the form of a performance titled “My Mother’s Scream”. The piece is a psycho-sonic geography of the neighborhood of Corona, Queens and addresses questions about autobiography and ethnography in the age of digital technologies. The presentation is scheduled for 7:30pm and will take place in Wollman Hall (65 W11th Street, 5th floor). A closing reception will follow at about 8:30pm.

As all components of the conference, Patricia Clough’s address is free and open to the public; no RSVP is necessary. Please join us for a furious conference finale!

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Mark Hansen_Keynote

After a stimulating start to what promises to become a high-profile graduate level student conference with an engaging keynote address by Mark B.N. Hansen, we are now looking forward to a full day of student panels today from 10:30am to 7:00pm at 66 W12th Street, rooms 509 and 510. We are going to frame the manifold relationships of digital technologies and affect from diverse angles, exploring questions of identity, perception, materiality and many more.

Please click here for a full schedule, abstracts, and short bios of the student presenters. A downloadable PDF version of the schedule can be found here.

When you arrive at the venue, don’t forget to say ‘hi’ to our friendly staff and to pick up your copy of our printed program at the Critical Themes welcome desk!

**The conference is free and open to the public. No RSVP is necessary, but if you wish to announce your attendance to your social media network, feel free to RSVP through Facebook, to tweet at us and about us @criticalthemes and to use the hash tag #digitalaffect for sharing your thoughts and questions about the conference with other attendees.

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We are looking forward to kicking off the 13th annual Critical Themes in Media Studies graduate student conference tomorrow night at 7pm at 65 W. 11th Street, 5th floor (Wollman Hall) with Mark B.N. Hansen’s keynote address titled “Beyond Affect?: Technical Sensibility and the Pharmacology of Media”.

**The conference is free and open to the public. No RSVP is necessary, but if you wish to announce your attendance to your social media network, feel free to RSVP through Facebook and to use the hash tag #criticalthemes for sharing your thoughts and questions about the conference with other attendees.

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Mark BN Hansen is perhaps one of the most well known investigators of the interstitial regions of digital art, media and bodily relations. Recently his focus of scholarly investigation has moved from phenomenological implications of digital media and human bodies and now seems to edge towards advancing notions of object-oriented ontology as critical to media studies.

Hansen looks at media environments and human agency. His work appears to be in league with proponents of Actor Network Theory. As these notions are combined with media theory, we see vocabulary in this interdisciplinary field developing in a critical direction with terms such as “superject instead of subject, and the distributed field of prehensions instead of the primacy of the human body and sensory system as the focal point in aesthetic”.[1]

In Hansen’s work, superjectal subjectivity can be understood as “the power to impact the future,”[2] while prehension refers to potentiality, which means all things come before actuality. These terms deepen the notion that the virtual is as real as the actual, for the virtual precedes the actual and is energetically necessary for actualization in lived experiences.

Hansen notes that these notions combined with study of media are widely divergent from scholarly discourses by concentrating on the schema of experience:

…by variously taking technology as a formalizable object – as, say, a figure for the operation of language, for the structure of the text, or for the vicissitudes of the psyche – theorists simply overlook the non-representational, experiential, and massively diffuse impact of technologies on social and cultural life. My effort to grapple with this diffuse impact has led me to focus on media technologies and, in particular, on the contemporary digital media revolution.[3]

Central to Hansen’s work is the notion that technology and human bodies within the realm of art generate transitive relations. The notion of embodiment causes ruptures within a anthropcentric conception of inscription, which assumes that technology is only a layer of human experience. Hansen tells us that from an ontological perspective, “Media simultaneously diminish and supplement expressive capacities of humans.”[4] Thus, it is easy to see how humans are sensorially and socially impacted by technologies.

In current discussions of the subjectivity of human and inhuman, affect configures a nonrepresentational terrain to comprehend degrees and implications of pre-cognitve qualities of sensation. This conversation links technology, mediation, and ontology to perception. Affect engages energetic forces impacting bodies before thought is formed. With Hansen’s new work, these forces of potential are emphasized over the actual.

