nettime's_indeterminate_temporary_layover on Wed, 12 Mar 2003 19:56:56 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> vector digest [wood \ scotartt | leal / wark - flagan]

RE: <nettime> There are only Vectors
     "D F J Wood" <>
     scotartt <>
     miguel leal <>
     "McKenzie Wark" <>
     Are Flagan <>

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Subject: RE: <nettime> There are only Vectors
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 09:18:25 -0000
From: "D F J Wood" <>

> A word on this word vector. I've borrowed it
> from the writings of French urbanist and
> speculative writer Paul Virilio.  


Ok - seems fair enough in theory, but 

1. how do you then justify the term 'vectorialised' - given that
everything has a vector (even a static point). Perhaps, the only thing
you could 'vectorialise' would possibly be an essay or a piece of
writing - i.e.: you add words based on the term 'vector' everywhere! 

2. Surely power has always had a vector / vectors. In addition it would
seem difficult to use the term 'vectoral class' to describe a group of
people who are able to move more swiftly than others or has faster
access to information. Certainly the vectors of classes are different,
but they each have vectoral characteristics. They are mediated by all
sorts of differentially permeable boundaries (of everything from state
borders through law to surveillance tehcnologies). 

I think perhaps the vector of your argument is heading off in the wrong
direction, or at least beginning in the wrong place. Even in Virilian
dromology, the new form of society is not the 'vector' per se but the
differential speed of movement. John Urry says theories are metaphors,
some more or less productive than others. I don't see that this one  is
particularly productive - indeed it seesm to obfuscate differences
rather than clarify them.   


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Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 21:44:30 +1100
From: scotartt <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors

Hash: SHA1

Hi brian

Just in regard to the long list at the bottom of your email where you subtitute
'fixed and indeterminate' for each use of Vector that Ken has written, I don't
beleive that would be the best way to characterise his use of that term. To
retreat to mathematics for a moment, a vector has two properties, magnitude and
direction. So, for example, a vector represents not just a property that has an
amount, but also an origin point and an end point in the expression of the
amount. In an extremely simplified sense, a line with both length and an arrow
on the end showing direction, thus ------------>  and thus ------> which show
two vectors with equal direction (90 degrees) but different amounts. Of course
the limitations of ascii characters prevent me from illustrating further but
here's a third vector, equal to the second one but with a different direction
<------, in this case a direction of 270 degrees.

So my understanding of Ken's use, to boil away the layers of nuance around it,
is that a Vector is a thrust, a way to bundle up the material world, (or power
in that world) into a little packet of information (an amount) and move it
across the face of the planet to some other location (the direction), unpack it
and reapply it back to the material world.

I believe he has said something along the lines of 'The Royal Navy was the
British Empire's vectoral power' and it was upon the back of this vectoral
power that the colony of New South Wales was formed. In the panopticon there is
the vectoralisation of the gaze upon the body but transportation is the
vectoralisation of the body itself.  Of course sinnce 1788 the world has
changed mightly and severally, but it's also interesting to note that many of
the technologies of vectoralisation where refined within the parameters of
their usefulness to the Royal Navy; for example, the measurement of time, tide
and the heavens, the computer, first devised at least in part by Babbage to
solve problems of naval gunnery, secret writing (encryption), even the
primitive telegraph was organised by the French as a series of semaphore towers
that enabled Paris to be informed within the hour of the latest movements of
the Royal Navy.

Basically (again) Ken argues there is a new class whose power derives from the
realisation of economic control over the technologies, production, aggregation,
 transmission of this transformative power (the third nature) of the 'vector' -
the Vectoralist class - in opposition to the class who produces the information
- - the writers, analysts, coders, etc - the Hacker class. Another layer built
on top of the feudal and industrial phases and classes which preceded it.

I won't presume to further argue the complexity of Ken's position, which I have
only touched upon, but ever since I grasped his essential notion I think it's a
very interesting one; one that allows a materialist re-interpretation class
politics in the post-Cold War era without falling back to the tired cliches of
talking about capitalism as if we are still in the Worker's International.


human being wrote:

>>The vectoralization of power
> ['a fixed and an indeterminant power']

Version: GnuPG v1.2.1 (MingW32)


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Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 13:57:11 +0000
From: miguel leal <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors

Some  words about vectors and other more or less secret agents:

Besides the dromological definition that Virilio gives for the word 
*vector*, there is another interesting approach given by the 
epidemiological use of the term. Vector is also the vehicle (another 
dromological concept) that enables a virus transmission. The vector 
is the agent (sometimes secret) of an indirect transmission. In 
virology, when we speak of vectors, we often think about insects, as 
a group of invertebrate animals that carry a host of different 
infectious agents. But a vector can be any living creature that 
transmits an infectious agent to humans.
To think about vectors and not reclaiming its epidemiological 
character is to elude a main aspect to the understanding of its 
potential as a contamination agent. To speak about a third nature 
without convoking the biological behavior of the technological 
vectors is a narrowing approach. Even Virilio is more or less aware 
of this when he speaks about the dark side of the technology: the 
In fact, technology survives largely due to its capacity for 
constantly eluding corpselike rigidity, just as a living organism 
makes mobility and ability to adapt its tools of survival.  The 
luminous abysm of the accident, able to create new and unpredictable 
events, is thus fundamental both for the survival of tecno and bio 
organisms. The fragility this opening to accident embodies comes 
close to the unavoidable contingencies of life itself, and that's 
fairly a way of getting a wide perspective about the contemporary 
tecnological vectors.


miguel leal

***"Vectors may mechanically spread the infectious agent, such as a 
virus or parasite. In this scenario the vector-for instance a 
mosquito- contaminates its feet or proboscis ("nose") with the 
infectious agent, or the agent passes through its gastrointestinal 
tract. The agent is transmitted from the vector when it bites or 
touches a person. In the case of an insect, the infectious agent may 
be injected with the insect's salivary fluid when it bites. Or the 
insect may regurgitate material or deposit feces on the skin, which 
then enter a person's body, typically through a bite wound or skin 
that has been broken by scratching or rubbing.

