Publications

305.3L

November 2016

Immanent Feedback

Samuel Jackson

A friend of mine, a musician, was excitedly telling me about feedback in their latest project. Basically, they were talking about loops of noise, continuously growing, thwarting their attempt at some kind of anti telos. They described in ecstatic terms, the process of their failure, the sound and hum of feedback rolling over itself, turning over new sounds, compiling into an algorithmic, autonomous structure of sound.

Feedback then was a network of independent/interdependent forms. I imagined a feedback apparatus. Mechanically attuned to the sensuous nature of its environment, displaying the minor fluctuations of movement or thought, even as the feedback coalesced, into slow entropy. The disintegration of the sound/object/thing, into an unconditioned mass. This musical construction of feedback I thought, maybe perfectly exemplified the failure of cybernetics to construct the completely controlled system. Feedback was always there, ready to intrude rudely with its unmitigated disaster of anti-rationalisation. Revealing our systems as rudimentary introjections on the natural world. Or maybe more interestingly, the collapse of the binary, natural/artificial. Because all autonomous things surely have feedback, all systems both natural and man made can be signified as a bell curve, bleeding into entropy.

Feedback in this sense they thought, elucidated the terms of immanent connections. Immanent due to the feedbacks localised nature. The forms it created, were derived from structures wholly contained by a larger structure of recording and overturning

***

Somewhat ironically, the other day, a friend was telling me their new theory on the world.

Friends are systems of relational affects. 

They went on to explain that each friend was the basis for a thousand different affective connections with that person, all based in the past. That each of these connections sat behind the node of one particular acquaintance in the system. This friend of mine felt that while new connections were important to growing a life, what truly mattered was the compiling of affect behind each node/person. To think not longingly of the transcendent qualities of new friends, but the immanent connections and history that surround us in our own individualised network of affect. I nodded, “ok, ok”, but somewhat sceptically, my friend having a chequered history of infatuations of their own construction. “Ok, but then what happens to all of this compiled affect. If you're talking about systems, then surely all of this is constantly in flux, no?” They affected the look of madness. “That’s the truly sublime thing, these instances, nodes within a circuit, if tended correctly can respond in positive formations of feedback. The memories or nodes of affect can swell into a rhizomatic uprising or rupture. It is in affect, turning the gain up on your feelings, an immanent becoming that doesn’t isolate you as a sovereign/sad person but connects the dots and what lies behind the dots, as if your life was a picture, and that picture was a rhizomatic dot portrait, and each of those dots contained a well of ink. Endless/bottomless ink that if pressed all at once bleeds into a portrait of black nirvana.

 

Feedback is maybe always already immanent 

Feedback is maybe capable of having a telos

Feedback is maybe the connection of everything you lost today, finding you tomorrow

Feedback is maybe the path to immanent self knowing

Feedback is maybe not a path, but a hoop to jump through

Feedback is maybe, simply put, the rhizomatic connection of yourself to everything else

Feedback is maybe the constant overturning of the self, the constant connection that reminds you that you are within so much else, outside of, maybe nothing 

Feedback is maybe sacred, in its turning around and around

Feedback is maybe not a manifesto, but the will to comingle

Feedback is maybe a tool for oppression, and emancipation

Feedback is maybe just empty

 

As Katherine N Hayles would argue, feedback complicates the world view of the human subject as one of boundaries, sovereignty and isolation. If we think like her, that feedback loops can flow not only within the subject but also between the subject and the environment, then the base of the self is constructed as an illusion. An illusion that is maybe less than helpful. Think about the idea of being intrinsically connected to the environment, embracing all species as companion species. This is maybe the only reason that I sleep at night. The feeling that through feedback, the embrace of the self into the many looping circles of the world ensures us of at least some connection. Feedback then is perhaps the tool for dealing with loneliness.

Loneliness is that feeling that you get, when you feel cut off/severed from the affective networks of everyone else. Thinking of yourself as feedback might help this feeling. The idea that you are an assemblage of circuits immanent to yourself, but also transcendent. Both inside and outside yourself at all times. Always connected to others, to the environment, to animals.

***

On the news the other night, a reporter talked about a protest, or they talked about multiple protests. But, in particular, they talked about the root protest, the protest that somehow pertained to the protest they stood in front of as they talked the news. The protest that swept a nation, and more broadly and over a period of days, a culture, a way of life. This protest, I thought, demonstrates the emancipatory appeal of feedback. The way that things can build. One protest begins a cycle, used up, but the by-product of that protest is feed back into the other protest’s it springs. Technologies, opinions, feelings, these are all things recycled by the multiplicity that springs from the one supposedly singular occurrence. But then I thought of how even the original event was part of a broader circuit of malcontent. If the protests sweeping interstate and country are all a process of feedback from that original instance of rebellion. Then even that first event is part of a larger network of anger, sadness, misery, longing.

