Axiologies of Distributed Perception
Call for Contributions to an Edited Collection
Edited by Natasha Lushetich & Iain Campbell
Who, what, where and how perceives? What are the flows, velocities, continuities, contiguities, inscriptive sedimentations and axiologies of animal, human and machinic perception/s? What are their perceptibilities? Deleuze uses the word visibilités to indicate that visual perception isn’t just a physiological given but cues operations productive of new assemblages and enunciations (Deleuze 1983). Perceptibilities are, by analogy, spatio-temporal, geolocative, propriocentric, kinaesthetic, aural, visual, tactile and olfactory operations that are always already inscription and memory (Bergson 1939). In the case of strong inscriptions, they are also epigenetic events.
In 1921 von Uexküll used a series of images of a village street – a photograph, a lithograph, a fly’s and a mollusc’s ‘view’ – to illustrate the organism’s unique inner configuration of its physical environment, or umwelt, via four different perceptual apparatuses. In the post-WW II period, the MIT designer Kepes mined the ‘invisible world’ with radars and X-rays transforming extensive quantities into intensive qualities (Kepes 1956). Architect Fuller delivered ten-hour lectures à la Satie’s 1893 24-hour piano piece Vexations to liberate the transversal working of perception and cue new synaptic connections. Composer Cage, inspired by the Zen-Buddhist notion of unimpeded interpenetration (Cage 1968; Suzuki 1960), created multi-modal perceptual milieus where diverse flows amplified emergence and indeterminacy through, among other procedures, the use of electronic musical technologies that undermined the traditional classifications both of organology (used in the musical sense) and modes of listening. In experimental film, works like Welsby’s 1974 Seven Days – a week-long time-lapse film of land-and-sky-scape in which the camera tracks the sun – showed climatic changes through the sun-controlled camera angles. Although never built, urbanist Lynch’s futuristic ‘mutocopes’ – four-dimensional extensions of African multi-perspectivalism consisting of the moving image and diagrams – were designed to channel invisible ‘urban change’ by speeding up or slowing down past and present ‘vibrations’ (Lynch 1972).
Across this work, we find what we could call a cybernetic spectacle, where processes that are imperceptible to humans, or proceed through nonhuman perception, undergo transposition. As a science of action and repetition, cybernetics replaced diachronic materialism with the synchronic structure of information (Shannon and Weaver 1949). It also replaced theories of perception (those of Bergson, James and Freud) with theories of control. The emergence of cybernetic synchronicity-multiplicity was accompanied by the ‘multiplicitous’ turn in anthropology. In Van Gennep and Turner’s theories of liminality, for example, ritual repetition, while performatively efficacious and socially constitutive, opens onto indeterminacy: the space-time of all possible spaces and times (Turner 1982). Likewise, Bateson, who used computational methods to capture perceptual umwelts of humans and animals, argued that machinic iteration, like biological iteration, brought multi-perspectivalism and infinite variability to human-animal-mineral entanglements (Bateson 2000). For Viveiros de Castro, ‘multinaturalism’ and ‘perspectivism’ mean that even practices such as hallucination and delirium are inscribed into ‘nature’ itself (Viveiros de Castro 2014). At the human end of the spectrum, organicity has given way to organology, premised on the notion that life can only be sustained through the invention and use of tools (Stiegler 1998), and that every organism forms part of a cosmotechnics (Hui 2016) where ‘modes of expression’ speak ’from a multiplicity of centres of intensity’ (Guattari 1984).
Today, the urban datascape is a ‘synthetic garden’ (Bratton 2015) where multi-species perceptual apparatuses apprehend and memorise sites, scenes, tempi and intra-actions as well as, in the case of machinic perceivers, communicate the history of their own operations through feedback loops. The generation of large quantities of temporally enduring ‘givens’, through online activities, sensors, and sequencers, all trafficking in numeric, textual and audio-visual data, distributed across machine-to-machine communication, sensor circuits, and Internet of Things, has profoundly altered geospatial memory. The tool-senders now produce geospatial information in the geographic and electromagnetic fields weaving space and time into ‘data tissue’ (Ernst 2018). Informational landscapes are temporarily stable constellations ‘wrenched from disorder’ (Ernst 2014).
