Monday, March 13, 2017

zizek: (phatic) violence -- review

There is a lot of recycled material in this book and a lot that is off the point altogether. So a typical Zizek book. The one idea I found interesting is his explanation of street protests that turn violent, as well as the kind of thing that went on in Paris in 2005, as 'phatic' violence. That is to say, it serves the sole purpose of saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. But Zizek doesn't take it far enough because in fact the phatic requires two interlocutors and its purpose is to keep open the lines of communication. So the obvious point he missed is that the police response is also phatic. By brutalising the protestors, they too are saying 'I'm here' and 'we're talking'. Moreover, if this in fact the case, then this type of protest action will not bring change because it is a routine exchange. -- from a three-star review of Violence, 2009
This is (perhaps) similar to what's going on in Netherlands recently.

Brainstorm: I wonder if this could be connected with Bordieu's symbolic violence, variously:
“the violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity”
“[a] term for the imposition on subordinated groups by the dominant class of an ideology which legitimates and naturalizes the status quo: see also dominant ideology”
Certainly a "status quo" seems roughly to be a phatic kind of thing, insofar as it provides a basis for communication.

Here's an abstract that offers an applied look at these issues:
Government policies and financial imperatives have fostered growing heterogeneity in student bodies in UK and Australian higher education (HE), but the underpinning logic of practice in these long-established social fields is far slower to change. Drawing on empirical evidence from case studies in each nation, this paper examines the tensions between the espoused and enacted values of the academy in relation to the widening participation and internationalisation agendas. We describe the research sites, their relationships with their respective fields of power and the experiences of participants as inhabitants of these HE fields. We highlight the struggles to secure relevant capital, acts of symbolic violence occurring at both institutional and programme levels and the resultant impact on individual positions and trajectories within the fields. Finally, we consider the extent to which the established practices in HE, which naturally preserve the dominance of the dominating factions, are likely to shift to enable it to genuinely enact the social conscience it espouses. 

badgers, boundaries, and regicide

via https://donegaldollop.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/badger.jpg

Bullock, S, 2016, ‘"Shit Happens": The Spontaneous Self-Organisation of Communal Boundary Latrines via Stigmergy in a Null Model of the European Badger, Meles meles’. in: Tom Froese (eds) Artificial Life XV: Proceedings of The Fifteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. MIT Press
This reminds me of a display I saw in the Archaeology museum in Dublin when I first arrived in the British Isles in 2010. The old Irish fiefdoms would often have burial sites at their boundaries, and especially at their corners. In particular, corners where several of these territories met each other would often be places where executions, and, according to the theory, ritual regicides, might be staged.
Badgers are incredibly clean and will not defecate in their sett – they have special latrines (communal toilets) comprising of shallow pits placed away from the setts on the edge of their territory. They will not bring food into the sett either.
"The king had great power but also great responsibility to ensure the prosperity of his people. Through his marriage on his inauguration to the goddess of the land, he was meant to guarantee her benevolence. He had to ensure the land was productive, so if the weather turned bad, or there was plague, cattle disease or losses in war, he was held personally responsible."
via http://tobinfamilyhistoryaus.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/stephen-tobin-ch13-irish-roots.html
I'm also reminded of a talk by Žižek about Brexit, and a few other things, in which he talks about the changes to keeping-up-of external (i.e., boundary-related) appearances.  I'm sitting in a talk now so I can't listen to the audio but I'll add a quote later.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

paths in the grass: a visual metaphor for virtual architecture


This image from my PhD thesis uses a minimal stereotyped image of a college campus as a visual metaphor to describe a space of emergent learning.  This idea is expanded upon in the "Patterns of Peeragogy" paper, which uses a similar metaphor:
This image is of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I've been several times.  It still looks somewhat similar to the picture, though a bit more built up!

