Being and Space

Sam Kinsley, former colleague and technophilia, now at Exeter Uni, recently published ‘The Matter of “Virtual” Geography’ in Progress in Human Geography. It gives a comprehensive overview of the history of formulations of virtual spaces and realities since the heady days of the 1990s articulations of cyberspace, up to recent approaches to ideas of coded and networked spatialities. Sam perceptively mobilises Stiegler’s work including his use of Simondon and Heidegger to propose a way of describing and analysing digitally enabled spatial and temporal refigurations of contemporary existence and sociality.

I wanted to add a gloss on this mobilisation of Stiegler’s notion of technicity, as a point that seemed to me to touch on an important element in Stiegler’s critical adoption of Heidegger’s Being and Time — hence the ‘Being and Space’ title. Sam has this to say about Stiegler’s positioning of humans as always already preceded by technics in a way:

“Culture”, he writes, “can accordingly be thought of as metastable systems of retention, of exteriorized thought: ‘A new born child arrives into a world in which tertiary retention [data, images, writing and so on] both precedes and awaits it, and which, precisely, constitutes the world as world’ (Stiegler, 2010a: 9, original emphasis). The ongoing creation of shared knowledge, and thus a shared memory and history, is in large part mediated by technology (with the notable exceptions of practices of oral history and storytelling).”

Absolutely, and here Stiegler’s take on and taking from Heidegger’ notion of Dasein’s ‘throwness’ is evident. Dasein, the being for whom its being is a question, ‘falls’ into time, and encounters a facticity already there. This paradoxical futurity of what precedes Dasein in a sense programmes (though this word is evocative much more of Stiegler’s Heidegger than Heidegger) the questioning of being that characterises Dasein, along with the tension between an intratemporal business with everyday things seeking to avoid the question and an authentic encounter with it via (in Heidegger) an assuming of the heritage of the collective past as pro-genitor and horizon of Dasein’s future possibilities.

In the latter part of Technics and Time 1 Stiegler ‘deals with’ Heidegger, identifying this notion of a throwness into an already existent facticity as his major insight, while also identifying quite precisely the point in Being and Time  (at a certain moment in the famous chapter on historicality and temporality) where Heidegger turns away from the implications of this constitutive factical technicity of Dasein and towards the more problematic notion of a history of being as expressed in the community of the volk  – the community — thought separately as a spiritual continuity, somehow transcendent from a facticity now relegated to the status of intratemporal covering over of the former. For Stiegler, as Sam’s account indicates, technics is an irreducible dimension of individual and collective being and any ‘authentic’ reflection or encounter with the question of one’s being, or of being in general (in philosophy, religion, politics etc) develops on the basis of and out of conditions that are factical, that pre-exist s/he reflecting, and that also make possible the transmission and communication of that reflecting to others to come after.

One more note: the oral history and storytelling that is part of the the “ongoing creation of shared knowledge” Sam describes is also mediated technically, if not ‘technologically’ (but perhaps today few instances of mediation passes completely to one side of the pervasive electronic media milieu). Oral transmission is always part of a linguistic technicity; it is always undertaken in conjunction with certain rituals and gestures associated with the cultural event of story recital; and often these will include the production of graphics of various kinds, rupestral, sand-painting, bodily inscription and so forth. That minds retain these forms and conventions and rites testifies to the profound interdependence of organic and non-organic spatial memory supports in the maintenance and evolution of individual and cultural identity.    


Event-ization gloss

I recently posted about a symptomatic episode in the recent history of military drone R&D that involved the licensing of proprietary software developed by ESPN for its media coverage of American football (cited in Chamayou’s Theorie du drone) . I referred to Stiegler’s notion of ‘event-ization’ (événementialisation) there rather breezily, a term which deserves some further unpacking to explore its relevance to these developments in which a media coverage software system is being deployed in a different context. So, here goes…

