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Culture Machine, Vol 7 (2005)

Biopolitics and Connective Mutation


Bifo It is thanks to Michel Foucault that the theme of subjectivity has definitively been freed from its Hegelian and historicist legacy, and thought again in a new context -- that of bio olitical disci line! "he subject does not re-exist history, it does not reexist the social rocess! #either does it recede the ower formations or the olitical subjectivation that founds autonomy! "here is no subject, but subjectivation, and the history of subjectifying rocesses is reconstructed through the analysis of e istemic, imaginary, libidinal and social dispositifs modeling the rimary matter of the lived! Bio olitics is a modeling of the biological body and of the social body by what Foucault defines as disci linary dispositifs! Historically, the disci linary societies described by Foucault are those that take sha e in the $lassical age, between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries! %uch societies reach their climax at the beginning of the twentieth century! "he Foucauldian analysis did ose the roblem of genealogy in terms which were finally no longer Hegelian, but it was still attached to the mechanical forms of industrial disci line and it did not take into account new technologies of control! "he conce t of bio olitics, however, im lies an evolution that goes beyond the classical form of mechanical disci line of the industrial age! "he conce t of bio ower designates that which brings life and its mechanisms within the realm of calculus, in other words, that which makes knowledge an agent of the technical transformation of human life! &eleu'e ro oses the conce t of (control society( as a means to fully develo such an idea! &eleu'e was a great reader of )illiam Burroughs and Burroughs imaginatively antici ated the assage to the fully bio olitical age, that age whose dispositifs no longer resent a molar character *such as the school, the rison, the factory, the asylum+ but essentially molecular features, which are intrinsic to the very genesis of the conscious organism! )e move here from the hase of industrial disci line to that of the mutation of the organism, taking lace through the inoculation of mutagenic rinci les, and the cabling of sychic, cognitive, genetic and relational circuits! )e might re lace the word (control( with (cabling(! Biogenic cabling! "echno-linguistic cabling of the human brain(s rinted circuit, cabling human brains in connection! By the conce t of dispositif, Foucault means those machinic concatenations which are able to externally redis ose the linguistic, sychic and relational formations of conscious organisms in the modern age! By cabling we mean the insertion of dispositifs inside the biologic, genetic, cognitive routes of formation in the age that comes after the end of modernity! "he rocess of mutation that takes lace during the formation of the first video-electronic generation can thus be described as the cabling of emerging subjectivities erformed by techno-biological and technocognitive automatisms! "his rocess of cabling is taking lace at multi le levels, biotechnology, systemati'ed through the develo ment of the Human -enome .roject, works to identify the codes on the basis of which one can model the life of human organisms! It thus works by laying out the technical conditions for a modeling of the organism, starting with coding! However, another o erational level by now largely diffused and ex erimented with is that of a cognitive modeling that takes lace on diverse lanes, the roduction of

techno-linguistic means of roduction, sycho harmacology, media roduction and the roduction of the imaginary! "he hiloso hy underlying the Human -enome .roject is based on a substantially deterministic hy othesis even as the uto ia of linear genetic determination does not take into account the interaction between the info-genetic level and the environmental level, and hence the un redictability of develo ments within a s ecific hysical environment! But when we look beyond the limits of biogenetics, and we turn to the analysis of sychic bio-modeling, we reali'e that this rocess cannot be deterministic! .rocesses of mutation are in general highly volatile! &uring the mutation, the relationshi between the organism and its environment is erturbed, redefined as stochastic, fragile, robabilistic! "his indeterminacy is articularly visible when we look at the cognitive and sychic level of the bio olitical modeling! My ( oint of observation( is exactly this, the athologies of the organism in the mutagenic age, the indeterminate and stochastic nature of the mor hogenetic rocess in which the organism is looking for a new balance! In articular, my interest is focused on the rocesses of cognitive cabling induced by communication technologies and by techno-linguistic and techno- erce tual dispositifs! "he latter roduce a sychoathology which resents endemic features! By working on this indeterminacy and on the sycho athologies derived from it and by following the -uattarian schi'oanalytic method, it is ossible to rethink radically our notion of olitics! .olitics should be reconce tuali'ed as the art of interference in the relationshi between the technomediatic universe *dominated by s ecific agencies which act on the roduction of the imaginary and on the roduction of knowledge and are identifiable in the global ca italist cor orations+ and the ecology of mind!

