CHRONOTOPOS pt. 2

“There is no dialectic between social and technical relations, but only a machinism that dissolves society into the machines whilst deterritorializing the machines across the ruins of society, whose ‘general theory … is a generalized theory of flux’…”

Which is to say, cybernetics.

Chronotopic mapping is, above all, the recognition of a need of system aesthetics. In fact, the word map is no longer helpful where we’re going. We must ask Bateson’s question: “What is it in the territory that gets on to the map?” The answer should, of course, be nearly nothing. Reducing the map, as chronotopos does, to an empty container rather than the totality of available information is a fundamental deletion of importance. The necessity of representation dissolves like a bad dream. The fetish of recording is revealed as a sad joke taken too far.

The ecstasy of recuperation ends as the indigestible is fatally consumed…the intestines erupt in bleeding ulcers and become the place of feverish, hallucinogenic degrees of decomposition and calcification. Welcome to Interzone…the haemorrhage of the Global Village.

Welcome to Interzone. Welcome to the urbicide of the planet. Methodologies turn to ash. Cartography flips back into fascism as we remember, finally, it was initially developed to survey property, consolidate territory, and direct the movements of armies…the hydra-head of Black Capital consumes the head of the state…augury and excrement of the war machine. In supplication to absolute deterritorialization the notion of territory itself boils and drains into the past, leaving vast turgidity which we will nonetheless inhabit. “Tell me, why are you here already, in this endless sea, with no land to hop on, or air to croak with, it makes no sense to me at all!”

In the scylla-charybidean chiral pinch we find ourselves, identity is stripped down to nothing. Persons are reducible to 2 opposite tendencies: vectors, distance/time functions that take off from space; and more importantly, a nearly-infinite capacity to move at fiber optic speeds.  Recognizing this removes the concept of personhood. They are not wholes. They are not even swarms. They are euclidean amoebae—and here, it is important to note, the nucleus is diminished in relation to cytoplasmic extensibility.

What chronotopos does that time-geography does not is recognizes this as fundamental and seeks to apply an aesthetics without incarcerating the amoebic, interring it once again within flesh. Space is necessarily annihilated by time and by technē both, disintegrating utterly and forever under the magnificent onslaught. When the amoeba-I communicate it is no longer with messages, it is with participation in supra-planetary marketspace. Buying is speaking, murmuring intonations into the thousand ears of Black Capital. My voice is heard in far-flung distribution centers, logged on secure servers in places my physical nucleus could never access, shooting through wires, aggregated and flattened to nothing. Materialism cracks and rots. Amoeba-I walks through walls.

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CHRONOTOPOS/The body in capitalism pt. 1

Chronotopos is in many ways coterminal with time-geography, or the cracking open of the static plane of territory and subsequent invasion by temporality. The body in capitalism is not a body at all, but rather the recognition that the age of corporeality is over. Both phrases look inside physical reality and find a cavity of utter entropy and pure dissolution. The thesis is this: space and the body (or identity) have both been annihilated by time.

Space

Practically, chronotopos is simple enough. Instead of treating the map as the site of infinity, treat it y=0, and plot time on the y axis, taking off from surface structuration.

t-s aquarium

Cartographic friction is annihilated by the speed and surgical efficacy of the line. At the same time, chronotopos is a visualization of qwernomics in spatial practice, upending the Rosen-Roback model of classical economics to reveal a secret sigilization just out of focus of quotidian geography, and the dromological time-space compression of the landscape undertaken by individualized spatial practice.

Time

PC Adams’ A Reconsideration of Personal Boundaries in Space Time sees a near-total reformatting of Torsten Hagerstand’s initial time-space aquaria to reflect the even greater practical abstraction of the human body in the advent of digital communications. Adams borrows McLuhan’s description of the body in media as tentacular and dendritic, and in fact poses the need for body and person to be separated into dialectic pairs. The body remains in space—this is Hagerstrand’s finite line, moving across the laminar surface of the map—while the body expands, contracts, shifts, diffuses.

