Mining is extending primitive accumulation


I am not sure I already wrote about this, but I am going to write about it now.

There is a relationship between technology and primitive accumulation. 

The story goes like this… where did all the capital come from to allow capitalism to begin?  One story is that people saved up or found buried treasure left by victims of the black plague. Another story is that this original capital was some how stolen – the commons were transformed into private property or all the gold of the mesoamerican empires were stolen by the europeans)

This idea of primitive accumulation always was interesting to me because we are in an era of personal data primitive accumulation. All the information we share and give, even this blog, is being monetized and someone is profiting off of it (not me). 

I was reminded of this and more while reading Martín Arboleda’s excellent book Plantary Mine.

Arboleda even says: 

“The capital form hinges upon appropriating the vital capacities and potentialities of individual workers and the collective power that results from their socialization.” The key being their socialization. It is not just the work of the individuals but the collective power (one could even connect the concept of the General Will to this). This is some sort of accumulation outside of the M-C-M circuit. 

The traditional monetary circuit in Marx is the M-C-M circuit, whereby money creates a commodity when creates (often more) money (money prime). Value exists in these different forms (the money, commodity, and perhaps money’ / surplus value?).

In Planetary Mine this circuit is expanded to the global supply network that begins in the mines – or the extraction of natural resources. This extraction serves as a driver for other transformations in the economy. To paraphase a friend of mine …  anarchism is the notion that society imposes class… get rid of society and you get rid of class, and marxism is the notion that class creates an oppressive state.   Here we go one level below, what are these structural drivers of this and what is the scaffolding or physical bones of this. In Marxism we always hear about money, if we get rid of money then we will be free.

But money is not the only way to represent commodified value. Value exists within a global network of change and surplus value is created at different ratios (although Marx would not agree perhaps) along the way in regard to more or less human labor.  Khanna calls this a “fact” and connects surplus value with a higher ontological order (in Khanna’s case the ontological order refers to organizations of people, but I think ontological state refers to material complexity)

One of the most interesting things, is the extraction as a site of primitive accumulation, and that primitive accumulation does not only exist at the beginning of capitalism but throughout. Perhaps the distinguishing feature in different stages of capitalism is the locus of primitive accumulation.  Schwab identifies the fourth industrial revolution as not because of some new technology but the convergence of all technologies.

One could go one step further and say this convergence also represents a change in the topologies of the value stream, as it changes from the source of primitive accumulation to the deployment of capital. The flip side of convergence of techology i ubiquity – that technology becomes the milieu – there is no more distinction between background and foreground, between environment and object.

Arboeda states “territory needs to be viewed above all as a form of political technology; that is, a spatial category that is measured, demarcated, bordered, represented, and policed eminently by the lawmaking violence of the state.”  We see the idea of geography as technology with gerrymandering in the united states. This is the construction of culture as technology, or the construction of consciousness.

Mining represents not just a territorial expansion but as Arboeda states an “intensification”… an intensification enabled by technology. This could even be seen as a way to create new methods of measurement of finer and finer granularity.  Intensification is perhaps transformative in a way that territorialisation is not. Intensification is a blurring of boundaries just as convergence is blurring of boundaries where as territorialization is a reification of boundaries through transgression of those boundaries. 

I am thinking now about the films that I teach… In Blade Runner, there are replicants for mining. Mining is dirty … mining is destructive there is a cyber punk aesthetic to films that feature this sort of extraction. That we separate the the place where we use the technology from the place where we extract the raw material.  In cyber utopian films, like AI, there is no extraction. 

Towards the end of the book there is a discussion of Hegel’s inverted world. I dont really get it. I have maybe mentioned it before. I now think of the upside down when I think of the inverted world. The interpretation I like these days is that it shows the absurdity of binaries. If I put a Wittgensteinan gloss on this, what if I took everything as the state of the world as it is, all statements, and then reversed them… What is the purpose of this exercise?  That perceptions of the world by another person can be opposite… so what is true?  We come to a higher law through this “dialectic”

For Arboeda The inverted world is the idea that your tool is also using you. The smart phone is a product of extraction but it is also a tool of extraction. From this perhaps we can say that extraction is one of the fundamental laws of capitalism. 

