From Media Design: Networked & Lens-Based wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Foucault defined his use of the term dispositif (apparatus) in 1977:

"What I’m trying to pick out with this term is, firstly, a thoroughly heterogenous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions–in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements. Secondly, what I am trying to identify in this apparatus is precisely the nature of the connection that can exist between these heterogenous elements. Thus, a particular discourse can figure at one time as the programme of an institution, and at another it can function as a means of justifying or masking a practice which itself remains silent, or as a secondary re-interpretation of this practice, opening out for it a new field of rationality. In short, between these elements, whether discursive or non-discursive, there is a sort of interplay of shifts of position and modifications of function which can also vary very widely. Thirdly, I understand by the term “apparatus” a sort of–shall we say–formation which has as its major function at a given historical moment that of responding to an urgent need. The apparatus thus has a dominant strategic function. This may have been, for example, the assimilation of a floating population found to be burdensome for an essentially mercantilist economy: there was a strategic imperative acting here as the matrix for an apparatus which gradually undertook the control or subjection of madness, sexual illness and neurosis."
“The Confession of the Flesh” (1977) interview. In Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings (ed Colin Gordon), 1980: pp. 194-228. .

I think that this explanation by Foucault himself of the concept of an apparatus is a good starting point to review what we have been analysing over the last few weeks. What links the dots all together is the question on how the means of observing the individuals have reshaped authority. We can see a relation between observation, authority and the social infrastructures of their own time. An infrastructure is defined by all the interconnected elements composing the frame that will support the organisation of the elements of a system between themselves. It enables the system to function in such a way. Like a performative cast.
“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” - Father John Culkin

In the means of correct training, Michel Foucault Describes the infrastructure supporting a model of society based on Discipline. Discipline evokes the notion of teaching (discere), the authority trained the citizens to regulate their behaviour. In this society model, observation was hierarchical, implying linearity, levelage (elements are subordinated to another). This can be traced in the architectural constructions revealing that model of functioning. Schools, Factories, military camp and others were planed to enable a certain control and training of the citizens. “Public” buildings had to enable the circulation of the humans and of the eye of the observer together. The most famous example is the structure of the Panopticon, designed by Jeremy Bentham in the XVIII's century. The design enabled one single watcher to observe all the prisoners at a time, while they could not see their inmates nor if they were being watched. Within those structures and according to them, judgement would be normalised through the methods of punishment and rewarding. These assets had to be relevant to the perimeter of enclosure and encourage people to behave according to the protocol.

Following the work engaged by Foucault, Gilles Deleuze points that Disciplinary society model has stopped prevailing with the mutation of capitalism. The frontiers of the enclosed systems defined by Foucault have started crumbling. This is an important point as economy is the main factor (Economy comes from the Grec Oikonomia, household management). It establishes the conditions of the circulation of the eye of the viewer in accordance with it. Sovereign models implied trade with the outside, the structures had to be seen and to see the outside as the exchanges were happening at the frontier between the in and out of the structures. The disciplinary model corresponds to industrial revolution, capitalism of production. The products started to be manufactured implying that the citizens had to assmilate a « know how » to use the «complex» machines. The architecture had to relocate the eye of the viewer to the inside the states to ensure the production of capital goods.

"At first, no doubt, only the reproduction and transmission of works of art will be affected. It will be possible to send anywhere or to re-create anywhere a system of sensations, or more precisely a system of stimuli, provoked by some object or event in any given place. Works of art will acquire a kind of ubiquity. We shall only have to summon them and there they will be…They will not merely exist in themselves but will exist wherever someone with a certain apparatus happens to be. (...) Just as water, gas and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign. (...) Just as we are accustomed, if not enslaved, to the various forms of energy that pour into our homes, we shall find it perfectly natural to receive the ultrarapid variations or oscillations that our sense organs gather in and integrate to form all we know. I do not know whether a philosopher has ever dreamed of a company engaged in the home delivery of Sensory Reality"
Paul Valery, the Conquest of Ubiquity, 1928

We don't need to go to things and people anymore as we can bring things to us. We can bring them into the place in time and time we have established individually and not have to adapt to a compromising schedule to suit another. We are not creating a whole body with the others, and as a consequence we do not individualize ourselves by differenciation. (Our understanding of things relies on what they are and the other option that could be).

