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<nettime> precision-landcapes of desire
Jordan Crandall on Wed, 22 Jun 2005 00:13:42 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> precision-landcapes of desire

war, desire, and the "state of readiness"
jordan crandall
(short summary of presentation for "Cinema, War, and a Society of Spectacle,"
University of Cambridge, UK, 8-9 June 2005)
My work deals with spectacle in our present-day culture of security and military
globalization. I want to contribute to the development of a new media theory, which
is able to deal with emerging forms of mobility, attention, and control, and new
patterns of locationing.
By "spectacle" I want to build on Debord's theorization -- where the term not only
indicates an apparatus of optical stimulation, but a machinery of separation: an
apparatus of individuation, immobilization, and disempowerment, bound up in the
production of commodity and acquisitory desire.  My approach to spectacular culture
is through the axis of military history, which generates a complementary
perspective to that of market-oriented analyses.  For it places defense alongside
attraction, conflict alongside commodification.
>From this perspective, I want to suggest that what we are witnessing today is the
emergence of a new modality of spectacle, characterized by a potent combination of
the agonistic and the acquisitory.  It is characterized by a shift toward real time
engagements and continuous, heightened states of alertness and preparedness, in
such a way as to generate a state of extreme readiness for both conflict and
libidinous consumption.  It blends combat and commodity, and functions as a link
between war and consumerism.
At groundlevel, we can everywhere witness such a "state of readiness."  It is a
kind of proto-active state, operating at the level of both perception and
corporeality, which involves ever-smaller intervals of preparedness.  A state of
heightened attention and arousal, poised at the cusp of action. A condensation of
potential motion, in which the sensorial body is restrained, which produces an
illusory sense of movement.  A micro-accumulation at the threshold of action, which
offers, but does not deliver upon, the promise of release. 
To sketch this new modality of spectacle, and the structures of knowledge and power
that have organized its fields of attention and readiness, we could trace two
apparatuses of engagement, emerging out of the mid-century political economy of
warfare.  These are the real time tracking interface and the distributed
interactive simulation.  In taking such an archeological approach, it is important
to look at these apparatuses not only in terms of technological history, but in
terms of assumptions, beliefs, orientations, and "mind-sets" -- to understand them
as both symbolic and material, functioning at the level of language, practice, and
These apparatuses have played an important role in the development of new economies
of organization, optimization, and vigilance.  They are products of the drive to
augment and automate human capabilities; to develop new human-machine composites;
to shorten time and space intervals; and to eliminate gaps between symbol and
event.  They have contributed to an ideal of integrated control and panoptic
oversight, where reality is seen as "manageable" through the manipulation of data,
and where space is produced according to the logics of the database and the
organizational supply chain.
It is often thought that these apparatuses have contributed to the evacuation of
geographical space, overriding the vagaries of place and distance.  However, what I
want to suggest is that they have simultaneously contributed to the resurgence of
locational specificity: a precision-landscape where communication is tagged with
position, movement-flows are quantified, and new location-aware relationships are
generated among actors, objects, and spaces.  In other words, these apparatuses
have not only propelled a one-way delocalization or deterritorialization, as is
often suggested, but rather a volatile combination of the diffused and the
positioned, or the placeless and the place-coded.
The key words in this journey are: attention, agency, and arousal.  For as I
mentioned, in this emerging spectacular mechanism of conflict and desire, the
production of a "state of readiness" -- whether for conflict or acquisition -- is
key.  It is a state that operates at the level of both perception and corporeality,
where one is not only cognitively but affectively engaged. A form of alertness on
the edge of action, where the vigilant and optimized machine-body is roused and
poised to act.
In order to articulate this state, we must avoid concentrating solely on
signification and linguistic meaning, and instead rely equally on an axis of
intensity. We require materialist, rather than idealist, understandings.

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