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Friday, October 2
by Rich on October 2, 2009 12:50PM (PDT)
This is an excellent attempt to think technology in terms of art and spirituality. Jackson 2Bears is both a member of the Haudenosaunee First Nations Peoples of Canada and an astute Theorist of culture and technology. His presentation given in this video at the Critical Digital Studies Workshop sponsored by Arthur Kroker and The University of Victoria is an excellent attempt to think through the technological unconscious in terms of the collective unconscious and traditional spirituality of the First Nations People. His comparison of the role of the mask in indigenous spirituality and the virtual reality mask that transports us to cyberspace is a fascinating one.
Jackson 2Bears The Technological Unconscious, Animism and the Uncanny This paper takes an interdisciplinary approach to the question of technology by examining points of convergence between Jungian psychoanalysis and Indigenous philosophy. The theoretical trajectory of the text will consider traditional Haudenosaunee cosmologies as a way of re-thinking contemporary questions about our digital present and future, in turn proposing possible means of engagement and resistance. Central to the text is a critical analysis of select writings on the topic of dreams and the unconscious by Carl Jung, while at the same time reflecting on traditional Indigenous teachings extracted from the Haudenosaunee theory of dreams. The end goal of the text is to develop an Indigenous theory of technology that is faithful to traditional teachings, while addressing the uncanny essence of digitality in contemporary times. 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 »
Wednesday, August 26
by Debashish on August 26, 2009 06:11PM (PDT)
The following is a revised transcript of a talk given by me at the Cultural Integration Fellowship, San Francisco in 2008 and carried in the current edition of Sraddha, a journal of the Sri Aurobindo Bhavan, Kolkata.
In this, I bring into dialog the epistemic boundaries of the western academic discipline of Psychology and Sri Aurobindo's formulation of Integral Yoga, so as to reflect on the disciplinary formation of a field of Integral Psychology. What would such a field hold out and how would it impact the existing assumptions of both Psychology and Yoga? The insertion of such a discipline into the academy is not a trivial task. It is a project fraught with danger and possibility, which needs to be carefully negotiated. - db more »
Sunday, August 9
by Rich on August 9, 2009 03:24PM (PDT)
Riffing off the concept of evolutionary science known as "genetic drift" the Krokers use "code drift" to describe the evolution of the global genome and the technological destining of our species. In the scenario they theorize "code drift" is the evolutionary driver of the post-human body that is tethered to its digital mobility..
In this lecture they conclude with consideration of McLuhan and Teilhard whose prophetic vision of the exteriorizion of consciousness forewarned of a planetary bio-electric nervous system, that functions now as the cultural epigenesis of our post-human bodies . The Krokers claims the originating Nietzschean event of the eclipse of one human species form and the emergence of its networked successor has already occurred.
"Code drift is the spectral destiny of the story of technology. No necessary message, no final meaning, no definite goal: only a digital culture drifting in complex streams of social networking technologies filtered here and there with sudden changes in code frequencies, moving at the speed of random fluctuations, always seeking to make of the question of identity a sampling error, to connect with the broken energy flows of ruptures, conjurations, unintelligibility, bifurcations. When the Book of Genesis gives way to the Book of (Information) Genetics, we are suddenly exited into a culture of epigenesis with code drifts as its primary impulse, all the human anxiety of being tethered to mobility its primary affect, and the novel historical experience of literally being skinned by technology as the body is increasingly wrapped in the new nervous system that is the global data genome" 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 »
Saturday, June 6
by Debashish on June 6, 2009 12:52PM (PDT)
Andrew Feenberg is the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Technology at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University. In this article he considers the specificity of our Modern Age as Technology, as identified and theorized both by Martin Heidegger and Jurgen Habermas. Both these seiminal modern/contemporary thinkers, though marked by divergence in important respects, see Technology as the determining agent for modern subjectivity as a condition of subjection, alientaion, instrumentalization, homogeniety and social fragmentation. Feenberg here analyzes primary and secondary characteristics of Technology and indicates possibilties of technological reform in a post-industrial context to reintegrate culture, community, creativity and participatory improvization into world culture. One may note that though for the purposes of his own transformative discourse, Feenberg construes Heidegger and Habermas oppositionally as essentialistic in their characterization of Technology, in fact his reformative possibiltiies return us to Heidegger's view of the essence of Techne as Poiesis.more »
Friday, May 29
100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution: The Illusion of Human Progress and the Ideal of Human Unity (part 5 of 6)
by Rich on May 29, 2009 12:43PM (PDT)
... In this context progress can be seen as a social ideology that corresponds to other hijacked evolutionary ideologies reflected in the German Idealism of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”, and Herbert Spencer's “progressive evolution”. All the above ideas at one time or another have been utilized by those with couched power agendas for their use value in aligning different races and cultures along a scale of graduated being in which the European was seen to be the most highly evolved. A close reading of Sri Aurobindo however, will show that he had no such agenda. This fact should be understood properly before moving on to consider Sri Aurobindo's view of human progress.