 

Immanence is maybe the feeling that everything is contained within everything else

Immanence is maybe being connected to your peers

Immanence is maybe the dream of transcendence

Immanence is maybe the cost we pay for being godless, adrift

Immanence is maybe the love you feel for your family, spread to the world

Immanence is maybe knowing that deep inside, you are part of a larger faction of beings, all under blue, and then darkness

Immanence is maybe trying to find the root, but realising you must contend with the garden, the rain, the clouds, the wind

Immanence is maybe turning your back, for just a moment

Immanence is maybe the realisation of your finite nature, contained within your infiniteness

Immanence is fearlessness till you hit death and after

 

The other day, I saw a picture of an old computer, one of those super computers of the 70s, now less powerful than a smart phone. These large super structures, full of archaic chips, bulky but connected, dead technology relegated to the spectacle of the past. I like looking at these machines. They represent, to me at least, the dead systems of an era. Dead systems that are still connected as immanent circuits. The machines remind me of a dead body, circuits like the blood vessels, dried up, but still connected.

Perhaps my appreciation for these machines is due to the fact that their circuits are on the outside, not the closed of white boxes of today, menacing with their smallness. These machines instead look charmingly disconnected from the weapanisation of technology, whom could these clunky machines hurt after all. They seem dried up, maybe full of wisdom, but with their backs turned to the world. Concerned with only their inside connections. Lost touch with a world that has speed by, feeling redundant, and crankily old.

The dead recipients of Moore’s laws verdict, these machines are now the domain of archaeology. I hope that once the loops, circuits and systems of contemporary technology has itself been spent. The last processes of feedback, sliding into the white noise of entropy, these machines will be looked at as towering edifices of human construction. Some diligent post civilisation scholar, will find one and wonder what it’s for. Turn it on. Maybe it will light up, be dazzled by the multiple blips and lights these large circuits emit. Declare this the height of civilisation, and toast their large machine.

*** 

Sitting alone one night, sitting under space. Feeling that darkness that pervades inside and out when confronting the cosmic. I’m reminded of the immanent pattern of becoming that pervades all things. The hard rock on which I sit, is cold, feels pervasive in its clinging fortitude. It can be hard to look into space and not feel like there is some giant other staring back. But the other is always fabrication. In the cosmic scheme of things there is no other, only interiority. 

Those stars and moons consist within a pattern that is shared by myself. To deal with a lack of transcendent destiny or fatalism, it becomes necessary to look inwards, to the laws of becoming. These laws I don’t know, can only guess, but it seems they consist of loops. Strings of connections, spread out across the sky. All interlinked to some extent to myself, sitting here, gazing upwards. In fact, sitting here, cold, exasperated with my rock, it becomes almost certain, at least in my head that these relationships viewed from afar, have a direct if distant affect on my life. This thought gives me some solidarity with the moon mystics and star fanatics whom try and divine some higher meaning from their orbit, their touching across millions of miles of space. At least this perspective allows for the feedback that spreads across systems, I’ve been told that these systems of almost pure feedback can if correctly divined offer a musical accompaniment to their slow stagger across the horizon.

  

Immanence is maybe relationships to the other, chastised into friendship 

Feedback is maybe just a relationship between three people

Immanence is maybe cold understanding mixed with warm hope

Feedback is maybe touching people touching you

Immanence is maybe a box

Feedback is maybe the filling up of that box, expressive to your desires and malcontents, waiting to overwhelm

 

In a lecture the other day, a colleague professed to the class their new crisis of capitalism. They seemed worried that every action was not some higher action, but instead contained/embedded within the landscape of consumption/production. To them this manifested in a newfound despair of buying things. Talking about feedback, they almost cried at the web of ideology that pervaded them. The class was uncomfortably amused. All at some time, probably having similar musings, taking pen to paper, trying to eradicate hierarchies of power from their life. Always however, falling back into the feedback loops of capitalism, the dark immanent connections that link you to others through the acquisition of power. In my head, because sometimes it is hard to give advice out loud. I thought of Donna Haraway, about feedback as yes, a sometimes oppressive force, but also the possibility for new technologies of thought that allowed for the decentralisation of thought, a ground swell of distributed emancipation. The feeling that through being connected to others, can also offer some relief to the often harsh individuation of capitalism.

To my colleague;

Embrace the individuated anti-capitalist subject. Except that your violence against the unchecked systems of capital is always pre-figurative, do what you can, grow systems of resistance.