Myths: The hero’s journey


When I was young I was obsessed with myth and the analysis of myth and in particular the hero’s journey. I think the hero’s journey was coined by Joseph Campbell, and it is the theory that many myths follow a similar – the hero’s journey. The hero loses his family, is thrust into the world, finds a mentor, goes on a quest, loses his mentor, has some sort of challenge to prove his hero-ness wins and returns home with the spoils. 

I always wondered what was the woman’s hero journey? I read women who run with the wolves, and while I enjoyed it, for me it did not provide a woman’s journey. Where as men used will to create a path for themselves, women use the biological rhythms of life. There was no hero’s journey. 

I still think this. That there is no woman’s hero’s journey. And that is what will be created in this era of female emancipation, should it persist. My intuition says it has something to do with the crone, that where as the male’s hero’s journey begins in adolescence and ends as a man, the women’s hero’s journey beings at menopause. That is all I have because there is no map, there is no journey. 

Emma, from my creative thinkers group put this fantastic essay in the chat this week. It is a mythopoetic understanding of covid19, and has many thought provoking notions – about time, the upside down and more, I suggest you go read it. But, the essay also talks about Charlotte Du Cann, and the notion of a woman’s hero’s journey. 

Charlotte Du Cann does seem to think there is a hero’s journey, and that it is about returning to the earth. Cindarella looses her father is brought low as a scullery made and then is risen up to be the bride of the king. In Bluebeard, the princess can have anything as long as she does not enter one room. She enters the room and finds the carcasses of Bluebeard’s former wives.  These stories are a lomey knowledge, an earthy knowledge, of dirt and death. I dont believe this is the woman’s journey.  I believe these are myths to reinforce the patriarchy. But there is something there…

There is something of the women’s journey in this moment of Covid19. If the man is the will to power, the arrow, time, effort. What is woman? I think of space, effortlessness, space. Covid19 is the disease that makes us aware of space and dislocates time.  We configure space, space is a triangle, or a circle, or a sphere or a hypercube. Space exists, objects intersect. There is solidity. 

As the essay states perhaps we are in a liminal space between worlds. Perhaps the liminal space is the space itself, the space of the woman’s journey. The journey through the liminal space is the woman’s hero’s journey.  The liminal space is the space of Charon the ferryman of the river styx, of the psychopomp.  The liminal space is not about the individual but about the community, about people being ferried over.  Perhaps the story of Moses is the story of the liminal space. Unlike the hero in Jospeh Campbell, Moses in the dessert does not overcome anything, there is no glory, he is buried in an unmarked grave and unable to enter the land of milk and honey.  Because of his speech impediment Moses can only talk to God, it is Aaron that is the hero that communicates to the people and become the first Cohen (high priest). 

In Greece Achilles and Odysseus were both heros. Their characters different but the framework was similar. If we return to the beginning of that medium essay there is a distinction between kairos and chronos: Qualitative time and quantitative time. The liminal is qualitative time. A woman’s passage of time means something – it is tied to biology and nature, it is qualitative. 

The hero of quantitative time is man. The hero of qualitative time is woman. But you know there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that think there are two kinds of people and those who dont…

Orientation and the Body


What if orientation is in the soul? I started rereading The Soul at Work by Bifo, and The preface  begins with the notion that the soul is the clinamen of the body. This is interesting in that it is discussing a somatics – the soul is the body – it is the orientation of the body.

Clinamen is the name Lucretius gave to the unpredictable swerve of atoms. We could call this direction or orientation. Lucretius is also one of the authors I have in quarantine.

Atoms, as we have learned, spin in certain directions. Perhaps this is the 20th or 21st century notion of clinamen. Object have orientation as part of their embodiment. They have left handedness or right handedness. This is also called chirality, and is covered in the first or second episode of breaking bad. It seems also that the universe has a handedness (it is left handed).

