local / global

field

field

In The Evolution of Physics, Einstein described the collapse of the mechanical world-view, leaving an intellectual vacuum before the radically new "field" theory could emerge. A field describes the behaviour of a dynamic system that is extended in space, through kinetics (interaction in time) and relational order (in space). It is a function of space and time coordinates that assigns a value of the field for each of the coordinates.  Jackson Pollock, Number IIA, 1948

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globalization

globalization

What is globalization? On a simple level, Globalization seems to be a a name for the increased interconnectedness of cultures, a world of complex mobilities and interconnections, characterized by cultural flows of capital, people, commodities, images, and ideologies

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glocal

glocal

The word glocal is a fusion of global and local.

Glocalization has provided a way for multinational corporations to distance themselves from Americanization. Savvy multinationals, such as Coca-Cola were able to establish "local relevance" by claiming "We are not a multi-national. We are a multi-local." One of the leaders in "glocal" marketing was said to be McDonald's, which "has adapted itself so successfully to foreign markets that consumers outside the US often believe it is a domestic company."

In a similar way, "Mass-customization" is a production technique that promises to reconfigure the generic and the particular. These examples are seller's strategies to cater to cultural differences and are known as micro-marketing. But these techniques create increasingly differentiated consumers just as much as they respond to existing varietes or heterogeneities.

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local/global

The "local" is a politically contested concept. Is it a site of resistance to globalization and the hegemonic ideological systems that go under the names of the West, McWorld, and EMPIRE? Is the local the only viable link to tradition, or is it a source of fascisms, of ethnic atavisms, of all the raging cultural fundamentalisms and defensively defined communities that Benjamin Barber calls jihad ? 

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non-linearity

In dynamical terms, such as in the study of chaos, a non-linear situtation is one where the result is not proportional to the cause. For instance "the straw that broke the camel's back" (eg. the elastic/plastic limit in building structures) introduces non-linearity. Up until that point, deformation had been proportional to load. Suddenly it loses all proportionality. 

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philosophy / chaos

Within the Western tradition, chaos was associated with the unformed, the unthought, the unfilled, the unordered. Hesiod in the Theogony designates Chaos as that which existed before anything else, when the universe was in a completely undifferentiated state. Later in the Theogony , he uses the term chaos to signify the gap that appeared when Heaven separated from Earth. Eros appears in that gap as rain/semen. Kirk, Raven, and Schofield, in The Presocratic Philosophers, see in Hesiod's account of chaos, not disorder, "not the eternal precondition of a differentiated world, but a modification of that precondition." (p.39) 

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public/private

According to the liberal tradition, the modern individual, at home in its private spaces, regards the public as its outside. The outside is the place proper to politics, where the action of the individual is exposed in the presence of others and there seeks recognition. (This is the notion of the political elaborated by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition, which she calls the space of public appearance 
Public space is civic space. It is the space of civil society, shared by citizens -- individuals who have aquired a public voice and understand themselves to be part of a wider community. 

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ritual

"It is not too much to say that ritual is more to society than words are to thought. For it is very possible to know something and then find words for it. But it is impossible to have social relations without symbolic acts." (Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, p. 62)

The sociologist Paul Lukes suggests that we use ritual to refer to "rule-governed activity of a symbolic character which draws the attention of its participants to objects of thought and feeling which they hold to be of a special significance."

In How Societies Remember, Paul Connerton calls for the analysis of "social habit-memory" as consisting essentially of legitimating performances, a particular kind of ritual. He draws upon the work of Maurice Halbwachs, (Les cadres sociaux de la m moire and La m moire collective ) who thought of memories as bound together into an ensemble of thoughts common to a group. For Halbwachs, groups provide individuals with frameworks within which there memories are localized, by a kind of mapping into both the mental and material spaces of the group. For Halbwachs the idea of an individual memory, absolutely separate from social memory, is an abstraction almost devoid of meaning.

All rites are repetitive, and repetition automatically implies continuity with the past. Drawing on Claude Levi-Strauss, Giorgio Agamben describes the function of ritual to adjust the contradiction between mythic past and present, reabsorbing all events into a synchronic structure, while the function of play is a symmetrically opposed operation: to break down the whole structure into events.

