NON-EUCLIDEAN BLOGGING: expanding the Euclidean space of Academia

One may wonder whether digital platforms can favour acts of enunciation, and thus of individuation, of a new and more democratic nature than traditional academia, or whether blogging can be used as an effective and inventive mode of philosophical expression. Or are such instruments condemned  by their very essence to be arbitrary, wrong-headed, and narcissistic? Can the internet afford us the sort of long circuits of reflection and explication that one can find in academic books and articles?

These questions contain a dualism that confines us in a conservative picture that blocks the ability to imagine alternative philosophical styles and practices. Passionate expression and exchange of ideas , this dualist picture seems to say, can get us motivated, let us toy with various possibilities, provide heuristic exercise of our faculties, publicise our arguments and ideas, but the real work is in the academy and expressed in the academic style.

I do not think that the time has come to abandon philosophical blogging, on the grounds that the medium is too limited to allow the sort of careful research and cautious reasoning that can only be found in academic articles. An academic article often puts up a sham appearance of argument, but contains empty erudition and illiterate caricatures of explication and argument. Further, argument is not everything in philosophy. Mood, affect, conceptual experimentation, dialogue with seemingly incommensurable alternative views also have their place.

Philosophical blogging can let you highlight what Deleuze and Guattari called the “non-philosophical” comprehension that operates in terms of percepts and affects, that provokes, accompanies, and extends conceptual comprehension, and that favours the invention of concepts. The danger is to confuse this with your own empirical non-conceptualised feelings and experiences. A blog is adapted to conceptual experimentation, allowing your thought to be a little more open, more fluid, more transversal. It can favour encounters with other thinkers.

In my case these encounters have been few and far between, but very enriching when they occur, enough to encourage me to keep on blogging despite meeting often with indifference or hostility. The other aspect that I find important is the exploring of philosophy as a way of life, a “mode of subjectivation” (Deleuze) or a “spiritual exercise” (Hadot, Foucault, Onfray), or as I prefer to call it a process of individuation (Jung, Simondon, Deleuze, and Bernard Stiegler).

We do not need less but more blogs, including by those who have dropped out, or been pushed out, of the academic Game of Thrones, even if they strive to maintain some form of presence in Academia. Such blogs can combine expression and dialogue on an intellectually demanding level.

Blogs are part of what Bernard Stiegler calls digital tertiary retentions. Stiegler maintains that it is essential to philosophise on and also by means of these tertiary retentions. They may be an event, in an empirical sense, for only a small minority for the moment. But in terms of their present and future restructuration of the field of human life, and of the functioning of the brain itself, they constitute an Event of the same importance and scope as the event of the Death of God. Further, they contain the same ambiguous toxicity: that of being able to function as a medicine for the cure of our souls and of our brains, or as a poison (producing an orgy of trashing and trolls and ego-trips and bogus concepts). The dualism of the questions we began with gives way to the ambiguity of the phenomenon and to the need to find a wqay of living with this ambiguity and of making it a stimulus to inventive endeavours.

Deleuze and Guattari remark that what is just noise or chaos in terms of the dualist grids of the cognitive-behavioral or communicational models is the mark of desire, their name for the psyche. Academic writing is regimented by the rationalist ideal, purifying out or at least camouflaging the psychological, or existential, dimension.There is too much identity and too little becoming in that style to fully satisfy our need for thought in relation to life.

Feyerabend advocates the introduction of unformatted elements into all sorts of networks, targetting the academic networks as less effective than a more naive open network, as the academic model is based on “ideal” circumstances such as complete transparency of communication.

My disappointment with blog and interblog philosophical discussion is that it tends to align itself on the academic status and the power relations between participants. So the much lauded democracy of publication made possible by the internet is hindered by the same blindness and hypocrisy and cynical manoeuvring that makes academic publishing not live up to its full potential.

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