Archive for April, 2008

Deleuze’s difficult style

In reading Deleuzian Interrogations I was happy to see an acknowledgment of how difficult Deleuze’s writing is. DeLanda writes/says the following:

I think the main obstacle to engaging with Deleuze directly is the style. He writes as if he deliberately wanted to be misunderstood, or at least that’s the way it impacts someone who, like me, is trained mostly in Anglo-American analytical philosophy. (I suppose that if one is used to struggle with Continental authors one may get a different impression). He changes terminology in every book (so that the virtual dimension becomes a ‘plane of consistency’ in one, a ‘body without organs’ in another, a ‘machinic phylum’ in another and so on) and never ever gives explicit definitions (or hides them well). I suppose that was an attempt on his part of preventing a given terminology to solidify too soon, to keep things fluid and heterogeneous. Fine. But I cannot deal with that and hardly expect complexity theorists to put up with it either. (19-20)

Wow! DeLanda can’t deal with it. I don’t feel so alone anymore! I always found it difficult but never wrote him off as so many others do (as they do with Lacan and Derrida as well). After struggling for 15 years or so with all of these difficult, shifting concepts, I have had the benefit of recent books that help a great deal with putting Deleuze into plain English: Peter Hallward’s Out of This World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation, Todd May’s Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction, and everything by DeLanda has been incredibly helpful, and I highly recommend these to those struggling with the primary texts of Deleuze.

In the same interview, Protevi also comments:

Once you get past their style (and yes, it is less daunting for someone like me who came up through the ranks reading Heidegger and Derrida, but the ontological shift, from post-phenomenology to materialism, is wrenching!), there are indeed lots of reasons why the Deleuze and complexity theory connection is so interesting. (21)

I have had the same experience as he has, having cracked my theoretical teeth on deconstruction as presented through many of the professors I had while working toward my M.A. & Ph.D. degrees at the University of Florida from 1986-1994 (including one of Derrida’s translators, John Leavey)–though I have to say that some of Deleuze’s work is the most challenging reading I’ve ever done. Even Derrida strives to make sense–and does most of the time, despite his resorting to “puncepts.” One thing is for sure: it makes reading anything else a piece of cake…

I have also experienced this “wrenching ontological shift” that Protevi speaks of as well, and didn’t realize it until I read some of the explanatory works listed above.


26 April 2008 at 9:14 pm 2 comments

e=mc squared + information

I was reading Deleuzian Interrogations: A Conversation with Manuel DeLanda, John Protevi, and Torkild Thanem and bumped into this interesting quote:

Delanda:  “I cannot imagine a materialist philosophy which is not also realist. On the other hand, someone who believes that god and the devil exist independently of our minds is also a realist but clearly not a materialist. The only problem with the term ‘materialism’ is that not only matter but also energy and physical information are needed to account for self-organizing phenomena and the processes which fabricate physical entities” (3).

This reminded me of a book I read titled The Bit and the Pendulum: From Quantum Computing to M Theory–The New Physics of Information which left me with the same impression that DeLanda emphasizes here. As author Tom Siegfried writes, “Many scientists now conceive of information as something real, as real as space, time, energy, and matter” (7).    Siegfried speaks of how the study of biology benefits from this perspective as one example of how this new field is changing the sciences:

Information’s reality has reshaped the way biologists study and understand cells, the brain, and the mind. Cells are not merely vats of chemicals that turn food into energy, but sophisticated computers, translating messages from the outside world into the proper biological responses. True, the brain runs on currents of electrical energy through circuits of cellular wires. But the messages in those currents can be appreciated only by understanding the information they represent” (9)

This notion that “information is the foundation of reality” (59) made me consider creating a new neologism to capture this new sense of reality:  “infonomics” — the “management of information.”  Whatever word we use–whether it’s infonomics or energonomics–this book suggests that information must become part of what we consider when we speak of managing energy.

DeLanda points to how the term “materialism” falls short of capturing all that comes into play in the triad of energy-matter-information flows.  He draws attention to this phenomenon in his own book A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History when he concludes that

the flows of materials whose history we described involved more than just matter-energy. They also included *information*, understood not in static terms as mere physical patterns (measured in bits) but in dynamic terms, as patterns capable of self-replication and catalysis (259-60).

25 April 2008 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

on Collective Intelligence

See this “Quote of the Day: New Knowledge” from Will Richardson’s blog for an interesting reference to a 600 pg. report on “Collective Intelligence.” This meme is getting legs.

24 April 2008 at 10:46 am Leave a comment

Collective Intelligence Emergent

I have mentioned the idea of “Collective Intelligence” in two previous posts (“Memory in the Age of Electracy” and “The Civilization of Illiteracy“) and will now add it as a tag/category.  It seems to be a meme that is catching on, as I just encountered it again in the “Horizon Project 2008” wikispace, wherein classrooms are connecting to enact some of the concepts in the book Wikinomics and The World is Flat (the Horizon Project being a sister project to the “Flat Classroom Project“).  The Horizon 2008 Report offers a timeline and suggests that in 4-5 years collective intelligence and “social operating systems” will be adopted.  Pretty radical!

17 April 2008 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment


While developing a presentation for a group of librarians about social bookmarking as public memory, this neologism “mnemonomics” occurred to me as a way to organize my presentation.  What I have been trying to do with bloglines and is to “manage my mnemonic prosthetics”:  if we think of technology as a prosthesis or extension of our memories, then scanning headlines from the WALL STREET JOURNAL, NEW YORK TIMES, NPR, etc. and adding ones I want to keep into my delicious account become a way of laying down my cyborg memories.

Mnemonomics:  a fusion of mneme (“memory”) and nomos (“management”).  A bit tricky on the tongue, however.  Try saying mnemonomician, for example!

8 April 2008 at 12:10 am Leave a comment

April 2008
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