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The Chora Collaborations

Gregory L. Ulmer
Gainesville, Florida.

With Editorial Comments by
C. Saper, J.C. Freeman, and W. Garrett-Petts
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The comments are much like simultaneous translations. Sometimes the translators get it wrong, sometimes they capture the essence by indirection, and sometimes they miss the mark in literalism.

The Exhibit
We are inventing electracy. We cannot do it all at once, and not without some help. "We": those of us who gathered in Gainesville, Florida, on behalf of our colleagues participating on the Invent-L listserv, having in mind an "open source" organization. My proposal is to establish a way station, a staging area, however distributed through cyberspace, in print, at meetings, where we gather the materials and means for further work, to be shared among ourselves, and with anyone who takes an interest. [chorus] Come to think of it Craig Freeman could supplement the entire publication with loosely related excerpts from the Ulmer Tapes. The analogy might be with the International Space Station mission, except that we are constructing not only the station, but the very "space" itself: the space and time of electracy, the apparatus of digital media. [chorus] "Electracy" describes the kind of "literacy" or skill and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds. According to theorist Gregory Ulmer, electracy "is to digital media what literacy is to print."[ Ulmer, G. L. (2003). Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy. New York: Longman.] It encompasses the broader cultural, institutional, pedagogical, and ideological implications inherent in the transition from a culture of print literacy to a culture saturated with electronic media. "Electracy" is the term he gives to what is resulting from this major transition that our society is undergoing. The term is a portmanteau word, combining "electricity" with "trace," to allude to one of the fundamental terms used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida to name the relational spacing that enables and delimits any signification in any medium (which is to say that it operates in orality and literacy as much as in electracy). Usage parallels "literacy": a person may be literate or illiterate, electrate or anelectrate. One part of this "way" is an exhibit, an exhibition of resources contributing to the operation of this very collaboration itself, in the form of a new consultancy known as the EmerAgency.

One of the first goals of our consultancy is to do for electracy what the Classical Greeks did for literacy—to invent an image metaphysics within which the politics, ethics, and aesthetics of an Internet public sphere might thrive. This is an invitation, an open call.

As such, electracy denotes a broad spectrum of research possibilities including the history and invention of writing and mnemonic practices, the epistemological and ontological changes resulting from such practices, the sociological and psychological implications of a networked culture, and the pedagogical implementation of practices derived from such explorations.

Ulmer writes of electracy:

What literacy is to the analytical mind, electracy is to the affective body: a prosthesis that enhances and augments a natural or organic human potential. Alphabetic writing is an artificial memory that supports long complex chains of reasoning impossible to sustain within the organic mind. Digital imaging similarly supports extensive complexes of mood atmospheres beyond organic capacity. Electrate logic proposes to design these atmospheres into affective group intelligence. Literacy and electracy in collaboration produce a civilizational left-brain right-brain integration. If literacy focused on universally valid methodologies of knowledge (sciences), electracy focuses on the individual state of mind within which knowing takes place (arts).

Ulmer's work benefits from considering other historical moments of radical technological change (such as the profound changes resulting from the inventions of the alphabet, writing, and the printing press), and as such his work is grammatological insofar as it derives and extrapolates a methodology from the history of writing and mnemonic practices. His career can be encapsulated as an attempt to invent a rhetoric for electronic media.

Ulmer introduced electracy in Teletheory (1989), and it began to be noted in the scholarship as early as 1997.[3] It has been regarded as among the "most prominent" contemporary designations[4] for what Walter J. Ong once described as a "secondary orality" that will eventually supplant print literacy[5] As James Inman writes, "It is important to distinguish electracy from other terms, such as computer-based literacy, Internet literacy, digital literacy, electronic literacies, metamedia literacy, and even cyber-punk literacy. None of these other terms have the breadth electracy does as a concept, and none of them draw their ontology from electronic media exclusively".[6] Some scholars have viewed the electracy paradigm, along with other "apparatus theories" such as Ong's, with skepticism, arguing that they are "essentialist" or "determinist." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electracy]

To make our analogy more specific (if still too general) is to notice how Aristotle became the basis for education in Western civilization through the European Renaissance and beyond: he invented a category of topical logic to apply the categories in argument, giving rise to the commonplace practices used to gather and organize information in a way that facilitated the invention or generation of new productions of one's own. The metaphor guiding the practice was that of bees making honey: students made texts the way bees made honey, moving through the flowers of rhetoric, gathering the nectar, to be transformed in the cells of the hive into honey. The places of storage were topoi, the loci –- in practice the rules for argumentation, but metaphorically spaces of storage and retrieval, based on Aristotle's own transfer between physical place, including a physics of his own devising, and rhetorical place, combining mental and linguistic dimensions. Today we may fill out this practice with different theories, notions, analogies, but we need to make for ourselves a way to work with the information space of new media, in the way that the topics helped students master the milieu created by alphabetic writing.