The concept here is that the common-place architectural structures that have emerged at the university represent meaningful "patterns" that apply in more general learning-and-production settings.
Collegial and convivial peer support via remote collaboration or short-term meet-ups may fill some of the requirements of “student life”. Peeragogy can also happen in neighborhoods, and among persons sharing long-term co-habitation. While a traditional Dormitory may not be necessary, a shared rented or cooperatively-owned living/working environment could be an asset for peeragogues working together on A SPECIFIC PROJECT (Figure 7).
Here I'd like to draw attention to the "Quad", an in some sense under-determined physical space that sits in the "middle" of the various already-emerged architectural features.  Although it has some meaning relative to those features, and is not simply an empty space, it is also something of a blank slate, on which traces of momentary action and interaction may be temporarily observed.  Sometimes these structures will thicken into new structures, for example new buildings or paved-over paths.  As a campus (or city, or other social structure) becomes more developed, these "patterns" become increasingly solid.  Even a formerly blank slate becomes constrained (e.g., in its definition as a "common space").
I propose that some version of the first set of images above could be used to organise the existing posts on this blog and our ancillary writings, e.g., using CMap Tools, so that we get a high-level view of the structure that has emerged here.

The "Context/Nonlinear/Feedback/Metalearning/Roadmap" framework should be "harmonised" with Dan Harmon's outline and the Aboriginal yarning framework described previously.  We could use a "4-up" framework to wind a longer "rope" of meanings out of the various threads that have developed here so far.

From http://howdidyoumakethis.com/square-pin-loom-speed-weaving/
I think that this sort of "emerged" outline would be very useful for subsequent writing projects -- it would complement the more rigid frameworks that come from Harmon et al.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

History of communion (Discourse on Inequality) (pt. 1)

In a recent post here I mentioned that I need to read Rousseau's Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality among Mankind (1755[1761]) sooner rather than later. Since I've been handing out lately with a young lady who studied French at some point, I took this up sooner than I anticipated. I regularly abstain from reading translations but consider this one's age and availability (particularly during the 19th Century) a personal justification.

The thing is, I'm not sure if I can make reading it a jeesusjalutasallveelaeval post since my recent readings have taken a looser form. I've become somewhat disillusioned with my habitual style of blogging. Blockquotes and comments don't do my memory and comprehension as many favours as I would like them to. Presently, I see little point in lining up quotes by themselves. Instead, I'd go over some verbiage from the book here, essentially listing the stuff I've found interesting or usable.

In essence, you (arided) recently (in our Phatische Briefe) recommended History of the Present as a possible Journal for publishing consideration. I think a paper on the Spencer-Malinowski connection could do with some elaboration, if not in that journal, then at least oriented towards its themes. Including Rousseau (and possibly some others from the period predating Malinowski) looks like the only reasonable way to go about it.




Communion, the aim of Society

Maintenance

Rousseau meditates on the Manner in which Wisdom leads to Happiness and best answers "the Ends of Society" and "the Maintenance of public Order and the Security of private Happiness" (1761: iv-v). - In Herbert Spencer's comparative psychology, maintenance serves the Social State, here given as public order. It would be an innovation (in a limited sense) to connect these concerns with Malinowski's phatic communion in order to demonstrate the maintenance of the social matrix of communication (the integration between groups within a society).

In Rousseau's ideal state "all the Subjects could be so well known to each other" and embody love of country in "a Love for its Inhabitants" (1761: v-vi). While grand and utopian, the core of it touches upon Malinowski's phatic communion in a miniscule manner: casual conversation is a way to overcome the strangeness felt towards a non-acquaintance. Making chit-chat with a fellow countryman for no particular purpose is a way to foster a sense of community within the nation? The analogy is a bit drawn-out but this acquaintance is definitely a factor needful of elaboration.

While dreaming of "A free city" (Geneva as a utopia), he notes that it should be "situated among Nations" in a non-aggressive manner, and "might reasonably depend upon [the] Assistance [of its Neighbours] in case of Necessity" (1761: xiii). One curious aspect of sympathy between Spencer and Malinowski, and the former's contemporaries, is forming an association or founding a brotherhood for sake of self-preservation or accumulating the resources for self-preservation. Social support is a thread piercing many studies operating with Malinowski's phatic communion.