Kant does not include handedness in his transcendental categories nor does hegel in his here and now, nor does Heidegger in Being and time. Instead we have things like space/time, being/time, subject/object, causality, and so forth.  

Sara Ahmed talks about orientation in Queer Phenomenology, and I have heard that Said talks about orientation in Orientalism, which perhaps I will read in quarantine. That objects in the world exist in relation to one another and this relation have orientation. Orientation is provided by the construction of the world in which the objects live.  If we are going to create new categories of thought lets begin with the body and how we interface with one another.

As I am writing this I am listening to a podcast about the book Spinal Catastrophe. It is four hours long, and I am not paying close attention, because it is four hours. But I am picking up bits and pieces about orientation about the orientation of the human towards verticality on the spine vs the startfish and radiality for example.  There is also the discussion of recapitulation.  This means that within the seed there is the mighty oak, or that in the chicken dna there is the dna for the velociraptor.

Is there orientation in the seed or is orientation only the expression of the seed, what is the limits of recapitulation or code. What can be coded and what cannot? If orientation is in relation and not the object it makes no sense to talk about something like orientation in the seed, we can only talk about the orientation of the seed. 

Bodies are oriented toward one another, and this is the soul.  The soul at work is about the world or structure that controls this orientation. What is the world that all of these orientating bodies, these souls inhabit? Are they the world of Dante? Are they the world of Adam Smith? What are the garments that restrict or constrain these orientations. For Bifo, the soul is that which, in Marx is reproduced when the body reproduces itself. It is the orientation of that reproduction. (Late?) Capitalism also has a soul, for Bifo it is semicapital – money and language.  This is the orientation of capitalism. Perhaps we can also think of this in terms of Marx and the forms that capital takes. 

But late capitalism has a different quality than the capitalism of marx. People can disagree with me. But I stand by this, as does Bifo. “The emergence of intellectual, technical and scientific labor is a sign of the decade.”  Intellectual, technical and scientific labor is labor.  These people are workers. It is interesting because their cultures are different. The culture of the factory worker is different from the culture of the adjunct, and by culture I mean things as basic as country music vs indie music, nascar vs sxsw (again these are generalizations). There is not a mass labor culture, but there is a labor body.

There is an interesting section that I found related to the loss of the public intellectual.

Today the word “intellectual” has lost much of the meaning it had throughout the twentieth century, when around this word coalesced not only issues of social knowledge, but also ethics and politics. In the second half of the twentieth century intellectual labor completely changed its nature, having been progressively absorbed into the domain of economic production. Once digital technologies made the connection of individual fragments of cognitive labor possible, the parceled intellectual labor was subjected to the value production cycle

The intellectual is a worker, now. The creative class is a fiction. Although we are not successful, we do try to subject intellectual labor to the value production cycle in the creation of technology (including biotech/medicine) and the creation of culture (reinforcing cultural mythologies that sustain the capitalist system). We attempt to subject intellectual and creative labor to the production cycle, in code this is through the use of agile methodologies, metrics such as MTTR and cycle time, or even number of code commits. In design as well this is treated in terms of numbers of designs or in terms of completion of briefs. 

All this does is create a lot of material, it does not necessarily achieve goals or produce surplus value, because creative labor cannot be controlled in the way mechanical labor is until we have a cybernetic feedback cycle connected with amygdala in peoples brains (in the case of culture), or connected with dna or molecules via nanotech or crispr. 

The first chapter traces the changes in the intellectual, from part of bourgeois society (the gentleman scholar), someone outside culture or without culture (kant), to an instrument of change/praxis (marx) to abolish class, to the leader/vanguard/embodiment of Hegelian geist (lenin), to a figure producing something yet estranged from the dynamics of marxist production (gramsci), the intellectual is someone who chooses to do what she does / is not forced or destined (sartre) – but finally by the 1960s, the advent of advertising, ibm, and biotech – poets write copy and scientists create hair coloring products. 