The source of this new metaphysics (for there is no escaping the need for a classification system) is to be found through the recovery of "chora" (Khora), Plato's proposal in Timaeus of a "receptacle" wherein being and becoming interacted. It was of a third "kind," neither perceptible nor intelligible, that made it possible for "things" (beings) to appear, while itself withdrawing. To approach it in thought required a "bastard reasoning" Plato said, of detour, indirection, incongruity. This evocative indicating of sense appealed to Jacques Derrida as a relay for deconstruction (most of his part-concepts are of this choral sort). The choral space of electracy envelopes the dispersed topics of literacy and holds them in the loose accord of an atmosphere, mood, Stimmung, even as the multitude of concepts manufactured in the old way begin to rub and chafe one against the other, breaking and spilling out under the pressures of "formless" (Bataille).

An Ordinary Evening
We are together in Gainesville already beginning to think about making electracy functional as a rhetoric for an Internet public sphere, in which to do the political work of deliberative reason in a democratic coming community. It is not certain that the deictic dimensions of here and there (t/here), now and then, before and after, me and you will continue to orient us in cyberspace as they have up until now. Or, one task of our invention is to learn the means of orientation in an info-sphere. "In the metaphysical streets of the physical town we remember the lion of Juda and we save the phrase..." Wallace Stevens wrote in "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven." "Say of each lion of the spirit... It is a cat of a sleek transparency that shines with a nocturnal shine alone." Do you see him, the poet, late in life, age seventy or thereabouts; is he strolling around New Haven late at night, or remembering such a stroll, or imagining it? What is the mise-en-scene of thought? "The poem is the cry of the occasion, part of the res itself and not about it. The poet speaks the poem as it is, not as it was: part of the reverberation of a windy night as it is, when the marble statues are like newspapers blown by the wind..."

Just as Wallace Stevens traveled to Florida as a businessman for the first time in 1922, and took two-to-three-week winter trips there for the next twenty years, readers might visit this figurative Florida.

We are in an image, now, and should feel our way around this scene. "The mobile and immobile flickering in the area between is and was are leaves, leaves in whirlings in the gutters, whirlings around and away, resembling the presence of thought, as if, in the end, in the whole psychology, the self, the town, the weather, in a casual litter, together, said—[images] of the world are the life of the world" (Stevens 331-351). Stevens provides us with a guide, a direction (sens), showing us how to image a place. Choral rhetoric depends upon this passage to and from, between the physical street and the metaphysical one (dazwischen), and the effect of such modest events as whirling leaves (a turbulence)—a wind pushing leaves along a gutter, becoming thought in the world—alluding at once to a remembered night and an ode by Shelley.

For the connection between Ulmer's project and modernist poetry see Saper's Networked Art. University of Minnesota Press, 2001.

The places in electracy are not common or endoxal, but paradoxal, and their vehicle is not the Greek topos but the German Ort, to use Heidegger's name for the diegesis that emerged in Holderlin's hymns.
[chorus 1] | Autonomia as social analogy for Ort - that contrasts to Topics. [chorus 2] Perhaps the spatializing of the exegesis - over here in the hedge row - makes the topos shift from abstract concept to diegetic appreciation. Not clear, but a clearing. Heightened and set-off by the hedge row choral logic.

Already a heuristic rule is forming: some feature of a site is selected, put into a representation (in any medium), inflected, as a receptacle for a possible feeling felt. There is talk among consultants about the importance of story, for individuals and organizations to recover or create coherence through narrative shape. But this kind of coherence comes with a price of exclusions that make it problematic (the postmodernist critique of master narratives). The EmerAgency adds to these storying workshops a session on poetic figure to gain some experience with the way certain details of a situation create an atmosphere capable of attracting and holding a thought. This choral "traitment" (management of traits, attributes, properties of things for non-conceptual effects) opens and maintains a dimension that is metaphysical, meaning that it gives access to a register of reality previously only glimpsed by means of art. The immediate work for the egents of EmerAgency is to craft the image categories that, when used as the mental skill-set corresponding to digital equipment, bring into everyday life the rhetoric capable of deliberation at the speed of light.
[chorus 1] | A simulated voice of the Other in an extimate relation with the text? [chorus 2]

The following was paraphrased from Joel Weishaus, Imaging EmerAgency: A Conversation with Gregory Ulmer, Postmodern Culture, 1989. We might want to ask Greg to rewrite a similar explanation of emerAgency.

The emerAgency is an experimental consulting group. Its purpose is to improve a world that might not deserve improvement. Conventional consulting, based on the positivist preconceptions about utility, addresses a middle dimension of problems: things are going wrong, how can we fix them. The history of these fixes is not impressive, with each new solution producing further problems, as if entropy itself were the "problem" consulting was trying to fix. A shorthand version of this view would point out that the Holocaust, after all, was a solution (the final solution). The point of evoking this context is not to discredit rational problem-solving as such, but to call attention to a feature of it that is never absent from the process, no matter in how benign a form. The emerAgency seeks to step back from this direct approach to problem-solving in public policy formation (for example, "throwing money" at a problem). Our method is to study problems with the same analytical care of conventional consultants, but with the motive of seeking in this information possible correspondences for the feeling we have about the world to find out our disposition, our attunement, to bring into understanding the state of mind, individual and collectively, that is complicit with the forces that resist us.

