The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Explanation of What's and What is

I've been thinking for a long time about the transformation of
the digital object into particles themselves following what
might be called control-sheaves; I use the name 'holarch' to
describe this transformation - one in which quantum, electronic,
and traditionally organic complexes meld. My first word choice
was "Grid," but this is too close to "Matrix" and to all the
writing about the aesthetics of the grid in the late 20th
century. "Holarch" is related to Koestler's "holarchy" but it
also resonates with "monarch" - the latter would be the
imaginary projection, paralleling Big Brother, which is non-
existent, but convenient. Things are out of control in control
and of course there is no center. So there is that. I also want
to imply that thought and care (thinking through Heidegger for
example) have to place here, that what occurs, what is an
occurrence, is the placeholder, and this is obviously a problem.
So there are two titles, "What's" and "What is" for the piece,
which splits on the apostrophe and therefore modes of condensa-
tion; the first parallels the zen "kwak!" and the second
devolves from that. The second is also torn from its moorings
with the swirl of almost-grammatically correct text, and the two
together send the philosophy onto a plane of language, one that
requires work (as does the aphoristic style, thinking for
example of Ken Wark) to unentangle - and then one is left, as
reader, back with a condensed prose and protocol sentences whose
content in part resides in appearance. I've also been thinking
about the remnants of post-modernism, the new aesthetic, the
post-digital - and other terms implying evolution and linearity
which I think are suspect; on one hand there is no development
at all, just shear (between have- and have-not and the income
gaps are increasing at enormous rates), and on the other, there
is deep irrelevance as global finance, wealth itself, access to
information, militarization, etc. become increasingly enclaved
to the extent that the thought of the humanities, and certainly
the thought of the human or thinking-through the human, become
increasingly irrelevant. Instead one might speak of forms of
entangled subterranean media ecologies which dominate issues of
privacy and the body. I also wanted to propose that control is
no longer "control-by" but is increasingly abstracted and moves
faster than the speed of the body or the prosthetic body, as
well as the speed of perception and machine perception - this is
evident for example in technological fast-tracks as well as the
increasingly chaotic vagaries of the stockmarket. On the
receiving end, consider the drone - not only in terms of the
drone object and its effects, but also in terms of a drone
"atmospheric," the world within a Virilian speed dynamics no
longer referencing objects or even an internet of objects, but
an environment of pure dynamics in which bodies and so-called
natural ecologies are sheared as well. So I wanted to think
through this, not descend into stylistics for their own sake,
and What's/What is, is the result.

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