Fellowship

Rousseau dreams of "living peaceably in a sweet Society with my Fellow Citizens, and exercising towards them, and after their Example, the Duties of Humanity, Friendship, and every other Virtue, so as to leave behind me the Character of an honest Man and a worthy Patriot" (1761: xx-xxi). Interrelated associations:

    • "living peaceably in a sweet Society with my Fellow Citizens"
    • "Obviously the degree of the desire for the presence of fellow-men, affect greatly the formation of social groups, and consequently underlies social progress." (Spencer 1876: 18)
    • "The breaking of silence, the communion of words is the first act to establish links of fellowship, which is consummated only be the breaking of bread and the communion of food." (Malinowski 1946[1923]: 314) [PC 4.3]
    • "exercising towards them, and after their Example, the Duties of Humanity, Friendship, and every other Virtue"
    • "What respective shares in checking impulsiveness are taken by the feelings which the social state fosters - such as the fear of surrounding individuals, the instinct of sociality, the desire to accumulate property, the sympathetic feelings, the sentiment of justice?" (Spencer 1876: 12) - Presumably, the social state fosters friendly relations tending towards the homogeneity and integration of the community.
    • "To the primitive mind, whether among savages or our own uneducated classes, taciturnity means not only unfriendliness but directly a bad character. This no doubt varies greatly with the national character but remains true as a general rule." (Malinowski 1946[1923]: 314) [PC 4.3-4] - Malinowski is putting a linguistic twist on it by way of gregariousness.
    • "to leave behind me the Character of an honest Man and a worthy Patriot"
    • "What connection is there between this trait and the social state? Clearly a very explosive nature - such as that of the Bushman - is unfit for social; and, commonly, social union, when by any means established, checks impulsiveness." (Spencer 1876: 12) - Some of his contemporaries connect the question of impusliveness (instincts, emotions) with charactere (here given as "nature"). Between Spencer and Malinowski there appears a clash between natural character vs. national character.




Anthropo-philosophical strands

Political

When dreaming of his perfect city, he wrote that "the Legislative Power was common to all its Inhabitants" (1761: xiv) but specified that "in order to put a stop to interested and ill-digested Projects, and dangerous Innovations [...] no private Citizen had a Right to propose any Laws that came into his Head, but that this Privilege belonged solely to the Magistrates" (1761: xv). Effectively, "the People approved the Laws proposed by their Magistrates with so much Reserve" that "every Member of the Community might have sufficient Time to be convinced" (1761: xvii).

I liked this dream of near-direct democracy, although I personally imagine future Magistrates to be somewhat like moderators who filter, improve, and promulgate anything that came into someone's head and got enough community support and consideration for realization. I also liked that the Rousseau needs those who govern the state to be "the most knowing, sensible, and honest Men" elected anually from different departments, who must have integrity to do justice to the wisdom of the people (1761: xviii-xix). The latter bit I see tinted in sweet irony in Bill Maher's Religiolous, for example, where a career politician in an interview admits that there are no serious requirements for politicians (that you don't need to be the most knowing, sensible and honest person to become one).


something








On Jakobsonian Phaticity

Broadly speaking, there are two ways of reading Roman Jakobson's scheme of the linguistic functions of speech. In its linguistic interpretation, the functions pertain to the production of linguistic utterances. This is how linguists most commonly have come to employ the scheme. With regard to the phatic function, speakers produce phatic utterances. The second can loosely be designated as the metalinguistic interpretation, which looks at utterances from the perspective of their reception, and not by their intended addressee, but by the linguistic observer. In either case, the hierarchy of language functions as put forth by Jakobson is a toolkit, but varies in its usage by the speaker and the scientist. Let us not forget at this point that the ideal goal of linguistic analysis in this perspective would be for the linguist to correctly interpret the coding mechanisms of the sender as well as the putative decoding mechanisms of the actual or ideal receiver. From the metalinguistic perspective, utterances carry a dominant phatic function when their observed of hypothesized effect is primarily social.