Literate people experience thought as located in our heads. The Ancient Greeks experienced thought in the chest or stomach. In electracy the location of thought is moving again, in relation to a new subjectivation, a new experience of identity, so that thought now is happening outside our bodies, or in the relation of our bodies to the infrastructure. We have to invent a practice for the interactive, collaborative, collective capabilities of the internet. One goal of the emerAgency is to address the collective dimension of the internet, or to use the prosthesis of digital technologies to help us grasp this new location of thinking as our civilization moves into a new apparatus (the social machine of electracy).

With the slogan Problems B Us, the emerAgency proposes that instead of the idea that the consultants' knowledge explains the problem, it is the case that the problem explains the consultant: a reversal of the hierarchy, similar to the shift of point of view from the geocentric to the heliocentric theory of the solar system. The phenomena look the same from either perspective, but the understanding of the situation is radically different between the two positions.


Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
(proofed against E. H. Coleridge's 1927 edition of STC's poems and a ca. 1898 edition of STC's Poetical Works, ''reprinted from the early editions'')]

The editors have inserted the text of Kubla Khan above:

text of Kubla Khan


Gainesville, Florida, is already a "place," to the degree that it played a role in the Romantic imagination as one of the four most exotic sites on earth, at least for Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge read the Travels, in which William Bartram recorded his explorations of the east coast of the United States, including his adventures in north-central Florida. Bartram's descriptions of the sinkholes, prairies, poljes, underground rivers, and other karst features of the topography of this region, [chorus] Karst, poljes, and poetry on topography along with the flora and fauna, impressed Coleridge enough to base some of the imagery of "Kubla Khan" on this source.

For more on references to Kubla Khan in terms of Ulmer's project, media productions, and the legacy of the FRE see Saper's "The Florida School's Legacy, or The Devil's Millhopper Joked Revisited" in New Media/New Methods: The Academic Turn from Literacy to Electracy (West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2008).

[... in front, just under my feet, was the enchanting and amazing crystal fountain which incessantly threw up from dark rocky caverns below, tons of water every minute, forming a basin, capacious enough for large shallops to ride in, and a creek of four or five feet depth of water and near twenty yards over, which meanders six miles through green meadows, pouring its limpid waters into the great Lake George. [William Bartram (1739-1823) record of his travels to America, Travels, published 1792.]]

Saper examines at length the Bartram Florida School connection in the chapter mentioned above "The Florida School's Legacy, or The Devil's Millhopper Joked Revisited."

I'm not sure that the commercial boosters of my city are aware of this connection, or if they are they consider the reference too arcane to attract tourists. Instead, the city hired a PR firm to create a "brand" by means of which to market Gainesville in the information sprawl of the spectacle. This firm is located in Nashville and did not spend any of its fee ($76,000) on historical research. Their design works with the name of the city, configuring the "s" in GaineSville as a green double curve, tilted at a jaunty angle, suggesting a path. The accompanying slogan states, "every path starts with a passion."

Meanwhile, the University of Florida, whose sports paraphernalia, bearing the gator logo, ranks third in the nation in popularity as measured by sales, behind Notre Dame and the University of Texas, also developed a brand as a vehicle for its endless campaigns to increase endowment. The campaign slogan was created by a UF vice president, recently hired away from Disney company. I am now part of the "Gator Nation." Nationalism names a specific passion, so it is commensurate with the community brand of paths beginning with passions. My tone may be ironic, here, but in fact, these promoters and boosters show us a basic feature of electracy: that communicating at light-speed is done by means of emblems, slogans, mottos, logos (from Aristotle's logos to corporate logos). [chorus] This links to O'Gorman's hypericonomy in E-Crit: Digital Media, Critical Theory, and the Humanities. University of Toronto Press, 2006. Here is another example of the "S/Z" configuration: from logoS to logoZ (don't forget). [chorus] A reference to Roland Barthes' S/Z. This new logoz (coinage in progress) emerged within the commodity space of spectacle as a kind of pidgin, and it is the task of the EmerAgency to assist in its evolution to a creole and full-featured writing.

Logoz as the electrate version of logos. The hyper-iconographic analogy to ratiocentric thought.

We know from apparatus theory and history that not only our equipment has changed, but so are the collective and individual identity formations changing. Our selfhood and citizenship within a nation-state are part of literate metaphysics. We are participating now in a supplemental register, as consumers within commodity spectacle, institutionalized as entertainment, owned by corporations. The corporation is to the state what the state has been historically to the church. Religion started within an oral apparatus, as part of tribal collectivities, and persists into the present, alongside its literate counterparts, science and the state. These historical forces function in our individual experience in the modes of belief and knowledge. [chorus] Yes, we spatialize and concretize those little angels and devils -- a Hollywood movie version of Chora -- here in the margins. Identification and definition -- footnotes --usually filled these spaces, but now take on a new role. Textbooks teaching critical thinking tend to be organized around a negotiation between these modalities, and debates in the public sphere over specific policies concern the proper balance and appropriate area of influence of these forces (for example, on the practicalities of everything to do with "life"). The task of the EmerAgency is to provide the rhetorical resources for a third force that is to electracy and our spectacular identities what belief and knowledge are to their respective historical conditions. It is assumed, of course, that we are not leaving this new identity formation in its primitive commodity condition, but the risks of the enterprise are considerable (see Agamben's Coming Community).

