Wojtaszek- Negotiating the Virtual

Marek M. Wojtaszek Negotiating the virtual. The matrix, the internet and a New Techno-logic

Short Outline:

This text deals with the Deleuzian notion of virtuality that disrupts the distinction between ontology and epistemology, between the original and the copy, between the real and the virtual. Virtuality in Deleuze and Guattari’s sense is not a space, nor an ‘unreal image’ and not necessarily depending on technologies such as the cyberspace. It is not created by human beings, but creates, produces itself everything. Virtuality exists from the beginning of time and produces the actual. It thus constitutes the real and is not opposed to it. We could consider technologies as ‘virtual forces constitutive of the real’ (Wojtaszek 11) and not as tools that we use to imitate or reflect on a real. If we consider technologies and the body as connecting instead of opposing, we might be able to fully use the critical potential of the internet.

Much Longer Outline:

Virtuality is a concept that fundamentally challenges the western binary assumption that there is a real opposed to a virtual. Wojtaszek discusses in his article D&G’s response to this dualism. Traditional western thought, originating from Plato’s philosophy of images, makes a distinction between a real or original and a copy of the real that imitates the real, and does not contain the real as such. This copy has been considered secondary to the original. Technology has had a negative stance as it is seen as producing the copy. (Wojtaszek: 4)

Wojtaszek locates a change in this perception of technique in the second half of the twentieth century. Technology gains a more positive position because it is no longer seen as opposing or imitating a real, but creating what we perceive as real. ‘Technology found itself freed from the constrictive corset of rationalistic explanations and was given new space for selfexpression and experimentation.’ (Wojtaszek: 3) D&G’s concept of virtuality also goes beyond this distinction between a real and a copy and they argue that only “an image without resemblance” (Deleuze qtd. in Wojtaszek 4) or a ‘pure image’ (Wojtaszek: 4) exists. Deleuze and Guattari seem to agree with Baudrillard that there exists only simulation. But, they cannot make this distinction between the simulacrum and the real that in Baudrilard’s theory has ‘ceased to exist’. On the contrary, all there has ever existed is an unendless production of new copies. “Reality in all its difference and complexity cannot be limited to extended images humans have form-ed of it.” (Wojtaszek: 5) The ontology of the simulacrum is chaos and not anything original. “In-formality means that since the simulacrum begins with the formless (chaos), its repetition is always unformable (different), subject to events.” (Lawlor qtd. in Wojtaszek 5).

The idea that there is a chaos that continuously creates and produces does away with the idea of an original, but also gives up stable identities. It gives up a stable ‘being’, for a constant ‘becoming’ (Wojtaszek: 8). The body should be seen as constantly in motion, as ‘millions of machinic processes and connections which are productive and repetitive’ (Wojtaszek:6). This makes every human body a unique assemblage. And this brings us to the concept of virtuality. Virtuality is a constant production of interacting images. Human beings emerge from a certain ‘Mechanosphere’ and are in a proces of constant becoming. This involves also another idea of experiencing. Deleuze opposes the idea that human beings have a Kantian consciousness that allows them a stable identity and recognize and categorize sensations. According to Deleuze, sensations are not firstly filtered by the subject’s brain (Wojtaszek:12) and seen as if they exist out of the subject, acting upon the subject or being other then the subject. The conditions of experience differ. On a virtual level human beings are encountering virtual sensibilities that are immediately affecting the nervous-system, and therefore produce thought. On this level, there is no such thing as the other anymore, because there is no stable idea of a self and there exist only a constant production, a constant becoming. Technology is thus constitutive of the real. It produces interacting images, and not images that serve reflection and representation. If we think with Deleuze beyond images as representation of a reality, we could see the images as something that constantly creating reality. In this respect, an uncountable amount of possibilities can be created. ‘Actualization of the virtual always takes place by difference, divergence or differentiation’ (Wojtaszek 10)

The danger that the cyberspace is used to expose the binarized framework is very much present in our current use of technology. Instead, we could consider a human being on the virtual level as a constant production of images, in constant relation to other images. We could use the technologies that cyberspace provides to expand our experiences. “ a world where everything is possible.”

question:

-How ‘virtual’ do you think the cyberspace nowadays is (being thought of). (or: when did you feel posthuman (or merging with the technological) on the internet for the last time?)

– Do you think that technology a prerequisite to think virtual, to think of such a thing as posthumanism?

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~ by ninaaal on March 23, 2009.

7 Responses to “Wojtaszek- Negotiating the Virtual”

  1. There is a debate going on about whether or not virtual worlds are real and I think this relates to the idea that virtuality creates and that we should not think physical and virtual as opposites. We are used to the idea of defining things through an opposition, so in order to define virtual we refer to it as a copy of the real. But virtual worlds can be relatively autonomous from the ‘real’ world (meaning that they have their own sets of values, economy, laws etc and so even if the physical and the virtual share the same inhabitants one can not the thought as the exact mirror of the other) and in that sense can be considered as complementary to the physical and not opposite.

  2. You ask us how ‘virtual’ the cyberspace nowadays is. I think Joanna indeed answered this question in an essential way: they are complementary, not oppositional. I’d also like to refer to technology that existed before the Internet: did they (even just the hammer) made us feel posthuman? Right now, we are like the fish in the water, not ‘aware’ of our surroundings and we take these surroundings for granted, we accept them as our ‘nature’. Yes, experiences differ and yes, different ontological characteristics appear. I do not argue we should not stop searching for these differences, yet in his text Wojtasek (especially through DeLeuze & Guattari) gives an interesting (starting) atlernative to deal with the not-so-different virtual/technological world.

