Line vs. Surface (vs. Volume) Thought

Wii Tennis

Vilém Flusser, "Line and Surface" (1973):

Let us, then, recapitulate our argument, in order to try to suggest what form the new civilization might take. We have two alternatives before us. First, there is the possibility that imaginal thinking [eg. surface, image, screen] will not succeed in incorporating conceptual thinking [eg. line, text]. This could lead to a general depoliticization, deactivation, and alienation of humankind, to the victory of the consumer society, and to the totalitarianism of the mass media. Such a development would look very much like the present mass culture, but in more exaggerated or gross form. The culture of the elite would disappear for good, thus bringing history to an end in any meaningful sense of that term. The second possibility is that imaginal thinking will succeed in incorporating conceptual thinking. This would lead to new types of communication in which man consciously assumes the structural position. Science would then be no longer merely discursive and conceptual, but would have recourse to imaginal models. Art would no longer work at things ("oeuvres"), but would propose models. Politics would no longer fight for the realization of values, but would elaborate manipulable hierarchies of models of behavior. All this would mean, in short, that a new sense of reality would articulate itself, within the existential climate of a new religiosity.

All this is utopian. But it is not fantastic. Whoever looks at the scene can find everything already there, in the form of lines and surfaces already working. It depends on each one of us which sort of posthistorical future there will be.

On the surface there are two primary and interconnected problems with Flusser's line of thought. The first concerns the materiality of the communications medium. While line and surface, or imaginal and conceptual thought are certainly distinct ways of knowing, the fact remains that they are both still represented in the two-dimensional planar form: text on a page and image on celluloid or screen. In other words, we must distinguish between dimensions of perception and inscription. Text is perceived as a line inscribed on the plane of the book, for example, while image is perceived as a surface inscribed on the plane of the screen.

This distinction becomes even more pronounced and relevant as regards the second problem. Flusser wrote his essay in 1973, just as Atari's Pong was being launched to popular audiences in the United States. Even had he been aware of the game at the time of his writing, it is unlikely that it would have significantly altered his theoretical framework, for Pong was in retrospect a rather humble attempt to bring electronic games to life in video form that faithfully represented in gamespace the ludic enclosure of the tennis court. In most respects, it seemed to be yet another example of proliferating surface thought.


We must recall, however, that the word atari derives from the game Go, and means to advance in attack and capture territory. Soon the simple enclosure on Pong was ruptured as the new videogame medium began to shed its technical constraints and realize its always-latent potential. Static gameplay yielded to scrolling gameplay, most famously in Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. In this quest to save the Princess, Mario captured territory seemingly beyond the boundaries of the television screen to which the console had inscribed its data.

In other words, though partly obscured by its inscription on the two-dimensional plane (as with line and surface) we were witnessing the emergence of a mode of perception in our media quite different from text and image, though it combined elements of both. Its proper name, gesture, is only now becoming apparent as the volume it represents attempts to pull free from the planar screen.

Flusser's lines and surfaces do not refer to a material substrate so much as they consider a mode or technique of viewing what are in both cases two-dimensional substrates, text on the flat page or image on a screen. Given this at the outset, then it seems we ought to consider volumes and volumetric thinking as well, even if they have been flattened to two dimensions with regard to the material substrate of the television screen or arcade console.

The question then becomes: how will somatic or proprioceptive thinking (gesture) fold together with imaginal thinking and conceptual thinking in our understanding of the world? At a surface level, then, what we are actually questioning here is the difference between invention and confinement.

Michel Serres: "What can our bodies do? Almost anything."


Whether to privilege speaking or writing as the primary form of communication most closely representing and/or governing humankind's expressive potential — and the form that exists closest to thought itself — is a debate that has interested philosophers for some time. It is also what Bergson would refer to as a false problem, formed by the badly analyzed composite that considers the two as the same in kind.

