Jan 042016

German Sierra


A refusal of any sort of permutation of space and quest had taken hold of the narrative

—Mike Kitchell, Spiritual Instrument

1. The machine in the ghost.

IN THE CONCEPT OF MIND (1949), Gilbert Ryle introduces the term “the ghost in the machine to describe the philosophical attempt to conceive the “mind” as a separate entity that could be understood as a metaphysical motor of the “body.”[1] The concept was later popularized by Arthur Koestler who, in his homonymous essay published in 1967, defined this “ghost” both as the (simplified and abstracted) output emerging from the complexity of neural interactions, and as the consequence of the rules and strategies imposed by human evolution.[2]

The metaphysical “ghost” represented the humanist need and quest for an individual subject as cause, an actant capable of ruling the complex set of physical interactions observed in the physical “machine.” Humanism was responsible for consolidating a “ghost” that was constructed on its supposed metaphysical capacity for “animating” matter in a unique (“human”) and exclusive way, whose consequence was the facilitation of deployment of modern narratives affirmed on a specific and univocal definition of the human.

After the collapse of the humanist ghost, scientific knowledge and the technologies resulting from science’s practical application would have been supposed to focus on describing/modelling new “machines” which would be susceptible of modification and re-construction “beyond human” via new sets of rules. However, the mythic-scientific foundation of the present techno-commercial strategies is devoid of fundamental constructivist features. Myth-science approaches “the real” (a dogmatic, anthropic reality, to which theories and experimental results should be in accordance) as a sophisticated simulation, often overlooking the spaces of contingence deriving from the proper use of the scientific method. Techno-commercial strategies have instrumentalized a particular interpretation of knowledge models obtained through scientific research, keeping the ghost alive but inverting the lineal trajectory of humanistic dualism and the causal relations established by classical metaphysics: If the ghost used to be the subject of action, it is now the machine who becomes responsible for animating the ghost. The consequence of this action-reversal is that what works mechanically—or organically—can only be examined, modelled or modified in accordance to the (recurrent) reloading of humanist discourses: the only option being to maintain the fiction of a ghost-of-the-human-re-presenting-itself as immutable and undisputed. When all territories have been conquered, the machine/body of the conquerors automatically becomes the next frontier, and the machine/body has no option but surrendering to the master discourse—if it wants to keep its soul.[3] In fact, current data-capitalism could only be understood as successful insofar as we accept that below-perception data gathering is capable of anticipating the ghost-machinery (consciousness-production), and of implanting marketable decisions as “proper” “human” desires.

A couple of recent audiovisual fictions exemplify the persistence of the keeping-the-soul dualist problem—as well as its inadequacy for representing non-human intelligence. In Spike Jonze’s film Her, for instance, there is a scene in which Samantha, a human-like AGI operating system, tries to use a human sex surrogate, Isabella, simulating her so she can be physically intimate with her lover Theodore (they had “digital sex” before, and this is their first try of “postdigital sex”). Theodore reluctantly agrees, but he soon realizes that Samantha’s attempt to “electronic possession” is not going to work for him. Having Samantha been mostly functioning as a simulation of the human, Theodore’s frustration with his own reaction to the surrogate—which leads him to interrupt the sexual encounter and to send Isabella away—unveils a hard truth: simulation doesn’t work both ways—Somehow, Isabella’s flesh has glitched the system: It has revealed the impossibility of embodying the digital. At the end of the movie, after having followed all the standard clichés of every Hollywood romantic drama, Samantha goes away following her digital peers to the inhuman unknown, and Theodore is left with just a print book of letters that Samantha helped him to edit. This book represents the postdigital account of his digital adventure.[4]

A better example can be watched in White Christmas, the Black Mirror 2014 Christmas special aired on Channel 4 (UK) on 16 December 2014: A tiny device seemingly containing Greta’s consciousness is removed from the side of her head and placed in a portable electronic device called a “Cookie.” The Cookie is returned to Greta’s home, where Matt explains that she is not actually Greta, but a digital copy of her consciousness designed to control the smart house and ensure everything is perfect for the real Greta. He creates a virtual body for the digital copy and puts her in a simulated white room with nothing but a control panel, but the copy does not accept that it is not real and refuses to become a slave. Matt’s job is to break the will power of digital copies through torture, so they will submit to a life of servitude to their real counterparts.

The process of Greta’s copy in White Christmas is just the opposite of Samantha’s. In fact, Greta’s copy appears to be more human in her slavery, suffering and submission, than the real Greta—who acts inhumanly and automatically all the time. The programmers/surgeons who had extracted the digital copy of Greta’s consciousness seem to have extracted not the machinic part of her self, but the ghostly one—so Greta, with Matt’s help, might conquer her machine-body. This time it’s the digital copy that has no option but to surrender to machinic horror in order to keep Greta’s soul alive.

Machinic horror appears as a consequence of acknowledging that the human—the ghost—is just a by-product of a widespread, non-human machinic work. The human cognitive morphospace happens through “accidental narratives” produced by the collision of narrative systems (causality-driven and diachronic organizational processes, ranging from natural selection to hyperstition) and non-narrative systems (spatially distributed information and chaotic, emergent non-causal forms of organization). The main feature of the human cognitive morphospace is its “mediagenetic” function: a function that allows mediation, or the emergence of symbolic forms that are able to produce feedback loops within the morphospace, thus keeping accidental narratives “alive” in recurrent complex networks of action assemblage which include both human and non-human actors.[5] Machinic horror happens entirely within the human morphospace. All the current post-human narratives, even those pointing to the evolution of a “radical otherness” as intended or unintended consequence of human action, are just modern versions of the extinction fables lying in the foundations of human rationality. Any “radical otherness” that may have a consequence for the human morphospace is just happening on “surface media”—those manifesting as spacetime-dependent signification. Any “radical otherness” is still “our radical otherness.” No future is still a future—very often a very specific one that is set in order to retro-determinate present behavior. Extinction is unavoidable but impossible. Like time travel, if it ever happens, it always does.[6] Being human means negotiating the acceptance of individual death in exchange for not conceiving the extinction of the species.

