Monday, June 10, 2013

Virality, Chaos and the Brain
a workshop with Tony D. Sampson

CNDB (National Dance Center Bucharest), Sala Stere Popescu
Address: Bulevardul Mărășești nr. 80-82, Sector 4, Bucharest

22nd of June 2013, Saturday, 17:00 - 20:00
The first discussion will begin by introducing the conceptual approach behind the book Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Network (Minnesota, 2012). This is a diagrammatic rendering of social contagion drawing on the work of Gabriel Tarde and Gilles Deleuze. The lectures will then explore two stratagems of networked virality. The first, the immunologic, is a discursive formation or series of analogical propositions relating to the spreading of fear from biological to nonbiological contexts. The second, viral love, is typified by Obama-love and appears to be far more catching. It works according to nondiscursive resonances and affective atmospheres. It speaks of the event, not the essence. The aim of exploring these two stratagems is to tease out the subtly and softness of cognitive and affective power relations in the control society.

The workshop that follows this lecture asks how stratagems can be developed to counter the contagions of fear and love.

23rd of June 2013, Sunday, 17:00 - 20:00
The second lecture will open up Deleuze’s long standing interest in neurophilosophy and look again at the brain’s confrontation with chaos. By doing so two main questions are posed: what can be done to a brain and what can a brain do? The first looks at the rise of so-called neuroculture, and focuses particular attention on the inventions of neuromarketing as an extension of cognitive labour. These new techniques of persuasion and absorption are intended to capture the chemical firings of the neuron and put it to work in new ways. The latter explores the potential of a nomadic brain that can confront chaos and escape the objectified brains of neuroculture. Here Deleuze’s interest in the relation between science, art and philosophy helps to prompt important questions for this event.

The workshop that follows this lecture asks how the common brains of artists, scientists and philosophers can respond to chaos, each other, and more significantly, how do they become nomadic.

List of resources:

Brennan, Teresa, The Transmission of Affect (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004).
Crary, Jonathan, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (London: MIT Press, 2001).
Damasio, Antonio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1994).
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, A Thousand Plateaus (London: Continuum, 1987).
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, What is Philosophy? (London, New York: Verso, 1994).
Dosse, François, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, trans. Deborah Glassman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).
Fuller, Matthew and Goffey, Andrew, “Towards an Evil Media Studies,” in Parikka and Sampson, The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture, ed. Jussi Parikka and Tony D. Sampson (Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press, 2009).
Latour, Bruno and Lépinay, Vincent Antonin, The Science of Passionate Interests: An Introduction to Gabriel Tarde’s Economic Anthropology (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2009).
Le Bon, Gustave, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (New York: Dover, 2002).
Milgram, Stanley, Obedience to Authority (New York: Harper and Row, 1974).
Pradeep, A. K., “Persuasion: The Science and Methods of Neuromarketing,” industry white paper published on NeuroFocus, September 2007,
Sampson, Tony D. (2012) Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Tarde, Gabriel, Social Laws: An Outline of Sociology (Ontario, Quebec: Batoche Books, 2000).
Tarde, Gabriel, The Laws of Imitation, trans. E. C. Parsons (New York: Henry Holt, 1903).
Thrift, Nigel, “Pass It On: Towards a Political Economy of Propensity,” published in Matei Candea, ed., The Social after Tarde: Debates and Assessments (London: Routledge, 2010), 248–70.
Thrift, Nigel, Non-representation Theory: Space/Politics/Affect (London: Routledge, 2008).
Zajonc, Robert, “Feeling and Thinking: Preferences Need No Inferences,” American Psychologist 35, no. 2 (1980): 151–75.

Tony D. Sampson is a theorist and writer who works as Reader at the University of East London. He has written on virality and networks, and with Jussi Parikka co-edited the Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn and Other Anomalous Objects from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (2009). His latest book is Virality. Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. In this thought-provoking work, Tony D. Sampson presents a contagion theory fit for the age of networks. Unlike memes and microbial contagions, Virality does not limit itself to biological analogies and medical metaphors. It instead points toward a theory of contagious assemblages, events, and affects. For Sampson, contagion is not necessarily a positive or negative force of encounter; it is the way society comes together and relates.

Sampson argues that a biological understanding of contagion has been universally distributed by way of the rhetoric of fear used in the antivirus industry and other popular discourses surrounding network culture. This understanding is also detectable in concerns over too much connectivity, including problems of global financial crisis and terrorism. Sampson’s “virality” is as universal as that of the biological meme and microbe, but is not understood through representational thinking expressed in metaphors and analogies. Rather, Sampson leads us to understand contagion theory through the social relationalities first established in Gabriel Tarde’s microsociology and subsequently recognized in Gilles Deleuze’s ontological worldview.

According to Sampson, the reliance on representational thinking to explain the social behavior of networking—including that engaged in by nonhumans such as computers—allows language to over-categorize and limit analysis by imposing identities, oppositions, and resemblances on contagious phenomena. It is the power of these categories that impinges on social and cultural domains. Assemblage theory, on the other hand, is all about relationality and encounter, helping us to understand the viral as a positively sociological event, building from the molecular outward, long before it becomes biological.

 “Tarde and Deleuze come beautifully together in this outstanding book, the first to really put forward a serious alternative to neo-Darwinian theories of virality, contagion, and memetics. A thrilling read that bears enduring consequences for our understanding of network cultures. Unmissable.”
 —Tiziana Terranova, author of Network Culture