The Anthropocene and the End of Postmodernism

In his 1979 book The Postmodern Condition, Jean Francois Lyotard famously described the coming age of postmodernism as a the dissolution of grand narratives, that is, overarching schemes or horizons of thought that move the unifies social forces. “…it is possible,” he wrote, “that these narratives are already no longer the principal driving force behind interest in acquiring knowledge.”[1] From then on, postmodernism became a buzzword, bound up in a nebulous array of definition, counter-definition, debate, celebration, and disgust. It found its application rapidly in the worlds of art, literature, and architecture: postmodern allowed the creator to step outside the conditions of progress and time itself, blending effortlessly the old and the new, the high-brow and the low-brow, the abstract with the concrete.

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The Postmodern Condition is name-checked endlessly, yet something that seems to be repeatedly glossed over is that fact that the argument put forward by Lyotard is a discourse grounded in techno-scientific development, or more properly, an analysis of a new mode of organization emerging from within a new techno-economic paradigm[2] – that of the rise of computing power, and the regime of post-industrial capitalism that it empowered. This is clear from the book’s opening paragraph:

Our working hypothesis is that the status of knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the postindustrial age and cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age. This transition has been under way since at least the end of the 1950s, which for Europe marks the completion of reconstruction. The pace is faster or slower depending on the country, and within countries it varies according to the sector of activity: the general situation is one of temporal disjunction which makes sketching an overview difficult. A portion of the description would necessarily be conjectural. At any rate, we know that it is unwise to put too much faith in futurology.[3]

By pointing to the 1950s as the moments in which postmodernism began its ascendancy, Lyotard is grounding his discourse in the development of the information theory and systems thinking, both interrelated byproducts of World War 2 era scientific research. In the models advanced by these theories, the lines demarcating man and machine – and nature by extension – collapse into an array of feedback loops, distributed flows, and emergent patterns following shifts from equilibria to disequilibria and back again. From one perspective these developments point towards the possibilities of new ethical formations – such was the work, for example, of Gregory Bateson, among others. Yet the sciences were born in the hull of the so-called military-industrial complex, and it was to the twin powers of war and industry and they have largely remained coupled. In elliptical fashion, Lyotard acknowledges this historical composition: coupling “society” to ‘postindustrialization’ and cultural to “postmodernism”, he argues that the “decline of narrative can be seen as an effect of the blossoming of techniques since the Second World War, which has shifted the emphasis from ends of actions to its means; it can also be seen as an effect of the redeployment of advanced liberal capitalism after its retreat under the protection of Keynesianism…”[4]

Neither of these trajectories, in fact, is capable of being separated from one another. As the history traced in Philip Mirowski’s difficult – yet essential – Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science[5] illustrates, the theories that became neoliberal capitalism were themselves honed in the military’s think-tanks alongside research into cybernetics, game theory, operations research and systems analysis, as well as the correlated evolutions in computer technology necessitated by the war effort and the demands of the rising Cold War. These trajectories broke upon unto the international stage in 1972, when the crisis of the dollar’s imminent devaluation led President Nixon (under the advice of Chicago School economist Milton Friedman) to remove the US currency from its gold standard, thereby undermining the worldwide monetary order and demolishing the international regulatory scheme arranged by the post-war Bretton Woods institutions. The result was the dizzying explosion of finance markets: without gold, global interest rates were no longer fixed, and became instead free-floating and flexible. Computerized marketplaces proliferated, opening spaces where futures contracts could be traded across a variety of international currencies. The rise of finance economies around these trading hubs played directly into the evaporating of industrial bases of the dominant world economies, and aided by dynamic modelizations and enhanced communication techniques made possible by information technologies, vast transnational supply chains cris-crossed the globe. No longer did corporations have to kowtow to the regulatory and taxation demands of the state and the costly worker protections of the unions – they now had the freedom to move anywhere in the world, seeking out the lowest possible costs for production. Under the reorganization of global economic systems through neoliberal governmentality and computerization, the largest narrative of them all – that of the state – was repurposed into something else, awash in the dizzying logistics of electronic flow and uneven planes of development.

As I have already said, economic “redeployment” in the current phase of capitalism, aided by a shift in techniques and technology, goes hand in hand with a change in the function of the State: the image of society this syndrome suggests necessitates a serious revision of the alternate approaches considered. For brevity’s sake, suffice it to say that functions of regulation, and therefore of reproduction, are being and will be further withdrawn from administrators and entrusted to machines.[6]

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In the world of the machine, the human becomes something other than human and community something other than community: these body, intersected and traversed by information networks, are cyborg bodies. From a left-wing perspective, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that “Postmodern society is characterized by the dissolution of traditional social bodies”, and then add we must avoid nostalgia for the old, “which when not actually dangerous is at best a sign of defeat. In this sense we are indeed ‘postmodernists.’”[7] From a philosophical-theoretical perspective that shares much of the same foundations as Hardt and Negri (Spinoza, Deleuze and Guattari, the celebration of the affect), Brian Massumi sees in the rise of network technology the possibility of the “bringing to full expression a prehistory of the human”, a “worlding of the human” that marks the “becoming-planetary” of the body itself.[8]

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There is a quagmire here. On one hand, we can follow the postmodern sublime into the traps of the valorization of “immaterial labor”, and engage in a dangerous optimism of a Common hidden inside neoliberalism’s shell. And on the other, the enthusiastic embrace of the possibilities in advanced technology sidesteps the pitfalls of the political deployment of these technologies. Perhaps the best thing we can do is reverse Massumi’s projection, and view the hegemony of the network (and I say ‘hegemony’ because the network itself is simply another technology in neoliberalism’s arsenal) as the “becoming-human” of the planetary body.

And this is why we can proclaim that postmodernism has finally reached its end, and that its entire program has cut itself out at its very roots. One could list forever the ways in which the ‘dissolution of traditional bodies’ has been repelled: the rise of militant religious ideologies and the reassertion of the strong sovereign state, the waning enthusiasm for the neoliberal program and the callbacks towards the Keynesian era, and the rumbling of neo-Luddism, even in the high-tech industry sector. At the same time we can see how the postmodern condition continues to exacerbate itself: it is clear that neoliberalism is here to stay for a while (its particular governmentality is too entrenched[9]), the sovereign state stills operates in a fully transnationalized network, and the rise of violent neo-fundamentalist groups like ISIS are, themselves, postmodern phenomena. Yet the largest bankruptcy of postmodernism is that the grand narrative of human mastery over the cosmos was never unmoored and knocked from its pulpit. Instead of making the locus of this mastery large aggregates of individuals and institutions – class formations, the state, religion, etc. – it simply has shifted the discourse towards the individual his or herself, promising them a modular dreamworld for their participation but more often than not providing only a disciplinary squalor.

