John Hopkins on Mon, 7 Dec 2015 00:29:53 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> A Veillance Ansatz

On 06/Dec/15 09:16, William Waites wrote:
This short article is to try to put discussion about surveillance into
theoretical framework.  It is far from rigorous and is more a guide to
a certain way of thinking about the topic.

William -- good first step! While it might seem a bit facile to take a vector field equation (form) as a starting point, it is quite sensible in the process of understanding the holistic (and complex) dynamics of our living system.

If you substitute 'energy' for 'power' you will get a more universal 'equation' that well compares to a progressive scientific worldview on the issue. The basic forms of field equations were generated to model the behavior of grav/mag fields (in Euclidean space) -- thus a bit old-fashioned, but extremely powerful tools.

Approaching the question of observation as an energy/power/attention flow is something I wrote about in my dissertation while attempting to make the argument that broad techno-social systems may be better understood as precisely what you propose for the subset of the techno-social system -- networks of observation -- as a field of flows.

For me it is clear that this approach is far more powerful than traditional materialist/mechanistic approaches that assume *no* connection between elements of our system unless proven, rather than assuming connection (described well via this vector field of power flows) and proceeding with this far more holistic understanding (that can also be modeled by systems thinking approaches). These disparate artificial elements -- economics, politics, science, nation-states, geographies, ideologies, even personal realities -- are extremely hard to reconcile from a materialist (even a 'new' materialist!) worldview.

The 'veillance intensity' you speak of can be seen as the amount of attention (observing) that is directed towards a certain manifestation. The reason there is an increase in power flows is that a human 'paying' attention is actually expending life-energy in a directed way (in that vector field): attention can be seen as a directing, focusing, and expending of embodied life-energy.

Bravo for coming up with this, and putting it out there on nettime! I'd be curious to know more about where this came from in your praxis! Oh, while you call it theoretical, I don't think it takes much imagination to see that what you propose well-describes 'reality'. As a model for that reality, if it works in many cases, it becomes a good tool; it's only when the model supercedes the reality it models that we run into problems...


PS -- so the difference of 'sur' and 'sous' simply relates to the directedness (flux) of energy/power flows in the field. If only Lacan and Foucault hadn't been thoroughly immersed in a Newtonian model of their worlds ... life could have taken a more power-full turn for the many following their philosophies!

Dr. John Hopkins, BSc, MFA, PhD
grounded on a granite batholith
twitter: @neoscenes

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