Machines and Flows

In everyday parlance we normally consider a "machine" in terms of its structure, form and/or component parts — and certainly as something other than organic. Not so Deleuze and Guattari, from whom we see an immediate break with convention in their description of the machine as "a system of interruptions or breaks". In other words, it is the connections and spaces in between, rather than the component parts themselves, that are of interest to us, for it is these breaks and interstices that channel, constrict, divert or otherwise regulate flow.

Every machine, in the first place, is related to a continual material flow that it cuts into. … Each associative flow must be seen as an ideal thing, an endless flux, flowing from something not unlike the immense thigh of a pig (Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p.36).

This focus on flow has been very useful for me, particularly since I am interested in flows of sports information in my sportsBabel work. But, D+G remind us, we cannot just consider that which passes through the machine as the sole flow of interest; the connection of one machine to another (technological and human) — or the "production of production" — is itself a flow of importance.

In a word, every machine functions as a break in the flow in the relation to the machine to which it is connected, but at the same time is also a flow itself, or the production of a flow, in relation to the machine connected to it. This is the law of the production of production (Anti-Oedipus, p.36).

By way of example, it is not simply enough to look at an automobile and say: gasoline goes into machine; fuel injector sends flow of gasoline to engine; fuel combusts, separating that flow into 3 flows (mechanical energy, surplus heat, exhaust); flow of mechanical energy propels automobile forward. We must also understand that the automobile's component parts (gas tank, fuel injector, engine, wheels) are themselves machines that are constitutive of a flow that produce a technical machine (the automobile), while multiple automobiles, human drivers, roadway systems, traffic light networks, gasoline distribution centres, etc. are constitutive of a flow that produces a social machine. In turn, this social machine contributes to the production of sedentary, fat bodies in industrialized nations and political instability in Middle Eastern oil regions — the connective syntheses radiate endlessly.

Looking back at an earlier post, I think I was beginning to intuitively scratch at the surface of understanding how such machines connected organics with technics to produce and regulate flows:

With regard to the information, images and identities that are the byproducts of the sportocratic uncertainty-of-outcome process, one becomes less concerned with the carceral nature of their manufacturing in favour of their flow within and from the enclosure of the sportscape.

This is not the flow of the river that erodes a path through a sandy bed over time, however, but rather the flow of the canal: man-made vector for the fluid transmission of communication, from simulation to coach to athlete to teammate; from referee to scorer to scoreboard to television screen; from boxscore to newswire agency to editor to teleprompter; from handicap to spread to parlay to vigorish; from statistic to programmer to model to simulation.

I find this particular read of the "machine" to be useful as I start to come across other types of "machines" in my reading: the war machine, the vision machine (Virilio), the flesh machine (Critical Art Ensemble), the body-machine-image complex (Crandall), etc. Contemporary sporting culture(s) and capital — where my research interests are located — may be found at a nexus point of several of these machines (body, movement, competition, spectacle/surveillance, etc.), and so an understanding of production, consumption and inscription as always already the production of flows and production of production is very helpful to my thought.


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