During Hansen’s opening keynote address on April 5th at Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference at The New School, he will hopefully expand on his current project Feed-Forward: Recording (for) the Emergent Future and elaborate on his theoretical relationship with AN Whitehead amongst key figures of nonrepresentational theory.

BRIA COLE
Edited by Brittany Paris


[1] Jussi Parrika, “Whitehead into Media Theory.” Machinology  8 February 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2013, From: http://machinology.blogspot.com/2011/02/whitehead-into-media-theory.html

[2] Ivakhiv, Adrian J. “NT9: Hansen Against Clairvoyance.” immanence 5 May 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2013, FromL http://blog.uvm.edu/aivakhiv/2012/05/05/nt9-hansen-against-clairvoyance/

[3] Hansen, Mark BN. “People” Duke Program in Literature. 2013. Retrieved 24 March From: http://literature.duke.edu/people?Gurl=%2Faas%2FLiterature&Uil=mh139&subpage=profile

[4] Ivakhiv.

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The Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference committee is pleased to announce that Mark Hansen will give the opening keynote address on Friday, April 5th, at 7pm.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Grosz had to cancel her presentation due to a family emergency. Her contribution to the conference would have been an excellent addition, but we are excited that Mark B.N. Hansen will speak in her place and thank him very much for his spontaneous commitment.

Mark B.N. Hansen is Professor of Literature and Professor at Duke University and (co-)author of Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory (2009), Bodies in Code: Interfaces with New Media (2006), New Philosophy for New Media (2004) and Embodying Technesis: Technology Beyond Writing (2000)  amongst others. In his research, writing and teaching Hansen theorizes the role played by technology in human agency and social life with a focus on the experiential significance of the revolution in computation.

 

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Light

 

“For in an era when the body seems more analogous to the computer or at least the cyborg than the machine of earlier imaginations, it is no longer clear what the body itself might be.”[1]
“[With new technologies] the self is no longer the object but the creation of the medium.” Bruce Yonemoto, 1996 [2]

“the role of the body, which… remains something like the unmentioned correlate – or, better still, the requisite processing site -of the self-differing, aggregative condition of the medium.”[3]

Our fleshy limbs and organs are composed of minerals and fluids and are reliant on internal functionings and exterior provisions. Envision bodies as vessels and expressions.

In relation to media and technology, bodies become loci for expansive inquiry. In considering theories about bodies adjacent to affect theory, the topics share an affinity with cognition, sensing and precepts. In understanding, for example, the meaning of digital information, images, numbers, codes and text are literally and metaphorically projected onto the body. In these cases, then, what is the difference between an inscribed body and an embodiment?

Donna Haraway posited a challenge to conventions in observational science by insisting “on the embodied nature of all vision and so reclaim the sensory system that has been used to signify a leaps out of the marked body and into a conquering gaze from nowhere. This is the gaze that mythically inscribes all marked bodies… to represent escaping representation.”[4]

Haraway foregrounds a departure from canonical visual representation, stating “optics is a politics of positioning… Struggles over what will count as rational studies of the world are struggles over how to see.”[5]

Among the plethora of scholars contesting the dominance of Cartesian principles of aesthetic representation, Anthea Callen asserts an provocative social constructivist approach, “carefully observed, the represented body is an abstracted body: the product of ideas that are culturally and historically specific, and in which the social formation of the producer determines the appearance and meanings of the body; its meanings are then further modified in the act of consumption. The making and meaning of the visual body’s cultural message is, therefore, a dynamic process under constant re-vision.”[6]

These ideas, published in the nascent stages of digital communications, this perspective led to understanding “net based communications as a living embodiment of poststructuralist identity theory and asserts that it is where queer theory can ‘really come to life.. because the Internet breaks the connection between outward expressions of identity and the physical body’ 2004:19[7]

To draw an analogy between the editability of digital “bodies” to cosmetic surgery, Anne Balsamo takes cognizance of how body modification, particularly cosmetic surgery, is ideological: “Cosmetic survey is not then simply a discursive site for the construction of images of women, but in actuality, a material site at which the physical female body is surgically dissected, stretched, carved, and reconstructed according to cultural and eminently ideological standards of physical appearance.”[8] This contention appears in tension with perceiving, creating, or maintaining natural or modified bodies. With digital forms of rapid and powerful editing tools, making the natural/digital distinctions bleeds into conversations debating the virtual and real.

