System Poetics: Genres, Autofiction, Theory fiction

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Years ago when I was a filmmaker I would say to my partner that if we wanted to make narrative/fiction films (as opposed to documentaries) we should make genre films. In some ways I thought it would be easier to make a film within these constraints and that it would be easier to find an audience.

By genre I mean something like a western, a rom com, a horror movie. It is a hylomorphic story, where there is a clear distinction between the structure and content. Even “high concept” hollywood films – like searching for bobby fisher meets best in show, is hylomorphic. I am describing the bones of the film with out fleshing out the content. Genre films make it particularly easy to do this.

This is what Quentin Tarantino – he transforms genre films. You think you are watching a western, but the form and content are interdependent and the the form definitely does not follow the logic of the genre you thought you were watching.

My collaborator and I ended up not doing a genre film, but something super weird – probably because we did not think in genre formats and our desires and interests are to porous (read the previous post on boundaries).

But is a genre a system? Is narrative a system – like Aristotelean drama? I was telling my shrink a dream last week, and he said to me that Jung said dreams follow a 3 or 4 point story arc – similar to the idea of Aristotlean drama. That is a particular system.

Operas and plays that end in a marriage are comedies in death a tragedy. What about Beckett and Waiting for Godot. Is this a new genre? Is this transgenre? What is the system that this play is part of?

When I read Hanzi Freinacht The Listening Society, I was aware I was reading a hybrid work. This is not a traditional philosophical text or even social science text. Other hybrid works include autofiction like Crudo – which I love. Auto fiction is autobiographical fiction. I don’t believe this is a genre, unlike say magical realism which I do believe is a genre. There are tools to auto fiction, tropes and tactics. But it is like each author is playing a different chess game, using the same moves in different patterns.

Autofiction is about expressing the ineffable subjective inner life or experience of the author. This is not as a metaphor (which would be a story), or entertainment (also a story). It is meant as a cultural object in so far as a particular experience if it has enough resonance with enough individuals represents a universal experience, not through the creation of a universal experience that everyone can find expression within.

The question is what systems, or rather what system poetics do I use to express a subjective inner life that another person can understand and connect with?

This brings me to theory fiction. This is another genre or is it. The highpoint of theory fiction for me is Simon Sellars’ Applied Ballardianism. The most famous is probably Reza’s Cyclonopedia.
The most recent one I have read is Spinal Catastrophism, which I had on my last trip to Atlanta and thus it has accompanied me into quarantine.

So if autofiction is cross system attempt to express a story as a subjective experience, theory fiction is to express an idea (or ideas) as a narrative experience or in some cases subjective experience. How do we communicate thoughts? Where do thoughts come from? How do thoughts grow? Why do I want to hear your thoughts? Stories should not have philosophical bones to pick, when they do they are theory fiction.

Is this space between genres or hybrid genres the space of system poetics?
If we think about Hanzi again, and use his language of system, meta-system (maybe), paradigm, meta-paradigm, what do these fall?
The system would be the genre, either philosophical or narrative. It has a set of set rules, values, and aims.

Meta-systems would be auto fiction, or theory fiction. The goals and rules are myriad depending on the reader or the part of the text. The structure is combined from different systems.

On the paradigm level the rules across all modes of storytelling, argument, communication, exposition, creation, dissemination are teased out. I want to stick the realm of writing instead of devolving in to the Gesamtkunstwerk of Wagner, or some sort of narrative singularity where all creation is the same. But perhaps it would be something like Dale Pendell’s 3 volume set on plants that mixes science, biology, programming, history, poetry, lists, memories.

A meta-paradigmatic writing. What would it be like cross over multiple Dale Pendell-like books. Each would be different, and paradigmatic in their own way. Maybe writing that proceeds like a mind virus – writing that is performative – writing that while not transcending its format causes the reader to transcend. But this is just one option for a meta-paradigmatic. And then I might have gotten all these previous Hanzi analyasis incorrect.

But back to theory fiction – I see it now. I have xray vision in to a story. Like hearing the first bar of a song and knowing the name, I can watch a film or read a story and understand where it is going and what the plot it. It no longer unfolds in time but in one moment of illumination. And this is what it feels like to watch a genre film or story, to read a well made play (ibsen), and now theory fiction.