Social Media Connections map

While agreeing overall with his central thesis—that a user’s communication via digital media to another user, be they miles, countries, or worlds away, is tantamount to being there—the image of tentacular extension is, in my opinion, too placid. What is happening here is not a reaching out and the receipt of haptic feedback; rather, it is a swallowing or a twinning. The body may remain an euclidean nucleus, but the person branches, swarms, becomes cybernetic.

ext dia

 

v=d/t

Of course, time and space are perhaps most succinctly joined in the formulation for velocity: distance divided by time. Thus, chronotopos is, in the first instance, about speed, and in particular, its representation.

Invasion

Sadie Plant writes that to enter the digital is to be invaded. Adams obviously agrees: his map of “personal extensibility” as seen above, is a map of a user. Digital and material coexist and smear into each other. Fundamentally, Adams-mapping, a subset of chronotopic mapping, is to recognize that the body is nothing, your person is you—and your person isn’t even fully perceivable or even terrestrial. You exist on servers, in fiber optic cables, pinging off satellites. This becomes more and more true as more data comes online: habits, purchases, path-dependencies become starkly illuminated. And as such, there is a mutual invasion, a systemic incursion in which participating in the digital is not really the novel finding, but the extent to which the digital is participating in you.

on Impossibility

Every morning in [location not found] is the same. Wracked coughing as the body realizes it has just spent another night intaking poisons. Sheets yellow with a thousand nights of accumulated sweat, but not worth wasting washing water on. The window is open to the heat of the veld and the gibbering xenocomm interface of population and city. Light filling the room like some horrible fluid, spilling over the windowsill and pooling onto the floor. Looking out over the buildings, so new and so harried they still bristly oddly with rebar, seemingly leaning toward the Spine, which at this point thickens with additional transit tubes hung from cables as it tumbles toward the coast. Sky to sea a sheet, nicotine colored, the location of the horizon as good your guess as mine, a bleary latitudinal omphalos only discernable as a subtle desaturation. From the rim of the world civilian skimmers and Maersk behemoths alike issue in some secretive gnosis. These are bad thoughts to be having now. I turn my gaze inward to the the hotel’s information board, a demonstration of the hotel’s shabbiness: an ancient OS, a shattered screen. The cartoon sun trapped inside hideously intones that it is 5:45 AM. The high temperature today is 45 degrees. It is already 37 degrees. The Lagos NSE opened at 2150 but (the Sun says) is projected to finish at 1870-1890. Shanghai is at 302,780. New York is 0. Ha ha. Some vestigial part of my brain pings doom at me. A Chinese state minister is dead as of 3 this morning Kampala local, his lungs having collapsed in the 2 minute walk from his motorcade, going through the first of many security gates into Zhongnanhai. Should have worn a mask. The West Coast of the Republic Formerly Known as California is on fire – a still image appears, showing pillars of smoke reaching for the sky like the bilious fingers of elder gods springing from the palm of the urban carpet of Los Angeles valley. Lima is terrified of the Big One, anteshocks coming on fast, seeming to rise stratospherically towards some eschatological asymptote. Atmospheric carbon has dipped a bit to 523 ppm. In local news – a mere fifteen steps south – militants of some currently unknown political or religious affiliation failed in their attempt to sever strategic spinal conduits. Thank god for that. Everything is, however briefly, holding itself together.

I turn away from the screen and move to the bathroom. I feel arbitrarily pieced together, a collection of incongruous parts piled into a corner and brought to life. Returning to the room at 3 too high to think and too drunk to see. The day’s pay and favors turned to drugs and lenient bouncers.

A delegation from the Displaced States are coming in today – a visit which continuously proves intractable and threatens to sink the Amorobo Center’s water budget purely on due to the amount of coffee consumed. Last time the DS came in I didn’t go home for two weeks, sleeping under tables in unused conference rooms or buying local k off the entourage, maddened with sleep.

“Rewriting Revelations as a legally actionable document” is a far more realistic description than my actual briefing, which for most projects reads as if I’m a cross between a soothsayer, an accountant, and the Angel of Death. My title varies from contract to contract. My degree is in Anthropology from a now-failed university in a now-failed state, which has only served to raise the perceived value of my diploma. My superiors refer to me as a Specialist in Terror Management.

t.m. began as an inquiry into the fear of death and the reverberations that such a realization has within the human organism on both psychological and physiological levels. Increasingly, it is speculated that this realization – that human life is a perpetual shuffle toward death – is the impetus for the inscrutable series of misfirings that created the cascading autopoetic market-field we now refer to as sentience. With this approach, all of human history can easily be conceived of as attempts to escape death or glorify it, or any other action in between. A hundred thousand years spent digging a grave.