This distinction has profound implications for the phatic function, which is accordingly interpreted either as the linguistic operation performed by the social sub-codes of any given language, particularly those pertaining to communicative contact and the relationship between the communicants. Viewed from the linguistic perspective of the speaker, his or her utterances and other linguistic units and concurrent semiosic elements carry a phatic intent, which focuses the researcher's gaze on the most obviously social uses of language, such as greetings, salutations, openings, continuers, pauses, breakdowns, backchannels, interjections, etc. (The list of phatic elements in speech, language, and behaviour is virtually endless.) From the metalinguistic perspective of the observer, on the other hand, the function is not pre-given as a code selection but deduced from the syntactic material. Instead of prefabricated possibilities, the linguistic researcher deals with diagnosis of possible prefabrications.

In everyday use, the social use of language appears as an interpretive transformation. The phatic use of language does not pertain to stereotyped social rituals and routine elements only. It can also transform the function of other types of utterances and implicitly makes a comment about the particular utterance and its stereotyped use. In socio-systemic communication theory, this is known as meta-communication (Ruesch & Bateson 1951). This aspect in Jakobson's linguistic theory is often neglected by those employing it willy-nilly and intend to categorize parts of speech according to his functions without considering the operational transformations utterances frequently undergo.

Moreover, the phatic function does not pertain to phraseological, lexical, or even morphemic or phonologoligal units, but also to paralinguistic aspects of the composition of the message, such as its length, structure, manner of presentation, its internal and external borders with extra-semiotic reality and other linguistic texts. Phaticity interpenetrates every level of the hierarchy of linguistic structure, and its continuity can be observed from the minimal contoural features that let us know that a sentence has finished to the social and philosophical contours of a discourse.

This approximately is what I mean by an extended Jakobsonian interpretation of the phatic function of language. I hope to elaborate inter-functional transformations (other types of utterances becoming phatic, phatic utterances becoming something else) and inter-level associations (the semantic relations between smaller parts of speech with larger, semantic blocks on the level of culture).

There is also a very notable confusion with regard to the operations of the phatic functions (establishing, prolonging, and discontinuing communication), and what the contact factor in the formulation of the function does. If interpreted in the sense of the over-all effects achieved by social techniques sensu Jurgen Ruesch (i.e. approach, preservation, and detachment), further sub-functions could probably be elaborated. But notice that the ideal effect achieved by Brinoslaw Malinowski's phatic communion is a polite social intercourse or atmosphere for a pleasante context of situation; and Jakobson's emphasis on the working of the mechanical channel between the communicants (i.e. the literal telephone connection) reduces its primary aim to fundamental functionality, e.g. the fact of communication.

In this light, a poem, for example, does not work when it doesn't equal the social appeal of face-to-face interaction or telephone conversation. This is the first time I've thought of it, but it does seem that the Aristotelian quality of "grabbing attention" and "delighting" that makes a poem "work" for Jakobson is the quality he is circumscribing in the phatic function, i.e. simply whether it communicates or not, with the code-oriented addendum that it is the language of the poem, an aesthetic object in a verbal medium, that makes a poem either work or not work.

This theme also appears in the content of the poems Jakobson analysed, particularly in the emphasis on impossible or fantasy communication. The elements of a poetic work that refer to memories of past relationships, for example, highlight the staple poetic leitmotifs of love and death with reference to people with whom no further communication is possible. In a honorific poem about his superior's return the Japanese officer acts out a fantasy of communication.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

phatic voices ("Mad Max" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" spoilers)

Used to be a cop but I got to be too jumpy I used to like to party 'til I coughed up half a lung But sometimes late at night I hear the beat a-bumping I reach for my holster and I wake up all alone
I used to have a wife but she told me I was crazy Said she couldn't stand the way I fidget all the time Sometimes late at night I circle around the house I look through the windows and I dream that she's still mine
    - Drive By Truckers - Used To Be A Cop
I wanted to catch up on pop culture so I watched "Mad Max: Fury Road".  Then I had to remind myself where Max comes from, so I watched the first movie in the series, "Mad Max", which I'm pretty sure I saw 20 years ago or thereabouts.  The two films are interesting partly because they couldn't feel much more unrelated.  I love that.  It leads me to ask: how do they fit together, actually?  Others have debated the chronology of the films.  I'm going to pursue a rather different kind of analysis.
My name is Max.
My world is fire and blood.

| Why are you hurting these people?
| It's the oil, stupid.
| - Oil wars.
| - We are killing for guzzoline.
| The world is running out of water.
| Now there's the water wars.
Once, I was a cop.
A road warrior searching
for a righteous cause.
 
In the fourth film, Max's character is "Hunted by scavengers / Haunted by those I could not protect / So I exist in this wasteland. / A man reduced to a single instinct: / Survive.'"

As a way in let me mention that there are plenty of obvious phatic aspects to this Fourth Film.  Among the obvious ones: story telling, myth making, and Max's spectral voices (which reminded me of Socrates's daemon).   Also, the story itself is pretty much a perfect match for Harmon's story circle:

YOU: Max | Nux | Furiosa | Joe
NEED: Survive | Die | Escape? | Control
GO: The Fury Road -> Sandstorm
SEARCH: The Green Place
FIND: Death of Splendid -> The creepy place with all the crows -> Many Mothers
TAKE: Seeds
RETURN: Death of Immortan Joe | Death of Nux
CHANGE: Furiosa and the Wives ascend into the Citadel

There are a few interesting symbolic moments that I think particularly help with "reading the film," and putting some meat on that skeleton.

For instance, after the sandstorm (I would think of this as the Beginning of Act II), the image of Nux's destroyed car is a sort of visual paraphrase of the image, very near the beginning, in which Max is throwing his belongings into his own well-functioning car.  But now, Nux has replaced the belongings, and become Max's symbolic baggage.

This is interesting, insofar as Max's stated need is to Survive, but Nux's M.O. is to Die Historic on the Fury Road.  It seems to me that as Max takes change of Nux, he is in a sense confronting his own mortality.  That's a sort of blasé way to put it; I'll expand.

If we read this situation in a phatic way, "Max" needs to Survive in the same way that a talking bird wishes to continue the conversation with its owner.  Obviously, from a real-world exchange standpoint this is true: the Mad Max "franchise" is what maintains connection with the viewer.  By hooking Max's fate to Nux's, it starts to become clear that for Max to survive, Nux will need to die, and Max will need to help him do this.

With this in mind, some other phatic symbols start to become more obvious: the physical chain that connects Max and Nux, the umbilical cord that connects Splendid and her son, even the Fury Road itself as a sort of "umbilical cord" that connects the Citadel with the Many Mothers.

Let me now make a leap of faith here, and start to read the Fourth Film against the First.  In the First film, one of the recurrent themes is the need for heroes.
Fred "Fifi" Macaffee: People don't believe in heroes anymore.
"Mad" Max Rockatansky: I know, Macaffee. You want to give them back their heroes.
In the First Film, I would say that Max fails to be a hero.  Or, at least, if he is in any sense a hero, it's only as a tragic one.  Everyone he loves most in the world dies.  Furthermore, he feels in some sense responsible.  But also, to put it another way, his Wife and Child are have a similar M.O. to Nux in the Fourth film: the story requires them to die.  The only thing Max can do achieve is a sort of revenge.

This exercise of reading the two films together is made quite a bit simpler by the fact that Toecutter in Film One is played by the same actor as Immortan Joe in Film Four (Hugh Keays-Byrne).