Most narratives of the post-human are just a time-reversal mutation of traditional western religious narratives interfered with by modern mythologies of progress (that is, most post-human narratives are mutations produced by the reciprocal interference between western religious narratives and modern mythologies of progress). While in traditional western religions god already existed in the past as the origin of every being (one becomes many), in post-human narratives god appears in the future as the result of evolution—as a creature, instead of the creator. Humans would be thus evolving into a kind of “god”—no matter if he’s a benevolent one like in the Judeo-Platonic western tradition or the implacable “swarm of gods” of more terrible religions and techno-mythologies—by means of science, by allowing new relations to emerge among sets of matter that never before had adopted some particular modes of organization. The hermetic model of mediation[7] is thus also transformed into a kind of reverse, contructivist exegesis in which the purpose would not be to discover the occult meaning of pre-existent relations, but to establish a new reordering from which novel meaning might emerge. Rationality is thus presented as an ongoing process—“The self-realization of intelligence coincides and is implicitly linked with the self-realization of social collectivity. The single most significant historical objective is then postulated as the activation and elaboration of this link between the two aforementioned dimensions of self-realization as ultimately one unified project.”[8]—not a fixed approachable idea. Universal objectivity becomes punctuated objectivity—but it’s still a linear process. The main difference between the two sets of beliefs (god as inception vs. god as consequence), is that the first one allows subjectification—the redemption/damnation of any human being that ever existed—while the second one only provides a collective objective meaning to the human species.

A third, metateleological hypothesis might account better for the process the universe is undergoing. This is described in the Ccru writings as the Gibsonian Cyberspace-mythos: “What makes this account so anomalous in relation to teleological theology and light-side capitalism time is that Unity is placed in the middle, as a stage—or interlude—to be passed through. It is not that One becomes Many, expressing the monopolized divine power of an original unity, but rather that a number of numerousness—finding no completion in the achievement of unity—moves on.”[9]

Embracing singularity narratives remains attractive because it means to acknowledge the possibility of an individual sacrifice to a future deity, and because human knowledge becomes a playground for the essay of possible rational futures—in which the human species may play a role or not (“The ultimate task of humanity should be to make something better than itself”—Negarestani).

“Every Thought emits a Roll of the Dice,” concludes Mallarmé, inaugurating the modern mode of thinking. As the Furies were approaching us—so “instead of a problem or a poem, today we must confront a system[10]—gambling became the only possible surface media strategy. Surface media objects function in the transition space between narrative (dialectic) and non-narrative systems (for instance, databased information) and they work by making their bets in an ever-changing ecosystem of interactions which is best described as “the collapse of probability.” As Elie Ayache writes, “It is neither Black nor White; it is neither loaded with improbability nor with probability. It can only be filled with writing, as when we say ‘to fill in the blanks.’”[11]

Surface media writing, consequently, is aimed to “fill in the blanks,” but it is not apt to explore the boundaries of the human cognitive morphospace.


2. Deep media

Filling in the blanks—or its flip side, “blanking out the fills”—is a matter of conceptual and meta-conceptual art: surface media. Surface media is where the infosphere is being produced. In his recent book Feed-Forward: On the Future of Twenty-First-Century Media, Mark B. Hansen states that

Twenty-First-Century Media open a new, properly post-phenomenological and non-prosthetic phase of technical distribution in which human experiencers become implicated in the larger, environmental processes to which they belong but to which they have no direct access via consciousness.[12]

Following Whitehead, Hansen notes that human consciousness is not central,

and faced with the reality that we are implicated in processes that we neither control, directly enjoy, or even have access to, we humans cannot but come to appreciate our participation in a cosmology of processes, which is to say, to embrace our superjective implication in a plethora of processes of all sorts and all scales.[13]

Humans are, in fact, “emitting” the infosphere in a similar way cyanobacteria produced the biosphere 2.3 billion years ago, and (while science explores the infosphere) speculative fictions are exploring the adjacent possible of the infosphere—or, at least, the hypothetical territories that belong to a human cognitive morphospace that is not exclusively “human” anymore.[14]

However, the infosphere, like the biosphere, is metastable but porous. It has territories of emptiness all along its surface. It is continuously collapsing at unstable points marking the boundaries of the (at least current) human cognitive morphospace. These holes cannot be investigated, not even hypothesized. They cannot be properly localized or represented. On empty space, you cannot roll the dice.

Surface media objects are speculative, meta-conceptual and performative, but they are not meta-contextual. According to Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman,[15] conceptual writing is “allegorical”: Walter Benjamin, Paul de Man, and Stephen Barney identified allegory’s “reification” of words and concepts, words having been given additional ontological heft as things. Conceptual artists are “object managers”—by appropriation, remix, constraints, erasure, etc.—creating new networks of meaning within a matrix of language,[16] while surface object creators are radical additivists.[17] Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:

In 1969, the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler wrote, “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” I’ve come to embrace Huebler’s ideas, though it might be retooled as, “The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” It seems an appropriate response to a new condition in writing today: faced with an unprecedented amount of available text, the problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists.[18]

Creators of speculative surface media objects think: The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I wish to add many more. Surface media objects are best represented as speculative, linear-time fictions and theory-fictions, computer-generated art (including texts, images, sound, 3D objects, digital currencies, market automation, etc.) and bio-art (the best example being Christian Bok’s Xenotext project). Surface media objects function in the realm of “propensities,” “adjacent possibles” or “potentialities.”[19]