The schema of terror management was later reformed as praxis. Unafraid of taking the initial revelation provided by the progenitors of t.m. and using it as ballast on a freefall through deep time and as a head lamp while walking through the antediluvian ruins of former empires. The central crux is this: the thenatic is not merely felt by the individual, but is scalable, piggybacking the cybernetics of expression to spread pathogenically, whereupon it infects and corrodes the engine of cultural expression and produces a death cult enantiomorphic with the entire of human civilization. Prior empires had experienced spasms of this thenatic drive at the end of their shelf lives.

However, there was another, more occulted praxis that operated shiftily toward the back of the room in the congregation of t.m.’s possibilities. This was the weaponized form of t.m. that accepted it as an excellent way to keep one’s finger on the pulse of current events by analyzing past microcosmic simulacra. Psychohistory in a way. Where this form differed was that it held t.m. could function as a lens that could accept data in real time, and in doing so, prove itself incredibly valuable. We are the caretakers of the burning field of a finite history. We hang the carcasses of nations from meat hooks. We dowse for the hidden Great Annihilator and write sigils in his blood, entreating Gnon. We are a k-netic brain that comes to know itself.

Essentially, t.m. offered a way to sell out – by predicting failures and offering those predictions to the highest bidder. States were very interested in their own mortality – and this, it could be argued, was an indication of governmental agencies’ nascent sentience. States coming alive, speciating wildly, breeding into murderous shapes. Dogs to wolves. But still knock-kneed. Newly born and terrified of their own shadows, states made a fucking habit out of throwing obscene contract fees at people such as myself, who by dipping into current events, case studies, and deep patterns offered a suggestion of what would fail when. Essentially I functioned as a doomsday predictor, the keeper of the clock. It was as if the guy who sat on the sidewalk and screamed that the end is nigh had been given a job, a suit, and a security clearance.

The Displaced States are very interested in what I have to say. They have been displaced for so long and so utterly that their dissolution predates t.m.’s existence as a discipline. They maintain an active presence however. The majority of the population subsists on loaned land or flotilla cities that move up and down the coasts of the South China Sea. DS diplomats, like those arranged around this conference table in a room on the 27th floor of the Amorobo Center, are faceless. Interchangable. They live like their nations: nomadically, moving hotel to hotel, city to city, convening in various seats of various powers, all the while attempting to effect some sort of permanent ownership of new territory, preferably furnished as a gift. It has been 15 years and no dice. They will not stop. For them, this is a fight for reparations. The lucrative promise embodied in the release of large amounts of real estate onto the market under the sovereign aegis of highly motivated developers cannot have failed to also cross their collective minds.

The delegates from the Displaced States are always polite to the point of stiff formality with me, I think because I am not UN but a contracted civilian. The UN in these cases functions much like it always has: obviously ineffectual, but there by necessity and by default. Today the delegates are here to consult with me as to the continued survival of their archipelagic territory of flotillas and squatted-upon shorelines. They all greet me with salutations of good morning. They tell me this is an auspicious moment: they have contracted with the Chinese geoarchitects responsible for the construction of the Red Star island chain as well as an architecture firm out of Seattle specializing in arcologies. Finally, they tell me, humanity’s powers have colluded to create a world in which a state without a country can generate its own territorial holdings. I sigh inwardly, like all oracles before me that must deliver the news of portents most foul to the king.

“There are several problems I can identify right now,” I report, freezing smiles on several faces. “First, the use of territorial engineering to construct terra firma is a notoriously fraught exercise. The reason it has worked so well for Beijing is that any constructed island only exists insofar as it is a small node upon which to construct the actual structure, which is invariably a military installation. The first step is to harden the coastlines. Experiments that attempted a naturalistic topography always fail. Fighting the sea is a war, pardon my observation, that you have already lost.” I smile to soften the blow. “Their is no hope of a nation without war, or a people without conquest.” My grin widens. “This is elementary stuff.”