I took the term from Technics and Time 2: Disorientation, where it is discussed in ch 3 on the ‘industrialization of memory’ (cf p. 100, and p. 115ff). It resembles similar formulations (Derrida, Virilio, Baudrillard, McLuhan, come immediately to mind) concerning the way that mass, industrial technological mediation has affected the production of ‘historical reality’ through both the speed of electronic transmission of events and, secondly, the extent to which many events are ‘co-produced’ to be media at the same time as they are ‘events’ covered by media. In terms of the first aspect, the collapse of the delay between the event and its mediated reproduction as ‘story’, report, analysis and record is what characterises the industrial, electronic media’s impact on the production of experience. The reduction of the delay between event and its representation and interpretation in some kind of media (oral account, print, newsreel, radio and tv news, to blogging, live coverage and tweets) challenges thought to comprehend the event as something that can be placed in an individual’s or collective’s memory in a way that enables it to contribute to the understanding of reality, and the evolution of one’s historical/cultural identity. Instead, events seem to appear today as already consigned a significance and an impact via their immediate processing in and as a composed, selectively synthesized mediated transmission. Stiegler calls this a ‘short-circuiting’ of the ‘transindividuation’ that otherwise passes (in longer circuits) between individuals in the collective negotiation of significance, value, identity etc.

In terms of the latter aspect of co-production of event/media coverage, sporting events assume something of an exemplary status inasmuch as those pro-sports that are heavily mediated become thoroughly permeated (in terms of rules, scheduling, ‘monetisation’ of talent, merchandising, audience, player and fan culture, etc) by commercial media logics and prerogatives. But also, since Walter Benjamin’s acute analysis of the fascist aestheticization of politics, the mediatization of parliamentary and presidential democratic politics has increasingly imposed itself as a question and a crisis of ‘liberal democracy’. And so it goes for much of social and cultural ‘experience’ which today is subject to ever-increasing and ever more pervasive industrial mediation.

What makes Stiegler’s account of event-ization different is his characterization of this media-overlapping and preemption of experience (here I would refer you to my book Gameplay Mode which develops this theme of pre-emption) as a singular transformation of what is the very basis of human spatio-temporal experience in the production and interpretation of exterior memory supports. In Stieger’s view spatiotemporality is historically and culturally conditioned, which is also to say, technically conditioned. It is always already a technically mediated (from flint stone to cave or sand graphics to play, book, radio, video to computer) processing of an always already exteriorised memory–exterior forms being co-constitutive of what we like to understand is our species specific interior consciousness.

Let me say 2 things then about how ‘eventization’ which is about mainstream media’s impact on lived culture/experience relates here to the military adoption of a mainstream media programming of sporting eventfulness. 1. The ‘audience’ is initially here restricted to the military drone operator/command and personnel and those reviewing it in the field or higher up in the military-political complex (even if these videos and ones simulating them also populate video-sharing sites; something which certainly needs to be addressed as a further aspect of the transformation of eventfulness, that is of historical reality and the production of its political significance…but not for this post…). So this eventization may not be the production of war as media in any general, propagandistic manner initially, but it is about accumulating ‘audience credit’ for what is a major military-industrial business. Drones in operation are always also part of what are major R&D cycles of testing and improvement, maximising the enormous capitalization advantages provided by the government investment in these automatic weapons systems. ‘Audience credit’ is what Stiegler identifies as the lynchpin of contemporary commercial eventization; securing attention and belief of the minds of consumers (and in this case innovators and tech speculators) is at the heart of the unprecedented and problematic domination of the mediation of eventfulness by capitalist (and here militaro-corporate) interests today in Stiegler’s analysis. (We should add without developing this further here that this also has routes into major military-entertainment leverage potential in virtual entertainments of all kinds–to go with the military-entertainment dimensions of the drone developments in general.)

2. What Stiegler characterizes as the ‘forceful recounting’ of the event in contemporary electronic, realtime eventization–by which events are forcefully produced according to the logics of audience capture/management noted above–takes on a particular sense with drone eventizing of the overflown territory. And this is one which insists with lethal force on its pre-interpretation of human activity subject to surveillance and action as counter-insurgent/counter-terrorist instance. This has effects on the lives not only of those targeted–and this is not even to get into the hotly contested arguments about the numbers of ‘civilian’ vs ‘insurgent’ or ‘terrorist’ casualties– but operates as a powerful determinant of the experience of living under the permanent and would-be ubiquitous surveillance that requires the mobilization of such an eventization software package so well suited to the pro football arena. The ‘experiential costs’ of the thoroughgoing mediatization of the ‘arena’ are more difficult to quantify but no less significant for people who must live with the forceful eventizing of their existence as one coming within ‘insurgent’ or terrorist inhabited battle arena. See for instance, this story publicising a recent visit to the US congress by civilian victims of a drone strike in Pakistan sponsored by politicians sympathetic to human rights initiatives against drone use.

