Infrastructure and Organs


Recently I read The Marvelous Clouds, by John Durham Peters.  When I first put it on my list I thought it was about cloud computing, but no. It is more about protocols and infrastructures of communication.   If I were to summarize the book it would be about how media (and by media Peters means clock, calendars, and pencils) produces Being (ontology).

We don’t choose our own Being (in my poor reframing of existentialism), our Being is generated by media.

And then, in a really Haraway-an turn, there is a discussion of the Being of animals (particularly cetacean) which have no media.

Here I am going to engage in a creative (mis)reading of the text. If you imagine dolphins communicating in the ocean, or even humans speaking to one another on land, there is no wire, no infrastructure connecting the participants. There is no interstate that we need to drive down, or fiber optic cable network that needs to carry our communications.  These things would be the infrastructure.

Instead of infrastructure we, and dolphins, have organs.  In the undifferentiated mass of air (or water) our communication is from organ to organ.  I have been meditating about what the different organs sense.  The brain senses thought, the eye, light, the heart, emotion, what about the liver, the kidney, the spleen?  Sensation and sensing is the protocol of organ communication.

When do we need infrastructure and when do we need organs? (I also cannot help but think of the D&G concept of bodies without organs – undifferentiated or unspecialized bodies- D&G is all infrastructure – all logistics )

Do we need both infrastructure and organs? If we think about bitcoin (or Ethereum or some other cryptocurrency), we can imagine that a mining node is an organ and the internet cable, the infrastructure. The protocol, how the transactions are communicated, is like the electron gradient guarding the influx of water through a cell membrane wall. I would say the protocol is part of the organ although it is perhaps structured by the infrastructure.

What is the structure? Is this the topology of the network as whole? In the case of cryptocurrency, this would make the structure the least material and most variable and ephemeral of the entire apparatus.

I am not sure what it means to think about things in terms of organs and infrastructure (and structure) I suppose.  But, I think about the turn that Deleuze makes from the monad to the nomad – the organ to the infrastructure.  Then, today, if we move from the nomad to the damon, to the he electron cloud and the realm of possibility, we can find the natural analog in the infrastructure-less air and water that Peters discusses in The Marvelous Clouds.