The first critique we must address is that to even begin to approach the debate presumes we may distinguish pure forms of speaking and writing process, and indeed between the speaking and writing subject. But this is trickier than it appears. Those that seem to be writing may at times be speaking and vice-versa, depending on the context and the relation. Plato's dialogues, for example, are clearly spoken forms that have been committed to text. And with a sports television news anchor reading from a studio teleprompter, the spoken is but a temporary transformation that sees teletype become voice become the writing-with-light of video photography and electromagnetic transmission. Most modes of communication are in fact some hybrid of the two.

recorded waveforms

If we insist on understanding speaking and writing as pure forms, however, at least as they are used in common parlance, then we must first make the relational nature of their form explicit. That is, we must also consider the whom to which our communication is addressed and the ontogenetic character of our messages and technical apparatus. As Avital Ronell queries in "Delay Call Forwarding",

When does the telephone become what it is? It presupposes the existence of another telephone, somewhere, though its atotality as apparatus, its singularity, is what we think of when we say "telephone." To be what it is, it has to be pluralized, multiplied, engaged by another line, high strung and heading for you (p.5).

Should we not change the form of our written language in this document (a spoken dialogue to be sure), then, and first name these processes speaking-listening and writing-reading instead? This is not to suggest a purely dialectic approach. Even if we are to take the liberty of divorcing these binary relations from the total multisensory contexts in which they emerge, they nonetheless remain permeated through with noise, multiple codings, ignored bits, signal filters and suppressed utterances, all of which prove troublesome for what could otherwise be perceived as a cybernetic model of communication. The form is further compromised once the binary becomes several with the third-party audience member, innocent bystander, eavesdropper, translator or witness: the resultant multiplied fibres of relation and modulated degrees of exposure ensure that the acts of speaking-listening and writing-reading are never dialectic in their syntheses.

But this is not satisfactory, either. The left-to-right linearity of writing in Western languages is such that the first term of the composite usually becomes the privileged one (think first author status on a journal article). The speaker and writer purportedly become active agents in this scenario while the listener and reader remain mere passive vessels for message reception, or at best participants who actively formulate in response when the roles shift. To listen for the call is as significant a form of communication as the expression of the call itself, however, at times a priori or at least co-emergent. And to offer the call a response, re-route it to a more appropriate listener, or ignore it altogether are also significant forms of expression that further undermine the privilege of the first term in considering speaker-listener or writer-reader.

Should we acknowledge the generative potential of the relation between these two terms that continually unfold and fold back into one another, then, by substituting the infinity symbol for the hyphen? Should we name these concepts speaking∞listening or listening∞speaking or writing∞reading or reading∞writing, the first term in the pair receiving privilege in that particular context but each always existing at the flip?

calligraphy by gail frost, photoshop by sportsbabel

This focus on relation leads to a second critique of the debate between speaking and writing, which is that the two forms are different in kind because they infold time in different ways. We might suggest that speaking∞listening (again, as an ideal form) is aware of its relation in a particularly intimate fashion, owing to both a flesh-oriented spatial proximity and a simultaneity in time. Speech exists in a perpetual present, the utterance evaporating or dispersing into thin air along with the breath that gave it expression. Only the question of memory is left in its microturbulent wake.

Due to the complex relational interplays each brings to the process — along with their unique temporal trajectories and rhythms — both speaking and listening subjects resonate more or less harmoniously with one another at any particular moment in the dialogue or discourse. While there is a simultaneity in time that allows for the encounter, it does not necessarily imply a synchronicity. Speaking must thus be considered an emergent process towards the possibility of a tangential moment, or a touching of sorts. It is in this possibility of the tangent that simultaneity may become synchronicity.

As is well known, writing∞reading introduces what is called historical consciousness. "History began with the invention of writing," Vilém Flusser notes, "not for the banal reason often advanced that written texts permit us to reconstruct the past, but for the more pertinent reason that the world is not perceived as a process, 'historically,' unless one signifies it by successive symbols, by writing" (p.63). We should not be so quick to dismiss the banality of reconstruction, however, as it is grounded in relation: writing understands a different sense of history and future in that it abstracts its audience. One who writes can only approximate the relational nature of communication insofar as it is left open-ended; the future constructed by the written document is presumed in many ways to remain stable.

