This first blog posting for Ulmer’s Ubiquitous Imaging/Digital English course will primarily consist of a summary for chapter 1 Prudence in Avatar Emergency.
Ulmer’s testimony illuminates the foundation for how an avatar emerges, particularly as an (digital) emblem rather than as a written self or oral spirit. That emblem, which requires the inventor to use flash reason ― a logic based on an immediate decision making ― and consider collapsing past, present, and future experiences into a singularity, functions as a way for the inventor to feel insights/epiphanies. When the inventor engages in the digital, he or she has an experience of their own potentiality, an event that unveils to the inventor their own life path and decisions. And this is the key to an avatar and how it functions: as (affective) experience to decisions (not the effects of the decisions) one has made, is making, and will make. An experience of event (when the potentiality of avatarness appears), particularly as a digital event, generates affect ― feelings (and not emotions) ― and catalyzes creativity. Avatar inspires creative thought and action (and possibly proliferates or grows with invention?). For 2011 Ulmer, his affect experience occurred while he was watching Avatar and conjured a memory of twenty-one year old 1966 Ulmer in a Spanish olive orchard. In that past time-space continuum, Ulmer recalls a particular decision he had made, a pivotal one that shifted his scholarly research, as well as structured what he considers the virtue of avatar: prudence. Prudence, as Ulmer defines at one moment, is “a time-wisdom, a capacity to make an appropriate decision in an instant by taking the measure of a particular situation in its temporal context.” Prudence is the capability to make a decision, but when we make the decision, we use flash reason, which, I think, is primarily based on those body affects. Furthermore, those body affects are situational and contextual: one’s surrounding landscapes (e.g. the pines and bay in Nietzsche’s moment, the auditorium filled with the drifting descent of glowing Woodsprites in Ulmer’s 2011 moment) and proprioception (e.g. Nietzsche’s walk, Ulmer’s digital movement through the film).
Our emergence within digital technologies and development of our avatars mean that the public sphere and social body have to be reconfigured. No longer can modes of literacy structure the collective unit (national, religious, et al.) and commonplaces . Rather, electracy offers a rethinking of the collective body, one that is not necessarily based on spectacle, but uses spectacle (and pop culture) and flash reason to potentiality offer collective epiphany.
Finally, key to this chapter is the “becoming what you are” and the emergence of avatar. But when do we recognize those becomings and avatar? They appear to only exist mentally after an event. Hence, the reason why Ulmer posits that “electrate avatar knows more than you or I do, it knows better than you or I do about what will have happened in our various respective situations” is because only retroactively can subjects understand what their experience means. Avatar understands, which is experience. Yet, understanding shouldn’t be sought; rather, the undergoing of avatar, of action to decision in an unplanned, unforeseen occurrence, of experience of affect, of process in digital and physical reality should be sought . . . and we undergo in order to invent and create new epistemological frameworks and metaphysical realities and learn “electrate wisdom.”
In addition to this summary, I’d like to outline some possible instructions for our group project:
- Pastiche: As Jake noted, pastiche will be essential to the project. Jake remarked: “Mix/Pastiche of content: A family incident, cultural mythology and legend. We are to tie the family incident somehow to cultural mythology or legend; thus, creating an interface between our own history and the larger collective subject.”
We need to use both image and written text (the motto or maxim or proverb). Should we integrate (sensory) taste or tactile experience? I’m also wondering what would be our collective’s family incident. Do we create an interface that connects the individual to the collective: first, we each construct our own family incident to the cultural mythology; next, we create a medium that connects the two (individual to collective). Or, do we simply create an interface that presents the collective family incident to the cultural mythology and legend. In other words, we would each create our own individual project and then bring our production to the group and figure out how to integrate seven family incidents into one, which will be the final project.
- Work with pleasure-pain images (show pleasure in pain, pain in pleasure). Ulmer contends, “Electracy is the apparatus of joy/sadness . . . In electracy this pair [individual attitude and the world] is not an either-or, since attitude now is ontological (world-creating).” Also, because Ulmer remarks, “The relationship or ratio between love and knowledge has to be adjusted in each epoch, not to mention for each apparatus, with implications for individual experience and behavior,” we should consider what love and knowledge mean within digital experience, both individually and collectively, and how that love and knowledge (or past understandings of love and knowledge) is suppressed and/or proliferated by digital technologies. Consider love and death. Ulmer remarks, “Love and death (family) are integral to the rhizome managed by concept avatar.” Also, quick thought: could we consider how to experience love in death and death in love (pleasure in pain and pain in pleasure)?
- Work to be (new) idiots and receptive to event. The idiot is the private thinker; the teacher is the public thinker. The old idiot wanted truth; the new idiot wants to turn the absurd into the highest power of thought – in other words, to create. Idiot à connotations of (wise) fool.
- Work on Style. Style gives access to embodied (sensory aesthetic) thought. Create a concept persona supporting judgment (decision) conducted in an aesthetic style.
- Integrate audiovisual media into our collaborative project
- Not only inventing and then circulating the project, but archiving it within a established system, or attempting to archive it within a new system (that has traces of the previous system(s)).
- Being, having, and doing ought to be integrated into one performance. Ordinary people, both ourselves and our audience, need to perform with these three actions as we/they experience the project. Not sure yet what that looks like or how to open space for such a performance, but something we should keep in mind.
And finally, some random notes to remember:
Avatar (emblems) : electracy electracy- the Moment of Now
Self (to be) : literacy literate apparatus- linear time
Spirit (immaterial) : orality oral apparatus- cyclical time
Avatar as experience is an event of counsel, an uncanny encounter with one’s own possibility (potential). It personifies attitude (which is concerned with the state of mind within which the thought happens), concerning belief or desire directed toward our Target (the practice of judgment or decision). It emerges from anxiety. It opens further subject formation (a sampled and mixed subject in circulation). Its purpose is as consultant for decision, with the relation player-avatar constituting a passage between idiot and collective subject.
The function of avatar is to advise my decision (my flash reason). The functionality of avatar concerns the ability of the persona and anecdote to materialize the attitude or stand (position, gesture) of thought as event.
Concept avatar: takes after reflective judgment, which works in the middle voice (auto-affection).
attempts image metaphysics
assists our transition from the discursive to the momental
Avatar emergency is praxis. Avatar emergency concerns precisely the relation between attitude and action.
Moment happens in the middle voice, in the practice of flash reason.
Epiphanies must be constructed. They don’t happen.
Process of becoming human: Affective experience (Ulmer’s sensory judgment) à Cultural mythology (Ulmer’s belief through custom, social forms ordering human relationships) à epistemology (Ulmer’s knowledge, learning the sciences of form) à Mindboy existence, Avatar presence (Ulmer’s wisdom, intuition of form). Wisdom proposes that we work on our attitude rather than on the world.