For a discussion of Agamben's work on boredom a la Cage as a resistance to the loss of experience see Saper's. "Jouissance d'ennui," specs, vol.1. Winter Park: Rollins, 2008.

The way station we are constructing with our exhibit, then, must begin to show the specifics of this third force, to give it a place and a means and a self-awareness so that the values it represents may begin to have a voice in the public realm and in policy formation. What is this third force? We are making it; it is a construction in progress. First comes its category, whose nature I am touring now. Heidegger's An Introduction to Metaphysics is the pivot, showing the possibility of a way not taken at the beginning of philosophy (literacy), the "other beginning" whose nature may be discerned in works of art, especially poetry. Heraclitus, fragment 93, defined the mode of poetizing that is our path. "The ruler whose prophesy occurs at Delphi neither shows nor hides, but gives hints, makes a signal" (Heidegger 170). Discourse in this mode does not prove nor opine but intimates. Winken, in German: der Wink. It is the rhetoric of oracles and poets to be adapted now to the composition of electrate emblems. The values of this dimension are fundamentally aesthetic, and acquire autonomy in an electrate prosthesis: intensity, involvedness, care (joy).

oute legei oute kryptei.

The primary project to be undertaken by our consultancy is the design and construction of an Internet "oracle," understanding what this term names in a certain way, within the framework of our own time and place. Leibniz's admiration for the Chinese oracle, the Book of Changes (I Ching) sets the tone. Leibniz learned about the I Ching from his Jesuit friends, finding in its system of yin-yang hexagrams confirmation (at the very least) of his own discovery of binary numbers (that became the zeros and ones of machine language). Leibniz determined that the Chinese as a civilization might not be equal to Europe in natural sciences, but they were superior in moral science, that is, practical reason. The I Ching is a popular vehicle for delving into everyday problem solving the judgments of the three wisdom traditions of Eastern philosophy/religion (Tao, Confucius, Buddha). It is a kind of automatic prudence, showing how to apply general principles to specific cases, structured in a parable style in which the querents' immediate life problems are attuned to the wisdom principles by means of a chance device.

On the oracle see "A Postcard to Freud Returned: The Unconscious Structured like a Holiday? introduction to A Disturbance of Memory, volume II in the series Freud on Holiday by Sharon Kivland published by INFORMATION AS MATERIAL, and Cube Editions, Athens; introduction by Craig Saper. Including a Greek translation (2008).

Our consultancy is devising an equivalent practice for our own civilization, to be called the Ka-Ching (cash register sound denoting the capitalist spectacle in which our wisdom must circulate). The wisdom stored and retrieved in the Ka-Ching is "inceptual," to use Heidegger's term, meaning that it is not ready-made, already supplied by some elite tradition of sages. You and I are the sages, using a wiki database construction, with web ontology (suitably tweaked), such that the sage function is distributed. The first phase of the Ka-Ching, in other words, is to gather and display the operating rules of contemporary judgment. The motivating question is: what is prudence (phronesis), today?

Peanut gallery choral rhetoric using the web ontology - sagacity distributed.

Our way station does a service by collecting and collating an inventory of the resources available for and relevant to the invention of electracy. My contribution (in progress) is an exhibit of "prudence" —what it has been in literacy, and what it may become in electracy. A motto for our heuretic exhibit is appropriated from the safety instructions given by flight attendants in preparation for takeoff: be aware that the nearest exit may be behind you. This "exit" to the future may often be found in the archive, the history of culture with its cycles of obsolescence and renewal (hauntology). One such historical feature prime for renewal and relevance is the virtue of prudence. The caveat is that, if approached too broadly, the story of this virtue might overlap with the entire history of Western philosophy. It is, in any case, the virtue in the absence of which the other virtues are not worthy of the name. Perhaps the issue is the very relevance of virtue as such to electracy, since virtue assumes a certain understanding of human identity, based in "character," thought to be obsolete. For the Ka-Ching, however, and for electracy in general, our heuretic process is not a conservative preservation or nostalgic reaction, but an appropriation for further use (the future of meaning remains open: the lesson of differance).

Prudence names a capacity to make the right judgment in an instant of time, on the spot, improvised in the middle of an ongoing situation, without benefit of law, rule, concept, formula, algorithm. Prudential judgment concerns contingencies, not certainties or necessities, hence its association with practical reason. What is "existential" about Heidegger is that his Dasein concerns this dimension of reason. His other beginning, we might say, is not a closure of metaphysics as such (that is not possible or desirable), but a proposal for the invention of a metaphysics of practical reason, marginalized in literacy in favor of pure reason (science). Or, as we have been saying, Heidegger suggests the possibility of a third way, neither dialectics nor rhetoric (neither knowledge nor belief), but intimation. [chorus] For a reading of Heidegger's third way see Saper "Questions Concerning Technology: Kit-Bashing," CultureWork: A Periodic Broadside for Arts and Culture Workers 9 (2), October 2004. The category of electracy is a time-image.

See Deleuze on time-image in cinema and Saper on the connection between Deleuze and new media experiments in "Interface to Hyperface: Odd Links and Cruel Design," Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, 11/12 (Summer/Fall 2006).

