Matthew FullerEdit

Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture [2005]Edit

In this 2005 addition to the Leonardo book series from MIT Press, Fuller proposes an attention to media materialities: "Drawing on Nietzsche's grounding of thought in materiality, in the thickness of life, in his renowned Polish blood, this book attempts to layer such insights with a sense of their own fabrication--a medial will to power made in the ontogenentic, reality-forming nature of a media and in its capacoty for connection and use" (2). The other major thinkers tended to in the text are Deleuze and Guattari, particulary A Thousand Plateaus, and secondarily, Friedrich Kittler. Ecology is proffered as a term "to indicate the massive and dynamic interrelation of processes and objects, beings and things, patterns and matter" (2). The point here is not that things are inter-related (in which case we would simply have an analog for a network) but that media practices create new materialities that we work with, forms that are content, activities based in collaborative becoming with media objects themselves.

Chapter 1: Pirate RadioEdit

In Fuller's first chapter, he examines pirate radio as a case study for "the interrelation of self-organized cultural activity with media systems" (7). All the media objects involved in pirate radio are part of its ecology--transmitters, links, sites of transmission, the studio, posters, stickers, clubs and drugs, the mic, the turntable, etc. These pirates of radio participate in a culture navigated through technologies, but still managed by human hands. Fuller compares this self-organization to the metallurgic artisan in D&G's ATP, and brings in the machinic phylum as a model for ecology. D&G attend to the moments when the metal changes its physical structure, creating flows between physical states that the metallurgist must work with through a proprioceptive relationship to the metal's materiality. Rather than seeing the metal as inert matter we bring form to, or which is stable and holds the potentiality for the forms we wish to bring to it (the Platonic idea--hylomorphism), D&G's metal worker cannot rely on a stable notion of materiality entirely under his command. Instead, they propose "an emphasis on the morphogenetic capabilities of material itself: the moments when a series of forces, capacities, and predispositions intermesh to make something else occur, to move into a state of self-organization" (18). What emerges from this Deleuzian/Guattarian move is also a critique of Stuart Hall's seminal work from Encoding/Decoding. Hall's formulation of sender--message--receiver (a diminishment of the information theory of Warren Weaver and Claude Shannon, which places "transmitter, channel and receiver" between the source and the destination); by treating the message like matter (it simply moves through forms), the emphasis of cultural studies analysis has been on interpretation (part of a legacy handed to cultural studies' through literary and textual practice--perhaps reason for the anti-interpretive and post-hermeneutic bias in media archaeology?), discovering how and where receivers interpret the message, and how the apparatus and procedures of the message (the forms) shape the reception of the content. While Hall is interest in the struggle in discourse, Fuller determines that the form-content model "renders such an account unsatisfactory for an enactment or expression of becoming" (22). If we imbue the media element with ontogenic capacities, however we've opened a space for media ecology.

Pirate radio, then, cannot be sufficiently understood through a sender-message-receiver paradigm, or a form-content binary. The relationship is too relational, with pirate radio producing medial growths in response to continued regulation, and developing new ways of spacial arranging the media components. For Fuller, this is "coevolution, an arms race that feeds the machinic phylum" (23). Fuller summarizes:

"The focus of Hall's study is on the influence of other factors on the processes of signification/encoding and of reading/decoding and evinces cultural studies' particular kind of attention to the mechanisms of domination. The treatise on nomadology and more significantly the practices it draws on are by comparison concerned more with dynamics of combinatorial production [...] to avoid becoming content to form, to evade codification, is not only to disappear but to concentrate more fully on the material, the missing middle terms: receiver, channel, transmitter. This other term, the machinic phylum, allows us the chance to do that, to sense into the ways in which medial dynamics in combination generate behaviors, qualities, and openings that are more than the sum of their constituent, codified paths" (24).

Chapter 2: The Camera that Ate ItselfEdit

In the second Chapter, Fuller explores the desire of the media apparatus (in this case, the camera). Here, Fuller introduces Flusser's notions of "multiscalar relations of causality and interpenetration" (unseating the tidy diagrams found at the back of Racing the Beam). Fuller critiques the notion of understanding media as forming wholes, rather than assemblages, of understanding them as "interrelations of heterogenous elements" (57). Setting up his theoretical model, Fuller deals with Foucault, Kittler and Nietzsche. Conjuring the Foucauldian method of archaeology, Fuller suggests that the archaeological study of discourse, "its variable detail and operation, allows deep rules, those that are unspoken, to come to light. Crucially, discourse formation foes not only determine what lies within it. There are also such rules that govern in terms of 'its system of exclusion, of rejection, of refusal, in terms of what it does not want, its limits, the way it is obliged to suppress a certain number of things, people, processes..." (60). Fuller notes that the fact discourse formation determines what it does not include (as well as what it does) makes it ideal for politically efficacy, but here Kittler does not follow Foucault's leader. It is as if Kittler takes Foucault's charge of man's "transcendental narcissicism" all too seriously, and the technical object, not man, should be located at the center of the universe. Kittler takes up where Foucault levels off, never quite dealing with the mediums of storage and transmission that later will, for Kittler, shape our discursive networks more strongly that language. If Foucault can trace how patterns of enunciation are also found in arrangements of space, Kittler proposes how they are made material, and how systems besides enunciations of books, papers and proclomations (media systems) compose discourse (60-61). Thus, Fuller wants to trace how such dynamics are present in Flusser's work on apparatus, and in "post-textual forms of 'transmission and dissemination'" (62).

Drawing from a lecture from Foucault, Fuller summarizes that Foucault believed that discursive practice contains a will to knowledge that operates through it, girding and driving the discursive formation; discursive formations must have a goal, they are interested in a specific way, antagonistic, and Fuller aligns this with Haraway's notion of a "situated knowledge" (which seems like an aggressive interpretation of Haraway--or do i overdetermine the negativity of antagonism?): "they operated as a mode of articulation of the will to power" (62). Thus, is discursive textual formations can have a will to power, then viz a viz Kittler, so to must the discursive media formations bear a will.

"Will" here is not be synonymous with intent or cause. Will is the force beneath the cosmos, power a condition of life: "The sun pours an overabundance of energy onto the planet, dragging plants up from the ground by the sheer force of the interaction of their cells and system with heat and resources [...] Nothing is rendered innocent by its previous state. If such power cannot be accommodated, turned into fuel, into mutational drive, it is dislocated, moves on, finds another vector. This is the cataclysm of power, the superabundance of energy that courses through all matter to render it 'live' and that also ensures its destruction" (63).

Fuller finds a link between Nietzsche and Flusser, in that "various programs, compositional terms, and drives interweave to produce the apparatus" (64). Thus, when we name the camera, we are relying on an "abbreviative formula", an invention not unlike the invention of the subject, which "makes a kind of perspective in seeing the cause of seeing" (qtd in Fuller 64). As Neitzsche writes, "The entire apparatus of knowledge is an apparatus for abstraction and simplification--directed not at knowledge but at taking possession of things" (64). It is a power of naming and judging, but it also permits exchange and transfer with that which it judges and names. But this power of abstract, of knowledge, also means we may lose access to a sensuousness of living; knowledge eclipses the body, and demands it be recast in a more perfect form.