Sunday, May 24, 2009


The Electrate Professor has moved

I have decided to port this blog over to Wordpress. I have two other blogs there and so it will be more manageable to have them all at the same site. Also, I didn't like the fact that I couldn't create tags and categories the way that you can with Wordpress blogs. I will leave this one here to steer any visitors over to that site. I will also delete some of the early entries that didn't really apply to the topic, but I will keep them here so that they are somewhere.

So the new blog is at Thank you for visiting!

Friday, May 01, 2009


Infinition: Thinking-Fractal

I wrote a poem a while back called "Axiom: A Mathematics of Poetry" in which I parody the opening chapters of G. Spencer-Brown's The Laws of Form. The first line introduces a new concept that I created called "infinition":
It shall be taken as given the idea of infinition. The idea of infinition stands in direct opposition to the idea of definition.
Then, as in chapter one of the Spencer-Brown book, I provide a definition:
Infinition is the act of making indefinite or unclear. That is to say, while some uses of language attempt to clarify, others attempt to obfuscate.
The poem then continues with instructions to make a poem, introducing "canons," "conventions," and "principles" much like The Laws of Form does in its opening chapters; these kind of "mathematical" moments attempt to define poetry from its moment of creation. Interspersed within these various defining moments are "infinitions," poetic moments that obfuscate, that use metaphor and imagery to open up or make blurry what the definitions try to distinguish or clarify.

I later realized that this concept of infinition, which I playfully created for the purposes of this poem, could be introduced in the context of electracy as a simple analogue of electrate thinking. If electracy is a kind of thinking that emerges from or opposes (to some extent) literacy, and literate thinking has as its modus operandi the goal of defining, distinguishing, and clarifying, then "infinition" can be seen perhaps as a kind of electrate definition.

Or, to phrase it as Greg Ulmer might, infinition is to electracy as definition is to literacy.

As a kind of image-thinking, or thinking through or via images, electracy invites the kind of ambiguity that literacy loathes. Ulmer's work (in Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy for example) steers us toward this kind of thinking that is already happening, that is at the core of inventive thinking, as in Einstein's "wide image" of the compass:
Part of the value of Einstein as a paradigm is that his theories are imaged by a compass. The story of his compass becomes a parable for our own search , in that we must find our equivalent of the compass--the scene that we recognize as having this guiding role in our orientation to the world and to life. (27)
For Ulmer, "invention is an ecological process" and therefore we must attend to the various institutions of our lives (family, career, entertainment, community) in order to tune in to potential new ideas that can emerge from cross-over (in the way that metaphor suggests "crossing over" or "carrying across"). His books provide "heuretics" for invention, and they work: using his CATT(t) method back in his graduate theory course in 1987, I independently discovered the image of the rhizome (for me imaged as a watermelon) as a model of thinking differently, before knowing anything about Deleuze and Guattari.

If we are to think of infinition imagistically, then, I would offer the Koch snowflake as a model of a kind of "fuzzy definition" or "fuzzy logic" or "thinking-fractal." The idea is to start with an equilateral triangle and then to let each of the sides open out into an increasingly elongated boundary. It'll be quicker for you to get the idea if you see the animations at the Wikipedia entry for the Koch snowflake. Here is a boundary of infinite length, which seems to be a contradiction: if something is bounded, it is typically finitely bounded, enclosed by a measurable boundary.

So the question, then, is how can this fractal curve help us to think differently? Can the model of the Koch snowflake open up thought, make it an act of infinition?

Don't get me wrong: there is a place for definition. But there is also a place for infinition.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Liquid Theory

Just after posting my extended comments on "how concepts function," which mentions a desire to explore fluid-flow principles and de Bono's concept of "water logic," among other things, I came across this post on liquid theory, inviting us to contribute to a liquid book, a call-for-collaboration in a wiki-book of philosophy: Liquid Books. Here we go!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009


How Concepts Function

I started reading the IEP (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) entry on "Concepts," which starts by laying out "tasks for an overall theory of concepts," one of which is to determine what the metaphysical status of a concept is. As I thought about Deleuze and Guattari's theories, it occurred to me that they are not so much concerned about what a concept is so much as what a concept does: how it functions in a particular context or assemblage, what it accomplishes in solving a particular problem.

In fact, the way that this line of thinking started was by thinking, "If you stop to think about it..." But stopping is artificial: there is no stopping: the mind is going going going, a model of Bergsonian duration, and it's when we "stop" to think about thinking that we develop a metaphysics of thinking, a model of the "being" vs. "becoming" of thinking. Deleuze is about thinking on the go, thinking as going, and going implies a direction, possibly even a destination (unless you're a nomad, that is) and/or an agenda: are you stratifying or destratifying? Are you becoming more complex as an organization or is there a kind of chaos-ification occurring?

Thought, that is (to repeat myself), requires a context (what are you thinking about? what problem are you trying to solve?). I see this in their concept of the machinic assemblage: things themselves have fluid ontological categories depending on the role they play in a temporary assemblage of parts/wholes that come together to fulfill a particular purpose or desire. A bicycle tire on a bike, for example, serves as a mode of transportation; in a work of art, however, it serves as a mode of self-expression. In a different context, faced with a different problem to solve, it could be/come something else (in the way that car tires are used as the soles of shoes in third-world countries).