A condensed version of a history of this virtue begins with the Greek caveat that prudence, being a virtue, is a matter of "character" and as such comes down to luck, or chance, since prudent individuals are born, not made. At the same time, Aristotle foresaw the coming pedagogy by suggesting that habit and custom might create a reasonable facsimile of prudent conduct. Christian schooling took this hint and organized its memory training around the choice of virtue over vice as the parameters of its episteme. Machiavelli embodied a Renaissance innovation, doing for practical reason what Descartes did for scientific method. I choose, therefore I am. [chorus] Also see Saper Artificial Mythologies: A Guide to Cultural Invention. University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Manly virtu, or self-reliance, may subdue Fortune in the affairs of leadership. Gramsci's update of The Prince shifts the locus of decision from individual to collective will, mediated by the political party, aimed at a remaking of common sense itself. This evolution continues today in Laclau and Mouffe's proposal of a hegemony as a logic for a community without unity or universal.

For a rethinking of the theories of power, see Saper on "The Blog Report: Lack of Power in New Orleans," Rhizomes, 11/12 (Summer/Fall 2006).

A useful emblem for our exhibit is the allegory of prudence painted by Titian. The motto for the image reads: "from the experience of the past, the present acts prudently, lest it spoil future action." The painting shows three portraits, representing the three dimensions of time (the ek-stases): an old man in left profile; a man in mid-life, center full-face; a youth in right profile (Panofsky 1955). [chorus] Titian, Allegory of Prudence

The Allegory of Prudence (c. 1565-1570) is an oil painting by the Italian master Titian. It is in the National Gallery, London.

[Erwin Panofsky (and originally Fritz Saxl), Titian's "Allegory of Prudence", A Postscript, in Meaning in the Visual Arts, Doubleday/Penguin, 1955].
Together, the men figure "good counsel," whose faculties are memory, intelligence, foresight. The painting was made to commemorate an event of prudence on the part of the artist himself, for the old man is Titian's self-portrait, and the others depicted are his son Orazio, and a young cousin, Marco Vecellio, who, like Orazio, lived and worked with Titian. The occasion is a legal victory through which Titian was able to transfer his inheritance from a "slacker" elder son to the more responsible (prudent) younger son. The pun on "will" nicely reinforces the point of the allegory. Each of the human heads is aligned with the head of its "spirit" animal, making explicit the genre of the work with allusions to the emblematics so popular in that era. The past is a wolf that devours memory; the present is a lion of action; the future is a dog, always trying to please.

The Spectacle
Although there is interest in virtue ethics again, prudence especially has fallen into disrepute, associated as it is with calculating self-interest, personified by a political consultant such as Karl Rove. Our exhibit undertakes a more thorough reimagining of judgment as time-image by adjusting the tradition to take into account the conditions of our milieu, the spectacle. [chorus] For more on the formation of the image category in terms of Ulmer's work see Saper "Of Spectacularization: Writing New Media Theory," Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, 4, 2 (April 2003). The discourse of public deliberation must be designed to function within the conditions described by Paul Virilio, who warns of the possibility of a general accident (Virilio 11-113). The argument is that any technology comes with its own accidents: the invention of the airplane includes the crash. The special danger posed by the digital apparatus is that the light-speed of information created the "dromosphere"— dimensional pollution reducing experience to now-time. An Internet accident, for example, could potentially occur everywhere simultaneously. The implications for judgment, both ethical and political, are clear. Prudence has always been a capacity to make the right decision in an instant of time, for those who possess the virtue. [chorus] Connect to instant judgment above in discussion of Prudence. The emergency of the general accident is that this virtue (as in previous epochs) must be articulated as an art (techne, poiesis) capable of being taught and learned, since everyone lives in now-time. Is "deliberation" even possible in the dromosphere? Yes, with the help of the electrate prosthesis.

In the spectacle, not only is time collapsed, but space also is smashed, according to Henri Lefebvre (Lefebvre 1991). The spectacle exists within Abstract Space, produced through the historical forces of capitalism. The features of this space are familiar: state bureaucracy, rationality of techno-science, hegemonic politics, "objects" spectralized into relationships of commodity exchange. Abstract Space is pulverized, surveilled, instrumentalized. "[Abstract Space] serves those forces which make a tabula rasa of whatever stands in their way, of whatever threatens them—in short, of differences. These forces seem to grind down and crush everything before them with space performing the function of a bulldozer, or tank" (Lefebvre 285).

The third feature to be accommodated in neo-Prudence is the post-Fordist, post-industrial socio-economic conditions. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, in such works as Empire and Multitude, are among those describing these circumstances. The principle in our terms is that the new apparatus includes an identity shift, both individual and collective. Our political goal is no longer to unify a "people" but to coordinate a multitude (a dispersed, diverse order of multiplicity). [chorus] See Paul Passavant's & Jodi Dean's introduction to their anthology on Empire's New Clothes: Reading Hardt and Negri. New York: Routledge, 2004. As Paolo Virno explains in his account of the autonomia movement, the specialized divisions of the literate lifeworld (the social equivalents of topics) are dissolving, merging (Virno 49-71). The classic divisions of thought and knowledge, from Aristotle to Arendt—thinking, making, doing—are blurring in the new economy, realizing (perhaps ironically) Marx's notion of the general intellect. This general intellect is potentially a match for the risks of the general accident, if its collective practice in the multitude learns neo-Prudence.

