Notes and readings in relation to social spatialisation 2018

Reviewers wanted for recent texts on social spaces and theory such as Saldanha, A. (2017). Space after Deleuze. London Oxford New York New Delhi Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic.  Commentaries welcome on older texts below.

Liam Cole-Young, Cultural Techniques and Logistical Media: Tuning German and Anglo-American Media Studies in M/C Journal 18: 2 (2015). Online.

Jonathan Sterne’s recent call to “focus on the stuff beneath, beyond, and behind the boxes our media come in” (Sterne, MP3 11) is part of a broader shift in the humanities toward materiality (see e.g. Grusen on ‘the nonhuman turn’; Ernst on media archaeology; Dolphijn and van der Tuin on new materialism; Starosielski on infrastructure studies). Sterne develops the concept of format to describe the ‘layers’ of technical development and social practice that occur before media devices or networks emerge as such. His case study is MP3, and he traces a long history of experimentation (and failure) with audio compression modes that prefigure its standardization.

Though formats like MP3 (and the media devices in which they operate) appear to users fully formed, Sterne’s point is that there are myriad historical, institutional, technical and other factors that precede their appearance….

The concept of format offers a corrective to a trend Sterne sees in media studies that misguidedly conflates under the concept of ‘media’ a vast array of processes, mechanisms, histories, techniques, practices, etc., that operate at distinct layers of any given medium (be they spatial, temporal, institutional, or imaginary):

Format theory would ask us to modulate the scale of our analysis of media somewhat differently. Mediality happens on multiple scales and time frames. Studying formats highlights registers like software, operating standards, and codes, as well as larger infrastructures, international corporate consortia, and whole technical systems. (MP3 11)

Sterne’s emphasis on the granularity of technique—how humans and their devices converge to establish ways of doing, hearing, seeing, and thinking that are the ground upon which concepts, desires, and institutions are built—resonates very strongly with cultural techniques as theorized by Siegert and others…

Both cultural techniques and format theory describe ontic operations that precede concepts. These are actions that have to do with handedness; the verbs of media theory that operate on its objects, to recall Vismann’s characterization. John Durham Peters similarly describes what he calls ‘logistical media,’ which “arrange people and property into time and space” (Peters, “Calendar” 40). These are “prior to and form the grid in which messages are sent […] Logistical media establish the zero points of orientation, the convergence of the x and y axis” (40). In ancient societies, technologies like the calendar and clock established grids through which time came to be experienced, measured and calculated (as Mumford understood in 1934). The tower established terrain as a visible field over which power could be exerted. Time and space converge in these objects: towers render the time required to move over terrain as a spatial horizon that can be processed by the eye; the discrete, spatialised movements of a clock’s hands freeze the ephemeral arrow of time; the calendar renders cultural cycles into a spatial form by which these can be standardized and canonized (for a discussion of media and ‘the geometry of time’ see Winkler).”

Matthew Mahutga (2012). When do value chains go global? A theory of the spatialization of global value chains. Global Networks, 12(1), 1–21.
Matthew Mahutga examines the theoretical literature on global commodity chain (GCC) and global value chain (GVC) governance to generate a theory of the ‘globalness’ of value chains and the spatialization.
… This allows “predictions about’ the spatialization of concrete forms of linkages (Gibbon and Ponte 2005: 87). While the buyer/producer-driven typology highlights the role of entry barriers to manufacturing as determinants of both the make/buy dilemma and locational decisions, its coupling with the newer GVC categories produces a more general theory of the spatialization of inter-firm linkages in the global economy.” (16)…Taken together, then, the two approaches yield a theory of both the globalness of value chains and the spatialization of specific value chain linkages.[However] One cannot avoid the normative implications of this synthesis. (17)

Diana Bocarejo (2012). Emancipation or Enclosement? The Spatialization of Difference and Urban Ethnic Contestation in Colombia. Antipode, 44(3), 663–683.
The language and the specific tools of governance of national minorities in many multicultural legal regimes are based upon strict spatializations of difference. In the case of Colombia, ethnic collectivities have been largely constructed through two spatial configurations: indigenous reservations (resguardos) and Afro-Colombian collective territories (territorios colectivos) [1991 Constitution]…” (667)
In recent years, this overt spatialization of difference has somewhat changed in the jurisprudence of the Court. More recent amendments actually acknowledge the possibility of “cultural survival” outside indigenous territories. Nevertheless, the terms of this recognition continue to address culture as a question of “survival”, using the same static notions of culture…” (670)
These disputes have typically not been given much attention and have been silenced by academia and political “ethnic activism”.Such a silence not only brackets the difficulties and intricate histories of indigenous mobility but also forecloses the possibility for an indigenous political mobilization in cities. In contrast, leaders of recognized indigenous groups in Bogota ́ have defied the main grounding of multicultural rights in three ways: they have challenged the criteria used to define ethnicity, they have openly disputed the spatial imagination of ethnic enclosure, and they have brought back issues of social class into a multicultural framework that has historically worked to silence such talk.” (679)

