taken from the book Ultrablack of Music
Considering the current popularity of climate protest movements like Extinction Rebellion, there seems to be a common ground amongst many of our more or less privileged European comrades, that an affective and sensory-based access to the pluriversal, manifold, heterogeneous ecological processes of our planet is needed. In the following I argue that we likewise need to re-link to the technosphere,1 we2 continuously got alienated from during the last centuries. Let me speculate here a bit: Would those of us living in the Global North feel more responsibility towards the catastrophes, the suffering of the world we created, when we could become more compassionate not only with the victims of ecological destruction, but also the devastation generated by the information extraction executed upon all of us by powerful tech-companies? And would that change our everyday habits and behavior? Surely it might help a bit, but it is not enough to reach the right critical mass considering the longer timescale of decades to come. Most comrades regard this form of awareness-raising as more depressing, than convincing. So, what else, then, could help? Maybe a more joyful, still both critically and technologically informed way? Therefore, I propose a path still to go and which I call counter-raving.
Counter-Raving is a way to disentangle oneself from the unwanted, discriminating, unfair ways of technologies’ capture and which does not lure us into withdrawal, but into re-pair, re-entanglement and reformation. As an idea yet to be put into practice, counter-raving is inspired by many predecessors, projects and movements such as R3 Soundsystem, Acid Communism, Algo-Raving, Disobedient Electronics, etoy, Electronic Disturbance Theater, Critical Engineering3 and blended with the vibes of early Techno music as an emancipatory political movement. It is a group and community-oriented gesture, and builds strongly on dynamics of collective joy and its mobilization. Counter-raving is catching only to let us go and evaporate again. It is a form of technology appropriation and hacking. It operates not only in the realm of social imagination, but in something I would like to call social sounding. Counter-raving is raving against the congestions, bottle-necks and limitations imposed on us by the extractive networks of the techno- and infosphere especially their algorithmic and computational systems. It is not based on some sort of »counter-hegemonic ideology«, but, following here an idea by Maurizio Lazzarato as explained by Mckenzie Wark, a »means of producing a new kind of mesh of both machines and subjects.«4 Counter-raving is an operation against what he called »machinic enslavement«, which »makes desubjectivized flows and fragments [and] turns those subjects into component parts of machines (slave units in the cybernetic sense)«.5 Counter-Raving unfolds in a dynamic, non-hierarchizing, never-ending gesture of eternal search. Therefore it is critical to change the beat from time to time. Don’t believe in techno-utopianism. Technology usually never solves a problem, it only differentiates it in a Derridean meaning, it brings it away from us. But from far away it will still haunt us.
This theory of counter-raving I am trying to formulate here greets Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze. It resonates with their principle of rhizomatic action. Rhizomatic raving links one’s joys and desires, which are coupled with capitalistic technology, with those of others in a flat manner. It evacuates and empties accumulated energy and tensions in a non-violent dance. It involves the careful dismantling of individual entities in our environment, which is not the same as their erasure, but rather about »opening the body to connections that presuppose an entire assemblage, circuits, conjunctions, levels and thresholds, passages and distributions of intensity, and territories and deterritorialization measured with the craft of a surveyor«.6 While making new maps, new choreographies and new compositions it is also crucial to learn and train »the art of dosages, since overdose is a danger«.7 Opening up one’s body and mind to linkages with the malicious and toxic technosphere is done only in order to counter-rave it, to rhizomatize it, to make it queer, decolonial, non-patriarchal, ungraspable, schizo-phrenic or even ultra-red or black (at least temporarly). Here, from time to time, the late Michael Foucault’s notion of critique comes into the dance of counter-rave. Therefore counter-raving is energized by critique as an inquiry of the »limits that are imposed on us«8 by discourse, and technologies especially computational, I would add. It is therefore an »experiment with the possibility of going beyond them«.9 A sort of experimental critique, which attempts to treat those »instances of discourse that articulate what we think, say, and do«10 as made by history, thus changeable. This form of collective media, techno and psycho-critique therefore allows to »separate out, from the contingency that has made us what we are, the possibility of no longer being, doing, or thinking what we are, do, or think«.11
Counter-raving surveillance-, data-, platform- and techno-capitalism is imagined as being conducted by group-based critical mapping, coding and sounding as forms of therapy, similarly to art- or music therapy, but after fulfilling its function wants to go beyond pure applicability. Coding, again, is similar to composing. Programming machines and algorithms resonates often with designing music machines (and software). This form of therapy12 wants to transgress copying the already-known, but wants to map, dance, sound, and transform the unknown by unfolding in an explorative, dynamical manner, similar to how musicians act in improvisation. This implies the formulation of a critical pedagogy, which enables to raise a critical mass of tech-savvy counter-ravers yet to come. Making rhizomes with technology involves demystifying its latest advances, which often emerge like magic. To dance and rave rhizome-inspired structures aims to avoid making tree-like forms. We want to network, but we want to avoid the hierarchization of its nodes. We want equal distribution, no concentration of power. We want to address the inherent biases, gradients and vectors coded into both the advertising networks of social media and the machinic decision-making systems used by powerful companies and precarious governments. We plan to tackle this by engaging with adversarial machine-vision and -listening, with the algorithmic ecosystems of face- and voice-recognition analysis or the automatic decision-making algorithms used to filter, categorize and govern the flow and logistics of masses of people, organisms and things for control, surveillance and exploitation.13
