Sunday, 27 July 2014

Cognitive Capitalism and Cognitive Aesthetics

The first thing one has to ask when confronted with the tenants of cognitive capitalism is: can any amount of theorizing be useful when the underpinnings of those tenants are that theorization itself is now outmoded?

This is an apparently overly contentious question if the reader is brought up or conditioned by the idea that the mind is the superior tool for examining reality and the minds primary functionality is the use of logic. But from my gender based position, at least half of the human race seems to function with logic balanced by something intangible called intuition. Indeed if one judged logic by its results then absurd situations, like the Arab/Israeli situation do not speak of the success of logical thought and, the apparent intangibility of intuition, the questioning of whether it exists or not, can be applied to the idea of logic itself.

In short Cognitive Capitalism suggests that we are in the third stage of late capitalism, that the assembly of goods to produce wealth is an outmoded concept, that in fact true wealth lie in the assembly of knowledge – or rather the control of the flow of information. That billions of dollars follow the flow of information exchange – that the mercantile capitalist is as ever, the middle man. There is an obvious truth to this, but identifying the obvious is not that useful except for filling up conferences with academics eager to learn and enjoy new language based obfuscations of the ordinary in a decadent and decaying show of strength of the class that seeks to render power unto itself.

There have been recent gestures in academia to take the role of the academic and change it from passive/aggressive hermit to active engaged participant. From my position this is to be applauded. But simply because the idea of the academic is to articulate meaning for the rest of society no longer means that power and influence should be the end game of the academic. We all need a career and we all need income – but not at the expense of the poor.

So it would seem that the project to develop a set of theories and positions around a post-Fordist, post-Marxist view of the world is underway, but what of the development of the idea of aesthetics in this shiny new age of academic relief and joy to be alive? To establish this study we would have to do exactly what the more politically motivated have done which is to look at what Cognitive Neuroscience says about our state, what the human project is and therefore what the context of the developments of the project of the artist within this mime-soup landscape is.

I jokingly referred to all of this as a mime-soup: according to materialist archeological and neuro-scientific studies we came out of the trees two million years ago, we stood up and ran; we then developed mimetic memory to leap across the boundaries of episodic memory and its simple scripting of behaviours; we told eachother what we knew and then developed prosody (a simply singsong exchange) which gutteralised into staccato communications from which language developed; we then told eachother mythic stories to narratavise our development and eventually, in the theoretic age, some of us took power by jargonizing language so that only we would know what to do and say in specific situations – and this gave those of us that did it a very good life-style.

You the scholastics, like the priests and the warriors, enabled the kings, despots and ruble billionaires to take control of the governance of the world whilst taking a cut of the action. Logic and theorizing took the world to it’s current state – topes at the vliff edge of the destruction of the world. As the Cognitive Neuroscientists propose, in parallel, the human project was to take all knowledge and excise it from the human brain and to place it in the environment – mimetic dance, body paint into cave painting, festishised locations in the environment, the constructed Stonehenges, the invention of inscription and writing - papyrus scrolls, palimpsests, books, computers – and today after a 10,000 year velocitised development we have placed all knowledge into the immaterial – into data.

So the artists innovate new ideas embodied within artefacts, which feed into galleries museums and is interpreted by scholars, critics and curators – the cognitive distributive networks thus explaining the prevalence of museums and galleries supplanting churches and cathedrals as a place to go to be awed – to share the mimes of the incoming paradigm – hence my jokey description: A mime soup.

What is art in the age of the cognitively enabled? Another commodity – this time aesthetic and immaterial – within which the currency of value is exchanged.

Is it possible to de-fetishize contemporary art? No. Are there any other strategies to give art or the human behavior which proposes the ideal as opposed to the deal? Only if the act or function of art changes. So how do we change it? I would argue that simply recognising the form of its transmission, such as this article, is not enough – even though I believe form should follow function. Things are too loaded and too complex for simple solutions.

What we have to do is propagate the understanding – share it in simple words rather than academic tracts which obfuscate meaning in grand constructions of difficult words and sentences - that exchange of ideas in a simple fashion would then allow art and artists to become something else, to develop new cognitive behaviours. One possibility is that the age of Cognition is coming to an end. To even identify it is to announce its demise. The concept of Cognition suggests in-formation and out-formation. Cognition is a western ideal of profound 100 per cent input 100 per cent output, that utilises intellectual capacity to churn through information to render understanding. But we need over-standing as much as in-standing.