We may summarize the material aspects of relation in these ideal expressive forms as follows: a speaking body is met by a listening body, the threshold or interface between the two at the skin of the tympanic membrane; a writing body, on the other hand, is met by a reading body, the threshold between the two at the skin of the archive.

Courtesy of Zhang Huan

zhang huan
family tree

The skin is a surface, however. It wraps around a volume, encloses gesture.

Gesture precedes both speaking and writing. The latter two are not the same in kind but rather the same, or at least variations of a topology emerging from gestural expression. Gesture can either co-exist with or become one of these two more highly-coded forms — or some hybrid that finds them both interwoven — depending on the concepts of time performed by the moving body+bodies in question. It brings the coded acts of speaking and writing to the plane of immanence and the fleshy resonance of affect. Gesture is time in the always-becoming of volumetric embodiment.

If we are to continue considering "pure" forms and relationality, then the embodied movement of the gesturing body is likewise met by another gesturing body; nothing is in stasis. In some cases a coded gesture is given a coded response that more closely resembles speaking or writing, while in others the gesture itself is replicated. In yet other cases still the gestural codes are less apparent and the gestural response simply exists in the always-imperfect negative space of its other(s). Whichever case we are describing — and understanding we are bound to lapse into more abbreviated linguistic habits later in the document — we should for now name its process gesturing∞gesturing.

(from the introduction to "body+politics: towards a sporting multitude," a work-in-progress doctoral dissertation for the european graduate school of media and communications)

Pixel to Pellicule

Courtesy of agu2000_de at Flickr

If we are to give full consideration to Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the body without organs we cannot allow our analysis to remain simply in the domain of those organ systems responsible for intelligence (brain, networked server farm), circulation (heart, stock market), or filtration (kidney, casino). We must also consider the largest organ of them all, at least as far as humans are concerned: the skin, that surface which is folded and wrapped from the two-dimensional so as to enclose a particular volume.

The skin is part of the integumentary system, designed to protect the interior of the volume as well as regulate the exchange of flows through its enclosing membrane. It also has an expressive role that is bound in a nexus of power relations: whether we are discussing the human dermis, clothing and fashion, the social networking profile page, or the buildings of the city, the skin constitutes the primary locus of organization for the body situated in a system predicated upon the optic (as with identification), even if this optic is based in touch (as with inscription).

The integumentary system of our artificial living consists of a series of interconnected layers, from the subcutaneous, dermis and epidermis; to hair, nails, horn and pelt; to clothing and architecture; to that vast and mostly invisible network of communication protocols we call the internet. Indeed, as McLuhan suggests, "in the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin." But these layers do not sit neatly upon one another, sedimented in neat parallel striae; there is rather a slippage between layers, a series of foldings and touch points emerging from the integumentary movements and flows. Call it skin tectonics: the shifts and rumbles between various layers that may at times rupture or crack the "surface".

Courtesy of Aphex Twin + Chris Cunningham

aphex twin
come to daddy
still from music video (dir. chris cunningham)

The disciplining of the sporting spectator during the 19th and 20th centuries (as outlined by Bale) serves to render this mass of individuals a temporary layer or component of the stadium architecture. When the spectators flowing into the stadium come to rest in their grid of seating coordinates, they form a layer of skin on top of the architecture of the building. They, too, comprise a part of its surface. The skins of the audience members present covering the architectural form of the stadium suggests a rejection of the anthropocentric view that all media are necessarily extensions of our human bodies, as with McLuhan. They appear instead to be remixable components of our always already living artificially. And as the stadium card stunt suggests, they are programmable components as well.

The disciplined spectator-body has a constrained set of opportunities for free movement in the x- and y-axes of the stadium's seats — the striated space that allows for the card stunt to function. One may traverse prescribed conduits of flow (eg. to concessions or lavatories), but expressive movement is certainly curtailed. Spectators are, however, able to move more expressively in the z-axis: rising to one's feet, jumping up and down, standing to offer an ovation. These are responses to some important moment on the field of play, though, responses to an event. What about embodied expression — understood as movement in the z-axis — during the interval between these moments of intense response?

