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Sunday, December 13
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books)
by Debashish on December 13, 2009 06:03PM (PST)
(recycled): Dipesh Chakrabarty's book "Provincializing Europe" is an important theoretical study of colonialism and its legacies in India. While [many] works outline the atrocities and dleterious effects of colonialism abound, Chakrabarti, one of the founder-members of the Subaltern Studies movement in Indian (and world) history tells the story from the lesser known side of the strategies used by Indians (in colonial Kolkata) for making an "alternate habitation" of modernity - i.e. adapting it to their own uses. In doing this, he also makes a number of important theoretical points about cultural situatedness and conditions for effective cross-cultural dialog. This review, taken from the London Review of Books is by Amit Chaudhuri, a well-known younger Indian novelist and commentator. more »
Saturday, September 19
Toward a Theory of Phantasmal Media: An Imaginative Cognition- and Computation-Based Approach to Digital Media D. Fox Harrell (C Theory)
by Rich on September 19, 2009 09:53AM (PDT)
The issue of the interface between creative imagination and the regime of computation has been explored several times on SCIY. The difference between imaginito phantasie (fancy or associative imagination) and Imaginito vera (true or creative imagination) was a theme developed by the medieval Alchemist and carried on in the work of such romantics poets as Coleridge who makes the following distinction between Fancy and (creative) Imagination:
The distinction between Fancy and the Imagination rest on the fact that Fancy was concerned with the mechanical operations of the mind, those which are responsible for the passive accumulation of data and the storage of such data in the memory. Imagination, on the other hand, described the "mysterious power," which extracted from such data, "hidden ideas and meaning." It also determined "the various operations of constructive and inventive genius."
What occurs to the eidetic powers of mind when it resides in a mental environment that is ceaselessly bombarded by media images that represent the collective "fancy" of neo-liberal globalization? The question of creating computational platforms to facilitate the interface between the creative imagination of the human subject and the design of software programs will perhaps be an important one for maintaining the integrity of the creative faculties of human consciousness in its future evolution. This article on phantasmal media is a fascinating exploration of the theme. rc.
(Loss, Undersea is a phantasmal media work by the author in which a character dynamically transforms according to undersea metaphors - as in the silhouettes on the right - and poetry is dynamically generated according to affective constraints.)
Rendering this vision of computational expression tangible requires new terminology. The name given to ideal examples of the type of meaning making systems considered in this article is phantasmal media. The term "phantasmal" may summon, for some readers, mental pictures of ghosts, spooks, apparitions, and specters. Yet here it does not refer to those supernatural entities, but rather to the human capacity to construct any other mental images both consciously and unconsciously. The focus is on two related perspectives on the phantasmal. Regarding the first perspective, that phantasmata are conscious mental images, thinkers such as W. J. T. Mitchell have argued that they are closely related to visual images and verbal images as well.  Such mental images comprise a range of meaning phenomena. They are imaginative meanings, but crucially are not restricted to language. They can refer to embodied sensations, cultural contexts, and more abstract ideas. Certainly, all of our engagements with media artifacts are accompanied by the mental work of interpretation. Yet, the focus of the concept of phantasmal media is a type of work that often concentrates (primarily through interactive and generative multimedia) on creating narrative and poetic mental imagery to express artistic and critical statements about the world..... more »
Friday, August 7
by Debashish on August 7, 2009 06:25AM (PDT)
In this article, Andrew Feenberg, a major thinker on culture and technology (more properly the culture of technology) refelcts on globalization and the contribution of national cultural histories to its increasingly systemic pervasion. The specific non-western nation he takes for his illustration and the exploration of a thesis of alternate modernity is Japan. How is modernity technologically assimilated in Japan and how is world modernity shaped by Japanese culture? Is there any cultural distinction which can be spoken of here? Do cultures change as a result of modern technology or do they remain the same? Or can they influence modernity? Or are they capable of alternate modernities? These are some of the questions Feenberg starts with.