Virno calls for a return to and development of a contemporary equivalent of Aristotle's commonplaces—the modes of reasoning shared by all applications of thought. In our context, we may clarify this proposal to take into account apparatus shift. Aristotle's categories, topics, and commonplaces are specific to literacy, so the revised proposal is to invent the electrate equivalent of these forms and practices. To put this call in the most general terms, electracy must devise a practice that does for new media what narrative did for orality and argument for literacy. [chorus] In regards to Ong, see these charts prepared for Saper's course on texts and technology in history. Narrative and argument still function in electracy but are displaced and supplemented by an electrate mode of information storage and retrieval. The heuretic point is that the practices or skill set of electracy must be (and are being) invented apart from and along with the technologies and are indispensable to the apparatus. [chorus] For theory as a craft hobby in Ulmer's strategy see Saper's introduction to a journal's special issue, and Ulmer's article in that same issue. "Instant Theory: Making Thinking Popular," Visible Language, volume 22, number 4 (Spring 1989): pp. 371-398.


The nature of craft shifts just as the futurist speed of the text demands it to move or fade.
Here is the point of intervention in contemporary world-making for the liberal and fine arts.

The Humanities reason for being was always to fix texts; and exegetical commentary was part of that process. Now, the fine-liberal arts world-make and the commentary serves a new function - not exegetical.

Image Ontology
The elements of an electrate modality are gathered under the general term "image." The Florida Research Ensemble (FRE) has tested a prototype of an image category, using as a relay poetics derived from modernist poets and their encounters with denizens of industrial cities. [chorus] Founded in the early 1990s the Florida Research Ensemble (FRE) is an interdisciplinary collaborative group working collectively and individually on the invention of new digital forms. Over the years the FRE has used Internet collaboration to produce numerous exhibitions, books, articles, CD-ROMs, DVD-Data, videos, lectures, panel discussions and websites. Thus, Baudelaire and Rilke in Paris, Joyce in Dublin, Eliot in London, Proust in "Combray" all demonstrate the functioning of epiphany—the image as an experience of now-time. [chorus] Now-time as an epiphany. Here is the basic mechanism of flash reason, fundamental for the new prudence for thinking in the collapsed, crushed, merged psychogeography of the spectacle. The modern and experimental artists intuited the dromosphere long before it was theorized, for the industrial city (site initiating electracy) transformed the lifeworld as situation. Judgment must decide by taking in at a glance the whole of a specific situation, in all of its contingency, without benefit of rule or law. The model for the formal process of the path of this judgment is found in epiphany, which goes by a variety of names: correspondences (Baudelaire), Weltinnenraum (Rilke), objective correlative (Eliot), involuntary memory (Proust), epiphany (Joyce). Walter Benjamin called this appearance of "border" articulating outside/inside and past/present a "dialectical image." Freud theorized as "transference" this fold of the past in the present in the clinical setting and exploited it as the vehicle for his talking cure.

Benjamin's border demonstrated here in this column? And, transference? These are analogous to the analysts' notes?

This collection of poetics and practices is an archive directly relevant to the renewal of prudence in electrate education, to be inventoried and displayed in our exhibit (take the time to make one of your own). The experience captured within the poetics is the uncanny event that Lacan called "extimacy," when some detail of a scene is recognized, when a person feels addressed by some external feature of reality (the gaze). Lacan used topological geometry to figure and explore this inside-outside intersubjective structuration of human identity (being). [chorus] Recently, I've been thinking about taxidermy in terms of taxonomy. Perhaps the relation is analogous to the shifting role of the humanities and museums. All these accounts fall within the parameters of the oracular sign, proposed by Heidegger, part of a discourse of intimation, rather than (or in addition to) knowledge and opinion. The epiphany structure is to electracy what the definition is to literacy. To form a concept (using literate category formation), one uses a word or phrase to "record" certain features of a scene, separating out a "thing" from its surroundings and focusing on those traits that are essential to the being of that thing (primarily its function). The essence of a jug is its capacity to contain, not the sheen of its glaze, so the sheen was marginalized as an "accident," not "proper" to the concept.

The formation of an image category more or less inverts concept formation. The technology of recording is digital imaging, whose strength is the registering of the infinity of accidental traits associated with a scene. The image gathers the scene into a holistic interrelationship, made coherent by the mood stimulated by the atmosphere of the place (chora). There are not "things" but "thangs," so to speak, to use a colloquialism to allude to the psychoanalytic entity, the German Ding. To use Lacan's terminology, individual objects emerge within the whole scene only in their function as "object (a)" (or @ as I like to write it)—an item that triggers for me an unconscious memory of a lost satisfaction. An assumption of this emergent effect is that an image category is singular, not universal, and relative to the maker. [chorus] For more on Lacan's object see Saper on "A Nervous Theory: The Troubling Gaze of Psychoanalysis in Media Studies" diacritics (Summer 1992): pp. 33-52. In other words, I am (you are) a (distributed) category.

Distributed identity.

