👁‍🗨 Affective, Deconstructive Affordances

Affective Robots — Impossible Kiss. Guzzetti Ale. 2012.

How can computers (and networks thereof) be used to create or coordinate the conditions for the possibility of genuinely supportive, integrative and egalitarian democratic planning as a project in political life? Is this asking too much — for a fool’s errand toward “decentralized public law”? Or “living law”? Arguably not, since the empire of law is logically prior to the political order.

Of course we know Marx’s most famous determinist line, observing markets: “The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” But what of after market formation, particularly financial markets (the last factor market)? Or as markets centralize?

Let’s not forget that colonial relations (through deterritorialization) precede the establishment of legal frameworks (wet code), as part of the story of centralization. So there’s a kind of cyclical feedback system that isn’t exactly uni-directional, as we know from history.

Nevertheless, citizens spend countless hours antagonizing-less-debating, virtue signalling, false flagging and the rest on various social network channels. To be sure, much collaborative and creative activity also take place within the walls of messages boards and chat rooms. Many anarchists who support direct democracy argue that all the time spent resisting direct democracy could be spent engaged in direct democracy, participatory budgeting, etc. So the question remains: if the anarchists’ political ideals — that a better world is possible — are the benchmark for a cultural revolution, we have to wonder whether the sociotechnological function has simply not yet been discovered. Has social media technology truly given individuals power to transcend the epidemic of “poor communications” which constrains organizations? Or, worse, have we all potentially become the accursed share in a world where sacrificial consumption has become democratized on a plane on inconsistency?

Can self-sovereign identity (SSI) or the hope of decentralized public-key infrastructure (DPKI) save us from ourselves? Or is it merely another technocratic solutionism ordered by conspiring theocrats aimed for manufacturing consent via advertisement channels, memetic fulcrums, and demoralization tactics? What good is another fractal metaphor if none of us are able to (self-?)govern the narratological structures in which we participate? Does political identity formation occur at the centers of political antagonisms, the edges of social control? Perhaps generative identity is onto something. But I wonder, could it be improved? Let’s ask this: are we not a little better off when we can invite chaos, spontaneity? Of course we’ll continue to wreck ourselves in our usual rampages against economic sense or political wisdom, but how do we nurture ourselves from beyond our imaginary fears and genuinely encounter becoming-other? Is knowing ourselves insufficient to engender cultural richness such that we must know others as well? Sure, others can describe us and we can curate those narratives, but how can anyone be sure this narrative still applies? Is there a science to perception (phenomenology) that we can use to expand the Information ≡ Identity ≡ Relationship triad?

Getting on with it. We might cultivate and build Affordances [1] from such a triad, but I think we can add more to the conceptual foundation to produce a pentad: Affect and Deconstruction.

I’ll just hazard some analogies.

On Affect. Remember “away messages” in instant messengers? Why has this concept been dropped or lacked implementation in the usual social networking app? Often times people will use their Display Name or Display Bio Text as a kind of placeholder for certain messages, but the intent is rarely synonymous. These are passive fields of information, not active. The concept of the “away message” presupposes a form of active mode of being, namely an affective state to be considered before or even while messaging. Of course Facebook has made it possible to share many different kinds of responses to a Post, but as yet there’s no way to share, or pre-form/set, our own Affect prior to or along side Posts. (Then again, who really wants to give away their sarcasm?) Why have we dropped such a concept? Was it redundant, or tedious? Perhaps it should be revived, as we’ve seen with EmotionML. In terms of participatory/periodic budgeting, I can see social networks augmented with such emotional substrates as more adequately integrating and representing consumer preferences in order to determine a self-regulating system of stock control based on temporal flows.

On Deconstruction. Derridean musing aside, everybody detoxes or meditates or prays, right? Many people go so far as to relinquish character traits or “former selves”. Every New Year, people take up agendas to become better people or secularly baptize themselves. Why shouldn’t these explicit forms of de-formation not be integrated in our political lives? What happens to all of our old posts drenched in Blue once we go full MAGAtard? Or when we concede to the overwhelming models of climate change? Surely deleting accounts or former posts is enough? Remember the “before/after” trope of weight-loss commercials? Rather, I’d prefer a chemistry set with which to measure how far I’ve come. I’d prefer a set of Affordances principled on helping me intermix my old Posts/Tweets/etc with the new based on a kind of science of the imaginary. I want to remix myself, as a treat. It’s what a cyborg would do. What is it like to be a cyborg? Perhaps I am the Cave and it is Good.

I may not have made my case, and it’s probably not even clear what that case would be. If I could summarize the idea, I might say integrating inconsistency into the system explicitly, rather than leaving it totally implicit, improves likelihood of detecting unsafe or unexpected outcomes. Should this improve our chances at democratic planning? Maybe, maybe not. Its only saving grace is that it isn’t an attempt to save the world or lead a revolution, only save selves from boredom. It’s shameless if not a total loss. To say the least, such ideas of said Affordances came out of a reading of Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science: we should actively participate in the processes of nature, of which chaos is a given, grounding order as unpredictable. We are an order beside orderlessness.

Is there any general process by which openness, open society, may be preserved, if not by explicit and regular incorporation of inconsistency? Are we doomed to play out acts of the violence of equality (normative riddling with the equal sign, not descriptive identification: nomologically speaking, X exchanges for Y vs X is a Y) and exchange even after the international revolution? What staves off the development of markets and those monsters lurking within them except that we all shroud ourselves in manifest becoming given-without-givenness or leaving-being-in-the-last-instance?

An open society, a presumably truly decentralized society, is one in which the use of equality (A = B) never plays a factor in daily life, never manifests images for the purposes of exchange, which possibilizes synthesis: nomologically speaking, X exchanges for Y vs X is a Y. We must think the new without synthesis.

Do what you will with your personal properties, affective or otherwise, but exchange, as a principle, is theft! Inconsistency is identity, no synthesis by a third term!

[1]: Practically speaking, “affordances” are built as hypermedia controls according to REST.

nobody leaves the cave before the end of a new dawn https://hypermedia-orientation.surge.sh