Theory fiction is way more fun than reading traditional theory like The Critique of Pure Reason, although I do find my mind clearer after puzzling for 2 hours over Hegel. But maybe this is a way to improve theory fiction, or maybe theory fiction is trying to do something different.

But as the apprehension of a work happens in an instance, rather than over time, we will search for higher and higher levels of system poetics where we too can experience the unfolding of the work in time.

Reading and Writing Experiment

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A few weeks ago I was talking about how impressed I was when people would take a book or reading and then quickly summarize it and use it as a jumping off point for their own thoughts and imaginations.  This is beyond interpretation, or what I would call hermeneutics.  It is about a jumping off point for new ideas. 

We all have a more time to read these days with physical distancing and what not.  I have 

Thomas from a creative community I participate  finally can participate again in my art theory reading group – because it is remote! We are tackling Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit – in part to then read Brandom’s critique of PoS. I am going to do an experiment now where I attempt to summarize a text and use it as a jumping off point for my own thoughts. I am going to talk about the Preface, the intro and the first section – on Consciousness!

 

Method Or How to do philosophy

The preface discusses philosophical methodology. What does it mean to successfully prove a philosophical position or a philosophical system?  This is different than say proving the validity of a possible law of physics. Does it have to exist in context or dialogue with other philosophical systems (No)? Hegel talks about the difficulty of talking about a moment when you want to capture the entire process. I imagine a mathematical function and trying to describe the function rather than a point rendered by the function.

The discussion about how to write about this reminded me of theory fiction, and contemporary experiments in writing about ideas. How do you talk about something new? How do you talk about a complex process? How do you ignite interest in the reader so they undergo a transformation? All of this necessitates a change in style. In presentation. There is no binary form/content.  It is not that the medium is the message but the medium is the interface and I can only understand to the extend that the medium structures a story in a particular way. 

Truth 

But what if you want is truth? If you want philosophy to become a science (since in modern times science has become the domain of truth)? For me this is a false aim and a false distinction. There are all sorts of movements these days to reject binary in terms of what people call the spectral, or differential. This is not to sink into relativism, but it is to A) remove t/f as the standard for the highest form of discourse b)acknowledge that the world exists on a multiplicity of levels and perspectives. We should take a note from Aristotelean ethics, where what is right depends acting as the situation (and individual) calls for. the proper action depending on the circumstances and the individual.

I asked in my group – is it important that we even talk about Truth. Yes! Hunter Replied! This the most important thing. But everything is Truth. Truth is where everything converges. Here again we go through the interface of language, or words, where we all have different interpretations of the same word.  I am not sure I share this definition of Truth.  But what ever that () is the convergence of all in the highest possible expression of all things in all dimensions (whatever highest is, or dimensions are) – I support. 

 

Time and Duration

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The future is not going to be like the last.

I had my weekly poetry group tonight. Now we are meeting remote – on google groups not discord (my favorite).

One of the books I have with me in physical isolation is The Penguin Book of the Sonnet. It is amazing. I highly recommend it. There are different forms of a sonnet – if you get the book (or google) you can learn more.

I have been working with a shakespearean sonnet which has 4 4line stanzas (of particular rhythm and rhyme) ie quatrains and then two lines ie a heroic couplet.

The shakespearean sonnet according to meredith:

This happens
Then this happens
But then something changes
And this is what it is now

I wrote a sonnet – like all my poetry it is channelling my inner sixteen year old.
My sonnet sucked. I read all the sonnets in the beautiful penguin book of poetry with amazing imagery and great depth and I felt so shallow and observational.

But hey. -I am going to write more sonnets -they are bound to get better.
A friend read a poem by C.D. Wright. It was about pee. I loved the repetition, the
use of simple words. It was a poem that could only be written after Gertrude Stein.

One of the things that I am reflecting on during this pandemic is time (and Bergson).
I always felt like I knew what the future held, in some vague way. I mean you never know, but in the clock ticks, and the schedules, and the calendars the past and the future seemed similar.

The last weekend before the pandemic I sat with a friend at an emptyish restaurant in Brooklyn. I spoke how I could not imagine what the next week would look like, but that we would not probably be eating in a restaurant in Brooklyn (I was right about that).

The future has no measurement for me now

What I am doing during the Pandemic

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In the first few days of the pandemic I found myself engaged in lots of virtual activity. I did not want to be alone and isolated. I got back on Fb on twitter etc. It was a lot of action without a lot of deep reflection.