The top sustainable running speed of a human is 24 miles per hour which when transformed into 20th century mechanical cognition/rendition is 24 frames per second film. But biologists tell us that the eye when sweeping between point a and point b is not a clean graceful sweep it is in fact a staccato frame grab of the world, which when analysed provokes the idea that reality is split into about 3.6 million sections or chronons per second (average saccade angle change rate). The Buddhists say actually, there are not 3.6 but 48 million segmentations per second – because the Buddha had counted these (always dead pan humour with Buddhism). Whichever figure turns out to be right, it would appear that human consciousness is an amalgam of many moments and that cognition is a much later response to witnessing reality’s flow/ What if we could un-couple our reading of experience from our mental abilities and liaise with our sensorial experience?

That is the project for artists at the moment – our sensorial apprehension of reality could also be velocitised if we stop using the normal analytical filters. These are very good at bringing experience into the mental realm of experience, but now that we have some theories about what-it-is-that-we-are and how this comprehension may affect life-as-it-is-lived so that we have a position that over-stands rather than understands what is happening between the viewer and the artist, then we now have a way forward in an age that is post the age of cognitive-capitalism.

Further reading:

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Musings on the Nature of Attention, Images and the Advent of the Digital


Images are how we tell eachother what’s inside of us.

Like a dream the image can represent a detail or the whole – which of those it is, is open to interpretation.

What’s inside of us as image is the sum total – or variously a small detail – of what we know about the world. It is relative to our conceptual constructional capabilities and what we are focused on at the time.

Sometimes like radio, within the flow of images we pick up ideas and our internal representation system creates an image for us to review the idea we’ve encountered. Sometimes a specific image (often made by an artist, designer or architect) communicates a new idea that we experience with a degree of excitement: Fashions are the eddies and surface currents of this exchange.

Fascination is the state a non-digitally enabled person, or a non-velocitised person, experiences when the flow is simply, ‘The Flow’. When a person has negotiated the 360 stream of images, as with a swimmer who has come to terms with the coldness of the water they are in and it no longer bothers them, swimming within the flow is the ability gained by acceptance of temperature and soon the temperature becomes not only negotiable, but forgettable as a factor.

New ideas are formed from the artists ceaseless enquiry into the nature of things. Occasionally there is no enquiry at all – simply an insight revealed into the nature of what is coming, through an image in human consciousness.

Moving and still images perform different tasks in human consciousness. Still images – idee fixee – are apposite and definitive reflections of adoptable and attractive concepts. The caught and stolen glance, the desirable car, the palm tree against the blue sky representing freedom and release, the prison bars that indicate incarceration. These are ideas of yearning – even the last which is about a yearning not to be limited, which is where its power lies. Images or ideas like this reflect species concepts that everyone aspires to or are inspired by.

Aspire, Inspire, Expire – all are developed from the root word Spire (spi/ray in Latin pronunciation) which means breath.

Potent Iconic images, like a crucifixion are redolent of more than desire. They are of species intent: martyrdom for those that are affected by the image to benefit from, the deep spiritual smile that always says there is more to know and so leads the viewer on to want to know whatever that smile denotes; the images of people en masse in tears that tell us this is wrong – or right.

Moving Images perturbate intention, They utlise the iconic functionality of still images in an onward flow from before and after the iconic moment. These shift us into and through the moment of most potent affectation. They functionalise the still iconostasis of the deep idea and render it into movement. The definition of an iconostasis is a screen decorated with icons that divides the sanctuary of a church from other areas. It is the wall of images that is found in very traditional churches to separate the priests from the lay community. It is the divide which those that engaged in theoretical behavior – the naming and categorizing of ideas and things create power for themselves. They know and at a price they will tell us who do not know. But the priests are gone. We are sufficiently velocitised to change the rules of the language based game.

An Iconostasis was a dividing wall of images – which are themselves insubstantial and not a wall at all. They can be moved through at speed.

