Digital Praxis

Digital Praxis

Digital Fourfold 1,1

“As a context, we must understand that there are four major types of these “technologies,” each a matrix of practical reason: (1) technologies of production, which permit us to produce, transform, or manipulate things; (2) technologies of sign systems, which permit us to use signs, meanings, symbols, or signification; (3) technologies of power, which determine the conduct of individuals and submit them to certain ends or domination, an objectivising of the subject; (4) technologies of the self, which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.”[1]

DIGITAL PRAXIS:  The example of the watch: a device for understanding where you are in relation to time collectively kept; the compass: a device for understanding where you are in relation to space and territory; and smartphone: the primary portal through which we now communicate with digital gamespace — each is a mirror that gathers different reflections on the weird relations and threads that run through design, time, digital modes of being and binary systems of production, control and thinking. It is by carefully picking and unpicking these lines of theory from the many available tapestries of thought on digital media, mediation and design, that I will now try to interlace what I have inscribed as DIGITAL POLITICS, DIGITAL PROJECTION and DIGTIAL SENTIMENTALITY as a means of thinking DIGITAL PRAXIS by reconfiguring these within a vague, personal account of what I consider to be a weird digital practice linked to the ancient art and continuous act of weaving.

To begin, let’s consider the digital nature of weaving in terms of another device— the loom. Using Thacker’s dark media theory we could say this is also a dead, haunted and weird design. Like the compass or lodestone, many looms are no longer in use, but as a proto-digital device its process remains active in proto-computers, computing and computerized labor. Sadie Plant:

“Lovelace and Babbage took their inspiration from the early nineteenth-century Jacquard loom, crucial both to the processes of automation integral to the industrial revolution, and to the emergence of the modern computer….it is also the key to one of the most extraordinary sites of woman-machine interface which short-circuits their prescribed relationship … weaving is the exemplary case of a denigrated female craft which now turns out to be intimately connected to the history of computing and the digital technologies.”[2]

Plant goes on to observe that Freud cites weaving and plaiting as the only contribution to the history of discoveries and invention that can be ascribed to women and not ‘man’. For Freud, weaving happens because its “a simulation of what he describes as a natural process, the matting of pubic-hair across the hole, the zero, the nothing to be seen.”[3] Deploying Plant’s important cyberfeminist critique of this disassociation of the woman-machine from the history of science and technology, as an occluded digital process, loom, woman, matrix, womb and weave represent a media that also haunts digital computing — objects still in use, but in a non-normative way. Placed outside of a dominant narrative that understands complex machines as “tools and mediations which allow a unified, discreet human agency to interact with an inferior natural world”[4], weaving is a technological ghost in the shell, an elusive soul echo that haunts the digital of gender, computational matrices and code by reading these as unstable or non-normative, suggesting that by undoing the dominant frames these create we might better understand what it means to be without what we take for granted as normative use.[5]

Finally, let’s consider the virtual, non-space of the looms as a weird media. In one sense, this holds if we consider weaving as an excommunicated interface that maintains an object-thing relation to a lacuna — the hole. This zero-gap is neither something or nothing, where “digitization sets zero free to stand for nothing and make everything work.”[6] Plant again: “If the phallus guarantees man’s identity and his relation to transcendence and truth, it is also this which cuts him off from the abstract machinery of a world he thinks he owns. It is only those at odds with this definition of humanity who seem to be able to access this plane.”[7] Be it fig leaves, matted hair or synthetic nano-fabric, by reading between the lines of the long story of covering things up we might begin to ask questions about who has access and control to certain planes of understanding when it comes to a return to DIGITAL-0.

Let’s take a look at weaving before its instrumentalisation by the vector class as a site of profit, production, industry and tech. As the histories, devices and artefact that is the loom folds into the act of weaving, we can pass from a relation to language and mechanics to a relation of gesture and consciousness alluded to by Lacan.

Over and under, Over and under, Over and Under…
Under and Over, Under and Over, Under and Over…

This is the rhythm of a fundamental binary interlocking that can be repeated over and over again, such that if you were to try this very gesture today you can rest assured that you are performing an ancient art, like listening to the very same stereo beat of both your ancestors and mine. Over and under, above and below, warp and weft —spinning and weaving as it stretches way back; back into time so that it can be read as a longstanding digital practice that was widely and ubiquitously practiced throughout societies as a complex entanglement of material function, symbolic language, social encoding and telaesthesia lines of communication. And yet, the certainty of making these statements here rests less in theory, texts and the archeology of the archive, and much more from a certain paradox of using weaving to say something about a necessary silence of the unwritten and unsaid — a zero point process that allows for a mysterious passage of a digital memoryscape based on the interwoven temporal consciousness accessed through the never-to-be-written.

Returning to Thacker, he writes: “media are ‘weird’ when they negatively mediate between two ontological orders, whereby the object recedes into a thing. Between the object ‘for us’ and the thing ‘in itself,’ there is at once the smallest interval and the greatest void.”[8] Drawing on Thacker’s weird media, Elvia Wilk explores the noetic and weird accounts with an absolute, alien ‘Other’ occurring in foundational mystical texts specifically written by women, “a lineage of female knowledge outside of dominant epistemologies of both religion and science.”[9] Wilk’s observation of mysticism and the New Weird can be usefully interlocked here with that of Plant’s cyberfeminist account of weaving, the zero and the one. This generates a view of weaving as a weird technology that affords access to other ontological spheres and animated, embodied object-thing relationships to the digital, knowledge and knowing. Wilk writes:

“A mysticism for the Anthropocene, just like mysticism through the ages, would regard the ‘object’ of knowledge as alive and inseparable from the mind and body that encounters it. That is, rather than fictionalizing science, a mysticism for today would have to Weird it.”[10]

Materially real, yet also a virtual presence, a protocol based on the binary continuity of over and under that can multiply across intricate and infinitely complex algorithmic combinations, weaving as I have had the luck of learning it from a master weaver is more than a means to an end. By being patched into the custodial and esoteric knowledge maintained by continuous traditions passed through direct oral traditions and codes that span many hundreds and thousands of years, weaving here operates as a weird time machine. More than a ‘feminine craft’, an artisanal undertaking, a labour of covering up the nothing or the mechanics of the industrial textiles, this practice is undertaken not for the sake of ‘moving the loom’. It is instead a thing-process — “tessere per essere” — weaving to be, for being and as a becoming. From this direct experience of weaving knowledge that is alive and inseparable from the mind and body that encounters it, I would like to suggest that there is encoded within a digital-analog weave-space: an ‘other’ dimension of the digital that operates as a multi-valent technology of the self. Weird and mysterious, weaving takes DIGTIAL 0 and doubles it, generating the possibility of hacking Wark’s Gamer Theory as a Weaver Theory using a four-fold scheme that are placed throughout this text. 

Back to Wark: 

“As the digital subsumes the analog, so too the designer subsumes the artist. The longing to return to art as an analog pursuit—the trace of the hand in clay or paint—may be in vain. But the artist within the designer may still inscribe the analog in the heart of the digital as something irreducible. The artist is now the insider who finds a new style of trifling within the game.”

A Weaver Theory — operating as an analog trace of the hand in the digital ghost made eternally present — weirds within the game not by trying to exit it, but by making and being, doing and undoing. It finds itself in not in reset, but in the reorientation of entanglement as a becoming, an infinite, digital process as analog materiality that is “water, liquidity, flow… which melts and morphs into swirling ‘shards of chaos,’ if not also ‘shards of hope.’”[11]  However, if the analoggers’ world is a mixture of consistency and accident where “destiny or fate do not exist”, as a theory of weird design, weaver theory  makes us aware of the weird of design that is shaped by the ‘invisible hand’ that counts on its digits the value of all things before closing again like a fist to take it all. 

Above all, and, for the sake of symmetry, also below it, weaver theory is strictly praxis-oriented. You have to do it to think it. This takes it beyond the binary of games and the lines of distance to brings things as close as possible. It is both top-down and bottom-up, but in a different sense. Rather than the on/off of a device or the reset of digital systems as a rule of two that “entails an ever-present discretization into two or more parts”, it is not either/or but both/and. This pulls Weaver Theory into the domain of what Galloway defines as analog methods, analog ontology, analog ethics: 

“First and foremost, analog methods focus on real materiality as assemblage, multiplicity, heterogeneity, and difference. Analog ontology, thus, favors deterritorialization over territorialization, becoming over being, process over stasis, the open over the closed. This generates an analog ethics defined through doing, action, production, creativity, experimentation, and pragmatism.”[12]

To this end Weaver Theory as it is conceived here should try to begin not only with a process, but with encounter and connection. In my own case, by encountering and choosing to learn from a master weaver, I have found that this system produces different ways of thinking about the digital and its associated terms, technologies, media and electronics from a liminal trans-state that occurs within and through presence and transmission. Thus, to master something, you have to copy a master, to be a disciple you have to undiscipline yourself from disciplines and fields, and to gain the trust that is inherent in custodianship and the passing of sacred knowledge, you have to put yourself in the hands of the master weaver and allow one’s self to become spun, disoriented, turned over and under and become woven. Here, hand, eye and gesture manifest a cyclical repetition and alchemic interface. In this weaver theory of the digital, events do not look for symbolic meaning or textual contingency in what the weaver weaves, but in the unspoken mystery of what the weaving weaves in the weaver as they become slowly and carefully intertwined inside the space-time matrix of a tapestry whose design might resemble the dense entangled branches of the inter-dimensional and cosmically rooted tree of life.



[end of Digital 1,1]


[1] Foucault, Michel. 1988, Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault, Tavistock Publications London, 18

[2]  Plant, 1996, 332

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5]  Plant’s interrogation of Freud’s gendered history of weaving-technology indicates that in this configuration (one that is often taken as given even today) the act of weaving is a kind of enduring glitch. — In this way, we might consider that histories of weaving read as ‘technology’ that are tied to ‘gender’ can together reveal a “ghostly conventionality of the forms by which digital spaces are organized” in so far as they expose operative modes at the point they malfunction. This is explored in detail by Sunden (2015) and her observations realting to gender, trans-, technological accidents and ‘glitch’ in Goriunova and Shulgin (2008), “Glitch,” In: Mathew Fuller, ed. Software studies: A lexicon. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 110-119).

[6] Plant, 1996. 333

[7] Ibid

[8] Thacker 2014, 134

[9] Wilk, Elvia  2018 “The Word Made Fresh: Mystical Encounter and the New Weird Divine” e-flux journal #92 (June).

[10] Ibid. 12-13

[11] Galloway, 2022, 230

[12] Ibid. — Additionally, Weaver Theory is not so much about — Analog causality, that which “operates via chance, accident, and chaos” and analog aesthetics based on “gaps slippage, patchiness, and messiness” because as a praxis based theory if you don’t want the whole thing to unravel you have to ensure that you carefully stick to the symmetry of the golden rule — over and under — otherwise at a certain point, weaving with to much slippage and glitch is just string. 

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