For these reasons we can say that the proper end of postmodernism comes in the gradual realization of the Anthropocene: it promises the death of the narrative of human mastery, while erecting an even grander narrative, described eloquently by Timothy Morton as the hyperobject. If modernism was about victory of human history, and postmodernism was the end of history, the Anthropocene means that we are no longer in a “historical age but also a geological one. Or better: we are no longer to think history as exclusively human…”[10]  Perhaps our wanton ignorance of this force, at once geological, chemical, atmosepherical, worldy, is that we cannot see it and cannot grasp it firsthand. We can only feel its effects: droughts and water-rationing, the slow migration of people, food crises that produce incredible political revolutions. The time of the Anthropocene is the time of hyperobjects because it exists on a scale beyond our comprehensions.

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Dating the start of the Anthropocene is problematic. Perhaps the inklings first appeared in the ancient past, when organized agriculture kick-started the development of civilization itself. From this perspective, it is the Virilian integral accident of the invention of civilization. Or maybe we should date it to the Industrial Revolution, with the birth of modern, factory-driven capitalism. The era of postmodernism and postindustrialization certainly hasn’t helped: information technologies, connected to massive server farms and telecommunication infrastructures powered by dirty energy, have been key producers of carbon emissions on a global level. This is particularly true in regards to finance sector economies, with its requirements of integrated planetary computation systems; the proliferation of lap-tops, cell-phones and other smart devices as a part of daily, mobile business (as well as acting as fixtures of everyday life) replicates this same problem. The factories shuttled off to the developing world often operate in an unregulated environment with a disregard for the ecological impact of their production processes, while the logistics hubs, intermodal transport zones, and the ships themselves that cart the goods across the world are major sources of emissions. In the developed world we’re seeing a slow growth in manufacturing sectors that rely not on human labor, but increased in automation technology; one of the drivers of this boom has been the increased accessibility of shale gas, described by many governments as a greener alternative to fossil fuels. But as a report by BP has shown, the rise of shale energies is likely to contribute to a 29% rise in global emissions by 2035.[11] Even if neoliberalism didn’t cause the Anthropocene, it certainly contributed to its acceleration in enormous ways.

There is an irony, then, that our ability to monitor and visualize the unfolding of Anthropocenic forces has come from the same forces that helped put neoliberalism itself into play. Early ecological modeling programs utilized DYNAMO, a programming language developed at MIT by a team led by Jay W. Forrester. Forrester, incidentally, had cut his teeth on computerized complexity at MIT’s Servomechanisms Lab, where he oversaw the research into the Whirlwind computer. One of the essential moments in the history of computational technology, Whirlwind was designed to aid in anti-aircraft firing systems during combat; it worked in conjunction with the SAGE project, which had its own incredible impact on both computers and the emerging economic infrastructures of neoliberalism.[12] Forrester, however, left the realm of the military-industrial complex and pursued the development of industrial dynamics – a complicated application of cybernetic theory to better enable streamline the relationships between production, supply-chains, consumer demand, and inventory levels. While industrial dynamics assisted firms first dipping their toes into the new world of global trade, it also provided Forrester with the tools to go to work on modeling ecological complexity.[13]

Following DYNAMO widespread interest was to be found in the hallways of global governance in modelization technology, with both the United States and the United Nations generating their computer models for tracking environmental conditions. In 1978 the US’s National Research Council launched its National Climate Program, following the recommendations of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. A year later a World Climate Conference was held in Geneva; this spawned the creation of a World Climate Programme, overseen in part by the United Nations. By 1988 the trajectories of these institutions led the United Nations to establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As Paul Edwards discusses in his remarkable A Vast Machine: “With scientists from most nations and government representatives from 193 member nations, the IPCC is a genuinely global organization. It marks the institutional achievement of infrastructural globalism in climate science, the organizational backbone of today’s climate knowledge infrastructure.”[14] He continues:

The IPCC does not conduct scientific research; instead, its purpose is to assess — collect, synthesize, and evaluate — knowledge about climate change, its impacts on people and ecosystems, and the options for mitigating its extent and adapting to its effects. To make this assessment, the IPCC solicits and compares virtually all of the most current research in climate-related fields. Thousands of scientists are involved, either directly (in composing the assessments) or indirectly (as reviewers, or simply as researchers whose work is considered during the assessments). Large teams of contributing authors, organized by smaller teams of lead authors, work to prepare each chapter of an IPCC report. IPCC rules specify that these teams of authors “should reflect a range of views, expertise and geographical representation,”and potential authors from developing nations are recruited aggressively. The 2007 IPCC report involved more than 500 lead authors and thousands of contributing authors from around the world.[15]

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Yet as Edwards makes clear, the knowledge of the Anthropocene organized by the IPCC and related institutions, relies on an incredible transnational network of computers, information sharing platforms, arrays of data-capturing sensors, remote monitoring stations, programs capable of taking this data and modeling atmospheric transitions, chemical processes, and the ways in which a shifting environment can impact the complexity of human society, with its own reams of infinite data. Climate science, he argues is a “global knowledge infrastructure”.[16]

There are multiple reasons, beyond the immediacy of the Anthropocene itself, for why this is essential with grappling with at our current juncture. First is the question of “infrastructure” itself. All physical or even governmental and economic infrastructure in the postmodern world is produced or reproduced through the utilization of a preexisting knowledge infrastructure that more often than not comes to us through computerized modelizations that are themselves subjected to neoliberalism’s techno-economic paradigm. To begin grasping the dynamics of how to transition out of neoliberalism means to engage with the politics of infrastructure, and by extension, the knowledge infrastructure – the ways that knowledge is produced and organized in coordination with particular apparatuses.

The second reason is that the global knowledge infrastructure of climate science stands in stark contrast to the global knowledge infrastructure of neoliberalism itself: instead of utilizing ‘rationalizing’ models to find the best way to efficiently maximize profits at the expense of the human and the social, it deploys a multidisciplinary array of knowledge machines to illustrate impact of the human on the interconnected global meshwork of which the human is only a part.  If “postmodernism” is the cultural byproduct of neoliberal capitalism (to move from Lyotard to Frederic Jameson), then the Anthropocene announces the death of postmodernism and the necessity for neoliberalism’s death, and it through the knowledge of climate science that we can truly grasp the dimensions of this.