Accustomisation to Lethal Autonomous Robots

To get a sense of how the development of autonomously acting robot weapon systems is becoming an established notion in the U.S. and allied military-political-media contexts, take a look at freelance journalist/former Pentagon staffer Joshua Foust’s article in the National Journal last week: ‘Soon, Drones May Be Able to Make Lethal Decisions on Their Own’. In fact the article argues that this is not going to that soon at all, but is rather discussing how LAR’s (Lethal Autonomous Robots) would solve some problems while creating others for military planners and political leaders. The headline performs the principal task of introducing a coming technological development; this is the key bit of ‘news’: something new is coming down the pipeline and we need to have a think about what to do with it. Deploying LARs may be the best means of preventing the hacking of drones, suggests former intelligence analyst and Defense One writer, Foust, by reducing the communications avenues into the robotic system. But the complexity of ‘asymmetrical conflicts’ is a formidable challenge to their successful deployment, ‘political issues aside’. Syria is just too complicated for drones or even human warfighters to figure out, according to one military academic cited. But, the reader assumes, they’re working on it, and soon the decision-making gap will be narrowed between these two military assets.

Drones, sport and ‘eventization’

This post is to start some ideas circulating from work I am increasingly becoming preoccupied with concerning military robotics and AI, as a particular (and also particularly important, in many ways) case of automatizing technologies emerging today. This is a big topic attracting an increasing amount of critical attention, notably from people like Derek Gregory (whose Geographical Imaginations blog is a treasure trove of insights, lines of inquiry and links on much of the work going on round this topic), and Lucy Suchman who is part of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control and brings a critical STS perspective to drones and robotics on her Robot Futures blog.


I’m reading French CNRS researcher Gregoire Chamayou’s Théorie du drone, a book which has made a powerful start on the task of philosophically (as he has it) interrogating the introduction of these new weapons systems which are transforming the conduct, conceptualisation and horizon of war, politics and the technocultural global future today. Many riches in there, but I just read (p. 61) that the U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, looking for ways to deal with the oceans of video data collected by drones constantly overflying territory with unblinking eyes, obtaianed a version of software developed by ESPN and used in their coverage of American football. The software provides for the selection and indexing of clips from the multiple camera coverage of football games to enable their rapid recall and use in the analysis of plays which (as anyone who watches NFL or College football coverage knows takes up much more time than the play itself in any given broadcast). The software is able to archive footage (from the current or previous games) in a manner that makes it immediately available to the program director in compiling material for comparative analysis, illustration of player performance or tactical/strategic traits of a team, etc. The player and the key play can be systematically broken down, tracked in time, identified as exceptional or part of a broader play style, and so forth.

These capacities are precisely what makes the software desirable to the US Air Force inasmuch as the strategic development of drone operations deals with effectively the same analytical problem: the player and the key play, the insurgent/terrorist and the key act (IED, ambush, etc).  The masses of video surveillance of the vast ‘gridded’ space of battlespace, a vast ‘arena’ similarly zoned in precisely measurable slices (but in 3D) must be selectable, taggable and recoverable in such a way to be usable in the review of drone operations. And the logic (or logistic as Virilio would immediately gloss it) of this treatment of ‘battlespace’ is realised in what has recently emerged unofficially from the Obama administration-Pentagon interface as the emerging strategic deployment of drones by the CIA (which runs a significant and un-reported proportion of drone operations globally). This targeting strategy is based precisely on pattern analysis both in tracking known suspected enemies of the state and in identifying what are called ‘signature targets’ (the signature referring to a ‘data signature’ of otherwise unidentified individuals, one that matches the movements and associations of a known insurgent/terrorist — see Gregory’s post on this in Geographic Imaginations ).

The ethical and juridical-political dimensions of this strategy are coming under increasing and much-needed scrutiny (more to come on this). As a media/games theorist, the striking thing about this felicitous mutuality of affordances between pro sport mediatisation technics and those in development for the conduct of drone operations is the reorientation to space it not only metaphorically suggests (war, become game now steering the metaphoric vehicle back in the other direction) but enacts through an ‘eventization’ (Stiegler) operating in the very constitution of the ‘event’ of war or counter-insurgency (or what James Der Derian called ‘post war warring’) . While there are many complicit actors benefiting from the profitable mediatized evolution of American football into a protracted, advertising friendly broadcast, no such ‘partnership’ exists between key players ‘on the ground’ and those re-processing their data trails.

