Our Modus, the Imaginary and Superorganisms

Submitted by Ernesto A. Alvarez on Wednesday, 9/15/2010, at 11:50 AM

Appadurai elevates the imagination from the level of personal and whimsical abstraction, usually contingent on one's own experience, to an aggregate mode of being constantly defined and re-defined by the dynamic operation of each of his five -scapes. In its elevation to a practice of the global multitude, the imaginary is at once more unanimous and more diverse; more fluid and more effective; and, last, more real and less artificial than ever before. As the primordial Enlightenment backbone of the ideoscape guides (with its concepts of freedom, autonomy, and representation) the spread of the imaginary through an acute proliferation of the capital modus—a modus which Appadurai seems to suggest lies directly behind the technoscape and the finanscape, and indirectly behind the mediascape and ethnoscape—humanity becomes progressively more aware of its place and its circumstance. The social practice of the imaginary thus becomes an awareness of the truths manufactured by our modus operandi, truths are increasingly available, but also seem to reinforce the regime on which they are inevitably indexed.

 The media figures into this -scape symbiosis quite literally by continually providing ever efficient mediums by which to communicate the subjective and objective truths which lead to the formation of our 'real' imaginary conglomerate. As wonderful a tool as media may seem for granting more and more access to our place and circumstance, it must be remembered that the majority of media platforms (especially new Internet technologies) operate under the same overarching modus which underlies and fuels the fervent social practice of the imagination. This is not to say that media may lead us to biased and pigeonholed conclusions and opinions as to the goingson of our world, however, it is to say that the very means by which we access, use and contribute to this new imagination entrench us deeper into the modus behind it all.

Kutiman's work as-such, for instance, represents the ease of access to the imagination discussed by Appadurai. Kutiman undertakes his ThruYOU project via the infinite archives of YouTube videos available for free to any Internet user. While his motive may be prompted simply by the knowledge that the pieces to the puzzle he seeks to author lie at his fingertips, Kutiman labors to create a lasting representative piece of the universal affinity and compatibility of sound. Kutiman authors a never-changing work of art, that can be accessed at any time. This, however, seems less a testament to Appadurai's notion of the social practice of imagination than the Playing for Change series. Although I hesitate to speak for the musicians involved, it seems like the latter represents a more authentic and organic display of the ubiquity of the imaginary. The momentary feeling of the musician who is playing in concert with a number of people so geographically spread out exemplifies the imaginary less so as a static but universal image, than it does as a fluid and moving act.

 I believe that Robert Wright's conjecture as to the idea of new technologies and media facilitating the construction of a phenomenological superorganism with one 'brain' will add, if anything at all, some much-needed color to Appadurai's imaginary. Below is the link to Wright.

Robert Wright, "With Liberty and Connectivity for All"


Taking Notes