Florence Loewy, Paris (CCNC 2016 Rob Shields)

Nathan Widder (2010). Reply to Review Forum on Reflections on Time and Politics. Parrhesia, 9, 71–79.
Widder N. Reflections on Time and Politics. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008.
“Going beyond a linear notion of time’s passage in order to focus on its multiple dynamics – the re ux of the past into the present, the future’s hovering over the present and re-inscribing the past, the multiple rhythms of duration – could at best account for the emergence of the new only by default. And this is precisely what I saw Deleuze rejecting throughout his work. Of course, the task of accounting for the emergence of the new in repetition is not particularly easy, especially since an event, as Deleuze outlines it, is notoriously subtle and ambiguous. It marks a becoming that does not necessarily “move anywhere,” one for which the terms of representation are never suf cient, and it is characterized by eternal return, not some radical break and creation ex nihilo. I found a potential way forward in Deleuze’s view that time must be treated as the unchanging form or structure of what changes, a claim that is partially developed through a critique, familiar in both analytic and continental philosophy, that de ning time by its movement leads to the problem of in nite regress, as it begs the question of what is the time in which time moves. I wanted to take seriously the conception of time as a structure rather than a measure of change, and to see where it led. That is what I tried to do in this work.I did not see this task presenting a problem of unduly privileging time over space or ignoring the spatilization of time, since the notion of structure implies spatialization, as do Deleuze’s speci c formulations of the irrational cut, the interstice, and the series, and the later Heidegger’s formulation of “nearhood” (Nahheit), which relates past, present, and future in a four-dimensional temporal structure. A more signi cant challenge was focussing on time as a structure without losing sight of the various experiences of its passage, including – but not limited to – the ordinary experience of time as a continuum that can be counted off in order to measure movement and change. These invoke distinct “time-images,” as Deleuze says, different portrayals of the same phenomenon….” (72)

Anthony Galton (2011). Time flies but space does not: Limits to the spatialisation of time. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(3), 695–703.
“the spatialisation of time through metaphor can never do justice to the fundamental nature of time as a feature of our experience. That there are limits to such spatialisation may seem unsurprising; but I believe that because of the fascination of spatio-temporal metaphors, which highlight the respects in which time resembles space, the other side of the question, covering the respects in which time does not resemble space, has been comparatively neglected… (695)
…as we go down the list of temporal attributes, they become progressively less apt as attributes of space: extension is straightforwardly an attribute of space as well as of time; linearity, though not an attribute of space as such, can be applied to many one-dimensional subspaces of space; these subspaces, if conceived of as paths with a preferred direction of motion, thereby become directed; but only in certain rather special circumstances would we ever be inclined to describe space as transient. (699)
…purely spatial metaphors, in which some aspect of time is likened to, or equated with, a corresponding aspect of space, can be used to express three of the four key attributes of time that we have identified: extension, linearity, and directedness. This is because space shares these attributes, either directly, or because identifiable parts of space (specifically, directed linear subspaces) share them. The fourth attribute of time, transience, can at most marginally be ascribed to space, and therefore does not form the basis of any purely spatial metaphors for time. (702)
The transience of time is an essential and apparently irreducible feature of the world as we experience it. It is something that we have to take for granted, there being nothing else in terms of which we can describe or explain it that does not already exemplify temporal transience. We may, to be sure, celebrate and articulate in detail that range of linguistic and conceptual phenomena which we may summarise as the spatialisation of time – in effect presenting time as ‘just another’ spatial dimension; but in doing so we must not forget that time, as we apprehend it (whatever may be its true nature sub specie aeternitatis), cannot be wholly described in such terms, but only intuited as a fundamental and inalienable feature of our experience.” (703)

Bernard Stiegler (1998). Technics and Time. cinematic time and the question of malaise. Palo Alto CA: Stanford University Press.
“A “prosthesis” does not supplement something, does not re- place what would have been there before it and would have been lost: it is added. By pros-thesis, we understand (1) set in front, or spatialization (de-severance [é-loignement]); (2) set in advance, already there (past) and anticipation (foresight), that is, temporalization.The prosthesis is not a mere extension of the human body…” (152)

