Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Technically Speaking, What Are Emotions?

Contact, and resistance to or rejection of contact, Ahmed argues, is what forms our notions of boundaries, the boundaries between the self, the other, the community. Importantly, in her discussion of both fear and disgust, Ahmed demonstrates that it is not just an awareness of the other that makes us realize the edges of our own body, but crucially it is the penetration that we fear/disgusts us that is key. These objects must impress themselves upon us, threaten us, break through our boundaries, in order for us to know ourselves and align ourselves against them. We are thus presented with an interesting dichotomy; the self and the other, coming into being as a result of contact with each other.

Throughout my reading of Ahmed's Cultural Politics of Emotion, I was curious about its relation to concepts of network culture and politics, specifically those we covered earlier in the course with Terranova. While Ahmed is clearly talking about community formation, which in itself is a network, I am interested to think through some of the ways emotions can relate to technical-based rather than community-based networks. Ahmed's idea which I outlined above, about contact forming bodies, initially registered a similarity to the practice of packet distribution in computers connected to a local wireless network. As we discussed in the network lab, when multiple computers are on the same network, they will take in all of the information destined for that network, and filter out the packets destined specifically for them. I am curious how this action compares to the emotional penetration of objects in a human network, as both require a taking in of the other and a consequent identification of the "self." Another parallel can be seen between what Ahmed describes as misinterpretation or disjuncture between one person's emotion and another's expression/attempt at identification with that same feeling and the idea of signal and noise in a channel of communication.

In addition, as information passes from one node in a network to another, jumping from server to server in an effort to find the shortest path, I am reminded of the circulation of emotions which Ahmed describes. By circulating, as capital, emotions gain value, they stick to certain objects, they come to have associations and thus meaning to us. How does this synthesize with the idea of information passing through a network on the way to its destination? I am unsure how far this metaphor can extend though, since I find the idea of emotional actions and reactions incongruous with a computer's more predictable technical responses. However, as Ahmed points out, emotion should not be view as an anti-rational force, but a force with it's own type of reasoning (this also goes to the point we discussed, and I think had difficulty with, a few weeks ago in section in regards to the rationality behind affective responses - their own kind of rationality). Regardless... I think this is interesting to ponder.

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