I found myself in a whirlwind of activity without much good work or deep reflection. I’m going to pull back from that. In part because I feel like I am not accomplishing anything, and also because I feel a bit low energy.

Now I want to pull back, to do things i love doing, reading, writing, playing guitar, playing games with my kids, star gazing, nature bathing, watching movie with friends on discord, maybe writing some code…

I still have my job and my teaching responsibilities so there is a lot of work figuring out how to do these things in a new way. I was thinking oh I am going to do an online free coding class, or start 5 newsletters or whatever. But really I am going to use this time mostly to hunker down and go within myself.

Poetry and Movement

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This past week a friend of mine invited me to a poetry project / dance workshop with Yoshiko Chuma.  It was amazing, we danced, we wrote, we choreographed – everything felt very natural and spontaneous and an expression of each of our individual damons.

I have never been a dancer or particularly interested in dance. I remember as a young girl thinking that the other girls who were interested in dance were not very serious. (This was probably an accurate assessment).  This was also my issue with theater, and to a lesser extent, singing.

In the past few years I have been very interested in dance. It originally started around 20 years ago when I started to practice yoga.   I started to focus on how my body moved and become more deliberate.  I practiced different kinds of yoga, and then kung fu.

I  had self diagnosed myself with workout ADD (I have since thankfully recovered). But workout ADD manifests itself as boredom in the repetitive movements of the workout. I was able to recover in finding nuance in the movements themselves, and also getting lost in the repetition (the repetition becoming a mantra or meditative in their repetition).

However during my period of workout ADD I started Kung Fu. Kung Fu was fantastic because you were always working on new forms.  Most of the other kung fu practitioners were dancers. What struct me about them was their ability to remember moves and their ability to touch other bodies.

I do feel like my kinetic knowledge (or somatic knowledge), is the least developed of all my knowledge systems. Although like any area of knowledge, I do believe it is possible to improve on this and I think I have improved especially through my work in Yoga, and then Kung Fu, Tai chi, Ba Gua, and other athletics (kickboxing etc). I was always athletic and in many respects there is overlap between athletics and dance when you remove the competitive aspect. The motivation is perhaps what changes. It becomes less about winning and more about the practice, about the action and the ritual.

I have become in recent years more interested in dance and movement, as I mentioned before. Not just “dance” – like fine art dance, but dancing party dancing or just dancing around the apartment with my kids.  I think the seed was planted when I read Gurdjieff in my early twenties – but i dont remember why or how or what Gurdjieff even talked about with relation to dance – maybe something about whirling dervishes.

This workshop was beautiful and fascinating in that we were all creating our own language. Dance is a language.  Gesture is a language.  I think I have written about this before.  There are, of course, unconscious aspects to this language – movements that we make automatically or unthinkingly -and then there are conscious movements.

Our movements carry signatures of ourselves. It is in many respects the most unique and personal of all languages. In this workshop everyone came up with their own dances based on the same prompts and everyone had both their own unique way of moving but also their own unique way of perceiving the original prompt and drawing meaning (creating a translation) from it.

I could connect this to sensors, translation, transduction, somatics, meaning making … But I’m just going to leave it as is.

Also I have a new newsletter – It is about the relationship between computation and our perception of our inner life (the psyche) and how this relationship expresses itself in every day life.

It launches tomorrow.

 

 

Meditations on CI/CD and GitLab

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I have been doing these CI/CD and GitLab workshops and today I am writing a book proposal. I could use some feedback. I have a bunch of thoughts on this area and then Iw will propose some titles. But first thoughts

– Gitlab does for dev ops what git did for code. Configuration as code is nothing new – or even config files in repos. I can build off other repos that have ansible configs or jenkins configs. But having all these configs in one file like gitlab that is automatically integrated into the platform is an leap forward. For example, I forked the conference software yakbak and the fork came complete with the gitlab-ci deployment template. I could have deployed in the same way or modified (which I did) to deploy on heroku. In the past, the most automagic you get is a build or install script.

– Modern development tools:
These are things that gitlab or CI/CD depend on: git, docker, I a unix based editor, orms, testing frameworks etc.
These are also things that are integrated as jobs into your pipelne – such as linting, security (sonarqube)

– Modern development philosophy
Why CI/CD, the movement away from cost reduction to time reduction (speed/lyotard). Metrics, ways of working (git branching, artifact creation).