While living in this suffocating, breathless, subordinating world, as formulated by Franco Bifo Berardi, all we can do to regain our breath is to empower ourselves with more poetry. Poetry always has a rhythm, which links counter-raving also to late Henri Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis. Inspiration as breathing-in forms an upbeat, an opening and a beginning of a rhythm. By dancing our bodies, heat and joy transpire into our environments. Everyday life in cities have their rhythms, machines have also their rhythms, financial markets, too. Rhythmanalysis wants to operate similarly like psychoanalysis or even schizoanalysis, but listens more to the timing of the capitalist’s networks. As conceptualized more recently by myself, the analysis of algorhythms14 – let’s call it algorhythmanalysis – is meant as a variation of rhythmanalysis with a stronger focus on algorithm-driven ramifications of profiteering, computational information-networks within our everyday life. An algorhythm is a cacography of algorithm, the way engineers and information technologists are calling step-by-step instructions written in some coded form, so that some machine can operate, execute and compute some procedure automatically. And with algorhythm I previously intended to emphasize the rhythmic algorithms operate, which tried to differentiate rhythmics from metrics. Rhythms are always also carnal, physiological and affective and not merely chains of machinic pulses. This brings me back to Berardi, who argues that »rhythm is the inmost vibration of the cosmos. And poetry is an attempt to tune into this cosmic vibration, this temporal vibration that is coming and coming and coming.«15 And it is also changing, changing and changing. Rhythm is not measurable, there is always something, which evades the capture.
The poet acts often like the schizo and reveals »the infinitude of the process of meaning-making«.16 A counter-raver is such a poet and schizo. They need to collaborate with coders, tinkerers, investigative journalists, activists, organizers, scholars, educators, politicians, policy makers and many more. When becoming an advanced practitioner they want to go beyond monotonic measures and measurability established by the »colonization of reality by the force of the law«.17 Queer theorist Elizabeth Freeman calls it chrononormativity, which converts »historically specific regimes of asymmetrical power into seemingly ordinary bodily tempos and routines«.18 Since algorithms and their rhythms are crucial for imposing an even more exhaustive chrononormativity on us – be it in the field of the gig economy, on Amazon warehouse workers, content moderators or click workers. Everything is, as Berardi might add here, »reformatted according to the algorithm, the vibratory nature of the bio-rhythm is suffocated. Breathing is disturbed and poetry is frozen – poetry, the error that leads to the discovery of new continents of meaning, the excess that contains new imaginations and new possibilities.«19 Counter-raving is thus also about defrosting the stiffening, clustering and categorization effects of algorithms operated by profit-oriented or even authoritarian systems. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun argues something similar alongside by referring to homophily as a configuration, which is enabled by hierarchised social graphs, our links with people, groups and organizations in a social network. We need to counter-rave homophily, our love for sameness and strive for difference, which is difficult since usually we like those who are similar to us. But we urgently need a counter-raving of our habitual patterns and preferences. We need to leave our comfort-zone. »To be uncomfortable, then, is to inhabit norms differently, to create new ways of living with others—different ways of impressing upon others [and] new forms of engagement. Different, more inhabitable, patterns.«20
Counter-raving is operating, co-existing and overlapping on several levels of rhythm and time scales. While the level of human perception is situated on a meso-scale, there are rhythms, whose duration go beyond and below. Below are the technological micro-operations, which are faster than humans can perceive, beyond are the longer rhythms of months, years, decades and centuries and in the middle rhythms sorted by milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours and days. Notably humans perceive the range from 50 milliseconds down to 60 microseconds as a continuous spectrum of tones with pitches. Formulated more concretely, counter-raving is not only operating on the level of sounds, music, dance or movements, but below, beyond and besides: Such as in the range of electro-magnetic signals, radio and wireless protocols using means such as software defined radio.21 Each assemblage or agencement for counter-raving is a specific orchestration of timed actions and signallings operating on many of these levels of rhythms and time scales. Especially the realm of months and years are crucial for effects, which have community or group-oriented implications. Counter-raving, while coming back to Berardi, dances with chaosmosis, a term he borrows from Guattari, which is the »opening of the ordered [algorhythmic] system to chaotic flows and the osmotic vibration of the organism that looks for a rhythm tuned to the cosmos.«22 Therefore, we need to make rhizome with software and algorhythms in order to de-stiffen them, to allow that their congested energies can flow outwards or new things inwards, and to allow and re-program them to perform chaosmosis. But this means that we also need to carefully resonate with technology and algorithms to a certain degree, applying the right dosage and bearing in mind that they can also easily capture and control us.