Memory and Space


Some interesting reflections on Stiegler’s theorisation of event, as process, in the ‘Industrialisation of Memory’ chapter of T&T2. In particular, this post usefully points to the (almost?) un-discussed Virilio-inspired similarities between Stiegler’s ‘collapse of distance’ between the input and reception of an event and David Harvey’s ‘time-space compression’. This also happens to be something I’m currently thinking about for a paper…

Originally posted on The Semaphore Line:


Over the last week or so I’ve returned to reading some Stiegler, after a break of maybe 6 months, as a result of editing a book chapter. I’ve used him as a key reference point to talk about human access to and cognition of an event. I’ve argued that social media works to construct the nature of a protest event – and have claimed that differently bundled accounts of an event bring individualizing conclusions. For example, that each account of an incident brings a different ‘spin’, which when brought together on a media platform moulds unique perceptions of the event. The nuances in language between accounts is telling of this ‘spin’ – some are detailed, some are satirical, some are instructive, some are rote.

I’ve also said that social media has brought a new orientation to events too. I’ve played on the spatial dynamic of Stiegler’s use of the term…

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Living books about life, Open Humanities Press

A year on from the publication of the ‘Paying Attention‘ theme issue of Culture Machine, the excellent Open Humanities Press published journal, I’ve been poking around the various linked websites and stumbled on the Living books about life site, which is really interesting.

The JISC-funded, OHP published website offers 24 open access ‘living books’, curated by a range of innovative scholars to ‘bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences’:

All the books in the series are themselves ‘living’, in the sense that they are open to ongoing collaborative processes of writing, editing, updating, remixing and commenting by readers. As well as repackaging open access science research — along with interactive maps, visualisations, podcasts and audio-visual material — into a series of books, Living Books About Life is thus engaged in rethinking ‘the book’ itself as a living, collaborative endeavour in the age of open science, open education, open data and e-book readers such as Kindle and the iPad.

In the series there’s a Bioethics™ book, curated by Joanna Zylinska, with a range of open access readings thematically organised, ‘biomanufacturing and biopatenting’ for example, as well as some artistic reflections in video and text form. There are also living books curated by David Berry on ‘Life in code and software‘, Steven Shaviro on ‘Cognition and decision‘ and Claire Colebrook on ‘Extinction‘. There’s lots to explore and I would encourage people to take a look… perhaps there should be one on ‘attention’?!

Translation – “Is not all creation a transgression?” – Gilbert Simondon Interview (1983) “Save the Technical Object”


Andrew Iliadis has translated a really interesting interview with Simondon from 1983, originally in the magazine Esprit. Simondon covers creativity, novelty, alienation (in technics as the originary relation of the human-technical) and invention:
“Technics are never completely and forever in the past. They contain a power that is schematic, inalienable, and that deserves to be conserved and preserved.”

Originally posted on philosophy of information & communication:



Interview with Gilbert Simondon

Translated by Andrew Iliadis

The following is an English translation of a 1983 interview that Simondon gave to the French magazine Esprit (Esprit 76:147-52. 04/1983).

[Simondon makes references to a variety of individuals here, including Ducrocq, Maxwell, DuMont, Illich, Stephenson, and Faraday. Albert Ducrocq was a French scientist and writer who specialized in robotics. James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish theoretical physicist. Allen B. DuMont was an American scientist and inventor specializing in cathode ray tubes. Ivan Illich was an Austrian philosopher. Robert Stephenson was an English civil engineer specializing in locomotive and railway engineering. Michael Faraday was an English scientist specializing in electromagnetism and electrochemistry.]

Anita Kechickian: In 1958 you wrote about alienation produced by non-knowledge of the technical object. Do you always have this in mind as you continue your research?

Gilbert Simondon: Yes, but I amplify it by…

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Biography of Gilbert Simondon

[Reposted from my personal blog]

Jussi Parikka has highlighted the translation of a biography of the philosopher Gilbert Simondon [the original was written by Nathalie Simondon], who was a key influence, of course, on the work of Bernard Stiegler and also Gilles Deleuze. In his post, Parikka highlights the hands-on nature of Simondon’s practice – the fact that he built a television in the basement of his school – and the resonances with Friedrich Kittler’s building of a synthesiser. This is also a link, as Phillipe Petit highlights in his introduction to the book of interviews Économie de l’hypermatériel et psychopouvoir, with Bernard Stiegler, whose father worked for Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, the French national broadcaster between 1939-64, and built their first TV. Parikka picks out the neologism of ‘thinkerer’ (commingling ‘tinkerer’ and ‘thinker’) coined by Erkki Huhtamo to describe Simondon, a term that might also be applied to Stiegler for his various means of practising philosophy.