Arun Saldanha (2017). Space after Deleuze. London Oxford New York New Delhi Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic.
“Psychedelic tripping and vagabondage are not necessarily good models for nomadology, and Cartesian mapping is used for many other ends than conquest and oppression. The striations of capitalism by way of its commodi cation, quanti cation, and exploitation thrive on smooth spaces of tourism and an itinerant lumpenproletariat. Deleuze and Guattari call for smoothness in the way space is approached conceptually and not necessarily for a dismantling of real Cartesian epistemology. Thinking like a nomad is a “voyaging in place,” a “mode of spatialization, the manner of being in space, of being for space” (ATP 482). Such intensive instead of extensive travel is a dif cult and uncertain process that has to remain invisible and incomprehensible for the capitalist state.” (109)
“A sound also has rhythm, a particular spatialization of time that pulls heterogeneous components together. Importantly, the home-drawing activity itself creates the possibility of launching into a new region, to the earth or the future. This repetitive and improvised emission of sounds is what Deleuze and Guattari call the refrain. A refrain is a “prism, a crystal of space-time” (ATP 348) acting on its milieu so as to select and extract various components to constitute a territory.” (115-6)

Urban Conflicts inthe City Group, ThessalonkiAthanasiou, K., Eleni Vasdeki, Elina Kapetanaki, & Maria Karagianni, Matina Kapsali, Vaso Makrygianni, Foteini Mamali, Orestis Pangalos, Charalampos Tsavdaroglou. (2016). UniConflicts In Spaces of Crisis: Critical approaches in, against and beyond the University. Thessaloniki: Encounters and conflicts in the city group. Retrieved from
“Urban Conflicts inthe City Group… examined the ongoing crisis not just as an over- accumulation crisis but also as a crisis of social disobedience and of the inability of the circulation of capital, patriarchy and nationalism. Moving against the mysti-  cation of the crisis, the gathering was interested in critical ap- proaches that focus on the spatialization of social relations and examined the spaces of dissent. Particularly, it was examined the articulations, the limits, the contradictions and the dialectic relation of commons, enclosures, inclusion, exclusion, insur- gency and counter-insurgency as well as their hybrid intermedi- ate forms, which emerge in and through physical space, modes of communication and the constitution of communities.” (10)

Thomas Osborne  & Nicholas Rose (1999). Governing cities: notes on the spatialisation of virtue. Environment and Planning D, 17, 737–760.
Urban diagrammatics: In [the]… Greek diagram, the city becomes more than just a geographical space, it is a milieu for capturing and shaping forces (human, spatial, and ideological) proper to a particular stylisation of managing or governing conduct—the polis. The polis was a spatial milieu of immanence; a self-sufficient spatialisation of authority, where authority was immanent, it grew out of the pleasures and attractions of urban associations, interests, friendships, affects, and passions (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994, page 87; see also Finley, 1971). This idea of the immanent political sociability of the polis has recurred in all city diagrams in ‘the West’: the city as having the potential to generate that phenomenon which Immanuel Kant called the ‘unsocial sociability’ of men… (737-8)
The spatialisation of the eudaemonic city diagram is structured on the basis of a kind of benign panopticism. Panoptic because the ideal is one of complete transparency and visibility; but benign because what is at stake here is not so much the paranoiac structure of the 19th Century reformatory, with its opaque central control tower, but rather a kind of immanent panopticism, one in which gazes and visibilities are diffused, local, reciprocal, and towards which the end is not contrition and reform but happiness, mutuality, solidarity. The city can be an apparatus for constructing social tranquillity and human happiness out of space itself. (747)
…our current image of the criminogenic city governmentalises risk as a spatialisation of thought and intervention. Using techniques pioneered by the commercial demands of insurance and based on informatics and postcode mapping, this spatialisation is now at the molecular level of urban existence. The contemporary city is thus visualised as a distribution of risks: one of those maps with coloured overlays where each layer marks out a particular breed of riskiness… Risk is thus as much a feature of spatialisation itself… … animated by the dream of a new separation of the virtuous and the vicious, a new and clear spatialisation of danger into safe zones and risk zones. Fictional representations of urban life capture this well: the so-called ‘Blade Runner’ scenario… This fictional representation is imitated in real life in a defensive spatialisation that has come to shape city space: shopping malls and shopping centres with their own internal security systems… (753-4)

CCNC 2015 Rob Shields

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-Rob Shields (University of Alberta)