Part of this has to do with mass education, and access to education – that now being an intellectual is not a class marker but a consumer category. 

How does thought and creative production figure into a marxist ideology? Does it? Why is it even useful to think about this? This is sort of a question of system poetics. Of understanding where systems overlap, where they fall short, what can be excluded and what can be extended. 


Closing all my browsers tabs….


I have started using as a social bookmarking tool, but really a to read later tool.  I have four identities journal tabs up that I don’t want to put them raindrop and I dont want to close the tabs and I am a  COMPLETIST so I am just going to binge read/comment on them right here! 

Lets do it! Its TLDR – but I will reward you with a virtual shot of tequila at the end so have at it. The texts I am mashing up are Writing Theory During a Pandemic by Joao Florencio, Animality,Metaethical Judgements and Predictive Justice by Ekin Erkan, Self-Lockdown by Andrea Peto, My favorite (and shortest) Zarathustra (Un) Vaccinated by Zlatomir Zlatanov, and Dreams about Time by Adriana Zaharijevic.

Mashup Time! We have a subject(often us) and an object/other (covid often)-   we have a way to mediate between them (time, capitalism, death), a way to turn them into each other, a way each affects the other, and then our whole framework are we just looking at this incorrectly and there is no subject/object.  This is sort of the history of all western philosophy – you are welcome!

I really enjoyed Peto’s article, which is about what theory (feminist theory) can learn from the covid19 pandemic. Everyone is theorizing the covid19, but lets infect theory! What does this infection do? We get three things, 1) covid dismantles theory. Similar to the way that a virus injects RNA into a cell and rewrites the way that cell functions, covid19 has a way to force us to rethink how we do theory. I am not sure how – but on a structural level it does introduce/replace mediums (zoom/live stream/etc), and it makes us grapple with questions of probability, scale, statistics, and symptoms. 

2) Globalism and scholarship. I have been thinking a lot about globalism and capitalism (thanks to the planetary mine class at MEP), and globalism and the virus (how the virus spread so quickly), but not really globalism and scholarship. The dual nature of globalism both creates permeability and immobility. But,  namely that using certain languages and lexicons as a requirement for peer reviewed journals are a method of exclusion.  And this is an echo of the viral RNA lexicon of G, U, A, C which is another gate keeper (as well as a homophone with guac, the delicious Mexican food that I miss dearly during this pandemic). Theory must open its language. 

3) Third, what does theory learn from defeat. From no longer being the position of power, the colonizer, the imperialist, the center of knowledge production. What does a theory that does not have a center look like? What is a defeated theory? (I sort of think theory is already defeated – so maybe this should be like theory wakes up to its true ontological status)

Erkan also brings up feminist authors as those that challenge that traditional modes of philosophical system building (Kant, Hegel, etc). He also addresses ethics and judgement (how do we act!).. This happens to be the next subject, sort of, of my next newsletter – so sign up if you so desire.

How do traditional philosophies (often anthropocentric and often male-centric) create world view/transcendental categories/language/logics that exclude other modes of though.  It closes the space of possibility and imagination that allows us to act nimbly to unexpected events such as a mass pandemic (covid), and perceive solutions beyond economic destruction, destruction of social fabric, and interior life (mental health)? Perhaps as Haraway has us become chimeras and network with otherkin, perhaps we should include beings at different scales of existence. What does it mean to be otherkin with a rainstorm, or a bacteria. Is this even possible? Can we enter into a relationship with something that we dont interface but form whom we are a milieu (covid), or in whose milieu’s we live (rainstorms). I can explore this in the book I will never write – Socializing with scale. 


Again we have self hatred on theory during a pandemic by Joao. I just have to say, you do you – engage in theory as a mental health exercise. It is useful to reflect on how we got here, on what it means to be in this massive global quarantine. For those people who are judging others for their pandemic theorizing – like .0001% of the population even care about this stuff, so I am pretty sure theorizing on covid19 is a path to fame and glory. 

