Žižek on Lacan on being unblockable on twitter

“Indeed, as Lacan put it: a true Master is the one who cannot ever be betrayed – the one who, even when actually betrayed, does not lose anything.” -Slavoj Žižek, ‘The Actuality of Ayn Rand’, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol. 3, No.2, p.225

Okay, so it’s not really about being unblockable, but I’ve been thinking about certain types of twitter/facebook/online performances that are intended to pre-empt the (re)actions or criticisms of a certain other party and I think this quote captures the essence of it nicely. When I force a troll to block me, I am “betrayed” but even though actually betrayed, I do not lose anything (in fact I reclaim from the troll the very thing he was seeking a reaction). A lot of feminist ‘discursive activism’ (Frances Shaw’s very cool term) is about setting up the conditions true Mastery, in the sense that they cannot be betrayed. Feminist bingo, Mansplaining, and all the rest of the pre-actions Shaw talks about mean that when these betrayals happen, nothing is lost.

Not sure if I can be bothered tracking down the original source for Zizek’s paraphrase, but this quote will certainly do in a pinch. More on this topic in my forthcoming article for the Fibreculture trolling issue.

Abstract: Neuroscience and the digital community: what next for the notion of ‘the individual’?

The following abstract was accepted for the international conference ‘Knowledge/Culture/Social Change‘ to be held in Sydney, Australia in November.

The ‘individual’ has attained an unparalleled level of success and acceptance, with the DNA of all major political and economic theories now permeated with the assumption of real existing ‘individuals’. Modern neuroscientific developments however are challenging this assumption, and in this paper I propose to deal with two challenges to the notion of the individual, the ‘extended mind’ theory and ‘eliminative materialism’, attempting a reconciliation within the context of productive internet communities. The goal of the paper will be to outline some of the important ramifications for humanity and the liberal/progressive project.

Firstly, theories of mind such as Andy Clark and David Chalmer’s “the extended mind” suggest a counter-intuitive redrawing of the boundaries of the mind beyond the limits of the cranial cavity and even the body itself. Consider the example of the Alzheimer’s patient who supplements his failing memory with diligent note-keeping and diarising. Information stored in the patient’s diary now becomes his memory, and as such informs his beliefs, knowledge, actions, etc. The film Memento (2000) in which an amnesiac tattoos messages to himself onto his body functioned on a similar premise.

Secondly, the model of mind proposed by Paul and Patricia Churchland dubbed ‘eliminative materialism’ suggests that when neuroscientific advances progress to a point of near-complete modelling of the human brain, we may well arrive to discover that no structural or literal brain functions are found to represent our common-sense ‘manifest image’ of mental function. What happens when no place, structure, or function of the brain can be found to account for “beliefs”, “ideas”, “thoughts”, etc?

In the paper I propose to attempt a reconciliation of the ‘extended mind’ thesis with the promise of ‘eliminative materialism’, by way of the internet technologies that connect so-called “individuals” together into communities. But if parts of our minds can be said to be outsourced to the digital tools we use for communication, storage, and transmission, and if these tools overlap, what kind of entity arises? The paper will draw on the findings of my earlier work in characterising internet communities as a post-human (or post-individual) subject of knowledge and expertise.

Bibliography (incomplete)

Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Clark, Andy. Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997)

Clark, Andy & Chalmers, David. “The Extended Mind”. Analysis, Vol. 58, No. 1, Jan., 1998.

Dennett, Daniel. Consciousness Explained. Harmondsworth Eng.: Penguin, 1993.

Meillassoux, Quentin et.al. After Finitude. London: Continuum, 2008.

Abstract: More fun writing than playing: the critical videogame blogosphere as emerging approach to knowledge creation

As I said in my stereotypical update post, I’ve been writing a paper to present at a conference in Oxford, in July. Here’s the abstract and the bibliography for the paper, to whet your interest in the final piece (which will be published in the conference proceedings ebook).

It’s a happy coincidence actually that while I’ve been considering this idea of the “distributed subject” in this (and one other) paper, Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer has just written about the confluence of Buddhist practice/insight and videogames, with a particular focus on the lack of the “self”  (or it’s illusory nature). I recommend his “Notes on Becoming” as something in a similar vein.


In the following paper I will look at the section of the online community of videogame bloggers I have been involved with since 2007, beginning with an outline of some of the steps that allowed them to arrive at the status of ‘experts’ in the field of game criticism. Along the way I will need to examine the nature of community in online situations, and apply Benedict Anderson’s insights on the nature of community to examine how this particular community imagines itself. I will look at what it says it does and how it frames what it is for, but examining this alone is not quite enough, as the community is as much a product of technical forces as human or social ones. I will avoid the assertion that community is some kind of ‘stuff’ like a social fabric, thus avoiding putting all my explanatory eggs in the basket of ‘social forces’. Instead I will adopt the agnostic approach of Bruno Latour who examines associations between all things, emerging with a conception of the community as a network of actors, presenting a safe path through the twin minefields of technodeterminism and social constructivism. I will then take a slight detour to recent discussions on the nature of cognition and the mind, and find parallels with the network community that enable me to suggest the epistemic conditions are emerging for a successful challenge to the long-dominant conception of the humanist subject. It is my contention that a new Foucaultian episteme is fast approaching, and that a new ‘subject of knowledge’ is perhaps visible at work in the internet community I call ‘the critical videogame blogosphere’.

Key Words: Videogames, Community, Blogging, The blogosphere, Criticism, Expertise, Theory of Mind, Benedict Anderson, Bruno Latour



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Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (London New York: Verso, 2006).

Bogost, Ian. “Persuasive Games: Exploitationware”. Gamaasutra, May 3, 2011. Accessed May 27, 2011. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6366/persuasive_games_exploitationware.php.

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