We enter the world in the middle of things. We invade the bursting forth of things. There is no pure origin at birth. We begin our life in the middle of things. The middle is always bursting forth in all directions. It is not linear. It is rhizomatic. We are never really individuals. We are webbed and inter-related. No one is an island. But we have forgotten this aspect of life. We have forgotten that the individual self was born with modernity. The individual killed the multitude that was before it. Before the birth of the individual, we had the multitude. It reigned in all its glory in its molecular multiplicity. But with the coming of the individual, we have a new self marking its beginning. But the beginning is marked by erasing its many parts and inter-relations which in its turns enable the newly born self believe that it is undivided and indivisible. This atomisation of the self has brought about an authoritiative individual that has killed the ‘munus’ of the community. The individual self wants to play God. It has the desire to be at the beginning of all things. This is why it is enslaved to the linear, tap root thinking. It offers the self to position itself at the absolute beginnings. This enslavement has done way with community. Community life requires the self to die. Self sacrifice is the life breathe of a community. This is why Michael Foucault declared the death of individual self when he said that we had the funeral of Man or Roland Barthes declared the death of the author. Paradoxically, the individual self that murdered the community is dying in our post-modern society. There is no longer individual in our society. What we have is a dividual that has learnt to divide itself. This divided self is a schizo. It schizolizes/ divides our society. It is important that we come to terms with dividualizing dividual in our society. Paradoxically, the dividual seeks to link with other similar dividual and emerge into a ghostly, machinic monster that sinks it into un-divided all-one.
This study takes up a close look at the dividual. The communication technologies and capitalist machinic instincts are actively producing the dividual. We can trace the dividual everywhere. Facebook, the social media and political arena is proliferating with the dividuals. The self is no longer atomistic but has become sub-atomic. Reason has no hold over it. The rational self is dying and a hybridized dividual is emerging. This is why it has opened it to the vulnerabilities of being exploited and made to dace to the tunes of several excitations that produce aesthetic responses into it. Just like our feet mindlessly dance to the tune of music, the dividual drifts with several flows that excites it. We have automatised and personalized advertisement where machines study our likes and dislikes and accordingly activate the dividual in us. Politics also works in the same manner. This is why the intimate data of each person on the social media has become a new resource for those who are trying to build social as well as political capital. Big data has come to haunt humanity. The big brother is watching and reading as well as producing our behaviour. We are becoming dividuals and as such are becoming mindlessly sucked into our aesthetic drives and excitations. We are trapped into a Sisyphean nightmare living designed life that it seems that we are to be condemned to live. What is amazing is that drive to participate in this Sisphean nightmare is insatiable. This is why a study of this new condition of humanity is indeed urgent and important. We have to understand and respond to the brave new world that we are actively creating though our mindless participations. We need new ways of resistance as well as forge new solidarities to fight our machinic enslavements to aesthetic drives. This may require learning to disobey and transgress. It will require courage to wage a persistent and continuous battle to win over our aesthetic excitations or stimulations. This means we need to understand our affective dimension and involve ways of staying with affective maturity.
The first part of this study attempts to explore how what is called digital divide bridges and opens humans to exploitation through big data. Today we do not just need digital literacy but also digital competence. As the access to digital technology increases dividualization of society multiplies. The second part of the study attempts to enter the micro politics of desire. This entry point is required as it enables to understand the dynamism of stimulations or excitations that affect our desire and we choose response that is already designed for us by the big data technocrats.
Facing our Digital Present
The mobile phone has begun to pervade every aspect of our life. it is not only assists us to communicate but has become a major source of our information, entertainment and even education. The digital technology through the mobile phone has penetrated our society. Our digital present has rendered us vulnerable to algorithmic control than ever before. Our life is steadily coded by algorithms and it will only increase. We will not need doctors, lawyers, judges, cooks, teacher or priests. Robotic automatons will do the needful. They will operate on our past data and offer us solutions/ algorithms that are customised for us. This points out that we have entered societies of control.