The biography demonstrates what an extraordinary, and, sadly, relatively short, career Simondon had, including a fairly meteoric rise from teaching at a lycée in Tours (1953-55) to being appointed Chair of Psychology B at the Sorbonne (1965). Simondon worked with Barchelard and Hyppolite, as a postgraduate, and his thesis was examined by Jean Hyppolite, Raymond Aron, Georges Canguilhem, Paul Ricoeur and Paul Fraisse. Quite something!

The biography also includes very interesting quotes from letters to Bachelard and Hyppolite as well as fantastic summaries of Simondon’s key works. The experimental spirit of Simondon’s work is strongly evoked throughout, with a clear commitment to a collaborative methodology (across and between science and philosophy):

[He] chose a path of reflection where philosophy might inform science. Such collaboration between science and philosophy, he wrote in 1954 to his future supervisor [Hyppolite], must be carried out not in the results, which would be “an invasion of thought by unworthy followers, as shown in scientistic time,” but in the method: “At the level of method, science is never a feudal lord ruling over a vassal philosophy; rather, it is a relation between the spontaneous and the reflective. The spontaneous governs the reflective, as in scientism, only when the reflective activity is not contemporaneous with the spontaneous activity.”

The biography makes for essential reading for those interested not only in the philosophy of technology and technics, but also for those with a broader interest in the history of ideas, in particular related to the development of what we call continental philosophy.

Memory programmes: the retention of mediated life

Following on from Patrick’s post, I thought I’d also put up a post concerning the Conditions of Mediation conference held at Birkbeck on the 17th of June 2013. I thought the conference was an excellent, if very condensed, occasion for a variety of people interested in media theory, philosophies of/for media and in particular phenomenological understandings of mediation.

There was a series of interesting, and rather diverse, keynotes, including Graham Harman, Sean Moores and Lisa Parks and two slots of parallel paper sessions. I was pleased to be able to give a paper as part of this really interesting event, in the ‘Technics, Interface and Infrastructure’ paper session.

I spoke in the same session as James Ash, who presented a great paper synthesising a reading of Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology, optics to interrogate understandings of ‘interface’. I was also hoping to speak alongside Patrick, because our papers compliment one another as a kind of meditation on Bernard Stiegler’s reading of Husserl in relation to understandings of the perception of time and the processes of memory. Patrick has posted his excellent paper here on this blog.

For those interested, I have reposted below, from my own blog, a slightly cleaned up, and referenced(!), version of my paper. Continue reading

‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’: A Brief Note on Stiegler’s Post-phenomenological Account of Mediated Experience

I’m posting my 1500 wd paper from the recent Conditions of Mediation preconference of the London ICA (2013).


‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’:

A Brief Note on Stiegler’s Post-phenomenological Account of Mediated Experience,


‘Conditions of Mediation’ (Birkbeck College, 17 June 2013)

Patrick Crogan

There is limited possibility of giving a satisfactory account of the key elements of Stiegler’s account of cinema, an account which develops a post-phenomenological modification of Husserl’s propositions concerning internal time consciousness. [People could consult the latest issue of New Formations for accounts, including my own, which provide adequate summations of this]. Instead, I offer here this short commentary on a section from Technics and Time 2’s final chapter, ‘Temporal Object and Retentional Finitude’ in which Stiegler engages in a lengthy meditation on Husserl’s account of primary and secondary retention—a meditation which forms the platform for Stiegler’s subsequent account of cinema and cinematic consciousness in Technics and Time 3. This section—whose title ‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’ also emboldens me to offer an audiovisual ‘channel’ to the 15 minutes of re-temporalising spatial artefacts available to me—discusses Husserl’s efforts to diagrammatically represent his account of the relation between the continuously passing present of consciousness and its retention of the past present moments in an extended present of perception. I think (I hope) that the combination of these two re-temporalisations—of text and video—does indeed look sideways not only toward the issues raised in my abstract, but to the very conditions of mediation in which ‘we’ here find ourselves, today, at Birkbeck College, the home of our kind hosts, and the crossing point today of its rich scholarly heritage with the latest technocultural tendencies traversing what Stiegler has called the ‘pharmacological’ conditions of the globalisation of scholarship.

‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’: on Diagrams, figures and motion.

The diagrams:

Husserl's Time diagrams

These diagrams are offered by Husserl in the Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness to illustrate his propositions concerning the relations between the impressional consciousness of or at each present moment and what is retained of (and in) the continuity of perceptions. They attempt to represent Husserl’s account of the relation between the continuously passing present of consciousness and its retention of past present moments. Husserl’s chief example for this is how consciousness constitutes a song or melody as a discrete temporal object: consciousness operates a process of ‘primary retention’ most evident when considering the consciousness of phenomena like a melody or song which take time to be constituted as a discrete object of perception—this is what he terms a ‘temporal object’. This primary retention is different from the memory of a song that is recalled to consciousness after having been heard (‘secondary retention’). Indeed it is primary retention that makes possible the very constitution of such unitary phenomena from out of the permanent flux of the consciousness of time as continuous flowing of momentary perceptions. Through primary retention, each moment of the hearing of the song—which Husserl characterises as each note of the melody, a reduction in Stiegler’s view of a much more com-plex phenomenality which reduction is already symptomatic of the limitations of Husserl’s nonetheless important ‘discovery’ of primary retention—each moment of this hearing is retained in modified form across the duration of the song, the retained moments accumulating in a developing sense of and anticipation (or ‘protention’) of its eventual constitution as a complete(d) object of consciousness.

As other commentators have noted (Paul Ricoeur , David L Thompson), these diagrams have tended to raise more questions than they have answered. Stiegler, citing Ricoeur, locates the fundamental problem with them in the impossibility of these spatial forms to adequately represent a ‘recurrence that does not only operate within the limits of graphic figuration’ (TT2, 214).

Even in their necessary, inevitable failure, however—and this is to prefigure my conclusion—and just as I and we all inevitably fail today to properly circumscribe and account for the ‘conditions of mediation’ on the basis of our texts, powerpoints and videoclips, these diagrams opened up the possibility of what Husserl in ‘The Origin of Geometry’ called Rückfrage, the ‘further inquiry’, the critical reconsideration via collective “consultation” (Stiegler calls this ‘reactivation’), from which other figurings of time have developed, including Stiegler’s own. Stiegler for his part acknowledges the singular contribution made to the thinking of the experience of time by Husserl’s positing of the ‘longitudinal intentionality’ of primary retention in its difference from the secondary retention of past perceptions.

What, then, is this ‘recurrence’ Ricoeur and Stiegler argue ‘does not only operate within the limits of graphic figuration’? These limits are spatial and this is what is meant by Ricoeur; that the diagram cannot represent the temporal character of the fundamental conception of ‘retention’ elaborated in Husserl’s analysis of the way consciousness composes a temporal object in the course of its longitudinal intentioned perception of a phenomena. (For Ricoeur, the diagram does not figure retention in its specific figuration of the relations between the continuous flow of the present moments of intentional conscious perception (A-E) and the descent of these into the ever-deepening depth of consciousness’ archive of experience along the diagonal line A-A’ – for Ricoeur retention has to be understood as what is indicated by the combination of the three lines A – E, A – A’, and E – A’. But this is in effect to state that retention is everywhere but nowhere in the diagram, and must be inferred in a kind of scanning look that ‘animates’ the static simultaneity of the relation between the lines of the descent, the continuation and the return of ‘nows’.

But even this retemporalizing is not adequate to the most complex thought of the dynamic modification primary retention enacts in its process of both reducing and maintaining the ‘just-past nows’ within the bounds of the temporal object ‘under construction’. Inadequate but inevitable (‘essential’ even) retemporalizing: this is how Stiegler understands the process and power of what he calls mnemotechnical artefactuality, such as writings, notes, diagrams, graphics, statues, monuments, but also photos, films, video files

[START VIDEO GoPro Aikido ]:

Of writing, for instance, Stiegler says ‘when a reader reads a text, the spatial object is thereby re-temporalized. Reading is the transformation of space back into the time of reading’ (‘Organology of Dreams’). Exceeding the reach of his diagrams, Husserl’s written characterisation of the ongoing dynamic of primary retention approaches in Stiegler’s view the crucial theme of heritage that his student Heidegger will later seize upon, but in error (with disastrous consequences; but that is for another 15 minutes). This theme is nonetheless at the heart of the issue of the human experience of/in time as necessarily and artefactually, technically, inherited. Husserl, Stiegler says, ‘speaks of heritage, but cannot think it’ (214).