This is the domain of the Wave, that collective audience gesture in which successive groups of spectators (understood vertically along the y-axis of the seating grid) briefly stand and raise their arms, slightly following in time those adjacent to them so as to achieve an oscillating wave that flows through the sports stadium. The Wave disguises itself as a blast whose shockwave ripples out from some epicenter and travels in circular fashion around the building, but each instance begins rather as a contagion, at least when catalyzed "spontaneously" by fans. This contagion has a two-fold function: first, to signify the beginning of what will ultimately become an asignifying multiplicity and communicate that information in a micro-relational sense to those in adjacent seats; and second, to introduce a vector of transmission for the gesture as it flips from contagion to blast — either clockwise or counterclockwise around the stadium.

(By way of contrast examine the micropolitics of stadium contagion when not transformed into the waveform blast rhythm, as with the chaos that was the Heysel Stadium disaster. Baudrillard suggests in The Transparency of Evil that Heysel confirms precisely "why the public must simply be eliminated, to ensure that the only event occurring is strictly televisual in nature. Every real referent must disappear so that the event may become acceptable on television's mental screen" [p.80].)

Although the exact origins of the Wave are uncertain — as if one could pinpoint the precise evolutionary moment that a meme "begins", particularly one that is gestural (unless of course it had been engineered in a laboratory) — its emergence can be located during the 1970s and 1980s, which is to say the era when the society of spectacle most fully realizes the analysis offered by Debord. Its relationship to the image, then, merits closer attention.

Courtesy of Vironevaeh at Flickr

Recall that the spectator becomes part of the skin of the stadium building — a stippling perhaps, or a texture map. While the Wave begins with the same logic of enclosure and partitioning that enables the pixelated card stunt, it breaks out of this visual field of resolution to undulate around the stadium: the screen refresh of the card stunt yields to an orbital revolution that is asignifying except as an expression of its own existence, the gesture as pure mediality (cf. Agamben).

Two interrelated problems confront the Wave, however, in any consideration of it as a collective (even if not consciously so) act of resistance against sporting capital and its disciplinary subject positions. The first involves the question of agency as it relates to each individual in the multiplicity of audience bodies that rise in waveform at the stadium. Antonia Hirsch's Vox Pop is illustrative in this regard. While the work expresses the uncanny nature of the Wave gesture when decontextualized from its normal collective formation, it also forces us to consider the opposite: What sort of agency does the individual have to refuse as the mass tide of movement comes bearing down?

Courtesy of Antonia Hirsch

antonia hirsch
vox pop
still from 2-channel video installation

While the catalysis of the Wave's apparent spontaneity at one time belonged to certain highly identified fans, today it is just as likely to be started by stadium operations as part of the total spectacle. Agency is further compromised by the foldings of vision — lenses and screens, both organic and technic, that contribute to the discursive production of "good fan" subjectivity. Does this not already hint at a capture of the gestural deterritorialization into the z-axis? And is this not in a certain way the story of the control society: eliminating mandatory, top-down protocols when the micropolitics of local relation will accomplish many of the same goals? As Deleuze and Guattari propose, fascism "involves a war machine … [it] is constructed on an intense line of flight, which it transforms into a line of pure destruction and abolition" (ATP, p. 230). The volumetric line of the z-axis, the vectoral line of the waveform — both must answer to this line of questioning.

Which leads us to the second problem of the Wave as gestural micropolitics: the relationship between surfaces and volumes (a corporeal lacuna that haunts the thought of Flusser). While the Wave today is indeed an affair often deliberately coordinated by stadium personnel, it most certainly retains the possibility of being a purely positive expression triggered by an individual cluster of fans. But if we follow Agamben and Deleuze to understand that the element of cinema and the pellicule of film is gesture rather than image, then it must follow that the inverse is true as well: while it may indicate some other set of spatiotemporal coordinates, either indexically or otherwise, gesture as such remains ultimately bound by the skin.

Courtesy of David Cronenberg

david cronenberg
still from film

The myriad forms of perspectival gaze merely adjust their focal depth, so to speak, such that the integumentary function is lifted in relief to capture the Wave as but another surface phenomenon. Purely positive expression or no, the gesture of the Wave ceases to fulfill what Agamben would refer to as a means without ends — "the exhibition of the media character of corporal movements" — and becomes instead the finality without means that sustains this project of integrated representation. Put differently, the praxis of the wave-as-gesture is emptied of its political significance as it folds back into the produced pellicule of sporting spectacle.

Or is it? The gestural body is a moving body, and is thus always already a political one as well. The logic of skin tectonics suggests that such a moving body will never be fully captured by the tightness of its spectacular skin, for there will always be a slippage between integumentary layers. And it is this slippage that constitutes the contemporary zone of opportunity, of resistance, and of indifference.


In the age of the integrated spectacle (cf. Agamben), few of the static two-dimensional images that are presented to us in the course of everyday life — magazine ads, billboards, posters, direct mailings, and the like — are in fact truly depthless artefacts. Rather, they are the result of careful processes in which part-objects have been layered on top of one another, grouped together, and transformed in various ways before being flattened out to the final "static" image.

Generally speaking, these part-objects may be either textual elements or other image elements, that is, the fundamental building blocks of Flusser's line and surface thinking. The graphic design software that facilitates the creation of this final flattened image retains within the file all of the meta-information about each of these part-objects in terms of position, understood as the x-y coordinates of grid plane and the z-index of layer — in other words, the file contains the relations that existed between each part-object before flattening took place.

wii would like to play - we don't have tickets, courtesy of HomeShop

But a skilled and experienced designer doesn't need the original file to understand the relations that created the final image. Simply by assessing the visual outcome in the context of embodied memory, one is able to unlayer and reconstitute that which has been usurped of its depth in its rendering-spectacular.

The complexity of the spectacular apparatus increases as we move from the processed image into the realm of cinema and television and literally introduce motion to the process. Chion identifies new building blocks that are added to the image and text within the two-dimensional frame, most importantly the audio elements of speech and field sound captured during recording, and the music and sound effects added in post-production. To the moving image we also add the graphic overlay, a visual element that may be static or animated and which is visually distinct from the images that have been captured by the camera during filming. These overlays are increasingly connected to external (relational) databases in the specific example of television, as with statistics during a sports broadcast or with the latest quotes on a news channel stock market ticker.

Nonetheless, the experienced director or video editor may similarly be able to quickly apprehend after the fact the layers and corresponding relations that produced the final cinematic outcome. In doing so, we may already understand that the layer is not a two-dimensional phenomenon, as Chion's inclusion of audio and acoustic space illustrates.

Global Village Basketball 2009 - courtesy of marcef33

Now consider those works that find smooth passage through categorical barriers identified variously as interventions, conceptual pieces, participation-oriented performances or community-based art projects. Three such examples, different though interrelated, might include Global Village Basketball, HomeShop, and wii would like to play // we don't have tickets. While these works were "framed" with more or less well-defined spatiotemporal parameters, they are most definitely of the realm of the volumetric and hence introduce new complexities to the apparatus.

Of course, with such events there is no "file" to which we have recourse for determining the layers and relations between the part-subjects that comprised their contextual fabric. As Massumi points out, they are ontogenetic. But, as with the processed static and moving video images described earlier, is it possible to unlayer the volumetric interactions of the intervention after the fact? Can we assess the audiovisual outcomes in the context of embodied memory and perhaps in the process identify new building blocks for the becoming-social each work facilitated, such as gesture, tango, translation, risk and exchange?