The theories of the moving image – not those of film theorists who seek a relationship between their local (in time) meaning and the performatory qualities of the content and form of moving images in a material sense  - but those theories of the highest practitioners of movement and the frame can speak to us about the relational function of the moving image. By relational, in this sense I mean how the stutter of the image says something to us different from the statically viewed image. Our eyes saccade when we sweep our gaze across a scene. They fix points like photographs many times a second as they weep yet we perceive this a flowing gaze.

Investigative Cinematographers (like Conrad Hall who is now deceased) know that each frame within any shot should be of photographic quality. If a camera pans across a scene, even the dead space between the subjects of the front and the end of the shot, should be of photographic quality – meaning each frame should be capable of being viewed as a photograph – even if abstract it should be a good abstract, not an unconsidered one. Cartier Bresson was more prosaic. His ‘definitive moment’ was simply the editorially precise moment which said most about an event. A skill to be attained by photographers is clearly obtaining the moment which does this.

Most cinematographers do not know the photographic moment within cinema. In working with moving images one is simply practicing seeing at 24 frames per second. The only way you can do that is let go into the act and trust that your biology is up to the task. Thankfully it is up to a task far more demanding than that. The eye can detect one photon, certain Buddhists maintain that consciousness can detect one chronon of time. That the human species – if not all sentient witnessing creatures - being composed of biological components made from the matter of time and space will always be enabled to detect the qualities that go towards their construction.
24 frames per second or 24 miles per hour – the first is our preferred frame rate for receiving a series of images to communicate information within this period of our development, the second our top speed whilst running. The first is Perceptually/biologically cognate and also velocitised through eye motion with a maximum saccade of many divisions of a second.
“The peak angular speed of the eye during a saccade reaches up to 900°/s in humans; in some monkeys, peak speed can reach 1000°/s. Saccades to an unexpected stimulus normally take about 200 milliseconds (ms) to initiate, and then last from about 20–200 ms, depending on their amplitude (20–30 ms is typical in language reading). Under certain laboratory circumstances, the latency of, or reaction time to, saccade production can be cut nearly in half (express saccades). These saccades are generated by a neuronal mechanism that bypasses time-consuming circuits and activates the eye muscles more directly”.
Our running speed is at least 3600 times slower than our attentive gaze when spliced up by the saccade – so in effect this may be 3,600,000 times slower at it’s greatest division. Buddhists when asked about the duration of the chronon (the smallest fragment of time) say the Buddha said it was a 48 millionth of a second - -when asked how he knew this his monks said ‘he counted the parts’.
So at this point in our evolution we are being asked to discern the nature of information at much higher speeds that we’ve experienced until this moment – but from the biology it would seem we have already the built-in equipment necessary to absorb that information – but perhaps not read it through being armed with practice derived from language, writing or reading. Each of these behaviors filters information through our interpretative centres which require time for processing for use by higher brain finctions. The Tiger that approaches at 24 frames per second was understandable and interpretable – the approaching cue or clue that relates to some expressed desire or preference within a world which is information enabled directly to target YOU, is not interpretable at millionths per second. It is not interpretable, but it is absorbable to the deeper mind. ‘Absorbable’ in the sense that we can judge the nature of the flow of images and act appropriately.

So within the rapidity of the flow of images of the 21st century we are enabled to see these one by one – despite the fear of latter 20th century theoreticians such as Baudrillard, Virillio et al that the image would finally have no meaning at all – we can distinguish beneath operative consciousness what each image means and does to and for us because our equipment, our biology is set up to perceive meaning without end.

How can this last statement be substantiated?

Evolutionists surmise that we evolve by exploit our ability to adapt – we humans above all animals – and it is because we are an open and not a closed system, this itself is the proof. We know we learn biologically – and our minds conceptualise reality based upon our ability to evolve. It’s a virtuous circle, a functionality which all animals have.

Most of the ideas that flow through species consciousness are relevant to the temporary eddies that play out for each nation or race. Even the mention of race is problematic because the concept can be used politically, but actually, in real terms, humans can split up and categorized into races – just like plants and animals.

