Matthew Fuller on pirate radio, material media and nomadology

Matthew Fuller: Media Ecologies. Materialist energies in art and technoculture
Excerpts from Chapter 1, “The R, the A, the O, the I, the O”

18: The metallurgist posseses an intense relation to materiality: a proprioception of and through changes of state of the matter that one is working with, becoming aware of its tics and glitches in terms of how they are mobilizable, in that realms they operate in topological terms, what they connect to or elide. An experimental science or tacit knowledge formed through the use of impurities and changes in structure and integration of metals by leaps between temperatures through heating and quenching. /…/ This minor science is presented in A Thousand Plateaus as being a tradition counter to or partly submerged by that of hylomorphism. This schema, or “form-matter model”, has dominated Western thought since the first systematic schools of ancient Greece. In the treatise on nomadology by contrast, Deleuze and Guattari propose an emphasis on the morphogenic capabilities of material itself: the moments when a series of forces, capacities, and predispositions intermesh to make something else occur, to move into a state of self-organization.
Hylomorphism is “a model of the genesis of form as external to matter, as imposed from the outside like a command on a material which is thought inert and dead”.

19: But as Kittler easily points out, “Electrics does not equal electronics”. The media systems that in combination produce the current form of pirate radio include both the primarily electrical or electromagnetic (the T1200 gramophone, the transmitter coil, etc.) and those that exist in the mode of digital information and electronics (e.g., the GSM phone – something of a bastard case in that it necessarily maintains an interface to electromagnetic waves; and computationally based samplers and synthesizers, etc.). Both electric and electronic sound technologies also allow a sense of a doubling of the machinic phylum in that the manipulation of singularities and flows at one level becomes explicable only when it manifests as another – in sound waves.

20-21: Radio’s section of the electromagnetic spectrum was born regulated. At the end of the nineteenth century, the British government “Made the wireless telegraph a state monopoly, assigning it to the Post Office, with oversight granted to the Admirality.” The only portion of the spectrum not directly falling under state control and procedures of listening is that visible to the naked eye.

23: Pirate radio has shown a capacity to generate medial growths that ground themselves in the attempt to impose form on them, to synthesize what is fundamentally heterogenous. That is, the attempted hylomorphism itself becomes “content” – there is a coevolution, an arms race that feeds the machinic phylum. /…/
Mutual escalation of competing technologies, of legislation and its object, of the appropriation of locations for studios and for transmitter sites, produces its own mutational field in the composition of the machinic phylum of radio – /…/ but the result is in excess of what had previously been legislated against. It is now harder to locate and capture a radio station connected in this way to a transmitter than it was before the legislation was introduced.

24-25: The turntable, with its appendages, is a stalled computer: a head and an infinite tape. It can read stored material, it can reproduce any sound; but used in the standard way, it can only read, not store. Hip hop declared war on this nonfacility by throwing the disc into reverse, mutilating predetermined regimes of speed and frequency. Hip hop mobilized the third category of action of the computer; alongside reading and storing information, the universal machine must be able to act on itself, to calculate. The pace space of all possible sounds of the turntable is determined by the table drawn up at the intersection of speed and frequency. turntablism opens this space up to mutation outside of the regimes of melody, harmony, and voice by forming a copula between the two series, thythm and noise. The endless tape of the Turing machine is imposed on the finite coil, causing it to leap from break to break. /…/ The turntable invents the DJ in order to compute.

40: The aesthetic of mass radio is formed at the same time as that of the autobahn. The conjunction of car and radio accelerates toward the absolute immobilization of drive time.

40-41: The MP3 file format, which has achieved such mass usage as a means of circulating tracks via the Internet, is designed simply to match the included middle of the audio spectrum audible to the human ear. Thus, it obligerates the range of musics designed to be heard with the remainder of the body via bass. This is not simply a white technological cleansing of black music but the configuration of organs, a call to order for the gut, the arse, to stop vibrating and leave the serious work of signal processing to the head.

51: SMS triangulates the historical interconnection of wireless telegraphy, the telegraph, and the phone by providing a way for the compressed forms of writing employed in the telegraph to return via the telephone. The constraints imposed by the multiple usages of every key on the keypad, by the 160-character limit to each message and the tight limit on the amount of text viewable at any time on the small screen of the phone, have been taken up by a telegrammatic speech in which compression is achieved via the shedding of vowels redundant in signifying the word /…/ Language reinvents the alphanumeric character set into thick clots of association.

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