– And finally GitLab CI/CD itself. This would be a section would walk through how to use GitLab CI/CD, jobs, pipelines, artifacts,

Title possibilities:
Modern Software Development with GitLab CI/CD
CI/CD from first principles to implementation: A GitLab Approach
Down the stack

Self-Representation

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Yesterday I wrote about self reproduction and today I figured I’d write about self representation. I had this post in the queue for a week.

My questions about self-representation started last week. Well, really they started long before that, but they were really put into relief last week when I was at an ai met talk.  Someone was going around saying, oh are you from google, oh are you from mit, oh are you from Microsoft. I put on my headphones and started to read a book, in french, upside down, so no one would talk to me. How would I answer?

Maybe start with jotting down the way you represent yourself – Nitzan said.

That was good advice, and I do that below. But part of my problem was how do I legitimate myself. Nitzan built an amazing AI newsletter, that many of these professionals subscribed used.That is how he achieved legitimacy.  It is not a bad trick. I was thinking about doing a more targeted newsletter related to consciousness and computation.  This crystalized for me the other day, and now I have forgotten thec crystal.

I could say to hell with legitimacy and do some Jedi mind tricks.  I also suppose that I could come up with some way to legitimate myself among a bunch of AI researchers. But, really, this does not sound like a good reason to create oneself.

So who am I? These days I have been calling myself a programmer, because that is what I enjoy to do. However, that is not what I spend a lot of time doing, it is more an orientation to the world. It also does not explain what I am doing at various events I go to. Being a programmer is like being a cog. However, I chafe at the idea of being a hyphenate. I just want to be one thing.

Nitzan described me as a systems poet the other day. I sort of like that. It is so wacky it confers legitimacy. I sort of find it accurate. I am interested in the borderlands of computation, and systems in general. Poetry is the language of the border. When we dont have the exact words to describe something. It is the language that carves out new territories and pushes the boundaries out further.

Strategy, Logistics, Tactics: the Strangle Method

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I have been doing a bunch of workshops for my day job that involve practical hands on experience in various dev ops systems and modern software tools. Some of these may seem remedial to more experienced developers but a big part of the endeavor is to baseline an organization.

One thing I did not expect was the emphasis on strategy or methodology. About 30% of my time if not more is spent on organization and metrics, and how these tools tie in these strategic (or perhaps tactical components).

I could consider something like CI/CD like logistics – how something is delivered to someone else (mostly an end user, but also an internal customer). And remember that Napoleon was able to be so successful because of his superior logistics. But these logistics tie back into an essential strategy. Strategy is the over all way that we achieve some sort of goal. Tactics is small patterns that together execute the strategy, and the logistics is the pipeline that enables the creation of thee small patterns (ie tactics).

I was reviewing an article for an upcoming workshop about how to remove legacy code from a system. Our goal is an easy to maintain system to minimize MTTR (mean time to repair), the strategy is to remove technical debit, how do we do this?

The tactic is the strangle method.
1) Create new code that is a proxy or pass through to the old code.

In this case you can create a new interface without rewriting business logic, and connect new services to the new interface.

2) Begin removing the proxies with real new code that works.

I would suggest doing this as you get feature requests that touch these parts of the code. A second option is just to create each function replacement as an item in your backlog. However, this has the side effect of being overwhelming.

3) Slowly remove the old code base.

This is hard, since there are always unexpected instances when some service, or customer, is hitting a piece of code that does not pass through the new interface. However, if you keep this part distinct from step 2, replacing the proxy in the interface, then you can even instrument the legacy code base to see if and when it is hit, and minimize errors that might arise.

This is one of the many instances where my job is less about technology and more about strategy or tactics. It has become increasingly easy to write software and much of software development is really systems integration these days. The issue is NOT how to write this code, but what strategy to use to build a robust system, resilient system, or as I like to say via NNT, antifragile system.

In the Archives – Binge Reading Janet Malcolm – thanks Elliott

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I loved in The Archives – an inside look at some drama that took place in the 80s regarding a man who was going to become the head of the Freud Archives.

SUCH GOOD WRITING!

Anyway – recap – the drama.

