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February 4, 2017
Simple archives are sometimes the most powerful. Nowhere is this found more clearly than in education. On the one hand, education now finds itself confronted by a bewildering array of things to be known, and of different ways of knowing them, including many new technical means of learning. On the other hand educational planning and experience often seem subject to highly simplistic modes of structuring the entry to, and paths through, learning. All the exits are also covered! It’s a full collision, with opportunity and the anarchival coming from one side, and from the other side control, discipline, and the archival fear of the new.
Take learning outcomes (or LOs as even some five-year-olds now call them). Benjamin Bloom and his friends first came up with the idea of a Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, which led to LOs, in 1948. They wrote it up and published it in 1956. This was radical and useful in the context of education at the time. That is to say in the 1940s and 1950s! However, it sometimes seems that not much has changed in mainstream thinking about education since. While in the rest of the world, everything has changed.
What was at the time a break with often regressive educational methods has become today a way of “managerialising” everything that goes on inside the classroom. This is reinforced by the constant evaluation of performance in relation to stated and standard objectives, by tests, rankings, scores, analytics and various other measures. This kind of thing has become a problem not only in education, but in psychology, media and communications, and in management more generally, everywhere these are now found. Education, work and even living seem to be more and more about fulfilling frequently tested objectives and outcomes, than exploring the new. Judgement comes before, during an after each activity, each thought, and each movement. Such judgement is becoming increasingly fine tuned. Via this, human behaviour, thinking and feeling are led to fit in to what is in the end only a contemporary, more intense, version of an old-fashioned industrial production line. Can we not do better than this?
Readers of this book may already have realised that Bloom’s Taxonomy was a new way of archiving education. It archived learning not just in terms of the knowledge to be known, but in terms of how it should be learned. In short, it controlled process. A simple archive of LOs could determine the entire course of events involved in learning. To be fair, Bloom was trying to open up education at the time, and did. His new archive was pitched against the older archives of, for example, rote learning. Even better was his subsequent development of ‘mastery learning’, which took much better account of individual modes and times of learning and of the specific relations between learners and teachers. Nevertheless, all this was based on what was in the 1950s the then new cognitivism. Cognitivism thought of minds in terms of the most radical technology of the time—computers. You can only think LOs if you think minds, collective minds, and communication, as all involving inputs, smooth symbolic processings of those inputs, and clear outputs. Just as in a computer. Yet, again, the basis for this was 1950s computing! This was of course nothing like contemporary everyday computing, and certainly nothing like, for example, quantum computing. In the 1950s, computing involved big, basic, machines, grinding out simple outputs from relatively simple outputs. Is that really how we want to view ourselves? Even if the human mind did function like a computer (which it doesn’t), why would the human mind be like a 1950s computer? Your cell phone is probably a lot more complex. What are the alternatives? Can we not think the mind without analogies to computing? Do we even need a given model for what a mind is, for what it can be?
It’s time we moved on. What would happen if we let go of some of our most prominent models of education, and of outmoded models of mind, of humans, of relations, of being-with, of collectivity, of the world? What would happen if we let ourselves think, together, anarchivally, about models but through to their other side? Which is to say, what if we only ever took them up very provisionally, or in strange combinations of perhaps initially incompatible models, and in the light of experience as it emerges? Could we simply do without models, at least some of the time? We would lose some forms of management, many forms of control, certainly most measures and rankings, but what would be gained? What conversations would happen? What learning could take place, and not only in schools or universities, but among friends, on the street, wherever? What new, much more open, use of networks and computing might we find as well, for learning, for living, for study? Indeed, it is ‘study’ that is at issue here.
I think we were committed to the idea that study is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name of speculative practice. The notion of a rehearsal – being in a kind of workshop, playing in a band, in a jam session, or old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory – there are these various modes of activity. The point of calling it ‘study’ is to mark that the incessant and irreversible intellectuality of these activities was already there. These activities aren’t ennobled by the fact that we now say, ‘oh, if you did these things in a certain way, you could be said to be have been studying.’ To do these things is to be involved in a kind of common intellectual practice. What’s important is to recognize that that has been the case—because that recognition allows you to access a whole, varied, alternative history of thought. (Fred Moten in Moten, Harney and Shukaitis, 2012)
A simple proposition: subtract what you “know” about learning, about education, about minds, about behaviours, about how things need to happen. Even if just for a moment.