Although in many ways Sri Aurobindo was certainly a visionary in his view of history he did not claim to be a prophet. The impossible burden of proof placed on prophecy is not lost on him. Even the future of poetry it seems can not be anticipated twenty five years years hence:
“ The gods of life and still more the gods of mind are so incalculably self-creative that even when we can distinguish the main lines of which the working runs or has so far run, we are still unable to foresee with any certainty what turn they will take or of what new thing they are the labor. It is therefore impossible to predict what the future poetry will actually be like. We can see where we stand today but we cannot see where we shall stand a quarter century hence” (Sri Aurobindo FP p.1972)
If this be the case with the life gods of poetry how much more is this so with the gods governing human history. Indeed how could one expect him to anticipate the developments in subsequent years when he wrote this optimistic assessment of the future in his 1909 essay Process and Evolution:
It is not likely that the immediate future of the democratic tendency will satisfy the utmost dreams of the lover of liberty who seeks an anarchist freedom, or of the lover of equality who tries to establish a socialistic dead level, or of the lover of fraternity who dreams of a world-embracing communism. But some harmonization of this great ideal is undoubtedly the immediate future of the human race. Once the old forces of despotism, inequality and unbridled competition, after they have been once more overthrown, a process of gradual samyama will be performed by which what has remained of them will be regarded as the disappearing vestiges of a dead reality and without any further violent coercion be transformed slowly and steadily out of existence.”
Of course what followed were the two great wars that almost destroyed civilizations and the partition of his beloved India. It seems like a harmonization in the immediate future was not to be in the cards dealt by history.....
For Sri Aurobindo the question of human progress is, as almost everything he wrote about, complex. While he believes in 1909 that human progress is the agent of change and writes: “ Whether we take the modern scientific or the ancient Hindu standpoint the progress of humanity is a fact.”(Aurobindo 1909) by the early 1940s his view seems to have notably altered and he writes:
“the idea of human progress itself is very probably an illusion, for there is no sign that man, once emerged from the animal stage, has radically progressed during his race-history; at most he has advanced in knowledge of the physical world, in Science, in the handling of his surroundings, in his purely external and utilitarian use of the secret laws of Nature....
Sunday, May 3
by Rich on May 3, 2009 06:25AM (PDT)
In listening to Codrescu he seems to believe the species bifurcation is on the horizon and dada is an appropriate response... Highly recommended rc
Dada: An absurdist art movement declaring itself against rationality, tradition, and—above all—Dada. Catholic mystic Hugo Ball and poet/impresario Tristan Tzara launched it in Zurich as World War I blazed all around.
Posthuman: A sci-fi term that came of age in the mid-1980s through texts like Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto. It's what we homo sapiens supposedly become when technological enhancements allow us to transcend our biology.
The Posthuman Dada Guide: A hard-edged, rapier-like volume, perfect for sliding into a back pocket of skinny hipster pants or stabbing into the complacent underbelly of bourgeois (or bourgeois-bohemian) society. Authored by NPR commentator and essayist Andrei Codrescu, it offers a headier-than-usual tour of the early-1900s avant-garde, sprinkled with sex appeal for the would-be MySpace-age revolutionary. Jacket blurbs from the likes of Josephine Baker and Aleister Crowley affirm the Guide's period credentials. Meanwhile, the whole thing is a kind of hypertext, composed of cross-referenced "database" entries—so you can't doubt its cyberpunk legitimacy.... more »
Friday, April 24
by Rich on April 24, 2009 02:08PM (PDT)
Reference: 100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution
This is the first part of a longer meditation on the future bodies. I have entitled this section “Goodbye To All That” which is the title of Robert Graves autobiography in which he recounts his experiences in the trenches in WWI. What he is saying goodbye to is the passing of an era: of the naive, carefree, class based culture of Edwardian England, which did not survive the war. Sri Aurobindo wrote the passages referenced here at about the time the Edwardian era ended and the great war began. Because our views and valorization of nature are cultural constructions, to appreciate why Sri Aurobindo extrapolates a certain form of naturalism into the future body we must first excavate his conceptions of “what is natural.”
