Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Bodies in motion, or why semes are more interesting than memes

I have precious little first-hand experience with techno and rave culture. I assumed that generations were becoming shorter and shorter, and I had missed my in, so to speak. As it turns out, it's just not my sort of scene. But it's interesting and I like reading about it.

From tobias c. van Veen comes Hearing Difference: The Seme. Conference Paper. July 6, 2003. International Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), Montréal.

If, in the age of the subculture, concepts travelled as memes through the fledgling networks, as concepts to be remixed into new contexts, and where the concept was about the application of the content, then today the concept is the network. In fact the network is both concept and context, and the meme is only the static concept within the network's transactions. The active idea that expresses itself as a force is the seme. What matters is not the meme, but the point at which the meme becomes inverted, where the idea is no longer sampled into different contexts, but the context is sampled into different ideas, and where the context itself is already the network. The seme is the point at which the meme is forced to undergo a translation and an extroversion at the limit of its identity by the force of its trajectory, the act of its self-sampling. The inversion of its innards now expresses the trajectory of its form. The seme thus comes to express the force of form in the stitching of the network to the content of the meme. The seme is the meme of the power of dissemination. It's the name we give to the transformational properties of the network, where the network forms the content. The seme is the theoretical framework in which the practical forces of contemporary microcultures express themselves. It is not an idea-thing that travels, like the dualist concept of meme, but the point at which the thing, at the moment of its translation or transformation at becoming something other to itself, undergoes a forceful expression of the path of its movement, its network. The seme demonstrates the digital network of transduction. If we may sample Brian Massumi: "There is no inside as such for anything to be in, interiority being only a particular relationship to the exterior to itself (infolding)."

Very nice.

I also found myself reading his paper: It's Not A Rave—the 15 Minute Mix (pdf).

What I would like to do is to scratch the title and offer some explanation as to the scenario and politics of the type of research I am performing through rave culture. At stake is the differentiation of such a project from narratives of celebration and the schematizing of "resistant" social and bodily practices ...

1. The dancing-body as the event in motion.
2. The affect of sound.
3. The temporarity of both event and body.

These three aspects of rave culture—focused as they are on the body in movement and of the event in movement in a temporary, sonic milieu—gesture toward a set of practices that continuously undermine structural understandings of the social, the spatial, the temporal, and the political. How does one become sociable with sound, perform and act in sonic society, enter into the spun out world of the speaker? How do we understand a "politics of rave culture" when the very terrain of the political is remixed through the mobile dancing body and the transient event whose currencies are the ever changing refrains of repetitive beats? What are we to make of a politics that can only be called "political" insofar as it questions the static peripheries of the polis, indeed, of the material city and its laws, curfews, accepted places and sites of play and pleasure as well as its metaphysical and theosophical constructions? How do we turn an ear to practices that transform scratch the conditions of possibility and impossibility of the political, the community, and the building blocks of these discourses, the polis and the subject?

UPDATE 10/07/03 : Tobias continues with the slithering seme. He doesn't seem to be describing just any kind of slithering, but something akin to the movement of the sidewinder. But I find the language of this post a bit dense, and will have to think some more on it ... is he suggesting autopoeisis? lines of flight? and what's this about "seams" not "semes"?


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