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Visualising assemblage

I've been hesitating for a long about putting this up. But I hope that someone will give me some feedback on it, and it may help those who - like me - spend a lot of time trying to work out what exactly an assemblage is.

The most comprehensive definition that I found is in A thousand plateaus:
On a first, horizontal, axis an assemblage comprises two segments, one of content, the other of expression. On the one hand it is a machinic assemblage of bodies, of actions and passions, an intermingling of bodies reacting to one another; on the other hand it is a collective assemblage of enunciation, of acts and statements, of incorporeal transformations attributed to bodies. Then on a vertical axis, the assemblage has both territorial sides, or reterritorialized sides, which stabilize it, and cutting edges of deterritorialization, which carry it away. (Deleuze & Guattari 2004: 97-8)

deleuze guattari assemblage diagram visualisation
The two segments on the horizontal axis are in "reciprocal presupposition" (Bogard 2009: 16) - they exist because of each other, but neither causes the other. On top, the territorialisation seeks to define boundaries and stabilise the assemblage. The arrows leading out from the bottom are the lines of flight, cutting through the assemblage and engendering new ones.

Manuel DeLanda also discusses assemblage extensively in New Philosophy of Society, noting in particular the "relations of exteriority" - i.e. that the constitutive components are discrete and linked in contingently causal relations that do not imply 'logical necessity' (2006: 10) - and that an assemblage only becomes one (as opposed to a collective of interconnected components) when there are emergent properties that affect the constitutive parts (ibid.: 38). He adds a third axis "defining processes in which specialized expressive media intervene" (ibid.: 19), but I haven't included that above.

In terms of methodological insights, it is worth considering the original French word that has been translated into ‘assemblage’: agencement is a word that designates something that is put together with a particular goal in mind, a desire to construct something which has an order to it (see also Palmas 2007: 1-2). An assemblage, as apprehended by the analyst, can only ever be partially understood and - because it is traced back from its effects - the danger is to see telos in its apparent direction. One should not however assign teleological essence to something that has already moved on.

For example: Rain is not bound to finish in the ocean, and rivers have no purpose - nonetheless, there is a clear causal pattern that results in a riverbed that carries rainwater to the ocean. The river territorialises the land it flows through, enabling the growth of plants, supporting fauna, and so on. The river is an assemblage of earth, water, fish, gravity and more, and its operation is rhizomatic - it is never the same, and may overflow its banks or change direction at any given moment in response to movements of deterritorialisation or lines of flight engendered by, for example, an earthquake; or human pollution.

A blog is an assemblage too. This blog, as you see it, has been put together by me, and suggested by the affordances coded into it by a collective of programmers. I created it and I can delete it, but it also escapes me: there are copies in archives online, and it operates autonomously - displaying itself to you right now, with components recording the time you stay on this page, which website you linked here from (if any), what browser you're using, etc. It offers you the possibility to comment below, but recently I also have to delete multiple spam comments daily - both your comments and the spam are 'lines of flight', they are deterritorialising movements that reduce my own terrtorialising influence.

Anyway, I would much appreciate any comments on the visualisation above. Or anything else. Thanks :-)


References
BOGARD, W. 2009. "Deleuze and Machines: A Politics of Technology?" In: Deleuze and New Technology (eds) D. Savat & M. Poster, 15-31. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
DELANDA, M. 2006. "New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity". London & New York: Continuum.
DELEUZE, G. & F. GUATTARI 2004. "A thousand plateaus?: capitalism and schizophrenia" (trans B. Massumi). London: Continuum.
PALMAS, K. 2007. "Deleuze and DeLanda: A new ontology, a new political economy?" presented at the Economic Sociology Seminar Series, Department of Sociology, LSE, 29 January (available on-line: http://khup.com/download/32_keyword-callon-the-laws-of-the-market/two-versions-of-assemblage.pdf, accessed 22 November 2010).

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rasunah on :

this is a useful diagram. the lines of flight perhaps are re-absorbed as part-subjects or fragments
in that way there would be arrowheads at both ends?
my sense of (surface) readings on this topic as it applies to communications is that there is a symbiotic 'balancing' going on within language as both corporeal & incorporeal, thus the ongoing 're-territorializing'. but i don't pretend to have a strong grasp of these concepts

julian on :

Hi, thanks for your comment :-)

You have a good point about them being reabsorbed, but i think that would be better represented by the line splitting up with one or more arrowheads circling back into the original assemblage.

I think that viewing relations as symbiotic probably works, but I'm not so sure about 'balancing' - this implies a certain goal, a point where equilibrium and thus stasis may occur.

The term usually used is 'resonance' - things arrive at a point where they resonate, thus driving new outcomes and so on.

I'm going to add an embedded YouTube video of a lecture by Deleuze where he talks about assemblage, in French though.

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