Elephant
/011 is the year of mass youth suicide in 2a an, the official figure is 134! )hat causes the outcry is the fast succession, at the end of the summer holidays of that year, of suicides by children, thirteen, to be exact, all among rimary school children! )hat is disconcerting here is not so much the number as the gratuitousnessand the incom rehensibility of the gesture, in all these cases, there are no motivations or reasons for the act! "here is a striking lack of words, an inca acity on the art of the adults that lived with the child to redict, understand, or ex lain what ha ened! In /035, a grou of students in a 2a anese secondary school murdered a grou of old and homeless eo le in a ark in 6okohama! )hen 7uestioned, the children offered no ex lanation other than that the homeless eo le they killed were obutsu, dirty and im ure things! 8s in manga comics, which achieved mass readershi recisely in the second half of the seventies, the enemy is not evil, it is dirty! $leanliness, ridding the world of the (waste roducts( of the indefinite, the confused, the hairy or the dusty, re ares the way for the digital, smoothing surfaces without as erities! 9rotic seduction is rogressively disconnected from sexual contact until it becomes sheer aesthetic stimulation! It is in 2a an that the first sym toms can be s otted! "he year is /011! In 2a an as in 9uro e and the :%8, /011 is the year of assage beyond modernity! But whereas in 9uro e, this assage is signaled by the hiloso hy of authors such as Baudrillard, ;irilio, -uattari, &eleu'e, and by the olitical consciousness of mass

movements such as the creative Italian autonomia or <ondon unk, and whereas in #orth 8merica it takes the form of a cultural ex losion, of a movement of urban transformations which is ex ressed in the artistic and musical (no wave(, in 2a an, the assage already a ears without mediation, as an unex lainable monstrosity which 7uickly becomes daily normality, the revalent form of collective existence! %ince /011, the colla se of the )estern mind has assumed a sneaking, subterranean, e isodic trajectory, but at the threshold of the millennium, it takes on the rhythm of a reci ice, of a no longer containable catastro he! )hat the consciousness of /011 had signaled as a danger and a ossibility im licit in the acceleration of roductive and existential rhythms, becomes daily news! $ertain events signaled this assage, becoming viruses, carrying information that re roduces, roliferates, infects the entire social organism! "he exce tional event of the "win "owers crashing in a cloud of dust following the deadly suicide of nineteen young Muslims is certainly the most im ressive, the image-event s ectacularly inaugurating the new times! But the $olumbine school massacre, which took lace some years before, might have carried a more uncanny message, because it s oke of daily life, of 8merican normality, of the normality of a humanity that has lost all relation with what used to be human and that stumbles along looking for some im ossible reassurance, in search of a substitute for emotions which it no longer knows! Michael Moore has dedicated a assionate film of social documentation to this event *Bowling for Columbine, =>>=+, where he relates what anybody can see, the sale of firearms and the aggressiveness that feeds fear! But in his film Elephant *=>>5+, -us ;an %ant interrogates the same e isode from a dee er, more im al able and hence more uncanny oint of view! )hat has ha ened and what is ha ening in the mind of that generation coming of age at the turn of the millennium? )hat does it mean and where can its sychic fragility take us, endowed as it is with a terrifying technological and destructive ower? "echnological Hy er .ower and sychic fragility are the mix which defines the first videoelectronic generation, es ecially in its #orth 8merican variant! "he disci lines of the natural sciences and sychiatry underestimate the effects of the sycho-cognitive mutation that traverses the first video-electronic generation! .olitics ignores them or com letely removes them, but if we want to understand something about what is ha ening in the society of the new millennium, we need to move our oint of observation in this direction, towards the sychos here! It is within the sychos ere that the effects of twenty years of info-invasion, nervous overload, mass sycho harmacology, sedatives, stimulants and eu horic substances, of fractali'ation of working and existential time, of social insecurity which translates in fear, solitude and terror manifest themselves! "ime-based sychobombs are ex loding in the interconnected global mind! "he effect is un redictable! In the last decades, the organism has been ex osed to an increasing mass of neuromobili'ing stimuli! "he acceleration and intensification of nervous stimulants on the conscious organism seems to have thinned the cognitive film that we might call sensibility! "he conscious organism needs to accelerate its cognitive, gestural, kinetic reactivity! "he time available for res onding to nervous stimuli has been dramatically reduced! "his is erha s why we seem to be seeing a reduction of the ca acity for em athy! %ymbolic exchange among human beings is elaborated without em athy, because it becomes increasingly difficult to erceive the existence of the body of the

