My ideas regarding molecular media and regenerative sympoietics were inspired by the video praxis of Dalit women seed sovereignty and biodiversity activists who have invented unique practices and aesthetics in order to use video to manage their network of cooperatives, teach others about petroleum-free biodiverse, organic agricultural practices, build a subaltern eco-feminist movement in their communities and participate in a global environmental justice movement. In researching their video praxis, I was struck by the “bias of time”, as Harold A. Innis would call it, that characterized their media production. As a non-literate community, these women use video to record the minutes and transactions of their cooperatives where the timeliness of the videos are paramount. They make instructional videos regarding crops, planting, harvesting, pests, watersheds etc. for a global audience of small-holding subaltern cultivators who make up the rank and file of the seed sovereignty movement and the environmentalism of the poor. Again, time is of the essence since visitors to their cooperatives and their agro-biodiversity research institute cannot see how the crops grow and change over the seasons, the videos need to be timely in their own way to be instructionally valuable. Moreover, the videos that teach us about specific agricultural techniques and practices are all shot from an embodied subsistence practitioners point of view and in this regard are time-and-motion analyses of production and reproduction processes that illuminate and illustrate earth-bound, multi-species modes of regeneration rather than the efficiency of domination and exploitation.
The lesson I draw from this research is that a solidarity social economy for reproducing social life inter-generationally through the subsistence production of common-wealth needs time-biased media environments or platforms that are adapted to the imperatives of regeneration and reproduction rather than to those of the accumulation of wealth in the form of capital. Eco-socialist regeneration, in other words, needs its own specific aesthetics and poetics, and its own particular forms of cultural production and cultural politics. Molecular media, in this regard, names an intermedia research-creation problematic which interrogates the history of human cultural and technical production but relates to it, retrieves it, remembers it, refunctions it, reproduces it in a very specific, biomimetic, negentropically creative way. The problematic then is no longer Art for Art’s sake but rather Regeneration for Regeneration’s sake as this is mediated by making sympoietic sense. This problematic is no longer one of technological innovation as this is constrained by the law of the commodity form of value. Rather, this problematic is one of creative material experimentation constrained by other historical and cultural forms of value, especially by what could be called the care form of value.
My current research in Speculative Energy Futures, then, endeavours to construct a grammar or code for sympoietic sense-making with molecular media. To this end, I am researching formal and pragmatic principles with which molecular intermedia environments may be built by environmental justice and energy democracy activists, (under-)commoners, solidarity economy cooperators, and all hydra-political activists seeking to delink from the herculean toxic waste economy and its interlocking systems of oppression. Like any environment, the problematic of molecular media demands that one respects and responds to the singularity of any given historical situation. As with any form of creativity, the problematic of molecular media involves research into specific constraints and their interactions to understand the possibilities for sympoietic sense-making in relation to the singularity of a given situation.
So far the creative constraints or design principles I am researching are:
Turn up the time-bias.
As both Debord and Innis noted, our contemporary spectacular media ecology is space-biased: it’s all about market share, global reach, convergence, saturation, surveillance and the algorithmic colonization of the future by the smooth, self-identical space of accumulation. None of this would be possible if it were not for the affective and collaborative, “informal sector” labour of sharing and re-signfiying by fans, user-groups, consumers, communities of practices and subcultures, all of which is embedded in the molecular household common-being metabolism of socio-ecological reproduction and for this reason is time-biased but colonized by the spectacular system and so thrown into crises. Molecular media, in contrast, pirates and parasitizes the space-bias of spectacle but turns up the time-bias of the intermedia ecologies it builds by drawing upon other subalternized dimensions of our human sensorium’s media ecologies of social reproduction – the various commons of language, music, song, prayer, poetry, orature, dance and other traditions of practice subalternized by contemporary spectacle industries – for the affordances they may yet yield to mediate learning processes that take time: to build trust, to reflect, to study and meditate, to question, to experiment with regenerative technologies of endurance.
Whether it is the global business English of diplomacy and law or the colonizer’s chains of being or the patriarch’s monuments and relics of war, molecular media needs to delink from such herculean theologies of enclosure. Does McLuhan’s tetrad give us a model for the aesthetic and cultural political mediations of hydra-politics we are looking for here? Can we delink by:
- Retrieving marginalized languages, cultural practices, traditions, forms, practices, genres, ceremonies, and rituals?
- Refunctioning (detournement) spectacular techno-urban intermedia environments
- Obsolescing fossil capitalist-patriarchal property and accumulated violence
- Accelerating socio-technical experimentation into reversing socio-ecological toxicity and exhaustion
Name the Game.
This constraint derives from the great lessons of subaltern struggles of every kind. Naming oppression involves a fundamental paradox insofar as it demands a mode of description that is also a mode of construction. What intermediates the different, historical systems of oppression is the commodity form of value which gives each situation its characteristic conjunctural fetish form of being systemic yet singular. How oppression works in any given situation needs to be named, yet the media for naming oppression we find is always subtracted from the situation effectively to deny the reality of oppression, which is a crucial element of how oppression works in that situation. So in order to name how oppression works in any situation, we have to construct media for naming oppression if we are to understand how oppression works in that situation.
I stumbled upon this formal-pragmatic property of molecular media in the course of our zines project. Degrowth theory, despite it’s limitations, perceptively notes that just renewable energy transitions demands targeted degrowth in some sectors of the production of goods and services. My research, along with that of many others, emphasizes the need for regeneration as well as degrowth. We need to especially regenerate public sector services such as education, healthcare, agriculture (and other fields in which women and the feminized and the housewived are often over-represented). But the imperative of degrowth implies that a certain magnitude of industrial production that now consumes coal and oil will have to be replaced by less energy intensive manufacturing processes including the regeneration of craft and artisanal production. Moreover, this kind of regeneration cannot “scale up” unless people in one place and time can learn from the experiences of other people in another place and time. Consequently, molecular media platforms need to support and enhance serial reproducibility of media.
Open Source Equality of Intelligence
Insofar as regeneration requires that people in one place and time can learn from the experiences of other people in another place and time without limits (as interlocking oppressions impose barriers) molecular media must create situations that enable and support what Jacques Ranciére calls an equality of intelligences (rather than the relation of the schoolmaster to the student) as well as being open source.