Algorithmic Regimes of Truth
The digital turn of our life is palpable. Most of us are infatuated by the tremendous possibilities that the digital world offers. These possibilities of modelling our world are challenging the representation of the world based on ancient presumptions of Plato. We no longer produce the knowledge of the world. We discover the world as it is worlding right in front of us. We do not need an apriori model of the world. We have contact with the world in its becoming. This has brought about crises of regimes of truth. The digital subject is disincarnated as well as become a dividual. We have become exploitable content at an industrial scale to big data companies. Self is quantified and is brought under machinic control. In the big data analytics, we are not dealing with things. What we have are networks of data that evolve in real time that aggregate from time to time as profiles, patterns etc. Big data is hyper-indexing almost everything. Humans have become nothing more than their statistical reference. Human is emerging as a quantifiable number. Raw data seems to be speaking for itself and the sign has merged into the dynamic play of the signal. We are trapped into a cage of big data. Data that we are talking about is never really raw data. It is already ordered and produced within its frameworks. Hence, data scientists clean and rank data. This means production of big data leads to cancelling out of all meaning and we land into a-signifying semiotics. To be calculable the sign becomes a signal. A signal carries no meaning but produces effect. Data is in an emanation mode and stays in play. This is why deductive logic fails and we are left with only inductive logic to work with. Therefore, we have lost contact with the real. The real is no longer accessible but has become only manageable. Reality is in play. It is presencing itself. It has become actorial. But big data is not just dealing with the actorial reality. It is dealing with the post-actorial realm as it tries to predicate the path actorialization will take in the coming future. All this is possible by digitizing everything/ numbering everything including life.
The post-actorial realm of big data is a banopticon. It eliminates possibilities in the future and offers ways of shaping a future into the hands of those who will pay to bring it into shape. Medical profession, for instance will change. We will not have to consult medical doctors. In the future, people will consult robo-doctors who will have entire medical history of the sick person and would do better diagnosis as well as prescribe better medicines. These customized services of various kinds maybe welcome by most people. But this opens possibilities of using customized algorithms to individual or communities to manipulate behaviour so as to achieve desired outcomes to politicians, police, administrators and corporate groups. It has become a matter of sending signals that provoke stimuli and reflexes. These signals target our affective sides and remain non-cognitive. There is no longer individual. It is the dividual that these signals target and the dividuals than may align into assemblages that are called condividuals. Big data forgets the individual and subjectivity and works entirely on the mode of machinic operationality . This would mean that we have entered society of control and loose our freedoms. With death of language and the demise of signifying signification in the big data regime, there is no language calling us into being. Interpellation cannot call us into being. The signals generated by big data analytics work as interpellation and we are manipulate to give designer responses. Interpellations by the machines having no cognitive appeal to us convert us into machine. We have become assemblage and human has died. We have become cage parrots to be manipulated by big data techno barons.
Micro-politics of Desire
The big data analytics stimulate our desires and ride us to their designed outcomes. Sigmund Freud taught that production of desire was predetermined by Oedipus of mummy-daddy and me. For Deleuze and Guattari Desire is not predetermined by identity but teach that it is multiplicity that produces identities. As pure multiplicity, desiring production cannot be reduced to any unity. Understanding of the dynamics of desire is vital because it constitutes and conjugates our life particularly in an era of the dividual.
Organization of Productive Desire
Desire does not seek to overcome a lack but is itself productive. Deleuze thinks that desire is normalized within the Oedipus sexuality and capitalist consumption. Oedipus does not account for the account of desire but it has become a dominant mode of normalisation of desire in modern societies. It cannot be certainly viewed as transcendental and universal. Desire always attaches itself to the partial objects and not to the whole objects. Thus, for instance the baby and the breast of the mother. The baby cannot all the time suck the milk of the mother. It has to swallow the milk that it has sucked. Hence, there are breaks between swallowing and sucking. Child cannot connect indefinitely. It has to break connections. Liking sucking slowing is another connection that has to be broken in order to suck again. Deleuze and Guattari teach that it is the limits in the body that bring these connection. Limits stand for what the body cannot do. These limits according to them are introduced by body-without-organs. The making of connection is called as synthesis of desire and breaking is known as disjunctive synthesis. The link between desire and its limit in its body-without-organs is called the paranoiac machine. The limits between desire and its body-without-organs are broken as desire colonises it limits and spread across the surface of the body-without-organs. it is at this stage that we have what is called conjunctive synthesis. At this stage desire and its limits become reflexive. Desiring production at this stage organizes itself across the body-without-organs through tension between connection and disjunction. The residual energy of this tension creates a point of reconciliation that Deleuze and Guattari call a subject. Subject to them is a residue of desiring production rather than an agent of desiring production. (death and desire, 134). The subject that is produced is nomadic and polyvocal. It occupies different point on the vortex that constitutes its own subjectivity. This means the interaction of desire does not produce unitary subjects but polyvocal and nomadic subjects. This points out that we become schizos or dividals.