other in time! In order to ex erience the other as a sensorial body, you need time, time to caress and smell! "he time for em athy is lacking, because stimulation has become too intense! How did this ha en? )hat is the cause of these disturbances of em athy whose signals are so evident in daily life, and in the events am lified by the media? $an we hy othesi'e a direct relationshi between the ex ansion of the Infos here *acceleration of stimuli and nervous solicitation, of the rhythms of cognitive res onse+ and the crumbling of the sensory film that allows human beings to understand that which cannot be verbali'ed, that which cannot be reduced to codified signs? @educers of com lexity such as money, information, stereoty es or digital network interfaces have sim lified the relationshi with the other, but when the other a ears in flesh and blood, we cannot tolerate its resence, because it hurts our *in+sensibility! "he video-electronic generation does not tolerate arm it or ubic hair! Ane needs erfect com atibility in order to interface cor oreal surfaces in connection! %mooth generation! $onjunction finds its ways through hairs and the im erfections of exchange! It is ca able of analogical reading, and heterogeneous bodies can understand each other even if they do not have an interfacing language! "he destruction of the inter-human sensory film has something to do with the technoinformational universe, but also with the ca italistic disci lining of cor oreality! In the final hase of ca italist moderni'ation, the emanci ation of woman and her insertion into roduction has rovoked an effect of rarefaction in the cor oreal and intellectual contact with the child! "he mother has disa eared or has reduced her resence in the ex eriential s here of the first video-electronic generation! "he combined effect of the so-called emanci ation of women *which in reality has been the subjection of women to the circuit of ca italist roduction+, and the diffusion of the televisual sociali'er has something to do with the contem orary sycho- olitical catastro he! 8nother u heaval is being re ared in the next generation! In many laces, a rocess is taking lace that could have significant conse7uences in the future! Millions of women in oor countries are forced to abandon their children in order to move to the )est to look after the children of other mothers, who cannot look after them because they are too busy with work! )hat hantasms of frustration and violence will grow in the minds of abandoned children? 8 eo le of hy er-armed children has invaded the world scene! It is doomed to get badly hurt, as in ;ietnam! But unfortunately it hurts us too! )e saw this in the ictures sna ed at 8bu -hraib and other risons of 8merican infamy! It is with glacial tenderness that -us ;an %ant shows us the neurotic mumbling, the anorexic hystericisms and the relational incom etence of the $olumbine generation *I am thinking about the s lendidly bestial dialogue between the three girls in the canteen, when they decide to go sho ing after having horrifically discussed friendshi and its duties and the ercentage of time that one should set aside for the dearest friends, in a minute 7uantification of affectivity+! He shows us shining waiting s aces, luminous corridors traversed by sychos! Bodies that have lost contact with their soul and hence no longer know anything about their cor oreality! "hen everything ha ens, while the sky ra idly moves by, as always in -us ;an %ant(s films! In the sus ended light of an ordinary day, here come the suicidal homicides! 9verything ha ens within a few dilated minutes, recorded by closed circuit "; cameras, teenagers hide under tables,

trying to avoid the bullets! "here is no tragedy, no outcry, the ambulances are not yet there! "he huge sky changes colour! &ry, s arse shots! #ot the terrifying crowds that we saw around )all %treet while the towers crashed! 8 7uiet, eri heral massacre re roducible, re licable, contagious