YOU: Goose | Max | Wife | [ Toecutter ]
NEED: Live? | [ Transform ] | Live? | Control
GO: Pursuit of Nightrider -> Immolation of Goose
SEARCH: A few weeks' time off
FIND: Toecutter's gang -> May -> Death of Wife
TAKE: Pursuit Special
RETURN: Death of Toecutter and his gang | Max is wounded
CHANGE: Max becomes the Road Warrior

Here, I've suggested that Goose and Max's Wife need to "Live?".  Well, as it turns out the story requires them to die, but Max's character very much disagrees with this narrative requirement.
That "thing" in there, that's not the Goose. No way. [...] He was so full of living, you know. He ran the franchise on it.
(This mention of a franchise is a bit interesting given the way things played out in the Real World.)

In effect, it is Max's narrative that needs these characters to die, otherwise he won't be able to become the Road Warrior.  We'd just have a weird quasi-futuristic story about cops.

So let me get back to the point I was making above, which is that there is another less obvious "umbilical cord" in the story, namely the connection between the Fourth Film and the First Film, and, indeed, the intermediate films, although I won't be giving these any particular attention here.

To be clear, this connection is quite a tenuous one.  The films are stylistically very different.  One comparison is the number of cuts.  Here, I will refer to the Second Film, since there's a nice quote about it.  But a similar comparison could be made with the First Film.
The Road Warrior had 120 cuts in its 90-minute run-time, while Fury Road has 2,700 cuts over two hours. That's 1.333 cuts per minute versus a staggering 22.5 cuts per minute.
This could be completely superficial, but one thing we've learned is to look for phatic clues in the superficial "meaningless" data.  I'd say that the change in visual style is important because it changes the way the viewer connects with the work.  That is, there are manifestly two very different kinds of "contact" at work in the two films.

Another rather obvious point is that it is possible to watch the Fourth Film and enjoy it without having seen the First.

The "constant" presence of a Hugh Keays-Byrne character with a Control M.O. in the two films is interesting.  The relationship to the concept of "control" is quite ambiguous in the First Film.  In that film, Max is a cop.  He is an agent of social control and the maintenance of order.   In the Fourth Film, he is, essentially, an agent of chaos.  Furiosa was already plotting her Escape, but because of the events of the film, the way this escape works out is different: she survives, and does not ride off into the desert, but rather replaces Immortan Joe at the top of that social order.

But, again, referring to the cinematographic issues, there is another way in which control has shifted in the Fourth Film.  There's a nice little film essay about this on YouTube: How Mad Max: Fury Road Directed YOU!

Basically, with the increased number of cuts and vastly huger budget, Fury Road takes on a very different sort of "cybernetic" relationship with the viewer.  The First Film certainly pulls at heartstrings and pulse, largely relying on the soundtrack to establish tension.  But it seems like a less-good fit with the Harmon story circle.  This is partly because the RETURN phase is rather weakened by the fact that Max can never really go home again.

For my part: let me try bring this to a conclusion.

First, I think it is tremendously interesting that the new "cybernetic" film relies on the earlier much more "filmic" film not just as a source of characters, but basically as the "soul" of the story.  Max's need for "redemption" in the Fourth Film is largely there because his character development has required the death of those he loved.  He achieves this redemption by helping Furiosa transform rather than escape.  Or, to be more precise, Furiosa escapes control, but she does this by transforming rather than just by riding off into the sunset.

But there are a few echoes that I'd like to resolve as well.  E.g., in the First Film, it is Max's wife who dies; in the Fourth Film, it is Joe's.  Max doesn't seem to be particularly affected by this (even though it is such an obvious paraphrase of his own wife's death), but Nux is pretty devastated.  

This gets towards an interesting point: Whereas both Nux in Film Four and Wife in Film One need to die to move the story forward, Nux is fully aware of his impending demise and embraces it, whereas the Wife actively resists her fate.  Similarly, whereas Max inadvertently shepherds his Wife in the direction of death, he is on the other hand pretty willing to sacrifice Nux.

