[Submitted by Adam Foster]
After having talked about the rhizome and its relationship to the act of scholarship in my last blog post, I wish to move on to what I think are the consequences of using it are; or, in other words, the shift in thinking that I would argue the rhizome engenders. To briefly re-articulate, in the age of digital scholarship I would argue the body of scholarship has become a rhizome. With so many texts unified, they all can connect with one another at every point. Visually, Deleuze and Guattari argue it is akin to a giant mass of roots in which you cannot tell where everything originates from and terminates. Instead it is just a giant unified mess. Cartographies emerge in the act of navigating through the rhizome; which paths do you chose to travel? There are countless possibilities, and that is the consequence of the rhizome. So what then is it we are doing exactly if we are engaging with the rhizome?
To engage with the rhizome is to engage in what is termed “nomadic thought,” but to understand what is meant by this term one must first understand both “state philosophy” and the spatialized thinking of Deleuze and Guattari. Brian Massumi argues that state philosophy is “another name for the representational thinking that has dominated Western metaphysics since Plato” and is “grounded in a double identity: of the thinking subject, and of the concepts it creates and to which it lends its own presumed attributes of sameness and constancy”(Massumi 4). In other words, state philosophy is the traditional way of thinking, which is subject to criticism for rendering the subject homogenous with the state. Traditionally, philosophers have been employees of the state. Starting with the foundation of the University of Berlin – a state owned university – philosophers have been tasked with the moral and spiritual education of its citizens, and this renders “each mind an analogously organized mini-State morally unified in the supermind of the State”(Massumi 4). In other words, traditional philosophy renders the subject subservient to the state in his way of thinking. Traditional scholastic criticism – which some of INKE’s Modelling and Prototyping (M&P) projects are trying to move away from – is not entirely like Deleuze and Guattari’s state philosophy; scholars and critics are not attempting to bring us under the tutelage of the unified State (in fact, scholarship is currently globalized through the availability and interactions between works across the globe, so it is quite a-statist). However, it does represent the closed way of thinking of State Philosophy; scholars must adhere to the narrative format of journals and monographs, and in this sense might be subject to the criticisms of forcing sameness and consistency upon criticism. We might say it is subservient to the state, but not the state as understood as the nation-state. Rather, we might think of the state in this sense as being the scholarly apparatus that puts primacy on this traditional scholarship and places awards such as tenure on adhering to it.
But what is more important to me in terms of what the M&P projects are doing is the notion of spatialized thinking that accompanies the binary of state philosophy and nomad thought. Massumi argues that “state space is “striated,” or gridded” with movement being “confined […] by gravity to a horizontal plane, and limited by the order of that plane to preset paths between fixed and identifiable points (Massumi 6). The notion of striated space parallels that of the arborescent schema; the movements one can make are predetermined and the subject is not free to make any movement he wishes bringing, at the very least, a tinge of domination or control. If we think about scholarship using the arborescent schema, scholarship is being dominated. This is contrasted to nomad space, which is “smooth, or open-ended” and in which “one can rise up at any point and move to any other” (Massumi 6); in other words, the rhizome. Therefore, in so far that we use the rhizomatic model in thinking about scholarship, we are engaging in nomad space, and nomad thought.
And now it is possible to explain what nomad thought is. To some extent it is already clear; it is thinking through the rhizome and moving freely in the space of thought. Whereas movement is restricted in the gridded space of state thinking, the nomad is completely unrestricted in his movement across space (which is in this case thinking and engaging in scholarship). For this reason, it is a way of thinking built on difference (in the Deleuzian sense of being unique from that which surrounds the subject). In this regard, “the concepts [nomad thought] creates do not merely reflect the eternal form of a legislating subject, but are defined by a communicable force in relation to which their subject, to the extent that they can be said to have one, is only secondary” (Massumi 4). The parallels between this and the type of thinking INKE engenders are strong. The legislating subject of scholarship would be the scholar, and thus nomad thought seeks to – instead of creating a model that relates the argument back to himself – create a type of scholarship in which what is created is in communication with other scholars and scholastic pieces around it. This is a huge part of what I see INKE doing. Projects like NewRadial attempt to make linkages across mediums and texts, and can be seen as nomad concepts. Furthermore, the game based project being developed at the University of Saskatchewan goes even further with this concept of communication contra the subject by having a model built on the very idea of communication and interaction between users. These tools are not, in so far that they are indicative of nomadic thought, the “end all be all” which will replace the narrative based model that dominates now. If any model were to be imposed over the entirety of criticism in the state-like manner I elude to, then it is just as flawed as the model I argue M&P is criticizing. Rather, they allow for a scholar to think outside of the paradigms of the status quo, and thus engage in new and fresh ways of thinking and approaching the world.
Massumi, Brian. A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992. Print.