This, in turn, brings me to the third reason: if information theory and computers stand at both the beginning and the end of postmodernism, then what we witness is a transformation in the application of the computer itself. Climate science often overlaps with the confusing trajectories of governmentality and statecraft on multiple levels, yet it is a reorganization away from both the needs of warfare and industry as we know it today. The global knowledge infrastructure of climate science is thus a kind of repurposing of technology, and a prototype of the kind of wide-ranging repurprosing that the Anthropocene necessitates. It validates Nick Srnicek and Alex William’s insistence on the need for a left-wing “politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology.”[17]

What comes after postmodernism? Perhaps what we need is a sort of New Modernism, though a different name is sorely needed. Yet it is strangely fitting: a type of modernism, because the grand narratives themselves have been returned to the centrality of development. Modernism itself was an era of schemes: sometimes they were authoritarian schemes (Lenin and Stalin’s brand of Communism, the architecture of Le Corbusier) and sometimes they were bundles of contradictions (the New Deal, Bretton Woods), and other times they were anarchic and imaginative (Soviet Constructivism and Proletkult, Situationism). It is the lattermost that we most can identify with today: unmoored from the traditional territorial bodies of the previous age, they envisioned new formations and ways of living life, and went to work experimenting and testing ways of breathing this life into existence.

We don’t have the benefit of the foundation of abundance that they held up in their horizon, and today perhaps more than then the political cards are stacked against such programs. We do know, however, that the crisis of the now demands something upon us: the dismantling of globalized capitalism, yet such a program cannot proceed without knowing what kinds of social systems, knowledge systems, infrastructural systems can be used to aid in such a monstrous necessity. If we don’t, it is very likely that we have everything to lose.

[1] Jean-Francois Lyotard The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge University of Minnesota Press, 1984, pg. 51

[2] This is a term deployed by economist Carlota Perez to define the economic restructuring that takes place following the introduction of new clusters of technological innovations. For a good overview see Carlota Perez “Technological evolutions and techno-economic paradigms” Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics, no. 20, 2009 http://technologygovernance.eu/files/main/2009070708552121.pdf

[3] Lyotard The Postmodern Condition, pg. 3

[4] Ibid, pgs. 37-38

[5] Philip Mirowski Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science Cambridge University Press, 2002

[6] Lyotard The Postmodern Condition, pg. 13

[7] Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire Penguin Press, 2004pgs. 190, 192

[8] Brian Massumi Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation Duke University Press, 2002, pg. 128

[9] For an analysis of neoliberalism as a modular form of economic governance, see Aihwa Ong Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty Duke University Press, 2006

[10] Timothy Morton Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World University of Minnesota Press, 2013

[11] Fiona Harvey and Terry Macalister “BP study predicts greenhouse emissions will rise by almost a third in 20 years” The Guardian, January 15th, 2014 http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/15/bp-predicts-greenhouse-emissions-rise-third

[12] For a critical history of SAGE, see my “’The SAGE Speaks of What He Sees’: War Games and the New Spirit of Capitalism”

[13] On the evolution from industrial dynamics to DYNAMO, see Jay W. Forrester “Industrial Dynamics – After the First Decade” Management Science, Vol. 14, No. 7, Theory Series (Mar., 1968), pgs. 398-415 http://www.sfu.ca/~vdabbagh/Forrester68.pdf

[14] Paul N. Edwards A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming MIT Press, 2013, pg. 398

[15] Ibid, pg. 399

[16] Ibid, pg. 8

[17] Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams “#Accelerate: a Manifesto for Accelerationist Politics” Critical Legal Thinking May 14th, 2013http://criticallegalthinking.com/2013/05/14/accelerate-manifesto-for-an-accelerationist-politics/

34 responses to “The Anthropocene and the End of Postmodernism

  1. Perhaps we’ve all been too smart for our own good, as my mother would say and so missed the point: it’s how you live your life that matters.

    • ours is an attempt to expose the lies of the possibility of life/situations/assemblages/events/etc being ordered/reasoned/systematized/narrated/etc by assembling surveys/genealogies/etc of the actual workings/machinations of any given subject.

    • It’s a good rant, and you definitely touch on some salient points that certainly overlap with this post – namely, on the bankruptcy of the concept of “postmodernism” as a discursive mode that can be used to dissect power and its effects/affects on social, cultural, and economic assemblages writ large.

      But it is precisely on that point that some things get confused. You’re absolutely right to acknowledge that the dissolution of narrative is a misnomer, and that we persist to be governed by narrative. By a funny little trick – a ‘language game’ as Lyotard would have it – to declare that “grand narratives” are over and then advance analysis based on this notion one is, in fact, *constructing* a grand narrative. You also raise the absolutely essential point that the “dissolution of bodies” trait that Negri, et. al. hone in on is not a transfiguration of postmodernism, but something that emerges from the cultural discourses of modernism itself. Looking at it from this cultural perspective, things like Dada, Surrealism, elements of Situationism, etc., all contain essential characteristics of the postmodern condition. This is turn should lead us to acknowledge another essential factor: many of the critical theorists of postmodernism (Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard, Baudrillard, and Foucault) all draw deep on these very same avant-gardes to explore the conditonalities of their time. We should also observe how many of these theorists (namely Baudrillard and Guattari) were very resistant to being labeled “postmodernists”.

      At the same time, it is clear that some sort of transition has taken place, of which the movement from “modernism” to “postmodernism” is a decent – not great! – descriptor. This transition is primarily in the shifting modes of economic and technological organization, and the subsequent after-effect to be felt in cultural systems. This would be the movement from the height of the industrial civilization (organized by Taylorism in the arrangement of bodies in productive space, Fordism in the logic of production itself, and the Keynesian welfare state in governance) to a post-industrial society, where computerized technics, finance markets, and deregulated debt systems become the defining characteristics of socio-economic life. This brings us intellectual work, automation, service sector jobs and flexible labor instead of the factory, global production and supply-chains over the localism of the factory, and neoliberal economics in lieu of Keynesian solutions. In this sense, both Lyotard (asserting that postmodernism is correlated to postindustrialization) and Jameson (postmodernism is the cultural logic of ‘late capitalism’) are absolutely correct.