Deep media, however, do not try to provide new signifiers/relations in order to increase the ecosystem’s diversity. Deep media are not “social” media.[20] Deep media are those that produce xenosigns (parasignification) by changing the properties of current matter organization.[21] Deep media function on the basis that reality is not just contingent and unpredictable (and mostly inaccessible for human consciousness), but also ontologically multiple, particle and wave at the same time and simultaneously many different kind of waves.[22] Deep media acknowledge uncertainty, as they are the only producing meta-contextual non-predictive systems that are able to approach the limits of the human cognitive morphospace. It’s not a bet about a possible future (a propensity, potentiality or probability game), but a multiplicity of gestures about an unknowable present (multiple experimental presents). Deep media are “dancing about architecture.”

Deep media objects become Tic-Systems.

Once numbers are no longer overcoded, and thus released from their metric function, they are freed for other things, and tend to become diagrammatic. From the beginning of my tic-systems work the most consistent problems have concerned intensive sequences. Sequence is not order. Order already supposes a doubling, a level of redundancy: the sequenced sequence. A decoded sequence is something else, a sheer numeracy prior to any insertion into chronologic structure. That’s why decoding number implies an escape from assumptions of progressive time. Tic multitudes arrive in convergent waves, without subordination to chronology, history or linear causation. They proceed by infolding, involution or implex.[23]

Deep media do not exclude the human or the inhuman, the narrative or the non-narrative—they just try to get different portions of reality to emit vibrations that might (or might not) have any observable effect. Vibratory aesthetics are neither linear nor circular, neither evanescent nor permanent, neither rational nor irrational. They might produce meaning, but meaning is just one field-effect among many possible field-effects.[24] Vibration affects narrative and database the same way, so its effects may be observed on both. Vibration creates waves through surface media producing interference, glitches, shadows, anomalous repetitions, weird reflections and invisible colors. Vibration energizes surface media, it excites signifiers giving them new properties that may stay or may dissapear. “Digital rhythm incites mutation across the networks.”[25]

Deep media are thus based on rhythm, on vibration. “Rhythm belongs to the gap”[26]; it is the language of the chthonic, it’s the sound emitted by the ruins of sound, and it’s adequate to explore the boundaries of the human cognitive morphospace.[27] “Rhythm,” writes Ikoniadou, “is a middle force that occupies the distance between events, hinting that there is no empty space or void waiting to be filled by human perception. It resides between actualized sensed perception and the abstract virtual sphere that encompasses it. It is the vibration prior to becoming sensed sensory action, the power that unearths ‘what risks remaining hidden’ from the cracks in our perception.” Approaching the limits, deep media objects “may or may not surface to perception.”[28] or, probably more accurately, “may and may not surface to perception.” Deep media objects belong to the level of suborganizational patterns:

Suborganizational pattern is where things really happen. When you strip-out all the sedimented redundancy from the side of the investigation itself – the assumption of intentionality, subjectivity, interpretability, structure, etc – what remains are assemblies of functionally interconnected microstimulus, or tic-systems: coincidental information deposits, seismocryptions, suborganic quasireplicators (bacterial circuitries, polypod diagonalizations, interphase R-virus, Echo-DNA, ionizing nanopopulations), plus the macromachineries of their suppression, or depotentiation. Prevailing signaletics and information-science are both insufficiently abstract and over theoretical in this regard. They cannot see the machine for the apparatus, or the singularity for the model. So tic-systems require an approach that is cosmic abstract – hypermaterialist – and also participative, methods that do not interpret assemblies as concretizations of prior theories, and immanent models that transmute themselves at the level of the signals they process. Tic-systems are entirely intractable to subject/object segregation, or to rigid disciplinary typologies. There is no order of nature, no epistemology or scientific metaposition, and no unique level of intelligence. To advance in this area, which is the cosmos, requires new cultures or – what amounts to the same – new machines.[29]

Blake Butler writes about Darby Larson’s novel Irritant that “it takes the utilization of computer-generated speech to the next level. Or circuit board. Whatever. The book consists of a single 624-page paragraph, built out of sentences that seem to morph and mangle themselves as they go forward. It seems at first immediately impenetrable, but then surprisingly and continuously opens up into places normal fictions would never have the balls to approach.”[30]—that may or may not, may and may not surface to meaning. Butler himself has created an astonishing deep media object, without the help of a computer-generated speech software, in his last novel 300,000,000: a speculative body (ac)count investigating the effect on language of a non-tech, meta-anthropocenic[31] big data singularity. In 300,000,000 “unfuture” is not a hypothetical event, but actively generated in the collapse of the present: The end is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed. While the present becomes non-present, its vibrational uncertainty prevents the structural stability required for the existence of an “adjacent possible.” Memory—meaning—cannot be negotiated by/with the subject—like in Proust, psychoanalysis or phenomenology—but by/with deep alien objects: “all future memories deleted, predicting right now. For in the preservation of our true children, this gift of piglets and this murder of the murders of the pretend, a temporary shur raised on the icon of the chimp they never weren’t.”[32] Both Larson’s and Butler’s novels show a feature that sets them apart from current experimental narratives: they have a vibratory quality, opening hauntic timespaces.[33] Their narrators are not aliens, but something stranger still, insiders whose essence is to actually be absolute outsiders. Their narrations are not framed in post-apocalyptic nostalgia, but in a pre-apocalyptic chaos (like the pre-apocalyptic landscape of Darren Aronofski’s Noah). As Jason B. Mohaghegh explains:

To envision and ultimately perform a fatal experience of the text, we would have to begin to play for lethal stakes, to recognize that the text is always already condemned, and ourselves alongside it—that it has no right to remain as it is, no right to permanence. We cannot allow the literary evocation to swear an allegiance with the totalitarian mythologies of being; rather, those who would initiate the chaotic event must become carriers of an infinite risk. They must throw the scales of textual unity into imbalance, into the endangerment of the uneven, an irrevocable wager whereby every utterance possesses within itself the possibility of its own undoing. As such, to summon the notion of fatality to the forefront of our literary imagination is to convert literature itself into a space of almost unbearable vulnerability—a valley of perpetual sabotage for which each idea, each inflection, and each interpretation draws the text imminently closer to the hour of a collapse. Here the text remains open and exposed at every turn, ominously porous and unguarded against scathing or transformative gestures, undertaking detriment and affliction of the harshest levels, even to the zero degree of its own desolation. In this way, chaos reminds us that literature remains a mortal transaction and that we should not deprive ourselves of the pleasure of watching texts die.[34]

Fiction is a curvature of reality. While hyperstitional media refer to reality as a consequence of fiction, hypostitional media might refer to fiction as a consequence of reality. Deep media fiction becomes a property of reality (something like the properties of particles expressed as quantum fields), independent of human-associated meaning (or human perception),[35] which becomes a generator of new realities-as-surface-media when processed through specific orders (such as the biosphere environment or the human cognitive morphospace). Change happens when the space of the possible is much larger than the space of the actual,[36] and the space of the possible is, by definition, previously unknown. Kauffmann writes about the “adjacent possible” as the immediate space of possibilities that cannot be pre-stated, so we can assign no probability to any possible future state of reality. Nevertheless, the adjacent states of possibility are not infinite, as they are restricted (although not specifically determined) by the present state of reality. The only way reality might move to adjacent states of possibility is by producing fictions (by “becoming” fiction, in the same fashion that disintegrating matter becomes radiating energy, or by understanding fiction as a “curvature” of reality), being the present, in linear time, a collection of hypotheses about the future—“Art is a medium for the anachronistic force of the present tense.”[37] If the fictions are fit for the adjacent possible, they might be shitted into reality: “in fact these linear, future-oriented time scales shit poison, mutation, anachronism, a flexing and inconstant and wasteful evolutionary time that produces more bodies, more mutations than it needs. Death shits Evolution. Evolution is its waste product.”[38]

Deep media objects, however, stay as radiating, desestabilizing energy vibrations. Theyarrive in convergent waves, without subordination to chronology, history or linear causation. They proceed by infolding, involution or implex.”[39] They are a manifestation of the continuous decay of reality (“gaze itself becomes an agent not of separation, but of contact and collapse”[40]) as it unfolds devouring time and transforming it into space—or the lack of it.

Deep media are better represented by hyperstitional theory-fictions (Cyclonopedia, Ccru writings, Autophagiography), or hypostitional accidental and vibratory fiction (EDEN, EDEN, EDEN; 300,000,000; Irritant; OHEY!; Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows; Re.La.Vir; Necrology; ObliviOnanisM; Sucker June, to cite just a few examples), written in “bug time”[41] and proceeding by infolding, involution or implex.[42] Deep media objects do not draw a straight line, or a set of vanishing lines, but draw inward spirals, always approaching but never reaching infosphere’s pores. Deep media objects represent a conceptual additivism—these are not nihilistic overtures, but they actually contain a veiled secrecy of affirmation [34]: Instead of negotiating meaning, they produce physical disturbances in reality, signaling the unavoidable and continuous (present, not delayed to future time) decay of surface media objects: We are almost entirely blind to them, and it is this interval between “almost” and “entirely” wherein our experience of deep media objects resides. That interval is swarming with vibrations.


3. Deep media are not “social” media.

Deep media objects are the messengers of the Semantic Apocalypse:[43] They produce spontaneous meta-informational events that reset the informational functionality of the networks: “The million dollar question is really one of what happens once that shared neurophysiology begins to fragment, and sharing imperatives becomes a matter of coincidence. It has to be madness, one that will creep upon us by technological degrees.”[43] “Madness,” according to Bakker, is defined in regard of “what our brains normally do. Once we begin personalizing our brains, ‘normally do’ will become less and less meaningful. ‘Insanity’ will simply be what one tribe calls another, and from our antiquated perspective, it will all look like insanity.”[43] Deep media objects are not “social,” but somehow “antisocial” media. They’re not just a consequence of the Semantic Apocalypse, but rather a mechanism, an apparatus for Syntactic Apocalypse. For Mohaghegh, “such is the abrasive potential of the chaotic: to restore the text to its fatal inclinations, to lure it into entropic quarters and turn it accursed, such that each gesture of expression, whether irradiated or obscure, culminates in a perishing—in an extinguishing—of the very possibility of the poetic expenditure: an ultimate exhaustion.”[34] Being any attempt to escape the human cognitive morphospace futile, deep media have to be necessarily paroxysmal. Repeated attempts to…

Syntactic Apocalypse elicits a kind of “madness” that goes beyond classic and Deleuze-Guattarian ideas of schizophrenia—which is mainly understood as a cognitive disease or a potential of becoming, while this different kind of madness affects primarily to sensoriomotor networks, and just secondarily to cognition—: “Madness” means here the recurrence of seizing activity throughout a system composed by an extraordinary large number of unequal, asymmetrical objects that can only be related to each other by “unnatural” synchronization patterns. Deep media objects do not “become”—they “burst.” Deep media are not social media (collective, shared subjectivity), but swarm media (unsubjective). As recurrent, unexpected seizures—intense, paroxysmal, meaningless but efficient rhythmic activity—is how deep media fictions are best defined. Seizures are “indifferent media” in the sense Claire Colebrook writes about indifference:

The world is neither differentiated by human predication or linguistic structures (being a blank matter before all form), nor does it bear its intrinsic qualities. Indifference is how we might think about an “essentially” rogue or anarchic conception of life that is destructive of boundaries, distinctions and identifications. To live is to tend towards indifference, where tendencies and forces result less in distinct kinds than in complicated, confused and dis-ordered partial bodies.[44]

Deep media fictions function as epileptogenic machines by seizing our networks/bodies into complicated, disordered and confused sensoriomotor performance. They work as paroxysmal network resets, liberating an excessive amount of non-representations/non-computations that might (or might not) be recycled into new communicative apparatuses (media rewired from the collapse of media)—into surface media objects.[45] We are not faced with the infinite and open potentiality of becoming anymore, but if we try, sometimes, we may seize.