In the case of some infectious agents, vectors are only capable of 
transmitting the disease during a certain time period. In these 
situations, vectors play host to the agent. The agent needs the host 
to develop and mature or to reproduce (multiply) or both (called 
cyclopropagative). Once the agent is within the vector animal, an 
incubation period follows during which the agent grows or reproduces 
or both, depending on the type of agent. Only after this phase is 
over does the vector become infective. That is, only then can it 
transmit an agent that is capable of causing disease in the 

>  >From: human being <>
>  >Would you please further define these 'vectorial' statements,

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From: "McKenzie Wark" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 11:00:14 -0500

I think Scot phrased it well:

>... a Vector is a thrust, a way to bundle up the material world, (or power
>in that world) into a little packet of information (an amount) and move it
>across the face of the planet to some other location (the direction), 
>unpack it
>and reapply it back to the material world.

> Basically (again) Ken argues there is a new class whose power derives from
> the realisation of economic control over the technologies, production,
> aggregation, transmission of this transformative power (the third nature)
> of the 'vector' - the Vectoralist class - in opposition to the class who
> produces the information - - the writers, analysts, coders, etc - the
> Hacker class. Another layer built on top of the feudal and industrial
> phases and classes which preceded it.

Where we have some agreement seems to me to be in treating information as
having an abstract relation to materiality. This seems to me to be the 
least-worst solution to a real ontological jam, but it has powerful 
consequences for how one thinks about science. That is perhaps a topic for 
another time.

Another point of agreement may be in thinking the virtual as something
within the bounds of materiality, rather than as "something other or else
altogther" as Human Being (aka Brian Carroll) puts it. Where I differ
significantly from, say Deleuze & Guattari is in thinking that the virtual
arises historically.  Particular communication vectors created particular
envelopes of possibility in historical time and geographic space.

To think communication history and geography in terms of the vectoral may
indeed be a "type of conceptual calculation". The calculation may in the
first instance be between technological determinism, on the one hand, and
the rhetoric of technology as universal and unlimited potential.

I don't see any great mystery in the expression 'vectoralization of power.'
Communication vectors are the technologies that support and develop the
abstract relation between information and materiality. They are powerful
tools for a new kind of power, the first really effective instance of which is
the telegraph -- and let's not quibble about that.

The power of abstraction, the abstraction of information in relation to its
material substrate, is not a power in the general possession of humans as
a species -- as recent events make abundantly clear. There is a class
relation at work. The regime of private property has been extended to
information, and very recently. The possession of information, and the
possession of the means to realize its value, is rapidly being privatized.

But more than that. The ruling class is mutating. It rules less through
direct possession of productive material assets and more and more through
the ownership of the means of abstracting information from the material.
This i believe is a second great mutation in the history of the commodity
economy. The first was the leap from land as private property to the
fungible world of manufacturing.

The vectoral class -- owners of information and the means to realize its
value -- has two factions. On the one hand, a 'liberal' wing, interested in
turning the space of the world into a space of free movement, where
material resources as subjected to a universal abstract regime of
calculation, the world market. On the other hand, a 'statist' wing, that
is more interested in resources in the aggregate, particularly those
that are spatially fixed and hence subject to strategic calculation, Oil
is only one example of such a resource.

In both cases power rests on the vector, on the capacity to subordinate
materiality to 'informationality'. It is two aspects of the same vectoral
empire, whcih views all of the world as an object-set, to be catalogued.
evaluated, commanded by an abstract power.

As Scot rightly points out, I see the historical precedent in the British
Empire, which in the 18th century only lackd the capacity to bifurcate
the vector, such that information could move faster than the objects it

There are a lot of interesting speculations in your posts, my fellow Human
Being, but I'm not interested in pursuing al of them. I am not trying to
construct a universal metaphysics. I am trying to construct a tactical
theory of use in the present circumstances.


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Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 11:08:10 -0500
Subject: Re: <nettime> There are only Vectors
From: Are Flagan <>

I am not sure if another vector is needed here...

I already received MW's telegram from nowhere in the yellow pages of
Mutations (Rem Koolhaas et al). But I pondered then, as I do even more now,
if he ever got Derrida's postcard. The vector is arguably a very clumsy
arrow for where it appears to be returning.

Cyberspace was for the longest time preoccupied with floating minds and sexy
cyborgs, but it eventually came down to earth with the realization that
third nature was very much like second nature, only different somehow.
Information still, lo and behold, relied upon embodiment. In retrospect, it
is quite impressive how long we watched, in awe, the headset and the data
glove without chuckling a little bit at the performance.

The "vector" primarily seeks to update the vocabulary of conundrums with a
geometrical-mathematical-logical flavor. This is, in my view, also why it
bounces back and forth on nettime to this extent; because such notations
have, at this time, still very closely defined expectations,
meta-mathematics and quantum computing pending. As it stands, however,
vectoralization reads much like an outdated screenplay for a prequel to the
Matrix, waiting to be picked up by the formulaic studios.

The urge of the "vector" is still to draw a connection from zero to infinity
without a confounding appreciation for how these two "points," in the same
notational schemes, came about through their own highly complicated

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