[csaa-forum] The Fibreculture Journal - Issue 9 online now - a new wave of new media studies

Andrew Murphie a.murphie at unsw.edu.au
Wed Dec 6 16:28:46 CST 2006

New Media Studies - issue 9 of The Fibreculture Journal now online Edited by
Andrew Murphie



Daniel Black - Digital Bodies and Disembodied Voices: Virtual Idols and the
Virtualised Body

Erin Manning - Prosthetics Making Sense: Dancing the Technogenetic Body

Bob Hodge and Elaine Lally - Cultural Planning and Chaos Theory in
Cyberspace: some notes on a Digital Cultural Atlas Project for Western

Gary Genosko - The Case of "Mafiaboy" and the Rhetorical Limits of

Warwick Mules - Contact Aesthetics" At the Threshold of the Earth

Michael Arnold, Martin Gibbs and Chris Shepherd - Domestic ICTs, Desire and
General Issue - Editorial

Andrew Murphie - Editor - *Fibreculture Journal *

Let us for a moment call the field we work in "new media studies".
Immediately, questions arise. For a start, one of the wonderful things about
the field we work in - as thinkers, as practitioners - is that its name is
constantly contested. New media, digital media, multimedia, internet
studies, computer media, inter-media, simply media, cyberculture, network
culture - the renaming of the field is ongoing and never finally resolved.
The problem of the name is not as trivial as is sometimes assumed. That none
of these names seems adequate suggests that the field itself, perhaps by
nature, is constantly shifting, encouraging a series of precise engagements
perhaps but eluding homogeneity. At the same time, the problem of the name
does suggest a defining feature of the "field" - this is
*transversality*that becomes unavoidable when working with new media

Simply put a transversal is a line that cuts across other lines, perhaps
across entire fields - bringing the fields together in a new way, recreating
fields as something else.

A contributor to this issue of the *Fibreculture Journal*, Gary Genosko,
takes this question of transversality into an understanding of the dynamics
of institutions (in his exemplary work elsewhere on Félix Guattari - see
Genosko, 2002). Here the concept of transversality suggests something like
the unavoidable contagion of transference between analyst and analysand,
only now *at the level of the group*. This leads to the reforming of
institutions when new lines cross between older disciplines, older fields,
older cultural practices. Although transversality is arguably a part of all
fields, it is often something taken to be guarded against. However, I have
suggested that, in tune with the object of study, that is media technologies
that connect more and more aspects of the world to each other,
transversality is the unavoidable discipline we must follow in new media
studies - whatever we call it. This requires a particular kind of rigour,
one that combines a range of specific disciplinary rigours with the ability
to bring these into new harmonies. These usually feedback in turn to
transform the disciplines involved. If anything "scares the horses",
institutionally speaking, about new media, it is perhaps this unavoidable
transversality and the new rigours it requires.

Since what I began by calling new media studies does indeed still "scare the
horses" sometimes, it might be useful to take up the horse metaphor briefly
from the point of view of transversality. Genosko points precisely to
Guattari's metaphor regarding horses as an illustration of transversality -
and what scares Guattari's horses is in fact their inability to see each,
the difficulty of forming new harmonies. 'Guattari's horses … illustrate'
what Guattari calls 'the coefficient of transversality' (Genosko in
Guattari, 2000: 118). As Guattari writes -

Imagine a fenced field in which there are horses wearing adjustably
blinkers, and let's say that the "coefficient of transversality" will be
precisely the adjustment of the blinkers. If the horses are completely
blind, a certain kind of traumatic encounter will be produced. As soon as
the blinkers are opened, one can imagine that the horses will move about in
a more harmonious way. (Genosko in Guattari, 2000:118/Guattari, 1972: 79)

Genosko concludes that 'Blinkers prevent transversal relations; they focus
by severely circumscribing a visual field. The adjustment of them releases
the existing, but blinkered, quantity of transversality'. Again, removing
the blinkers, increasing the 'coefficient of transversality', requires a
certain rigour. In our field this is perhaps simply a matter of appropriate
responses to the way new media technologies keep removing the blinkers for
us in the world at large.