For D&G, it seems that the problem they want to solve is the question of how to think differently, how (ultimately) to think creatively. Beyond this (and with them there always seems to be a beyond), they want to capture the boiling roiling moment of a phase transition, whether the moment when water freezes or when water boils... In the words of Jeffrey Bell, in his Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos: Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of Difference,
A dynamic system. . . presupposes both the stable, structured strata that are in some sense *complete*, and it entails the unstable, unstructured, deterritorializing flows. As Deleuze and Guattari proceed to develop the implications of this thinking, or as they develop a philosophy 'at the edge of chaos,' they neither create concepts which solve, once and for all, philosophical problems, nor do they slip into a state of anarchical relativism. Rather, philosophy, as with a living organism 'at the edge of chaos,' must maintain both its stable strata and its unstable deterritorializing flows. Without the former, a living organism dies (or a philosophy slips into disordered nonsense and says nothing), and without the latter, an organism is unable to adapt and will also die (or a philosophy falls into a mindless repetition of cliches and platitudes). (4)
So there should be a give and take to thinking, one that allows for this kind of freezing (stratification, striation) then flowing (destratification, smoothening). Philosophical concepts, according to Deleuze and Guattari, function to facilitate such vacillations.

With all of this in mind, I declare once again my intention to investigate fluid/flow principles. An initial peek at the Encyclopedia of Science and Technology points to Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids, "rigid body dynamics," viscosity vs. "viscoelasticity," and the like.

And before closing this entry, I need to mention Edward de Bono's Water Logic, in which he opposes the "rock logic" of the "Greek gang of three" (i.e. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, "who hijacked Western thinking") with his concept of "water logic": "Traditional rock logic is based on 'is' [identity: What is this?]. The logic of perception is water logic and this is based on 'to' [flow]. . . "What does this lead to?" De Bono concludes in a passage that might have been penned by Deleuze: "I write about the huge importance of concepts for water logic. It is concepts that give movement and flexibility in thinking. Such concepts do not always need to be precise because we are using water logic rather than rock logic, which depends on precision" (189).

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Thinking About Thinking: Post-Continental Philosophy

I recently received from inter-library loan a book by John Mullarkey titled Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline. This looks at four contemporary philosophers: Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, Michel Henry, and Francois Laruelle, all of whom, according to the author, deal with the topic of immanence in different ways in order to renew thought. The common denominator that Mullarkey identifies is that they all "show" rather than tell via diagrams, and he proposes a "diagrammatology" (W.J.T. Mitchell's term) as a mode of philosophical discourse to "think immanence":
And such images are never mere ornament -- they are often frames around which whole arguments are set. . . . Diagrams have long been useful in teaching and learning logic . . . but now their foundation to all understanding has been highlighted through research in cognitive science and visual studies. Diagrams are 'problem solvers' because they 'automatically support a large number of perceptual inferences, which are extremely easy for humans. (162)
Mullarkey's conclusion points to the changes that a "post-continental philosophy" might induce in how we think:
What we are saying -- and what a Post-Continental thought indicates -- is that philosophy must take up the challenge of renewal and acknowledge the possibility that art, technology, and even matter itself, at the level of its own subject-matter, in its own actuality, might be capable of forcing new philosophical thoughts onto us. With that, however, there might also come a transformation of what we mean by philosophy and even thought itself. (193)
The transformation of thought itself: this is the theme of this blog and of electracy as a description of what becomes possible when fundamental changes occur to the communicative apparatus of a society. Mullarkey's book, I am suggesting, offers thinking with and through diagrams as one way of of manifesting an electrate form of thinking.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Google Earth and Autocartography

I had lunch with John Craig Freeman, one of the organizers of the Invent-L Imaging Place conference I attended back in February 2007, my work for which has become the focus of this blog. He showed me his recent experiments with Google Earth, and I was intrigued by the possibilities for autocartography. The ability to embed youtube videos and other files in layers points to the map becoming an organizational interface for a kind of rhizographic, multi-genre autography. Here's the slideshare file for my presentation on Autocartography:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Further Dialogue and New Directions

My response to the essay rejection prompted a dialogue about possible directions the essay could take in the future and possible venues. I am indebted to Craig Saper for his encouragement, his tending to expression of my "genius." After giving it thought, I concluded that I could develop the autocartography as a genre and use a map interface for my presentation. I've also ordered the book Lacan: Topologically Speaking, edited by my former professor Ellie Ragland. I had a course with her while at UF called "Madness and Literature," in which I applied Lacan's theory of psychosis to a breakdown I had while an undergraduate. Getting back in to Lacanian theory will be a challenge of course! But this could tie into my references to topology as a spatial metaphor for "imaging place": in this case, the place of the mind. Lacan's use of topology to "map" the mind might yield clues to how it could be used to image place as I presented it at the conference (now almost two years past!). In my presentation (you can find the slideshow at, I mention the conceptual metaphor "thinking is moving through space" and consider what would happen to thinking if the space through which thinking moved was a topological space, or a multi-dimensional space.

There is much to think about here!

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