Anna Freud is getting old, all the psychoanalysis are getting old. Then need a young (ie person under the age of 45) to run the institutions of the guru errrr Founder – Freud! Enter Jeff Masson – a charming young scholar who wants the job. Problem – he is a trouble maker. He is looking to poke holes in psychoanalysis. We all know this person -who desires greatness by disruption (Duchamp for example). Perhaps he is a nihilist. Anyway – Jeff finds a letter in the Archives that makes him believe that Freud should not have discarded the seduction theory, and that all of psychoanalysis is a lie. Obviously you cannot have this sort of person running the Freud Archives. So he is ousted, there is a lawsuit, there are other characters. You get the story.

I am reflecting on this for two reasons

  1. Theory of Seduction – I never took a class on psychology although I did take a class where we read a bunch of Freud’s social and political works. Totem and Taboo, Moses and Monotheism (which could probably be called a conspiracy theory).  I think Freud is an excellent writer and I say again and again, he won over Freud and perhaps the others such as Jung, Reich, Adler, and the rest because of this. Jung in particular is a totally idiosyncratic writer. Perhaps Jung’s medium is painting. Don’t get me wrong – I love Jung -but it is what it is.

So theory of seduction. Fantasy matters. The inner life matters and has material impact on the world. This is my interpretation via the archives of Freud’s breakthrough.  Once does not have to actually be seduced to have some sort of neurosis, all one has to do is think he was seduced.

There are arguments in the book that well, being at Auschwitz is surely different from imagining you were at Auschwitz. and I would agree with that. But perhaps the difference is at the level of somatics and trauma. I am thinking of work like The Body Keeps the Score. And perhaps this is different than neurosis. That mental trauma and physical trauma is different that psychology and somatics are different. Anyway the point is that fantasy matters, it has material impact on ones ability to function in the world.  This is fascinating to me.

2. Internal vs external – I am sort of misstating this but its the best I can do in stream of consciousness blog. In the book Janet Malcolm questions whether or not this whole incident took place because of something inside Masson. Did he has some death wish (or failure wish)? Or was it something structural in the events, in the search for a new head of the Archive etc? Was Masson set up for failure no matter what? It is hard to differentiate the internal and the external because his internal state state or desire feeds into the structural events. But the question is, Did he self implode or did the the structure collapse around him?

  • Self implode – at first I was totally convinced that he self imploded. The picture that I got was of a complete narcissist, and someone somewhat out of control. That he was driving rather than driving himself. His desire to make an impact by breaking things apart made it impossible for him to not implode (since imploding is breaking things)
  • Structural collapse – The whole structure of events made it impossible for Masson to succeed. No matter what he would have been ousted from the archives. This may have been correct. The particular incident that led to his firing was not due to his narcissism and I was lead to believe. (This is pitch perfect New Yorker storytelling). Rather, a new york times reporter was going to write an article about these events come hell or high water – and no matter what it would have been damning for Masson. The real crime was talking to journalists – or the structure of collapse was Journalism itself.

There are sometimes situations where it is near impossible to avoid catastrophe. Here I am thinking about institutional racism (or sexism which I have personal experience with). Some of the structures of the events are such that the only hope is to avoid utter catastrophe, but make no bones about it – it will happen.

In this an un analytical stance. That the external world has this importance, that the internal world is impotent.  Well perhaps we can develop our internal world in such a way that we develop our imaginations and realms of possibilities and can see through the impossibilities to avoid the catastrophies that befall us- even when they seem  inevitable.

Writing a review

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I am writing a review of a book.  IMHO – the best reviews are reviews that use a book as a starting off point for a discussion of ideas. It is a discussion between the author of the review and the author of the book. I am not even sure we should call this a review then.  Most recently, I read (and blogged) about Ray Brassier’s The Hermeneutics of Suspicion, 

I am writing a review on Spinal Catastrophism.  First I was thinking why do I want to write a review on it? It is messy.  In form, it is part lit crit, theory fiction, philosophy, analysis. But also I am viewing it through my own lens of the edifice of mega metaphysics crumbling – think Kant and Hegel and in place of ideologies – the concept of worlding. What is the philosophical status of worlding, what is the role of justification in philosophy? What is the difference between philosophy and art (theory fiction)?  What is the difference between philosophy and science. Philosophy is like the marble of the Roman Empire left in Rome. It was all used by other people for other purposes until there was nothing left of the original. Is there nothing left of philosophy? Perhaps. But if so, why? What need did it fill, and what is it now replaced by.