  3. In explaining Deleuze’s virtual ‘New Media: A Critical Introduction’ (ed. Lister et al.) suggests that Deleuze’s virtual is ‘real, but inactual, [t]hat is, it has real existence but not in the same way as the things that are actually around us’ (361). I haven’t read anything on virtual by Deleuze himself yet – rather the articles which quote him, although having read some Deleuze I must say that he is not really that concerned with the binary real/unreal, but rather with potentialities (in the same line that Massumi follows him). I.e. film for him is not just an dispositif of representation, but he looks at the circuit emerging between the viewer and film. He calls it ‘mental automaton’ (see Lister et al. – 356) I believe this is how we could proceed in the discourse in the virtual, otherwise we might trap ourselves in the charades of real/unreal. And indeed I would agree with Joanna that looking at whatever emerges in (or through) the virtual as complementary instead of opposite would be way more rewarding.

    However, one problem a friend of mine and myself seem to be facing constantly is to define where does the virtual begin? Is there virtual between me looking at a painting or me and the building I walk in (I guess, at least Massumi would say yes)? But then everything becomes encompassed by the virtual. And I guess, following this line, the virtual becomes nothing by becoming everything?

    As for posthumanism, I think this might be maybe a bit too much to take in this discussion as we haven’t read any of posthumanists in this course.

  4. There is a good article on this, that you can access through the library:

    Kalaga, Wojciech.
    The Trouble with the Virtual
    symploke – Volume 11, Numbers 1-2, 2003, pp. 96-103

    SUMMARY
    “Wojciech Kalaga In the world of technology, telepresence, synthetic environments, etc., the immediate — and troublesome — association of the virtual is with the concept of virtual reality. Yet even a cursory look at the virtual reality praxis shows us that it consists in simulation or fabrication of images through the stimulation of human perceptual apparatus (and the parallel or subsequent immersion of the subject of sensory perception). Even an inexperienced ontologist intuitively knows that there is more to virtuality than stimulation or simulation. The purpose of this paper is exactly to explore the nature of virtuality and its relation to the actual. What will be needed in this exploration is, first, the overcoming of the dichotomy between existence and nonexistence (the dichotomy already undermined by the long tradition of studies in various kinds of the so-called non-existent objects), and secondly, a mutatis mutandis acceptance for the humanities of what Bruno Latour proposes for science and calls relative existence: “existing somewhat,” “having a little reality” (156). A profound account of virtuality has been given by Gille Deleuze in Difference and Repetition and in Bergsonism. Deleuze begins his analysis of virtuality with the concept of Idea (-as-structure) or problem which tends towards actualization/solution….”

  5. if i understand your question correctly, i must agree with joanna and bernadette – it seems the question is placing virtual on one side, and real on another, rather than virtual vs. physical.

    naturally the virtual is virtual and the physical is physical (currently) in terms of content of matter, however, if what you meant by your question was, do people see the internet as being an extension of themselves (i.e. a “real” part of life) or do they see it as something like a foreign organ – it’s there but noticeably not a part of the mass that the body could – at any point – reject?

    the answer, i believe, is not applicable as a common definition, as it is perceived by different people in different ways, and not only perceived in those different ways, but also used in those different ways. the virtual nature of the internet can both be used by people as an extension – when used to its full capacity – or as an awkward extra appendage that someone doesn’t know what to do with it. by being forced to recognize its existence by those who use it to its full potential, the latter has the knowledge such technology exists, but doesn’t quite know what to do with it – therefore making it a part of life, but one they wish to reject – and of course are allowed to do for their personal life.

    either way people have to notice its existence, notice its differences (and similarities) to physical objects and principles, its near-identical matching to social and political order (as in both physical and digital both societies are full of humans who interact together the same regardless of where they are), and notice how the other side perceives it.

    therefore in an attempt to answer the question generally – i believe people view it as it is, just as to whether it is a natural organ, or a foreign organ, depends on their own mental decision and will not ever be able to be a general answer.

  6. Melinda mentioned an interesting idea, that of people lacking the required knowledge of dealing with technology as it is “offered” to them. Given the impact the Internet (as an example of digital technology) has had over recent years, one would feel tempted to state rather the contrary, since the World Wide Web has opened up numerous doors to information access and instant communication. Most of all, people have realized the opportunities these new technologies bring about and have learned how to work with them to their own interest, suiting their personal needs. Not knowing how to use this kind of technology- that is, not being a skillful Internet user nowadays – may be frequently considered uncharacteristic of citizens of the 21st century. And, mind you, we should not consider allowing the digital gap in discussion. This attitude towards the importance of knowing how to use the Internet to your own interest is, perhaps, proof of how we relate to the Internet beyond its technological substance. I, too, believe the real and the virtual should not be taken as opposites, but what happens when the “if you’re not in Linkedin/Google, you don’t exist” attitude becomes more and more spread? Do the Internet and “real” life become one?

  7. I think, Silvia, the last question you posed is answered affirmatively by Wojtaszek. And I would agree with him. Distinctions made between virtual and real point to people making judgments about the value of one or another thing (i.e., whether it is authentic or not). Your example of people becoming outcasts if they do not participate in and on the Internet, is very helpful in this respect. Valuing people who do immerse themselves in the “virtual” over people who do not is exactly the opposite of value judgments against virtual and for the real. Thus, it is striking that virtual and real collapse in the Deleuzian/Wojtaszekian way. I would agree that “virtual” worlds are becoming ever more real in the minds of people and that, therefore, we should consider the dichotomy virtual/real as a traditional valuing system not appropriate to many if not most developments in our present day and age.

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