There is some actual due diligence in the philosophy of science and of statistics that could contribute to better treatment of the sick and management of the spread of the pandemic.  In particular, understanding the limits of current epidemiology, the relationship between populations and individuals, the nonlinear dynamics of various viruses (covid19) – and their various phases (cough, fever, intubation etc). 

Many years ago I participated in a project to collect malnutrition data in Malawi, for epidemiology.  This huilt for a time where there was a 3-6 month lag between data collection, analysis and deployment. However, with current technology you can collect and analyze the data in real time, and you can act on individuals and not populations. You look at the data in a strategic way to understand how to long term change situations in order to prevent malnutrition, but you no longer need populations as a statistical tool to treat this, because you can know immediately whether or not someone is malnourished and immediately determine a course of action.  This is similar to the situation we are in regarding the covid19 analysis. So theorize away I say -haters gonna hate. 

Finally Space and Time, our favorite categories. Zaharijevic says that covid19 destroys time and preserves space. I sort of agree, my kids keep asking me what day it. But space is ever present. My space in quarantine, the space of the people in my zoom, and as Zaharijevic mentions, the space of hospital beds (or space dividing the well and the sick), the space of 6 feet. This week there were numerous holidays – I celebrated passover and I felt a qualitative difference in time. Not of what day it is, but what kind of time it is. We have the binary categories of sacred/profane, or work/play, but what does a spectral view of time look like?

Zaharijevic calls for a reinvention of time. That what this pandemic reveals is a rupture in our normal experience of time (however dysfunctional it may be in the service of capital).  We cannot go back to our old notion of time, but must grasp for a new time. Perhaps this is the realm of dreams or the realm of poetry. Perhaps yes, it is perhaps the realm of all these things, and more. 

Cheers – have a shot of tequila – on me.

More Covid Worlding

reading, Uncategorized

This is the second to my last my deep dive into Identities Journal. My computer has started working again and my next deep dive will be into flux.  When I wrote this a few days ago I wrote “I am writing a lot today, because I cannot surf the web. I think a truer statement has never be written and now I understand my main issues in life and the source of my procrastination.”  Upon reflection I see how true this is, because now that my internet is back on I am just 

But let’s proceed – with Levi Bryant’s a world is ending. So Bryant begins with a meditation on Kant, that in order to think coherently there has to be unity of apperception.  Unfortunately Bryant cannot experience this coherence – he is fragmented so he will write fragments. 

Let’s just start there. A year or so ago I went to my shrink and was talking about how I yearned for coherence. Why is this a value? Good question. I always had it as a value, but I never really adhered to it or lived according to it.  Perhaps i should get rid of it.

Likewise, perhaps the Kantian unity of apperception was useful for a particular world. The world of the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution and modernity. But perhaps now we can throw off the shackles of internal coherence and embrace multiplicity.

Bryant says he can only write in fragments because his thinking is fragmented. But he is not the first thinker to think in fragments, the first person that comes to mind is Nietzsche – the post modern philosopher. This is perhaps who my shrink was thinking of when he prompted me to interrogate my values and engage in a transvaluation of values (we actually talk like this).

So what is going on in these fragments? They are meditations and reflections on the past, on past memories, on past interpretations of philosophers, on ideas that Bryant is trying to graft on to his understanding of this world. 

Ok so I keep saying world worlding, this is a new world. Bryant obviously has read the same people I have read and have come to the same conclusions a world has ended a new world has begun. I dont know if worlds have ends. I think worlds are eternal but perhaps their portals close to us, or to some of us, perhaps we need to create new conceptual apparati to enter those worlds. 

But for sure, a new world has been created. Perhaps this world has always been here, the world of the pandemic. But I would venture to guess that the world of the black plague was not this world, with our statistical models, epidemology, viral theory, zoom conferences, fake news, internet, etc.  So I would say yes Levi -this is indeed a new world. But we cannot really get here yet. We are like stuck in a space suit, or like in those domes constructed on Mars in the Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson. 