[this is a text from the Go-To How To Book of Anarchiving, produced at a book sprint in December 2016 at Senselab, Montréal. The link at the beginning of this paragraph is to the hard copy. You can download a free pdf here. This is a humble beginning of what I hope will be a more elaborate critique of, and series of suggestions for what would be gained by dropping, the like of learning outcomes]
January 19, 2017
May 16, 2014
Sure there’s a structural problem with old people getting older etc (long may they live). However, most people whose minds aren’t mired in the 1950s (or the 1800s or something) seem to think there are three much larger economic factors (among many others perhaps not quite so large, like a lot of people living longer).
First, there’s the shift in communications to distributed networks, which is not finished yet; we still have one foot in the centralised past but it’s well and truly starting to slip. Second, there’s the shift in the way energy works. This is most obvious in China/Denmark/everyone’s move to renewables as much as possible. More interestingly perhaps, even the tea party in the U.S. is starting to defend solar. Quite a few right wing libertarians in the U.S. have started to defend their solar/wind off-the-gridding—against the “socialist” electricity utilities and even against Republican state governors who, beholden to the Koch bros and co, are trying to legislate against going off-the-grid (same here in Australia). The third (enormous) economic challenge is climate change.
The libs are in denial about all three of these. Thus their hobbling/dismantling of the NBN, their attempt to destroy any government supported action in support of renewables and their complete denial on climate change (and undermining of research). I mean as much as someone like Jeremy Rifkin is selling books and as much as no one would agree with him on everything, he’s right on the basics. In the combination of communications and energy revolutions, there is something like a “third industrial revolution” happening (assuming the planet survives).
So, even putting aside their reprehensible attacks on the poor, the young and just about everyone else who doesn’t have millions, in what way exactly is Abbott and Hockey’s government supposed to be economically responsible?
September 8, 2013
(something we cut from the chapter of the Affect Theory Reader (edited by Mel Gregg and Greg Seigworth) I wrote with Lone Bertelsen)
The basic elements from which refrains assemble are milieus and rhythms. From chaos, ‘Milieus and Rhythms are born’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 313). What is a milieu? Massumi suggests that it is a technical term. It combines all three of the regular meanings in French; ‘”surroundings”, “medium” (as in chemistry), and “middle”‘ (in Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: xvii). It is, like chaos, composed of “middles” which are not units or yet territories in any sense, but ‘dimensions, or rather directions in motion’ (21). The difference is that in the milieu there is a significant shift in organisation – this being a form of cyclic durational organisation. ‘Every milieu is vibratory’, which is to say that a milieu is a direction in motion that forms a ‘block of space-time constituted by the periodic repetition of the component’ (313). This is why Milieus and Rhythms are born from chaos together – ‘Rhythm is the milieus’ answer to chaos’ (313). Think of the waves of the sea crashing on the shore. Rhythm, or what Deleuze and Guattari also call ‘rhythm-chaos or the chaosmos’ occurs between the sea and the shores, or the many other milieus that constantly transcode and transduce each other. This is why a milieu is totally relational – not a thing in itself. Deleuze and Guattari write here of all a living thing’s rhythms as they move over and through each other –
… the living thing has an exterior milieu of materials, an interior milieu of composing elements and composed substances, an intermediary milieu of membranes and limits, and an annexed milieu of energy sources and actions-perceptions. (313)
All these milieu need to be taken into account in cultural theory (thus the importance of a return to science, although not to scientism – a difficult balancing act for both science and cultural theory). A milieu is ‘coded’, although in the basic sense that code arises as code – that is as ‘periodic repetition’ (this is one way to understand what Guattari means by an asignifying semiotic). Again however because this periodic repetition is neither metrically exact nor static – the codes here are constantly shifting as milieus themselves constantly merge and transform – ‘each code is in a perpetual state of transcoding and transduction [the constant transformation of forces through each other in ongoing differentiation and individuation]’. Waves and shore. Ships and state.
Milieus are not themselves territories. A territory organizes milieus. It is not so much a place for Deleuze andGuattari as an ‘act that affects milieus and rhythms, that “territorializes” them (314). It is worth repeating – territory is an act of territorialization affecting milieus and rhythms. Any territory is made up of – or more correctly acts within/upon a multiplicity of milieu – in the ocean for example, the energy of the sun, the forces of current, the nature of water, osmotic membranes, schools of fish, sand and geological formations, etc, all different milieu – as ‘directions in motion’ overlapping and intersecting. What defines the territory is the very act of definition – or ‘marking’ or ‘indexes’ (314). With territory the ‘directional components’ become ‘dimensional’. In short, the milieu components, which might be the like of ‘materials, organic products, skin or membrane states, energy sources, action-perception condensates’ (315), ‘cease to be functional and become expressive’. The ’emergence of matters of expression (qualities)’ defined the territory. This is therefore an unusual definition of territory – one not to do with place, or even the defence of place, as these already assume a formed territory. Neither is it a question of which functions bring a territory about – for functions ‘presuppose a territory-producing expressiveness’ (315). For Deleuze and Guattari the question is one rather of how territory comes about initially, before it can lend its mark to “places”, or to subsequent aggressions and transgressions. It does so when new matters of expression arise.
