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  • Ars and Organological Inventions in Societies of Hyper-Control
  • Bernard Stiegler, Colette Tron, and Daniel Ross

For Franck Cormerais and Internum

HAVING SHOWN IN 1990 that the disciplinary societies analyzed by Michel Foucault have become societies of control and modulation—of a control and modulation exerted by the mass media, and especially television—Gilles Deleuze, in a dialogue with Serge Daney, hypothesized about the possibility of an “art of control.”

Given that digital technologies, in particular after the exposure of the immense problems posed by “big data,” constitute an age of hyper-control in societies that have become hyper-industrial (rather than postindustrial), is an art of hyper-control either conceivable or desirable?

The hyper-industrial societies that have grown out of the ruins of the industrial democracies constitute the third stage of completed proletarianization: after the loss of savoir-faire in the 19th century with industrial machinism and then the loss of savoir-vivre in the 20th century via the mass media, in the 21st century comes the loss of savoirs théoriques, of theoretical knowledge, via high-performance computing and correlational analysis. With the total automatization made possible by digital technology, theories—those most sublime fruits of idealization and identification—are deemed obsolete, and along with them, the scientific method itself—or so at least we are told by Chris Anderson in “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete” [1] and by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier in Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think [2].

Founded on the self- and auto-production of digital traces, and dominated by automatisms that exploit these traces, hyper-industrial societies are undergoing the proletarianization of theoretical knowledge, just as broadcasting analogue traces via television resulted in the proletarianization of savoir-vivre, and just as the submission of the body of the laborer to mechanical traces inscribed in machines resulted in the proletarianization of savoir-faire.

When Deleuze referred to what he called “control societies,” it was the hyper-industrial age that he was foreshad-owing. The destructive capture of attention and desire [3] is what occurs in and through those control societies that Deleuze described in terms of the noncoercive modulation exercised by television on consumers at the end of the 20th century. These societies of control appear at the end of the consumerist epoch, and they prepare the way for the transition to the hyper-industrial epoch.

In the automatic society [4] engendered by societies of hyper-control, of which Deleuze could hardly have been aware but which he and Félix Guattari anticipated (in particular with the concept of dividuals [5]), control passes through the mechanical liquidation of discernment, of what Aristotle called to krinon—from krinein, a verb sharing the same root as krisis, decision.

Discernment, which Kant called “understanding” (ver-stand), has been automated and automatized as analytical power that has been delegated to algorithms, which convey formalized instructions through sensors and actuators but outside of any intuition in the Kantian sense—that is, outside of any experience.

In the hyper-industrial stage, hyper-control is established through a process of generalized automatization. It thus represents a step beyond the control-through-modulation discovered and analyzed by Deleuze: Now, the noetic faculties of theorization and deliberation are short-circuited by the current operator of proletarianization, which is digital tertiary retention—just as analogue tertiary retention was the operator of the proletarianization of savoir-vivre in the 20th century, and just as mechanical tertiary retention was the operator of the proletarianization of savoir-faire in the 19th century.

By artificially retaining something through the material and spatial copying of a mnesic and temporal element, tertiary retention modifies the relations between the psychic retentions of perception, which Husserl referred to as primary retentions, and the psychic retentions of memory, which he called secondary retentions. Over time, tertiary retention evolves, and this leads to modifications of the play between primary retention and secondary retention, resulting in processes of transindividuation [6] that are each time specific—that is, specific epochs of what Simondon called the transindividual. [End Page 480]

In the course of processes of transindividuation, founded on...


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