Like in the Mars Trilogy, we are not quite sure what this world is going to be yet, there are a bunch of little communities starting with their own ideas and practices. This is what Bryant’s fragments are, they are outcroppings on the surface of Mars. But what we need to do in order to inhabit this new world is to terraform it. 

What are in these outcroppings or musings? There is a discussion of Here-ness of Open-ness, of Badiou, of essential workers, shopping, wildness.  It is hard for me to follow, these categories do not provide any conceptual framework for me either.

Let me digress for a moment, in these blog posts which are all digressions really, but skepticism -and the belief that the sun will rise tomorrow,… Lets remove prediction from the realm of science. Science originally was meant to be explanatory not predictive. If it science does not predict correctly then it is possible that the explanation is not correct but to consider science as a mode of prediction is to say that science is augury. 

We are all upset. We thought all these things/ technology we had in the modern world would prevent bad things from happening. That we would be able to control the future. This is magical thinking. Maybe magic exists and maybe we can control the future. Obviously nothing we have done so far has let us to believe this. Maybe this is the time for fragments. 


Statement of work: System Poetics


I had spent much of 2019 thinking about the intersection of computation and consciousness, something I was calling #consciouscomputation (That hash tag is crucial).

I was starting to collect my thoughts, inspired by a friend of mine who started a small creative community of people who give share and give feedback on work. Then I lost interest.

I was traveling a lot the first two months of the year for my job as a DevOps consultant.  I was in Seattle during the first outbrake of covid19 in the states.  As I traveled I began to feel the environment changing, and this question of computation and consciousness no longer interested me. But my mind was still racing, I was having conversations, collaborations, reading, and writing. 

I started to think on a meta level about what is the constant among all these activities, what could be big enough to contain my interests, but focused enough to be able to communicate clearly.  

Thanks a lot to a creative group I am a part of, and Nitzan who called me a systems poet, I started thinking about what I am calling system poetics. 

What is system poetics? 

A system is a coherent body of thought or methodology.  It can be vedic astrology,  germ theory of disease, transcendental ideology, theory of computation, freudian psychology, sufi mysticism, iconology, the sonnet, and so forth. 

What is not a system? Individual things and individual things grouped together without an organizing principal. 

We can look at different systems in a comparative way to see how concepts and individuals from one system map to one another, or how different systems map to different experiences. And we can also look at systems poetically.

A system poetics looks at spaces between systems and the overlaps that are both ineffable and expressible, and through exploring these spaces open up new avenues of thought and action.  Because. while I am interested in ideas, I am also interested in what how thoughts inform action and experience. 

I am working this through at It is a “living document”.  This blog is codified, each post is written once and stamped (and occasionally edited),  system poetics is a running list of what is on the top of my mind, what I want to engage in I am focused on the process of this thinking and the processes of building this out. 

I have some ideas planned, that to be worked out in collaboration with you. Tomorrow, I have my first newsletter going out which will give a taste of what is going to be going on, so please take a look and sign up if you are so interested. 

More Binge Reading of Theory of Lockdown


I continue my binge reading and binge commentary on identities journal. I have discovered something interesting – I really am only interested in reading an article 1500 words or less unless it is amazing. Otherwise TLDR.

Lockdown Theory by Jonathan Fardy clocks in at around 675 worlds – refreshingly short! All these essays are called lockdown theory,  and this is just called Lockdown #13 so I really don’t know what I am going to read – but it looks short and my internet is out so I persist. 

One of the interesting things about binge reading all these essays is that many of the authors feel the need to justify the practice that they are engaging in. I wonder if people in most professions are now doing this.

But, here I am reading this stuff, and then commenting on it, when. These are not all necessarily essays, because its hard to write an essay in such as short period of time with the covid19 cognitive load, and the myriad of distractions like  watching a celebrity live feed on instagram.