Organization of the Desire of Dividuals
The external stimuli instigates desire which seeks connection and disjunction as well as organises its own limits introduced by its body-without-organs through conjunctive synthesis that creates what Deleuze and Guattari calls miraculating machine. Capitalism is one such miraiculating machine. Today with the rise of computation and communication technology, big data analytics forming another miraculating machine and the residue of these desiring productions are dividuals. Humans are disassembled as they are disincarnated and re-assembled as they link to new assemblages opened up by big data analytics. The a-signifying signals trigger desire and we readily/ mindlessly invest into the desire. When one does fall to the traps of big data algorithms, one becomes , nameless, faceless data point. This lets us migrate into algorithmic becomings that takes us into machinic autopoesis. The desiring machines operate in the in-between space among the dividuals bundling similar in affective orientation together into assemblages. The boundaries of the dividuals are fluid and allow them to constitute and reconstitute new assemblages. The atomic/ monadic individual breaks down into dividuals and this breaking down is not based on cognitive/ intellectual orientations but on the aesthetic orientations that excite or stimulate. These simulations are mainly a-signifying semiotic impulses that are draws the dividual into an assemblage. Thus, our way of orienting oneself to the world has radically changed. The dividual stays enchanted with world and enjoys a different sense of self ever ready to ride its desires. Thus, dividual is anti-Oedipal. This means a dividualized self is totally permeated self. This is why a dividual is vulnerable to the designer life constructed by big data technocrats through a continuous system of modulation. Dividual remains on a dynamic adventure of investment of desire that only led it to be enslaved to micro-fascism.
Designer Enslavement to Fascism
Dividuals invest in the desire that leads them to give up present future in exchange to potentially better future. It enables the dividual to desire its own repression. This choice of an enjoyment of one’s own repression does not stem from being duped or forced to comply but arises out of affects that draw the dividual to into it hoping that that future will be bright. One can find this hope for a better future being narrativized as the right choice. This hope in the present is manufactured by the big data technocrats.
From Micro-fascism to Molar-fascism
All fascism begins with micro-fascism. It mainly arises out of one’s desire to belong to that leads to identification, adherence to norms, and conventions that go against the interest of the individual. the danger of micro-fascism consist not just in it invisible presence in our daily life but the fact that it leads to choices that are rationalized as forward looking actions that are willing to suffer the pain of unfreedom for the present. This result in the suspension of the rigid molar categories that breaks the boundaries and introduce fluidity so that the future good that one is looking for is anticipated in the burdens that one may choose to stay with for the present. This means the dividual is always under the call of the future. The present exists only as a way to bring the future into reality. This quest for a future paradise is congruent with the pre-modern society but this time it is completely secularised. This means the dividual abandons the modern individual’s quest for the here and now present and in several ways look for a future paradise to come. Thus, it is not just that big data technocrats trigger desire in the dividual through stimulations of various aesthetics zones but also construct rationalizations that are required to moral sense of doing the right thing while one pursuit the promised future. This means the dividual is always enchanted by the promise of the note that can be encashed fully in the future. Thus, micro-fascism leads the dividual to molecularise or de-molarise only lead the society into molar formations of fascism. Micro-facism is a micro-political power and dividualizes an individual and pushes him/her to migrate to molar formations of fascisms. All this shifts from micro levels to the macro-levels are unfortunately manufactured and designed. The coming of big data analytics has accelerated the possibilities of manufacturing of fascism in several societies across the globe.