There is a kind of double becoming between territory and marking – which is ongoing (a territory is a pacing – it does not stand still). Apart from anything else, this explains that territory is not slow, but can be amazingly quick in ‘this becoming’ (315). In all this, ‘the territory is not primary in relation to the qualitative mark; it is the mark that makes the territory’ (315). The red ship on the horizon becoming-expressive. This is to be found in the emergence of qualities of expression (‘color, odor, sound, silhouette’ ) – take a colour and “make it my standard or placard’ (316). This transforms both politics and the analysis of politics (for one thing, this explains why the right’s focus on affective manipulation – via the extremity of work on qualities of expression – the voice of the shock jock on radio, the singing of “When the eagle soars” etc – is so politically effective. It territorializes via seizing hold of milieu – radio waves and other media milieu for one thing – and transforming them into new qualities of expression). It is something very well understood by some of the pioneers of contemporary politics from Edward Bernays to Erwin Piscator. It is perhaps no surprise that Guattari’s political paradigm – even in the moments it accepts science – is ethico-aesthetic (remembering that ‘art is not the privilege of human beings’ ).
August 7, 2013
Yet another article generalising about “students”, “profs” and online education: ‘Students are cool with MOOCs, so why aren’t profs?’.
I’ve read a lot of this genre of statement over the years. Now it’s a common thing to state in the midst of debates over MOOCs.
I had an interesting exchange about this with the often illuminating and usually disruptive @timbuckteeth (Steve Wheeler) and others on Twitter. I led me to ask: what’s wrong with such statements?
1. “Students” ain’t students. Not only educators but just about everyone loves to talk about “students” (I have my own mea culpas here). “Students” do this. “Students” think that. “Students” are all this. “Students” these days are all digital natives. etc etc etc. A single moment’s thought—or better a single conversation with a group of students—is all that’s needed to give one pause. The news is that, like any group of people, students are different. They don’t all do the same things, the same way. They don’t think the same. They use media—online or off—very differently (and I teach a lot of media students). They like different things. This shouldn’t surprise us when we think about it, but we use the shorthand “students” in any case, and it’s very destructive.
2. Some students—quite a lot—like online learning (I’ve used online learning since the 1990s; I’ve asked a lot of groups of students about this over the years). However, a surprisingly high percentage don’t like online learning (this even more surprisingly includes some of those who pretty much live online). When they do like it, most, quite understandably, seem to like it because it’s convenient in the midst of what are often busy lives. That is, not necessarily because it provides better opportunities for learning. Purely on the basis of conversations, I’d note that the students who appreciate online learning for the learning opportunities it provides are fairly often those who are already autodidacts. The same students sometimes also want more from their offline classes. They have high expectations in general. Of course, the situation is much more complex than even this. For one thing the students who do like online learning are very discriminating. If you ask, they’ll tell you lots of things they like and don’t like about both online and offline learning. No one really just likes “online ed” in general. It’s hard for any given platform or even large institution to satisfy such discriminating tastes. It’s easy for the internet to.
3. “Profs” ain’t profs. Ditto the above with regard to those who teach. Different profs are also people who think differently. They also have different conditions of employment which are affected differently by online ed. Something also forgotten here is that all of those who teach, without exception, are also learning themselves, much of it online. Plus, as many have pointed out, it’s been faculty who have been developing online ed for decades now. It may surprise some that faculty have also been developing offline ed for even longer. Sometimes in league with students. If sometimes “profs are in the way of MOOCs”—and this is clearly a generalisation—it’s not because they’re dinosaurs clinging to tenure. For one thing this assumes that everyone in favour of MOOCs is untenured. For another they might object to MOOCs for a variety of very good reasons (I’ve been collecting discussions of MOOCs for a while if you’re interested).