This erotic dimension of experience is the reality extracted from the Real, made accessible, opened to further augmentation and elaboration in electrate institution formation. The key point to notice is that the basic operating features of our software, such as the animated gif, the image map, and the like, have the potential to become ontological, meaning that they perform in image discourse the function of the copula (the verb to be) in alphabetic writing (juxtaposition as predication). [chorus 1] | See Saper on "Toward A Visceral Scholarship Online: Folkvine.org and Hypermedia Ethnography," Journal of E-Media Studies (Spring 2008). [chorus 2] See Saper's "Outside In: Schooling, Kit-Bashing, Quilting, & Clowning Around Online," Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, 2. video-essay (Winter 2007). and "Blogademia," Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 5.4 (Winter 2006). "Being," as Heidegger reminded us, is an emergent effect of writing. The reach of Being is radically expanded (mutated) within the new apparatus.

Mutated being.

In the FRE experiment with the process of creating a chora, to support flash reason, the role of category-maker was played by the creative photographer, Barbara Jo Revelle. Revelle seemed an obvious choice, given the status of the camera as the emblematic device of electracy. Beyond that obvious point was the richness of her life experience. She is, in fact, a good relay for understanding the status of prudence in our own time. As we learned in our table-work, preparing for an experiment in the city of Miami, Revelle personally encountered the three spirit animals of traditional prudence. The wolf of the past? Revelle, traveling in Spain, came upon a wolf-shepherd mix in a street market. She shipped the creature home to keep as a pet. The lion of the present? Revelle's father was a famous big-game hunter, who went on many safaris in Africa. Revelle grew up in a house with a museum-quality display of mounted trophies, including lions. The dog of the future? On a trip to Mexico Revelle videotaped her encounter with a large stray dog, starving, emaciated, covered with sores. The tape documents her efforts to persuade local police officers to put the suffering animal out of its misery. We agreed that Barbara Jo Revelle knew from temporality.

"Crossroad." Barbara Jo Revelle, 1998.

As a prototype for the Ka-Ching, to identify, store, and retrieve contemporary wisdom, the strategy was to introduce an artist into the setting of a public-policy crisis. The Miami River is a site overseen by thirty-four public agencies, hosting every manner of policy problem in Florida. The experiment posed the river zone as a kind of templum in a divination practice, in order to foreground the epiphanic, transferential effect central to the intimation modality of our image category. Revelle posed a question of importance to her personal life, and then spent some weeks performing a situationist drift to test the functioning of poetic encounter (Ulmer Internet 219). A dialectical image was indeed discovered in this experiment—a photograph Revelle took of a Haitian trading vessel, impounded by the U. S. Coast Guard, docked on the Miami River, and eventually forfeited by its Haitian owner due to inability to pay the required docking fees. The scene of this impounded vessel was recognized by Revelle as extimate, an oracular signal corresponding to her own situation and answering her personal "burning" question. An implication still being pursued in FRE research is the possibility for a new micro/macro-cosm order, bringing into intelligibility the connection between collective forces and individual choices (Fred Jameson's cognitive mapping) (Jameson 89).

The relevant point for our exhibit is to model and collect samples of the primary or primal scenes that are the site of the trigger for epiphany. A motivating source is Gerald Holton's studies of the most productive people in our society, whose careers manifested a pattern of a very few repeating images that Holton called their "image of wide scope." Holton's prototype was Albert Einstein, but he and others have found these patterns in a great number of figures, representing nearly every disciplinary field in the arts and sciences. The wide image thesis is that innovators are able to access the affective power of an image of satisfaction formed in childhood, as a regulative idea (Kant) to guide discovery in conditions of revolutionary science (in the absence of or the suspension of the norms of the established paradigm).

Perhaps invite readers to expand the list - Darwin's bug collecting; Binet's ... Make your list here:






Albert Einstein referred in his memoirs to a compass that his father gave him when Albert was four years old. He was fascinated by the needle's behavior (pointing north no matter how the containing box was positioned). This experience connected with a "themata" in Einstein's character, or in our context, we might say with his virtue (his power). The image did not "cause" the theory of relativity, but it forms a pattern with the "invariance" principle (the speed of light as the one fixed measure of the universe), discernible throughout the physicist's career. Other persuasive examples are the waves recalled by Virginia Woolf or the fish remembered by Frank Gehry (Ulmer Internet 89).

The case for an image intelligence is easier to make in this context of creativity—the documented role that the imagination plays in specialized knowledge. The 9/11 Commission Report called for a national investment in the imagination, even envisioning an imaginative bureaucracy (or a "bureaucratized imagination," which is not the same thing). Governments may be less enthusiastic about augmenting the place of imagination in politics and ethics, but that is the program of our exhibit. [chorus] See Constituent Imagination. One area of our way station is devoted to a database, designed to collect memorial anecdotes provided by egents (anyone volunteering to work with the EmerAgency). The minimum effect should be to raise awareness of the importance of childhood experience in adult events; that an epiphany is an effect of the present connecting with a past. This database may be accessed by participants, used to match memory scenes with public policy dilemmas, in the context of "burning questions."
Oracular effects are recorded, and collated, to track the topology of contemporary psychogeography (chora). A fundamental effect of the exhibit is to make visitors aware of this loop of time whirling like leaves of thought in their biographies: that the first shoe has already dropped.