With perceptual modes seen as contingent and entangled in a technical history of diverse perceptual prostheses, the question of perception is opened into a vast technological milieu and series of mediations. The (post) phenomenological notions of ‘rendering the invisible visible’ (Merleau-Ponty 1968) no longer apply to the context of image ‘ensembles’ that remain fundamentally distributed and that are not of the order of representation (MacKenzie and Munster 2019). In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to vibrate with increasing amplitudes at certain frequencies of excitation. In cybernetics and in theories of technology, it refers to systems’ feedback (Simondon 2013). In native science, where the multiverse is an energy-matter continuum, resonance refers to the axiology of positions and events. It’s a form of multi-species perception that emphasises emergent directionality and protean perceptual-mnemonics (Cajete 2000), based, in part, on implicate order (where two subatomic particles that have once interacted can respond to each other's motions thousands of years later (Bohm 1980)).
The aim of this transdisciplinary volume is to examine resonant frequencies in the structuring of animal-human-machinic perceptibilities and their becoming-technique, matrix, or technology through confluence, concrescence, negentropy, and, conversely, dissipation, erosion or entropy. It’s to open up a space of reflection on interspecies microperceptions that lie beneath the threshold of known perceptions, yet create spatio-temporal, geolocative and energetic inscriptions and vibrations. The collection is divided into three sections:
Section 1, Entanglement, addresses trans-temporal multiprocity through tropes like triggering, encrustment, fossilisation, encoding, multiplying, re-assembling, superposition, contagion and transversal aggregates. The central question here is: how do ‘patterns of differencing’ modulate the discordant simultaneity of living and machinic umwelts, their (re) configurations or erasures that form part of the world’s ‘iterative becoming’? (Barad 2007)
Section 2, Plasticity, addresses the distribution and modification of new resonances with questions such as: how does a body or structure – as the contraction of many perceptual moments into a certain kind of whole – accommodate new perceptions? How does it maintain a degree of homeostatic stability amidst heterostasis? How does it mend rupture, assimilate drastic changes, adapt, and persist; how does it become?
Section 3, Organology, addresses the intrinsically synthetic continuation of life through the production of new tools and technologies. It’s concerned with cross-scale interspecies rhythms, crystallisations and inscriptions. Questions here center on the ‘piloting’ role of the diagram in working towards a futural projection without a specific identity; on the consistency of apparatuses of distributed perception; and the means of stability that maintain relatively or temporarily stable environments.
Possible topics include but are not limited to:
- Organic, geological and machinic feedback loops
- The perceptual ecology of indigenous ontologies
- ‘Interspecies smalltalk’ (Behrman 1984): mechanisms and practices of animal-human-machine-etc. entanglement
- The relationship between the infinitesimal and the infinite in cross-species technologies
- Animal, human and machinic interoception
- Historical forms of machinic perception such as Rosenblatt’s Perceptron
- Patternicity, appaternicity and their calibration in machinic vision
- Animal, human and machinic delirium
- Cross-species information mapping, e.g. procedures used by ‘knowledge engineers’ (who in the early developments of machine learning extracted operational knowledge from human experts and turned it into computer procedures)
- ‘Digital frottage’ as the coming-into-view of interactions and sedimentations of different surfaces in digital image processing
- Interspecies perception in artistic work, e.g. that of Shen, Ri, Kac or Jeremijenko
- Architectural transpositions of animal to machinic techniques, e.g. those of molluscs, caterpillars or fungi which self-maintain their living conditions by memorising their environment in the form of embodied, spatially distributed knowledge
- Vegetal perception and its impact on generative interspecies design via plant and cellular organisms (Baluska and Mancuso 2015)
Please send 500 w proposals for 6500 w chapters and a 150 w bio with the subject heading ‘Resonance’ to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 20 June 2020.
Natasha Lushetich & Iain Campbell
University of Dundee, UK