So while I call these works, essays, the authors call them something else. Fardy calls this work spit-up. What does it mean to “lockdown”? Fardy says it means to fix in place to “lock down”. That coincidentally, is also the purpose of theory, to lock things down. We can fix them to a grid of intelligibility (a philosophical system), or if they dont fit, spit them up as literature. 

But what else is interesting about lockdown is the notion of place. That in order to be on lock down or to lockdown you need to be locked down to something to a particular location.  I am reading a text on the Nakshatra, the houses of the moon in Indian astrologer.  Not necessarily because I am an astrologer, but because I am interested in different systems of meaning making -in different worlds.

In any case, various astrological systems have this notion of house or location. The locations are static, the locations themselves are in primary lockdown. Which house an object (planet, moon, etc) lives has an impact on location. In the tech circles I run in, people are nomadic, there is a disconnection from place. They have lived their life in the opposite of lockdown, whatever that may be. 

But locations have an impact on the thing. Where you lock it down, is just as important as what you are locking down, or that you are locking it down in the first place.  To spit something up as fiction, or to bundle it neatly as a system is to create a place for it. And perhaps as the the idea is released from lockdown, to roam, it will move through other houses. What other houses are there other than traditional philosophy and theory fiction for the manifestation of ideas? What is the celestial wheel that undergirds the entire endeavor? What is the wheel that undergirds that? Turtles all the way down.

CovId19 perhaps operates outside the lunar mansions, it cannot be locked down yet, because it is operating in different orbit and not cross over the terrain that theory crosses over. We can lock down the theory, but perhaps a different set of tools are necessary to lock down the pandemic. 


Fardy does not really describe theory fiction but has some excellent quotes that I suggest you read if you are interested. 

Theory in the time of covid19


Probably the only thing worse than being a close talker during the covid19 epidemic, is being a theorist.

The only way to recover is being a meta-theorist, . Welcome to my binge commentary on all the articles in Identity Journal, since it is the only thing in my browser when my internet went down.

Now we continue with Wark’s Theory in a Pandemic. Should we feel bad about theorizing covid19? After all, if we are theorizing then we are not sick, we are not treating covid, nor are we unemployed and starving. We, who are theorizing, are privileged. This is neither good nor bad it is a state of affairs that allow us to theorize.

What is the purpose of this theorizing. For some people it is to buttress their ideologies. But I read Wark as saying Be Speculative! Do not use covid19 as proof for a point of view but an opportunity event – a completely new thing. It is a rupture, in a good way, like when you pop a zit and all the puss comes out and you do not get staph infection (because it is the time of covid19 and you will surely die if this were to happen).

Why do theory in a crises? The answer is not necessarily action, praxis. Even Wark backs away from this, although he does acknowledge there is something action related to theory in a time of crises.

What I believe the call to action is techne. to act – or really to CREATE- poesis. I bet you thought I was going to say techne, well I almost did. But really we need poetry. We need the space of imagination and making to understand how to co-create this world and use our conceptual apparatus created in theorizing to create space for praxis in the world. Even if the theorists are not doing the praxis.

We have the movement from theoria to poesis to praxis, or from theory to poetry/world building to action.

We do not do theory to know, like to know how to cure covid19. We do theory to create new categories to make knowing, acting, building, etc possible. We do theory to understand how to world during the epidemic, and how to world after the epidemic.

One of the questions I have been asking is what sort of world do we want to build when this pandemic is over. But perhaps that is the wrong question. Time does not stop.Life does not stop. And perhaps the pandemic will never be over, just like AIDS and cancer were never cured, and the war on drugs was never won. How do we world with pandemic?

What do our bodies feel like, how do we touch other bodies, what do our minds feel like, what do our emotions feel like, what is it like to be separated from something (a disease) that is nothing but physical for those who encounter it?  The pandemic event is upon us. It is now up to the theorists to create the concepts and spaces that constitute this new world. Then we can all act in it. 