Dancing with Virtual Dervish

With feminist scholar Amelia Jones’ prophetic suggestion that “recognition of the body/self as dispersed, multiple, and particularized has dramatically  progressive potentialities, especially for women and other subjects historically excluded from the privileged category of individual[9], where can we find such an inventory?

Body Movies

Exquisite Broken Circle

BRIA COLE
Edited by Brittany Paris


[1] Mirzoeff, Nicholas. The Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Nicolas Mirzoeff, New York City: Routledge. 2005 P. 598

[2] Quoted and paraphrased by Amelia Jones in Jones, Amelia. “Dispersed Subjects and the Demise of the ‘Individual’ 1990’s bodies in/as art.” The Visual Culture Reader: Second Edition. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. New York City: Routledge. 2005  P. 696

[3] Hansen. Mark B.N. “Between Body and Image.” New Philosophy for New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004. P. 25

[4] Haraway, Donna. “The Persistence of Vision.” The Visual Culture Reader: Second Edition. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. New York City: Routledge. 2005  P. 677

[5] Quoted in Mirzoeff, P. 598

[6] Callen Anthea. “Ideal Masculinities.” The Visual Culture Reader: Second Edition. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. New York City: Routledge. 2005 P. 6o4

 

[7] Quoted in Lister Martin et al. (Eds.)  New Media: A Critical Introduction, Second Edition. New York City: Routledge, 2009 P. 166

[8] Balsamo, Anne. “On the Cutting Edge.” The Visual Culture Reader: Second Edition. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. New York City: Routledge. 2005. P. 687

[9] Mirzoeff, P. 599

 

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We are pleased to announce the presentations panelists will be giving at this year’s Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference next month!

 

April 6th, 2013

Graduate Student Panels

Room 510, 66 W 12th

10:30 am—12:00 pm Decoding Identities in Flux

01:00 pm—02:30 pm Framing the Virtual in Spatial Encounters

02:45 pm—04:15 pm Criss-Crossing Language

04:30 pm—06:00 pm Transhuman Becomings

 

Room 509, 66 W 12th

02:00 pm—03:30 pm Public/Private Assemblages

03:45 pm—05:15 pm Mediascapes and Cinematic Cartography

05:30 pm—07:00 pm Virtual Materialisms

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Spinoza Studying Philosophy    

 

     How much do I love that noble man

     More than I could tell with words

    I fear though he’ll remain alone

    With a holy halo of his own.[1]

 

 

 

 

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists,

not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”[2]

- Albert Einstein

Seminal political philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza introduced controversial notions of social contract, theology, and metaphysics in the 17th century. His philosophy was so contentious that in 1656, all members of Jewish faith were explicitly instructed to ostracize Spinoza:

“…Spinoza should be excommunicated and separated from the people of Israel…We order that nobody should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favour, or stay with him under the same roof, or come within four ells of him or read anything composed or written by him.”[3]

Fundamental to Spinozian thought is the idea that God and Nature are tantamount. Thus this philosophical system challenges the anthropocentric view of the world which considers the power of God to be independent of the material world and paramount to all things. Through his philosophical work rendering nature divine and naturalizing religion, Spinoza would lay the groundwork that would encourage a more immanent view of the world in the hands of his predecessors. These claims in 17th century Amsterdam caused Jewish religious authorities to charge him with heresy.