      One can counterpose the fact that the Taylorist/Fordist/Keynesian arrange didn’t evaporate in the shift to postindustrialization, but were simply shifted geographically. This is true: the activities in the factories of the ‘developing world’ are Taylorist-Fordist, and in the 70s at least Keynesian-inspired economics became a factor of governance through the promotion of “developmentalist” programs. Neoliberalism, when taken on the global level, is a series of uneven planes of development, with post-Fordism riding on the back of Fordism. Thus we would have a distinctive overlap between “modernism” and “postmodernism”, yet this too is confused between the “peripheral Fordism” we’ve seen powering post-Fordist economies is itself modulated, on governmental, regional, and factory levels, through neoliberal governmentality. As it stands it still retains essential Fordist characteristics, but looks less and less like it with each passing year and with each application of structural adjustment programs. It becomes an issue of subsumption of modes of production within other ones, and all boundaries between them simply become fuzzy.

      Looking at it from this trajectory, I would reason that whatever the hell it is that we’re calling “postmodernism” is more of a discursive symptom of passage,and not the ‘container’ of the epoch itself. My concern is that postmodernism it in itself a reduction, and to continue to utilizing at a foundation of analysis, we’ve missing on the dynamic particulars of our time. Thus my proclamation of “the end of postmodernism” is very much a rhetorical maneuver, to counterpose the very seriously taken idea of the death of “grand narratives” with the grand narrative of the Anthropocene itself, which by its metabolic nature demands that we begin thinking and acting differently and move outside out-dated frameworks that govern our regions of thought. The point that I hope to drive home is that to declare ‘this is a postmodern age’ is, within the blink of an eye, to close the door on postmodernism. I supposed we have always been modernists, but I think we need to reinvigorate many of the impulses that were characteristic of modernism, but not to the grand, ground-zero type of ambitions they were pursuing.

      • I don’t think we are (or can be) “governed by narrative” not as individuals nor as assemblies of individuals.

      • Thanks for the thorough reply!
        Like I said in the piece, having not read as widely as I should, I’m likely throwing the baby out with the bathwater on this one – I was rightfully chastised on FB for it earlier.
        It’s a tough going that we are forced to use these terms which are necessarily so large as to contain internal contradictions – on the one hand, under “modernism” we have the desire to order existence, and break it to our will, and yet, belonging just as appropriately under the same name, we have the struggle to find some safe harbour in an uncaring maelstrom of a world. Perhaps they are merely sides of the same coin, the former collapsing into the latter.
        I’m loathe to chalk much up to “human nature” when I don’t have to, but, we are embodied individuals, and this does put real, physical limitations on what is possible for us to do and understand. I’ve been sliding, of late, into thinking that the systems in play, they are too big for us to comprehend, or, rather, even if, with the assistance of machinery and the appropriate narrative, we can glimpse the operations of these world-systems obliquely, we still cannot hope to direct or control them.
        What little we’ve been able to piece together of our species’ history seems to bear this out, but it doesn’t say very hopeful things about our abilities to confront our imminent hurdles.

  2. Another beautifully written piece, and an example, I think, of the dilemma of the social theorist apres post-modernism. What will the effect of 3-D printing be? What will the effect of truly smart phones be? In the case of the first, we could plausibly see the concentration of production efficiencies driving the transnationalization of capital crumble upon its own limestone foundations, and wither away. In the case of the second, we could see ‘commercial conscience’ apps informing consumers about the production histories of any product they might purchase, thus robbing the system of the opacity it requires to function.

    Post-modernism can be seen as the result of institutionalizing the systematic application of deliberative cognition to human behaviours. Once we begin to recognize our behaviours, communicative or otherwise, we cease to automatically repeat them. We repeat them sure, but with an awareness of paths not taken. What was a matter of cultural psychosis becomes a matter of cultural neurosis! What do we get? Speciation. An explosion of emergent ‘norms,’ one made possible by the absence of material want. Repetition, the surety of success in times technical stasis, suddenly becomes a liability in a wild variety of social contexts, particularly the economic, where innovation begins delivering boggling rewards.

    But these innovative behaviours (communicative or otherwise) all found themselves constrained by our ancient (oft-repeated) biology as well as innumerable physical constraints pertaining to production and distribution. This is why we could dare to theorize: the invariants were such that structures and dynamics could be isolated and critiqued, and that reforms could be thought through to some extent–and even more importantly, sold as credible diagnoses and prognostications, and so motivating reform.

    Is this the case anymore? The collapse in grand politically motivating narratives is definitely due to the collapse of the only game in town effect that simply follows from adducing innovative alternatives: never has it been easier to generate uncertainty. But it’s also due to the *collapse of the future,* the fact that our extrapolations, even the limited kind required for political advocacy are being reduced to science fiction. Once the rate of technical transformation rate of a society exceeds the social diffusion rate of any diagnosis of that society, then the theorist is doomed to wait out the end with Essene’s, aren’t they? Solutions, be they too little or too large, will always be too late.

    • Wow, what a thorough and heady response! I’m certainly not as well-versed in the nuances of the cognitive sciences are you are – economic and technological history with a background in certain strands of political militancy are more my bag, but there is definitely attention and much-overdue discussion needed to be had between these two realms, so I’ll respond to the best of my ability.

      –Post-modernism can be seen as the result of institutionalizing the systematic application of deliberative cognition to human behaviours. Once we begin to recognize our behaviours, communicative or otherwise, we cease to automatically repeat them. We repeat them sure, but with an awareness of paths not taken. What was a matter of cultural psychosis becomes a matter of cultural neurosis! What do we get? Speciation. An explosion of emergent ‘norms,’ one made possible by the absence of material want. Repetition, the surety of success in times technical stasis, suddenly becomes a liability in a wild variety of social contexts, particularly the economic, where innovation begins delivering boggling rewards.

      I believe what you’re describing here is an evolution from a homogenous framework in behavior patterns towards a heterogeneity of options, correlated to an overall shift from the limited, perhaps territorially-based handful of possibilities offered by the older modes or organizations of production-distribution, to one of globally integrated arrangements marked by higher degrees of cultural transfusion and technological diffusion. There’s definitely something to be said about the way in which repetition, that logistical icon of ‘high’ modernism, has been replaced by a strange sort of difference. But as you point out, in the face of sheer of difference there is a retreat backwards into a repetitious mode, a broad refusal of the dizzying possibilities of the present. There’s an interesting throwback to the Accelerationist lineage of post-structuralist theory to be found here: we’re offered with the image of deterritorialization, the constant breakdown of the old paving way for the new earth. But we’ll never have a ‘new earth’ because deterritorialization on that scale simply won’t happen – it will constantly reterritorialized back into the most archaic of modalities. People will rather turn away in horror from the so-called dissolution of their traditional bodies; maybe some will go on the hunt for the Ummah, or others will simply continue business as usual, refusing to look beyond the blinkers. Which feeds into your next point…

      –But these innovative behaviours (communicative or otherwise) all found themselves constrained by our ancient (oft-repeated) biology as well as innumerable physical constraints pertaining to production and distribution. This is why we could dare to theorize: the invariants were such that structures and dynamics could be isolated and critiqued, and that reforms could be thought through to some extent–and even more importantly, sold as credible diagnoses and prognostications, and so motivating reform.