Mary Douglas criticizes modern anthropology for thinking of magic as efficacious rite. For her, this is a European belief that institutes a false distinction between primitive and modern.

In modern religous life, there is a long and vigorous anti-ritualistic tradition, echoing the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, that claims that external forms can become empty and mock the truths they stand for. (in this sense, they can be described as mechanical.) But this account, which contrasts the formalisms and "emptiness" of ritual with acts that are "sincere" or "authentic," ignores the function of ritual as the expression of feeling or belief. Instead, rites have the capacity to give value and meaning to the life of those who perform them. (Connerton, pp 44-5) In How Societies Remember, Paul Connerton stresses the importance of commemorative rituals. The feature that they share, and which sets them apart from the more general category of rites, is that they do not simply imply continuity with the past but explicitly claim such continuity. Connerton infers that commemorative ceremonies play a significant role in the shaping of communal memory.

Do rituals create the beliefs that they are meant to express? see ideology.

One consequence of the failure of ritual is panic.

Gregory Bateson describes ritual in terms of unusually real or literal ascriptions of logical type

HoneybeeDance.jpg

In biological accounts of communication, ritualization is "the evolutionary modification of a behavior pattern that turns it into a signal (sign) used in communication or at least improves its its efficacy a a signal (sign)." (Wilson, Sociobiology, p.594) According to contemporary neo-Darwinism, adaptive pressures will select certain behaviours as important references. For instance, in flocking birds, it is important to know when to take off. In a speculative account of the origins of language, Robert N. Brandon describes a process of ritualization which selects behaviour patterns with perceived iconicity to the referent of the sign, for example, when birds just prior to flight characteristically crouch, raise their tails, and slightly spread their wings. According to Brandon, these iconic signs can subsequentlybe transferred to other referents, as in mating behavior, for instance. While they become increasing symbolic (arbitrary) in synchronic analysis, they remain "phylogenetically iconic." (?)


The effectiveness of such a sign can be increased through increased ritualization, for example, in pigeons, where the preflight pattern of behaviour which serves as sign of flight has been exaggerated beyond what is physiologically necessary. Konrad Lorenz studied these movements in the 1930's and called them "intention movements." For Lorentz and Tinbergen, intention movements provided the raw material from which signals are sharpened through natural selection. The term was subsequently dropped by ethologists, presumably by behaviorists who rejected the mentalistic implications of the term. For Ronald Griffin, in Animal Minds, "we may hope that the revival of interest in animal thinking will lead cognitive ethologists to reopen the study of the degree to which intention movements may indeed be signals of conscious intent." (p. 16)


see local / global for the role of ritual in maintaining locality. For Arjun Appadurai, One of the most remarkable features of the ritual process is its highly specific way of localizing duration and extension, of giving these categories names and properties, values and meanings, symptoms and legibility.



self-organization

self-organization

Self-organizing systems aquire new structure without specific interference from the outside. They exhibit qualitative macroscopic changes such as bifurcations or phase transitions. Stuart Kaufman calls this " Order for Free."Self-organization is the capacity of a field to generate patterns spontaneously, without any specific instructions. What exists in the field is a set of relationships among the components of the system such that the dynamically stable state into which it goes naturally -- what mathematicians call the generic (typical)) state of the system has spatial and temporal patterns. Fields of this type are now called excitable media. (see for example Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction.) 

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theory

As opposed to the weird science section, the theory section is devoted to terms that come from criticism, from literary studies, and the humanities. The basis for this bipartite structure came from my interest in the borrowings and polyvalent meanings of terms, the ways that the same term might take on opposite valences. A prime example of this reversibility is chaos. (a key reading was Chaos Bound, by Katherine Hayles) For cultural theory, chaos is opposite of order. But for the "new sciences" chaos can be understood as a new extension of order. Order itself moves back and forth between reassuring stability and coercive power. Hayles desribes "The politics of chaos" as " local knowledge versus global theory." My interest is thus to see how the meanings of terms need to be understood in variable contexts. This document seeks to map out some of the convergences, overlaps, shifting perspectives, and outright conflicts between contemporary criticism and sciences. 

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