Living outside of the Jewish faith, Spinoza contemplated controversial approaches regarding ontology and governance. Spinoza was immersed and active in “scientific, intellectual, political and religious turmoil that gave birth to many philosophical ‘systems.’”[4] Spinoza’s personal insignia bore the motto “Cautte,” (“caution”) and while his ideas were controversial he was, at the same time, a cautious intellectual revolutionary, which some suggest kept him from publishing Ethics during his lifetime.[5]

Brief Intro to Ethics

In order to address concerns of human existence, Ethics presents, essential metaphysical principles structurally mimicking and conceptually challenging Rene Descartes’ “principle attributes”: substance, attributes, and modes.

“A substance is that which is ‘in itself and conceived through itself’;

An attribute is that which ‘the intellect perceived of a substances, as constituting its essence’;

And modes are the ‘affections of substance or that which is in another through which it is also conceived.’”[6]

Considering God/Nature as the only substance, humans would be attributes that extend this substance, and that “individual things, such as human beings, can only be modes of this one substance.”[7] With this notion as a starting point, Spinoza then would develop his theories to claim that the human body and the human mind are identical.[8] Then, he challenges the authority of representational logic by identifying components of existence that are non-representational.

Deleuze clarifies this by translating affectus and affection:

“… it’s quite useful to know that since the Middle Ages this aspect of ‘the idea’ has been termed its ‘objective reality.’ In texts from the 17th century and earlier, when you encounter the objective reality of the idea this always means the idea envisioned as representation of something. The idea, insofar as it represents something, is said to have an objective reality. It is the relation of the idea to the object that it represents

Thus we start from a quite simple thing: the idea is a mode of thought defined by its representational character. This already gives us a first point of departure for distinguishing idea and affect (affectus) because we call affect any mode of thought which doesn’t represent anything…

Affectus in Spinoza is variation continuous variation of the force of existing, insofar as this variation is determined by the ideas one has.

Affectus In a first determination, an affection is the following: it’s a state of a body insofar as it is subject to the action of another body.

Thus every mode of thought which represents an affection of the body—the interaction of one body with another body, or the trace of another body on one body will be termed an idea of affection.”[9]

In addressing the powers of animation, Spinoza says himself,  “For the things we have shown so far are completely general and do not pertain more to man than to other individuals, all of which, though in different degrees, are nevertheless animate.”[10]

The implications for material and non-human bodies were, at the time, audacious, because Spinoza presented an existence  involving animated beings without a soul. A being does not need to be thinking or perceiving, and its existence is valid through its capacity to strive for the inherent characteristics of itself. Without a transcendent figure, or a predefined moral structure, the human bodily existence is experienced as an ongoing composition of capacities and happenings. The body becomes a container, with residual sensations embodying our engagement with the world

“His assertion that entities possess degrees of animation supports his claim that affect and power, possessed by all entities, are measures of a body’s capacity to combine and become more active, to affect and be affected. Ideas, defined as the thoughts that accompany affects, should not be conflated with feelings and emotions. Consciousness and sensation, far from signifying an understanding of, or freedom from, physical causality, only provide additional means for humans to become confused regarding the actual cause of their affects.”[11]

Hence the prolific quote:

No one has yet determined what the body can do.[12]

Spinoza as a Lens Grinder

latheslijpmachine_possibleSpinozalathe

This following biographical token signals a contextual poetic tinge connecting the foundations of Spinozist thought to affect and technology. At once, Spinoza was preoccupied in creating glass membranes for human experience, both abstractly through his philosophical inquiries, and practically, through the design and construction of optical lenses. He provided textual and material apparatuses for seeing, as well as constructed microscopes and telescopes. He was a manufacturer of many handmade scientific tools, and was especially lauded by the Christiaan Huygens, the scientist who discovered the rings on Saturn.

From Colerus’ biography:

“[Spinoza] often took his magnifying glass, observing through this the smallest mosquitoes and flies, at the same time reasoning about them. He knew, however, that things cannot be seen as they are in themselves. The eternal properties and laws of things and processes can only be discovered by deduction from common notions and evident axioms. ‘The eyes of the mind by which it sees and observes the things, are the demonstrations.”[13]

 As Deleuze says, “After all, a philosopher is not only someone who invents notions, he also perhaps invents ways of perceiving.”[14]

“Still, we sense and experience ourselves to be eternal. For the mind no less senses those things that through thinking it grasps, than those it has through memory. For the mind’s eyes, by which it sees and observes things, are demonstrations themselves…” says Spinoza. [15]

Bijlmer Spinoza Festival

Most recently, Thomas Hirschhorn has translated Spinoza through a constructed, performative installation: The Bijlmer Spinoza Festival.