      Is this the case anymore? The collapse in grand politically motivating narratives is definitely due to the collapse of the only game in town effect that simply follows from adducing innovative alternatives: never has it been easier to generate uncertainty. But it’s also due to the *collapse of the future,* the fact that our extrapolations, even the limited kind required for political advocacy are being reduced to science fiction.

      I certainly don’t think it’s the case anymore! You point to the the ‘science fictionization’ of theorizing alternatives; this is also being compounded with the fact that much theory is operating *exactly* like everything: outdated frameworks that cannot possibly address complexity on the scale that we must grapple with today. Fearful of opacity, it can only resurrect the comfortable abstractions of its forefathers, in the case of even more deplorable theorists, the abstractions of those their forefathers rejected. This exact same paradigm operates in the realm of theory’s cousin, political militancy. Having participated in a slew of movements and groups over the past decade, I’ve seen remarkable things and met incredible people, full of energy and an eye to the future, but I’ve also seen how dissidenting political agencies replicate same patterns of organization, sloganing, and tactical manueverings as their predecessors with the same degree – shock of shocks! – failure. Like theory, it either falls into repetition or simply comments upon itself… high-level theorizing, looking into the whole complex arrange before us, is traded for a case-by-case basis of emergence, clash, retreat. That’s why keeping abreast of technological and economic transformations, and the even more radical possibilities that these can provide, needs to be the centerpiece of theory and action. It’s one of the motivating reasons for the [Re]Build project me and Dirk are trying to get started.

      –What will the effect of 3-D printing be? What will the effect of truly smart phones be? In the case of the first, we could plausibly see the concentration of production efficiencies driving the transnationalization of capital crumble upon its own limestone foundations, and wither away. In the case of the second, we could see ‘commercial conscience’ apps informing consumers about the production histories of any product they might purchase, thus robbing the system of the opacity it requires to function.

      This is really one of the more exciting things to be considering right now. We’re right on the cusp of a major technoeconomic transformation that everyone, from the everyday worker to the government technocrat, seems reluctant to contemplate. The things is that the beginnings of this transformation are already here, and have been for a while. It can be felt within the vanishing job base and wage stagnation at the onset of the 1980s, kicking off the cyclical debt crises that have rocked the developed world every several years since. It’s going to continue to be felt as even service sector jobs are gobbled up by automation, and then the so-called ‘intellectual labor’… it’s certainly going to be felt in the long-run with the increased automation of the developing world itself: we will find ourselves on a globe of production, but no way to participate in the circulating the subsequent supply. One possibility is the rise of artisinal economies based around 3-D printing and other desktop manufacturing techniques, but these will most likely be smaller, regionally-oriented economies that completely disrupt the economies of scale that large-scale finance markets require to keep doing what they do. Another possibility is the implementation of a basic income to help separate people from the necessity of labor, but we’ll have much to do to work out the kinks of things like inflation and other contradictions that made the earlier Keynesianist systems untenable. Whatever route we go, the world won’t look like it does now – and to the old modes, I say good riddance! But without some sort of plan to go forward we’ll find ourselves in a system not at all prepared at all to reality itself, and such a thing would be nothing short of apocalyptic..

      • Fully Automated Luxury Communism-> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmQ-BZ3eWxM

        On UBI…I’ve seen a lot of left intellectuals and militants talk about this but it is flawed and for one basic reason: universal income would effect the separation of income from work, and therefore it would be the very basis of communist postcapitalism. Capitalists aren’t going to give us that. I think they would sooner deploy drones against us or round us all up in a Children of Men style dystopia, or if those are too lunatic to consider then shit…when was the last time we had a proper world war?

        D’you have any sources on the automation of the developing world Edmund? As far as I am aware the “end of the spatial fix” hasn’t yet resulted in the end of labour being cheaper than machinery….but I’m not great at keeping on top of political economy (I blinked & everyone else seems to have become an expert though lolz).

        The big problem for me with Full Automation within regions with geopolitical and climactic-resource stability is power, and I mean energy. How do we power a fully automated infrastructure after the petrochemical era that doesn’t seem to be ending soon enough, ending though it is? And if we find the means to power it we’re back at the problem of they ain’t gunna give it to us. If we get an efficient effective renewable Green Capitalism we get a renewed capitalism and secular crisis is suddenly not so final. Of course I’m all for this rather than the horrible obliteration of infrastructural collapse- Scotland is doing well on this front with its 100% renewables target- and I’m a big fan of the #solarpunk stuff kicking about.

    • The collapse of the future has too quickly been forgotten in the heady delirium of Left Accelerationist hallucinations of utopia- well meaning, worth having, “motivating” delusions I’m sure but from the psychopolitical (or should that be neuropolitical?) diagnostic machinery its all too much of the post-bereavement profile about it. Is it still legitimate to talk about this kind of thing? Of cultural psychosis? If it is then this is it. There is a lot of find useful in Alex and Nick’s manifesto and I’m waiting on the book, as well as on the Xenofeminist Manifesto, and if we’re going to determine to stick around on the planet, and we’re not about to go against our most basic biowiring just yet, then some kind of “automated communism” [I’ll delete the “luxury” for now- it being a rhetorical device] is going to be the best option. If I am still a communist I am a disaster communist.

      But for some of us. In some places. Probably us. Yes. It’s true. The catastrophe is unfolding but the material collapse is going to be very strangely distributed. 3D printers are going to coexist with deserts. Smartphones with a psychology provoked by rising temperatures into ever more short-fused outburst of pathological violence. It’s important we not be seduced by one vision over the other: I’m a Dark Accelerationist- a technoutopian doomer. Perhaps this region will flourish into a postcapitalist dream, while over here failed states will clog the hope for global emancipation. In a lot of places, and probably more of them as time goes on, infrapolitics will consist of survivalist strategies.