4. “MOOCs” ain’t MOOCs. Not all MOOCs are the same. Despite all the discussion, a lot of people still don’t differentiate between cMOOCs and xMOOCs for a start, and that’s not the end of it. Not all are open in the same way. Etc etc. Here it might be sensible to begin with MOOC founders Stephen Downes and George Siemens, who have a much more nuanced understanding of MOOCs than what has often followed. This, by Stephen Downes, is probably the most interesting statement on MOOCs I’ve read.
5. Of course, MOOCs are not the whole of “online ed”. They are neither it’s alpha or omega. They have not appeared out of nowhere, although some suggest they might soon disappear or morph into a variety of more interesting things.
6. “Online ed” ain’t online ed. Decades of work on online education sometimes seems obscured by the sudden rise of MOOCs. Although not, interestingly, by Downes and Siemens community-based cMOOCs. Rather it’s been the big institution’s/new corporations xMOOCs that have clouded the sky. It’s a pity because online education is now very rich, very varied and, more importantly, genuinely disrupting education and educational institutions. This disruption is significant, but in ways that are not yet clear. Indeed, this situation is unlikely to be resolved in the short term, if indeed ever. If there’s one generalisation we can make it’s that the variety of online ed events do not arrive as a single line disruption. It’s more like an ongoing swarm of different kinds of insects. In short, things are complex. Personally, I think the assumed “rise of MOOCs” is explained by a desire to evade the actual complexity of online ed disruption. Established institutions, even established modes of launching startups, often don’t like swarms of difference. They want everything to fall into their institutional practices, their corporation, their platform. Seen this way, xMOOCs are exactly a single line solution to what is a very complex problem for administrators and/or those trying to institutionalise/commercialise online ed. cMOOCs, and the idea and experimentation they involve are much more interesting. It should be no surprise that a lot of xMOOC critics are seasoned online ed people.
7. “Learning” ain’t learning. It’s not all the same. It doesn’t happen in the same way. It seems silly but still necessary to have to say this. I mean that teaching physics is not the same as teaching history or sociology but that only begins the trip down the many by-ways of different kinds of learning. All of these might be able to be done online, although this doesn’t have to invalidate offline learning. The point is that we need a little more flexibility in our thinking about different aspects of learning in different settings. Lots of people, I know, do have this flexibility. One of my favourites for years has been the University of Mary Washington blog project (yes, it’s kinda based on a single platform .. I know .. but hey, I like that platform 🙂
8. (An unfortunate generalisation that seems appropriate). Although I learn a great deal from ed theory, I find most of it happily operates on basic assumptions about learning (from 1950s cog psych) that are highly contested/contestable. .. I’ve written enough about this elsewhere. I can’t say it enough. I think even Benjamin Bloom himself would have found a lot of what passes for ed theory today of diminishing value (that’s me being polite).
9. Few people yet get how disruptive of education networks can/will be (another unfortunate but I think appropriate generalisation). In fact, some try but I don’t think any of us get it yet. I’m not sure any of us can. Think of people who learn for free, in a world in which accreditation is less important (or no longer important), without assessment, with at most a structure provided by flexible modules they can combine in any way they want, to learn in communities that find such knowledge relevant. Think of a world without courses or programs. Where the internet + on/offline community is the LMS. I’m not saying anything here others haven’t but I still think we don’t yet get the disruption involved. Too often our reaction, as in the case of xMOOCs, is to try to capture the energy involved and fold it back into what we know (I mean in terms of institutional practices, or corporate capital). There gains here, and it’s understandable and even necessary. However, it seems a bit of stop gap measure, there is also on occasion a poisoning of the well. Put very simply, we are afraid to ‘let learning take place’. This book might be useful as an antidote.
Here endeth the lesson.
October 27, 2012
[Excerpted from (and somewhat buried in) “On Not Performing: the third enclosure and fractal neofeudal fantasies” and developing ideas from this earlier piece]
… Another possible series of responses to the third enclosure and fractal neofeudalism might be found in what I call “ghosted publics” and “unacknowledged collectivity”. These refuse, rout around, rather than court or demand, systemic recognition and alignments (not that I am against recognition when it seems strategically valuable). I will suggest that ghosted publics and unacknowledged collectivity evade forms of “in-fact-never-the-recognition-that-was-promised”, predicated on the now multiple systems of performance and audits and so on. Subsequently, a ghosted public or unacknowledged collective might unfold collective life differently, working toward affirming the “more than given”, re-enabling a freer production of subjectivity.