(a work-in-process between elaine w. ho and sean smith towards "unlayering the relational: microaesthetics and micropolitics," a text for the mediamodes art and technology conference in new york)


Monologic, Dialogic, Severalogic, Technologic: On Blogging as Method

(to be presented by sean smith at the 2009 north american society for sport sociology conference in ottawa, can)

Courtesy of Ryan King

Taking Vilém Flusser's distinction between dialogue and discourse as an entry point into the surfed waves of networked communications, this paper reflects upon my eight years of maintaining a blog for the purposes of critical sport research and creative expression. In laying bare the writing project and identity that is sportsBabel (, I will discuss questions of voice, number, relationality, technology, noise and public assembly. Each of these issues inform my ongoing attempt as a critical theorist to engage what is described by Paul Virilio as "speed writing", Hélène Cixous as "écriture féminine", and Giorgio Agamben as a "form-of-life" while thought is still in my body.

Monologic, Dialogic, Severalogic … Technologic

(a short note on blogging as method, work in progress towards the 2009 north american society for sport sociology conference in ottawa, canada)

Discourse vs. Dialogue
In Writings, a collection of Vilém Flusser's essays, editor Andreas Ströhl suggests that Flusser sought throughout his career to rescue dialogue from the discourse networks that primarily inform and constrain us in an aesthetic and political sense. For Flusser, discourse primarily constitutes a one-way flow of information, albeit one whose flow is ultimately propagated forward in the discursive network by all actors — "creators," "distributors" and "audience members" alike. This is fundamentally different from the role dialogue plays in creating our political situation, though Flusser would frame it less an issue of politics than one of existential contemplation about being and mortality. Nonetheless, Flusser notes that dialogic techniques — with the possible exception of the telephone — have remained largely unchanged since the Greek age, and have essentially lagged far behind (or surrendered to) discourse networks in engaging most advances in communication technology.

So, how do we contemporize dialogue for postmodern media society? The following constitutes a short note on blogging as a dialogic method, in which we shall suggest it is both more and less than what Flusser set out to achieve.

buy it, use it, break it, fix it, trash it, change it, melt, upgrade it
charge it, point it, zoom it, press it, snap it, work it, quick erase it

Monologue, Dialogue, Severalogue
The blog (or at least sportsBabel) is, first and foremost, monologic. I write sportsbabel as a conversation to and with myself. This conversation has many voices and styles: academic, pedagogical, artistic and poetic, of varying degrees of creativity and criticality. In other words, I use multiple identities to express my theory, perhaps Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis writ amateur philosopher.

But this monologue is not simply one person looking in the mirror and discussing ideas with the wizening visage staring back. It is rather a two-way mirror, at once pure monologue and pure performance for any other person who wants to stare through the silvered glass or otherwise treat it as a screen to be watched. ("Narcissus never suspected that Echo was swimming below the surface of the pool, but we know better.")

This latter opens the potential for dialogue to take place in and through sportsBabel. It does so in at least three ways. First, I dialogue with those individuals who comment on selected posts. I don't have very many people in my audience, so I may dialogue to a certain level of robustness with almost everyone who cares to, the rhythms of the network intuiting when any particular thread of dialogue is over. Second, I dialogue with those I meet at academic conferences to whom I am presenting material that is freshly published on the blog. In these cases a business card might suggest a resource that may be consulted in further depth at some future date. Finally, it is dialogue in those instances when I meet someone new who has already read some of the blog. This is admittedly a much smaller number of people, but those rare occasions have often launched quite intimate dialogues and relationships.

These intimacies are often at the heart of a third style of logos, that of severalogue. As these relations flip to the now of the network after our personal encounter, they may link to my work and share with their friends or I may link to their work and share with my friends. A small network cluster thus temporarily emerges for the purposes of articulating, critiquing, debating, strategizing and thinking through on a more or less focused topic of interest. What becomes important here is not me talking to myself, nor me talking with another, but others talking among themselves through me. Relational thinking becomes most evident at the level of severality.

write it, cut it, paste it, save it, load it, check it, quick rewrite it
plug it, play it, burn it, rip it, drag it, drop it, zip - unzip it

Discourse vs. Technologic
While I am able to carry on dialogues at various conversational scales of number (one, two, several, never many), I remain intimately bound to the networks of discourse, albeit in a way that allows me a far greater degree of agency in the transaction. I engage with the discourse networks when I link to ESPN or when I copy images from Nike's web site for critique on my own. I engage with the discourse networks when I ping aggregation services like Technorati or send my syndication feed to Twitter and Facebook. I engage with the discourse networks when my site is indexed for search by the spiders of Google and Yahoo!.

