2012-2017: HOST ARCHITECTURES AND EXPRESSIVE ECOLOGIES
In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification. Comparative rates of flow on these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or, on the contrary, of acceleration and rupture.
– Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
In 1987, the University of Minnesota Press unveiled one of its most critical contributions to intellectual inquiry when it published the English-language translation of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Mille Plateaux: Capitalisme et Schizophrenie. Brian Massumi helped introduce an entirely new audience to the rhizomatic thought of Deleuze and Guattari, and today A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia is considered by many to be among the most important works of philosophy in the twentieth century.
As the twenty-fifth anniversary of the English-language translation approaches, with it comes an opportunity for those influenced by the folds of Deleuze and Guattari’s thought to celebrate. Massumi himself points out that “A Thousand Plateaus is conceived as an open system. It does not pretend to have the final word. The authors’ hope, however, is that elements of it will stay with a certain number of its readers and will weave into the melody of their everyday lives.” It is in this spirit of weaving melodies that we bring forth a proposal to celebrate through destruction and building anew: in short, we propose a performance of the archive by converting the formal structure of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia from book to wiki mode.
We wish to translate the translation, as it were, or to enter the translation more explicitly into the flow from whence it emerged, so that the book-wiki topology may find new potentials to unfold in thought.
The wiki format is a growing medium for scholars to use in collaborative, community-based knowledge building projects. Based on the Hawaiian word for “quick,” the wiki offers a contemporary medium that (along with blogs and other internet media) perhaps more appropriately keeps pace with new developments in scholarship. Perhaps we may thus develop the element of speed in Deleuze and Guattari’s work to create new ecologies of expression—through a proximity of thought rather than a common geography? This potential to generate knowledge across and between disciplines as a collaborative intervention philosophically suggests a suspension of judgment toward product and instead allows a demonstration of process, or a manner of laying bare the creative generation of thought that is carried forward by new thinkers.
Despite the grand title of A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari only articulated thirteen in their original tome, clearly suggesting that as the cartographies of critical inquiry continue to shift underfoot there remain plenty of intensities still to be “added” to their overall project.
A book itself is a little machine; what is the relation (also measurable) of this literary machine to a war machine, love machine, revolutionary machine, etc.—and an abstract machine that sweeps them along? We have been criticized for overquoting literary authors. But when one writes, the only question is which other machine the literary machine can be plugged into, must be plugged into in order to work.
But what machines for the task? The release of the Mosaic graphical web browser and popular explosion of the internet had not yet occurred when they wrote the second volume of Capitalisme et Schizophrenie in 1980, nor when Massumi published his English translation in 1987. The wiki itself was not invented until 1994, and thus perhaps the communication machine best suited to express and experience new plateaus had not been revealed at the time, despite its ghostly presence throughout Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic thought. Put differently, we require precisely this type of experiment to further reveal the potential of the wiki form to both move past the limitations of the book form and to fulfill its own capabilities as a literary machine in the service of critically engaging intensity.
We suggest “2012-2017: Host Architectures and Expressive Ecologies” as the working title of this particular plateau, a project in which the complete English-language text of A Thousand Plateaus is converted to a wiki-based application. In this latest “death of the author” incarnation, community members would then have a five-year window in which to freely edit, change, remix, translate, illustrate, update, recompose, define, hyperlink, or otherwise reconstruct the text.
Decay, excise, churn, flourish, proliferate. You can imagine where things might lead from here.
Though by no means an exhaustive list, some of the questions this project might address include: What will this movement between communication modes resemble at the end of the experiment? How will the elements of smooth and striated interplay both within the technological form itself and the content generated within? Which elements are included or not included for instantiating the editing process: images? endnotes? index? publication history? Given the contemporary nature of networked intellectual labour, what role will the development of reputational or social capital play in the redesign of the text? How is this project with its intensified temporal frame similar to and different from slower, more organic wiki projects such as Wikipedia?
For the proposed project to be successful, it will require a substantial reconsideration of copyright and intellectual property rights between publisher and collaborating commons. Presuming these challenges can be addressed, at the end of the five-year project window we would be left with the first living data set detailing how a book of philosophy—what we might consider the host architecture created by Deleuze, Guattari and Massumi—could be organically deconstructed and reconstructed anew. This empirical data set—that is, the revised text as well as the meta-data outlining the sequence of every change made, dates and times, backchannel discussion, etc.—would remain completely open and accessible to the academic and public communities.
This proposal offers an academic publishing opportunity of uncommon scale and novelty—a unique opening for meaningful exposure with universities, peer-reviewed journals, the popular academic press, and other publishing houses, not to mention with those artists, scholars and activists who follow traces of Deleuze and Guattari’s thought. It suggests another potential method by which the book challenges its purported “obsolescence” in the age of electronic ubiquity. And finally, it perhaps offers a new gold standard to which works of philosophy may aspire: to someday be deconstructed and reconstructed by the expressive ecologies of multitude in a fecund hothouse of remix.
That it will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of the English translation of A Thousand Plateaus offers a perfect synchronism with which to frame the experiment. The time is ripe for movement. As Massumi suggests, “one of the points of the book is that nomad thought is not confined to philosophy. Or that the kind of philosophy it is comes in many forms.” With “2012-2017: Host Architectures and Expressive Ecologies“, academic publishing itself plays with machinic form to exercise the potential of nomad thought: bodies dance to bodies dancing to the rhythms and melodies of organ music, expressly.
1. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 3.2. Brian Massumi, “Translator’s Foreword: Pleasures of Philosophy,” in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), xiv.
3. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 4.
4. Creative Commons licensing schemes may be found at: http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses.
5. Massumi, “Translator’s Foreword: Pleasures of Philosophy,” in A Thousand Plateaus, xiii.