Connective mutation
Elephant s eaks of a generation that is emotionally disturbed and inca able of connecting thought and action! It s eaks of a cognitive mutation that is unfolding in the context of a communicative transformation, the assage from conjunction to connection! "he forms of conjunction are infinite, and connection is one of these! But within the conce t of connecting there is an im licit s ecification, connexio im lies the functionality of the materials being connected, a functional modeling that redis oses them to interfacing! )hile conjunction is a becoming other, in connection every element remains distinct, even though functionally interactive! $onjunction is the encounter and fusion of rounded irregular forms that infiltrate in an im recise, unre eatable, im erfect, continuous way! $onnection is the unctual and re eatable interaction of algorithmic functions, of straight lines and oints that can be erfectly su erim osed onto each other, inserting and detaching themselves according to discrete modalities of interaction! Modalities that establish a com atibility between diverse arts according to redetermined standards! "he digitali'ation of communicative rocesses roduces a sort of desensiti'ation to the curve, to continuous rocesses of slow becoming, and a corres onding sensiti'ation to code, sudden changes of state and the succession of discrete signs! "he first videoelectronic generation is ex eriencing a mutation, and the social, olitical and technical future de ends on the effects of this mutation! But in the tradition of the cognitive sciences, the notion of mutation is not acce table, because the e istemological foundations of these sciences remain anchored to a remise of a structuralist nature! In effect, cognitivism considers the human mind as a device that functions according to innate and unchangeable rules! $ognitivism cannot see how the environment acts on the concrete and articular modes of functioning of the mind! For this reason, the notion of a dynamic interaction between mental activity and the environment in which minds enter into communication is inadmissible! For the cognitive sciences, the technical com lexity of communication is inca able of modifying the modalities of cognition, even if certain cognitivists de art from this founding rinci le! In Cognition and Reality, for exam le, :lric #eisser s eaks of a cognitive ecology and recogni'es the ossibility of a dynamic interaction between the environment in which the mind develo s and its modes of functioning *#eisser, /01B+!

Acceleration language identit


"he acceleration of the circulation of information, the mass of information that we receive, decode, digest, and must res ond to in order to maintain the rhythm of economic, affective and existential exchanges, brings with it a crisis of the faculty of verbali'ation that manifests itself in various forms, autism and the di''ying escalation of dyslexia in the youngest generations, articularly in the social and rofessional classes most involved in the new technologies of communication!

&igitali'ation seems to o en u a double movement of re-formatting! ;erbal language is being re laced by forms of communication that are more ra id, more synthetic and more agile in carrying out different tasks simultaneously, according to the multitask method! But the acceleration of im ulses rovokes stress in the hysical organism and demands a sychotro ic re-formatting of erce tion and cognitive interaction, through the use of sycho harmacological drugs or the ure and sim le deactivation of em athy *which slows down cognitive rhythm+ and the attenuation of certain sensory levels such as smell and touching, already resha ed by the acceleration of writing! In general we can say that the ex ansion of a s ecific cognitive function redefines the whole of cognition! "he ex osure of the conscious organism to videoelectronics am lifies com etencies of a configurational ty e such as the ability to decode com lex visual ensembles or to develo multi le rocesses of interaction simultaneously! But at the same time it resha es other com etencies, such as the ability to react emotionally to stimuli that are drawn out in time or the ca acity to erceive tem oral de th! "he modalities of memori'ation de end on the mind(s ca acity to store information that has left a dee im ression, was active over a long eriod of time or in re etitive fashion! Memori'ation modifies the conscious organism and sha es its identity, given that identity can be defined as a dynamic accumulation of the memory of laces and relations forming the continuity of an ex erience! But what ha ens to memory when the flow of information ex lodes, ex ands enormously, besieges erce tion, occu ies the whole of available mental time, accelerates and reduces the mind(s time of ex osure to the single informational im ression? )hat ha ens here is that the memory of the ast thins out and the mass of resent information tends to occu y the whole s ace of attention! "he greater the density of the infos here, the scarcer is the time available for memori'ation! "he briefer the mind(s la se of ex osure to a single iece of information, the more tenuous will be the trace left by this information! In this way, mental activity tends to be com ressed into the resent, the de th of memory is reduced and thus the erce tion of the historical ast and even of existential diachrony tends to disa ear! 8nd if it(s true that identity is in large art connected to what has dynamically settled in ersonal memory * laces, faces, ex ectations, illusions+, it is ossible to hy othesi'e that we are moving towards a rogressive dis-identification, where organisms are increasingly recording a flow that unfolds in the resent and leaves no dee im rint because of the ra idity with which it a ears to the eye and settles in memory! "he thickening of the infos heric crust and the increase in 7uantity and intensity of the incoming informational material thus roduces the effect of a reduction of the s here of singular memory! "he things that an individual remembers *images, etc!+ work towards the construction of an im ersonal memory, homogeni'ed, uniformly assimilated and thinly elaborated because the time of ex osure is so fast it doesn(t allow for a dee ersonali'ation!