“Ghosted publics” are acts of community—often media-assisted—that are simultaneously in and not in the public sphere (see also Murphie 2008b). They are translucent ‘figures’ of direct relationality and immediate communing that by-pass certified public acts, or regulated “communications” of performance recognised by established powers. From the point of view of established systems they are both present and absent, precisely because, although they are real, they do not fit, or even desire or struggle to obtain, standard forms of recognition. This makes them hard to see. They nevertheless haunt and trouble both mainstream media events (early amateur radio is a great example but so is a reading group, or more famously, in a complicated way, Wikileaks). They also haunt mainstream, publicly “certified” models of, and controls over thinking processes, affective intensities, and the production of subjectivity. Like ghosts that one only thinks one might feel, perhaps with an unexpected chill, ghosted publics disrupt and trouble the given without necessarily “appearing”.
If then, ghosted publics are precisely those events of community that evade the desired stability and established models of a recognised “public”, then they evade a “public” that has become the central defining problem of much of traditional media events, media theory and media disciplines for a hundred years. In the process they suggest a different understanding of thinking processes, one in which thought is not taken to consist of neat and recognisable forms of communication either predictably or perhaps “fractally” spread through the social. They certainly suggest something much more contingent than inputs and outputs, or symbolic processing according to a stable system.
Throughout the 20th century there has always been a series of ghosted publics moving through the more acknowledged and controlled public. Locally, on the ground, they might form pockets of “unacknowledged collectivity” (there are infinite forms of this but a simple example might be community gardening), by which I mean collectivity that again does not care about recognition, stability of models or access to central controls. They take up the practices of the “public” like ghosts, appearing only fleetingly here and there in the acknowledged public (for example, as “anti-globalisation activists” on the nightly news), and then only out of the corner of the acknowledged public’s eye. Yet these unacknowledged collectives seem to possess strange new powers of communality. They hint at public uncanny relations because their own relations come first. They seem in tune with the ongoing shifts, the convergences and divergences, of network ecologies. Again such unacknowledged collectivities were seen in the communities that found expression through the early days of amateur radio before the airwaves were regulated (or the later free radio in Italy, France and elsewhere [Goddard 2011]).
Such collectivity involves a question of “simply being able to live or to survive in a particular place, at a particular time, and to be ourselves”. However, this “has nothing to do with identity” (Guattari in Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 94—my emphasis). Guattari notes that “every time the problems of identity or recognition appear in a particular place, at the very least we are faced with the threat of blocking and paralysis of the process” (102). What do we perform in this situation? If we perform at all, it is perhaps as ghost with regard to publics, as unacknowledged collectivity with regard to each other. These perhaps become a kind of counter-fractal within performance.
Unacknowledge collectivities also teach us a new principle with regard to the third enclosure. We need always to re-singularise the situation, to use Guattari’s term .
How would this work? In terms of examples one could point to, for example, the Senselab project, “Technologies of Lived Abstraction” and its work on re-singularising “research creation” and transdisciplinary encounter (see senselab.ca; the online journal Inflexions gives several accounts and related discussions; the best account of this, however, along with principles for re-singularisation, is Manning and Massumi forthcoming). In these events, for example, there are no performed papers, and participants are asked to come with techniques for relation but not finished work. Encounter and creation is emphasised rather than performance. Failure is common, whatever that means outside of a performance environment. A different example, this time of a simultaneous resingularisation of the social, technical networks and action on climate change is the Coalition of the Willing Project, dedicated to open culture climate solutions (coalitionofthewilling.org.uk; and http://cotw.cc/wiki/Coalition_of_the_Willing). Another good set of examples of work in this vein could be found at the P2P foundation site p2pfoundation.net. Of course, this whole discussion is also haunted by the autonomists, the Situationists (Wark 2011), and all that has followed these two movements (for related events and ideas in the context of network culture see de Peuter and Dyer-Witheford 2005, Bauwens 2009, Lovink and Rossiter 2005, Goriunova 2011, Moore 2011).
How would this work in terms of techniques, practices and concepts?
First, when performance begins to work with Guattari’s processes of re-singularisation, events look somewhat different. They perhaps look like what he calls a “kind of molecular wave” (76). This molecular wave provides an alternate history, and a different contemporary problematic, to that of the public sphere, or the three enclosures. It may be true that this might look like a history of events that still need to find ways of being acted out, but more correctly it might be a matter of allowing an emergence of relations that are non-performative.
Second, crucial to this might be a reworking of the meaning of action. Here simply one has to remove actual activity, activity of real value, to yourself or your community, from the generalised circuits of performance systems. This is to say, recreate the possibility of action outside of performance systems.