First proposed in Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video, Ulmer has continued to work with the idea of the mystory throughout his body of work. Mystory is a puncept which alludes to history, mystery and feminist notions of herstory. It is structured around medieval allegory, which was designed to attune the individual's sense of self to the teaching of the Church. In this case however, the method is designed to attune the individual's sense of self to contemporary pop culture in an electrate age. What we try to establish is what the person's superego would be. Who are the four people from different parts of their experience, family, community, entertainment, career, that they most admired, and that would constitute their superego.

The way station, in short, includes support for the composition of a national (and even global) mystory. I have already registered for myself one such early memory in Internet Invention (Ulmer 198-207). There are three such scenes that hold promise, all three from the same year (1948-49), when I lived with my family on the outskirts of Mandan, North Dakota (we moved to Montana the next year). One afternoon, I awoke from my nap, went to the door of my room, and called for my mother to let me out. I could hear her on the other side of the door, which I had not learned how to open (!). Mother had decided that day was the day. She refused to let me out and insisted that I open the door myself. She provided the same instructions that she had given many times before, in a soothing and encouraging voice. Grasp the knob tightly, turn the knob, and while still holding tightly, pull the door toward you. What exactly was the problem? Hand flopping uselessly around the knob without grasping? Not mastering the double duty of grasp and pull? Pushing instead of pulling? In any case, suddenly, it worked. The door swung open. I shut the door, and opened it again. Mother was full of praise, and I stood there with the look of an Alladin who has just learned to say, "Sesame."

No, all my troubles were not over, for before me and still today is a series of doors (real, imagined, metaphysical, metaphorical), stretching out before me like a spectral version of the 7500 portals in Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park Gates. This memory gathers a cluster of doors and gates: Nietzsche's Gateway called "Augenblick" (Moment) in Zarathustra; Kafka's parable "Before the Law" in The Trial; the switch in an electric circuit is a gate. [chorus] See Nietzsche on prudence also. I recognize the situation depicted in Bunuel's Exterminating Angel, of the guests at a dinner party, unable to leave the apartment at the end of the evening. Celebrating their eventual mysterious release with a special Mass, the crowd is unable to leave the Cathedral. Is it the paralysis of the modern city evoked by the poets, novelists, and theorists? Or the aporetic nature of Dasein that Heidegger found already defined in the observations of the chorus of Theban elders in Antigone? Everywhere venturing forth, humanity founders in the end on the no-way of death. Or, death is the door that always stands open, for mortals.

In my defense, I compare my awkwardness with doors to Einstein's delayed interest in reading. My early lesson was deceptively simple, since the difficulty with metaphysical ports (opportunity, a/poros) is that it is not how the knob works but even finding it in the first place. Take the port administered at the Miami River, Florida: where is the knob or latch that could open the way of that impounded place? The point of relevance for the exhibit is that I am using the memorial scene as a category to gather and organize a personal database that cuts across the borders of all conceptual classifications, to invent a macrocosm that maps the affect of the microcosm. This capacity to be affected is the root source of the new value system, to be added to policy debates in an Internet public sphere. The new politics of the multitude, based on Spinoza, offers a simple measure: the life feeling (joy/sadness). The next step is to think with this singular arrangement, to circulate it for further use, in unforeseen contexts, as a receptacle for imagination.


The Exhibit (Invitiation)
Such is our assignment for the construction of this way station. Who can say exactly what we will do with it? The directions for electracy will be emergent, simulacral, not mimetic, constructed, ontological (creating what they find). There is a goal (but there may be more than one): 1) to design a contemporary wisdom device supporting global practical reason. The Ka-Ching. That project, in turn, expands the EmerAgency consultancy, as a relay for an Internet public sphere. 2) The exhibition hosts displays of historical cultural inventions available in the archive for renewal, recycling through the new apparatus, contributing to the production of flash reason. "Neo-Prudence" is my contribution. 3) Finally (but not exclusively), we build a database of memorial scenes, anecdotes of early childhood, as potential triggers for epiphany, and even more importantly, potential anchors for images of wide scope (for example, opening the door in Mandan, 1948). Oracle; Invention; Mystory.

Hyperlink to database... doesn't exist yet.


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Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Heidegger, Martin. An Introduction to Metaphysics. Trans. Ralph Manheim. New Haven: Yale, 1959.

Holton, Gerald James. Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press, 1974, c1973.

Jameson, Fredric , "4 Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,"  Postmodernism,  Ed. Thomas Docherty,Columbia University Press, New York, NY 1993, p. 89.

Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1991.

Panofsky, Erwin. Meaning in the Visual Arts. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1955.

Stevens, Wallace. The Palm at the End of the Mind. Ed. Holly Stevens. New York: Random House, 1990.

Ulmer, Gregory L. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Elecracy. New York: Longman, 2003.

---. "Choramancy: A User's Guide." Mind Factory. Ed Louis Armand. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2005.

Virilio, Paul. Politics of the Very Worst: An Interview by Philippe Petit. Trans. Michael Cavaliere. New York: Semiotexte, 1999.

Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude. Trans. Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito, Andrea Casson, New York: Semiotext(e), 2004.