C !ertime, eroticism, desensiti"ation

It seems to me that the fundamental 7uestion of the current mutation -- the mutation that flows through individual organisms, o ulations and the entire lanet - can be found at the intersection of electronic and organic cyber-s ace! 6oung eo le are naturally the most ex osed to the effects of this mutation, because the invasive ower of cybers ace has im acted on them to the full, and as a conse7uence their otential to ada t cybertem orally *that is the otential of their cognitive, sychic and sycho- hysical a aratus+ is subject to an extreme solicitation! "he essential roblem is that the rhythms of the technological mutation are a lot faster than those of the mental mutation! Hence the ex ansion of cybers ace is incommensurably faster than the human brain(s ca acity to ex and and ada t *cybertime+! )e can increase the length of time an organism is ex osed to information, but ex erience can(t be intensified beyond a certain limit! 8cceleration rovokes an im overishment of ex erience, given that we are ex osed to a growing mass of stimuli that we can(t digest in the intensive modes of enjoyment and knowledge! % heres of relationality and behavior that re7uire an extended eriod of attention such as those of affectivity, eroticism and dee com rehension, are disturbed, subject to a contraction! In these conditions of acceleration and information overload, automatism tends to become the revalent form of reaction to stimuli, in the sense that automatic reactions are those that don(t demand reflection or a conscious and emotional reaction! "hey are standard reactions, im licit in the reformatted chain of actions and reactions of the homogeni'ed infos here! "he digitali'ation of the communicative environment and even of the erce tive environment acts on the sensibility of human organisms, without a doubt! But how do we address this roblematic? )hat instruments of analysis, what criteria of evaluation allow us to s eak of sensibility, of taste, of enjoyment and suffering, eroticism and sensuality? )e have no other instrument but ourselves, our antennae, our bodies, our sychic and erotic reactivity! Moreover, the filter of the observer can have a distorting effect! 8nd yet the feeling of rarefaction of contact, coldness and contraction are at the core of our contem orary athologies, articularly evident in the younger generation! "he s here of eroticism is articularly rone to them! 8fter the end of the avant-gardes and their infiltration into the circuit of social communication, aesthetic stimulation in the form of advertising, television, design, ackaging, web design etc! is increasingly wides read, ervasive, insistent, indissociable from the informational stimulation to which it has become com lementary! "he conscious-feeling organism is envelo ed in a flux of signs that are not sim ly the bearers of information, but also factors of erce tive stimulation and excitation! In the ast, artistic ex erience was founded on the sensorial centrality of catharsis! "he work of art created a wave of involvement and excitement that rushed forward towards a climax, a cathartic state of agitation com arable to orgasmic release! In its classical, as well as romantic and modern conce tions, beauty was identifiable with the moment of com letion, an overcoming of the tension im licit in the relationshi between the feeling organism and the world, catharsis, harmony, sublime detachment! @eaching harmony is an event that can be com ared to orgasmic release following the excitement of contact between bodies! Muscle tension relaxes in the fullness of leasure! In the ha y erce tion of one(s own body and the surrounding environment what is at lay is an essential 7uestion of rhythm, time and lived tem oralities! But if, into the circle of excitement, we introduce an inorganic element such as electronics and im ose an acceleration of stimuli and a contraction of sycho hysical reaction times, something ends u changing in the organism and its

