Thursday, 8 June 2017

Fragments of night 2

Nobody now living remembers meaning. And that is not to say meaning is what came before all of this, it was just the point of departure for everything that followed, up to and beyond the suppression of meaning. Because of meaning, the rest of it (including the end of meaning). Certainly, there was also 'something', if it makes any sense to refer to it, before meaning but it remains remote and undetectable. Before the first is meaninglessness, which may be referred to but which also escapes all reference. This is not an argument for the state of meaninglessness belonging to 'before', nor for the 'after', the sequence beginning with meaning; it is only a tracing of the path of that which falls out of the world. Even though there was something remote before the first, the true first was meaning. But then something happened to meaning and it was no longer meaning but had become significance. Or it did not change into significance but was ousted by it. Or rather, the gap that meaning left was filled, and of course altered, by signification. Something happened to meaning and it began to slowly corrupt, or it immediately collapsed, and then there was significance. Perhaps meaning was captured by another order of sign relations which is to say it became ill and it quickly, or slowly, became 'sign relations.' Perhaps meaning was just a 'primitive' form of signification. Our utopian instincts cry not, but we don't know for sure. We imagine that meaning is not quantity; we infer that where signification is, meaning isn't; these meagre fragments must suffice. Why did meaning perish? We don't know. All we can say is that the Enlightenment is the name for the appearance of a system of abstract representation (where depiction, portrayal, likenesses and so on had been, representation now stood). Did the Enlightenment 'kill' meaning? It seems unlikely, the agent of change is rarely also its beneficiary. It is possible that meaning had decomposed up to two centuries before Enlightenment tendencies emerged. Nobody noticed, nobody marked it, nobody remembered. After meaning, signification emerged within the general framework of representation. We have not assigned a meaning to meaning because we cannot remember it, nor would we recognise it if we did. The system of representation cannot itself be represented, nor can it show what it has suppressed except by representing it - everything represented is something represented and not something else; everything signified is something signified, and not something else. Nothing that is not of our world may appear within it. Then, how do we intuit or refer to that which falls outside of our systems of communication? That cannot be told. All we know is that meaning died. Being a system of alienation it too has become alien; we know of its history now only because we could not have arrived at this point without having passed through a 'necessary' meaning stage. But we still remember signification and so we may attribute significance to it. By signification we mean the system of sign relations whereby a relatable quantity is indexed to the circulation of its abstract indicator in the world. Every system generates its symptomatic displays of epiphenomena and here  the system of remote equivalences which supports, and is supported by, signification, raises the spectre of nonsense to greet the new horizon upon which the interchangeability of all terms became established. Nonsense is the operation of a doubled stochastic method whereby random units are selected environmentally by random method. The profound hilarity generated by 'chance meetings' (once called 'surrealism') where all meetings are chance meetings and all meetings are also systematically contained (and therefore algorithmically certain to occur) is, if not the last exertion of the meaning faculty, then a high quality reproduction of it. The capacity for nonsense is muted under the inexorable weight of possible combinations of terms and even its late and trivial forms (such as googlewhack) have shrivelled since probability perfected itself and sublated gambling into its mere representation. Today, there are no wagers, only losing bets. Then, just as meaning collapsed before the advance of signfication, so, as it became increasingly saturated with data, signification deteriorated upon the riparian shore of its own Lethean waters. As nonsense is to meaning, a transitional form generated within the ecoclinal terrain of representation, so 'information' is to signification's withering away before the data-form. 'Information' first appears as the raw material of signification, the stuff of decision making, and is apparently captured and channelled by the citadels of strategic consciousness. But institutions of the state, and the commercial para-state, the general apparatus of imperial circulation, little suspects that the logical expansion of information involves the eventual expulsion of both signification and its sign relations. Information is the willing and 'useful' form data takes in the world of signification. Then, as it saturates the capacity for strategic thinking (too many combinations, too many paths, too many outcomes) it begins to burst its constraints, and at last escapes into its own life-world. The requirement of signification for redundancy (and by implication the transportation of messages between sender and receiver positions) becomes inefficient wherever data is already immanent to, and thus autonomous from, any conceivable act of subjective 'retrieval'. Data 'advances' where processes for relating are supplanted by the relating process itself. It exists always just beyond the capacity of strategy to deploy it; its elusive proximity is the rough edge that erodes all containment of its flow within 'channels' - data is realised as the systemic expulsion of use value, a regurgitated pellet or husk, from world-production. If meaning is the tool that extracts sociability from simple immanence, then it is later incorporated as such by the machinery of signification as social relations transform themselves into abstract systems. And if significance is the apparatus of production within the regime of circulation, then data is the return of abstraction from the regime of signs to immanent process 'at a higher level'. Data is robotised nature, digitised matter. Where the death drive of data has suppressed signification, all units become already immanently related all of the time, the tendency of its system is to a 'telling' silence. Data discharges energy from its system where immanence implies rest not 'flow'. There is no traffic, there are no messages, there is no distance, there are no relations. Then, the tragedy of the end shall not be located in the end itself but in the end's seeming willed conformity with the familiar traits of the end: failure of organs, infirmity, dispersion, amnesia, corruption, retreat, weakness. Upon reflection, we might prefer for the end to arrive in youth where it could be met from an apparent position of strength, where what is fated to die would die in a state of amor fati. But no entity chooses the terms of its own incorporation. Affirmationists, such as the devotees of accelerationism, will be undone by the infernal stagnation of data in the same state of wretched unpreparedness as everyone else. We might prefer it if meaning had committed suicide at the beginning, derailing all that has followed. We might also comfort ourselves, in contemplation of 'end times' motifs, by imagining that we would know when to pull the plug before things got out of hand. But integrated decisions are a function of operability and it is rare to recognise incipient impairment without also adjusting to it and thereby revising the category of what is intolerable. The line in the sand will always be redrawn, it is a play that implements the rule where adjustment must always compromise principle. And the days pass. The cycle of the sequelae of meaning, deriving from a retrieved ur-state of undetectable meaninglessness and drip-feeding into an imminent state of post-signification data autonomy, has been either gradual or rapid, but always relentless. It has always operated subliminally as the changing, unchanging ground for those perpetually  adjusting to it. Positive feedback in environmental systems becomes its own anaesthetic. The truth of an epoch, which is inseparable from its recognition, always arrives too late for awareness to divert process from its fated conclusion. Such truths are abandoned by their epochs in retreat and become monuments in retrospect, autotomic tails thrashing about as verdict, as summary, as tab on a file in another system's directory. The tragedy of the death of meaning is not that it should die but that it meets its end through a representation of chatter, a travesty of chatter, instigated by computer mediated technologies categorically hostile to chatter itself; the hard-programming of such technologies is directed towards nirvana, the horizon of absolute silence, to the domain of for-itself data.