Cut and pasted from my own blog, posted on 30th March
From this week’s reading for the Stiegler reading group (intro to For a New Critique of Political Economy), gesture, like speech, is
a retentional flow, that is, as a continuous chain [enchainement] of gestures, and the learning [apprentissage] of a craft consists in producing gestural secondary retentions, whereas the discretization and the spatialized reproduction of the time of gestures constitutes technical automation, but where it is no longer the logos of the soul but rather the gestures of the body that become analytically reproducible as tertiary retention. (p.10)
As language (as a retentional flux) was ‘discretized’ into the tertiary retentions of writing and numeration (and thereby making available, or making possible, its analysis), so too gesture. Gesture,
was given concrete expression with the application of Jacques de Vaucanson’s automation technology to the Jacquard loom, and became more specialized in the form of the industrial revolution. (p.10)
Two initial thoughts: firstly, whilst contemporary gestural game systems may shrink in significance if, as Stiegler’s discussion might suggest, the embodied culture of the industrial era is characterised by this wholesale discretization and industrialization of human movement (and physical expertise), they at least highlight both the continuities of this aspect of the industrial era in contemporary digital culture, and trace this machinic discretization into everyday life, the home, media culture, and pleasure.
Is this concept of ‘discretization’ (and, grammatization) adequate for this augmentation, industrialisation, or massive acceleration and mutational transduction of gesture from the weird charm of Vaucanson’s duck to the operations of production line robots? Perhaps there is something reassuringly anthropocentric in this account, its anxiety about the relationship between human and nonhuman ‘gesture’ masking the machinic phylum?