Third, there is the resingularisation of time. Somewhat ironically we can turn to Benjamin Bloom in this respect. Bloom was the founder of the notion of a taxonomy of educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) within education—and these are at the heart of performance culture. Yet Bloom went on to develop “mastery learning” (1984). The most significant shift in this is the deregulation—and re-singularisation—of time. Students take the time they need to master objectives before they have to move on. Objectives remain but now interaction/relation with the teacher on a more one-to-one basis begins to take objectives out of a draconian test-based system, and therefore out of a general subjective equivalence. As education, it works. Although you can imagine how well one-to-one teaching and taking one’s time go down with funding bodies. It’s also been in trouble with the Christian Right in the US, largely because it affirms the child, rather than breaking their will (Berliner 1997). They are right. The control of time is crucial if you are going to force people to perform in a certain way. The single biggest factor in the softer forms of control over life such as performance systems is the fact that they take up so much time, and create “time” in a certain way. Bloom’s inversion of the connection between time and progress is therefore very important.
Fourth, there is something else hidden here in Bloom’s work, alongside the flexible time to master objectives. This is variation. Individual variation becomes a plus (although Bloom was keen to bring the virtues of individual teaching into group work). Ideally, there would even be time for non-action, for open thought, even for more flexible educational relations between students, between teachers. The question becomes one then of reintroducing a flexibility and openness of tasks and relations between, for example students, teachers, colleagues, while minimising performance. “Impossible”, I hear funders say. However, it is of course what is already happening in learning and teaching in almost any informal setting, including much of informal learning online—a gigantic ghosted public if ever there was one.
Fifth, I will suggest a counter-movement to performance systems is perhaps found in Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concept of “periperformativity” (2002: 5). Her definition is striking in the context here. A “periperformative” is an utterance “whose complex efficacy depends on their tangency to, as well as their difference from, the explicit performatives” (5). Periperformatives ghost performatives. Periperformatives live in the neighbourhood of performatives but fragment them, take them somewhere else. They disrupt a system’s smooth fractalisation. We might think of Bartleby the Scrivener’s famous “I would prefer not to” (Melville 2004), or, as a colleague recently advised me to say in relation to further requests for administrative work “it can’t be done”. These seem to me to be almost un-performative assemblages, more perhaps than counter-performatives. Periperformatives open up time again, open up possible relations and potentials, allow for new ecologies of practice, of performance and just as crucially, non-performance.
These periperformatives perhaps need to be accompanied by Félix Guattari’s metamodeling. Normal modeling and framing involve a series of frozen representations, operating to channel experience into narrow forms of performance. Metamodeling frees things up, moves not above them, but between them, a kind of counter to the communicative or even fractal aspects of performative systems as these construct frames and models. Metamodels “introduce movement, multiplicity and chaos into models” (Genosko and Murphie 2008). A metamodel “ensures precariousness, uncertainty and creativity over fixity, universality and automatic articulations” (Genosko 2003: 134-135). Shake the frame, undo prescriptive actions. Or, better sometimes, just don’t subscribe to the frame, especially not in practice. Just don’t do it. Unswoosh.
The psychic system, or better the world itself, might be on your side. Kosofsky Sedgwick, writing with Adam Frank about Silvan Tomkins’ work on cybernetics, discusses the psychic system as fundamentally out of tune with the kinds of assumptions you need for neat inputs/outputs, alignments, and so on. In short, there is no neat alignment, or, we might say, even fixed allegiances within the field of the psychic system, or within this system relations with other systems (that is, the world from which something like the psychic system ongoingly emerges). There is, in a sense, nothing with which to align. It’s certainly not a question of the defined and unshiftable “object” within the “objective”. Rather, it’s a matter of complex assemblages, or what they call “co-assemblages” with an affect system “encompassing several more, and more qualitatively different, possibilities that on/off”. Kosofsky Sedgwick and Frank therefore share an attraction to “the image of an undifferentiated but differentiable ecology [along with an ability to] discuss how things differentiate” (in Kosofsky Sedgwick 2002: 106).
This attraction would be the key point of difference when thinking through the ethical constitution of performance in all its forms.
I’m ultimately arguing here for a commitment to a “differential life” (Murphie 2005). This is life which brings together concepts of different/ciation with pragmatic techniques of living. However, I want to finish with that which I have been suggesting might sometimes seem to be a missing ingredient—non-performance, that is, not performing in any sense of the word.