In short, (as time is short) there is a contradiction between Husserl’s account of the dynamic, janus-faced retentional/protentional process and his ambition to separate primary from secondary retention, that is, perception from the workings of memory and imagination upon our experience of exterior phenomena.* Husserl seeks to ground phenomenology’s study of the objects of intentional consciousness as ‘original’, untainted by subjective colouring, unequivocally witnessed as such and not selectively constituted through subjective predisposition.** This leads him to assert the absolute character of the beginning of the temporal object, a ‘primal impression’ (Husserl) that ‘transmits its absolute nature to a retention even while assigning its limits’ (212). This absolute beginning cuts off present perception of the phenomenon from the workings of the ever-deepening continuity of memorious consciousness. Husserl’s account of primary retention, even as it accounts for the complex dynamic through which the flow of present perception is able to extend itself into a ‘large now’ through a process Stiegler thinks is better figured as a whirling, spinning, vortexual flux (without venturing his own diagram, 211), nonetheless posits an impermeable wall between the moment prior to the start of the temporal object and the first sounding of the melody. This constitutes an ‘open unity of phenomena’ for study, including temporal phenomena, but without considering the inevitable, and constitutive complicity of retentions, secondary and primary, always already in play at each moment of perception, always janus-faced, retaining and anticipating, constituting the present on the basis of retained experience, and modifying the sense and significance of the past in the present encounter with the perceived.

‘The ear is originarily musical’, says Stiegler (210) and the ‘eye is originarily cinematic’ one might add. How can one see this video, constitute it as a unitary phenomenon, but differently, according to one’s experience and anticipation of cinema and video, within a wider spiral of retained experience? To note the most obvious conditions of constitution of this temporal object, experience and anticipation of an experience of Youtube’s storehouse of the individual ‘amateur’s’ virtual community co-production, of GoPro first person perspective footage on Youtube, of Bruce Lee/martial arts films, of martial arts/’physical cultural’ practice, of the experience of the difference between ‘embodied’ actions and their audiovisual representation (my particular motive for making this video), experience and anticipation of self absorbed academics with anecdotes and idiosyncratic means of inflating the significance of their personal pastimes?

If primary retention cannot be kept completely free of the influence of selection criteria synthesised from out of the ongoing workings of secondary retention in the continuous modification of consciousness, that is not to say that perception is the same as memory or imagination. Different, but not opposed, hermetically sealed off from it. And, as we have just seen, as secondary retention is of experiences so many of which are of media, and of mnemotechnical forms more generally (eg. of martial arts/physical training which is ‘essentially’ technical, and only ‘spiritual’ on the basis of a technical substrate), then what Stiegler calls ‘tertiary retention’ in his supplementing of Husserl’s categories of retention is of central importance to thinking the phenomenality of phenomena in their essentially technical conditions of psychic and collective mediation. Tertiary retention: spatialised, materialised artefactuality that conditions the first two interior retentional dynamics through its retention and rendering transmissible, or inheritable, experiences that living consciousness did not itself live. Tertiary retention ‘fixes’ materially the conditions of inheritance but does not determine it. Framed, funnelled, enabled, the movement of passing, swirling and spinning is constitutively uncertain in its retemporalisation of this heritage; all the more reason to formulate a proper critical assessement of its pharmacological character and potential.


*Retention is dynamic, says Husserl; the previous notes in the melody are not reduced into a modified form once and for all and retained in that form across the continuous passage of the melody like a growing wagontrain. Rather, they undergo continuous modification at each moment of the melody: ‘retention of retention’ (Husserl p.31). Each new ‘now’ of impressional consciousness modifies its retention of the previous note’s modification of the prior notes, based on the sounding of each new note and how it modifies the ongoing experience of and anticipation of the melody as completed phenomenon. In analysing this complex of protentional and retentional dynamics within primary retention, Husserl speaks of the ‘continuous modification [of what is retained] that carries with it, so to speak, the heritage of the past in the form of a series of adumbrations’ (215). It is the effort to delimit this complexity either side of a borderline between primary and secondary retention that Stiegler argues prevents Husserl from fully developing the implications of using this term, heritage, at this point.

**cf Husserl’s contesting of the position of Franz Brentano that ‘perception is misception’, ‘against’ whose work on intentional consciousness Husserl formulated his ‘pre-psychologist’ method to avoid the traps of subjectivism).