      The 3D printer scenario is, I agree, one in which we could see the foundations of private property vanishing via the communization of the means of production. But do we really imagine it’ll vanish without a fight? I was so excited a few years ago when I heard about 3D printers, then again the first time I played with one, but the acceleroes recognise that it’s a question of tech+struggle.

      Once we get a “politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology” that makes use of complex statistical modelling I think we’ll start to see the field of distribution looking a lot less like that envisaged by utopians- even if the clause of utopia is always capped with the caveat of imagination.

      Marc Auge, discussing the future, the idea and the possibility of the future, says today everyone who is engaged in a project is utopian because there are no longer guarantees it will come to effect. Okay. Well I say everyday life is the project. I say under these conditions getting through today, tomorrow, the day after without killing yourself or anyone else is an (dubious) achievement.

      The role of the social theoriest apres postmodernism is the same as that of the activist insofar as the latter works on their cognitive calibrations/orientations: to avoid the bipolarity of manic psychoses and depressive slumps- both of which are equally suicidal. Sure this depressive realist stance won’t win friend and influence people, and I tend not to say it out loud at the anarchist organizations I’m involved in, but there we have it.

      First of all then survival. This is a Darwinian statement. It’s simply a recognition that we don’t kill ourselves for some reason. We persist, and in order to persist in such and such a way we first must keep persisting. So survivalism comes before all other questions. The specific claim about ‘the collapse of politically motivating narratives’ was made by Simon Critchley as well in his Infinitely Demanding, and it was responded to by Alberto Toscano who said (paraphrasing) “when it’s you who is neck deep in shit you’ll soon find yourself fucking motivated”. Or, alternatively, we’ll shrug our collective shoulders and finally let go off all the bullshit.

      (btw, ethical apps are already with us but don’t seem to have been taken up. As you said we’re still- for now- lumbered with the same biology as our ancestors; specifically, with the same emotional systems that don’t actually want to look at just how destructive we’re being……http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/feb/04/app-ethical-shopping)

      • Hi Arran,this is a response to your first post above regarding fully automated luxury communism. I’ll take a gander at the long one after the coffee finishes brewing!

        I agree that fully automated luxury communism is problematic, as well as the basic income angle. First comes in the important issue you raised in regards to energy (something I hinted to in this essay) – automation is primarily backed on fossil fuels, and the acceleration of automation, like all areas of information technology, is going to increase carbon emissions on an exponential scale. These effects can be ameliorated with the introduction of renewable energy sources, but contrary to the so-called ‘market rules’ it’s extremely doubtful that capital will willingly retool itself to meet this shifting demand. Second is this very notion of luxury, which really seems antiquated in light of the Anthropocenic force that simply overshadows and must direct any move beyond capital. How can we even talk about ‘luxurious living’ when our cultures of excess and waste can be recognized as the lie sold to us that powers neoliberalism? Fully Automated Luxury Communism becomes an idealistic face of the California Ideology-turned-Accelerationist trajectory of technological discourse; it reminds me all too much of Kevin Kelly and the enthusiasm for the cybernetics of the ‘New Economy’ back in the 1990s.

        As for basic income, it too almost certainly wouldn’t emerge organically from within capitalism and the present stateform, and even if it did it’s doubtful that it would be sustainable at all if the contemporary frameworks of class, uneven spatial development, and wage-labor. Keynesianism was foreward thinking but its eventual collapse under real economic pressures – namely, the processes of development following the Second World War finally ran their courses – shows just how unsustainable it is in the long-run (neoliberalism, meanwhile, can quite easily be read as a series of fix-its or stop-gaps dealing with cyclical crises emerging from this moment). Ditto for the breakdown of the labor – wages paradigm: it should be clear that capital in no way will ever allow us to walk away from work. The fact that labor hours have never been decreased without militant intervention – and even then, they haven’t decreased in America since the 1930s! – as opposed to the intervention of time-saving technology lets us know what labor itself is an arrangement of control. Today, technology isn’t used to save time, it’s used to make us busier. Apps and start-ups are blossoming that have people deliver groceries to your house, people up our laundry, and dispatch on-demand vets to tend to pets. Sounds great, but it’s no structural change, and all-in-all, these market for these are those who simply need to increase their ‘work productivity’. Not only would one have to fight capital to move away from labor, one has to fight amongst themselves.

        As for automation in the third world… I’ll have to go through by computer, Arran, and dig up the file. It’s from a US Department of Labor analysis that concerns itself, among other things, with the “reshoring” of jobs, which itself is interesting: conservative politicians here are able to whip together a support base by proclaiming the return of manufacturing jobs from overseas. The irony is that these factories are coming back automated, with negligible job growth. In fact, the minor job growth we’ve had post-financial crisis (and I imagine this is true elsewhere) is in the service sector, defined by an extreme precarity hiding under the buzzword of ‘flexibility’. In the Third World, with the decline of even cheap manufacturing labor, the service sector grows with even higher levels of precarity. Coupled with the capital’s inability for wage increase and a shifting of the system to meet these and environmental demands, the outlook isn’t very good at all…

      • The utopians want to be able to imagine so as to be better able to act. act. act. let them have a utopian imagination. I think most of us here are busy working through the fallout of what exists. The new utopianism is another way of coping and- like Badiouian Idea of Communism talk- it is a faith-based logic,

  3. David Graeber, Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of our own Dreams

  4. Hi Edmund!
    You say:

    “The global knowledge infrastructure of climate science is thus a kind of repurposing of technology”

    Could you elaborate on that a bit? Particularly in the case of modeling. Given that modeling itself is a product of military-industrial structures and knowledge production and comes with its own political baggage I believe that whether or not it is a repurposing of infrastructure depends significantly on the methods and circumstances in which it is deployd. Just wondering if you could talk a little more about how climate models are repurposing and under what conditions other models might be the same.

    • Hi Jeremy!

      –Could you elaborate on that a bit? Particularly in the case of modeling. Given that modeling itself is a product of military-industrial structures and knowledge production and comes with its own political baggage I believe that whether or not it is a repurposing of infrastructure depends significantly on the methods and circumstances in which it is deployd. Just wondering if you could talk a little more about how climate models are repurposing and under what conditions other models might be the same.

      Certainly!

      It seems to me that if we’re going to really be able to approach neoliberal capitalism as a global force to analyze (and hopefully dismantle) we have to pursue it not only through sociological, economic, psychological, and governmental registers, but approach it as a certain organizational arrangement unique to its technological paradigm. The reality of it is, as you point out, that this technology’s origins lay in the military-industrial complex (and in the social sciences to which it is wed). This analysis is of course nothing new, and has charted with incredible rigor by people like Philip Mirowksi and Paul Edwards, among a great deal of others.