It is exactly this rigour that this issue of the *Fibreculture
Journal*celebrates. In doing so, it perhaps shows us that, despite the
with names, thinking across the field of new media studies has matured, as
unstable as this field might necessarily be. In this issue, the articles all
operate via transversal lines that follow the use of new media technologies
in areas such as dance (Manning), computer hacking and the law (Genosko),
city planning (Hodge and Lally), aesthetics (Mules), celebrity (Black) and
even the question of the technological fetish in everyday life (Arnold,
Gibbs and Shepherd). They demonstrate the maturity of "new media studies",
precisely because they tell us in so much detail what the cultural processes
discussed have actually become, as they play out in everyday life (and not
perhaps as they play out in the rhetoric surrounding new media technologies,
within and outside the academy). In articles by Erin Manning, Bob Hodge and
Elaine Lally, Warwick Mules, and Daniel Black, the authors open up new
issues concerning new media technologies, with a new depth and precision of
analysis regarding the body and the very real virtual. This also becomes a
question of what new media technologies - seen as transversally working with
the human body, the virtuality of the world - might become in the future,
and how we might thinking this becoming with a greater 'coefficient of
transversality'. The articles by Gary Genosko, Michael Arnold, Martin Gibbs
and Chris Shepherd also help us to see in a less blinkered manner. Both
provide well-researched correctives to academic and popular thinking about
the lived realities of new media as taken up in culture.

The desire for less blinkered approaches to new media technologies is not
just a rarefied fancy from the further reaches of theory. New media are now
the mainstream (and as these articles demonstrate, they are becoming the
mainstream not only in "media", traditionally considered, but elsewhere as
well - in dance (Manning), in city planning (Hodge and Lally), in questions
of aesthetics (Mules), in the production of what Daniel Black calls the
celebrity of the 'virtual idol', even at the junction of the law and
cultural studies (Genosko). The mainstreaming of new media means, of course,
that new media studies, as transdisciplinary, or simply unstable, as it
still might be - is now well and truly established. It is arguably now the
study par excellence - and the way new media have become a necessary
consideration in so many other fields, from anthropology to medicine, is
another aspect of new media's unavoidable transversality.

This issue of the *Fibreculture Journal* celebrates both the instability and
the maturity of that which we cannot quite call "new media studies". If
there are any unifying concerns here they might include a mature
understanding, not only philosophical, but practical and indeed technical,
of the virtual. In this vein, Hodge and Lally propose a reconsideration of
city planning in the light of chaos theory, fuzzy logic and Heisenberg's
"uncertainty principle". Their revolutionary approach is indeed one of a new
kind of rigour in planning - one sensitive to ongoing change, the complexity
and specificity of the levels of planning involved, and the relations
between these levels of planning. All this is considered in the light of
much more accurately mapped details of the everyday life of the population.
This sensitive approach to real geographical and cultural processes is
echoed in Manning's approach to the use of technologies in professional
dance. Here Manning writes of the necessity of rethinking the body itself as
'technogenetic', and of not sacrificing the dancing body to a more
deterministic understanding of the dance's relation to software demands for
a clarity of gesture. Via an accessible and thorough account of Alfred North
Whitehead's understanding of perception and time, Manning is able to provide
the philosophical tools for completely rethinking the relations between
dance and technologies.

In their article on city planning, Hodge and Lally quote the following:

It is now realized, across scientific fields, that we are lacking the
vocabulary to meaningfully talk about change as if change mattered - that is
to treat change not as an epiphenomenon, as a mere curiosity or exception,
but to acknowledge its centrality in the constitution of socio-economic
life. (Tsoukas and Chia, 2002: 569)

The articles in this issue of the *Fibreculture Journal* can be seen to be
building this vocabulary with which to rigorously address change. Manning's
understanding of the body as 'technogenetic' (Manning) is significant within
this vocabulary. "Technogenetic" means both technical and generating
changing at the same time. Here technics is considered not along the easy
path, as that which is predetermined, or predetermines. Rather technics is
considered precisely as that which, extracting actual events from their
immersion in virtuality, is a technics of new forms of indetermination at
the same time of determination, of a making different at the same time as a
making possible. Reconsidering the body in relation to new media
technologies is never going to be easy when technogenesis is taken into
account. Yet this is what many of the articles in this issue achieve.