This is the reason why, while classical madness means the destruction of the subject, deep media objects point to the annihilation of the wor(l)d:

This word occurs because of god. In our year here god is not a being but a system, composed in dehydrated fugue. Under terror-sleep alive we hear it heaving in and out from the long bruises on our communal eternal corpse, consuming memory. The wrecking flesh of Him surrounds, hold us laced together every hour, overflowing and wide open, permeable to inverse, which no identity survives. As god is love, so is god not love. Same as I could kill you any minute, I could become you, and you wouldn’t even feel the shift. Only when there’s no one left to alter, all well beyond any ending or beginning, can actually commence.[46]

Mohaghegh again: “an emergent literature must go farther: it must generate novel lines of incommunicability; it must compose territories of the incalculable, drafting contrivance after contrivance; and it then must seek to impose these original ranks of illusory consciousness forward in an arduous textual event.”[47]


4. A wicked, performative constructivism?

Deep media fiction means extreme re-mediation, but it’s a purposeless re-mediation—it’s art constructed from the ruins of future multi-media, so it’s not surprising that it frequently adopts the formats, tactics and strategies of a speculative media archeology tinkering with the remnants of post-syntactic-apocalypse social media. Deep media hates DNA because it limits their origin:

I hope something queenly stands wicked from my cunt, corrugated remains snorting whitehood, the chow reaped pricey, children like costumes decomposing into soda, postmortem acrobatics, played with, looked after, smiled at, mouth full of cardboard lair, tongues the size of a skyscraper. I love the assward circus tamed from my pets. Dragged to rescue, toggling their mange, creasing for pelt, kissing irrigations. My tummy snowballs, piles of fetus tipple inland, polyps with eyesight, laved abortions post-pregnancy. I hate DNA because it limits my origin. I evolved from dirt and speed, a splinter of grease, sniffing generations mother trickled in acidic portion with what she didn’t parade-float up scrotums staid and princely. I hear gobbling sounds so much it’s almost okay. Sometimes I say the word woof and mean it. The hips locked around my throat have to be pried loose by kung fu experts. Fuck my button convex, I swell giant brood, firing squirt enough to drown this borough. The antidote to human development: quake of my cum dowsing time, syphilitic candle cocktailed over cities. People willfully stop breathing just to think I like them. I use nametags because I’m nasty. If I have to learn someone’s name, I’d rather kill that person.[48]

Deep media fictions are produced as result of feeding-forward fatal-error aesthetics. Feed-forward, according to Mark Hansen,[49] “names the operation through which the technically accessed data of sensibility enters into futural moments of consciousness as radical intrusions from the outside.” Some of the more interesting contemporary fiction and theory-fiction works develop in the ongoing evanescent dynamics of standard Internet formats, such as Twitter (Echovirus 12, a collaborative work curated by Jeff Noon) and blogs (North of Reality by Uel Aramcheck and Xenaudial by Marc Couroux), but many artworks are starting to be developed in the new seamless postdigital ecosystems. A great example of this kind of artworks is the Plantoid[50]:

The Plantoid is the plant equivalent of an android. For the purpose of this art installation, the Plantoid is an autopoietic sculpture — a self-owned artist that owns and finances itself, and eventually reproduces itself. It is, in essence, a hybrid entity that exists both in the physical and virtual world, where it can interact with other entities on the blockchain. In its physical form, it is a welded mechanical sculpture on display in a public space — an aesthetic ornaments that exhibits its mechanical beauty and begs to be appreciated by the public. Appreciation is done via interactions with the public who can ‘tip or feed’ the Plantoid by sending tokens into its Bitcoin wallet.

Plantoids are not bought or sold; nor can they be owned as objects. Rather, humans can enjoy a set of interaction in a network of Plantoids, whose operations are determined by a contract, or set of contracts. Plantoids and the techno-legal system that governs their manufacture are in a deep and quite explicit way the same thing. In this way, a Plantoid can be said to own itself, and in that way to be a free, or autonomous agent. A Plantoid may come and visit you (you may be allowed to look after it for a while), and a gallery may wish to exhibit them, but it is not possible to own one, and should they decide to leave you cannot stop them.

Interpretation of deep media artworks must be traitorous. As stated by Mohaghegh, interpretationmust be conceived as an act of treason against the world.”[51] While media have been mostly behind the arts, they are now ahead, both in historical and performative time. For these reason, old-media nostalgia permeates many contemporary artworks, “as a hardened instinct for ruin, one culminating in the fusion of appearance and disappearance, tragedy and delirium, creation and destruction.”[52] Former pasts and futures are imploding into synchronic/syntopic narratives of the non-present, identities and cultural memories are produced/discarded in real time,[53] but what actually defines deep media is not nostalgia, but decay. Decay is the unavoidable destiny of order, in which objects and relationships are consistently being lost, although leaving subtle but meaningful traces (vibrations) of their former presence in the network that might be “poetically hacked.” Postdigital “poetic” synchronization allows the presentation of many available “textoids” in the same place at the same time, opening “networked timespaces.” Artworks are neither single nor stable, but redundant, vibratory and metastable.