Species ideas are deeper, more paradigmatic in either being the rails that guide the train, or points that control the switches that guide the train into new landscapes. Sometimes ideas deliver us from metaphor and instead of travelling through a landscape we come up above it to take in the whole. Given that that idea was expressed in language – it’s a metaphor – but one can leap off the idea into meaning outside of metaphor, providing we have experience in the ability to conceptualise outside of language. If you understand this statement then you can utilize this ability.

So like this paper that you are reading, all that is perceived is fed through the filter of consciousness which itself has a set of constructs governing its operation. If you use text you’re operating through the theoretic centre: the centre of language and dialogue and so as one resides there we often experience the world as an inner interpretive dialogue. Art and events in the World are to be interpreted to deliver meaning and significance to the perceiver. But things have moved along in terms of their velocity such that single standard acts of interpretation do not alone deliver a useful grasp of what is happening. Now we need engage a higher function that can operate at a velocity greater than biological function.

To interpret you need filter what is perceived through developed evolutionary functionality: the senses and the common sense to all the other senses: mind. Mind itself is constructed of a set of functionalities such as discrimination, intellect, discernment, analytical powers and many more as yet too subtle to have been described separately. So far Vedantic Philosophy has made the best study of the separate elements of mind in its pursuit of the suspension of the interpretive mind, though certain forms of Buddhism have identified the conundrums of the intellect sufficient to create humour around the thinking brain or mind. Each of these separate functionalities developed over time to makes sense of a world by a sentient creature moving at most at 24 miles per hour. Now not only do we move very much faster (planes trains and automobiles) but the image flow itself is velocitised so that we may be standing still but the image flow is rapid (and any combination thereof).

The functionality of the moving image itself is developing so that we have higher frame rates of capture and display – no longer is a film shot at 24 frames per second and played back at that rate in cinema (significant that our top biological speed is 24 miles per hour which is an inverse multiple - roughly 3600 times - slower than the frame rate we like to view images within – 24 times per second). Instead a 200 frame rate of capture can be shown at 200 frames – or 48 fps capture can be seen at 48 fps delivery. There are now shorter gaps where there is no image at all. But we’re also developing higher dynamic range of the image and also higher resolutions. People talk about the better pixel –the one that contains not just a 15 variations of the colour orange – but 1000. To our physiological construct there’s a point at which the computational world is offering us more differentials than can mean anything to us - apparently. Everything seems to be moving out of our current scale.

We have constructed touch based interfaces (the typewriter, the touch screen platform) and also – latterly – environmental touch based interfaces – such as plants that can now control computer interactions (and plant based energy supply and also computation).

Our whole sensorium must interface with things that manipulate the world. Are we therefore lacking because we came from the trees? No. We used to be ‘at one with plants’ as we moved through them now we are again having to learn that at-one-ness.

Inherent in our sentient design is the ability to stand each of our intellectual and biological interpretational functionalities back and allow non-intellectual abilities to take over in complete confidence. When you drive the car you do not interpret what gear to go into, you have consigned that ability to below surface consciousness. We are capable of driving a spacecraft at over 20,000 miles per hour. Providing the context speaks of the speed (large planets pass slowly past us at massive accelerations) then we cope. But we also have the functionality to move rapidly and process rapidly as long as we do not move through interpretable functionality which of course involves the 24 miles per hour functionality of the common-sense-mind which unites the various senses. Instead we gaze at leisure and grasp at leisure what the rapidity of information is telling us because we have begun to operate the functions that are waking up in us to deal with speed. An article like this is the begining of the theory of velocitisation.

It’s the same with rapid evolution of interface and also – importantly – reading the world that is, making sense of the world at high velocity. Taking it to its extreme, when you’re viewing at the speed of light, you become the information you have been witnessed to - you and it are the same.

Our physicists are telling us that information is the base quality of the construction of the universe. Information sits at the boundary of every black hole and is NOT annihilated within the black hole. It is preserved and a function of the annihilation process at the centre to retain information at the perimeter. The latest cosmological donut of thought about the shape of the universe is that what we see is not what is. Out experience of the perimeter of information of the universe as a whole – this 3D (plus time), 23 mile per hour reality – is us as 4D - 6D sentient creatures reading the information back into the material 3D state.

Whatever went in to a black hole can be reconstructed from that trace element of its passing – it is therefore a Black Whole.

Just like us.