Another thing: Nux's death is one of the more complicated cybernetic moments in the film, requiring two distinct automobile crashes and a bunch of film compositing.  In other words, this is one of the moments that is designed to most "connect" with the viewer.  Nux's "transformation" leads him to become more human as the film progresses, but in the moment of death he is also somehow dehumanised, in that his death becomes a purely cybernetic spectacle.  But the film plays on the irony, and we "witness him" at his most human moment, which results in some interesting frisson.

If we compare this with the quite grisly deaths of Goose and Wife in the First Film, we see that the decomposition of the human body has been replaced by the disintegration of machines (which, in the Real World relies on careful compositing of real and virtual components).

What I want to say is that "Mad Max: Fury Road" is really a movie about storytelling and about media.  Max's phatic voices are the echoes of his past, but they are also symbols that serve to connect the viewer with the "filmic past".  The break-down of civilisation depicted in the films corresponds almost exactly with the "cyberneticization" of the film series itself; it is impossible to depict one without the other.

Whereas autocratic control on the part of the Keays-Byrne character is present in both films, he is set up in different ways.  In both cases he is the Villain to be vanquished, but the magical requirements of doing so are vastly different.   In the First Film, there is a real sense of loss or sacrifice that is needed to install the Villain, and a further loss needed to vanquish him.

In the Fourth Film, Max actually loses very little.  Near the beginning he says: "How much more can
they take from me? They've got my blood. Now it's my car!"  But this is just the point.  Having lost everything already, he is somehow beyond life and death and therefor he's quite unable to pay any serious price.

Therefor, I claim, he is not much of a hero: he is a catalyst.

In my opinion, particularly considering the two films together, it is the viewer who is the hero, who pays the price with some of his/her humanity (by being subjected to cybernetic control), and whose opposite in Film Four is Nux. But like Furiosa, we don't lose all of our humanity by becoming cyborgs.  Indeed, I would also state that taking the two films together the viewer is given a path to a sort of "cyborg wholeness", in which we both identify with Max-1's loss, and with Max-4's stoic or puppet-like deus ex machina role.

In effect, we are asked to hook our own loss, our own "phatic voices" to a trans-personal engine of Art or Becoming or something like that. 

As a last word on this, perhaps I'm being defensive, but I would see this as rather different from what goes on in the Star Wars saga, although they are related (see earlier post about "weaponized intertextuality").  In the Mad Max franchise, intertextuality is not used primarily as an inside joke or knowing wink, but, I assert, as a provocation.

Where are you, Max?
Where are you?
Help us. You promised to help us.



"But sometimes late at night I hear the beat a-bumping I reach for my holster and I wake up all alone". This is what is commonly meant by "triggering" in PTSD, as I understand it. A sound triggers a traumatic mnemonic episode, the effect of which is intensified by aloneness, with no-one to turn for comfort.

"Sometimes late at night I circle around the house I look through the windows and I dream that she's still mine". This is the "poetically phatic" point of my latest post on Jakobsonian phaticity. Reminiscing about past relationships. It ties in with what is called "interference" in ecological psychology, i.e. unwanted social stimulus. But here it's with a twist - Max is bothered by the memory of his wife, much like Jack O'Neill uses the guilt for his son's accidental gun-death as a motivation for going through the Stargate. There are common parallels in everyday social media use, i.e. the Philipino foreign-worker who keeps a tab on her family back home through Facebook, and is emotionally numbed by the timeline updates of her former lover (Madianou 2016: 13).

"The two films are interesting partly because they couldn't feel much more unrelated.". This was discussed widely when Fury Road first appeared. According to the director, in every Mad Max movie he took a different point of entry into the extended universe. Max is like a mediator, a character who links the otherwise quite disparate stories together.

"If we read this situation in a phatic way, "Max" needs to Survive in the same way that a talking bird wishes to continue the conversation with its owner." The talking bird talks because it wants company and food (and the company of bird trainers means food, as rewards for talking). This amounts to saying that Max needs to be in the movie Mad Max for sake of pseudo-communicative reward. Henk Haverkate's (1988) interpretation of pseudo-phatic communion kinda lends itself to this point; it pretends to be purely social (Mad Max is a memberberry, or a member of the American para-social pantheon) but has ulterior motives for (finaniyal?) reward.