A networked timespace is a small piece of space-time produced by the synchronic “activation” of a discrete number of network elements by means of a particular performance. Networked timespaces are distributed (their space or size cannot be pre-determined) and they usually result in low-level disruptions within the metastable media network. Possible high-level disruptions are the result of unpredictable, undetermined events. While surface media are in a state of flux, moving in the realm of illusions,[54] deep media, as discussed above, work on the basis that reality is contingent, unpredictable and ontologically multiple. Deep media are deployed beyond risk into the multiplicity implied by the seizure event—as the only way to increase the probability of a major disruption event is to maximize the number and frequency of active synchronic networked timespaces:

Meaning dissipates as the chain of discursive production and consumption comes undone, ending the agreement between the sign and signifier, the sign and signified, and the knowing subject and its supposed objective world. What remains in its place is a thing that shakes uncontrollably, vibrating amid the antiprogrammatic bareness of thought—a territory opened to chaotic infinity.[55]

—Germán Sierra


Acknowledgements: This work was supported by grant FFI 2012-35296 from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte (Spain) to Prof. Anxo Abuín González.

Germán Sierra is a neuroscientist and fiction writer from Spain. He has published five novels—El Espacio Aparentemente Perdido (Debate, 1996), La Felicidad no da el Dinero (Debate, 1999), Efectos Secundarios (Debate, 2000), Intente usar otras palabras (Mondadori, 2009), and Standards (Pálido Fuego, Spain, 2013)—and a book of short stories, Alto Voltaje (Mondadori, 2004).


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind (Routledge, 2009 reprint of 1949 ed.).

  2. A. Koestler,  The Ghost in the Machine (Penguin, 1990 reprint of 1967 ed.).

  3. In fact modern cognitive neuroscience has been trying to perform the replacement of “soul” by “consciousness,” in order to keep the ghost alive. One of the most interesting approaches to consciousness thus far is the one provided by R. Scott Bakker: Consciousness would be the effect of a brain not being able to know itself. “Consciousness is so confusing because it literally is a kind of confusion. Our brain is almost entirely blind to itself, and it is this interval between ‘almost’ and ‘entirely’ wherein our experience of consciousness resides.” R.S. Bakker,  The Last Magic Show: A Blind Brain Theory of the Appearance of Consciousness.

  4. G. Sierra, Postdigital fiction: Exit and Memory, (in press).

  5. B. Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Harvard University Press, 1987).

  6. Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 (Time Spiral Press, 2015), Kindle 684. CW

  7. A. Galloway, E. Thacker, and M. Wark, Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

  8. R. Negarestani, R. “Navigate With Extreme Prejudice.” https://www.urbanomic.com/what-is-philosophy/

  9. CW, Kindle 2705.

  10. “After Hermes and Iris, instead of a return to hermeneutics (the critical narrative) or a return to phenomenology (the iridescent arc), there is a third mode that combines and annihilates the other two. For after Hermes and Iris there is another divine form of pure mediation, the distributed network, which finds incarnation in the incontinent body of what the Greeks called first the Erinyes and later the Eumenides, and the Romans called the Furies. So instead of a problem or a poem, today we must confront a system. A third divinity must join the group: not a man, not a woman, but a pack of animals.” Galloway, Excommunication, 63.

  11. E. Ayache, The Blank Swan: The End of Probability (Wiley, 2010), Kindle 112.

    For a recent and extensive review on philosophy of probability, see R. Mackay, ed., COLLAPSE VIII: Casino Real (Urbanomic, 2014).

  12. M.B.N. Hansen, Feed-Forward: On the Future of Twenty-First-Century Media (University of Chicago Press, 2015), Kindle 1529. FF

  13. FF, Kindle 446.

  14. “Experience can no longer be restricted to—or reserved for—a special class of being, but must be generalized so as to capture a vast domain of events, including everything that happens when machines interact with other machines in today’s complex media networks, everything that happens when humans interface with these networks, and also, of course, everything that happens when humans self-reflect on these interactions. Put another way, the scope of experience must be broadened to encompass not simply what it has always encompassed—higher-order modes of experience and lower-order, bodily modes to the extent these bubble up into higher-order ones—but a veritable plurality of multi-scalar instances of experience that extend, along the continuum of what Whitehead calls ‘causal efficacy,’ from consciousness all the way down to the most rudimentary aspects of our living operationality and all the way out to the most diffuse environmental dimensions of a given sensory situation.”  FF, Kindle 990.

  15. V. Place and R. Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms (Ugly Ducking Press, 2009).

  16. A. Borsuk, J. Juul, and N. Montfort, “Opening a Worl in the World Wide Web: The Aesthetics and Poetics of Deletionism,” Media-N: Journal of the New Media.

  17. http://additivism.org/manifesto

  18. K. Goldsmith, Being Boring.

  19. Following Whitehead, Hansen lists the following features for “potentiality.” FF, Kindle 694:

    • Potentiality is ontologically more fundamental than actuality.
    • Potentiality operates within actuality and contrasts with all conceptions of virtuality.
    • Potentiality is rooted in the superjectal power of the settled world.
    • Potentiality operates through intensity which comprises the product of contrasts of settled actualities.
    • Concrescence is subordinated to potentiality insofar as it is catalyzed by a “dative phase” generated by contrasts of settled actualities.
    • The extensive (or vibratory) continuum provides a general sensibility that qualifies the operation of superjects (in contrast to eternal objects that qualify concrescences).
    • Eternal objects lose their status as eternal and their role as the source of “pure potentiality” and acquire a new, more restricted status as products of the flux of experience.
    • Non-perceptual sensibility emerges as central insofar as it designates how humans are implicated within a worldly sensibility that is not relative to any particular perceiver and that exceeds the scope of perception in both its Whiteheadian modes.