The context of his writing referenced here on evolution and the future body seems to flow naturally out of a post-romantic protestant view of Nature he must have been exposed to growing up in England which lived on well into the Edwardian era. To the British upper classes it was a view of nature as pristine, which they enjoyed in well manicured English country gardens, not yet smeared with the blood of the trenches. Above all nature was clearly distinct from the machinery given to us by culture.
In forming his view of nature Sri Aurobindo took account of Ruskin's, Carlyle's, and Arnold's critique of industrialism. This view of nature was certainly valuable for sacramentalizing nature at a time when the Industrial Revolution was rapidly desecrating it. Today however, the interpenetration of nature by information technologies and genetic engineering has added enough complexity to what it means to be natural/human that we can no longer escape environments which are increasingly mediated by technology. Electricity undergirds much of our phenomenological experience of the world, bio-technology sustains our physical presence in it. In such a brave new world the continuity of the already developed evolutionary form with all its biological naturalism seems to be a reality to which we have already said goodbye
But, what is important for us in Sri Aurobindo's vision of the future body .... more »
Thursday, April 2
by Rich on April 2, 2009 09:24AM (PDT)
As the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origins of Species take place this year, it is easy to overlook the fact that 2009 also marks the 100th anniversary of Sri Aurobindo's first major text on evolution and consciousness. In Process and Evolution and Yoga and Human Evolution (1909) Sri Aurobindo begins to comprehensively articulate his vision of human evolution. Just as Darwin's book became the foundation for a science of evolution, what has been called evolutionary spirituality can be traced back to Sri Aurobindo's work. Many are acknowledging this bi-centennial year of Darwin's birth with a reassessment of his work in light of what we now know about evolution it therefore, also seems to be a good time to reassess Sri Aurobindo's vision of human evolution in terms of our contemporary understanding of the phenomena......
Even though his view of history is essentially cyclic he starts his consideration of evolution by writing in Yoga and Human Evolution (1909) the following:
“Whether we take the modern scientific or the ancient Hindu standpoint the progress of humanity is a fact” (Aurobindo)
However, by the early1940s when he is revising the last chapters of The Life Divine he writes:
“the idea of human progress itself is very probably an illusion, for there is no sign that man, once emerged from the animal stage, has radically progressed during his race-history; at most he has advanced in knowledge of the physical world, in Science, in the handling of his surroundings, in his purely external and utilitarian use of the secret laws of Nature “ (Aurobindo 1949 p832)....
There are six sections in this paper:
I) Why Sri Aurobindo would not believe in Intelligent Design
2) Darwinian Fundamentalism: reductionism, pluralism, play
3) Anticipating Science & Society
4) Complexity and the Dialectics of the Visible and Invisible
5) The Illusion of Human Progress and the Ideal of Human Unity
6) The Dialectics of Biology and Culture: science, ecology & economics more »
Thursday, March 12
by Rich on March 12, 2009 08:40PM (PDT)
I understand "human" and "posthuman" to be historically specific constructions that emerge from different configurations of embodiment, technology, and culture. A convenient point of reference for the human is the picture constructed by nineteenth-century U.S. and British anthropologists of "man" as a tool-user.(15) Using tools may shape the body (some anthropologists made this argument), but the tool nevertheless is envisioned as an object, apart from the body, that can be picked up and put down at will. When the claim could not be sustained that man's unique nature was defined by tool use (because other animals were shown also to use tools), the focus shifted during the early twentieth century to man the tool-maker. Typical is Kenneth P. Oakley's 1949 Man the Tool-Maker, a magisterial work with the authority of the British Museum behind it.(16) Oakley, in charge of the Anthropological Section of the museum's Natural History division, wrote in his introduction, "Employment of tools appears to be [man's] chief biological characteristic, for considered functionally they are detachable extensions of the forelimb" [p. 1]. The kind of tool he envisioned was mechanical rather than informational; it goes with the hand, not on the head. Significantly, he imagined the tool to be at once "detachable" and an "extension," separate from yet partaking of the hand. If the placement and kind of tool marks his affinity with the epoch of the human, its construction as a prosthesis points forward to the posthuman. Similar ambiguities informed the Macy Conference discussions taking place during the same period (1946-53), as participants wavered between a vision of man as a homeostatic self-regulating mechanism whose boundaries were clearly delineated from the environment,(17) and a more threatening, reflexive vision of a man spliced into an informational circuit that could change him in unpredictable ways.
