Okay, I’m heading to the Guthrie tomorrow and will be away from my computer (my eyes and fingers rejoice!), so here is my latest foray into technology philosophy. I thought I’d search for an alternative from all the “Heidegger and time” issues. Fortunately, I found a very well-written article about Deleuze & Guattari’s “spatial view of technology.” (I promise I’ll read a primary source next time!)
This article seemed like a perfect foil to the last article about Heidegger I read. The author, an unknown-by-me named John MacGregor Wise, begins by saying how technology is always considered in terms of temporality (see my post from last Sunday). In what I suspect is remotely similar to McLuhan’s “acoustic space,” Wise says that we gain a more accurate (and surely de-centering) view of technology when considered as “relationships in space between [mulitple] technologies.”
From my limited reading of Delueze and Guattari, they advocate a kind of “rhizomatic” theory which the author, Wise, skillfully compares to a map: “it connects in every which way, opposing tracing.” Any two points are equally (and, to some extent, arbitrarily) relatable, and are informing each other and the network they are in, and vice versa. Okay, that’s actually a bit of an abstract image to imagine, but I think it relates to the internet extraordinarily well. Consider DIGG (of which I am actually a fan of because I try to read “news,” especially for free): it brings a wide array of data bits/news stories together, both informing them and being informed (or morphed) by them.
However, it doesn’t seem to be as “open” as a map, of which you can literally point at any space. This is what all technologies function as: entities which “impinge” on human behavior. One might think Heidegger here, particularly the notion of imposing a kind of “enframement.” But Wise argues that Deleuze and Guattari seek to go beyond the (Heideggarian) idea that technologies are just “a hand and tools,” but rather a “heterogenous assemblage of actors [or parts] articulated together in no necessary way.” This is Deleuze’s disorientingly postmodern idea of a plane of “machining” parts that define and are defined by the network they participate in, but cannot be reduced to.
Furthermore, technologies have an “abstract logic that arranges an aggregate of substances according to its function.” So, again, Digg sorts information according to categories, dates, and “Diggs” and “Buries.” So what we can gain from this spatial view of informing and informed “networks” and “actors” is it prevents us from considering any technology wholly unique. Technology can, “at best, articulate an aggregate of disparate forms” in a new and novel way. So, while Twitter might be a pain and stupid to some people, it is really nearly meaningless (a postmodernist might say) to say “Twitter is dumb” because it is unclear what particular relationship of “actors” and “networks” you are referring to. I think even Heidegger falls prey to this generalization habit.
I think the best sentence, that sums it all up, is: Technology can be considered “an aggregate of disparate substances, shaped by blocks of resonance which are mutual becomings of disparate forms, distributed by particular abstract logics, and articulated to an equally complex and varied plane of Language.”
Okay, that’s a mouthful (or an eye- or a brain- ful), but I think it offers a very nuanced and adaptive look at technology. As a complex system of relationships that cannot be reducible to just one… well, anything. I have to go celebrate Friday now, but look for more of this to come!