      Perhaps this is the Marxist in me, but it’s hard not to see the way this technology has been leveraged as a means to uphold systems that have evolved from the older forms of capitalism; primarily, I’m referring to the consistent liquidation of labor power made possible by computerized financial on one hand, and the globalization of labor itself across uneven space. As such, the existing infrastructure is deployed in a way that is congruent with the neoliberal ideology – it serves to uphold the system while also reproducing it on a variety of scales. The work of Keller Easterling is particularly remarkable in this regard, showing us how information technology techniques – modeling key amongst them – is used to remake social spaces to better serve economic orders.

      What this amounts to, besides the physical infrastructure of global flows, is a regime of knowledge that is supports the system that upholds it. I won’t go into the long-detailed history of it (I’m currently at work on a book laying out much of this history, in fact), but the co-development of neoliberal knowledge sets and infrastructure systems emerges from techno-scientific R&D under the shadow of World War 2, and is really contingent on the interactions between various labs and funding bodies cutting a vast swath across may disciplines, from cognitive science to electrical engineering. For example, X engineer working on rudimentary modeling systems for anti-aircraft batteries might receiving funding from a certain institution; he might encounter X economist working on statistical research for bomber squadrons who will apply said model; the initial institution might be subsidizing a behavioral economics group who then finds new application of the model is better determining the way actors work in a given market place. What you end up with is a certain “value set” (to borrow from the neoconservative vocab) that is reflective of the conditions of knowledge produced from a specific institutional culture and the way they work with their infrastructural apparatuses.

      This is where repurposing enters the picture. I chose to highlight the career of engineer/cybernetician Jay Wright Forrester for just this very reason – this is a person whose career ran from working with fire control at the MIT Rad Lab, to working on the SAGE and Whirlwind computer systems, to taking the developments from each and crafting industrial dynamics. In short, he plays a very unacknowledged role in the world we know today. Yet his work with DYNAMO (the modeling system designed to work through the complexities of industrial dynamics) was repurposed by himself and several others to look at the complexities of ecological issues; this work was carried out on behalf of several large industrial firms, yet the result was the emergence of a new “value set” that ran completely contrary to the neoliberal regime of knowledge. A similar trajectory can be traced through the development of sensors, initially devised (once again) to work with the feedback systems of anti-aircraft batteries, and then found their higher application in coordinating bombing strikes again in Vietnam (in a fascinating account of insurgent repurposing, the Viet Cong would trick these sensors to draw the US into irrelevant bombing campaigns that allowed the guerrillas to move undetected). Today sensor technologies are mostly found tracking consumer activities, enabling a far more complex form of industrial dynamics that alerts strategic points in supply chain processes when supplies are purchased. Yet when these same sensors are yanked out of the neoliberal infrastructure and utilized to analyse ecological emergence, a radically different picture emerges that contradicts the governing principles of contemporary life.

      There’s a far more synthetic argument to be developed here concerning the production of knowledge in regards to infrastructural apparatuses, but I’ve yet to really go down that rabbit hole. The fact is that the revelations concerning our ecological conditions contradicts dynamics of neoliberal capitalism – even if they are each contingent on an overlapping filiation of technology. This doesn’t mean, of course, that climate science will deliver us from neoliberalism – because neoliberalism is one of many oppressive systems. But we can make excellent use of climate science and the technology that produces it, hopefully to drive further more tangible forms of repurposing that can be found.

      I hope that clarifies things a little…

      • This is all fascinating, and I’ll have to follow up on some of your citations and previous work. I’ve read Edwards, and others, but my focus has been more on modeling as practice and performance. I’m doing an ethnographic study of water quality modeling in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. While I’m beginning to recognize the value of a watershed scale model like the Chesapeake Bay Model, I am still wary of it because it’s origin is in a highly technocratic institution. I’m interested in smaller scale, participatory, and collaborative approaches to modeling and so I’m working on a comparative analysis with other modeling projects in the region. This is why I ask about the context of modeling – is it still repurposing if it reinforces hierarchical state relationships? But if the smaller scale models aren’t as effective, does it matter? Not questions you have to answer, but things I’m looking at in my research. Thanks for the response – if you have any other suggestions for literature research, let me know.

      • JT, as far as research goes it would/should be enough to demonstrate the comparative affordances and resistances of the alternative models. If you are really invested in a kind of representative/localized ethos (where the people who have to live with/in the results have some say in the process) than I don’t think one should as a researcher try and game the political processes that will come after your work before hand but rather offer up some thick examples of working prototypes so that the people at hand can have some alternatives and hopefully avoid the tyranny of the means.

    • Hello Jeremy,

      You raise a really critical point when it comes to approaching the question of relationship between technologies and technocracy: “While I’m beginning to recognize the value of a watershed scale model like the Chesapeake Bay Model, I am still wary of it because it’s origin is in a highly technocratic institution.” This question is near-universal in our world – while I don’t think we can reduce the mechanics of a machine to its origins, we also can’t attribute to it a neutral agency. To sidestep into my own work, automation seems really exemplary in this regard. On one hand it, it’s a time saver that could potentially that could serve to breakdown the tethering of the human to shitty labor, or at the very least shrink the working day. But it hasn’t been that, and it’s been the exact opposition, precisely because it remains wedded to technocratic institutions and their idiosyncratic – and sadly dominant – regime of knowledge.

      Regarding ecology and watershed modelings, I’m remind of a line from Guattari’s “Three Ecologies” – “Despite having recently initiated a partial realization of the most obvious dangers that threaten the natural environment of our societies, they [political power] are generally content to simply tackle industrial pollution and then from purely technocratic perspective.” What is interesting is that Guattari’s own work is really concerned with models (beginning with Lacanian models but moving all through technological practices, which is really where Lacan’s models came from anyways), or more properly with the hacking of models – he defined his practices as ‘meta-modeling’, which seeks not a universality (as modeling from Herbert Simon on attempt), but a way to escape from universality. I’ve gradually come to feel that many of these theories don’t have much to offer us at this turn, but meta-modeling, however elusive and esoteric, is something that has stuck with me… Of course, that isn’t to say even higher advances in onto-technological shifts can’t be rebounded back into power’s organizations. Industrial dynamics, as well as the theories and models underpinning financialization, ran up into real limitations based on its relative linearity and inability to cope with instability. But then scientific theories of complexity, chaos, and emergence collided with capital under the aegis of the Santa Fe Institute in the late 80s and early 90s, and these actors became the gurus of the so-called “New Economy”. What happened then was the growth of modeling techniques that drove an economy based on not only ‘what is’ but ‘what will happen’ and ‘what could be’. We also get, however, from this complexity turn, people like Stengers, Latour, Pickering, Barad, etc.