forms of erotic reaction! Argasm is re laced by a series of excitations without release! Argasm is no longer the relude to any accom lishment! Inconclusive excitation takes the lace of orgasmic release! "his is something like the feeling that is conveyed to us by digital art, the coldness of video art, the inconclusive cyclical nature of the work of "inguely or the music of .hili -lass! #ot only aesthetics but also eroticism seems to be im licated in this inorganic acceleration of the relationshi between bodies! "he video installation, The Wind *=>>=+, by 9ija <iisa 8htila, consisting of three screens on which scenes of destruction, attem ts at contact with the body of the other and devastating crises of solitude unfold, is the most direct in7uiry I know of into a form of sycho athology that, at the beginning of the new millennium, is tending to become e idemic! "raveling the circuits of social communication, the erotic object is multi lied to the oint of becoming omni resent! But excitation is no longer the relude to any conclusion and multi lies desire to the oint of shattering it! "he unlimited nature of cybers ace endows ex erience with a kind of inconclusiveness! 8gressiveness and exhaustion follow from this unlimited o ening of the circuits of excitation! Isn(t this erha s an ex lanation of the erotic anxiety that leads to diserotici'ation and that mix of hy ersexuality and asexuality that characteri'es ost-urban life? "he city was the lace where the human body encountered the human body, the site of the ga'e, contact, slow emotion and leasure! In the osturban dimension of the cybers atial s rawl, contact seems to become im ossible, re laced by reci itous forms of ex erience that overla with commerciali'ation and violence! %low emotion is rare and im robable! 8nd the very slowness of emotion is transformed little by little into a commodity, an artificial condition that can be exchanged for money! "ime is scarce, time can be exchanged for money! "ime, an indis ensable dimension of leasure, is cut into fragments that can no longer be enjoyed! 9xcitation without release re laces leasure! In the cultural henomenology of late modernity, the mutation we are s eaking of can be connected to the transition eriod that takes laces from the sixties and seventies to the eighties and nineties! "he years of hi y culture were centred around a roject of erotici'ation of the social, of universal contact between bodies! In the transition eriod that coincides with the introduction of electronic communications technologies into the social circuit, the unk henomenon ex lodes! .unk cries out des erately against the rarefaction of contact, against the ost-urban desert, and reacts with a kind of hysterical self-destructiveness! "he transition towards the ostmodern and hy ertechnological dimension was registered by the #ew )ave of the early eighties, which in its most extreme form defined itself as #o )ave! #o )ave doesn(t mean immobility or constant flow without undulationC on the contrary, it means infinite fragmentation of the wave, it means nano-wave, infinitesimal agitation of the musculature, subliminal, uncontrollable micro-excitation! #ervous breakdown! Between the seventies and eighties, the irru tion of heroine into the existential ex erience of the ost-urban transition was a art of this rocess of ada tation to a condition of excitation without release! Heroine allows for a switching-off, a disconnection from the circuit of uninterru ted over-excitement, a kind of attenuation of tension! "he collective organism of )estern society looked for a slowing-down in the massive consum tion of heroine, or else, in a com lementary fashion, looked to cocaine as a way of kee ing u with the ace! )hat was taking lace here was the shift in infos heric s eed that made it ossible to subjugate human time to the regime of absolute and uninterru ted ex loitation of the neurotelematic network -the flexibili'ation of work!

#ranslated ! #i"iana #erranova and Melinda Cooper

$e%erences
#eisser, :! */01B+ Cognition and Reality: Principles and Implications of Cogniti e Psychology! %an Francisco, )! H! Freeman!