In further developing his refelctions, Feenberg draws on the thought of early modern Japanese thinker, Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945). It is interesting to see how Nishida's ideas of the rise of Asia and the concord of national cultures in an organic globalization resembles Sri Aurobindo's thesis on the ideal of human unity. Neo-Hegelian reflections of this kind were an important staple of early modern thought, on the threshold of a wave of world modernization, and Sri Aurobindo's own contribution to this imagining of the future must be read within this discourse. Feenberg points to the ultra-national distortions in Nishida's text, but also to its continued relevance and fertility. - db more »
Tuesday, July 14
by Rich on July 14, 2009 08:25PM (PDT)
So what became of otherness? We are engaged in an orgy of discovery, exploration and “invention” of the Other. An orgy of differences. We are procurers of encounter, pimps of interfacing and interactivity. Once we get beyond the mirror of alienation (beyond the mirror stage that was the joy of our childhood), structural differences multiply ad infinitum – in fashion, in mores, in culture. Crude otherness, hard otherness – the otherness of race, of madness, of poverty – are done with. Otherness, like everything else, has fallen under the law of the market, the law of supply and demand. It has become a rare item – hence its immensely high value on the psychological stock exchange, on the structural stock exchange. Hence too the intensity of the ubiquitous simulation of the Other. This is particularly striking in science fiction, where the chief question is always “What is the Other? Where is the Other?” Of course science fiction is merely a reflection of our everyday universe, which is in thrall to a wild speculation on – almost a black market in – otherness and difference. A veritable obsession with ecology extends from Indian reservations to household pets (otherness degree zero!) – not to mention the other of “the other scene”, or the other of the unconscious (our last symbolic capital, and one we had better look after, because reserves are not limitless). more »
Friday, May 29
by Debashish on May 29, 2009 11:10AM (PDT)
Talal Asad is a Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York. In his self-description, "I am interested in the phenomenon of religion (and secularism) as an integral part of modernity, and especially in the religious revival in the Middle East. Connected with this is my interest in the links between religious and secular notions of pain and cruelty, and therefore with the modern discourse of Human Rights. My long-term research concerns the transformation of religious law (the shari'ah) in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Egypt with special reference to arguments about what constitutes secular and progressive reform."
Asad looks at the phenomenon of modernity as a discourse in Foucauldian terms, marked by the rise of the secular public sphere and the disciplinary institution and apparatus of the nation-state. The inevitable subjugations and investments in ideological choices rooted in the history of the European Enlightenmnt that this implies have led, in his opinion, to our present fractured and violent postcolonial world, where contested uniformities assert their right over the ubiquitous disciplinary space of nation states. But Asad's analyses don't stop short at stating the obvious in a sophisticated language or taking sides either with apologists of religious militancy or secular normalcy. Asad's call is for a dialogic engagement, interrogating the biases, provincial limitations and arbitaray choices within post-Enlightenment modernity through the critiquing of its doxa and nomos by alternate cultural histories, while probing these pre-modern formations for pluralities of interpretation and internal resources of human emancipation.
He thus envisages a postsecular world, in which individuals and groups may co-exist not through the policing of the boundaries of a public sphere by the nation-state, but through the development of alternate social realities of human emancipation. Asad's views are germane to the present situation in India, with the rise of a majoritarian uniformalist Hindutva at the national level and the percolation of its ideological nomos into ashrams such as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The following interview with AsiaSource correspondent Nermeen Shaikh brings a number of his insights to the front. more »
Saturday, April 25
by koantum on April 25, 2009 09:44PM (PDT)
By Carolyn Baker
Something more fundamental — yes, cellular — occurs in my anatomy when I hear that the last two years of economic agony was merely a blip on the radar screen of the capitalist business cycle — yet another momentary whack from Adam Smith's "invisible hand".
I cringe when I hear the words "back to normal" because of what that means to me. "Normal" means hordes of Walmart shoppers stuffing cars and SUV's full of plastics from China and driving off to their suburban homes to devour or display them until the current fix wears off and their shallow, meaningless lifestyles demand yet another "mall injection". Normal means homeowners wearing several tons of house on their backs as they travel by car to jobs they despise to maintain mortgage, taxes, insurance, and upkeep. Normal means total oblivion to the polar bear whose heart exploded during the last half-mile of his frantic swim in search of any tiny chunk of ice on which he could rest in order to regain his strength and continue his quest for food. Normal means infinite patches of sickened brown trees devastated by the mountain pine beetle in an otherwise green Colorado forest. Normal means NASCAR and another nuclear power plant coming online and oceanic dead zones the size of countries. Did you hear? We're going back to normal — to parents working 80 hours a week while their kids become junkies, bulimic, or pregnant. Normal means slamming down more McDonalds Happy Meals chased with Red Bull and Prozac. Normal means that I have nothing to do with nature, and it has nothing to do with me, and furthermore, if I have anything to do with it, I'll do with it whatever the hell I like. Normal means that my reason for being is to consume, stuff my face, watch reality TV, obsess over celebrity gossip, chatter around the water cooler about pirates and tea parties, and grab a couple of hours of Ambien-induced sleep at the end of the day if I'm lucky. more »
Thursday, March 12
The Soul of a City: The Crystal Cathedral as Organizing Metaphor for (post)Modern Architecture at the Bauhaus
by Debashish on March 12, 2009 10:38PM (PDT)
The Bauhaus, founded in 1919 at Weimar, Germany by Walter Gropius, was arguably the most influential school of design in modern times, set up in the form of a residential creative community of designers, craftsmen, architects and artists. As part of its central ideal, Water Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, envisaged a world made up of creative communities united spiritually in and around a materialized soul, which he likened to "a crystal cathedral." Today, Bauhaus influenced architecture is ubiquitous as the symbol of world modernity, but Gropius' dream is far from fulfilled. This article explores the historical dimensions of this ideal, the causes for its failure and the possible conditions for its postmodern manifestation. more »
Wednesday, March 11
by Debashish on March 11, 2009 07:03PM (PDT)
Some relections on the continuing issue of techno-capitalism and post-human futures by Debashish Banerji. This is a first fragment highlighting Moishe Postone's commentaries on the late writings of Marx. more »
Saturday, December 27
by Rich on December 27, 2008 03:01PM (PST)
Spectacular Acts of Terrorism create Events which are designed to shift the public discourse by rupturing processes of dialogue and understanding. A Big Bang such as planes that crash into buildings, or trains that explode, or discotheques that blow up, or a rain of bullets across a city -- brings about a quantum shift in every single aspect of individual perception and public policy -- immediately. This is the deliberate outcome of such Spectacles -- they are planned to disrupt incrementalist and rational development of thought processes at every level of a pluralist functioning state and society. This is why they happen unannounced, this is why they happen simultaneously at multiple locations, and this is why they target places of public prominence.