By the 1960s, the consensus within cybernetics had shifted dramatically toward reflexivity. By the 1980s, the inertial pull of homeostasis as a constitutive concept had largely given way to theories of self-organization that implied radical changes were possible within certain kinds of complex systems.(18) Through these discussions, the "posthuman" future of "humanity" began increasingly to be evoked. Examples range from Hans Moravec's invocation of a "postbiological" future in which human consciousness is downloaded into a computer, to the more sedate (and in part already realized) prospect of a symbiotic union between human and intelligent machine that Howard Rheingold calls "intelligence augmentation."(19) Although these visions differ in the degree and kind of interfaces they imagine, they concur that the posthuman implies a coupling so intense and multifaceted that it is no longer possible to distinguish meaningfully between the biological organism and the informational circuits in which it is enmeshed. Accompanying this change, I have argued, is a corresponding shift in how signification is understood and corporeally experienced. In contrast to Lacanian psycholinguistics, derived from the generative coupling of linguistics and sexuality, flickering signification is the progeny of the fascinating and troubling coupling of language and machine. more »
Tuesday, October 28
by Debashish on October 28, 2008 01:12AM (PDT)
William Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) was a British writer of Science Fiction, who dealt with themes which explored heightened utopic possibilities of human subjectivity. As one may see from his dates, he lived somewhat contemporaneously with Sri Aurobindo and it is not unlikely that he may have come across his writings or ideas. Stapledon's philosophical explorations into collective consciousness led him to use the term "supermind" for a global consciousness related to the mutual resonance and union of all human minds. Such ideas as also those of communication between different life forms and explorations of humanity's seeking for Truth and future perfection form the subject of many of his books. Stapledon may be thought of as one of the founders of modern Sci-fi and had a strong influence on other such masters of the genre as Arthur C. Clarke, Brian Aldiss, Stanislaw Lem, C. S. Lewis and John Maynard Smith. In this short story, The Flames, Stapledon brings together many of these themes and explores them from a certain perspective. 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 Rich on October 7, 2008 07:14PM (PDT)
In his 'Postscript on Control Societies,' Deleuze marks our emergence from the disciplinary, panoptic societies Foucault studies. He describes a movement from a society 'equipped with thermodynamic machinces presenting the passive danger of entropy and the active danger of sabotage' to a society functioning 'with information technology and computers, where the passive danger is noise and the active, piracy and viral contamination' (Deleuze, 1995: 180). Deleuze's observations suggest more than a shift in the metaphors by which we understand society; they indicate a shift in the material relationship between humans and machines. Deleuze and Guattari's work has extensively explored this relationship, from molecular proto-machines of desire to the molar assemblages of the state. Their work operates, in part, on the shifting boundaries between aesthetic and technological paradigms. Science Fiction has also worked upon this boundary. Though the generic term 'Science Fiction' only hints at the multiple possibilities for communication (and contamination) between the two, Deleuze and Guattari recognize its potential, noting that the genre 'has gone through a whole evolution taking it from animal, vegatable and mineral becomings to becomings of bacteria, viruses, molecules, and things impreceptible' (1987: 248). more »
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 »
by Debashish on October 7, 2008 07:04PM (PDT)
This is a fragment constituting a continuation of Debashish Banerji's reflections on Techno-Capitalism as the epistemic regime of modernity and posible post-human futures at the eschatological cusp of history. Here the alignment of Marx and Hegel with the Enlightenment vision/teleology is contemplated and questions asked regarding a comparative alignment with the Neo-Vedantic teleology (if it can be called that) of Sri Aurobindo. 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