Looking at the technology of poetry, the early Friedrich Kittler argued, that it is the lip-mouth-tongue-throat system of a pedagogue, often a mother, combined with a certain way to look at and operate with letters on a printed medium, which predetermined the »condition of production for Classical poetry«.23 Focusing on the early 19th century in Germany, Kittler argued that, »poetic texts were on the technological cutting edge because more than any others they could speak to and exploit alphabetized bodies. They operated on the threshold of response itself, where discursive powers paraded as the innocence of bodies and Nature«.24 About two hundred years later, the situation is unimaginably more complicated, but still we could try to make analogies and ponder about the most prevalent pedagogic situations around coding and programming including their technocratic and solution-oriented culture. When our creativity is striving for poetic code and algorhythms as the cutting edge of contemporary technology, what are the modes of exploitation linked to our algorithmized bodies we need to be aware of?
Célestin Freinet is renowned for his pedagogy he developed in France during the first part of the last century, which was built around a collectively maintained printing press in the school, an ancient media technology, which completely reorganized the class-room into a place of collective cultural production, an evergoing re-reading, re-printing of written accounts from students for students with students. Freinet’s approach emphasized the use of machinery and technology »disengaged from consumerist desire and the logic of accumulation […]«.25 Counter-raving surely is inspired by such great experiments, but at the same time is also sensitive to ideas pursued by techno-optimists like Seymour Papert, co-founder of the MIT Media Lab, who believed that »it is possible to design computers so that learning to communicate with them can be a natural process, more like learning French by living in France than like trying to learn it through the unnatural process of American foreign-language instruction in classrooms«. And that this would motivate »children [to] learn mathematics as a living language«.26 Counter-raving, as an elusive, rhizome-inspired counter-pedagogy is resistive to computational extraction and oscillates between positions like those by Freinet or Papert. At the same time it wants to avoid mistakes from past movements and ideas such as psychedelics or cyberdelics, which are inspiring for their usage of joy, but on the other hand were too hedonistic and optimistic. Besides, those movements always stagnated after a while, because they forgot to change the beat from time to time..
»The most urgent question for the next generation is, how to be happy in this hell? How to create autonomous spaces of happy survival in this hell? The next question is, how can we save and transmit the message of equality and friendship, while the worst tempest in history unfurls?«27
Berardi, Franco »bifo«, in: Breathing – Chaos and Poetry. Intervention Series 26. Semiotext(e), 2018.
Carlin, Matthew, and Nathan Clendenin. »Celestin Freinet’s Printing Press: Lessons of a ‘bourgeois’ Educator«, in: Educational Philosophy and Theory 51, no. 6 (May 12, 2019): 628–39.
Celis Bueno, Claudio: »The Face Revisited: Using Deleuze and Guattari to Explore the Politics of Algorithmic Face Recognition« Theory, Culture & Society, August 7, 2019, 1–19.
Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. »Queerying Homophily«, In Pattern Discrimination, edited by Clemens Apprich, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Florian Cramer, and Hito Steyerl, 59–97. meson press, 2018.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. London/New York: Continuum, 2004.