Here, in a detailed consideration of Yuki Terai, 'the world's most
successful virtual idol', Daniel Black considers 'an historical moment in
which structures of data have seemingly supplanted physical materiality' and
'the human body is coming to be seen as gathered into structures of
information ownership and exchange.' Warwick Mules enters into a dialog with
another prominent thinker of the materiality of new media aesthetics
(and *Fibreculture
Journal* editor), Anna Munster (2006). Mules undertakes 'an expansion of
Munster's approximate aesthetics into a general critique of embodied
experience as technologically mediated presence.' This leads Mules to what
he calls a 'contact aesthetics', which 'is both creative and experimental in
the sense that it brings new things into life by undoing and reconfiguring
the material of already constituted objects and formal arrangements.' In
tune with the theme of a rigourous transversality, the aim of this contact
aesthetics is to 'release singularity'. Arnold, Gibbs and Shepherd take
body-technology relations into an entirely different direction. They
consider not the functionality of information and communication
technologies, but the affective relations created between these technologies
and the humans who engage with them. In a thorough depiction of "Matthew", a
collector and hoarder of information and communication technologies, they
show that it is not enough to think of our relations with new media
technologies in terms of the new functions they provide. Rather, there is a
kind of fetishism that makes us question basic assumptions about the
everyday use of new media - the roles they play in everyday lives, and the
new forms of economy they provide. Genosko's article on "Mafiaboy", a
teenage hacker from Montréal who famous ' brought down several blue chip
American Web sites' in 2000, also deals with the everyday realities behind
common misperceptions of cultural events involving new media. In a very
thorough content analysis of the case, as played out in the media and the
courts, Genosko thoroughly documents the way in which this apparently
dramatic piece of hacking was in fact somewhat overdramatised, something
perhaps surprisingly well understood by the perceptive judge presiding over
the case, but not by several of the world's major law enforcement agencies
or media outlets. Here again, there are some very interesting transversal
lines that have to be considered in order to understand who "Mafiaboy"
really was, and what he really did.

If all these articles reconfigure thinking about the body and the everyday
in relation to new media, this is perhaps because there is so much at stake
when considering the results of the mainstreaming of new media technologies
upon questions of embodiment. It is precisely here that the rigours of
transversality need to be applied.

Once again, as editor I am very grateful for the generosity and hard work of
the entire editorial team of the *Fibreculture Journal* - Esther Milne,
Gillian Fuller, Ingrid Richardson, Ned Rossiter, Anna Munster and Lisa Gye.
I particularly thank Lisa Gye for her continuing and impeccable work on the
*Fibreculture Journal* site. I would also like to thank, on behalf of
everyone working on the *Fibreculture Journal*, the Editorial Board and
other experts in their fields for their work on refereeing articles as they
came in. You know who you are - and we could not do it without your
dedication and thorough feedback. Last but not least, I would like to thank
the authors - they have all given a great deal of their time, and often the
best of their thinking when it is perhaps difficult to remain committed to
the kind of rigour and imagination we are pleased to have published here.

Andrew Murphie, December 2006

Genosko, Gary. *Félix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction* (London and New
York: Continuum, 2002).

____. 'The Life and Work of Félix Guattari: From Transversality to Ecosophy'
in Guattari, Félix *The Three Ecologies* trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton,
(London: Athlone, 2000).

Guattari, Félix. *Psychoanalyse et transversalité; essais d'analyse
institutionell*e (Paris: Francoise Maspero, 1972).

Munster, Anna. *materializing new media: embodiment in information
aesthetics* (Hanover and London: University of New England Press, 2006).

Tsoukas, Haridimos, and Robert Chia. 'On Organizational Becoming: Rethinking
Organizational Change', *Organization Science* 13.5 (2002): 567-82.

"I thought I had reached port; but I seemed to be cast
back again into the open sea" (Deleuze and Guattari, after Leibniz)

Dr Andrew Murphie - Senior Lecturer
School of Media, Film and Theatre, University of New South Wales, Sydney,
Australia, 2052
fax:612 93856812 tlf:612 93855548 email: a.murphie at unsw.edu.au
room 311H, Webster Building
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