Horribly, the delegation smiles back. Wax skin stretching back over yellow and black teeth. “We had the same thought,” one says.

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Strange Affordances

Intro to research project on the NYC Dryline/dromohydrology/eschatoaesthetics


The Anthropocene can, at some level, be characterized by the failures of static (human and exo-human) systems. These failures differ wildly in their identity and scope,  Our world is increasingly defined by the contours of movement and distributions of both human and nonhuman actants. Perceiving the totality of the actions of these actants, it becomes clear that they answer to organic logics; they breed and, like termites, digest and weaken structures; every new tropical storm, monsoon, and draught sends rippling shockwaves through the social habitus leaving it weak and uncertain of the future, with nothing to do but desperately try to gird itself for the next ‘big one’. The homogenous ground of geopolitics, which has and continues to consider the planetary skin to be a relatively static multi-part lamination of territory,  tactical resource-matrices, and human population masses, has been revealed to behave (and to have been behaving) fluidly, possessed of languid movement and sudden seizures.

This new mutagenic capacity of these new, horrifying actants produces in states increasingly more manic attempts to consolidate and control that operate along bizarre new relational metrics of fortification and porosity. Watersheds, rivers, and aquifers have never answered to territorial boundaries, but now they must be made to answer to new logics of security and sovereignty. Urban coastlines and ports, heavily defended and mechanized, nevertheless are quickly swamped and undone by rising tides. Earthquakes produced by hydraulic fracturing rattle under city streets far from extraction sites. Atmospheric pollution issued from a factory in the Chinese Pearl River Delta chokes urban residents in Inner Mongolia. The Anthropocene is the time-space of a new, radically extensible volatility.

But there are still rules, it seems. For all the uncertainty, the geopolitical powers of the Global North remain in a privileged position: possessed of the luxury of “turning necessity into opportunity”, they can construct illusions of solidity, of uniformity, of ordered procession, and in doing so, reinforce themselves. In this new temporal colonialism, ideological constructs and infrastructural fortifications move together in delirious lockstep: the flooded coastline is not a diluvian catastrophe, but an opportunity for development. The Anthropocene, far from being the millenarian duration-entity of an emphatic and final deterritorialization, is quickly becoming reciprocally characterized by a twinned re-equalization—by market-forces rushing back in to the places they had been evicted by disasters, blindly and hysterically beholden to laws of pressure and development that dictate, like all things, capital must equalize and refill the void. The attritive scraping of the nonhuman on the human—100-year storms, rise of sea levels, decade-long draughts, et al.—does nothing to negate the fact that, under capitalism, territory is property, and property is to be built on, excavated, paved over, and secured. The devastated coastline left in the aftermath of the latest inundation is still beachfront property, and must be rebuilt, preferably as quickly and as spectacularly as possible.

In the eco(nomic)-eco(logical) danse macabre of property and development, capitalism has undertaken an auto-coronation, positioning itself as the only entity capable of acting on human behalf on ecological scales. Capitalism, and specifically, the hysterical cycle of development and redevelopment, has carved itself a comfortable ecological niche as the interlocutor between the human and the nonhuman. Capitalism is not just the provocation of the Anthropocene, or a catalyst; it now occupies an intercalary position, facilitating interface between worlds. What I mean by this is that capitalistic development has bootstrapped its own niche of the eco-eco, and in occupying it, recomposed the relationship into a combinatoric nebula-assemblage of trialectical engagement. In doing so, it leaves the human revealed and vulnerable, which with repeated claims of safety and stewardship, further entrenches development in its mediative role. We have not seen the dissolution of capital so much as we have seen its reassertion that it is the only possibility; that it is the only Grand Builder left, capable of responding to the seething diversity of actant-populations with massively-scaled projects of homogenization. This relationship is clearly legible in the suburban developments that dominate the peripheral zones of American cities, which offer the aestheticized idyll of the arcadian countryside in packaged, parcellized, and therefore marketable and sellable format. The minimal development of the pre-industrial house is made into a commodity product.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists maintains an interactive ‘Climate Hot Map’. The CHM is stock Google Maps satellite data, overlaid with a constellation of pinprick event-zones mapped on the planetary surface of the Earth. These event-zones are further distinguished by a color, corresponding to one of five umbrella categories. Use of the CHM offers to smooth climatespace into a global array of equally-weighted nodes, existing independently of each other in space and time. Each of these events is actually a wellhead: making legible, by their own de-occulted nature, the vast benthic, hidden system of aberrations that made them possible—including, naturally, the effects of other wellheads. What the CHM offers is the ability to apprehend the field of catastrophic event-zones and allow for a minor amount of digging into more discrete, granular scales. This approach of scale is the same I will be using for the following discussion.