Within a Network of Networks, there is no need to put up walls around the individuals. It is better to flatten out all the institutions which had an authority over a local constitution of people. The way nations have started to implement international organisations after the second world war, like networks of nations (EU, NATO, IMF, OCDE). Cryptocurrencies seem to prefigure the future of money transactions. We can perfect our knowledge on various topics like through Coursera's free online classes, which will deliver a certificate in the end of the training. - obviously this links with Deleuze's idea that perpetual training would be the “surrest way of delivering the school over to the corporation" - By hiding behind « Waldo », corporations can affect people's behaviour without the need of one established representative of a political party. The interesting thing with the term corporation is the evocation of the formation of “into a corps/body”. It doesn't have to be just one person but an association of a composition that can organically evolve.

The 3rd episode of Black Mirror's 2nd seasons “The Waldo Effect”, stars a failed comedian called Jamie. Jamie's job is to speak out people's anger and disdain amongst politician through an animated blue bear. People like the TV show a lot, and even more when Jamie cannot stop himself from speaking his mind anymore, within an argument with political contestants. This is a very vague sum up but all what matters is that the authenticity of Jamie's speech, through Waldo, make people want to vite for Waldo. The problem being that Waldo is nothing authentic but an animated bear which could potentially be handled by anyone with any kind of intentions. The potential of this puppet is quickly spotted by the members of an « agency », willing to buy the franchise of the animated as it seems perfectly adaptable across the world. Political figures get replaced by associations of non identificable peers around the globe, all representated by the Waldo « brand ».

Respecting the word's etymology, if authority is now being practised by corporations, it is therefore the result of collaboration of individuals as an entity. Wikipedia is perhaps an interesting case. It shows us how a corporation of individuals can perform authority over the practice of knowledge. Since its creation, it has managed to become one of the most popular and trusted Encyclopedias over the world. More than 12 % of the internauts use it on a daily basis. But the content is created and regulated by individuals on the simple basis that they care about it and are ready to dedicate time to it. They all remain anonymous and unpaid. We can attribute the first Encyclopedia to Diderot and D'Alembert, with the help of specialists in the different topics covered. But Wikipedia doesn't rely on expertise but on the wish to take part, who will remain anonymous and non identificable. This also means that the body can evolve constantly, ones can leave and ones can join at any time. Anyone can edit articles, add articles or spot any article that causes dilemna and discuss it with the other peer governors, in an open and public discussion that paradoxally gives an impression of transparency. Due to these constant slipages in the roles people attribute to themselves, wikipedia works more on the model of a heterarchy than a strict hierarchy. The system of observation in peer work, is caracterized by Holoptism, as opposed to panopticism. The P2P foundation defines it in these terms : the ability for any member to have horizontal knowledge of what the others are doing, but also the vertical knowledge related to the aims of the project.

Within the society of discipline, reality still had to be experienced through transportation, everything was still more or less physically embodied or at least linear and fairly local (in the production). The pace of displacement of a human body was prevailing. And even the telephone, radio or tv broadcasts were enclosed into national territories. What happens with networked telecommunication is a reconfiguration of the social space. We got given the possibility of extending our action spectrum in a multidirectional way, on a wider scale. We can therefore establish connections with things depending on our immediate needs, as they are all available everywhere, all the time. We receive and exchange emails for work, leisure, interpersonnal communication with your friends (although it tends to happen less often since we are more familiar with real time communication). Email has had a great impact on our organizational life. It is now assumed by administrations and enterprises that everyone has an email address. Pretty much any account on an online platform requires us to have an email address to be reached at, just like the way we used to give our physical postal address to be reached at. The fast pace of delivery of emails have changed requests for availability, for instance we can now work outside working hours/space. The result is a division of the individual into multiple correspondances of different tones accumulated over time.

By recording and creating material from the daily life in Great Britain, Mass Observation aimed to create an « Anthropology of ourselves ». In 1937, Charles Madge (a poet) and Humphrey Jennings (a filmmaker) published a call for volunteers to answer some regular questionaires. Tom Harrison (an anthropologist) saw the call and contacted Madge and Jennings, which led to the creation of Mass Observation. They tried different technics to approach the experiment, like paying investigators to record the behaviour of people from different social groups. Interestingly, this reflexive practice has become part of most citizen's life nowadays. New social media platforms are encourage the documentation of the Users' private life by themselves. Instagram for instance enables nothing but the sharing of some sort of photodiary. The eye of the citizen is constrained to what the interfaces surrounding him want to show about themselves. If one goes on Twitter's website for the first time the offer is the following:
«Connect with your friends — and other fascinating people. Get in-the-moment updates on the things that interest you. And watch events unfold, in real time, from every angle.».
Facebook or Twitter both ask «What's on your mind?» or «What's happening?». And as there is no one to identify behind the question, the user internalize it and start searching for the answers he will then give back to the interface. The potential viewers are occulted by the viewing of oneself by himself. There is something attracting in the reflexion of the self in the digital mirror.