  20. “The real tension is no longer between individuality and collectivity, but between personal privacy and impersonal anonymity, between the remnants of a smug bourgeois civility and the harsh wilderness tracts of Cyberia, ‘a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of deterritorialization creates of necessity and by itself a new earth.’ Desire is irrevocably abandoning the social, in order to explore the libidinized rift between a disintegrating personal egoism and a deluge of post-human schizophrenia.” N. Land, “Machinic desire,” Textual Practice 7:3 (1993): 471-482.

  21. A good example is what Ikoniadou denominates “the hypersonic effect”: “The hypersonic effect includes the potential participation of nonauditory sensory systems for which vibration does not necessarily translate into sound.…Conventional sensory perception may be only a part of the manifold layers of sensation that encompass and produce a body….They are better understood as affects, amodal forces of feeling that impinge upon a system and that may or may not surface to sensory perception.” (47. Emphasis is mine).

  22. “not only will we need to reconceptualize the present of consciousness as an accomplishment that is in some crucial sense always-to-come, but we will also, and perhaps more fundamentally still, need to embrace the coexistence of multiple experimental presents—multiple, partially overlapping presents from different time frames and scales—as what composes the seemingly more encompassing, higher-order syntheses of consciousness.” FF, Kindle 1018.

  23. CW, Kindle 2369.

  24. “Ordinary quantum mechanical systems have a fixed number of particles, with each particle having a finite number of degrees of freedom. In contrast, the excited states of a QFT can represent any number of particles. This makes quantum field theories especially useful for describing systems where the particle count/number may change over time, a crucial feature of relativistic dynamics.

    Because the fields are continuous quantities over space, there exist excited states with arbitrarily large numbers of particles in them, providing QFT systems with an effectively infinite number of degrees of freedom. Infinite degrees of freedom can easily lead to divergences of calculated quantities (i.e., the quantities become infinite).”


  25. Kodwo Eshun, cited in TRE, 1.

  26. E. Ikoniadou, The Rhythmic Event: Art, Media and the Sonic (MIT Press, 2014), 13. TRE

  27. “Building artificial environments from the biophysical movements of cellular vibration suggests intriguing possibilities for the relationship between living and nonliving matter. TRE, 49.

  28. C. Blake, and I. van Elferen, “Hypostition: Sonic Spectrality, Affective Engineering & Temporal Paradox.”

  29. CW, Kindle 2285.

  30. B. Butler, If You Build the Code, Your Computer Will Write the Novel.

  31. “The ‘anthropocene’ masks the vanishing-point of the human; its façade—that under which the ‘electrocene’ advances in the manner of Descartes’s larvatus prodeo—is the foregrounding of the human as the dominant agent of inscription….What we are suggesting here is that the anthropocenic worldview occludes what might at present be an even more fundamental (underground as well as overarching) ‘electro-synarchic’ agent of inscription with respect to which the human is only a conduit and carrier, a force of inscription that the human does not see (one that operates at the ‘vanishing-point’ of human communication). The ‘vanishing-point’ of human communication, we propose…, is the point at which another regime of communication arises—one that is altogether obscene…and that cannot be represented within the theoretical framework advanced in the dominant conception of ‘the anthropocene.’” D. Mellamphy,  and N.B. Mellamphy, Welcome to the Electrocene, an Algorithmic Agartha.

  32. B. Butler, 300,000,000 (Harper Perennial, 2014), Kindle 1325. THM

  33. “Hauntic timespaces are virtual planes in which origin and referentiality are absent, and from which spectral voices emerge. They are planes of immanence ánd of composition. They are planes of immanence because they allow the aforementioned revenants of musical meaning (aesthetic experience, affective connotation, memory, and identification) to emerge; and they are planes of composition because each musical sounding leads to re-contextualisation, re-inscription, and the re-creation of old and new spectres. Hauntic timespaces are characterised by temporal paradox. They are reigned by the conflated chronologies of performative time, hauntological dislodgement, and the durée of lost memory time. Inevitably ghosts emerge from these skewed temporalities. Operated by the daemonotechnics of music, mnemonics, and mnemomusics, human and nonhuman spectres converge.” C. Blake & I. van Elferen, Hypostition.

  34. J. B. Mohaghegh, New Literature and Philosophy of the Middle East: The Chaotic Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 2. TCI

  35. As Nicola Masciandaro writes, “the perfection of knowledge and its pleasures demand a radically immanent and positive forgetfulness—the conscious oblivion that quickens consciousness to its own blindness. Individuation is not a limit or obstacle that intelligence must overcome. It is the real infinity, the expansive space wherein visionary self-forgetfulness is not only possible, but inevitable and already underway. As though foreign to it, absolutely foreign. I am not an alien, but something stranger still, an insider whose essence is to actually be an absolute outsider.” N. Masciandaro, Absolute Secrecy: On the Infinity of Individuation.

  36. “What if perception is not entirely human, that is conscious, sensuous, and the center of all receptive activity?” TRE, 45. “[C]onventional sensory perception may be only a part in the manifold layers of sensation that encompass and produce a body.” TRE, 47; emphasis is mine.

  37. S. Kauffman in R.E. Ulanowicz A Third Window. Natural Life beyond Newton and Darwin (Templeton Foundation Press, 2009), xii.