Foucault, Michel. »What Is Enlightenment?« In The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow, 32–50. NY: Pantheon Books, 1984.
Freeman, Elizabeth. Time Binds (Perverse Modernities). Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.
Haff, P. K. »Technology and Human Purpose: The Problem of Solids Transport on the Earth’s Surface«, Earth Syst. Dynam. 3, no. 2 (November 14, 2012): 149–56.
Kittler, Friedrich. Discourse Networks 1800/1900. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990.
Miyazaki, Shintaro. »Algorhythmic Ecosystems. Neoliberal Couplings and Their Pathogenesis 1960-Present«, In Algorithmic Cultures: Essays on Meaning, Performance and New Technologies (Routledge Advances in Sociology), edited by Robert Seyfert and Jonathan Roberge, 128–39. London/ New York: Routledge Advances in Sociology, 2016.
———. »Algorhythmics: A Diffractive Approach for Understanding Computation«, In The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Jentery Sayers, 243–49. Routledge, 2018.
———. »AlgoRHYTHMS Everywhere – a Heuristic Approach to Everyday Technologies«, Edited by Birgitte Stougaard and Jan Hein Hoogstad. Pluralizing Rhythm: Music, Arts, Politics, no. 26 (2013): 135–48.
Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. New York: Basic Books, 1980.
Wark, Mckenzie. General Intellects: Twenty-Five Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century. Verso, 2017.
1 Technosphere is a term coined by earth systems scientist Peter K. Haff in 2012 and has been extensively discussed in the context of the »Technosphere 2015-19« project at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. See, P. K. Haff, »Technology and Human Purpose: The Problem of Solids Transport on the Earth’s Surface«, Earth Syst. Dynam. 3, no. 2 (November 14, 2012): 149–56.
2 »We« is always meant inclusively.
4 In the chapter on Maurizio Lazzarato, Mckenzie Wark, General Intellects: Twenty-Five Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century (Verso, 2017), 78.
5 Wark, 78f.
6 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London/New York: Continuum, 2004), 160.
7 Deleuze and Guattari, 160.
8 Michel Foucault, »What Is Enlightenment?«, in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (NY: Pantheon Books, 1984), 50.
9 Foucault, 50.
10 Foucault, 46.
11 Foucault, 46.
12 Franco »bifo« Berardi, Breathing – Chaos and Poetry, Intervention Series 26 (Semiotext(e), 2018), 11.
13 See for example, Claudio Celis Bueno, »The Face Revisited: Using Deleuze and Guattari to Explore the Politics of Algorithmic Face Recognition«, Theory, Culture & Society, August 7, 2019, 1–19.
14 Shintaro Miyazaki, »Algorhythmics: A Diffractive Approach for Understanding Computation«, in The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, ed. Jentery Sayers (Routledge, 2018), 243–49; Shintaro Miyazaki, »Algorhythmic Ecosystems. Neoliberal Couplings and Their Pathogenesis 1960-Present«, in Algorithmic Cultures: Essays on Meaning, Performance and New Technologies (Routledge Advances in Sociology), ed. Robert Seyfert and Jonathan Roberge (London/ New York: Routledge Advances in Sociology, 2016), 128–39; Shintaro Miyazaki, »AlgoRHYTHMS Everywhere – a Heuristic Approach to Everyday Technologies«, ed. Birgitte Stougaard and Jan Hein Hoogstad, Pluralizing Rhythm: Music, Arts, Politics, no. 26 (2013): 135–48.
15 Berardi, Breathing – Chaos and Poetry, 17.
16 Berardi, 20.
17 Berardi, 40.
18 Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds (Perverse Modernities) (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 3.
19 Berardi, Breathing – Chaos and Poetry, 114.
20 Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, »Queerying Homophily«, in Pattern Discrimination, ed. Clemens Apprich et al. (meson press, 2018), 89.
22 Berardi, Breathing – Chaos and Poetry, 49.
23 Friedrich Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800/1900 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 28.
24 Kittler, 117.
25 Matthew Carlin and Nathan Clendenin, »Celestin Freinet’s Printing Press: Lessons of a ‘bourgeois’ Educator«, Educational Philosophy and Theory 51, no. 6 (May 12, 2019): 10.
26 Seymour Papert, Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (New York: Basic Books, 1980), 6.
27 Berardi, Breathing – Chaos and Poetry, 129.
Foto: Sylvia John