Living in a machinic world

7 Mar

One of the key things that I took away from the readings this week was the idea that we are living in a ‘machinic dimension’. This idea came from the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. It is a concept that looks at technology as been part of the natural and cultural flow of the world rather than been insulated from it (Murphie and Potts, 2003, p. 31). Furthermore, instead of strictly focusing on the form that technology takes, it looks at its different functions and its context. This means that technology becomes part of the cultural and physical world (Murphie and Potts, 2003, p. 31). The reason why technology has become part of this world is because our mindset and way of life seeks the idea of flow whether it is in the form of transportation or communication with others. This is why we have become so immersed with technology as it facilitates this. This is epitomised in the reading by the example of the city, which is described as a technology that demonstrates the increasing machinic nature of human beings (Murphie and Potts, 2003, p. 34). This is because in the city people are in constant flux due to the high concentration of technologies in their urban environment. Moreover, the reason why technology creates flow in the world is that by its very nature it is constantly changing, adapting and flowing into other technologies so that new technologies can arise (Murphie and Potts, 2003, p. 34).

The notion that we are living in a machinic world makes sense to me as it does not separate society from technology but looks at how they relate to each other and the results that this produces. The only thing that I would question is whether this need to create flow in society will ultimately be to our detriment as we are constantly moving through life without been able to sit down and think about how things affect people and alternative ways to move through the world.

I think the idea of a machinic world that continually flows is related to the video of Saskia Sassen talking about electronic activism. In this video she claims that non-government organisations like Oxfam need to focus on their objectives and set up their own civil society logic instead of becoming closed entities that adhere to the logic of engineers and computer scientists (Sassen, 2009). If organisations strive to do this than they can be part of a bigger network and are able to become agents of change. This links to the idea of a machinic dimension because she is telling people to not merely look at technology as an object but as a part of the cultural and natural world they occupy and by doing so they are able to create flow in their organisations as it gives them an opportunity to enter a network and create new interactions so positive transformation can occur.

Another key concept that I found interesting in the reading was the idea that space is been taken over by the drive towards speed, which is made possible by technologies, specifically military innovations. This was asserted by Paul Virilio who stated that we live in a ‘dromoshpere’ which means that everything is taken over by this idea of technological speed even our own consciousness (Murphie and Potts, 2003, p. 36-37). Stuart Jeffries from The Guardian further elaborates this, as he examines how Virilio envisioned the future of ware fare in society. In particular, the belief that new wars would not focus on the physical world instead it would be about the technological speed of the armies. This leads to bad outcomes as our freedom is increasingly restricted by our need to be the fastest whether it is with money, weapons or ideology (Jeffries, 2011). I think this argument has many valid points especially when we look at the nature of modern warfare today. For example, in America a robotics company called Boston Dynamics has built a robotic cheetah that has set a new world speed record. It is designed to assist soldiers and has been modeled on animals in the wild. It has been claimed that it is a ‘high speed killer’ (BBC News, 2012). However it has also been asserted that this robot would have a hard time distinguishing civilians from enemy fighters and may not adhere to the laws of war fare (BBC News, 2012). I think this story illustrates Virilio’s claim that we are constantly striving towards speed no matter what the consequences are. Also, the fact that the technologies we create become harder to control to the point that we are no longer part of the equation. This is demonstrated by the fact that this robotic cheetah can indiscriminately kill. I think Virilio’s concept of the dromosphere is relevant to how we look at society and technological innovation. Having said that, I find his claim that people are obsessed by speed as been too one-sided because he doesn’t recognize the other functions that technology serves such as bringing people together in a community or creating a space for discussion and interaction.

References:

1) BBC News (2012) Robotic cheetah ‘breaks speed record for legged robots’ [online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17269535 [Accessed 3 March 2012].

2) Jeffries, S. (2011) Friedrich Kittler and the rise of the machine [online]. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/28/friedrich-kittler-rise-of-the-machine [Accessed 5 March 2012].

3) Murphie, A., Potts, J. (2003) ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ in Culture and Technology. London: Palgrave Macmillan: 11-38.

4) Sassen, S. (2009) The Internet as Playground and Factory [online]. Available at: http://vimeo.com/6789940 [Accessed 5 March 2012].

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