Swarms of technology, melodies of life

Iveson, Richard (2013) Swarms of technology, melodies of life. Body and Society, 19 1: 108-122. doi:10.1177/1357034X12462253

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Author Iveson, Richard
Title Swarms of technology, melodies of life
Journal name Body and Society   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1357-034X
Publication date 2013-03-01
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1177/1357034X12462253
Volume 19
Issue 1
Start page 108
End page 122
Total pages 15
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher Sage
Language eng
Abstract This article considers Jussi Parikka's Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology and its place within the broader context of neomaterialist philosophy. The question of Insect Media, and indeed of neomaterialism more generally, can be summarized as follows: how might one open oneself to radically alien durations, while remaining politically sensitive to the concomitant risk of technocapitalist capture? Moving through the wide range of subjects engaged with by Parikka, from entomology and cinema to the most advanced forms of programming ecologies, I focus on Parikka's organizing notion of insects as figuring the molecular disruption of the phantasmatic molar body. For Parikka, it is the swarm that serves as his privileged example, which he locates at the intersection of animal studies, posthumanism and media theory. After outlining Parikka's important reworking of Bergson's conception of instinct, understood as 'intensities', which functions equally well within the domain of new media, and some of its implications for neo-Darwinism, I then consider Parikka's 'melodic' conception of both nature and technology. Such a conception, I suggest, is problematic in its conflation of nonhuman animals with, for example, software, technologies, viruses and parasites. This in turn puts into question Parikka's 'use' of insects in relation to the claim, common to neomaterialism in general, to have moved beyond an anthropocentric viewpoint. Rather, I argue, such a conception rebuilds a humanist enclosure, albeit one in which, following Guattari, subjectivity can no longer be identified with the individual. Insofar as Parikka designates every nonhuman animal and every machine as beings prior to language and thus prior to intelligence, the non-unitary subject is as a result restricted to the experiencing human subject. This, as Eugene Thacker points out, has serious political implications as regards the attribution of value, or not, to this or that life. However, insofar as Parikka considers instinct as habitual rather than as predetermined and, moreover, extends it to technical beings, I suggest that such a placing of instinct as 'prelinguistic' cannot be maintained. By way of conclusion, I appeal for the opening of a dialogue between neomaterialism and deconstruction, with its focus upon language understood in a much broader sense.
Keyword Biotechnology
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collection: Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies Publications
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Created: Tue, 05 Aug 2014, 21:31:28 EST by Rebecca Ralph on behalf of Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies