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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).

1Malaysia email - 1 Identity to rule them all?

OK a rapid one to talk about the just-announced plan by the Malaysian government. Here are some details:
The 1 Malaysia concept is a brainchild of Najib to bring unity among Malaysians when he took power in April 2009.

Najib disclosed today the email account will allow direct and secure communication between the public and the government, and is part of a new one-stop web portal for government services.

Najib said the portal will be developed by Tricubes and provide services such as social networking, online bill payment and citizen application development to some 16 million Malaysians. (The Malaysian Insider)

It's the first time I've heard of a government supplying emails to its people.

I can see one advantage. I've been reflecting more and more recently about how the convergence of on and offline activities is developing a situation where people move seamlessly between these different spheres of social interaction. With smartphones this can be very obvious (i.e. the person you're talking with keeps tweeting while talking to you), and the directions in which the geolocational affordances of mobile telephony are opening up are as yet unclear.

But there are many other more prosaic aspects of the on and offline convergence: doing your banking online, arranging your party on Facebook, ordering a pizza online. These all require identification, and more and more we are seeing Facebook and Google profiles becoming the default 'ID card' online.

The problem is that these are commercial interests, and one's formal, legal, identity should be regulated by a responsible state. Leaving it up to commercial interests leaves open pathways to abuse. Not least, privacy: for example, I wish that there was a law that said that we can delete **all** our details from any website that we registered with - at the moment, you have to register with many websites just to access their services - imagine if a shop didn't allow you in unless you filled out a form with your name, phone number, etc, first? Why do we have to do it online?

So, the answer would be a centralised (or some form of distributed system, for greater security) repository which can confirm our identity on request (e.g. for age, like when YouTube says the content of a video is not for children), but not **share** our data with the website. In other words, like showing your IC to prove your age at a pub - they don't get to keep all your details, but they know you're old enough.

So, I see a future when there is a state-certified online identity system. It could be done through logging on with a fingerprint detector, or some such highly secure mechanism. Embedded chips why not.

Before you start yelling Big Brother! at me, hold on. I agree it is open to abuse, and some governments are not to be trusted. But if it was a situation where you don't need to identify yourself to surf the web, but if you want, you can use this ID to register with forums, shops, banking online, etc. it could be really useful. A way to protect your privacy. It could also be an effective way of separating children from adult content.

There has to be an iron-clad way of ensuring nobody can track your surfing practices based on your secure identity, i.e. no cookies to follow you around online.

So. The only good reason I can think of having a 1Malaysia email account is that it would be verified and connected to one's IC. Then it could start to be the basis of such a verifiable online identity - to be used as the citizen wishes. But without a really careful plan, and a really secure system, it is not likely to succeed in providing that service.

How many blogs are there in the Malaysian SoPo blogosphere?

This is an interesting paper about the Malaysian SoPo blogosphere – it uses social network analysis (SNA) techniques to crawl links and map the Malaysian SoPo blogs.

It doesn’t seem to say when the data was collected, but the paper was published in 2010, and the crawl was done after the 2008 elections, so let’s assume 2009. One worry I have is that they used the SoPo Sentral of Malaysia directory as the starting point of their crawl – but that was last updated in December 2008, and is not necessarily complete. On the other hand, it’s probably the best place to start. But Dr. Mahathir’s blog (which started in May 2008) is not mentioned which is surprising.

What they did was to take the 385 blogs in the SoPo-Sentral directory and follow the link to a depth of four (e.g. follow links from one blog, collect all the links it links to, then follow those, and again two times). From this they got 4,693 sites, and approximately 2,000 blogs. Another crawl using the same technique on blog posts mentioning ‘Bersih’ in the week after the Bersih demonstrations gathered 878 blogs.

So this suggests that there were about 2,000 Malaysian SoPo blogs. Which is less than I imagined. Edit: Actually, it's more likely to mean that there are between 878 and 2000 sopo blogs.