      I guess this is a really complex way to say that we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is still essential to conduct political struggles in the ‘traditional’ sense but it’s not enough to lobby the government for a regulation here, and a protection here. If we can’t find a way to break technology and modes of knowledge from neoliberal technocracy, the best these things can do is contribute to more efficient regimes of capital. So for that reason, that wonderful question you ask “is it still repurposing if it reinforces hierarchical state relationships? But if the smaller scale models aren’t as effective, does it matter?” I would say that it is repurposing, but perhaps not in the full sense required. Dirk also offers a reply that is fundamental in this regard: “I don’t think one should as a researcher try and game the political processes that will come after your work before hand but rather offer up some thick examples of working prototypes so that the people at hand can have some alternatives and hopefully avoid the tyranny of the means.” Can your work be a ‘meta-model’ that points outwards, to something else?

      “Thanks for the response – if you have any other suggestions for literature research, let me know.”

      A lot of this will be discussed in my coming work, which is slow going. Some of the tip of iceberg has filtered onto my Deterritorial Investigations Unit blog, but I would be happy to share some of my materials with you. Let me know! In the meantime, as you probably know, Edward’s “A Vast Machine” is a fantastic and sweeping resource. Have you read his earlier book, “The Closed World”? It’s very much a prequel, tracing the evolution of computers and modeling through the Cold War. Also, a good text is Mirowski’s “Machine Dreams”, which covers the co-evolution of neoliberal economic theory and computerized simulation and modeling techniques. It’s pretty difficult and desperately needed an editor, but there’s good pdf copy over at Monoskop. Andy Pickering’s “The Cybernetic Brain” is a good portrayal of divergent trajectories from this very tradition, and I think Monoskop has that too. There’s a ton more, but I’ll have think on it for a minute.

      • Hey Edmund,
        Right, I think this is why I am interested in the contexts of use for modeling and the way that the models themselves shape those contexts. The Chesapeake Bay Model couldn’t exist anywhere but the Chesapeake Bay Program. That’s not to say that it is responsible for the Bay Program in a kind of technodeterminist way, but that the institution and the model have a reciprocal relationship – one affecting the other and vice versa. We’ll have to see how it plays out, I guess, but I’m hoping to provide more insight into how models can be used in different contexts to restructure relationships between actors within a “socio-ecological system” (I put that in quotes for reasons I can’t go into here). I’ve read Vast Machine, not Closed World, but will check it out now. I’ve also not read Machine Dreams, but have read The Cybernetic Brain. I stumbled upon a great set of essays in a book called Simulation: Pragmatic Construction of Reality – if you haven’t seen that one yet, I suggest taking a look.
        Thanks again, I look forward to seeing where your research leads!

    • –Right, I think this is why I am interested in the contexts of use for modeling and the way that the models themselves shape those contexts. The Chesapeake Bay Model couldn’t exist anywhere but the Chesapeake Bay Program. That’s not to say that it is responsible for the Bay Program in a kind of technodeterminist way, but that the institution and the model have a reciprocal relationship – one affecting the other and vice versa. We’ll have to see how it plays out, I guess, but I’m hoping to provide more insight into how models can be used in different contexts to restructure relationships between actors within a “socio-ecological system” (I put that in quotes for reasons I can’t go into here).

      Exactly, and that’s something that needs much further probing. When it comes to the issues of modeling and simulation,we can’t really talk any more about the philosophical separation between the “map and the territory”. This isn’t to say that the proper turn is to lurch into a Baudrillardian hysteria – it calls on us to understand the bleed-through between the two, or how they operate in their own kind of cybernetic systems of development via feedback loops.Which is precisely what Gregory Bateson and his colleagues started to do with their “reflexive turn”, where the observers and their cultural contexts need to be brought into the question of the object or system that they are observing. I feel that it thus needs a class analysis and a theory of hegemony (and whatever guise these go in today) to grasp the particularities of infrastructural protocol.

      Would love to hear more about your work on the Chesapeake Bay Program. As I understand, that’s a massive project with participants from pretty much each sector, yeah? I’m especially intrigued by your comments about the way the modeling programs interact with the political ecology of the project at large. I don’t know if you saw it, but me and dmf have been setting up a project called [Re]Build that looks at these types of things alongside cataloging tactics, strategies, and tools for pragmatic solutions to the present. There’s a guy onboard who is doing a lot of grassroots work on the intersection between technopolitics and ecological issues surrounding watersheds – among other things – in the midwest regions. If you’re interested in any of this, let me know!

      –“I stumbled upon a great set of essays in a book called Simulation: Pragmatic Construction of Reality – if you haven’t seen that one yet, I suggest taking a look.”

      Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll have to check that out!

  5. Pingback: Hacking Modeling | The Model and the Territory·

  6. Pingback: Hacking Modeling | Struggle Forever!·

  7. Reblogged this on Critical Fantasies and commented:
    Read Edmund Berger on the meaning of the Postmodern turn in philosophy, resulting from the rise of systems theory and cybernetic sciences. This cursory history hits some of the most important factors that shaped the composition of forces across the earth including the climate forces of the earth itself. The creation and implementation of new machines in the second half of the 20th century have networked human societies in such a way that our imagination of a political future must reckon with. Any sustainable image of the future in the age of climate change and the anthroposcene, and therefore philosophical-conceptual framework from which to elaborate it, will involve an intertwining of human social forms and earth forces.

    When researching politics at the earth scale, we must pay attention to the history of imperialism and the variety of techniques used to subjugate peoples. At the highest levels, the international policies and agreements forged by the U.S.A. and detailed by Michael Hudson in SuperImperialism go along way in giving us present day neoliberalism. Geopolitics, which includes monetary forces and debt enforcement as well as raw material extraction, alliance make-up, and topography, has largely been shaped by U.S. foreign policy since WWII. We must think of a post-neoliberal social system together with a geopolitics post-U.S. hegemony.

  8. Pingback: Paper at Theorizing the Web: Synthetic Subjects·

  9. Pingback: Algorithmic Narratives and Synthetic Subjects·

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