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<nettime> Deleuze's Ontology as Expressed in the Global Indymedia Networ
lotu5 on Sat, 20 May 2006 12:32:30 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Deleuze's Ontology as Expressed in the Global Indymedia Network


Hey all. I just submitted this paper to EGS. I thought you might
enjoy/appreciate it. I'd love to have some feedback. Thanks.

  lotu5

//

Deleuze's Ontology as Expressed in the Global Indymedia Network
By: Michael Cardenas

Introduction: Delanda, Deleuze and Indymedia

In Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, Manuel Delanda tries to explain
Gilles Deleuze's ontology in straightforward language ?for an audience of
scientists and analytical philosophers of science? (Delanda, 7). He tries to
untangle the language of Deleuze, a writer who allowed for much play in his
language, jumping between various concepts and frequently renaming those concepts.
Still, in his writing, Gilles Deleuze developed a rich ontological framework with
which one can view the universe. This ontology is based on a rigorous mathematical
approach which Delanda explains in great depth.

In this paper I will explain a few components of Deleuze's worldview, as explained
by Delanda, using the example of Indymedia, the global Independent Media Center
movement. The global Indymedia site, describes Indymedia as ?a network of
collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and
passionate tellings of the truth.? (Independent Media Center, About Indymedia)
Within the network itself, each collective organizes itself autonomously, without
a top-down leadership, while still acting within a framework created by the Global
Indymedia Points of Unity. Throughout the paper I will refer to various texts
written by different local collectives. My intention is not to create a complete,
thorough representation of the network, which is global and very diverse, but to
use a few samples which relate strongly to ideas expressed in Deleuze's ontology.

While I realize that Deleuze's ontology serves perfectly well to explain far more
simple entities, such as a chair, it is my hope that this analysis will reveal
some interesting dynamics because of the affinity between Delanda's motivations
and those of the Indymedia network. Delanda states that one of the conclusions of
his book is that ?the very idea that there can be a set of true sentences which
give us the facts once and for all, an idea of a closed and finished world, gives
way to an open world full of divergent processes... the kind of world that would
not sit still long enough for us to take a snapshot of it and present it as the
final truth.? The Indymedia Network works to challenge the claim to objectivity,
or truth, of corporate media outlets by providing a space where people can tell
their own stories and comment on other's stories, in an ongoing process, in order
to help create social change. The processes that create this space will be further
illuminated throughout this paper.

Multiplicities not Things

Delanda explains Deleuze's how realist ontology replaces the concept of essences
with ?dynamical processes? and the ?multiplicity?. (Delanda, 5) Where many
realist traditions are based on the transcendental concept of essence, describing
for example the ideological category of ?a chair?, Deleuze replaces that
simplistic idea with the multiplicity, ?a nested set of vector fields related to
each other by symmetry-breaking bifurcations, together with the distributions of
attractors which define each of its embedded levels.? Delanda goes on to describe
the relation of this concept to group theory and its difference from categories,
which define individuals in a population a aberrations from the abstract instead
of processes, which are defined by the set of individuals they describe.

The global Indymedia network can be seen as a result of a number of social,
technological and economic processes itself: ubiquitous cheap internet access, a
tradition of media activism including newspaper propagandists and pirate radio
dj's, corporate globalization. At the same time, the Indymedia network is embodied
by a number of processes.

Indymedia defines itself as a non-hierarchical network, not as a federation,
coalition or collective. Networks are defined by communication among a disparate
set of nodes. As a network, Indymedia can itself be seen as a population of
collectives, or as a multiplicity described by the characteristics of the
collectives in the network. The Global Indymedia Points of Unity, agreed to by all
collectives in the network, state: ?The Independent Media Center Network (IMCN)
is based upon principles of equality, decentralization and local autonomy. The
IMCN is not derived from a centralized bureaucratic process, but from the
self-organization of autonomous collectives that recognize the importance in
developing a union of networks.? (Independent Media Center, Global Indymedia
Principles of Unity) As such, there is a wide degree of play across a number of
variables such as number of participants, focus on various mediums, degree of
cooperation with local communities, degree of transparency of process, openness to
differing political viewpoints, amount of finances and more. Systems with many
degrees of freedom can be seen as complex systems or dynamical processes. In
addition, although there is an official collective that approves entry into the
Indymedia network, over time some collectives fade away while others are closely
integrated with projects outside of the network, making the strict definition of
the network even harder.

Within the network, different collectives can also be seen as multiplicities, some
more so than others. In particular, Portland Indymedia defines itself as ?not a
membership organization; it is a tactic, a concept, and a movement that can be
effectively utilized in many different ways.? While some other Indymedia centers
do have official membership, many do not and are based on loose affinities and
degrees of individual participation. Unlike traditional unions or other forms of
political organization with rosters of dues paying members, Indymedia is defined
by a process of communication, affinity and participation. Delanda sums up
Deleuze's view of things as processes saying ?the alternative offered by Deleuze
is to avoid taking as given fully formed individuals, or what amounts to the same
thing, to always account for the genesis of individuals?. Further blurring the
definition of membership in Indymedia is its Open Publishing policy where anyone
can post to Indymedia websites, many people do and consider themselves part of
Indymedia. As many Indymedia sites say ?you ARE Indymedia.? (San Diego
Indymedia)

Asking The Right Questions

Open Publishing was a founding concept of Indymedia in 1999, before blogs and
myspace were commonplace. Open Publishing has been defined by people within the
Indymedia network as ?mean[ing] that the process of creating news is transparent
to the readers. They can contribute a story and see it instantly appear in the
pool of stories publicly available.? (Arnison) The actual implementations of this
vary widely and opinions on how open Open Publishing should be very widely even
within local collectives. Delanda presents Deleuze's ?problematic approach?,
saying that ?a solution always has the truth it deserves according to how well
specified the corresponding problem? and goes on to say that ?problems can
replace fundamental law statements.? (Delanda 163) While Delanda's approach
contains a high degree of rigor and describes specific mathematical models
resulting in specific physical entities and populations, one can still see a high
degree of correlation in Indymedia's approach of asking questions instead of
promoting a party line. Unlike organizations that choose a linguistic statement of
truth and promote that statement, Indymedia seeks to create a space for open
publishing, diffusion of a variety of varying ideas and debate. The network does
engage in editorial work on their sites, based on the Points of Unity which reject
hate speech, but within that framework, they seek to ask questions, not provide
answers.

The problematic approach is further exemplified by Indymedia's non-hierarchical
structure. Since the Indymedia network ?is not derived from a centralized
bureaucratic process? (Independent Media Center, Global Indymedia Principles of
Unity), there is no single set of statements that define the truth of what
Indymedia is. There are principles that collectives in the network have agreed to,
but those principles are subject to local interpretation and to change at any time
by a network wide consensus. Indymedia is defined by a set of problems it is
trying to address simply stated as corporate controlled media, not by the theories
of any individual or the policies of any bureaucracy. As Richard Day states in
Gramsci is Dead, there is ?a shift away from hegemonically-oriented 'movements',
and towards non-branded strategies and tactics such as Independent Media Center?.
(Day 9) The Indymedia network is an example of a tactic for creating change which
does not strive to promote a simple set of truths but a set of questions, an
invitation.

Time and Communication in Delanda

Moving onto Deleuze's conception of time, Delanda delves into communication
theory. While multiplicities can define populations, they still must have
invariant properties within those populations that bind them, and

?whenever we speak of the invariant properties of an entity we also need to
describe an operator, or group of operators, capable of performing rotations,
translations, projections, foldings and a variety of other transformations on that
entity.. The quasi-cause is, indeed, this operator and it is defined not by its
giving rise to multiplicities but by its capacity to affect them.?

The quasi-cause affects multiplicities and links them together. To explain the
quasi-causal operator, Deleuze and Delanda use the example of an information
channel. (Delanda 84) If one imagines the individual Indymedia collectives as
multiplicities, then the information channel between them, the broader network,
can be seen as this kind of operator linking them together. When Deleuze says
?once communication between heterogeneous series is established, all sorts of
consequences follow within the system. Something passes the borders, events
explode, phenomena flash, like thunder and lightning,? (Delanda 150) one can see
a clear parallel to the global information sharing within the network where the
stories of burning tires from the streets of Argentina or of mass border crossings
in Morocco are passed from country to country, city to city, through Indymedia.

Attractors and the Virtual

Delanda's book, in Describing Deleuze's ontology, is largely about the virtual and
its effect on the actual world. Deleuze says ?it is correct to represent a double
series of events which develop in two planes, echoing without resembling each
other: real events on the level of engendered solutions, and ideal events embedded
in the conditions of the problem?. One critical example of a virtual entity is an
attractor. ?Attractors... may be defined as special subsets of state space, that
is, as limit states? (Delanda 80) Later, in his definition of multiplicities,
Delanda states that the attractors are ?never actualized?. (Delanda 30) For
example, the policy of having Open Publishing and the Global Indymedia Principles
of Unity can be seen as being two attractors, or as being the virtual
corresponding to the actual Indymedia network. While they are stated goals,
varying collectives follow them to varying degrees, representing different states
in the system at varying distances from the stated goal or the attractor. Deleuze
states that ?The virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual... Indeed, the
virtual must be defined as strictly a part of the real object?. The attractors
that influence the trajectories of multiplicities are no less real because they
are not actualized. They are observable.

Conclusion

Any attempt at a mathematically rigorous description of a thing so large, complex
and nebulous as a social movement is bound to fail, or at best be inexact. This
difficulty is compounded by a the fluidity of a network such as Indymedia. This
paper is an attempt to describe the global Indymedia network as an entity within a
Deleuzian ontology, while showing affinity between Deleuze's approach and that of
Indymedia. Manuel Delanda's book Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy is an
attempt to construct a clear picture of Deleuze's ontology and to provide a
detailed alternative to Deleuze's explanation of the mathematical foundations of
dynamical processes. (Delanda 5) In bringing Delanda's text, which attempts to
described specific physical processes, together with the study of social movements
and media culture, there is a bit of inexactness. Nevertheless, as Delanda states,
?we philosophers must invent devices to allow us to become 'the quasi-cause of
what is produced within us, the Operator'?, and in that tradition this paper is
an attempt to explain some of the connections I saw while reading Delanda. As the
Zapatistas said in the Second Declaration of La Realidad ?We are the network, all
of us who resist.? (Graeber)

Works Cited

Arnison, Matthew. "Open publishing is the same as free software" March 2001. May
1, 2006. http://www.cat.org.au/maffew/cat/openpub.html.

Day, Richard J.F. Gramsci is Dead. London: Pluto Press, 2005.

Delanda, Manuel. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy. London: Continuum,
2002.

Graeber, David. "The New Anarchists". The New Left Review. Jan-Feb 2002. May 1,
2006. http://www.newleftreview.net/NLR24704.shtml.

Independent Media Center. "About Indymeda". Independent Media Center. May 1, 2006.
http://www.indymedia.org/en/static/about.shtml

Independent Media Center. "Global Indymedia Principles of Unity". Indymedia
Documentation Project. May 2006. May 1, 2006.
http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Global/PrinciplesOfUnity

Independent Media Center. "Indymedia FAQ". Indymedia Documentation Project. Jan
2005. May 1, 2006. http://www.indymedia.org/en/static/about.shtml

San Diego Indymedia. "About Us". San Diego Indymedia. Feb 2005. May 1, 2006.
http://sandiego.indymedia.org/en/static/aboutus.shtml



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