These, in turn, open new opportunities to dialogue and severalogue through found signal or serendipitous noise, or perhaps simply for one to look through the screen-as-mirror on time scales more or less approximating the contemporary moment.

lock it, fill it, call it, find it, view it, code it, jam, unlock it
surf it, scroll it, pause it, click it, cross it, crack it, twitch, update it

Linguistics, Relationality
So what is the difference between dialogue and discourse, then, given that sportsBabel is entwined with both? My hyperlinks make possible associations between various forms of immaterial communication in our media ecology, but linguistically they are exactly the same insofar as the technology that creates the relation: [a href="http://.../"] … [/a]. The difference must be located elsewhere than in this strict act of inscription within my blog.


The relation itself is what is different: both spatiotemporally in terms of location address on the network, its server speed and corresponding access to information, but also in terms of affective resonance that the relation itself embodies and makes embodied. This relation may be embodied in a one-to-one sense, through the network where both parties have an embodied relationship with a mutual third party, and sometimes — though less often than techno-enthusiasts might suggest — strictly through the network.

name it, read it, tune it, print it, scan it, send it, fax, rename it
touch it, bring it, pay it, watch it, turn it, leave it, stop, format it (daft punk, "technologic")

A Postscript on Noise
Do not underestimate the role of noise in this total communication system of dialogue and discourse. On the one hand it can be very productive, for rhizomes often emerge from noise rather than signal (the latter of which may tend to Chomsky's linguistic trees and their arborescent hierarchical structure, cf. D+G). As simple examples consider a few Google keyword searches to sportsBabel, apparently looking for something else, and the number of pages the agent subsequently stayed to read:

nude female game characters: 17.00
what itch needs scratching?: 12.00
warfare perturbation+rain storm observer: 7.00

This does not even take into consideration the hundreds of missed searches in which people come and stay for only one or two pages. In each case, however, the surfing agent was most likely seeking something beyond the topical matter provided at sportsBabel (debates about intentionality set aside for the moment), yet there was sufficient resonance between the agent, the blog post or series of blog posts (which together on the same archive page can create wonderful noise patterns), and the Google search engine algorithms for a rhizome to emerge and a dialogue-in-potential to form.

On the other hand, noise offers its own particular perils to the various quantitative levels of dialogue in technologic society. Ultimately, I consider my notebook my most intimate and bodily technology of inscription and expression. When I take ideas from my notebook and refashion them for the blog it is as though I am now sharing my body with the network. But it can be argued that blogs — and most text-based internet communication, for that matter — are very low definition media. We have all encountered experiences in which a message that we communicated as clearly as possible was misinterpreted by the other party, hindering our dialogue in the process.

The high definition transaction of presence, on the other hand, falls prey to such problems less often, specifically because body language, gesture and the affective tonality (cf. Manning; Massumi) of the co-presenced other may communicate a relation far more clearly than electronic text and its substitutes like netspeak or emoticon, despite the absences that still remain. The flesh is the hyperlink of presencing.

Hence, to minimize these negative potentials of noise, the relation (even if primarily one of data intimacy) must continually endeavour to speak in the presenced flesh such that the dialogue retains its origins in embodiment and the virtuosity of the speaker's utterance.

In other words, a blog should not be a pure substitute for the presencing of dialogue. A blog should not be an instrument for the many and its resultant potential for fame. And if such fame occurs nonetheless, one should then understand the celebrity figure as yet another form of agent, as a new relation or passage in holey space between discourse and dialogue, always returning through virtuosity.