Who carries out such Spectacular Acts? We hear that the terrorists in Mumbai were young men in jeans with rucksacks who went for carnage with smiles on their faces. It is foolish to assume that the terrorists who go for such Spectacles are desperate people interested in alleviating genuine grievances. Of course, terrorists fight for a cause. But that cause isn't what they kill for; the specificity and legitimacy of their cause (Iraq, Kashmir, Gujarat, Chechya, Afghanistan, whatever they may think it to be) is condensed into the general and universal terms of violence and hatred by those who recruit them and radicalise them. By the time they spray bullets and hold hostages, asking for justice on their own terms, they have long betrayed themselves and become prisoners of manipulated representations. .... more »
Saturday, November 1
by Debashish on November 1, 2008 11:22PM (PDT)
"A man well versed in all disciplines, curious about each and every mystery, father of alphabets, languages, utopias and mythologies, host of paradises and infernos, author, pan-chess player, and perfect astrologer in indulgent irony and generous friendship, Xul Solar is one of the most peculiar events of our times" - Jorge Luis Borges
If the essence of critique, as per Foucault, is the desubjugation of the self in the politics of truth, and if utopias, as per Jameson, represent the limit condition of social critique, Argentinian Xul Solar (1887-1963) is one kind of subject exemplar of the wholesale reconfiguration of modernity. Standing at the initiation of an age of world history which harvests humanity for a totalitarian global market, offers alienation and conditioning in the name of freedom, policed uniformity in the name of creativity and multiculturalism, dromologic deformation in the name of progress, animal lust and aggression cloaked as civilization, Xul Solar, like his friend Jorge Luis Borges, made of his life and its expressions a performance at the margins which opened the cracks to alternate worlds of creative communitarian self-fashioning, poised between internal coherence and external noise, negotiating their realities and truths in real-time. An epic personality, Solar leaves his legacy of the message that it is not through the politics of the democratic vote but through what may seem an eccentric creative aspiration towards global and teleological alternate integralities, resistances to assimilation and an assimilation of resistances, that we may gather the invisible threads and weave the text of a world which makes possible the gnostic community.more »
Monday, October 20
by Ron on October 20, 2008 11:11AM (PDT)
This article is a change of pace from the rather scholarly nature of many of SCIY's articles. It's a true report by a Mexican friend of mine named Alehandra of an unusually detailed dream that turns out to be remarkable synchronistic with events in her life. If it seems a bit too far out, I suggest viewing it as an interesting case study of the cultural imbededness of experiences that seem objectively real. - I can personally attest to the unpretentious honesty of the author. more »
Thursday, October 9
by Ron on October 9, 2008 08:57PM (PDT)
I've taken the liberty of typing in all of Chapter 4 of my copy of this important book, because it powerfully addresses one of the main themes of SCIY, the manifold relationships between science, culture, and consciousness. (ron)
"It is a paradox of the work of Artificial Intelligence that in order to grant consciousness to machines, the engineers first labor to subtract it from humans, as they work to foist upon philosophers a caricature of consciousness in the digital switches of weights and gates in neural nets. As the caricature goes into public circulation with the help of the media, it becomes an acceptable counterfeit currency, and the humanistic philosopher of mind soon finds himself replaced by the robotics scientist. ...