Sea level rise is, in some ways, the face-pattern of the Anthropocene, or its leading edge. It is among the earliest effects discussed of the panoply of climate change effects when doomsaying first took off in mainstream political circles, and remains one of the most readily apprehended. The ephemera of the Anthropocene, such as the level of atmospheric carbon, limits to global temperature rise, snowpack quantities and so on, seem esoteric compared to the simple calculus of sea level rise: tides come in, and never go back out. The underpinning web of further effects and causes—glacier melt, the liberation of trapped methane, polar amplification, etc.—functionally does nothing to augment the urban resident’s reality of water in the street.

From the global scale, to the personal, and back again: the phenomena of the Anthropocene are massively distributed, but the intensity of their impacts is a function of geographic location and economic status. In the Anthropocene, true geopolitical power is expressed by “turning necessity into opportunity”. On the unstable, mutagenic trialectical ground that is now the substrate of global politics, power rests in not only the ability to roll with the punches, but the elegance of the vector away from harm. And as in prior political-temporal regimes, the most deft moves are strictly the province of the most privileged actors: those with the developmental resources (or capital expenditure) to risk-assess and legitimize their actions. In this way, geopolitical actors find that despite the myriad of changes undertaken and underway in the Anthropocene, the overall hierarchy of global politics and (perhaps even more so) economics is undergoing a reciprocal structural thickening. The ascendency of the Global North finds itself once again refortified—this time not by fiat, or juridical fiction, but by the very construction of our current reality. This effect is true not just of states, but of populations: global citizenship is a privilege reserved for those from the Global North, proving gravity—it is possible to move internationally and between territories always down or laterally, but never up. American students go to study in Rome, but Somalian refugees are left to float dead in the Mediterranean.

The yawning chasm between the Global North and South remains reinforced developmentally, militarily, and in terms of political agency. The advent of the Anthropocene has added new dualisms: access to remediative materials and technologies, and most importantly, the effects of nonhuman catastrophe-events themselves. In this sense, the division of the world no longer lies along the equator, but should be rehearsed as a separation between the torrid and extra-torrid geospace of the planet. It is in the torrid zones that the proliferation of catastrophe-events is most strongly felt, and where the resources to interface with the same are most lacking. Notably, Bangladesh, Kiribati, Haiti, and the Maldives—all sites located in the torrid zone—are early adopters of the desperate, uncertain, and vulnerable forms of life in the Anthropocene.

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The Attenuating Peninsula

It’s impossible not to be left with the feeling that we are digging into hell, or running headlong over cliffs. For the most part, we have finally become present and aware of our own movements—the locomotive tendency bearing us closer to oblivion—but have yet to stop or even slow down.

Kim Stanley Robinson writes about a concept that he refers to as the ‘attenuating peninsula’—a conceptual geography that grows smaller over its length. As a species, we tread (or are blown backward) down the length of the peninsula. The middle path is our current scenario, and so, while it seems rational to “stay the course” so to speak, a look even a short distance forward reveals a precipitous drop (or perhaps, a walk through an inundated downtown street until the lapping greycaps have swallowed us). However, there is a way to escape the vector of the peninsula: a utopian solution, which in this case, is expressed as a course correction down a gentle slope. All is required is a slight deviation from our current trajectory. KSR’s peninsula is a powerful utopia in its own right: an ontogeographic sigil. Were it to actually exist, we would not just walk down it calmly in a benign acceptance of our fate. The coastlines of the peninsula would be lined with condos and resorts, furred with manufactured sand to create beaches, and the interior would be drilled for oil. In our wake, devastated, sour earth; ahead, an increasingly shrinking scrum of territory, resource webs, and biomass that will be consumed on our way into the sea.