"I'd say that the change in visual style is important because it changes the way the viewer connects with the work." Youtube reviewers did point out that the camera angles and cuts in Fury Road were very consciously programmed to direct the viewer's attention from one fast-paced explosion-filled vehicle-jump to another. The staple phatic aspect in cinema generally would be the proximity, frequency, and duration of close-ups (e.g. the way interpersonal relationships are demonstrated via gaze behaviour, etc.). To be honest, I have yet to watch a movie with phaticity in mind but it does sound like a worthwhile exercise.

A quick quote from Mad Max that is particularly worth including in connection with the comments above on PTSD and reminiscence.  Here Max is addressing his Wife shortly before her death.
When I was a kid...
...me and my father
used to go for long walks.
I remember staring down at his shoes.
They were special shoes, brown.
And he always kept them really shiny.
He was tall,
and he used to take long strides.
And there I'd be right alongside him...
...just trying to keep up with him.
I don't think he ever knew
how proud I felt of him.
Or how good it felt
just to be there alongside him.
Even now, when I think back on it,
I still feel"..."
The thing is, Jess...
...I couldn't tell him about it then,
but I can tell you about it now.
I don't wanna wait    years to tell you
how I'm feeling about you right now.
I think this "deep pschological" background makes the loss of his Wife and Son even more traumatic than it would be otherwise.  The implication is, whenever he tries to connect with someone emotionally, they die.

This seems to relate to the much-talked-about feminism of the Fourth Film and the sort of sterotypical idea that women have an easier time forming relationships.  It's as if "Mad Max" (the franchise if not the character) is integrating its feminine side.  Kind of typical Jung theory here.  Integrating the masculine and feminine elements is required for fertility (represented in the film by bringing together the seeds and the water).

It gets kicked up a notch I think if we bring in the increasingly cybernetic aspect of the films, e.g., the idea that the Fourth Film is more "feminine" precisely because it has a more contact-ful relationship with the viewer, whereas the first film has a more "masculine" gaze.  There's a scene in the Second Film where the characters are watching a rape through a telescope that would very much invokes the concept of a "male gaze."

If the Deleuzian idea of "becoming woman" is relevant to the Fourth Film, the related idea of "becoming minority" is also relevant in connection with the Second Film:
For Deleuze and Guattari, "becoming-minoritarian" is primarily an ethical action, one of the becomings one is affected by when avoiding "becoming-fascist". They argued further that the concept of a "people", when invoked by subordinate groups or those aligned with them, always refers to a minority, whatever its numerical power might be. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minority_(philosophy)
But, again, we can map this back to the First Film and think about how Max and his Dad (also the father figure Fifi) or Max and his Wife are (or, rather, are not) able to enact the conditions of "the people".

a reception of derrida


This essay appeared on Reddit recently:

Derrida vs. the rationalists: Derrida’s famously difficult thought is often dismissed as “post-modern” nonsense. Is there more to it than might first appear?
https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/5143/derrida-vs-the-rationalists

There are some interesting things in there, useful for our purposes.  Some discussion of the foundation of post-structuralism (as a discourse critical of foundations), some discussion of Searle vs Derrida.  All presented in a reasonably "cool" language.  And this tricky little quote from Derrida himself:
Perhaps because I was beginning to know all too well not indeed where I was going, but where I had not so much arrived as simply stopped.
My sense is that whereas post-structuralist deconstruction often ends up asking "where is this all headed?" -- invoking an eschatological mode -- on the other hand phatic studies seems to work in a protological mode: not insisting that meanings come from any specific source, but nevertheless asking where they come from.

(I mentioned "protology" - the theory of beginnings - in one earlier post here, remarks on "story".)

I could be barking up the wrong tree, but maybe phatic studies offers a "third way" that is quite different from either structuralism or post-structuralism.