"Both the mechanists and the mystics say that we are now at a great bifurcation in human evolution. The mechanists like Ray Kurzweil, Danny Hillis, and Hans Moravec prophesy that we are at the end of the human era, and that 'nanobots' are about to be embedded in our bodies until our antique organs of flesh are entirely surrounded by a new silicon noosphere of networked computers. Like ancient mitochondria or chloroplasts surrounded by the gigantic eukaryotic cells, we are about to be engulfed in the next evolutionary stage. So the mechanists see noetic technologies surrounding human culture and consciousness and compressing it into an endosymbiont in a larger and swifter and more elegant evolutionary vehicle. ...
"Mystics flip this literalism over to see technology as a system of externalized metaphors that derive from pre-existing ontological modes at play and at large in the universe... For the mystic — be she Cabbalist or Sufi — an angel is a 'Celestial Intelligence' — a form of cosmic noetic organization that does not require a detour through animal evolution. So when Kurzweil claims that by 2030 implanted nanobots in the bloodstream will enable humans to turn off to the outside world to attune to a virtual reality, the mystic would recognize a literalist rendering of the process of meditation. Kurzweil's vision of the world in 2030 reminds me of Borges's 'Library of Babel'. 'I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, useless, incorruptible, secret'.  And here we need to be sensitive to the full force of Borges's use of the word 'Babel'. ... " more »
Tuesday, October 7
by Debashish on October 7, 2008 07:05PM (PDT)
The concluding section on Techno-Capitalism and Post-Human Destinies by Debashish Banerji continues its second installment's reflections on the Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence presented to us as the emerging destiny of post-Enlightenment Modernity and compares this destination with its appropriation and supercession in the Neo-Vedantic teleology of Sri Aurobindo. What are the differences, dangers and promises of these destinies and what are the conditions for achieving an alternate destination? ... more »
Monday, June 16
by Rich on June 16, 2008 11:58AM (PDT)
Not since Marx identified the manufacturing plants of Manchester as the blueprint for the new capitalist society has there been a deeper transformation of the fundamentals of our social life. As political, economic, and social systems transform themselves into distributed networks, a new human dynamic is emerging: peer to peer (P2P). As P2P gives rise to the emergence of a third mode of production, a third mode of governance, and a third mode of property, it is poised to overhaul our political economy in unprecedented ways. This essay aims to develop a conceptual framework ('P2P theory') capable of explaining these new social processes... more »
Saturday, May 10
by Ron on May 10, 2008 05:42PM (PDT)
I met Paul Lonely last night at a friend's gathering. When I told him a bit about SCIY, he said he was an admirer of Sri Aurobindo's epic poem Savitri, and graciously offered to send me a link to his own new book of "post post-modern" poetry: Suicide Dictionary. I've been looking over his website and his work is quite impressive. E.g., see below the words of one of his many enthusiastic reviewers, the artist-musician Michael Garfield. ~ ronjon
I am the voice of a generation starving for an adequate myth. Myths are the carriers and conduits of a vision - the metaphors and narratives around which we organize and accrete our understanding. Every generation has come together within a mythology, and used it to push forward into its fruition. In a way, we are nourished by our myths in return for fulfilling them.
It must be said that my generation has more mythology from which to choose than any before it. We stand before a global buffet of stories, food of all flavors, information crashing in from all sides, an unprecedented panoply of cultural richness. What we lack is an organizing directive, some way to handle all of this humanity without shrinking from its light or dissolving into incoherence at the spectacular diversity of it all. Imagine everyone in the cafe trying to force-feed you simultaneously, and you'll get the idea. In spite of our wealth of culture, we hunger for genuine, hopeful, reconstructive narratives that is, integral myths. Almost no one is telling my generation, or those to come, what to do with this orgiastic diversity of experience. Our myth has been one of dissipation, of dissolution the end of oil, the end of modernity, the end of the biosphere, the end of western hegemony, the end of science, the end of childhood. We are born into a world that has come together just in time to discover it is breaking apart.
But Paul Lonely is changing all of that. What Paul is doing for us - the generation growing up alongside the academic reconstruction of integral theory - is offering us a new mode of experiencing these truths. ... Freed from the conventional trappings of historical spiritual texts, blindingly aware of its own cultural embeddedness and laughing at it compassionately, Suicide Dictionary belongs in a thin pantheon with the paintings of Alex Grey as a message for and from our collective future. It is playful and colorful and fluid, in stark opposition to even the most inspiring theories of the world into which we walk with one eye open. That Paul has used language to communicate this utterly translinguistic vision is a testament to his cleverness his book is winking at all of us from behind the veil, like the Tao Te Ching or its formal predecessor, the Upanishads. Every page rings brightly with the cause to which he is devoted. ... more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler