Jordan Crandall on Thu, 16 Oct 1997 21:00:12 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> mobilization

Some critical formats for network practices 
emphasizing mobilization over visualization
(notes toward a presentation at the film+arc biennial,
Graz, November 15)
Jordan Crandall

As Serge Daney has written, the cinematic image has movement, different
kinds of movements.  But these movements could only be perceived because
people were once put into theaters, locked into place before the screen
and held in a situation of "blocked vision."  These immobile people,
held in "seat arrest" and slowly trained how to behave and SEE, became
sensitive to the mobility of the world through the mediation of the
screen, including the mobility of fictions (ahead to happier tomorrows),
bodily mobility (dance, gesture), and material and mental movements. 
They became sensitive to the technologically-fabricated illusion of
movement, but also an even more complicated movement, which might be
called the language or _grammar_ of cinema:  the jump from one element
to the next, with the underlying theory of editing that "ensured" the

Immobilized and spellbound before the screen, viewers internalize the
conditions of the representational apparatus, the behaviors that it
represents on its screen, and its grammar. (Think of the way Charlie
Chaplin internalized the jerky pace of silent movies in his walking
style, and the rapid speech patterns of early films.)  We might refer to
this as a performative corporealization, wherein technological
conditions, media norms, and represented actions are identified with,
routed through the body, and used to determine acceptable parameters of
movement, gesture, and behavior.  When enacted repeatedly, as in
routines and rituals, these "stored" movements and gestures often no
longer occupy conscious awareness:  they are performed more or less
automatically, as if the knowledge resided in a body part (e.g.
fingers), or in physical mobility itself (dancing), rather than in the
mind.  As Katherine Hayles points out, it becomes difficult to
intellectualize or change such habitualized practice:  even if one's
conscious beliefs might suggest otherwise, one is compelled to accept
that which one is repeatedly compelled to perform.  This "realm of
routine" therefore has political implications.  Bourdieu comments that
all societies wishing to make a "new man" approach the task through
processes of "deculturation" and "reculturation" focused on bodily
practices; hence, revolutionaries place great emphasis "on the seemingly
most insignificant details of dress, bearing, physical and verbal
manners," because "they entrust to [the body] in abbreviated and
practical, i.e., mnemonic, form the fundamental principles of the
arbitrary content of the culture." 

Conversely, the representation undergoes its own process of
internalization, incorporating the changing perceptual modes and
activities of its viewer, as well as the changing conditions of its
viewing environment.  It does so by harnessing routines in interactive
and analytical form.  The representation "gets to know you" by opening
itself up to realtime intervention, by connecting itself up to forms of
surveillance, and by annexing procedures of analysis - extending both
its form and its purview.  Gathering information through realtime
interfaces and demographic, sociological, or market studies, as well as
through technologies of surveillance that make forms of observation and
analysis increasingly precise, the image ENACTS statistics,
incorporating the behaviors, conditions, and norms of both its viewers
and its viewing "theater."  It performs and corporealizes itself by
reading its lines off the audience.  It then helps to produce, modify,
monitor, and mobilize that audience.  In Bruno Latour's terms, the more
representations are able to mobilize and align elements in a network of
heterogeneous allies the more they BECOME, the more they "act." (In
advertising, the more they "have legs.")  The image, then, increases its
"acting power" to the extent that it annexes routines, which are
translated into useful patterns and profiles that can be sorted
according to flexible conditions and needs.  A matrix of information
flow is determined in which bodies are mobilized, oriented, and

This matrix of routine -- where each "side" internalizes the represented
behaviors and conditions of the other -- is one in which viewers and
representations perform and corporealize themselves in response to what
they "see" and "know" through technological mediations, whether in the
form of technologies of visualization or of analysis.  Each wants to see
and know more about the patterns of the other, and then to see and know
more deeply, and from more angles.  We don't mind giving up some of our
privacy in exchange for more knowledge, safety, and convenience. 
We feel better knowing that we are watched and that we can reach out and
see, touch, and monitor someone from afar.  Ideologies of interactivity
and "better living through technology" have already cleared the road for
this condition of surveillance.  Both visualization and analysis operate
"better," more "accurately," and more "safely" through surveillance
means.  Outside of the surveilled lurks the unruly, the undependable,
the dangerous, the inconvenient. Extending vision in a user-friendly,
safe and convenient manner, surveillance increasingly provides the
formats and conditions for perception itself. 

Let's replace the metaphor of the cinema with that of the rehearsal
studio, the screen by a mirror.  A recent New York Stock Exchange ad
indicates that its surveillance systems "are scrutinizing more than
385,000 transactions a day to ensure investors everywhere a fair
marketplace." Promising safety, civility, and convenience, surveillance
systems offer rich, sortable data derived from actual proceedings rather
than speculations, therefore seeming to be more trustworthy.  Fed into
various formats of compilation and analysis, they seem to allow
processed numbers to surface unscathed from interpretive biasing, just
as they seem to allow safe, harm-free passage through "dangerous" urban
streets and public places.  Surveillance-derived data is used to
generate safe and reliable maneuvers through such perilous informational
or urban flows.  It provides a conduit between registered behavior and
projected behavior; between past and immediate future; between the
statistic, the social group, and the embodied consumer.  Recording the
routines of a subject and routing them through analytical procedures and
formats, it seeks to re-mobilize that subject along a continued,
redirected, safe, reliable, "improved" path.  Reading up the NYSE ad, we
can trace one of these paths as it flows outward from the NYSE through
three companies and into a little girl's heart, ending in a lyrical
ballet twirl.  A surveilled flow runs from VimpelCom in Moscow as it
expands Russia's first PCS network; to Daimler-Benz as it develops "an
electronic system that automatically steers and controls cars for their
drivers"; to Compaq Computer Corporation as it ships its 34,000,000th
personal computer; and finally to St. Jude Medical as it embeds its
"world's smallest pacemaker" within a 6-year old girl as she is poised
to be mobilized about the rehearsal studio.  

Routines generate potential and enacted cycles of both corporeality and
representation.  They consist of the impulse to action-sequence as well
as the trace of performed action-sequence. Embodied and encoded routines
contest and cohere in performative corporealizations.  Enacted
repeatedly, movements and gestures are "stored," performed more or less
automatically, as if the knowledge resided not in the mind but in
physical mobility itself.  The girl is in preparation the synchronized
routines of the ballet recital.  She is learning the moves, watching
herself go through them in the mirrored projection.  She is also
standing poised for the camera, her body held just so, in order to
embody advertising's learned routines -- for both the agency and the
girl ultimately have to perform for their client, the NYSE. The ad must
perform for the viewer, and the viewer compelled to perform for the ad.
As the little girl gazes at herself in the mirror, the viewer gazes at
this ad in a magazine. A complex dance ensues as these situations
crosscut and hybridize, or overlay in dense stratifications. These
mirrors do not reflect in the usual sense: they are part of flows that
displace reflection as any kind of figure for identity-formation.

The little girl has no meaning other than as a convenient, sentimental
stand-in for the numbers, humanizing and decorating the statistical and
monetary flows of the NYSE with lyrical pirouettes.  Ultimately, we want
to be assured that there is flesh at the end of its vectors, and here we
are offered something in the way of proof.  The vectors locate a body
whose life they have literally saved.  Baptized by the flow, the subject
now performs for it within the representational hall of mirrors - or
rather, its hall of formats.

This friendly, monitored matrix of routine is embroiled in what might be
called "police practice." Building on Jacques Rancière, I take this term
to indicate the categorization and management of social groups and
functions according to these demographic, sociological, or market
analyses, along with the development and implementation of techniques
for insuring precision and effectiveness.  Again, these involve
inventive forms of information-gathering as surveillance, the necessity
for which is insured through the production of un-surveilled reality as
dangerous, unpredictable, uncivil, unclean, or unsafe. On the other
hand, police practice involves self-policing, as individuals and groups
define themselves through the conditions and categories enabled or
provided by the formats. In either case, ensembles of groups are figured
with calculable interests and opinions.  The social body is seen in
terms of manageable statistics and functions, which the actors dutifully

Politics begins when the subject that enters into the surveilled field
of view no longer aligns with the political subject as enacted in
practice.  The analysis does not account for this unrepresented
subject.  It no longer matches up.  What we have is an "a/counting" - an
identity-by-the-numbers that cannot account for "gaps,"
cross-categorical articulations, intersubjective coherencies. 

In our discourses we privilege fragmentation, destabilization,
connectivity, and mutability, but when we subsume all to flux and
processual flow we further the flexibilizations demanded by the economic
forces. Across fields of mobilization the social actor  is destabilized,
dispersed, and paced, strengthening globalized regimes of flexible
accumulation while rendering the development of political agency and
cohesive group action increasingly difficult.  The job of political
practice is to ventriloquize these agencies into the field.  These
agencies are neither interactive and authorless nor are they
essentialized:  they are forms of hybrid group articulation and action
that can span the provisional mobilizations and flexible agents
("floaters") wrought by economic forces.  The various subject positions
that one inhabits in hybrid corporeal and telecommunicational
environments, for example, must be articulated in provisional
unifications in order to generate political agency and prompt cohesive
social action.  Such political practice calls for the development of
nonessentialized, provisional coherencies. 

The smooth, policed matrix of routine with its clean, safe surveilled
flows erupts into a field of enormous struggles.  These are "invisible"
struggles for the terms of communication, materialization, and
"mattering." Since we not want to fall into the trap of privileging the
visual, but instead to emphasize the routined as defined here, we can
position, alongside Virilio's "logistics of perception," a LOGISTICS OF
ROUTINE.  The "ground" of this logistics would not be visualization but

We require a new metaphor to replace that of the cinematic theater - a
methaphor that begins to de-emphasize the visual field and instead
emphasize procedures of mobilization.  The metaphor we use is that of
the "vehicle." 

Consider the Vehicle Information and Communication System (VICS) already
in operation in Japan.  Supported by the Japanese government and
numerous companies, it utilizes a computer linked to the GPS satellite
system developed by the Pentagon to precisely locate the position of a
car.  It displays the car's position on a dashboard LCD panel, where it
appears as a mobile dot on the city maps.  It indicates traffic jams and
congested roads, suggests alternate routes, and estimates travel times. 
Daimler-Benz and other organizations are developing more sophisticated
two-way systems that allow users to request more customized information,
such as the latest travel updates, weather, fishing reports, airline
information, restaurant locations, and schedules of events. As mentioned
in the NYSE ad, Daimler-Benz has even larger plans -- an electronic
system that automatically steers and controls cars for their drivers. 
Ensconced in a mobile bubble, safely removed from the messy, unreliable
world outside, surveillance offers a condition of protection as the
vehicle moves one through a landscape, whether in a corporeal or virtual
sense.  The viewer-navigator internalizes the routines of the image
through the agency of a vehicle and is trained to "drive" as such.  The
image - a frame within the "globalized cinema" of interconnecting visual
media - internalizes routines of the viewer-navigator through the
monitoring agency of a vehicle.  The image, in strengthening its
analytical matrix, "learns" what the driver does, how it moves, what it
wants, down to the smallest increments, eventually the tiniest eye
flickers, the tiniest vacillations of desire.  Armed with this
knowledge, the vehicle mobilizes or "transports" an occupant through a
landscape and normalizes this procedure. As one ceases to rely on the
non-monitored and non-processed reality "outside," the vehicle
"protects" the occupant from the dangers of this unsurveilled reality,
which always lies just beyond the vehicle's enclosure.  

This sense of enclosure need not be material, but can be induced through
insertion or implantation.  Think of the remote control device, the
wireless communicator, or the augmented reality headgear as part of
vehicular apparatus.  This protective enclosure, a "bubble" of
subjectivity, becomes the condition for presence itself - defining (and
resolving) an "in here" versus an "out there," a HERE against a THERE,
or a NOW against a LATER, between which its occupant is physically,
mentally, or virtually transported.  It resolves disparities between the
small and the colossal and allows for the incorporation of other times
and places within the here-and-now.  It is a figure for a condition of
protected intimacy cast against a larger condition of the urban.  It
helps to define the contours of the body that in/habits its confines. 
The vehicle is a figure for technologically-mediated mobilization, as it
encapsulates the body in a bubble of immediacy and shuttles it about. 

The vehicle engages a capacity or sensitivity to the mobilities of the
world, transports, and prompts materializations. Its function is to
simultaneously hold and mobilize the subject, reorienting it through a
complex of interlocking mechanisms that participate in producing bodily
faculties and awarenesses. It endeavors to produce an adequate occupant.
It fits a subject with molded parts and arrays of components, which
define parameters of movement through a performative corporealization of
increasing precision and effectiveness.  But it is also produced through
embodied practices, and its components bear the impressions of the
routined use-patterns that inform them. It's where technology rises up
to meet the body and the body pushes back, the surface in between molded
by this interaction, the tension painted over in the guise of choice,
comfort, convenience.  Acclimating subject and representation within a
technology of transport, it is a routined network of co-determining
currents, cycles, codes, and channels, many of which, as we have seen,
operate "below" perception.  

In contrast to the cinematic theater with which we began, we now have a
complex, monitored space comprised of overlapping and competing
vehicularizations, enmeshed in procedures of mobilization. The matrix of
routine is infused with complex nets of materializing impulses.

The vehicle operates through consolidation and dispersion.  Consider a
recent ad for Tivoli enterprise systems management software, which
"gives you the power to manage all your systems, networks, and
applications from a central point."  We are invited to imagine our
"whole company as responsive as a high-performance automobile."  Tivoli
promotes a "single-point control" that works across diverse platforms,
giving one "The Power to Manage. Anything. Anywhere."  On the other
hand, consider the proliferation of wireless technologies and mobile
computing platforms, which disperse the central point view.  Vehicles
scatter into arrays of mobile peripherals to the tune of market-driven
discourses of "ubiquitous computing," which promise us that even the
most insignificant of objects, like one's toaster, will soon be wired
into the net.  Consider this scenario from the New York Times Magazine: 
called "Life as We'll Know It," the article displays a catalogue of
household items being developed by graduate students and professors at
M.I.T.'s Media Laboratory, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and
Laboratory for Computer Science.  "The technology that keeps our homes
and offices running smoothly will look very different in the future -
that is, when it's visible at all" the ad reads.  "Much of this
technology is already in place; the rest will come from giant but
anticipatable leaps forward in automation, miniaturization, virtual
touch, voice recognition, and other refinements of digital wizardry." 
Running late but can't find your keys?  The "Intelligent Room" -
outfitted with monitors, video cameras, microphones, speech recognition
and 30 software agents - will tell you where they are.  If you lay down
to take a nap, it will dim the lights and close the blinds.  "The
Intelligent Room even learns your behavior":  it will keep up with your
changing tastes in television programming, for example.  Such friendly
surveillance will no doubt also keep you and your home safe -- a cocoon
protected from the increasingly dangerous world outside.  Other features
are embedded chips in such objects as coffee cups; ubiquitous, even
wearable computing; online custom tailors; smart toys; and new shopping
mechanisms such as the "Phantom Haptic Interface" -- a "freely rotating,
thimblelike object attached to your computer, [which] allows you to feel
the contours and texture of the merchandise."  What I would like to
emphasize are the gestures and movements illustrated in this image,
embroiled in unseen struggles and procedures.  What better illustration
of the logistics of routine that this peculiar rehearsal studio?  A
woman gazes and gestures toward nothing in particular, the screen having
vanished.  The visual and perceptual are "outflanked" in favor of the
signal conduit and its frequencies, beats, and rhythms, which do not
necessarily translate into external visual codes. None of these objects
operate in a traditionally representational sense but through other ways
of behavioral pacing, which affect the body more like music that compels
one to "feel the beat" and move accordingly. After the implosion and/or
evacuation of the vehicle's representational field, such pacings become
powerful navigational modes, like sound devices that "see" for the
blind.  And one might as well BE blind:  the police-practiced
"Intelligent Room" does one's seeing for one.  As with the Daimler-Benz
vehicle, the body is driven and shuttled about as a conduit for the
surveilled systems. 

At the bottom of the page is the author's credit line, which gives us a
curious bit of historical information.  It says that "Elizabeth Royte
wrote about women who survived the Rwandan genocide for the Magazine in
January." Much more than the screen has disappeared in this utopic
scenario.  The unrepresentable haunts the picture. 

Returning briefly to Serge Daney:  what field has replaced that of the
cinematic screen, and what is its language, its grammar?  By focusing on
a logistics of routine I want to define an alternate realm of operations
beyond or below the visual, because the visual field is either
disappearing or becoming something of a decoy, depending how you look at
it.  It is disappearing by imploding (miniaturizing) on the way toward
direct INSERTION INTO THE BODY; or it is disappearing by expanding
outward to take over the whole of reality itself - which is the
condition of immersion. The culture industry - that vast preparatory
field for the forces of globalization - has stepped in to supply the
distance-denying ideology that immersion requires.  It celebrates the
narrowing of distances between users and computers; between geographical
locations; and between representations and places. The distance between
urban structures and images has narrowed: urban environments seem to
arise spontaneously out of representations as representations construct
urbanity.  The impulse to conflate representation and place is none
other than that of VR.  But perhaps above all the culture industry
celebrates the evacuation of the distances required for reflective
thought itself.  Who needs critical reflection when we have the
epistemology of Technology?  There is no time for reflection -- there is
NO LONGER TIME FOR THE IMAGE: as Arthur Kroker has pointed out, the
media are "too slow."  

Jameson writes that we read our subjectivity off the things outside. 
The urban is what compels one to move and to invent new forms of
movement to "keep up" with its demands.  If there is no longer time for
distance, then what is required is a stacked, dense, layered perception;
TIME ALONG THE Z-AXIS, SPATIALIZED TIME.  It involves the stacking of
temporality and the interpolation of subjectivities and movements, as
sedimented into the "multitasked" body -- a process of performative

One moves through a stack of windowings on the computer screen or
through the layered environments on the television, in complex,
overlapping social formations.  Newscasters make eye contact with the
viewer in order to generate a bubble of intimacy and trust while both
are transported through dynamic landscapes of crisis (a "transport" that
is as hybrid and contradictory as the space and social relationship that
it marks); a subject is hailed in a networked environment and compelled
to click, to "go there," moving through overlapping formations in which
its own status shifts.  Both visual and linguistic techniques are
employed as mobilizing devices, driven like wedges into speech and space
in order to catapult positions into motion, all the while smoothing over
the disparities with a seemingly unified plane, a plane that houses
flows and uniformly-formatted stacks shuffled in hierarchies of intimacy
and distance, a plane that houses colonies of actors, for whom (and in
place of whom) logos and icons stand as imploded frames, worlds, and
personae.  From one window or frame to the next, or between series of
levels within frames, or through the wormholes provided by logos and
icons, a language of travel is constituted, a language whose demands
technology and reality hastily endeavor to meet (Virilio).  It would
seem this language emerges in terms of deep overlappings and varying
degrees of "closeness" to the viewer:  a pushing-pulling visual and
semiotic mechanism that is parlayed along the z-axis, generating various
intimate or distant social relationships, between which a subject is
compelled to travel, sliding into and out of various embodied forms in
repertoires of segmentation, movement, and unification. At work are
procedures of unification and coherency, shuttled back and forth in
conceptions of destination and arrival, or better yet, a movement
between simply for the sake of mobility, a mobility equated with

These movements are instituted at the cost of new restrictions.  Such
im/mobilities exist in the context of a "still more complicated
movement" which might be called the "language" or grammar of the
post-representational.  What is it?  How is one being made fit to read
it?  How is it conversionally linked to the built environment, the

And finally, where are the gaps, the misalignments, the eruptions, the
in/coherencies, that open up possibilities for political intervention?  

One key might be found in a language comprised of "pacings." Pacings
are, in a sense, beats that are connected to embodied movements.  A
movement occurs in response to a signal, or a movement generates a
signal.  The former might involve something as simple as a clock, whose 
mobilizing impulse one needn't even see (the feeling that one is running
late); the latter involve the patterns of movement that are registered
by a surveilling device (the temporal pattern of one's keyboard strokes
or mouse clicks). 

To be aware of pacings is to be aware of the correlations between
performative corporeality and emerging technological logics.  It is to
be aware of the factors that encode and initiate mobilization. These do
not necessarily "add up" to a coherent formation, as in a traffic sign,
but involve contradictory movements and impulses, infusing the corporeal
or representational body with a multiplicity of competing vectors, which
seem to fragment it from within.  The agenda is not to cultivate and
study such fragmentations, as in certain postmodernist approaches, but
to articulate their function within new mobilizing coherencies. 

There is a third sense of pacing.  It is also something that you do to
"free" yourself of these modes and, in a sense, fluctuate between them. 
You get to your feet and move back and forth within a space.  It is as
if you were trying to walk through, ground, or embody your thinking, by
generating a physicalized beat.  By pacing, one generates a rhythm, a
beat, which informs cognition. Pacing physicalizes, contours, and
locates, but at the same time, it abstracts the boundaries and
relationships between body and space in a kind of visual delirium.  It
synchronizes and contests, identifies and distances, associates and
dissociates.  It engages oscillations within complex networks.

One final word from Serge Daney.  Daney suggests that, in contrast to
our immobility in the face of mobile images (the cinema), today we have
become very mobile in the face of images that have become more and more
immobile.  We have learned to pass by images the way that people must
have learned to pass by lighted window displays in the nineteenth
century.  Commodified images are illuminated for the benefit of a
passing public, and the mode of vision is conditioned by the shopping
stroll:  the ambulatory movement through a field of images that offer
themselves up for consumption. But why then is this image "immobile"? 
We have ever more rapidly moving images all around us, fighting for our
attention: television is a prime example.  Daney says that the image is
immobile because it has become a prefabricated shot, a ready-to-use
cliché.  The movement is no longer in the image, but in the force that
has PROGRAMMED it.  And of course television -- the triumph of
programming over product -- is but a network of clichés awash in
PROGRAMMING MOBILIZATIONS.  Perhaps this is the context in which to
consider the present-day triumph of television.

Jordan Crandall


Serge Daney, "From Movies to Moving," documenta documents 3, pp. 76-83
(english and german).

N. Katherine Hayles, "The Materiality of Informatics," in Configurations
1 (1992): 147-170.  The Bourdieu citation is Hayles's, from Pierre
Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 94.

Bruno Latour's work is described by Felix Stalder in a paper posted on
nettime, 6 September 1997, and available by request from the author at

Jacques Rancière's concept of police practice is described in "The
Political Form of Democracy," an interview with Jean-Francois Chevrier
and Sophie Wahnich, in Documenta X - the Book (Ostfildern-Ruit:
Cantz-Verlag, 1997), pp. 800-804. 

The VICS device is described in "In Japan, a New Way to Play in
Traffic," The New York Times, October 6, 1997, p. D1.

The "Intelligent Room" is presented by Elizabeth Royte in "Life As We'll
Know It," New York Times Magazine, September 28, 1997, pp. 82-93. 
Photograph by Fred R. Conrad.

For related issues of vehicularity and its connection to television see
Margaret Morse, "An Ontology of Everyday Distraction: The Freeway, the
Mall, and Television," in Kathleen Woodward, ed., Logics of Television
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), pp. 193-221.

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