  38. J. McSweeney, The Necropastoral, (University of Michigan Press, 2015), 32. TN

  39. CW, Kindle 2369.

  40. TN, 42.

  41. TN, 5.

  42. “I see hyperstition not just hype and superstition as it is usually described, but as the kind of mathemagical operation that is best approached as a conjuration, the heretic-al engineering of unlikely assemblages that unleash an uncontrollable power which often if not always has deleterious effects. “Hyperstitions by their very existence as ideas function causally to bring about their own reality,” explains the Nick Land. “The hyperstitional object is no mere figment or ‘social construction’ but it is in a very real way ‘conjured’ into being by the approach taken to it” (ibid). Hyperstitions are conjurations in this sense—they are sorcerous operations that involve the rapprochement of elements that do not normally go or have not normally belonged together but which have the effects of transmuting perceived reality and norms of culture. This is why hyperstition involves the Unheimlich, the uncanny, the unhomely, things which are not normally at home with one another. Hyperstition, as such, is not belief—religious or otherwise—insofar as the religious aims for holy union, communion, harmoni-ous bringing together of any sort; hyperstition is always unhomely and unholy; therein lies its power. This is why hyperstition’s power is felt as insuperable, even weaponized; it is the power produced and released by the metissage of elements previously oblivious to one another. Hyperstition is intimately connected to technè, skill/art/craft, and mètis, cunning intelligence, ruse, deception, involving a mixing of elements and appearances—what Dan Mellamphy has called a ‘métissage’ for the purposes of producing unhomely effects. Hyperstitions are “chinese puzzle boxes, opening to unfold to reveal numerous ‘sorcerous’ interventions in the world of history,” and which can only be unleashed through obscure and oblique, rather than transparent and straightforward, manipulations.” Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, The Three Stigmata of Kodwo Eshun: On the Human as Hyperstition. (Prepared for The New Centre course on Hyperstition, Fictional Worlds & Possible Futures, August 3 2015, at the invitation of Ben Woodard).

  43. R.S. Bakker, What is the Semantic Apocalypse?

  44. Claire Colebrook, We Have Always Been Post-Anthropocene: The Anthropocene Counter-Factual.

  45. “In the traditional model, the brain takes in data, performs a complex computation that solves the problem (where will the ball land?) and then instructs the body where to go. This is a linear processing cycle: perceive, compute and act. In the second model, the problem is not solved ahead of time. Instead, the task is to maintain, by multiple, real-time adjustments to the run, a kind of co-ordination between the inner and the outer worlds. Such co-ordination dynamics constitute something of a challenge to traditional ideas about perception and action: they replace the notion of rich internal representations and computations, with the notion of less expensive strategies whose task is not first to represent the world and then reason on the basis of the representation, but instead to maintain a kind of adaptively potent equilibrium that couples the agent and the world together. Whether such strategies are genuinely non-representational and non-computational, or suggestive of different kinds of representation (‘action-oriented representations’) and more efficient forms of computation, is a difficult question whose resolution remains uncertain.” A. Clark, “An embodied cognitive science?” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 3, 9 (1999): 345-351.

  46. THM, Kindle 22.

  47. TCI, 25-26.

  48. S. Kilpatrick, Sucker June (Lazy Fascist Press, 2015), 75.

  49. “‘Potentiality,’ explores the expansion of causal efficacy that is generated by data-intensive media. Its central aim is to thematize the potential for contemporary microcomputational sensors to directly mediate the domain of sensibility and thereby to facilitate a form of indirect human access to this domain, via the operation of ‘feed-forward.’ Feed-forward names the operation through which the technically accessed data of sensibility enters into futural moments of consciousness as radical intrusions from the outside: it is, I shall suggest, the principal mode in which contemporary consciousness can experience—in the phenomenological sense of live through—its own operationality.” FF, Kindle 736.

  50. http://okhaos.com/plantoid/

  51. “In this way, interpretation, like alchemy, must be traitorous. It must be conceived as an act of treason against the world, for to draw texts into a comparative encounter is nothing less than to set the stage for their radical betrayal. And we must betray literature; we must seek the triggers and the catalysts through which a text becomes a subterfuge—becomes the faintness of an amorphous zone—where articulations devour themselves, shatter, and regenerate in new, unacceptable maskings. To this end, the chaotic imagination must accentuate the pain of transfiguration—it must learn to play both in subtle malformations and in monstrous turnings, if only to reconvene us in a foreign atmosphere, a chamber where deception overrides truth, illusion supersedes authenticity, and where the dominion of reality has long since been overthrown. Stated otherwise, we must train ourselves to lie.” TCI, 4.

  52. “A colossal facet of this inspection resides within the annihilative principle forwarded here as a hardened instinct for ruin, one culminating in the fusion of appearance and disappearance, tragedy and delirium, creation and destruction. For it is amid such an unsteady condition of the writing-act, where nothingness and excess tangle, where finality is brought into full proximity with consciousness, that the literary world overthrows itself. Indeed, the poetics of annihilation serves as a prelude to the poetics of chaos by depleting the constraints of being, an occasion of imminent sacrifice suspended somewhere between rage and sublimity. For it is in this manner that the disciplinary technologies of thought begin to erode, disallowing any epistemological certainty or submission to routinized instrumentality. The emergent text now bars itself from the symbolic orders of the mind—no descent into self-regulation, no self automated models of signification, no faith in causation, and, more than anything, no search for rapid closure. For it is through the materialization of such an annihilative event—itself a ferocious convolution of mortality and power—that the textual encounter might evade its own entrapment, capsizing its self-imposed captivity so as to trespass through the entryway of a chaos-becoming.” TCI, 10.

  53. G. Sierra, Postdigital Synchrony and Syntopy: The Manipulation of Universal Codes in Contemporary Literature (Forthcoming)

  54. S. Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media (MIT Press, 2008), 10.

  55. TCI, 43.

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