Neocybernetics and Narrative

Neocybernetics and Narrative

BRUCE CLARKE
Series: Posthumanities
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt9qh2zm
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  • Book Info
    Neocybernetics and Narrative
    Book Description:

    Neocybernetics and Narrativeopens a new chapter in Bruce Clarke's project of rethinking narrative and media through systems theory. Reconceiving interrelations among subjects, media, significations, and the social, this study demonstrates second-order systems theory's potential to provide fresh insights into the familiar topics of media studies and narrative theory.

    A pioneer of systems narratology, Clarke offers readers a synthesis of the neocybernetic theories of cognition formulated by biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, incubated by cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster, and cultivated in Niklas Luhmann's social systems theory. From this foundation, he interrogates media theory and narrative theory through a critique of information theory in favor of autopoietic conceptions of cognition. Clarke's purview includes examinations of novels (Mrs. DallowayandMind of My Mind), movies (Avatar,Memento, andEternalSunshine of the Spotless Mind), and evenAramis, Bruno Latour's idiosyncratic meditation on a failed plan for an automated subway.

    Clarke declares the era of the cyborg to have ended, laid to rest as the ontology of technical objects is brought into differential coordination with operations of living, psychic, and social systems. The second-order discourse of cognition destabilizes the usual sense of cognition as conscious awareness, revealing the possibility of nonconscious and nonhuman forms of sentience.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4215-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION: Mysteries of Cognition
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    Of the many systems discourses taken up in the theory discourse of the posthumanities, the most refined and capacious line of thought is the second-order systems theory formulated by biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, incubated by cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster, and then extensively cultivated by sociologist Niklas Luhmann. Grounded as well in the work of social scientist Gregory Bateson and mathematician George Spencer-Brown, this second-order or neocybernetic line of systems discourse has borne the widest and most promising dissemination beyond the home disciplines of cybernetics, and the most searching theoretical development beyond science proper and into the discursive disciplines....

  4. 1 SYSTEMS, MEDIA, NARRATIVE: From the Trace to the Telepathic Imaginary
    (pp. 1-38)

    “The narratives of the world are numberless” Roland Barthes begins his famous essay, and continues: “Narrative is first and foremost a prodigious variety of genres, themselves distributed amongst different substances—as though any material were fit to receive man’s stories.”¹ If we were to substitute “systems” for Barthes’s “narratives” and “stories,” and “media” for “substances” and “material,” we would have a proper statement in each case. The systems of the world are also numberless, and the materialities involved in their constitution and communication are equally open-ended. However, while a system may be any complex totality composed of interdependent elements, the...

  5. 2 COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION: Noise and Form in Michel Serres and Niklas Luhmann
    (pp. 39-76)

    In the cluster of systems discourses that approach issues of cognition, the differences that separate information theory from autopoietic theory are not always observed. Neither of these discursive traditions can be reduced to the other, nor is there sense any longer in seeking a synthesis or merger between them. They are both indispensable but directed toward fundamentally different kinds of systems. As a result, neither theory of systems possesses universal application, although information theory in particular is often treated as if it does. In contrast, as we have argued, only autopoietic systems are cognitive in the first instance. The better...

  6. 3 FEEDBACK LOOPS: Media Embedding and Narrative Time from Jimi Hendrix to Eternal Sunshine and Memento
    (pp. 77-110)

    Let us pick up the matter of self-reference and unfold it further into some of its significant patterns—loops, embedding, and reentry—on the way to an encounter with metalepsis, the self-referential reentry or feedback of narrative form. In chapter 1, we treated the self-reference and heteroreception of the trace, noting how a trace marks its own origination for the observer that constitutes it. We could now add: any trace also marks its own reorigination. The original origin recedes beyond recovery, but if a trace endures, its observation can occur or recur at any time. The trace and its observer...

  7. 4 OBSERVING ARAMIS, OR THE LOVE OF TECHNOLOGY: Objects and Projects in Gilbert Simondon and Bruno Latour
    (pp. 111-138)

    Due in part to the theoretical attentions of Gilles Deleuze and Bernard Stiegler, Gilbert Simondon’s secondary doctoral thesis,On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects,published in 1958, has been resuscitated in recent years.¹ At midcentury, Simondon presents a philosophy of technology with what may be retrospectively identified as a postmodern ethical bent: “Recognition of the modes of existence of technical objects must be the result of philosophic consideration; what philosophy has to achieve in this respect is analogous to what the abolition of slavery achieved in affirming the worth of the individual human being.”² Simondon’s nonideological materialism, his...

  8. 5 MEDIATIONS OF GAIA: Ecology and Epistemology from Gregory Bateson and Félix Guattari to Avatar
    (pp. 139-182)

    The theories of cognition we have been exploring are rooted in the cellular sentience posited by biological systems theory and validated by contemporary molecular biology and microbial ecology. Let us now fit this picture into a corresponding conception of the biosphere. Prior to and beyond any specific consciousness, without mind, it is nonetheless perfused with cognitions from which higher-order cognitive consortia arise. A self-maintaining system of ecosystems, the biosphere is truly an “autopoietic planet,” Margulis and Sagan’s telling phrase inWhat Is Life?(19). But as Victoria Alexander writes inThe Biologist’s Mistress,“Nature, which does not have a brain,...

  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 183-184)
  10. NOTES
    (pp. 185-194)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 195-204)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 205-212)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-215)