Complexity, Time and the Pandemic


My internet is not working well so I am binge reading Identities journal, which I opened in 10 tabs in my browser.  Right now I am reading The Curve of the Clock by Ben Woodard.  The discussion begins with biology. That changes over time are often morphological changes. Like a foetus becomes a human child, grows a heart, lungs, thumbs, hair.  This unfolding over time has a different aesthetic dimension than unfolding over space.  Unfolding in space would be the beauty of a picture For unfolding in space, Ben invokes the term phase-beauty.

So what! You may say.  Music unfolds overtime. Ahh but maybe I misspoke, perhaps this is the aesthetic of unfolding over worlds.  The world of the foetus is a different world than the world of the human child. The world of the seed is a different world than the world of the towering oak tree. 

This sort of unfolding over worlds, is something I would perhaps assign to the field of computation in the form of a state machine. Bergson raises the idea that this sort of phase shift, or what I am calling a world shift, is unquantifiable. But perhaps this is the wrong way to look at it. It belongs to the realm of set theory and not countability . The clock is a metaphor for the musical score written once and performed forever (although idiosyncratically).  But the computer is the metaphor for phase transitions. 

Woodard suggest that pandemic, not the virus, is an example of phase-horror perhaps.  Horror would be a reaction to the unknowable, the (un)sensible.  Horror is how we interact with phenomena we can only apprehend through mediation. 

But is the pandemic an example of a phase transition. I would say no. The progression of covid19 within an individual does exist in a world of phase transition, in a world of states: Health, asymptomatic, symptomatic, cough, fever. Together it is a picture of covid19. 

Looking at the scale of a population, a different world, we have different stages, outbreak, epidemic, pandemic, and so forth. The pandemic is a phase within the larger set. What we call this larger set I am not sure, disease perhaps, but I think there is something more accurate.

Knowing a disease with different phase transitions, apprehending it, acting with it, ie epistemology, aesthetics, ethics is different than  knowing a thing that extends only over time and space.  The pandemic itself may have qualitatively different phases within it, just as increased or decrease rate of growth. As the scale changes from linear to exponential, the world changes. 


What is invisibility?


I was reading this article,Contagion and Visibility: Notes on the Phenomenology of a Pandemic by J.P. Caron. It is about ways of knowing and covid19. It is really excellent and I recommend reading it. 

It is from a phenomenological perspective, which can mean one of a million things. But mainly that we start our investigation from sense perception in some way. With something like covid19 what does this mean? 

Well it could mean starting with symptoms, if you have them. It can mean starting with the protective measures we take and the feeling of that, the locus of attention on the hands, on the mouth.  What is the sensation of washing hands, of dry hands, of mask marks (as I am sure many of you have seen on social media).   It can start with our visual experience of charts (of different scales) showing infection, unemployment claims, or the stock market.  

However, all of this is an oblique, or mediated, ways at getting at what we believe is the cause of these sensations – an invisible virus. Sure if we put the virus under a microscope then we have a sense perception of this virus through the eye. Our experience of this is even different than our feelings of illness/symptom, or of protection.

This article mentions invisibility and scale. Invisibility is a problem of scale. It starts from the notion of world building and how we create meaning within worlds – this is a notion that is very close to my heart, as my investigation of system poetics is in many ways about world building.  The virus exists in a different world than the world we live in where we can feel a masks but not virus. We cannot directly ‘sense’ it – that is sense it unmediated.  The phenomenology of the covid19 is the phenomenology of the aspects in which our world of sensation intersects with covid19. 

J.P. connects this with ethics and the cognitive load that is associated with interacting with a something that exists in so many worlds (such as fear).  His perspective is informed by Kant and perhaps Hans Vaihinger, through the notion of as-if.  We have to act as-if these worlds or that these worlds represent something we do not directly sense.  

Ethics is essentially the study of how to act. I offer a different perspective.  This is not a matter of as-if, but a matter of system poetics, or world poetics.  As I see it, the ethical issue with covid19, from a phenomenological perspective, is that it presents itself in so many conflicting phenomenological experiences (or worlds). Which worlds we choose is based on our phenomenological experience of those worlds, the places where they overlap and where they rhyme.