Here are some of the results. They also compare SoPo blogs to random Malaysian blogs.
• The almost paradigmatic polarisation of SoPo blogs demonstrated in the USA by Adamic & Glance is not replicated here. Instead there is a distinct clustering of smaller groups with scattered individuals forming ‘bridges’.
Source details below

My hunch here is that this reflects patronage-style politics – people affiliating themselves with individuals – rather than identifying themselves with ideology or political stances (to note however that another SNA analysis of the Malaysian blogosphere did turn up a polarisation – though it was not focused on SoPo blogs).
• SoPo bloggers are more likely (compared to random Malaysian bloggers) to be older males (this is the same as the US), and also to reveal details about themselves.
• 27.9% specify a political affiliation as follows: 10.2% UMNO, 7.1% PAS, 4.2% PKR, 2.5% DAP, 1.2% PSM. Surprisingly no other BN parties such as MCA, MIC, Gerakan, etc. Overall, it suggests that most SoPo bloggers see themselves as independents.
• SoPo blogs are four times more likely to be in English than BM (“the small amount of Chinese blog content in [their] data” were not dealt with).
• “the average sopo blogger has more in-links and comments than random Malaysian bloggers”
• Blogger.com (i.e. ‘blogspot’) “has more than 152,000 Malaysian profiles — many more than on Wordpress.com or similar services.”

You can access the paper (in a somewhat garbled copy) here on Scribd, and the full details are:
ULICNY, B., M. KOKAR & C. MATHEUS 2010. “Metrics For Monitoring A Social-Political Blogosphere: A Malaysian Case Study”. Internet Computing, IEEE 14, 34-44.

Charlie and Baby-Led Weaning

I posted a video of Charlie eating papaya a while ago, but I felt like it didn't show baby-led weaning in the best way - because he was mostly just playing with the food.

So here's another video where you can see how he manipulates food, goes back for more, etc.


I'm sure all parents worry about the decisions they have to make about their child, but one thing that I'm really happy we did was try baby-led weaning.
The basic principle is no spoon feeding at all - **babies do not need to be spoon-fed**

The main advantages are:
1. The child gets to practice manipulating objects, recognising colours, etc. from an early age.
2. The child learns from the very beginning that eating happens at the table with everyone else. No running after a baby with a spoon.
3. The child learns to control his own food intake, and thus develops a good relation with food. He will try new foods easily.
4. It's easier to feed her, just lay the food in front of her and she gets on with it.

Check out a website on baby-led weaning, and also a helpful forum.

Disadvantages:
1. It can be very messy
2. It is often slower (but in the long run I think you save time).

Mobile phone supply lines in Egypt

I got this picture from the BBC, and it interested me because it made me think of the practicality, the logistics of organising protests.


For any military campaign to succeed, communications and supply lines are vital. In this case, the communications are probably more important, as the individual protestors will get their own food and water.

Imagine if you are a protestor. It's no fun, and it's scary. Your mobile phone must be a real source of comfort and support, and you get information that may warn you of attacks, and boost morale when Mubarak shows signs of conceding. And they are crucial in coordinating actions. Though of course it has to be noted that when the government shut down (or severely limited) mobile phone networks and the internet, they continued all the same. It is a testimony to their commitment and fortitude, and I wish them all the best.


17.43-17.59

++++++++++
The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum.
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.

Restaurant suing blogger Sixthseal and Google

21.26

OK this is a new one: a restaurant - Jothy's Fish Head Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant - in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, is suing Sixthseal.com, a well-known Malaysian blogger, for saying he did not like the food at the restaurant - in fact he said it was really awful. For some reason I can't access that blog right now, but here is a screenshot of the original post. I can't say that it's a good move by the restaurant, better just to make sure their food is good and it should sort itself out.

However, it's possible that the reason why they are so annoyed is that is was recommended in Lonely Planet, so they must have been making loads of money off the tourists, and with a prominent blog post coming sixth on the Google search first page, it could be affecting their business. On the other hand, the first result is a positive four star rating from tripadvisor.com.

Anyway, it seems to me that Sixthseal has expressed a subjective opinion, and if you're going to start suing every food critic who doesn't like a restaurant (ditto for art critics, book reviewers, etc.) then there are going to be a lot of changes.

But the next bit is the strangest, and it may be a first. The restaurant is also suing Google - I suppose for providing the search engine that enables people to see the blog post.

Well - this one may be a world wide first, so Malaysia boleh! Again. But honestly it's got to be dead in the water. If the courts agreed to this, then every company will be wanting to be tell Google what to show and what not to show. Though there may be precedent in terms of Google returning searches on porn, terrorist related sites etc.

21.40

++++++++++
The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum.
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.