Collapse into Societies of Control
The big data analytics studies the trail of footprints that we leave online through our various avataras as consumers to identify our preferences, discern our values and beliefs from social media making what maybe called the net effect chilling. This does not mean that there are no advantages of big data analysis. The cataloguing of the digital footprints of people revealed that tens and thousands had deleted their Uber-app on account of its perceived support to President Trump in USA. This forced the corporate to course correct and withdrew from president’s advisory body. We have entered societies of control but control is open ended. It can be creatively harnessed as power by the general public. Since the general public is dispersed and disintegrated access and use of this power is not easy. This means control societies do over space to change the direction and handle of control though this is not always easy. Crowd sourced research in another benevolent possibility open by the new developments but has to be used judiciously as it is also vulnerable to hijacked by vested interests. Control society that we have entered has opened to us possibilities of inventing new ways of being human. We do have alternatives to resist. It is not the end of the road for humanity. Within societies of control there are spaces that can allow us to unhook the handle of control. We can destabilize power handles of society of control but may not be able to step outside it. We can never be fully outside power structures of our society.
Ethics of Big Data Analytics
The vulnerability of dividuals of being manipulated by big data analytics raises profound questions of ethics. The issues around big data that are catching our attention are about loss of privacy and autonomy. The issues arising in Big data analytics are posing important questions that ask ‘how are we to act’ in the context of our use of big data resource that is flooding our society today. The data store resource store houses like the Facebook becomes assemblage of control that uses the replicated image of the self/ dividual produce behaviours that benefits business barons, politicians and the likes who have ability to finance it.
Deconstruction of Private Space and its Ethical Challenge
The societies of control have arisen with the collapse of disciplinary societies. We no longer require enclosures to control and discipline people. This means private sphere has disrupted and is breaking down. This is mainly because what has been largely private data has entered the public sphere through social media platforms like facebook, instagram etc. This has brought up a condition of being subjected to the gaze or many observing the few. But this subjection to the gaze of a crowd is chosen voluntarily. The subjection to social surveillance on the social media platforms has taken away privacy as well as autonomy of the individual person and given rise to the fuller coming of the dividual into our society. The internet being a rhizome makes room for data to exist in a horizontal manner and not necessarily in linear, hierarchical mode. Hence, anyone can what anyone one on social media platforms like facebook. This is why the brave new world is challenging the privacy policies as well as rational nature of our society putting the last nail on individual privacy and autonomy. The structure of power in societies of control is also changing. Those who control and manipulate data have accesses to power today. Hence, the ethics of what we do with Big Data becomes crucial for a just society today. This means by limiting the privacy one becomes the way to have power over people in societies of control. Given our precarious condition, where the individual has collapsed into a dividual led by affect, Socratic ethics that defines knowledge as virtue is steadily dying. This is why Guattari is looking for a new sensitive aesthetics to be able to respond to the manipulation through generation of affects in societies of control. Foucault’s Panopticon has given way to banopticon where a dividual is banned from freedom and autonomy and only responds to stimulus that produces affect in him/her.
Pronesis as a means of Resistance
Foucault’s disciplinary societies generated power through disciplinary practices that produced normalisation of behaviour. In societies of control, power is generated not through disciplinary practices over the body but the biopower in such societies is taken to a new level where the body is excited by employing modulation mechanisms to produce affects that draw a dividual into a designer behaviour. Generations of affects become pathways of production of action and behaviours in unsuspecting dividuals that designed to bring about manipulated goals. These goals may be political or commercial. Therefore, a new ethics that builds the resistance of persons at the affective level is the need of the hour. This resistance to affective manipulation is a difficult project because affects that generate actions and behaviours are always positioned as promoting the self-interest of the dividual. This is why affectability of the dividual becomes an important area of profound concern. This has made the body a new economic subject. This means the self is intensely in a readiness potential that can be easily manipulated for desired ends. This is why what we may need to build the readiness potential of the self to resist being manipulated by designer affects. This means when possibility of making a rational choice is dying, the self has to be enabled to build resistance readiness potentials. This requires us to understand the affective power of words, images and sounds and have to make a choice to act rather than being acted upon. This awareness may be a way to resist all triggers that are directed towards the alternations of behaviours. This awareness is not mere cognitive knowledge laden. It is rather practical wisdom laden/ phronesis .
While we become data through our very presence in the internet, it is important that we take responsibility for our privacy as well as autonomy. We can take responsibility by cultivation of practical wisdom.