the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

on self description

Posted by rigorousm on January 25, 2016

‘A journal isn’t about the self, but for it.’ Notebooks other the self, exoticize it.

—   “Personal Data” by Elisa Gabbert for Catapult (link)

At first, the intensity and granularity of a new informational mirror image convinces the user of his individuated coherency and stability as a subject. He is flattered by the singular beauty of his reflection (and this is why quantified self is so popular with those inspired by an X-Men reading of Atlas Shrugged). But as more data is added to the diagram that quantifies the outside world’s impact on his person – the health of the microbial biome in his gut, immediate and long-term environmental conditions, his various epidemiological contexts, and so on – the quality of everything that is ‘not him’ comes to overcome and overwhelm any notion of himself as a withdrawn and self-contained agent. The user is confronted with the existential lesson that at any point he is only the intersection of many streams.

—   “The Black Stack” by Benjamin Bratton for e-flux (link)

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be whether we find them attractive company or night. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

—   “On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion

Despite appearances to the contrary, when asked to “define my term” or pin my positions down I do experience a sudden overwhelming flood of anxiety. I don’t think this is because I can’t do so. Clearly I can. Rather, I think I have this reaction because I don’t experience my writing and thought in this way. I don’t experience my work as a fixed and stable set of positions and terms, but as a sort of territory that I’m wandering across with a great deal of uncertainty and as a terrain that’s ever shifting and undergoing modification. I feel as if I’m perpetually forgetting things, as if things are constantly shifting and slipping away, and as if everything is constantly on the verge of flying apart or exploding.

—   “Entropy and me” by Larval Subjects (linklink)

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