organism / machine

artifacts

artifact/ideas: The ideas embodied in material things: the increased crystallization of knowledge and practice in the physical structure of artifacts, in addition to mental structures. Through the combination and superimposition of task-relevant structure, artifacts came to embody kinds of knowledge that would be exceedingly difficult to represent mentally. (see Bruno Latour, "Visualization and Cognition: Thinking with eyes and hands." Knowledge and Society 6: 1-40, 1986.) (see tech philosophy for "the fabrication of scientific facts and technical artifacts." )

Read More

automaton

automaton

In Aristotle's sense of the term, automaton means sheer random happening, and tyche refers to some cause and effect sequence outside the usual pattern of development. In more current usage, an automaton would be a bit of machinery exhibiting somewhat complex behavior but completely lacking in awareness. An automaton is a "self-moving" machine, and the development of control mechanisms led to the possibility of programming automata. 

Read More

bachelor machine

bachelor machine

The term "bachelor machine" was first used by Marcel Duchamp around 1913 in connection with pieces of work that would later be assembled in the Large Glass of 1915-1923. (Also known as the bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even) For Duchamp, the term refers specifically to the lower portion of the glass, the realm of the bachelors, which contains, among other things, the chocolate grinder, the cemetary for uniforms and liveries -- Priest, Delivery Man, Gendarme, Cuirassier, Policeman, Pallbearer, Footman, Stationmaster and Page Boy -- and the témoins oculistes. The Large glass consists of two distinct realms, the realm of the bride above, and the realm of the bachelors below, both desiring and imagining one another without any possibility of mutual comprehension. (one is here reminded of the real / imaginary distinction and the discussion of cyberspace)

Read More

machinic phylum

"In order to adequately understand their apparently idiosyncratic contributions... riddled with jargon and with a mysteriously ineffable systematicity..." (E. Grosz)

Describing the development of weapons such as the saber or the sword, Deleuze and Guattari relate how metallurgy follows variations in materials and their qualities (spatio-temporal haecceities) and transforms them into features (traits of expression) such as hardness, sharpness and finish.

"We may speak of a machinic phylum or technological lineage, wherever we find a constellation of singularities , prolongable by certain operations, which converge, and make the operations converge, upon one or several assignable traits of expresssion" ..."Each phylum has its own singularities and operations...which determine the relation of desire to the technical element."...

"We will call an assemblage every constellation of singularities and traits deducted from the flow of matter-movement. The assemblages cut the phylum up into distinct, differentiated lineages, at the same time as the machinic phylum cuts accross them all." (Thousand Plateaus, p. 406) Examples of these assemblages include the nomads' invention of the man-horse-bow assemblage.

"The machinic phylum is materiality, natural or artificial, and both simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation, matter as a conveyor of singularities and traits of expression...This matter flow can only be followed. The artisan is one who is determined to follow a flow of matter as pure productivity. The artisan is the itinerant, the ambulant. His work is a legwork. To follow the flow of matter...is intuition in action." (p.409) (this is neither nomadic nor sedentary, but in contact with both) -- minor science.

"Why is the machinic phylum, the flow of matter, essentially metallic, or metallurgical?" (p 410) "Metallurgy is the consciousness or thought of the matter-flow...The machinic phylum is metallurgical, or at least has a metallic head, as its itinerant probe-head or guidance device." In this respect, Deleuze and Guattari follow the trope established by the Futurists and followed by the architectural avant-garde, that described engineers as noble savages at the vanguard of technological innovation, "men of the people without culture or education," endowed with "the gift of mechanical prophecy, the flair for metals." (Marinetti, Le Futurisme, Quoted in Reyner Banham, A Concrete Atlantis, p.204)

According to Manuel de Landa, for Deleuze the machinic phylum is the overall set of self-organizing processes... in which a group of previously disconnected elements suddenly reaches a criticial point in which they begin to "cooperate" to form a higher entity. The notion of a machinic phylum blurs the distinction between organic and non-organic life. Phenomena of self-organization occur whenever a bifurcation takes place in phase space: when a new attractor appears or when the system's attractors mutate in kind.

According to de Landa, Deleuze realized the philosophical implications of trajectories, attractors, and bifurcations in phase space . He emphasized the ontological difference between "actual physical systems" (represented by trajectories in phases space), and "virtual physical systems" represented by attractors and repellors. Although he did not mention bifurcations by name, he explored the idea that special events could produce "an emission of singularities", that is, the sudden creation of a set of attractors and repellors. Thus in addition to "actual machines", there are two layers of "virtual machines" . The world of attractors (the first layer) defines the long-term tendencies of reality. The world of bifurcations modifies those tendencies and represents the source of creativity and variability in nature. (see de Landa p. 236 and Deleuze Logic of Sense)

machine

"Machine is derived via the Latin machina and from the Greek mechane , meaning tool or machine -- especially an instrument to lift heavy objects, a crane, or a military engine. Perhaps the original word is mëxos, which means an artificial device, especially used against misfortune and troubles. 

Read More

organism

"Organism" is derived from the same word as organ: in Latin, organum ; in Greek, organon, which means tool, and was the title given to Aristotle's logical writings to emphasize the idea of logic as a tool helping the other sciences. The instrumental view lies to some degree within the word organism itself: a system of organs, a whole composed of parts, where each part is a functional tool related to the other parts and the whole. 

Read More