In recruiting local participants in this exhibition, Hirschhorn set a site for meaningful association between Spinoza’s deep theories and the current lived realities in Bijlmer. Throughout the duration of the festival, the creations and ideas were firmly addressed through immanent means: handwritten copies of the text, first-time performers and handmade structures.

From the testimonies of the locals-becoming-artisans, their personal knowledge and experiences came from doing: through using their bodies to interact with materials. In composing this festival, the participants translated for them the relationship between Spinozian thought and art practices. Despite the fluctuating opinions and reactions to participatory art practices in which the spectator becomes the artwork, there is a strong current of perceptions, lived realities and traversing membranes of experience.  Through encouraging acting, making, saying, building, showing, sitting, existing; this poignant work demonstrates the capacities inherent in anyone and everyone.

While this is not a digital example, note that it is brought to us via viral video. What resonates is the potential for makers “to create perfect moments,” imbued with substantive philosophy.

BRIA COLE

The New School Media Studies: B-1764-2013

Edited by Brittany Paris


[1] Poem by Albert Einstein on Spinoza (1920), as quoted in Jammer, Max. Einstein and Religion New Jersey: Princeton University Press. (1999) P. 43

[2] Ibid, P. 49

[3] As quoted by Klever, W.N.A. “Spinoza Life and Works” The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Ed. Don Garrett. New York: Cambridge university Press. (1996) P. 18

[4] Klever, P. 14

[5] Garrett, Don. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Ed. Garrett Don. New York: Cambridge university Press. (1996) P. 2

[6] Garrett, Pp. 3 – 4, Layout altered for deductive clarity

[7] Ibid. P. 4

[8] Ibid. P. 1

 [9]Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza’s Concept of Affect: 1978 Lecture..Trans. Timothy S. Murphy. (Unknown Date) Retrieved February 9, 2013 From: http://www.webdeleuze.com/php/texte.php?cle=14&groupe=Spinoza&langue=2. Layout Modified for deductive clarity.

[10] Spinoza, Benedict de. A Spinoza Reader: The Ethics and Other Works. Edited and translated by Edwin Curley. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. P.124, Quote Provided by Todd Jerome Satter

[11] Satter, Todd Jerome. “Spinoza’s Panpsychism.” Any-Space-Whatever. (Nov 5, 2011) Retrieved February 9, 2013 From: http://www.anyspacewhatever.com/spinoza%E2%80%99s-panpsychism/

[12] €Spinoza, Baruch, Ethics. Part III, Proposition 2,  Scholium. (1677).

[13] As quoted by Klever, P. 35

[14] Delueze.

[15] Spinoza, Part 5, Proposition 23, Scholium


 

 

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The Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference committee is pleased to announce two outstanding theorists to give opening and closing keynote addresses at this year’s conference.

Friday, April 5th will mark the opening address of Elizabeth Grosz, Jean Fox O’Barr Women’s Studies Professor in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University. Grosz is known for philosophical investigations of relationships of corporeality to the arts and sciences, interpreted through the work of Gilles Deleuze, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva, among others. Her more recent works include:Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power (2005), Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (2008)and Becoming Undone. Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics and Art (2011). 

Patricia Clough, Professor of Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Intercultural Studies at Queens College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York, is going to conclude the conference with her address on Saturday, April 6th. Clough’s work draws on theoretical traditions concerned with technology, new media, affect, the unconscious, timespace and political economy. She is author of Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology (2000); Feminist Thought: Desire, Power and Academic Discourse (1994) and The End(s) of Ethnography: From Realism to Social Criticism (1998). She is editor of The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social (2007), a collection of essays by Sociology graduate students drawn from their dissertations.

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